Living authentically is not stagnant: it is constantly shifting and taking on new forms. If we truly believe in living an authentic life, we must continue to learn about ourselves and be willing to challenge what we know. It is about learning to face fears and doubts, to be able to reach deep within ourselves to find out what makes our heart sing, our spirit soar. It is finding where our authentic self feels the most alive, free and unburdened — and then having the courage to live from that place.
I do not beleive in the inerrancy of scripture. I fully acknowledge that my opinion and understanding may be wrong. At the same time, I would add that I have also spent many years seriously studying scripture, living as a committed follower of Christ and have not formed my opinion in a vacuum or in a hurry.
Many would say that there are serious scholars who have been able to carefully harmonize the contradictions in scripture in a way that is acceptable and thoughtful. My experience over the years has been that there are many Christians (many of who are professional clergy) who flippantly explain away contradictions and I have not personally found even the most careful harmonization of contradictions in scripture sufficient enough for me to continue to claim that scripture is inerrant.
Before I continue I do want to clarify that I am not saying that the many contradictions are a serious threat to the authority or value or credibility of scripture but that our resistance to acknowledge the contradictions is a threat to these things. I may have a different view about the authority of scripture than some who are reading this but that is a different discussion and I don’t believe it hinges on whether or not scripture is inerrant.
Many who believe in the inerrancy of scripture also believe that has been the position of Christians since the formation of the canon. That is simply not true. Discussions of inerrancy did not even take place until the modern age. Before then you would find the position being along the lines that there is no false teaching in scripture but that is a long way from claiming scripture is inerrant. In addition, some might be surprised to find that there are many great and respected theologians through out history who have believed there were (and are) inaccuracies and errors in scripture – people such as Martin Luther, John Chrsyostom, Calvin, Matthew Henry, Charles Hodge to name a few. The fact is that no ancient church council ever debated the issue of inerrancy, let alone announced favor of it and no traditional creed or reformed confession addresses the issue of inerrancy. In other words, the current insistence on inerrancy has its origins in late 19th and early 20th century reactions to modernism. IMO this is a false dichotomy that many thoughtful Christians refuse to accept.
In recent times, I have also begun to believe that the insistence of inerrancy in regards to scripture is a stumbling block and obstacle to what we can learn from scripture. In addition I have also observed that the insistence of inerrancy tends to make an idol out of scripture among our communities of faith resulting in the displacement of Christ as the center.
I found this quote in “Buddhism’s Commitment To Reality”, a great post, from my friend, Jonathan Brink.
If when we investigate something we find there is reason and proof for it, we must acknowledge that as reality, even if it is in contradiction with a literal Scriptural explanation that has held sway for many centuries, or with a deeply held opinion or view. — Dalai Lama
I love stories, real and imaginary. I collect them. I find them in books, coffee shops, blogs, libraries, work, newspapers, grocery stores, schools, neighborhoods, magazines, social gatherings etc – the sources are endless. Some are typed up and stored on my pc, some are on pieces of paper tucked in a box that sits on a shelf in my closet, some are in books that stand side by side in my bookshelf and others are just memories stored in my head. I’ve noticed that the stories that I am most compelled to hang on to one way or the other are stories that not only move me but also teach me. Sometimes what I learn are things I already knew but somehow the story makes them come alive for me. So – it is in that spirit that I want to share a story I ran across the other day.
If you have young children you may already be aware of the story. It is a children’s book that I think was published in 2003 by a man named Douglas Wood. The name of the book is “The Old Turtle and The Broken Truth.” This is one of those stories that is loved by all ages. I encourage you to try to get your hands on a copy of the book as it is beautifully illustrated by Jon J. Muth. Here’s a summary of the story. (The lesson is obvious.)
The story is a parable that takes place in a “far away land, somehow not so very far” in “a land where every stone was a teacher and every breeze a language.”
One day a “truth” falls from the sky and breaks. A piece of the truth falls to the ground and is found by Crow. The stone appeals to him because it is so shiny. But after a while, Crow begins to think that there is something not quite right with the truth he found; he feels it is “broken” and he wants to try to find one that is “whole.” Fox, Coyote, Raccoon, Butterfly and Bear, are also attracted to the broken truth by its shininess and sweetness. But, one by one, they reject it, for the same reason Crow rejected it – they sense it is “broken”.
Later a human finds the broken truth, and reads the words that are written on it. “You Are Loved,” says the stone, and the person feels good just holding it. He takes it back to his people and they all treasure it. In time, they begin to fear other groups of people who are different from them and who do not share their truth, which they have proclaimed is “The Truth.” They also lose interest in the land and are no longer able to learn from the stones or hear the languages of the breezes.
Over time other groups of people learn about “The Truth” and wish to possess it for themselves. Wars break out, causing the land and all the people to suffer. The animals ask Old Turtle, their wise and ancient leader, to reason with the people and tell them the truth they’re fighting over is broken. But she refuses, saying the people are not ready for this message and that they will not listen to her.
Finally, a young girl, who is distraught because of all the wars and suffering, decides that something must be done, so she travels all alone to the “great hill in the very center of the world” where she meets Old Turtle, and asks her if things could ever change. Old Turtle, realizing this is a human ready to listen, tells the girl that things were not always like this and that there are many beautiful truths all around us and within us—the “small and lovely truths of life” which humans have lost the ability to recognize. And so with the Old Turtle’s help and guidance, the girl learns to hear the language of the breezes. Old Turtle tells the girl that the broken truth will only be mended when one person meets another person different from his or herself, and in that person sees and hears his or herself. Every person is important, according to Old Turtle, and “the world was made for each of us.”
Before she departs, Old Turtle gives the girl a gift, which she has been saving for the right person. The girl accepts it, but isn’t sure what to do with it. When she returns to her people, the girl tries to share the lessons she has learned with them and to show them the language of the breezes, but they don’t believe her and they refuse to listen. The girl is frustrated until she sees Crow flying around the high tower where the cherished broken truth is kept. As she looks up at the tower she realizes the significance of Old Turtle’s gift and climbs up to the broken truth to discover that the broken bit of stone received from Old Turtle fits against the broken truth and forms a heart shaped rock which reads, “You Are Loved—And So Are They.”
Kidd and his sidekicks (Kellie, JC, Al and Shannon) are very entertaining and do lots of fun and hilarious bits. One of my favorite bits is “Get Over It”.
The way it works is that people email or call in about what they want other people to get over. For instance:
“To my boyfriend’s ex: When you text someone 14 times and don’t get any replies you are texting with yourself. GET OVER IT!”
“My voicemail is full because it makes me feel important – GET OVER IT!”
“To everyone with McCain/Palin stickers still on their car – Obama won – GET OVER IT!”
“To the person at work that manages the office supplies: Yes, I need another can of Air Duster – I don’t like crumbs in my keyboard and it’s only $4 a can – GET OVER IT!”
I like the bit so much that I thought it would be fun to add it to my blog – possibly on a monthly basis and ask you what you want to tell someone to get over.
Here’s one from me:
Just because someone disagrees with you about a particular interpretation of scripture does NOT mean that they are not a Christian – “GET OVER IT”
Now, go ahead and try it – it’s very therapeutic….
This post is part of a synchroblog on “Discussing Maturity In The Light Of Our Faith”
Before I begin let me say that I have a long, active history with the local organized church. I have led women’s ministries, worked in the nursery, planned curriculum, served on the hospitality committee, taught bible studies, helped with vacation bible schools, prepared budgets etc. – all as a lay person.
I still go to church (most of the time) and I still volunteer to do “stuff” at church (some of the time). I am not mad at the church, I haven’t been hurt by the church (at least not much) and I haven’t left the church. BUT, I am frustrated with the church about a few things.
One of the things that I am frustrated with the local church about is its lack of knowledge regarding spiritual growth. So, when I heard there was a synchroblog on discussing maturity in the light of our faith I figured I would take the opportunity to make a few wishes – three to be exact.
Wish Number One
I wish the church knew that having questions, experiencing doubts and being uncertain about things that the church is teaching does not necessarily equal spiritual immaturity. No one comes right out and says that you are spiritually immature because you are struggling with things like the concepts of heaven and hell, or substitutionary atonement, or the inerrancy of the bible, or the sovereignty of God etc … but, when they kindly offer to pray that God will make these things clear to you, what they are really saying is: they hope you settle down soon and get back to seeing things the way they do. When I began to have questions about what I was believing, doubts about certain interpretations of scripture and uncertainty about the life of faith I was living I felt alone and afraid. There was no safe place at church for me to embrace this experience because the thing everyone wanted me to do was to get back to where I had been before. Sure they said things about this drawing me closer to God and God using this to reveal more to me, but when I tried to talk to them about thinking that maybe we had some stuff wrong they didn’t want to hear it. It was so unsettling and frustrating that I might have ended up leaving the church (at least for a while) if I hadn’t had a family to think of AND if I hadn’t stumbled across “The Critical Journey” by Hagberg and Guelich. I won’t go into a lot of detail here about “The Critical Journey” (for more info there’s a great chart at Carnival In My Head that you can check out or an indepth article at Theocentric) except to say that it helped me discover that what I was experiencing was a natural part of my spiritual growth. From there, I have searched out and found support through groups, blogs, books and events – none of which are connected to the local church – to help me as I travel through this leg of my faith journey.
I don’t have a succinct solution to the problem but I think it would help if pastors stopped saying everything from the pulpit with so much certainty, if Christians were taught less answers and trained more in the skill of asking good questions, if the local church would be a little more humble about what they know and hold to be true, so that it would not be considered heresy to think or believe differently in their midst and if more people in the church believed that right living is more important than right doctrine.
Wish Number Two
I wish the church didn’t think that participating in a lot of programs,ministries and or church activities equaled spiritual maturity. I was amazed last year when the Willow Creek’s study came out. I wasn’t amazed at what they discovered – I was amazed that before the study they had actually believed that if Christians participated in a certain set of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it would produce disciples of Christ who were maturing spiritually. They were shocked when they discovered through a multiple year study that their programs weren’t that good at helping their people grow and develop spiritually.
People like Dallas Willard have been saying this sort of thing for years. Increased participation in church activities/programs/ministries does not produce disciples, it just produces people who spend more time at church instead of out in their communities where they could really have an impact in bringing God’s will to earth as it is in heaven. I think churches would serve the mission of God better and promote spiritual growth in followers of Jesus more effectively by teaching, encouraging and inspiring their members to do the work of the church in their daily lives and jobs, in their neighborhoods and communities.
Don’t get me wrong – I think there is a time and place for certain programs (so please don’t feel you need to defend the program that you are involved with) but I know from experience that a lot of the things that I have been involved in at church aren’t really that beneficial – mostly because I have done it before in a different format. You know what I am talking about – it’s the same old bible study being taught, the same old class on how to handle my finances, the same old evangelistic course with a new name etc. etc. etc. Is it wrong to do something for fun or enjoyment – no, it isn’t. But our churches are depending on these things to be the catalyst of spiritual growth for me and you – and it ain’t working.
Wish Number Three
I wish the church would realize that presenting a watered down version of the gospel encourages christians to embrace spiritual immaturity. In other words, a gospel that revolves around humans gaining access to God’s presence leads to spiritual formation that is “me” oriented. When this individualistic facet of the gospel is taught, as if it is the whole gospel, we end up with a very self centered gospel. This self centeredness ends up leaving us comfortable in our immature state.
What christians, and the whole world for that matter, needs is a more robust gospel – like the one that Scot McKnight talks about (check out this article at Out Of Ur). When we begin to look at a larger, more complex, multi-faceted gospel, we begin to see that the good news of Jesus Christ is concerned with more than giving us a free ticket to heaven. We begin to see that the good news is for all of creation, throughout all time, and that as recipients of God’s great gift of grace and freedom, we are called to work with him to love and care for the world we live in now. This call on our lives spurs us on to cooperate with the spirit of God that is at work in us. This meaningful, worthy, mandate that is born of and lives in love, gives us the courage and the desire to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. We desperately need a reason to go through the rigors of maturing and I believe that a larger, more robust gospel gives us that reason.
There, I got that off my chest. I feel better.
Phil Wyman at Square No More with “Is Maturity Really What I Want?”
Lainie Petersen at Headspace with “Watching Daddy Die”
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with “what’s inside the bunny?”
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with “Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories”
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse with “the future is ours to see: crumbling like a mountain”
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom with “Still Complaining?”
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with “Maturity and Education”
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent with “Putting spiritual infants in charge”
Bethany Stedman at Coffee Klatch with “Moving Towards True Being: The Long Process of Maturity”
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with “Old Enough to Follow Christ?”
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with “Intentional Relationships for Maturity”
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com with “I Won’t Sin”
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with “Growing Up”
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with “Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning”
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind’s Eye with “Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience”
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes with “vulnerable maturity”
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with “What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity”
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa”
Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content”
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with “The Foundation For Ministry and Leading”
Kai Schraml at Kaiblogy with “Mature Virtue”
Nic Paton at Sound and Silence with “Inclusion and maturity”
Lew Ayotte at The Pursuit with “Maturity and Preaching”
The conversation is centered around questions/issues Bill Easum has raised with emergents.
The posts from Bill Easum, one of the most highly respected Christian futurists in North America, and Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village, is delicious enough; but the icing on this cake are the commenters and they turn out to be the real treat – or maybe I should say the real “meat” of the discussion.
I love the way Tim engages in the conversation regarding truth, knowledge and certainty. He lovingly and passionately puts to rest the myth that emergents don’t believe in truth. This isn’t the first time that Tim has said something that I wanted to say but didn’t know how.
In addition, I was so pleased to be introduced to Jonathan Brink through this blogologue – his answers to Bill’s questions are well thought out, deep and yet, clear; and his explanation of what emergent means to him is inspirational, informative and motivating. I will definitely visit his blog, Missio Dei, again.
Before I close this post with some excerpts from Tim and Jonathan, I want to say that although Bill Easum asked some of the same old questions regarding emergent he did not respond negatively or argumentatively to the commenters. He seemed to listen sincerely, disagree respectfully and consistently notice points of agreement…winning my respect and attention, and being a good example for Christianity.
Jonathan begins his comment with an explanation of what emergent means to him:
Emergent, to me, is a creative attempt to find a wholistic understanding and practice in what it means to follow Jesus into God’s mission. It is an attempt to get at the heart of what it means to be a broken human in a broken world that is dying for restoration.”
Tim responds to Bill’s question: Is the message of the Gospel actual reality and eternally true, or is it nothing more than a construct of our own language within the community of faith at this particular time in history in this particular place with this particular community?
“The Gospel is an actual reality that is eternally true – and – our ability to understand it and communicate it is always an imperfect, conditioned, contextual approximation. It’s an approximation because both thinking and speaking rely on language, which is a “jar of clay” in which the treasure can actually be found. Put another Pauline way, not only do we see through a glass dimly, but we also think and speak through smeary lenses as well.”
As you probably know, a lot of the criticism (mostly handed out by evangelicals) of the emergent/emerging movement/conversation/community centers around the subjects of “inerrancy of scripture’ and “truth”. It wasn’t too long ago that Chuck Colson commented about “the emergent community that rejects the bible” – which, I believe, was his way of saying that if you don’t interpret the bible the way he does, then you are rejecting it. I find it hard to believe he has actually been in contact with an emergent community that rejects the bible – at least not one that calls itself “Christian”. See the complete comment here.
The problem is that many, if not most, Christians from my generation believe they (or their pastor or their favorite theologian) have completely and rightly interpreted all scripture and pretty much figured everything out about God to boot. If we have questions or doubts about their interpretation then we are making up our own religion, or distorting the truth or as Chuck puts it: “rejecting the bible”.
I can’t say that I don’t understand someone being in that place – what I don’t understand is that someone could continue to stay in that place when so many from the movement have spoken out to explain that they are not trying to make up some sort of feel good theology but that they are truly grappling with the search for truth and find it hard to believe that anyone has completely figured it all out.
I say all of that because I want to share something that I read recently over at Up/Rooted. It was actually a comment to a comment. You can read the whole thread here. This is what I found so thought provoking:
I’m a scientist by training so I’m very, very comfortable with the Modern, scientific way of thinking about “truth” as being related to facts, information, verifiability and so on. So it’s completely jarring to hear Jesus say that he is truth, because “truth” is not something you can be. You can know truth, discover truth, share, record, express, discuss, debate and even be mistaken about truth. You can also be true but you can’t be truth.
So, in making that claim, Jesus shatters the category of “truth” in applying it to himself. It’s not just that it’s hard to understand what he means (we all agree there’s plenty of that), it’s that the statement is formally nonsensical – if – you are using the Modern/scientific categories for understanding the word “truth.”
That, to me, is where Jesus himself forces me to go outside the arena of factuality and accuracy (and inerrancy) in how I am going to deal with him and relate to him and, I pray, trust in him and obey him. These are, I believe, the things that matter most. When Jesus says “I am the truth” it compels me to move out of the Modern/scientific (and Greek/philosophical) arena and back into the Hebraic realm, where it has never been about facts and Ideas but love, life, and above all relationship as the “category of ultimate concern” if you will.
But when he says that, it also opens the door for me intellectually to all of the discussion I am finding so lively among the Emergents on issues of language, culture and so on. Truthfully, I’d have to say it actually compels me to go through that door so that I will be more cautious about interpreting scripture, since so much hinges on the categories and definitions I bring to the table, knowingly or unknowingly.
Let me go one step further. When the word “truth” is used in the Modern/scientific sense, then the word “know” also has a particular sense which corresponds to a cognitive condition. Scientific “knowing” is about having access to actual facts in your mind. But in the Hebraic sense, “to know” is also often used in a relational way. So we get the classic “Adam knew Eve his wife…” in Genesis 4:1. This means that there is at least an interpretive option in how we understand what it means to “know.”
This profoundly shifts the sense for interpreting a foundational verse such as John 8:31 “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” In a Modern/scientific frame, that translates into something like “You shall actually have access in your mind to the correct information, and that correct information will set you free.” But in a more Hebraic frame of meaning, and following what I think is the sense in John 14, it comes out more like this: “You shall be united in a relationship with me, and I will set you free.”
For me then, these explorations into the discussion of Truth and so on have resulted in an even more powerful shove towards focusing on my relationship with Jesus. And rather than make me less interested in investing time into reading and studying scripture, it has made that more important as I want to hear what my forbears have to tell me about living a life with God in the way of Jesus.
Well, that’s what’s been on my mind. If it’s of any use to others, then thank God for that!
Wow! That is very useful to me! Does this resonate with anyone else out there?