Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Saturday, December 30, 2006

on dialogue

PamBG has some good advice for what she labels "VIII" Christians -- you'll have to read her post if you want a definition -- on how to dialogue with "liberal" Christians.

One thing that makes such dialogue difficult is the assumption on the part of some participants -- and in truth these could be either the "conservative" or the "liberal" participants -- that the world's population can be cleanly split into two groups. If you don't agree with their side, you must belong to the other side.

The reality is that Christian theology is a rich spectrum of ideas, and they can't all be squished into a nice, neat little dichotomy. There are too many angles, too many nuances, to divide the world like this.

That's not to say labels are never appropriate. Labels can be a beneficial shorthand for describing complex theology. If we hear that someone is a Catholic or an Anabaptist, a Calvinist or an Arminian, a Lutheran or a Pentecostal, we already know a few things about that person's beliefs and/or practices. And though these groups have their differences, Christianity is big enough to include all of them.

So the problem is not in labeling per se, but in choosing overly broad labels that don't acknowledge this rich diversity. In a recent post Bob at I am a Christian Too looks at an article by Peter Berger titled Going to Extremes, which examines the pitfalls of fundamentalism and relativism.

Unfortunately, these two extremes feed off one another, each becoming the bogeyman the other side fears. If your worldview allows for no choices but a blind certainty about everything or an absolute rejection of absolutes, it's easy to imagine that most of the world falls in line with the opposing side, no matter which side is yours.

The reality is that each side grasps a part of the truth. Fundamentalists understand that there do exist abolute truths, and relativists grasp that no finite human can be omniscient. It is only when we embrace both of these truths that we are confronted by the reality that some of our cherished beliefs just might by wrong. That realization makes dialogue not just desirable but necessary. Challenges to our beliefs help us clarify our thoughts and refine our understanding.

A retreat into certainty can blind us to the truth just as surely as a retreat into relativism.



At 12/31/2006 9:32 AM, Blogger Monk-in-Training said...

AMEN!! excellent post!

At 1/03/2007 7:33 AM, Anonymous Questing Parson said...

A wise fellow once told me, "Truth is ever evolving in our conprehension."


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