Monday, December 06, 2004

Is It Healthy?

At heart, I think we are all religious skeptics. That is, if we are presented with something we consider strange and have never heard of or disagree with, then we need to be convinced that its true.

To a point, I think this is a healthy state of affairs. Despite all efforts of our society to make us otherwise, Christians are not, and ought not be, so braod-minded that everything that gets in finds a permamnent home in our thought process. In the chuches we like to speak fo this as "discernment." It is based on Paul's appeal to us to hold fast to that which is good and to flee from that which is evil (I'll let you look up the biblical reference for yourself). It is a good thing, in that context, to be at least a bit suspicious of things that are new and claim to be Christian. That isn't because there is somethign wrong with "new." Its an outgrowth of the fact that Christianity is a religion which is rooted in history, historical events, and so not open to historical revisionism under the guise of historical re-evaluation which typifies the "new" in theology. The lynchpin of Christianity is the complex of hisorical events surrounding Jesus, and it is for that reason that the Bible speaks of the faith that was once and for all time handed down to the saints.

That said, there is a sense in which skepticism is not healthy. Too often our skepticism is rooted in an emotional reaction to something that is not necessarily new, but simply new to us and our experience. In that case the faith that was once and for all handed down gets defined in terms of our own experience of Christian traditions rather than the core complex of historical events surrounding Jesus. Our skepticism is born out of fear of change, rather than faith in that which is unchanging.

Those who would use skpeticism as a hedge must remember that it is the faith which is unchanging, and not our understanding and means of application of the faith to our lives
which is to be unchanging. Being open to experienceing the one faith in different ways is not a compromise of that same faith.

At last, it doesn't have to be.

Te key is to be idscerning, and be actively Christian in our thinking. It takes no effort whatever to treat the faith like a museum piece, and ourselves as curators of it. But that is not what it means to be skeptical, nor to be discerning. Both of these take effort.

Dsicernment, like discipleship, is harder than we perhaps would like to think.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

Hey PB
Again, that was a thought provoking post. I was curious what you would say about a Christian who has had a damaging experience with something labeled Christian. I find myself in this place, I equate charismatisism with sensationalism. In my head I know this is an unfair ruling, but somehow I can not convince my heart to give up the grudge. Any suggestions?