Writing on Jesus' healing of the blind man in John 9, Bruggemann rightly highlights the showdown between the Pharisees and Jesus. He describes this encounter as "a contrast between old established truth that keeps everything in place, that has all the answers, that keeps everything under control and assures certain entitlements, and on the other hand new inexplicable possible by Jesus and eventually by his people."
This devotional was published in 2016 as a compilation of earlier works by Bruggemann, but the thought behind this excerpt sounds as it it were written today. It couldn't be more relevant or more wrong.
The thoughts behind his remark are those of power struggles and class warfare, the thinly veiled Marxist thoughts running rampant through our American society today. If you think I'm wrong, just two paragraphs later he says:
Now we stand before the new chance of gospel possibility and old managed truth. Old managed truth, like the rule on the Sabbath, takes many forms. It can be the old world of privilege and power and control. It can be the old truth of settled church orthodoxy. It can be the old mantras of market ideology that reduce life to owning and having and eating. It can be the old paralysis of privilege according to race, class, gender.
Bruggemann goes down a logical trail here that I completely disagree with. First, he assumes that 'old managed truth' is necessarily wrong, even while a couple of his examples are certainly right. Sabbath understanding by the Jews of Jesus' day was misguided, as Jesus points out. Capitalism taken to its logical conclusion can lead toward utter selfishness, greed, and self-centeredness. Racial discrimination is plainly wrong. But into the midst of these--all of which are clearly condemned by Scripture--he slips in 'settled church orthodoxy,' by which he implies that the Church (as a whole) has not rightly received or passed along the apostolic faith. This 'established truth,' if I'm rightly connecting it to his first paragraph, is maintained not maintained to lead people to salvation but for the purposes of control and wrongful entitlements, so we should be open, according to him, to new leadings of the Spirit. In fact, I'd suggest he is demanding it.
I don't buy this line of reasoning for a second. It's clever and emotional but grounded in atheistic Marxism instead of God-breathed Scripture. Jesus clearly said that he will build his church and gates of hell will not overpower it (Mt 16). We should not think that the bounds of orthodoxy (i.e. right belief) are somehow muddied or up for grabs as liberals/progressives seem to think. The Ecumenical Creeds and Councils have drawn the lines of orthodox belief quite clearly and consistently for us. Jude wrote "to urge you to continue to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once and for all" (Jude 3, EHV). Looking around at our culture and its increasingly hostile attitude toward Christ and Christians, here are words of enduring encouragement and relevance.
There are not old truths and new truths set in conflict with one another as Bruggemann maintains. There is only truth. We must not continue to change our beliefs and attitudes with the shifting sands of culture but must stand firm on the foundation laid and passed down to us. May God grant it.