Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Where do you go as a fundamentalist?

And I AM still at heart a fundamentlist, yet I also want to read the bible with understanding that God has given me, rather than shutting my eyes, ears and mind tightly in order to accept the absurd so that I can be 'in faith'.

Now this post isn't a pop at anyone, but it is definitely a result of my interactions with others. My stance on a whole bunch of stuff has been affected by friends - people I love and respect - but have found at times that I cannot agree with. It has been prompted by this thing of "just read it and do it", with the unspoken suggestion that if you don't do it and believe it like I do then you have it wrong.

Cue this post from Hamo at Backyard Missionary.

There's a danger in permitting interpretation, and it isn't an imaginary one, nor a straw man set up to protect the fundamentalist way of thinking. Some would suggest that truth is relative and everyone's point of view is valid. I cannot accept that is the case - there MUST be absolute truth in absolute reality, even if that reality *appears* different from where we are standing. The problem for us as humans is that we only see our own reality, and therefore struggle to interpret what that truth is, but that does not take away from the absolutes of truth and falsehood.

The tricky bit comes when we start defining what is true.

It's as though we've been given telescopes of varying quality to examine the world through, and some can actually see quite clearly while others have a terribly blurry view of things, while yet others will have been trained to interpret black as green and white as yellow, valleys as mountains and seas as deserts etc. This becomes a problem when we start thinking about absolutes of what it means to be a Christian, since by the nature of the argument, one man's absolute is another man's negotiable, and that doesn't detract from the accuracy of his observation!

So for me, when I start reading tricky parts of the bible - like God authorising the use of slaves, wiping out nations to the last woman and child, the connection between human sexuality and the manner in which it represents the interaction of God with the church to name but a few - then I start asking what was God's heart behind this likely to have been and why would He apparently do things that are repugnant to us. This enables me to be closer to God, to maybe understand Him and the principles he works by a little more instead of trying to hold my 'faith' out like a magic talisman - I have it in my hand and I'm using it like I've been taught, so it MUST be obeyed/protect me.

And sometimes I suspect we doubt or fail to understand the width and breadth of the grace of God to us.

It's as if all our misunderstandings were fine (because they're ours, and we have enjoyed God's grace) while those of someone else are not. That's not to say that we cannot have some assurance about what is right and true, because we can observe the results of certain beliefs and ways of living in those around us, and of those throughout history. If nothing else, it might convince anyone with a passing knowledge of English history that religious dogmatism and evil were close bedfellows. And hopefully we can also listen to the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to bring life to what are otherwise nothing more than words on a page.

So bearing with one another in love would seem to be at least part of the answer to living with theological differences. I'm sure it's not the only part, just as I'm sure there IS absolute truth available, but hopefully with some of God's grace we can work out and through our different understandings, and maybe even come to eventual agreement. I'm trying to avoid using caveats again at this point, because the flip side of this is that we may never speak the truth to each other - in love or otherwise - and therefore all continue as blind and foolish and mistaken as if we'd never been in relationship with anyone else. As an aside, on Saturday in the men's group we're talking about endurance and 'staying power' from the book we're following, and the need to endure and hang on, even when we hurt and are deeply unhappy. It's been my experience that sometimes I have to hold myself in the place of frustration, pain and unhappiness in order to grow a bit more, see a bit more clearly, maybe even fulfill some of what God has planned for my life.

In this context I've been considering the idea of the church having 'the mind of Christ' when it comes together, but I've been in enough church meetings (and church tradition also rather confirms this) that if one were to assume the mind of Christ were always and only at work in gatherings of churchy people then Jesus must be a furious schizophrenic. But THAT discussion is another blog post.

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