Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Roots (Disc 1 &2)

I'm very interested in the shaping and forming of the current theologies that bounce around this blogsite. How are conclusions reached? On what basis do we cling to what we cling to? Obviously none of us claim to have it figured out, but we all would rely on fundamental beliefs to form opinions that shape our actions. The journey in getting there is what I'd like to focus on for a bit, not the theologies themselves at all.

I believe that a lot of the theologies here have roots in some sort of bad experience, and grow from a reaction to never become like something bad that has been seen/heard. Jeff (Nutshell) touched on it in his last few posts, but I don't believe that he is unique in this. The way I see it is this: We see beliefs as not 1 to 1 correlation with action, but pretty closely linked. So therefore, if the action (end result) is not what is desired, the problem can be traced to the belief system that their actions are based upon. If we can change the belief system to being one that would bring about the desired actions, then it is a more successful theology. is this correct, everybody?

I'm wondering if theology is supposed to have this goal in mind when choosing to believe it or not. If action is an outpouring of what is inside, then wouldn't truth be the standard of whether or not the theology is successful? Or is truth such a mystery to us that we should focus more on the result of our actions, and tweak our theologies to line up w/ that? If what someone believes is true, than the outpouring of that truth in their life should prove the theology successful, right?

Do we believe what we believe because we are afraid of where a different path may lead us? Please help me understand thought patterns when it comes to this issue.


  • At 4:54 PM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Buddy said…

    How do you define truth? When you say "truth should be the standard," what do you mean?

    As I understand it, truth is not a standard; truth is always determined by appealing to a standard. Our ultimate standard is God's word, so that which conforms to God's revelation is truth.

    You seem to use truth (largely, not exclusively) as an adjective describing a proposition. I would say that truth is something that is embodied. Therefore, if an action is counter to God's word, it is not in accordance with truth, and if the impetus for that action can be traced back to a belief, then that belief should be scrutinized and possibly abandoned.

    One problem that I see is something Gabe taught me in intro to psychology: correlation does not prove causation. Although many fundamentalists are apathetic and hypocritical, that does not mean that fundamentalism causes apathy and hypocrisy. Jeff gave a few examples that are exceptions, and I can think of many (although I can think of more fundamentalists who are apathetic and hypocritical). But if a correlary does seem to exist, the theology should be called into question.

    Ryan, what is your definition of theology, and what do you see as its function?

  • At 7:22 PM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    I agree with your definition and use of the word truth, that is the way I would define it as well. Ok, so if the correlation exists, we bring the theology into question. sure, that works for me. But then if we find that the theology contains truth (by appealing to our standard) then can we abandon it b/c people seem to get it wrong more than right?

    I would define theology probably the way that you would; the study of God and His relations with His creation, or something along those lines. Its function is to bring us to a fuller knowledge/relationship with God and His creation.

  • At 10:04 PM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Chris said…

    First I was wondering if you could clarify this: "If we can change the belief system to being one that would bring about the desired actions, then it is a more successful theology." Do you see a distinction between a "belief system" and "theology"? Are you positing theology as "queen of the sciences"? Or are you employing two meanings to "theology"; "theology" the academic discipline and "theology" as religious commitments?
    How I see the connections between theology, praxis, and fundamental beliefs is sort of a pastiche of NT Wright and Brian Walsh's (whose class I should be reading for right now) model first articulated in NT Wright's "The New Testament and the People of God", and Cal Seerveld's view that he articulates in "The Damages of a Christian Worldview". Without further ado...
    We are all born into a way of life. This way of life is rooted in story, whether the Biblical narrative (summarized as Creation, Fall, Redemption) or an "apostate" story (e.g. the modern progress ideal). The communal story one finds themself a part of shapes one's way of life. This way of life then finds its expression in a world-and-life-vision (or worldview) which then shapes one's theoretical experience (including theology). But this model is reciprocal and, therefore, works both ways. One's theoretical experience, in this case one's theology can affect one's world and life vision, it can affect one's communal way of life, and it can affect how the story is interpreted. Now things are getting hazy.
    So we don't have direct access to the biblical narrative as such, it is always communal interpreted. It takes a different shape throughout time when it is continued by the communities that find it as their grounding narrative. It's interpretation takes changes with theological changes, way-of-life changes, worldview changes.
    So a theological position that one holds that is rooted in a bad experiences will usually change with a change in way of life. A way of life may also change with a change of theological standing.
    So yeah...
    I think that our actions and our theology should be based on the standard of truth; the story. But this truth cannot be seen as absolute, because the standard is always affected by our way-of-life and our theology (and other theoretical disciplines).
    I am also somewhat pragmatic in the sense that our theology should be focused on action; particularly on justice, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, etc. If a theology isn't concerned "with the least of these" it's...well...shit. If our way of life isn't concerned "with the least of these"'s the same.
    I don't know where I was going with any of this. I hope even a small nugget of these pointless ramblings means anything. Sorry that I am going to post this.

  • At 7:59 AM, January 31, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    thank you chris, actually I was able to find a few nuggets in there, don't worry. Your last paragraph summed it up pretty well, which is what led me to post initially. I was wondering if we should look at a belief as only a goal to produce a desired action. Example: If you believe a person is more likely to sit on their hands if they believe God is in control, you'd rather them believe that He is not in order that their action be one that is more desired. At least that's what I'm wondering if you'd rather.
    My original point on truth was that if you guys see an action not in accordance with truth, then possibly the belief should be scrutinized and possibly abandoned. Which I agree with. Then logically (and what I would claim) is that if you see a belief that is not in accordance with truth, then it should be scrutinized and possibly abandoned as well. And I don't believe that placing a higher importance on either is correct.

  • At 8:01 PM, January 31, 2006, Blogger Buddy said…


    That's how I thought you would define it, and I'd like to offer my definition, which is a bit broader.

    If worldview can be summed up (helpfully if over-simply) as four questions - who am I? where am I? what's the problem? and what's the solution? - theology is the study of the latter two, while philosophy is the study of the former two.

    Theology is an academic discipline, as are philosophy, literature, and mathematics. Yes its function is to bring us to a better understanding of God and his creation, and I would say, as a Christian, that that is the function of all academic disciplines.

    Theology has no more or less access to truth than any other discipline, which is not how many of us are used to thinking.

    I would say that a theological position is as important as an interpretive or hermeneutic position. For example, if I choose to do literary criticism from a Marxist perspective, I can use it for good (revealing and overcoming social injustice) or evil (the villification of upper classes resulting in violent revolution). The perspective is not as important as the outcome. I would say that the same is true of theology.

    I disagree with your claim that we shouldn't place one above the other. The outcome is more important than the belief and should be a criterion in evaluating the belief.

    I hope no one misunderstands me and thinks I'm devaluing theology. It is important (so is literary criticism). But as I understand Christianity, ethics is always of prime importance.

    I recognize that these claims are rooted in philosophical and theological commitments, which all are welcome to challenge. I just thought this might shed some light on our disagreements.

  • At 12:50 AM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…


    If theology has no more/less access to truth (which I agree with), then we have to remember it doesn't have less. So how can we evaluate that an action is not in accordance with truth any better than we can a belief? It seems like you think it's easier to say that about an action, but the belief is not so easy (possibly b/c you can't see what action it leads to).
    As we've establshed, outward action can have nothing to do with inner belief (or spirit). So why would you say that the action is more important, when Christ seems equally concerned with sins of the heart (in my understanding)?

  • At 11:48 AM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Buddy said…

    Are you saying that wrong beliefs are sins of the heart? If so, I disagree. Being wrong is not a sin, though it can lead to sin. Sins of the heart, lust, envy, hatred, etc., are actions, although they are internal.

  • At 12:15 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    If I believe that I am God, that is not a sin?

  • At 2:05 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    I understand your point, and I partly agree. But on that same technicality, I would claim that a belief itself is an internal action. Therefore what I actively choose to believe can be a sin. If I think a mug looks blue, but it turns out to be red, I agree that me believing it was blue was not a sin. But I don't think from that you can draw that placing your belief in a falsehood can never be sin. right?

  • At 6:00 PM, February 02, 2006, Blogger Buddy said…

    If I believe I am God because I am arrogant or prideful, the arrogance and pride would be sinful. If I believe I am God because I am crazy, then it's not a sin.

    I do think belief may be sinful at times. When Paul says "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved," it seems not believing in him is a sin, although I'm not sure if it's a sin of omission or comission, i.e., if the sin is belieiving in something else or failure to believe in Jesus.

  • At 1:26 PM, February 03, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    So you're proposing that not only can belief lead to action, but action can lead to belief. Which came first, the chicken or the dead egg? I don't know what that means.

    But why is it better to have a belief that is not in accordance with truth that can lead to an action which is, rather than the other way around? That's what I want to know.

  • At 3:00 PM, February 03, 2006, Blogger Chris said…

    I think that you are born into an active way-of-life. In this way of life beliefs are then shaped. So originally I think action came first. But that doesn't matter too much, because now there is a reciprocal relationship between actions and beliefs.
    Why is orthopraxy more important that orthodoxy? God has called us, and we are to respond. The response is an action. If we sit at home with the right belief of what that call is, it is wasted. If we know the call and respond faithfully that's great. If we don't know, or have a wrong belief about what the call is and still respond faithfully, that is better than knowing what the call is and sitting home not responding to it.

  • At 8:00 PM, February 03, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    Chris, I'm wondering if you can explain why that is though. I understand you guys feel that way, and I might agree. I just want to know why you have all decided this (not to generalize). Do you get this notion from scripture or from your own experience, or what?

  • At 11:48 AM, February 04, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    I guess also I'm seeing somewhat of an impass in my thinking. Because I would think that in order to truly get the desired action, the right belief has to be in place. And if the right action is not coming, then the right belief has not been attained. So I suppose I'm suggesting somewhat of an impossibility and then trying to figure out which one is better.

    Basically, what I keep coming back to is this: I feel that motive is central to any action being deemed good or bad, right or wrong. Which is why scripture goes into motives behind giving tithe being so important. It's not the money you're giving that's the correct action. it's the offering you're making out of a joyful heart that actually is worth anything to God. So evaluating actions and saying "it's better if it's for the right reasons, but it's still better than nothing" is incomplete to me. To me we need to examine the roots, and if they are in accordance with truth, then it is our response that it is the problem (our sin) and not the specific doctorine in question. That's not to say there aren't times when the doctorine in question is exactly the problem, b/c it's not in accordance with truth. That's what I meant by using truth for judging whether or not a theology is successful.

  • At 2:23 PM, February 05, 2006, Blogger Steve said…

    Beliefs proceed from us in many words and deeds that circumvent the screening of our intellects. When we "know the truth," and do not act on it, we do not truly "know the truth" or "believe" the truth we claim to know. Our beliefs trump our knowledge. Our subconscious heart trumps our conscious mind. Our actions often contradict what we know to be true, but we live what we believe. We know that we should pray but we don't pray because we really don't believe in prayer. At a gut level, our flesh can't believe that those words are actually being heard by God. Tracing bad practice back to bad doctrine seems somewhat helpful, but the heart's soil, no matter how much good seed is sewn, is still what it is. The good soil produces fruit. The thorny, rocky, road hearts (wherein beliefs germinate) will be less productive in spite of the good seed(doctrine) that it receives. Jesus' parable of the wise and foolish builder seems also to support the idea that truth is not truly "known" until it is put into practice. It becomes (if you will) a 'belief' when the heart obeys. And this is the truth that sets you free... the truth you know... the truth you do... (i.e. the truth you believe). Buddy, I do not think that outcome is more important than belief, especially in the context of 'self-analysis' which can be so laden with worldly wisdom. Pharisees evaluated the outside of their cups and found themselves prestine, yet they were full of dead men's bones! Bad results trace back to a bad heart, and their hearts were too hard to percieve the reality of their own wickedness. The heart ('believing') goes much deeper than we can peer. Man's wrestling with doctrine (it seems) is the smaller part of all the variables that are involved in his spiritual condition, the tip of the iceberg.

  • At 3:36 PM, February 05, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    Steve, I really appreciate what you wrote. It helped me find words for what I've been trying to express. I'd love it if you contributed more to the discussions, b/c it took you 5 minutes to get across what I've been circling around for a long time.

  • At 9:20 AM, February 06, 2006, Blogger Steve said…

    Thank you Ryan. This is an interesting topic and your observations were very thought-provoking. I like the idea of suspending 'theological discussion' to take a good look beneath the surface and examine what motivates our hearts in these discussions. Buddy, I think you're right on when you say that people cling to certain theological embattlements because they wish to avoid theologies that have roots in some bad experience or perception. There seems to be a thousand examples of this, especially on a mob scale. TV 'evangelists' make a show of healing people in the name of Christ while begging for money, so, in response to this pseudo-Christian message conservative churches pop up all over saying, "God does not heal." Excessive Redirection. In an effort to avoid the ditch on the right, we swerve so hard left that we end up in a ditch on the other side of the road. It seems that in a one-to-one individual situation, there's at least a chance of genuine less-subjective communication. At least I would hope. But I think one needs to consider that a bad theological experience is often a huge potential stumbling block in the life of a maturing believer, and it requires some sensitivity to the Spirit on all of our parts, to discern how and when (and even if) we might be used of God to remove that stumbling block. Slowly over time, and with great care, Jesus revealed the doctrine of the cross to the disciples. It was a stumbling block for them who said, "We shall never let this happen to you Lord." But Jesus responds (after rebuking Satan in Peter's plea), "Not only will this happen to me, but you also must take up your cross!" I doubt the disciples could've bared that teaching when they were first called to leave their boats and become 'fishers of men.'

    I guess my overall point is this: theological discussion should be undertaken by the mature Christian in such a way as to prefer the other persons above ourselves (and God above all), in order to encourage them to progress from where they are to a deeper and richer revelation of Christ, and meanwhile, walking in such humility as to be open to receive similar kinds of revelation from our vantage point. I think by and large, we are not so oriented and the greater part of our discussions (in general) emmenate from prideful conceit that promotes our own interest and/or entertainment rather than the interests of God and those with whom we are engaged in a spirit of faith and humility.

  • At 5:40 PM, February 06, 2006, Anonymous Jeff Dodson said…

    If I may, I'd like to introduce a question that I think could help flesh out some of the disagreements. If not, it may still be interesting.

    The discussion has turned towards motives (beliefs) and their relation to actions in the last few posts. So here's my question:

    Is it possible for a non-Christian to do good? If so, how are the good deeds of the non-Christian different from those of the Christian?

  • At 10:49 PM, February 07, 2006, Blogger Chris said…

    Geez Jeff, those are packed questions. "Good" is such a difficult thing to talk about. What do you mean by "good"? A determined moral end? Which moral end? The Christian? What's that?
    I'll answer it this way. I think non-Christians can enact and embody justice and work toward some telos that a certain community is working toward.
    Does it look different than Christians? Yes. But I think it is all contextual and particular. So Christian justice (or good) doesn't even look the same.

    I guess what I am saying is that no ones hermeneutic of the Bible is a totalized system with universal finality because that just leads to a limiting of biblical dynamism, becomes irrelevant and inconsequential, and self-enclosed.
    So yeah...what are you asking?

  • At 5:30 AM, February 08, 2006, Anonymous Jeff Dodson said…

    But what about when it doesn't look different? If a non-Christian feeds a hungry child is that good in the same sense as if a Christian who, out of the love of God, also feeds a hungry child?

    What I'm interested in talking about is the importance of internal motivations in determining the goodness of an act.

  • At 1:16 PM, February 08, 2006, Blogger Chris said…

    Yeah, I think they both are a loving of one's neighbor.

  • At 5:34 PM, February 08, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    This is a great question, Jeff. I know Paul touches on this concept in Romoans 8:5-8 when he says that those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. I think what that means is that we are enslaved to sin to a point where we can't truly do good until saving grace from God allows us or empowers us to. I believe we see instances in scripture of non-believers helping to carry out God's plans, so that should be looked at in opposition.

    How far does general grace extend? Luke says in Acts that God has revealed Himself and made Himself known to all people, even those who don't believe. So if it is by grace that we're able to do anything good, and all people have some form of grace, one could argue that all people have the form of grace that empowers them to do some good. I probably wouldn't land on it, but it's worth exploring.

    If I'm capable of doing good apart from Christ, then I don't need His grace/redemption. I can pull myself up by my boot straps and make this world better w/out the help of God. This I don't accept to be the biblical, so I'm less inclined to believe it. But if somebody thinks otherwise and can support it, I'd be happy to hear it.

    This question does really flesh out how important we all feel that motives are. Thank you for bringing it up, Jeff.


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