Monday, January 21, 2008

Unity

I visit this site occasionally (http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/posters.htm) when I need a good laugh. However, the above poster struck me in a number of different ways. First of all I am struggling (if you have not noticed) with some of the ‘unwritten rules’ of the church world in which I find myself. In a conversation with a friend the other day, I walked away wondering what was more important in some people’s minds; the unwritten rules of ‘church world’ or how we learn to live out our faith in a culture in which we are called to be lights?

I have maintained that not everyone sees the world through the same glasses theologically. I have friends who are Calvinistic to the core, you would think that you are talking to John himself, as well as friends who are very Arminian in their theological perspective.

A ministry of balance is what I feel that I am attempting to live out in my personal life as well as the community in which I lead. I choose to seek the Biblical middle ground between the extremes of Charismainia (you read correctly) versus Charisphobia, emotionalism versus traditionalism, and Calvinism versus Arminianism and what I find is that there is no final solution possible. Great theological minds have debated the issues like free will versus the sovereignty of God for centuries without ever being able to reconcile the two. Arguing for one side at the expense of the other is foolish (in my opinion) because by nature it is not provable, and therefore is an argument which no one can win. Can’t we all just get along?

I, myself hold a theological viewpoint that I am very comfortable with, to the point that I can ascribe to a ‘denominational’ statement of faith. My issue goes further than this…
What I really find puzzling is how people will put emphasis on ‘tradition’ and ‘history’ as their statement of faith. I know that my view/interpretation of what it means to “be in the world and not of it” of may differ from some of my contemporaries, but why is it if one’s methodology is different and not their theology, that one could imply that someone is being divisive?

Thoughts?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about an example? I totally don't get what you are talking about.

lilmisssunshine said...

The Oxford dictionary defines "theology" as "the study of God...a system of religious beliefs". My question is whether your theology is in fact the same as Arminianism and Calvinism etc... If we take Calvinism for example... The 5 key points being Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perserverance of the Saints, and then add to it their idea that worship is regulated by God, and that anything that is not scriptual (wrt worshiping) is prohibited..... well, I think you see where I'm going (one legged worship posture is definately not scriptural...). I would argue that theology is based in scripture, but the "system" stems from that...kind of different pathways coming out of scripture - depending on your understanding and where you draw lines. Attempting to find a middle ground and accepting the fact that some aspects of these "theologies" are not "provable" means that you're essentially broadening the perspective, and creating a new pathway.... a "theology". So, maybe your theology is not the same, and rubbing out the divisions in other theologies just makes people nervous. People rely on tradition and history when they have no other reason to explain their beliefs. For example, families keep traditions sometimes just because they've always done things, and it becomes a statement about them. Anyways... those are some of my thoughts.

SoulPastor said...

Anonymous

I would have to suggest that you reread the previous posting Break the Rules? to get a better understanding of what is being implied here. With that in mind, here is an example:

In the past, some religious traditions taught their adherents that ‘good Christians’ do not go to the bowling lanes, because bowling and the ‘things that went on’ at the lanes where not ‘godly’ and Christians were to avoid places like that, because Christians are to “be in the world but not of it.”

Then, a ‘few believers’ come along and began to ask questions regarding why some church leaders would prohibit people to go bowling? (What is so ungodly about it? My neighbors bowl and they are actually quite nice, and so are their kids…but how can that be…they bowl?) The questioning is not malicious, but rather innocent in the process of trying to understand what it means to ‘be in the world and not of it.’

Now, these 'few believers' would search the scriptures and see if the scriptures said anything regarding the evils of bowling, and some found out that the scriptures seem to be silent on the issue, although their leaders and old-timers of the faith were not.

So, with a high regard of scripture, these 'few believers' walked into the Lanes and began to bowl and meet people that they would have never spent time with and they now even found that they now have something in common that they could do with their neighbor.

Here lies the problem: These 'few believers' wanted to impact society on a level that was once considered taboo, have now caused the “old-timers” to react in anger, in that it is now perceived that the ‘few believers’ no longer hold the values of what they have been historically taught. Now, because the ‘few believers’ are doing something contrary to the historical values of what they have been taught, they are considered divisive.

Now, to the poster above; it has a double meaning: “If you don’t accept my new point of view then it is pretty obvious who the divisive one is.” Sometimes we are narrow in what we do and think and do not allow room for new methodologies etc. On the other hand, those who have new points of view, who find themselves challenging the status quo, can have the tendency to be arrogant in their delivery of their new found freedom.

My last post reads: “If you think about it, most of what is accepted today was “hated” in the church world years back. Having drums and electric twangers, worship teams (cheer leaders) doing drama, wearing jeans in church could have gotten you shot in some places, clapping or even laughing in the church was not allowed” and if you are a Southern Baptist, it was against the ‘rules’ to go to Disneyland back in 1997. Many churches who once frowned on playing cards now hold Texas Holdem Tournaments, and have pool tables, video games in their basements and the list can go on.

So the question comes back to why (in a family of believers) is it if one’s methodology is different and not their theology, that one could imply that someone is being divisive?

lilmisssunshine said...

My point is that I think your theology is different. (explained by my previous post)

SoulPastor said...

Sunshine

I would have to disagree with you. My theology is not different from many of my critics. We sign the same 'fundamental statement of belief' the issue is how that theology is lived out in our world today.

lilmisssunshine said...

What's your definition of theology?

Anonymous said...

You said,
"Here lies the problem: These 'few believers' wanted to impact society on a level that was once considered taboo...."

Did they intend to impact society or did they just want to bowl?!

I would also like to know what you understand theology to be. Why should different methodology cause division and anger unless a persons understanding of who God is and what he expects of us is different than what we believe to be true. Are people angry because they feel God is being mocked or rather that tradition is being broken? People get hung up on tradition and "do's and don'ts" often because they really have not taken the time to read their bible, pray and get to know God. Their religion is external and built on the shaky foundation of what they have been taught by others rather than what they have come to know about God in personal study and reflection. If you have a clear understanding of who you believe God to be then everything in your life (what you do, what you say etc.) will reflect that and tradition becomes almost a non issue in your life. Should we really care if how we do things makes others angry; as long as we know that our intentions and the attitude of our heart is to honor God. Likewise then, should we not be gracious then with other christians who do not do things as we would.

lilmisssunshine said...

If "theology" is a "system of religious beliefs" having to do with the study of God...... then a having different methodology might mean that you interpret God/the bible differently and are then developing a different system of beliefs... surrounding God.
Using the bowling analogy... some don't go bowling because they understand it to be one thing (reflecting their theology - understanding of/religious beliefs about God) and others choose to bowl because they understand God differently. Being "in the world and not of the world" is a perfect example of a verse where your "theology" and who you've come to believe God/the bible to be impacts your "methodology" of living in the world (and not being "of" it). So... your methodolgy is rooted in your theology/study of God (who he is, and what he tells us in the bible)

Markimus said...

Some thoughts...

SoulPastor ... I really love your use of 'bowling'... SOOO EDGY!!!


Theology - Theo logic - thinking as God thinks.

I must admit that I adhere to a similar 'statement of beliefs' as soulpastor does... but there are some who would say I water down the truth and am straying from the tenets of my faith. To be honest, in my 'liberal/universalist'[accused] perspective I am moving to a more fuller understanding of who God is and a deeper committment to the scriptures.

Was God's purpose of Giving us the Scriptures to give us doctrine and orthodoxy? Or is its purpose something else?



Anonymous
'Did they intend to impact society or did they just want to bowl?!'
Seems like a dull point? Not sure what at all you are saying with that question... Seems like you are trying to 'flush' out the motives of people as if that should indicate the value to what they are doing. Not worth the effort and all it really does is stir up the same 'my side your side' attitide.
Statements like 'they have not taken the time to pray, read their bible and spend time with God' are really unrealistic statements. I know people that pray more, read more and act right more than I do but they seem to have a very restrictive view. Are they less Christ-like?

Could it be that both the desire to 'bowl' and the desire to impact society are able to happen at the same time. If I love to do something ... wouldn't my faith have a 'salty' effect when I go and do that?

SoulPastor said...

Sunshine

Here are some of my thoughts on theology...

What is theology? Theology seems to be a bad word today. To many it communicates bigotry, arrogance, and exclusivism riddled with impracticality. For some people they will allow you to have your theology, just don’t let it be know with too much conviction that you actually believe it! You can have your beliefs just don’t push those upon others.

Webster’s dictionary defines theology as “The science of God or of religion; the science which treats of the existence, character, and attributes of God, his laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice. . . the science of Christian faith and life.”

Saint Augustine in the fifth-century defined theology as “Rational discussion respecting the deity.”

H. Strong, said that theology is “the Science of God and of the relations between God and the universe.”

Charles Ryrie, says theology is “thinking about God and expressing those thoughts in some way.”

Millard Erickson says that theology is simply “the study or science of God.”

Charles Hodge wrote that it is "The science of the facts of divine revelation so far as those facts concern the nature of God and our relation to Him, as His creatures, as sinners, and as the subjects of redemption."

2 Timothy 3:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Here, Paul points out that there is an element of work involved in handling the word of truth.

Theology is the word that describes that work of handling the word of truth.

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of Yahweh, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezra 7:10)

Theology can be defined simply as "the study of God". It comes from the word theos which is Greek for “God,” and -ology which is from the Greek word logos meaning “word.” Most literally then the word theology means “words about God” or “the study of God.” If one were to use the term generically, it functions much like “philosophy” or “worldview.” Generally speaking theology is a belief system that is built upon intellectually and emotionally held commitments concerning God and man.

Or as a friend of mine has on his blog: "The best theology is not found in books. It's in boots." — Unknown

Theology itself provides a foundation for your philosophy and worldview, which in turn sets inclinations for your heart, actions, and decisions in all situations. Everything is affected by your theology.

SoulPastor said...

Anonymous

You asked “Why should different methodology cause division and anger?” It does! We all have opinions of how to do things and methodology can be an issue for some people.

You said “People get hung up on tradition and "do's and don'ts" often because they really have not taken the time to read their bible, pray and get to know God.” I would have to disagree with you here. I know some really strong believers who pray, study scripture and know GOD and their religion is not “external and built on the shaky foundation” but rather their faith is strong and based on personal convictions of what they perceive scripture saying is right and or wrong.

I like your question “Should we really care if how we do things makes others angry; as long as we know that our intentions and the attitude of our heart is to honor God?” I agree to a point, but the other aspect, as I have been told, is that what we do affects the rest of the body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Markimus
in response to your comment
Seems like a dull point? Not sure what at all you are saying with that question... Seems like you are trying to 'flush' out the motives of people as if that should indicate the value to what they are doing. Not worth the effort and all it really does is stir up the same 'my side your side' attitude.

My point was that maybe these people didn't care about what others thought, maybe they just wanted to bowl because it looked and fun and they didn't believe it was a sin against God. They were probably not out to change the world view on if Christians should go bowling or not. :) It was just suppose to be a light comment

What you said about motives interested me though. I don't think that we are called to judge others in that manner. God knows our hearts and he is the judge. That being said, would you not believe that our motives determine the value of our actions to God?

in response to
Statements like 'they have not taken the time to pray, read their bible and spend time with God' are really unrealistic statements.

Do you mean it is unrealistic to think that people pray, read their bible and spend time with God or that if people pursue God in this manner that they do not have a better opportunity to know the heart of God than someone who does not do these things?

"I know people that pray more, read more and act right more than I do but they seem to have a very restrictive view. Are they less Christ-like?"

I couldn't answer that.

Soulpastor said

You said “People get hung up on tradition and "do's and don'ts" often because they really have not taken the time to read their bible, pray and get to know God.” I would have to disagree with you here. I know some really strong believers who pray, study scripture and know GOD and their religion is not “external and built on the shaky foundation” but rather their faith is strong and based on personal convictions of what they perceive scripture saying is right and or wrong."

Either I wrote something I did not intend to say or you misunderstood me. I did not say those people who pray, study scripture and know God have a faith that is external and built on a shaky foundation. Rather my point was that it is those people who hold rigidly to tradition and the "do's and don'ts" of Christianity that may very well have a faith with a shaky foundation because it is really all they have to define their faith. Would you not agree that there seem to be many people who are "taught by others" ie. they sit in church on Sunday, but do not take the steps of discovering God for themselves that have picked up these traditions and lists that have been handed down from the pulpit and not necessarily from God? Sorry if I worded it poorly.

SoulPastor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SoulPastor said...

Oops, bad spelling, had to pull the response….

Hey Nony….got a handle or a name? Anyway, I obviously misunderstood!

I would have to agree with you that some people who sit in a church on a Sunday do not take the time for discovering GOD for themselves and have grabbed hold of things that at the time were meant for good but as society has changed they fail to see the necessity for their viewpoint to shift as well.

Jean said...

Motives...good point. We can not judge someone's heart.
It disturbs me to see mudslinging among believers and judgementalism. Does this elevate "our" position, or just drag the Church down (especially in the non-believers' eyes). But, sometimes it's hard to let God fight our battles (when you alone know your motives).

Soulpastor - don't feel like you have to justify your actions regarding leading in non-traditional ways. One day you have to stand before God and He alone will judge you on your faithfulness. Honestly, will he commend someone for judging others, or for obedience?
Even if everyone is against you...stand firm.

Jean said...

Also, Anonymous. Totally agree that some people have a strong faith and can expound their faith on personal convictions. To relate, just because you have a strong opinion doesn't mean it comes from God. (we all need to check ourselves about our convictions)

lilmisssunshine said...

as long as our heart is right when we bowl.. (ahem...dance), that's all that matters....
As for "God fighting our battles"... I'm not sure how that would really look. I think that just standing firm in what you believe is important, and trusting that either God will speak to you if you need to change something - or speak to others about their motives for being critical of your choices...
No one should be critical of dancing in my opinion... didn't David dance naked? .... it'll be a long time before the church crosses those boundaries!

SoulPastor said...

I am in my office going through a bunch of notes etc, general house cleaning!

Anyway, I came across a quote here, and as per usual, I do not know who said it...I never write that part down...So, let's give credit to the Holy Spirit and He can collect those royalties....

ANYWAY, here it is...

"When we pit our faith against our culture, we condemn the people we are called to reach. When we live our faith outside the culture, we ignore the people we are called to reach. When we offer a faith that is the same as our culture, we become no different than the people we are called to reach. When we proclaim the Jesus who alone can transform a culture and those affected by it, we find the balance of a faith that is both countercultural and culturally relevant!"

Anonymous said...

Dancing With God

When I meditated on the word Guidance,

I kept seeing 'dance' at the end of the word

And I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing.

When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.

The movement doesn't flow with the music,

And everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.

When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead,

Both bodies begin to flow with the music.

One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back

Or by pressing Lightly in one direction or another.

It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully.

The dance takes surrender, willingness,

And attentiveness from one person

And gentle guidance and skill from the other.

My eyes drew back to the word Guidance.

When I saw 'G': I thought of God, followed by 'u' and 'i'.

'God, 'u' and 'i' dance.' God, you, and I dance.

As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life and once again, I became willing to let God lead.

My prayer for you today is that God's blessings

And mercies are upon you on this day and everyday.

May you abide in God, as God abides in you.

Dance together with God,

Trusting God to lead and to guide you through each season of your life

Misty B said...

When I went to school I learned a bunch of theories and concepts that form a foundation for and inform the decisions I make at work. It also helps me understand some of the things that are happening around me. I don't even think about the names of the theories anymore.

Some things are pretty constant and don't change. However I know that the students that are in university right now are not learning exactly the same thing as I did. I have to watch for trends and learn new concepts in order to remain current.

So if theology is the 'study of God' shouldn't it advance our understanding of God and how our culture relates to Him?

Markimus said...

Could the study of Culture and the Study of God be simlar [theology]? ... If we are really honest, we will find God at work amidst culture regardless of the efforts of the 'Church' would we not?
God is not removed from culture [eventhough some would like to think that]The script of culture will have markers that point to Him. The Scriptures help us interpret those cultural markers and say 'this is that'
If God is at work and not 'out there' then theology must encompass a wholistic view where culture has markers to find god build within it [albeit not very clear markers but still markers].

novice said...

Looks like this has generated quite a response! Here are my 2 cents on the original question about methodology causing division where theology is shared. Sorry, this ended up being long.

This example is really simplistic, but let's say that congregation X and congregation Y are fairly alike in theology. On two points in particular, there would be no argument between these hypothetical two groups:
- God should be respected and honoured
- The Church is called to seek the lost and bring them to God

In services held by congregation X, you are expected to dress nicely. Jeans, shorts, tennis shoes and t-shirts are considered disrespectful and are right out.

In services held by congregation Y, anything goes. Come as you are, wear what you've got, and worship together.

They share theology, but in practice their emphasis on particular aspects of theology is different, and produces different methodologies.

It's tempting to say outright that congregation X is wrong, and is keeping people away but even that is not so simple. For example, congregation X could have adapted to a cultural expectation of dressing well in order to bring people to God.

This divides people because we see differences as a threat, especially when boundaries of culture and philosophy make it difficult to understand each other.

For example, it can be very difficult for someone with a "modern" mindset to properly understand the motivations of someone with a "postmodern" mindset, and vice versa. They may share theology, but their values and their system of reasoning produce very different methodologies.

If we can't understand each others motivations, and things that we consider to be very important are not shared, we cannot predict the other party's behaviour. We see that person as a potential threat, and division ensues.

The flip side is that shared philosophy and methodology can produce unity even where theology may differ. How else can you explain all these Mennonites like me in a church that preaches the boundless joys of Halo 3. :) (Although, truth be told, I was a fair hand at Duke Nukem 3D back in the day).

I think that unity is built around shared centers of power in our lives. We look for people we can feel comfortable with, whose motivations we understand and whose goals we feel we can share. There are right and wrong things that we can make centers of power for ourselves... but I don't think the argument usually gets that far in this case. If we can't find shared values we become fearful and fear causes division.