Saturday, July 23, 2005

On Truth

I posted this on Ian's blog.

The question was one of baptism verses soldership and why we can't just all get along. I answered that truth is defined by community. He disagreed so here is my response.

I understand your difficulty with what I said. However, this dialogue has shown this. Soldiership is only valuable because a group (the army) says it is valuable and meaningful. Baptism means many different things depending upon the tradition. Baptist, Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and others all have different definitions of baptism. So yes its meaning is defined by the community.

Now as far as the truth question. I would invite you, if you have not yet, to read Brian McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian” It is the first of a trilogy.

But here is my philosophical answer. In the past (325-1500) truth was defined by tradition. Essentially people where told by the church what to believe, note: scripture was true only as interpreted by tradition. In the enlightenment era 1500 to 1970 (all dates are aprox.) truth was defined by reason. This was all built on a single premise: Human intellect or rationality is capable of certainty.

In the postmodern thought certainty is impossible. Truth exists however we can not know truth for certain, for only God is true. However (and I believe this to be most important) Truth is not something known but lived. I hope this clears this up. I would love to continue this discussion via email or on my blog.

Essentially my point is this. Things are valuable because we say they are valuable. Practices are meaningful because we think and believe they are meaningful. I have found manyChristiann practices to be valuable in different communities. My ownexperiencee with baptism was somewhatmemorablee. However, many other practices have been more valuable for me personally. There are noprescibedd practices that we must do in order to follow Christ. We must simply follow. The practices no matter what can and should change depending on time, place, and culture. I hope this all makes sense. I just get tired on this cookie cutterChristianityy that only concerned about salvation (ie heaven and hell). Following Christ is about much more, Its about Life.


I think it is incredibly dangerous to say (as you have) that "things are valuable because we say they are valuable and practices are meaningful because we think and believe they are meaningful." While there may be differences in how different churches do things, those practices must be founded on biblical principles, and can only be seen as meaningul and valuable only in that context. We are all entitled to our personal convictions, but our guide must always be the Spirit of truth and not whatever our whim is at the moment. The Army is entitled to conduct the whole soldier deal just as other churches baptise not because they say it is valuable, but only if they, in good conscience, believe that it is founded on biblical principle and in accordance with the work of the Spirit and the love of Christ.

By Blogger Ian, at 8:49 AM  

But at the end of the day, the important thing is always to be living in a way that reflects the love of Jesus, despite any differences of conviction or opinion. Everything is to be defined by our love for Christ and for our neighbour. Hopefully we can all agreee on that.

By Blogger Ian, at 8:50 AM  

"There are noprescibedd practices that we must do in order to follow Christ. We must simply follow." Bill

How is this done? Becuase what I read is that you are very open to a subjective approach. Does that mean that God is subjective or that what it means to follow Christ is subjective to the reader or follower?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:51 AM  

I very much respect your desire to be true to scripture. No doubt that should always be important to those who call ourselves Christian. But I offer you two thoughts. First, different people or faith communities can read the same passage(s) and come away with two different meanings or action steps. Does that mean one is wrong? Not necessarily besides the question wrong. The question should be: what kind of person or people will this interpretation create?

Secondly, Practices are inherently cultural. Practices come out of cultures and are part of cultures. Even if a practice has the same name (baptism or communion for example) the practices are not the same. So yes we need to remain true to God's message revealed through scripture however we must never assume that our way is the right or only or even best way. The question should be what type of people does our way create? If we asked that more often we might become better people. And yes let us Love God and Neighbor and Enemy.

Little J:
I do not see life in objective/subjective categories. I believe God can and does relate to all people on their level. God does not require people to be part of any culture. So the question: How much of our Christianity is the trappings of Anglo European culture, and how much is the essential. My essential gospel is this: Love God, your neighbor, and enemy with everything you've got and in this way, we follow God. So yes it will look different and should look different depending on place, time, and other cultural considerations.

By Blogger Bill, at 12:37 PM  

I believe 100% that God does not only work in our culture. I don't even believe that our western culture understands what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. I agree with what you call the essentials; taken from the Matthew 22. However what does that mean. Do you know what it is to love your god and your neighbor. Unfortunately our words carry little to no meaning (you should be aware of this as your title states you are a postmodern Salvationist. Postmodernism makes the claim the words have lost their meaning due to the fact meaning is subjective or open to interpretation from the reader.)
The question isn't what are the essential(because that raises a whole other debate about how little can we do and still be a follower of Jesus.), because essentials are just that and furthermore we have agreed upon them. Rather, if our words have lost meaning, the question is how do we bring meaning back to our words. We do that through our actions.
You talk about loving you neighbor but what does that look like. I believe that as you debate essentials you miss the point of baptism and other sacraments. These are about loving your neighbor publicly with a body of fellow believers. Communion is another of the sacraments which the army desperately misses. and you need not go in to reason why or why not I have grown up in the army and know the debate well.

The point is this. Do we need to go beyond essentials?

Do we need to have meaning to our words?
And if so than how do we do that?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:12 PM  

"The point is this. Do we need to go beyond essentials?

Do we need to have meaning to our words?
And if so than how do we do that?"

Little j: Great insight, I hope you realize that in no way am I arguing for a do nothing essentials approach to Christianity. In fact I argue the opposite.

Now I see words having meaning in two ways. First there are agreed upon definitions based on the language game of a given culture. Ever tried talking Army in a crowd with no Army background? Secondly and most importantly words have meaning when we live those words through our actions. So yes our Christian life should be much less then the essentials but much more as well. I can not define what it means to Love to other people. I can give help and insight but I really can't. I can only talk about what it means for me to Love God and Neighbor in my house and on 5th street.

The challenge before us all is to fulfill Matt 22.

So let us live a life exemplified by love no matter what trappings we carry.

By Blogger Bill, at 8:34 PM  

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