Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Challenging and Accepting Beliefs

Yesterday, I discussed some reflections on doctrine. During my thinking and struggling on the issue (it's not over yet, by the way), I read Romans 14 as part of the liturgical year in my Mosaic Bible.

If you don't know Romans 14, please read it now. I've read it a couple of times since because it seems so relevant to my current questions and even this blog. In particular, Romans 14:1 is a good summary of the chapter:
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
In crafting my post yesterday, I had this in mind a bit, focused more on writing what I believe rather than criticizing others' beliefs. Okay, so I didn't do great on this, but in some ways it relates to the idea that arguing and needing to defend oneself is not necessarily what we are called to do.

The purpose of this blog is to help people explore their beliefs. I've thought of adding a new tagline: "Deconstructing to Reconstruct." However, I also have long said these conversations are not for new Christians. They're for people who want to take their faith to the next level and really challenge themselves to seek Truth.

It's very easy to get into a pattern of pointing out others' false belief and challenging it. I think I've done that a few times here. However, my goal is not to really call people out, but rather to provide a space to validate others who are having similar experiences, thoughts, and concerns.

In various church groups, I get the urge to challenge and criticize others' beliefs. But there may be a good reason they have them. What is the use of making that challenge? Oftentimes, it just causes strife.

I think of an analogy in terms of psychotherapy. I see plenty of people with a very different set of beliefs about behavior, motivation, faith, etc. I don't simply debunk all of their beliefs. For ones that are immediately damaging and to which they are open, I will present an alternate perspective. I rarely say something absolutely to a client or family, even if it's considered to be absolutely true in the field. It's just generally not helpful.

I need to remember this regarding theology.

Providing opportunities for discussion is important. But I also need to know the limits and let people believe what they will, no matter how unbiblical and damaging I see it.

However, if a lot of these ideas are premised on Romans 14, particularly verse 1, then we also need to focus on the phrase "believers who are weak in faith." What does that mean?

Everyone thinks they're strong in faith. So it can quickly result in spiritual narcissism. "I'm more faithful than so-and-so, so I will accept their immature faith." I don't want to be that person, but I border on it at times (and may just simply be there).

I wonder if we're not necessarily supposed to operationalize that phrase. It may be something everyone is supposed to hear. No matter if we think someone is strong or weak in faith, we need to focus on building each others' faith. And according to Romans, that doesn't seem to be about defining right belief or right action. After all, Romans 14:17-19 states:
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
To me, this emphasizes the futility of detailed doctrinal statements. We are to focus on "living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Arguing over biblical interpretation and types of sins does not usually do this...

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