Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Talking Theology

One of the challenges in talking about theology or even just basic Christianity is that our theological assumptions (whether we recognize them or not) are extremely different or diametrically opposed to those to whom we're speaking.

I think it goes beyond "ships passing in the night." We're not even in the same ocean. So how do we get to the same ocean? One idea that Chris (from People, Books and the Glory of Christ) and I have been discussing is that we should get to root of our theological/philosophical disagreement. For example, in a lot of quantitative academic fields, when writing a paper the authors lay out their assumptions/methods. One of the main reasons is that it makes it possible for other researchers to replicate the findings. It helps guarantee that researchers are talking about the same ideas and problems. It helps keep people in the same ballpark. One of the things Chris and I agree on is that we have different ideas about sin and salvation. So it's difficult to talk about an issue like homosexuality absent an understanding of our own underlying assumptions.

So would that work? In the end, probably not. I think the end result is that instead of having pointless arguments about issues (because we're operating under different assumptions), we'll have pointless arguments over "first principles" that people are generally unwilling to change (myself included).

For example, some of my first principles or underlying theological assumptions are as follows:

  • I believe that God was working in the lives of those that wrote the Bible, but that it is not inerrant or "divinely inspired" (in the way many evangelicals understand it).
  • I believe that many of the stories in the Bible may not have literally happened. I tend to see many of those stories (particularly the Hebrew Bible stories) as having truth that is "more than literal," to use Borg's term.
  • I do not believe in predestination. I think that we make our own choices, good or bad.
    I'm pretty sure that most everyone (even Muslims!) is going to heaven. As someone said (can't remember who), I'm a hopeful universalist. But I also believe that our salvation isn't really about heaven. It has much more to do with how we live than where we go when we die.
  • I'm not convinced that Jesus is the only way to God. I have a hard time believing that God revealed himself to a couple thousand (?) people wandering in the desert and gave up on the rest of the world. I don't think that Jews and Christians have an exclusive on experiencing the sacred and divine.

I'm open to discussion, but honestly, I'm not sure you'll be able to change my mind in a dramatic way. Ultimately, I think we're still in different oceans (or ballparks - sorry for mixing metaphors). I think what further complicates the situation is that our first principles are also tied into our whole worldview and how we see ourselves as humans. Thus it's difficult to separate ourselves from ideas that are strongly connected to our sense of self.

Are we stuck? Maybe so...



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