Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Of brick walls and words...
I had another interesting discussion this weekend with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend. We were talking about "Letters from a Skeptic" which I blogged about last week. My sister-in-law asked me what I had thought about it. My response was that it didn't do much for me. I didn't think it was a great tool for evangelism because I don't think Christianity is just about believing facts. The boyfriend responded that if we don't know the facts (in this case the absolute truth of the Bible), how do we know what's right and wrong? Without the TRUTH, we don't have any absolute moral authority in our life.

I don't think I had a very good response at the time. But I wonder - is absolute moral truth really the cornerstone of our faith? The need for absolutism would suggest that christianity is religion of rules and rewards (and their associated penalties). I think the problem in these discussions with my family is that we're coming from completely different hermeneutics. We're trying to discuss complex issues of theology when we have radically different notions of the nature and authority and Scripture. We understand salvation and faith in different ways.

The consequence of this is that after our discussions I feel like I've spent the whole time pounding my head into a brick wall. I'm frustrated not that they continue to disagree with me, but that we can't even seem to speak the same language.

So how do we even start these types of discussions? Even agreeing on the language we use may not be possible. A good example of this is the recent disinvitation of the Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles from a meeting of the American Anglican Council (a conservative group within the Anglican church). Rev. J. Jon Bruno refused to sign the group's faith statement which reads (in part), "I believe in and accept Jesus as Savior and Lord and that He is the only way into the heavenly kingdom."

Bruno said that line "basically excludes all people of Judaism, Islam and Buddhism as being within the love of God. I'm not willing to say that God has made that decision. I know that Christianity is the way for me, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. But I cannot say that God will make that decision on the last day. I don't know what God's decision will be"... (story courtesy of Father Jake)

In this case the language was a stumbling block. How do we start conversations when the use of certain words (or refusal to use) constitutes heresy in the minds of some? And it isn't just conservatives that are the problem -liberals/progressives can be just as unforgiving in their use of language.

I don't know how to fix this. I just wish when I was talking to my family there was a way to make it feel less pointless.



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