Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Harmony or Homogeneity?

Wow, has it really been three months?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the variety of beliefs Christians have. I love discussing philosophical and theological issues with a variety of people, and I find that I enjoy the conversation more when someone disagrees with me. That's only true when it's an actual conversation, however, and not someone telling me I need to agree with them or I will go to hell.

I have had great conversations with both Ryan and Racie about predestination (they choose to believe in it), and I've loved the comments I've received on this blog. Sadly, many Christians are not able to enjoy conversing with brothers and sisters who have different beliefs. Look at all the church splits, denominational feuds, and even wars that occur because one group believes something that another doesn't. Is this how the body of Christ is supposed to function? I say no, and that has led me down an interesting train of thought, and I would like to invite your thoughts.

What if we're not supposed to all believe the same thing? What if the truth of Creation is too big to be contained in every individual human brain? I know that this conflicts with Protestant individualism which insists that Christianity is the individual alone before God and the individual is capable of believing all the right things. But what if that's not the case? What if the body needs certain people to believe in predestination and others to believe in free will? What if it's necessary for certain denominations to emphasize the Holy Spirit and others to emphasize God's unity? What if instead of opposing one another, differing denominations saw themselves as complements to the others?

I know that many will consider me relativistic (which, let's face it, I am), but consider this: what's more important, what we believe or what we do? I would argue that within Christian thought, ethics is primary. Why don't people get nearly so upset about wrong action as they do about wrong belief? Some may say that wrong belief leads to wrong action, but I disagree. Does right belief lead to right action? I can think of several people who have their theology all figured out, but who are absolute bastards. Likewise, simply because someone believes differently than we do does not mean that they will necessarily do things that we would consider sinful. If a person is in fact doing something wrong, then perhaps they should reevaluate their beliefs, but I don't think it follows that wrong beliefs lead to wrong action.

I know that my thoughts don't flow perfectly, but that's because I'm still trying to work it all out. I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have.


  • At 9:32 AM, May 26, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    Well, I've been thinking a lot about this since we talked last weekend, Buddy. Here's where I am so far, tell me what you think.
    I agree that the church should not be at war with itself and denominations should not be feuding and bickering. But, I cannot say that just because people don't handle differences correctly, that it doesn't matter what you believe, just what you do. you might not be saying it doesn't matter, but you are certainly bordering on it. And, although universalism sounds nice and pretty, I don't ascribe to it.
    I would also agree with you that the human mind can't fathom all of God's truth. But, from that I can't deduce that the human mind cannot hold any of God's truth. I think if we get so postmodern that nobody is right, and God just turns into whoever you feel that He is, I don't think that's correct either.
    So, I don't think the church handles itself very well. we need to acknowledge that we're all on a journey together to explore and to reflect God. But, that doesn't mean that "all roads lead to God" or any other such phrases that spring from just what you're talking about. If somebody says they have truth about God that is contrary to the truth you believe is in the Bible, are we supposed to just say "well, difference is good!"? in a way, yes (just so we don't jump down people's throats or condemn them or something)... and then what's true for you might not be true for me comes around, and pretty soon there's no meta-narrative for which we can base any of our beliefs on.
    and one last thing, Jesus makes it clear that belief is foundational to faith, not action. action without faith is dead. so while action effects our social problems, the belief is foundational in their actions. not a one-to-one "bad belief leads to bad action" or other way around... but they're connected in a mysterious way, and you can't separate them.

  • At 10:42 AM, May 26, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    I don't mean to say that beliefs don't matter. I think beliefs are very important. I guess what I'm really asking is, what is the criteria for determining whether a belief is right or wrong?

    The first answer is God's word. But what about beliefs that differ on the basis of interpretation of God's word, for example, the perennial predestination/free will debate? Both sides support their position with Scripture, and I would say that certain parts of Scripture seem to support both sides. So there is an impasse. At this point, I would say that it is the actions that need to be judged, not the beliefs.

    I agree that the human mind can hold some of God's truth, and that's my point. What if my belief in free will (for lack of a better term, I don't believe the human will is truly free, but that's for another discussion) gets at part of God's truth, and your belief in predestination gets at another part? We shouldn't argue about it (although our discussions are always enjoyable), but we should recognize that God's truth is too big for any one of us to grasp and learn what we can from those with differing beliefs.

    I suppose I should have been more clear that God's word is the ultimate authority, and all roads do not lead to God. But I am suggesting that within the parameters of God's word, there is room for difference, and that difference may be good and necessary.

  • At 8:43 PM, May 26, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    Alright, I agree with you on that. I feel that the discussion is good, because a lot of times the belief held seems to change feelings towards God, and certainly effects the lense through which you view the world. I know you weren't saying everything that I was addressing, I was more meaning that they stem from the sort of things you were getting at. If your main point is that we should stop being so afraid of different beliefs and learn to understand and possibly embrace those differences, I'm all for that. I don't think people should throw up their hands and say "well, i guess nobody can really know any truth for sure." which is tempting to do, since we're all fallible humans interpreting a story that wasn't even written originally in our tongue. but, somewhere along the line the holy spirit has to be a factor in helping to determine truth.
    we're watching ocean's 12 tonight, it's pretty funny. i'm very intrigued to see star wars now. oh, and your answer to the question "what is the criteria for determining wrong belief?" easy... i'll decide.

  • At 8:49 PM, May 26, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    That will save me many a sleepless night. Thanks, Ryan.

  • At 4:17 PM, May 27, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    by the way, I feel it's important to note that not only do I believe in predestination, I believe in "free will" as well. Because I feel the Bible supports both, I support both in a mysterious way. so i don't think anybody holding to one and rejecting the other (on either side) is embracing the whole of scripture.
    oh, and Mandy and I both got haircuts this afternoon, it's hard to get used to. mine's just long enough to tuck behind my ears now. and i finished your mix tape. you're in for a treat. how long do you think this conversation will just be you and me? i hope not very long, i'm totally sick of you.

  • At 10:30 PM, May 27, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    Interesting. I guess in proposing what I am, I as well am claiming that both are true (or may be true, or get at truth). I guess I'm open to the possibility of certain things being predestined, but I don't believe everything is either predestined or foreknown.

    Now that your hair is shorter, maybe fewer people will ask you for weed.

  • At 12:24 PM, May 28, 2005, Blogger Chris said…

    What do you mean by "right belief" and "wrong belief"? What (or who) determines what is right and what is wrong? Are you speaking of your particular community's hermeneutic as "right" and judging wrong based on said hermeneutic? True, you can only speak from your experience, but are you making a value judgement based on the risk taken to reach this hermeneutic?
    (I'm not arguing, just asking.) Buddy, I just realized that you ask this question in a response.

    I agree that wrong beliefs do not necessarily lead to wrong actions, and that right beliefs necessarily lead to right actions, but if these beliefs fall into the pretheoretical world-and-life-vision, then they will affect your actions. Yes, ethics precedes epistemology, but what hermeneutic you hold, what beliefs you ascribe to will necessarily form the ethics you hold.

  • At 10:37 PM, May 29, 2005, Blogger Andrew Ravencroft said…

    I haven't decided if I believe in pre-destination/ free will as far as it applies to one's salvation. To be honest, I don't really care. As it applies to salvation, it clearly states that we are to be a light to the world. So regardless of if a person is chosen or if they choose, we are called to share with them.

    As it applies to everything else, I pray, and usually I will start down a path and persue something until God blocks the path and shows me that I need to be pursuing something else.

  • At 11:19 PM, May 29, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    Free will/predestination was just an example, not a can of worms I wanted to open here. The common "open-door policy of decision making seems counter to 2 Corinthians 2:12-3.

    Beliefs are important because they lead to actions. But because different parts of the body are made for different actions, doesn't it seem possible that those different actions are inspired by differing beliefs?

  • At 4:56 PM, May 30, 2005, Blogger Chris said…

    Yes. I believe that hermeneutics are constitutive of creaturehood and a structural goodness of creation. Sure this makes violence possible, but not necessary.

  • At 4:06 PM, May 31, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    definitely didn't want to get into predestination discussion either. Buddy, I agree that differing beliefs can lead to differing actions, and those actions can all be within the body of Christ. but, what if they are not? by your suggestion, we would have to just assume that it is ALL apart of the body, even if it seems to go against what scripture says. i know you said that scripture is the basis for determining truth, but in cases where it's not so clear, you would just assume that everybody is correct. I am different. I assume that everybody is slightly incorrect if there isn't enough support from scripture on their point. so while being slightly incorrect is nothing to start a war over, or even an argument, it's nothing to celebrate and be satisfied in either. it's one thing to agree to disagree. but what you're suggesting is that it's all part of the body of Christ, which means it's truth. in order for me to embrace something as truth, i feel scripture must support it. and although i won't fight somebody on their slightly incorrect belief necessarily, i won't embrace it as truth from God either. does that make sense?

  • At 5:05 PM, May 31, 2005, Anonymous Jeff said…

    Hey Buddy,

    This is Jeff Dodson. Chris (err, ummm...The Dish) and I were painting today (woo hoo) and he referred me here. I thought I'd post my thoughts. Buddy, what you say makes sense and I'm really inclined to agree with you, but I have a couple hesitations.

    First, how does one (or, how does the church) decide which beliefs are "open to interpretation?" Is it only in seemingly inconsequential beliefs like eschatology or soteriology or do you also include Christological (e.g., is Christ divine?) and ethical (e.g., is homosexuality permissible?) controversies as well? It seems that your position is easy to affirm when you're talking about the millenium or determinism, but when you push your reasoning to some of its conclusions it becomes a bit shaky.

    Second, your position sounds alright in the abstract, but I wonder how well it works out in concrete existence. What I mean is that in theory it may be good to have one part of the body emphasize one aspect of Christian belief and another part to emphasize a different aspect of Christian belief. If this happens, it's alright because, in theory, it will all balance out in the end. Is this the way it really works though? From my experience, it's clear that unbalanced belief leads to unbalanced/perverted action. If one part of the body overemphasizes something (or, to really make it hit home, one member of the Trinity) what that church deems as important is usually perverted. Again, unbalanced theologies often result in unbalanced Christian living.

    If i need to elaborate a bit more on the second point, let me know. I'm long-winded and I didn't want to ramble. Let me know what you think. Interesting conversation, guys.

  • At 12:11 PM, June 02, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    I can't count the number of times that I've started to write a response, and then stopped to think about it some more (not because it happens a lot, but because I'm really bad at math).

    By suggesting that differing beliefs may be good, I am not suggesting that we accept all beliefs as truth. If differing beliefs are good, then it is important that we actually believe them. So I will still disagree with people who think differently than I do and will argue my case and try to convince others, all the while recognizing that these disagreements may be a necessary and good part of Creation order.

    Therefore, in answer to Jeff's first question, I believe that everything is open to interpretation. I have no standard apart from God's Word (which is always interpreted) to determine truth. I will, however, stick to my interpretation and listen to that of others.

    Second, my suggestion is an attempt to balance belief with the possibility that the opposite (or, as I am suggesting, the complement) may be necessary to the body/kingdom as well.

  • At 12:01 AM, June 04, 2005, Blogger Evan said…

    what's more important? our beliefs or our actions? should our focus be on converting fellow christians to our line of thinking or loving our neighbor? should we pontificate about pacifism or love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us?

    should we blog at length with our buddies and slap them on the back and say "praise jesus, that we can agree to disagree" and then, agree to ignore an impoverished world because our time is better spent in front of a computer screen chatting it up with people who were at our weddings?

    what if every time we had an itch to get online and blog our christian faith... we got off our rear's and made a difference in the lives of people who need christ.

    i don't dispute that friendly debate such as this has it's place, but i refuse to believe that God is pleased with such a disproportianate amount of our time being spent soap boxing in cyber space... when there is so much work to be done in this world.

    i highly doubt that if we were out there side by side ministering to the kinds of people jesus ministered too, surrounding ourselves with whores, mentally ill, contagiously sick, scum of the earth, pouring into their lives and loving them like christ loves us, we would even know, let alone care, where we all stand on predestination.

    what if a doctor left a patient on the operating table, to go pen a chapter on psoriasis for an upcoming edition of medical digest. it sounds obsurd, why would a doctor forfeit the life of his patient in order to share inane information with other doctors? and why would christians sacrifice their unsaved brothers and sisters to berate each other online about such inconsequential data.

    it seems so intellectual to sit around and disucuss what we think God was trying to say in this passage or that passage. i say don't worry about it... not when there are so many things the Bible is CRYSTEL clear about... that we can't even get right...

    ...the greatest of these is LOVE... and if there's one thing DC talk has taught us, it's that love is a verb. so why don't we get out there and do it.

  • At 12:04 AM, June 04, 2005, Anonymous Jeff said…

    I've been thinking about what you've said for a couple of days. Again, I tend to agree with what you're saying, but there are a few areas I'd like to explore a bit more.

    Who determines the (il)legitimacy of an interpretation? I'm particularly interested in exploring this question as it relates to the concepts of orthodoxy and heresy. Is orthodoxy just an interpretation among others?

    I like to think that certain boundaries have been set on our interpretation. We are heirs of a tradition which has created a framework within which we operate. So while all things may be an interpretation, not all things are "open to interpretation."

    Lastly, I have a clarifying question. What do you mean by "God's Word"? Just the Bible or are you using a broader definition?

  • At 12:30 AM, June 04, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…


    I agree that interpretation takes place within a community and a tradition. Actually a plurality of communities and traditions. Orthodoxy is what a given community has decided is right worship and action. What is orthodox to a Catholic is different from what is orthodox to a Protestant or Eastern Orthodox, and there is difference even within those traditions. So I don't know how else to talk about orthodoxy apart from the interpretation of a faith community.

    I certainly agree that there are limitations to interpretation, but I'm not sure I understand your distinction between everything being an interpretation and everything being open to interpretation. Please clarify.

    By God's word, I mean any way in which God has revealed himself: Scripture, Creation order, special revelation, etc.


    Three words, two syllables: false dichotomy.

  • At 9:31 AM, June 04, 2005, Anonymous Jeff said…

    I agree. The distinction was simply getting at the idea that while all doctrines and beliefs are indeed interpretations, some doctrines are not up for grabs. It's simply a recognition that confessing Christians have had certain boundaries placed on belief and practice. Of course, someone can choose not to belief that the Son is God, but in so doing they've placed themselves outside of the church, at least as the church has defined itself.

    Anyway, I'm right there with you. This offers a much more positive take on denominationalism and other divisions within the church.

  • At 9:37 AM, June 04, 2005, Blogger Evan said…


    two letters, seven syllables, one word:
    Umm What?

  • At 12:55 PM, June 04, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…


    You seem to start out saying that action is more important than belief, and I agree. But in the body of your argument, you compare the action of witnessing to the action of discussing truth and hold the former above the latter. I don't believe that the two are mutually exclusive or that one is more important than the other. Both are acts of love done by different members of the same body, so I'm not comfortable putting them in opposition to each other.

  • At 1:02 PM, June 04, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    Ryan and Jeff have brought up some good points that I now feel I should have said more explicitly at the start. I am talking about differing beliefs within the Kingdom of God. Certain beliefs preclude membership in the Kingdom, and so I am not talking about those. At the same time, I don't claim to know comprehensively or authoritatively what those beliefs are, although I can think of a few examples.

  • At 1:33 PM, June 04, 2005, Blogger Chris said…

    I don't think that Evan was setting up a false dichotomy. I believe his intent was to get the point across that theoretical action should lead into and affect praxis. Often there seems to be a disconnect between theory and practice. I agree that pontificating about pacifism is no substitute for loving your enemies. We need theory, but theory that doesn't affect your practice is worthless.

  • At 2:06 PM, June 04, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    Why do the two actions need to be expressed in oppositional terms?

    I agree that beliefs affect action, and by saying that actions are more important, I mean that, so far as a given belief is open to interpretation, it is to be evaluated by the action that it produces. If it's a good action, it's a good belief; if a bad action, a bad belief (I realize I'm over-simplifying here).

    If that's what Evan is saying, then we agree.

    I read Evan's comment as saying that evangelism and ministering are good, discussing philosophy/theology distracts us from that and is therefore bad.


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