I have a feeling that this post title is going to rattle the religious.
What I’m about to say, I’ve been pondering for awhile. This past nearly two years interacting in the blogosphere has been the first time in ages that I’ve had contact with people who think differently than I do, on a lot of different issues. I come from a culture that pretty much insists that you hang with those who believe the way you do, because anyone outside that framework can potentially corrupt you. It’s a fear thing, really.
I bought into the fear for a long time. But I don’t ever really think I bought into the idea that we should all be the same, or that we can’t learn from each other. In fact, when the fear factor is gone, I gravitate to people who are different than I am. Always have. It makes life interesting, and I enjoy hearing alternate points of view, and different ways of looking at the world. (The only time I don’t is when a person of an opposing view shows intolerance to me for my views. That kind of thing makes conversation impossible.) Suffice it to say…for the past 20 months, I’ve been a kid in a candy store. And I’ve gained a perspective I never would have had within my own bubble. And it hasn’t “corrupted” me; my own beliefs remain pretty much intact. 🙂
The thing is, even among people who consider themselves Christians, there is such a diversity of belief. It has always astounded me how two people can look at the same Scripture and come to completely different conclusions about it. And it has always troubled me how many different theological views there are, because sometimes it seemed like a crap shoot to pick one. How would you know if you were right? Especially when someone with an opposing view can present just as convincing an argument?
Why is this issue so important? Because for so many of us, theological belief has been drilled into us as critical to our faith. Belief in Jesus almost becomes secondary to what we believe about Him. Theology and faith have effectively become synonyms, and right belief (i.e., good theology) has become the foundation of our faith.
Do you think that’s maybe too strong a statement? Consider the “foundations” courses we teach new converts in our churches. What are we actually teaching as “foundations?” I mean, really?
Theology. We’re teaching our theology to new converts, and calling it foundations. How much more proof do we need?
Our seminaries teach certain doctrines, and teach the students how to be good “defenders of the faith.” (That’s actually code for how to effectively argue that their take on Scripture is the correct one, and others’ aren’t.) Heresy is considered equivalent to apostasy, placing the so-called heretic in danger of eternal damnation. Heresy is the new unpardonable sin.
Now don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting that heresy is a good thing, or that theology isn’t important–or that we shouldn’t do our best to get it right. (And just in case anyone was wondering, I’m not questioning faith in Christ here, or Christianity in general. I’m talking about the differences of theology among believers in Jesus, not all possible belief systems.)
But the questions still gnaw at my soul: What is the correct theology? And how do I know the version I’ve chosen is correct? Have I not simply been convinced by someone, just as others have been convinced of the opposite view?
How can I base my faith on something that feels a bit like Russian Roulette? Pick the right things to believe about God, and you’re saved. Pick the wrong one, and you’re toast. Good luck!
See the dilemma? This is why I’m re-thinking the foundations.
So here’s where I get the religious folk riled up again….
I am thinking that if so many intelligent people can draw so many diverse conclusions from looking at the exact same body of Scripture, then it’s irrational to base our faith on our own interpretations. Thus, our theology can’t really be a foundation, because there’s no way to tell for sure that we have it all “right”.
So I am pondering a faith that is founded on something deeper than “correct belief” about God.
I’m pondering a faith that is based more on relationship than theological belief.
I’ll start unpacking those statements in the next post. (Meanwhile, if you feel like unpacking them yourself in the comments, feel free.)