I grew up with phrases like “Absolute Truth” “Christian Worldview” and “if God said it, I believe it, and that settles it”. What wasn’t considered in my circle was that any understanding of truth outside of our own might have some value or that there really was no such thing as a “Christian Worldview” or that our interpretation of scripture might be flawed. The refusal to consider any of these things became like a thick slab of concrete between “us” and “them” (i.e. anyone who believed differently than we did and put a voice to those beliefs).
A few years ago some real life stuff happened and I began to reexamine my beliefs. Around the same time, I was introduced to the emerging conversation. It was such a relief to interact with people that didn’t write me off as spiritually immature if I didn’t believe exactly as they did. It was so refreshing to hear people say they realized they might be wrong about what they believed. And contrary to what I had been taught, I discovered that the lack of certainty did not diminish their devotion to being followers of Jesus Christ. They didn’t have all the answers, in fact; they had more questions than answers, but they were more like Christ than many of the “Absolute Truth” Christians that I had hung out with for so many years. Don’t get me wrong – these uncertain people had beliefs and convictions, but they didn’t hold on to them as tightly; and they had knowledge but it was a less than certain knowledge. They called it having a “chastened epistemology.”
It made sense to me. How could we believe that we had it all figured out? That would be like putting ourselves on the same level as God, himself. And in recent years Christians had gotten it wrong about other stuff … such as slavery and interracial marriage. Just because there “is” truth doesn’t mean that we fully grasp it or understand it.
As I began to embrace this new kind of thinking – this new way of being a follower of Jesus Christ – some much needed humility was born in me and out of that a space was created that has allowed me to connect and interact with God and others in a deeper more meaningful way. I’ve been told that I seem more kind, gentle and compassionate. I am more at peace and at last my faith is more like a bridge than a barrier.
I admit, it is a struggle living within the tension of believing something and holding that belief loose enough so that God can take it away from you without you feeling like you just got pushed off the edge of a cliff. I have to consciously strive on a daily basis to remain humble about what I know and believe – and sometimes I fail. But, it is possible and I believe that it is worth it.
After all …
How can God speak into our lives if we aren’t humble enough to listen and hear? How will we know if we are mistaken about something if we hold on to our beliefs with unswerving certainty. Can we be transformed without being humble?
IMHO a chastened epistemology is one of the most valuable characteristics that is emerging in the church today. I believe humility = teachability. More than anything else a “chastened epistemology” draws me to the emerging church/conversation.
Check out some of the other synchroblog posts: