Hope, Faith, and Love

October 26, 2010

The Truth Project: Lesson 1: What is Truth?

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology — fredxr2d2 @ 7:45 am

“Truth is that which corresponds to reality.”

Now, you might wonder why it took The Truth Project an hour to come up with this answer, but that’s really not the main problem I have with the first lesson.

The main problem that I have with the first lesson is that it isn’t where I would have started were I to do a comprehensive “worldview tour.” I think the place that I would start, instead of veritology, would be epistemology. Before we can know exactly what truth is, we must first know how we can know anything for certain at all. Although, given a serious discussion of epistemology, it seems like people are more likely to come up with a definition of truth (or reality, for that matter) that is not quite as cut-and-dry as The Truth Project would like.

At any rate, the second problem that arises for me in their statement that “Truth is that which corresponds to reality” is this: What is reality?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe (on my own faith assumptions, of course) that there is such a thing as reality, and that we all live there (some more or less so). That said, I think it important to discuss how we can come to a consensus on what reality actually entails. For instance, when I think “green means go” while looking at a traffic light, I am asserting that the reality of the light being green is a truth. Unfortunately, were I colorblind, I would not “know” (or, perhaps more accurately: I cannot observe) that the light is green, I would just have to know that the position that corresponds with where everyone else tells me the “green” light is means go. So what is reality in this case? Is it that the light is green? Or is it that the light is merely a light without a discernible color, but whose corresponding position on the traffic signal signifies to me that it is in fact the “green” light that means I am to go? Do we then have to arrive at reality by a majority? Is reality a democracy?

Hopefully you’ll understand why that last question is a scary one to think on. For instance, in the deep south, before the mid-nineteenth century, it was a majority belief that people of African descent (and oftentimes any other descent than European) were not actually human beings at all and were therefore within the sphere of objects to be owned, much like a tractor that has to be fed every day (and sometimes not even then). This majority consensus, I hope we can see, was wrong. And we believe that to be an absolute truth that slavery is wrong, just as they believed it was an absolute truth that they had the legal and moral right to own another person.

All of this to say that reality is not based upon a consensus of opinions, but neither is it based upon what we, individually, think is real. Rather I might argue that Reality (and by extension, Truth) is based upon something other than that which we, as human beings, have access to. Perhaps you might label it as the Divine.

Acknowledging this is a hard thing to do–I mean, who wants to give up on the idea that they are right about everything? I know I don’t. But perhaps acknowledging that we can’t know the whole truth leads us somewhere better. Perhaps it leads us to learning more about the world and other people because we see that they too may have a link to the Divine and can show us a part of that Reality that exists beyond any one of our knowledges.

So what is Truth then? Truth is the great mystery that we all search for. It is something we all know parts of. And it is something that is beyond humanity’s ability to know fully. Knowing this truth then, we find that the postmodernist and the modernist have something to offer, as well as the conservative and the liberal, or the “crazy” Unitarian Universalist who believes the only thing that is true is that all truth is relative, which begs a whole lot of other questions, but whose answers may just guide us into more truth.

October 19, 2010

Read this.

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology — fredxr2d2 @ 4:10 pm

Great post on theodicy (why bad things happen).

October 4, 2010

Hanging Out In The Closet

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology — fredxr2d2 @ 1:27 pm

First off, let me say that I can in no way completely understand what homosexual people go through when they spend time “in the closet” as it were. That said, I got a new appreciation for it this past weekend.

Here’s what’s up: my church is doing a study by Focus on the Family called “The Truth Project.” Now, for any of you who know where Focus stands on anything you can probably guess what the study is about. That said, I’ll explain it a little.

The Truth Project is a study to help instill (some might replace “instill” with “brainwash,” but I won’t go that far here) a “Biblical Worldview” in Christians. This “Biblical Worldview” is, as all things Focus, very conservative and teaches less about how to be a follower of Jesus than a disciple of a certain type of Christianity (specifically it is noted as being a revamp of Francis Schaeffer’s work from the 1970’s–which clearly means that they’ve updated the thinking, right?). Essentially, it is a training in apologetics.

Let me set my bias straight from the beginning: as much as the works of apologetics interests me, I find it in no way to be a force of good in the Church. Apologetics is, more or less, the ability of one person to out-argue another in order to convince them that Christianity is true. I don’t believe this is ever possible. EVER. I don’t know of a single person who has ever been in an argument about Christianity or religion and come away convinced that the person they were arguing with was correct and they should change their mind. Mostly, I think people leave such arguments more bitter than they were to start with, with a new appreciation for how much they hate people who hold to a set of religious beliefs.

The Truth Project falls to the same pitfalls that a lot of works of apologetics does: mostly, it focuses on demeaning its opponents without actually grappling with the ideas that they present. For instance, the video spent time ridiculing people who, when confronted with the question “What is Truth?” could not come up with a coherent answer on the spot, or at least not a final and clear answer like the people from the Focus Institute. In fact, modern dictionaries were seen to not have a qualified answer as to “Truth” but instead, the leader of our “Tour” (as he called it) had to refer to the 1828 edition of Webster’s in order to get a definition he liked. What I thought was most interesting about that segment was his ability to get everyone in our group to not think critically about where he was getting his definition by throwing out the catchphrase of “political correctness” (which is apparently what modern dictionaries have too much of).

All this to say that I spent a good amount of time sitting quietly, seething as ideas that I’ve held for a while now, or at least ideas that I think need to be grappled with or considered (ideas like: postmodernism, evolution, the relative nature of truth, etc.) were instead mocked and derided as clearly false, even though no one spent any time actually debunking them.

So I come with a question to you, faithful readers (even though I haven’t posted in a while): Do I stay “in the closet” or do I “come out” so to speak? What do you think?

August 26, 2010

A Speech About What I (Don’t) Believe

Filed under: Uncategorized — fredxr2d2 @ 2:24 am

Here’s the deal. I haven’t blogged in a while. You’ve probably noticed this by now.

At any rate, I’d like to talk about what I believe in relation to my blog posts. Because I believe that truth is constantly being revealed to us or discovered by us, and that it is in many ways relative to our experiences, times, and places, I must honestly say that I don’t believe some of the things I’ve written on here. And sometimes, I don’t even believe the things that I’ve written right after I write them.

So I may be publishing a post in a few days/a week and the truth is, I don’t know if I believe what I wrote in that post anymore. But I might.

Mostly this post is an apology for those things that don’t make sense and for those times that I say things in real life that are different from what I’ve written here. And it’s an apology if I ever contradict what I’ve written here. Basically, I’m human, I’m growing and learning constantly, and truth is best expressed in other ways than blog posts.

July 27, 2010

I Believe in Love

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology — fredxr2d2 @ 11:15 am

I’ve tried writing this post a couple of times now, and to be honest, the reason I haven’t published it yet is that I too often devolved into intellectual ramblings about what is an emotional pursuit for me.

Let’s be honest: I don’t believe in love because I’ve intellectually assented to a set of ideals about love and said, “Yes, love is true and good and I must believe in it.” I believe in love because in my gut I’ve felt it.

I could go on to tell you that I probably believe in love because I’ve always been loved, and this is true, but I don’t know if that overrides the fact that deep down, in my soul, I have felt love play itself out: I have felt it flowing out of me and flowing into me and transforming my life.

Love is transformative.

I can’t help but think that. I can’t help but believe that love “covers over a multitude of sins” or that perfect love “casts out fear.”

I recently watched a documentary called Lord, Save Us From Your Followers. The documentary was good, but the two parts that struck me the most were the confession booth and the work of World Vision and other charity organizations in Africa.

The documentary talked about how in some countries in Africa, the people there don’t know anything of Jesus except for World Vision. They don’t know anything about Christians except for the ones that come and give of their time and effort to make sure the Africans have food and shelter and can live their lives. They don’t think Christians are hypocrites or judgmental. They don’t view Jesus with disdain.

I think the reason they think this is because they have been loved. That simply in the act of loving someone, they can experience God; for God is love.

The part with the confession booth is equally powerful. Using the idea of Donald Miller’s work from Blue Like Jazz, they set up a confession booth in a gay pride event. In it, instead of having people confess their sins, Dan Merchant (the director/narrator) confesses the sins of the Church against homosexuals. He apologizes for thinking bad thoughts, for making gay jokes, for generally treating homosexuals without love. His act of apology, of love, for the people of that event led to tears and reconciliation, to moving moments where hearts are laid bare and put back together again. Where love and acceptance is transformative: not necessarily for the homosexuals, but for Merchant. I think this is the true power of love: when loving someone, it can more often change the lover than the loved. And it can change both.

There is something about loving and being loved that changes our lives. And sometimes, when I can’t see God in the midst of the pains of this world, when I can’t see hope or when I can’t have faith, when I love or am loved, I gain all of those back again. I gain the ability to see God in the midst of pain, to have hope when there seems none, and to get a little faith that seems all but lost to me.

July 13, 2010

Links to Read 7/13/10

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology — fredxr2d2 @ 3:50 pm

Jason Boyett has an interesting post about the evolution of Biblical beliefs here.

He has another one along the lines of my last post here.

Brian McLaren talks about Open Theism and its relation to his view of Emergent theology here.

Also, Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town–which I’ll (hopefully) review on here eventually, did a radio interview with Bob Dutko, a conservative evangelical from the Michigan area, whose responses to Rachel’s views were hardly helpful. She blogs about her squeamishness before the interview with a link to it here.

The radio show itself is interesting to listen to because of the advertisements that Bob Dutko seems to endorse (and he does a personal endorsement of every single one as far as I can tell). What I found interesting about the ads was that they seem to be geared toward middle-class, middle-aged people (and, as far as statistics are concerned, most likely predominantly white) in that they talk about finding the right stay-at-home nurse for your parents (I thought about calling on that one!) and protecting your basement against water damage. However, I have to commend him on one ad, and it stuck out like a sore thumb from all the rest because it was less about him getting paid to do an endorsement for a product and more about showing Christian love; that is, he did an ad for Compassion International where he called upon his listeners to sponsor a child. As much as I disagreed with the rest of his side of the interview (and, seemingly, his inability to truly listen to what Rachel was saying), I have to say that that one ad redeemed him just a little bit in my eyes.

At any rate, these are some stuff I’ve been reading and listening to this past week and I think you should have a gander as well.

July 6, 2010

Interesting New Book/DVD

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology — fredxr2d2 @ 6:00 pm

There is a new book/dvd that just came out that looks super interesting and informative. As a fan of UnChristian, I can honestly say that this book/dvd (DVB if you will), looks like something that everyone who calls themselves a Christian should read/watch.

It is called The Outsider Interviews. Here is their website for more info: http://outsiderinterviews.com

Hopefully I’ll be reading/watching it sometime and giving you more information on it here.

June 29, 2010

Concerning the 4th

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology,Holiday Message — fredxr2d2 @ 2:05 pm
Tags: , ,

A fellow blogger had this to say about the 4th of July.

The truth is, my thoughts flow along similar lines. I am increasingly uncomfortable with the celebration of the 4th of July by Christians as a major holiday. For instance, my church decorates itself with flags and various patriotic symbols in regards to the celebration (to be fair, we also managed to make sure to mention flag day in our services, which also made me uncomfortable).  It becomes almost as if the cross sits in the background while American flags dominate the landscape of our sanctuary.

Now, some will certainly disagree with me (heck, I know a lot of people who do), but the truth is, there is one country and one allegiance that we should show as Christians, and it is not to the United States of America. As Kurt said, I love living in the United States and I think it’s a great country, and I don’t mean to bash it. What I do mean to bash is the current American Christian ideal of being super patriotic as an element of faith.

Interestingly enough, I find that I’ve never thought about what Kurt brings up in regards to the Revolutionary War being fought against other Christians over something as petty as taxation. At the same time, and I am no expert of history, I wonder if the other countries that gained their independence shortly after the American Revolution would have gained said independence were it not for the war fought by the American colonists. That said, I’m not sure it would be entirely bad to be under British rule, though my parents might have a hard time understanding what anyone was saying to them.

I read somewhere that pacifists tend to see themselves as citizens of the world more than citizens of any particular country. I think this is true, and, a Christian pacifist is more likely to see themselves as citizens of the Kingdom of God (which encompasses all the work that God is doing in the world) rather than as citizens of their particular country of birth. What I am arguing here is that Christians should not primarily see themselves as citizens of the United States, but as citizens of a bigger country, one whose borders are constantly expanding, and whose King is eternal.

As far as the celebration of the actual holiday goes: I’m all for barbecues and fun with family and friends. And an excuse to take a day off and do that seems as good as any other. But I am wary of decorations and prayers in church, where America is held up higher than God’s own Kingdom.

Perhaps we should start a new holiday (an old one, really) where every Sunday we get together with family and friends and spend time being a part of the Kingdom of God, rather than some country of men. Just a thought.

June 15, 2010

The New Face of American Evangelicalism

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology — fredxr2d2 @ 12:23 pm
Tags: , ,

This is an interesting video that was linked to on Brian McLaren’s website, and I thought that I would share it here.

Gabe Lyons (the one in the center of the panel), is famous for his book UnChristian, which I’ve referenced on here several times, and which has been talked about at major Christian institutions (including my own alma mater). He has a new book coming out about Christianity in the United States as a post-Christian nation, and how that is actually a good thing for our faith, it is called The Next Christians.

There are times when one can get overly cynical about the Church, but the truth is, if these people are the future of American Evangelicalism, there is still hope.

June 11, 2010

Eschatology and Children

Filed under: Daily Life and Theology — fredxr2d2 @ 3:18 pm

Children’s ministry fascinates me.

This is as someone who has no desire for it and not really much aptitude either, but, as a student of theology, finds it interesting that we would try and teach children some pretty complex stuff.  I mean, if there is anything that I have learned about theology from studying it, it’s that there is always more to learn and more to understand (and that I don’t know much of it myself). So how can we teach children theology when it is so large of a subject and so complex of one?

The reason I’ve been thinking about this lately is that my pastor’s wife has been teaching our “junior church” for years now and recently she was talking about dealing with the questions that the kids had. Now, they had picked an already complicated subject matter to begin with, Revelation, but there is also the matter of teaching it to young kids.

Where do you start with something like that?

And, to be fair, where do you provide answers and where do you leave it up to being unknowable?

The truth is, during my own childhood, I heard only one story on the interpretation of Revelation. And, when I went to college and found out there were other ways to interpret it, I was shocked and it took some time to get used to the idea that what I had grown up with was not necessarily the best way of interpreting it. (I want to be clear here that I have a preference on interpretation of Revelation and that the way that my church and many in the evangelical fold interpret it is less correct to my eyes, but does have an equal chance to be true–assuming of course that I am completely fallible and that so is everyone else who tries to interpret it.)

If I were to teach someone about Revelation, and I mean an adult, I would start by going through this. It talks about the nature of interpretation as well as exegesis and hermeneutics, plus it gets specifically into what “prophecy” means and the nature of the book of Revelation. If you must know, I personally interpret Revelation through the light of the Theological view (4a. on his list), which is a mash-up of Preterist and Idealist viewpoints.

But how to teach a child about it?

I’m sure that I disagree with the way of interpretation that my pastor’s wife will teach these kids about Revelation, at the same time, I do not envy her fielding the questions that they have, nor do I envy the idea of trying to take something complicated and make it intelligible for children.

Where would you start?

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