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09 September, 2011

CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE IS NEEDED TODAY

From where I sit in a pew that is not all that comfortable these days, Christianity seems to be reforming into several overlapping world views.

One of these views frames life's big question -- what is the right action in any given circumstance.  This group tends to be concerned with morals and are more generally anxious about life and worried about misleading teaching. 

The other approach focuses on discerning how to be good.  Scripture is read more thematically and sweepingly and the historical context of a particular passage is of crucial importance in interpretation.  Generally, we find mainstream church debate framed in terms of conservative and liberal.  Squeezed in the jaws of the overlapping views are poor Christian souls who accept as literal the various interpretations and translations of biblical writing and teaching and conduct their lives faithfully within the narrow but focused confines of their convictions.

There is increasing conflict between the extremes, each one thinking the other to be misguided, perhaps even profoundly wrong.  But what if it were possible to lay distinctions aside?  What if it was generally accepted that it is possible to look at the world through completely different sets of lenses?  As with all human conflict, once different styles are recognized, the sides are able to work out differences harmoniously.

A former editor talks about working at a publication where all his colleagues were anxious to get their work done early, to make quick decisions about stories and page layouts with no changes.  He, on the other hand, was always tinkering with copy and layouts right up to deadline time.  His colleagues thought he was being mean and ruthless in undoing their good work and in creating avoidable stress for them at deadline.  The editor saw them as uncooperative and uncaring about the final product.

Eventually a moderator helped the staff and editor see that no one was being mean or uncooperative, but that they were bringing different values to the same problem.

Surely it is not too difficult to understand that in general everyone is trying to conform to certain religious principles, just in different ways, and with different outcomes.

It helps to look at the gospels themselves as an example.  It doesn't necessarily take a biblical scholar to characterize the synoptic writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) as being more generally concerned with Jesus the man -- the Messiah destined to lead his people like the prophets of old into a new age.  John, on the other hand, was concerned more with presenting Jesus as Divine -- the God-Man.  "And the Word was made flesh..."

Note:  We are talking here in one instance about the Man-God and in the other about the God-Man.  Both may well be true and acceptable, but profoundly different.  So too are the overlapping world views that are concerned with thinking about our faith.  The practical concern about morals is grounded in the questions:  What is the right thing to do? as opposed to What is it good to be?

If there is any truth to the differing views currently engulfing most Christian denominations, is it expecting too much to hope (pray) for more amicable discussions that honour where the other side is coming from, not as opposed to one's own position, but rather as looking at faith and life from a very different perspective?

Sadly, the evolution of society has resulted in us making religion far too complex and complicated.  There has been a tendancy to manipulate faith more in keeping with human preferences and, dare I say -- frailties. 

I have never handled differences and conflicts all that well.  Any wonder that I sit in an uncomfortable pew as far as my faith in the future of all that is good and holy is concerned?

Different world views can, and will, lead to different theologies and I can accept that, as long as we do not lose sight of the fact that, ideally, truth and scripture are present in both.

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