Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From Struggling Christian To Struggling Christian

My life has been super-busy lately, and the blog is obviously suffering a bit. This post should have been written days ago but I put it off through a combination of laziness and having stuff that honestly was more important to do.

The origins of this post can be found in a comment that I left to Rik Fleming of Journal of a Struggling Christian (formerly Gay Christian Journal). Looking back on the comment, I realize that I was a total brat to Rik and I apologize for that. I'm pretty mellow in person, but give me a pen (or a keyboard) and my words can come off as pretty strong. I wish I had the same grace that Pam has when she writes, but for right now I'm simply working on it.

Still, according to Rik my comment raised several good questions and he graciously wrote a very detailed post in response. I had no idea Rik had such a rich background in theology and philosophy, and since I'm just your average college student, much of his reply was simply over my head.

I can thank him for giving words to concepts that I've held for a long time. I've always made a distinction between Biblical Truth and human truth. For example, I believe Jesus is the Son of God and died to save me from my sins. That's Biblical Truth. It cannot be proven, so it must be taken on faith, and that kind of Truth is revealed to us through the Bible. I also believe that Earth is billions of years old and that animals evolve from primitive forms to more advanced forms. This is human truth. It runs counter to what is described in the Genesis account. However, it is pretty much established through scientific method. There is Truth in the Genesis account, however. Though I don't believe God made the planet in six literal days, I do believe He created everything. That is Biblical Truth.

Confused? People often are when I tell them about this view, and it has led to some sticky situations in the past. Thanks to Rik, I know that there is an actual term for it called "limited inerrancy." I'm happy about that, because the whole "big T / little T" system I made really didn't work out. Rik then spends many paragraphs going over why it is an incorrect view. Like I said, I can't respond to him on a theological or philosophical basis. I just don't have the appropriate knowledge to create a response that won't be laughable. I will do my best to respond to this quote, though.

"To argue, as do many evangelicals who hold to limited inerrancy, that we may have a high degree of confidence in Scripture with respect to matters such as doctrine but that the text may contain factual errors regarding historical, geographical, ethics or scientific details is detrimental to the faith. If we introduce the possibility of error even in the slightest degree, the foundation of our faith would be destroyed."

All I will say about this view is that it is the precise reason why many faiths have been destroyed. Many people are raised with a view that the Bible is perfect, infallible, and not subject to error or scrutiny in any way. When the time comes that logic gets the better of them and they start questioning some aspects of Scripture (such as the Genesis account, the Exodus story, or the idea that women can't be preachers) their faith crumbles. I know because it's happened to me and friends of mine.

Where does the answer lie? I really don't know. With me, I have come to the conclusion that the Bible was written by many authors over thousands of years. It is a combination of different genres. Not all of them were meant to come across as pure historical, geographical, or scientific fact. They were all, however, a message of God's love and grace. How do I distinguish between what is truth and what is True? To be honest, I haven't figured it out that far yet. I have a great respect for the Church and what has been considered "traditional morality" throughout the centuries. After all, the way I live my life certainly isn't congruent with someone who cherry picks what he wants from Scripture. Some people think I'm a conservative nut-job, and that's fine by me.

At the same time, there are many things that I still have questions about. I'm still searching. Maybe in a few years I'll look back on this and go, "Limited inerrancy? What the heck was I thinking?" Maybe I'll look back and go, "Celibacy? Are you kidding? I have the best boyfriend in the world now!" Maybe I'll look back and be proud of who I am. Actually, that will happen no matter what. In either case, I thank Rik and all the bloggers I read for helping me ask more questions, giving me advice, and challenging me to think about these issues. This may not be the response Rik was looking for, but like I said, I'm busy and I don't have the time to write a super-awesome post like he can.

And honestly, I'm realizing that I just don't know enough about God to say some things with total certainty. When I do, I feel a bit like I'm spreading false rumors. Maybe that's something I need to work on. Have a nice day, everyone!

7 comments:

RikFleming said...

Jay,

Thanks for your open and honest response. I wish we could sit down over a beverage (I had to give up coffee) and discuss these things in greater detail. I have actually written a great deal on Bibliology (which covers revelation, inspiration, inscripturation, inerrancy, textual criticism etc.) enough to be made into a book.

For now, all I have to say is that your truth-dualism is epistemologically unsound and if followed consistently it is spiritually fatal.

I know that sounds like a lot of $9 words.

But in other words, this sort of reasoning is built on sifting sand that cannot stand.

Your starting point for what you believe is your self-seeking autonomous (self-lawed) reasoning.

My starting point for all knowledge is the fear of the Lord as He has revealed Himself and the world around us in Scripture (Proverbs 1:7).

These two starting points are antithetical to each other.

Jay, I love you and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. IF you are ever interested in studying these issues further and dialoging on them privately via e-mail or telephone, let me know.

I'll continue to pray for you and hope that one day you'll come to stand on the Word of God for your entire life in all that it teaches (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

Blessings in Christ,

Rik

grace said...

Jay,

I admire your "spunk" and the fact that you were willing to jump in there and flesh out your thoughts even though it was a certainty that Rik would come back with all those nine dollar words.

While I don't mind spending some time thinking and pondering the nine dollar words, it's quite a relief that it's not a requirement for salvation.

Hope you're having a great week!

love and grace,
pam

Jay said...

Your starting point for what you believe is your self-seeking autonomous (self-lawed) reasoning.

With all due respect, don't you think you're being a bit cocky here, Rik? You're telling someone that you haven't even met how their belief system works.

I hope my post revealed that I follow the Bible as much as the next guy. It's determining what parts of the Bible are meant to be taken literally, and what parts are not, that is the hard part. I'm still trying to figure that out, and I think everyone is.

Hope you're doing well, and thanks for the offer to talk.

Pam: Thanks for the comment. I really agree. Hope you're well!

Anonymous said...

It's good to know I'm not alone in the world. LOL. Good post.

Robert said...

Jay,

You have an interesting post here concerning "Biblical truth" and "Human truth." A Buddhist minister once told me about "conventional truth" and "ultimate truth". He used as an example our perception of the sun setting and rising (we call it "sunrise" and "sunset") -- that is conventional truth. The "ultimate truth" is that earth spins on its access and rotates around the sun. Both conventional and ultimate truths are in fact true.


So it is that conventional and ultimate truths are found in religious literature. God did not make the universe in literally 144 hours. However, we can conventionally understand the universe being created in set stages or "days" even if those stages ultimately took hundreds of billions of our years to complete.

I am eager to see what Rik wrote on the subject.

RikFleming said...

Jay,

When I say that the basis for your epistemology (hence your understanding of Scripture) is fundamentally determined by your own autonomy, this is not being cocky. I can make this statement because I understand how epistemological systems work. I can say the same thing about many Bible thumping "conservative" Christian scholars who say that they believe in the inerrancy and infallablity of Scripture for all truth, yet they say that they believe in the Word because of external evidences to the Bible. The system of apologetics known as evidentialism is inherently flawed for this reason. At its foundation, it denies the very thing which it is trying to defend because something other than Scripture (cosmological arguments, ontological arguments, archaelogical evidences, laws of probability etc.) is the ultimate determiner of truth.

Jay said...

I can make this statement because I understand how epistemological systems work.

No. You know how your epistemological system works. You don't know enough about what I believe or how I go about my faith to tell me how my belief system works. Sure, you have several clues, but I don't think they are enough for you to make such a statement. I certainly wouldn't make such a one about you.

Most of what I write on this blog (or any blog) is not a hard-boiled belief of mine, but a question that I am struggling with and am raising to the readership of the blog. I am not certain about all this stuff. That God exists and that Jesus is my Savior is almost the extent of my certainty at times. However, I still think I'm getting by the best I can with that.