Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Jump With Me, Part Two

[be sure and read Part One before reading the following...]

Bell quotes a man giving a lecture on creation. At one point, the man says, "If you don't believe that God created the world in six literal twenty-four hour days, then you are denying that Jesus ever died on the cross." It's a bizarre leap of logic....but he was serious.

For this man, his faith isn't a trampoline; it's a wall of bricks. Each of the beliefs for him is like an individual brick, stacked on top of another. If you pull one out, the whole thing starts to crumble. It appears to be strong and rigid, but if you begin to rethink even one brick, the whole thing may start to crumble.

The problem of living in Brickworld, is that a brick is a fixed size. It can't flex or change because if it does, it can't fit into the wall anymore. What happens is that the wall becomes the sum total of the beliefs, and God becomes as big as the wall. But God is bigger than any wall. Or religion. Or worldview. God is bigger than your and my understanding of the Christian faith.

For those of us living in Brickworld, our posture becomes pretty defensive. We spend a lot of time defending the wall and proving our bricks are the right ones. (You rarely defend a trampoline...you invite people to jump on it with you.)

Ever seen someone pull a picture of his wife/girlfriend/kids out of his wallet and begin to argue the supremacy of this particular loved one? Of course not. They simply show you and invite you to see what they already see.

[On a side note, Brickworld has a tendency to keep everyone out unless they have the right bricks. Maybe you've been outside the wall before, like I have, and you know what I'm talking about.]

Jesus? He invites everyone to jump. The least. The unlovely. The lepers and prostitutes. The struggling single Mom [or Dad]. The family who seems to have it all together, but really is just playing 'church'.

Leave Brickworld. Shake the dust from your sandals.

And come jump with me.


At 9:51 AM, Blogger -tg2 said...

Is there anything in between springs and bricks? It would seem (to me anyway) that it's hard to classify Christianity in one of the two extreme camps. As an example, I have tenets that I hold on to (very tightly) that would seem to fall into the brick world -- All scripture is God breathed and useful... I also have ideas that are just that... ideas; fluid, changing, not central to my faith.

Can I throw bricks at the trampoline???

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous scott m said...

Haven't read the book, but it sounds interesting. Right now I'm enjoying The Jesus Creed, but there are always more books out there that I want to read.

tg2, the trampoline has a frame. Without that frame, it has no spring at all. I don't know how many things make up the frame. (Except that I think I believe accepting that you don't/can't know in full may be part of it -- the mystery of God.) But I can see at least a few clearly. Paul says pretty bluntly that if Christ isn't raised from the dead, we're without hope and pitiable. So clearly that's a part of the frame. John says that if we deny the incarnation, we're denying everything. So the fact that Jesus was really flesh and blood is a part of the frame. God's love, though unfathomable, is certainly a big part of it. If Jesus was flesh and died, then the cross is a big part of the frame. Turn that frame into a pile of bricks, though, and you're going to find the trampoline pretty hard to jump on. [g]

At 7:41 AM, Blogger tom cottar said...

Morizot beat me to the punch....we haven't discussed the framework yet. (and Bell hasn't touched on in yet, either). But my thoughts agree with Scott: there are certain things that are inflexible, that make up the frame (e.g. "all scripture is inspired", "no remission of sin w/o shed blood", etc.). Without those, there would be no place to attach the springs. For me, the danger is in deciding which are springs and which is the frame...

At 7:52 AM, Blogger -tg2 said...

That danger is exactly what I was talking about.

If you hold something as being central to your faith (coming from a fundamentalist evangelical) that is something that will not move -- no matter how much you grow in understanding. Do you define that as a brick or as a frame? Does it matter? At the end of the day, what really matters is what you have understood about your faith. Without the pieces, there is no puzzle, without the puzzle there is no picture, without the picture there is no understanding [I'm sure Scott will have something to say about that -- so let the floggings begin].

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous scott m said...

No flogging. Just that Christianity isn't a puzzle and doesn't have pieces we have to put or hold together. We love God by following Jesus, sometimes with understanding, sometimes without understanding, and sometimes with wrong understanding. That's the frame of our faith.

At 7:20 AM, Anonymous scott m said...

tg2, I thought about adding more last night and finally decided not to, but upon reflection I think more does need to be said. First, don't misunderstand me. It can't be a purely personal and individual Jesus that you follow, whether it be personal revelation of the Spirit, your own rational understanding of the Scripture, or a revelation of the Spirit through your understanding of the Scripture.

(As an aside, I sense that people have this vision of the "bible" as some independent, objective entity. I'm not sure why. Objectively, it's a collection of words stored in some type of medium. It only has meaning as we interpret and understand it either through our own reason or the reasoning of some other party. I think it may, in part, be this elevation of scripture to the highest pinnacle of the faith as a sacred writing in itself that has led to the modern splintering of Christ's one body. Everyone is certain they have the one, right understanding of the bible and thus everyone else is wrong. And the judgement carries with it an attitude of pride, rejection, and superiority. It seems this is what happens when you make the bible your foundation instead of Jesus. When you say, "This is what the bible says," you are always saying, "This is what I understand these words to mean." You then make your rational case for why they mean that. But today especially I can easily find many authorities who will make a case for any passage of interest meaning something different. I'm willing to assume they are all good-intentioned as a starting point, though some (the wolves) will not be. But everyone who disagrees with me or my favorite authorities is clearly not a wolf trying to devour me.)

What then do I mean when in practice when I say Jesus is the frame? Hopefully, I mean the same thing he means when he is described as the shepherd, the sure foundation, the cornerstone, the big rock, the shelter, and so much more. Jesus is the essential center and those truths that hinge on his person are the most central to our faith. We must cling to those. From that frame we can test the rest.

But if we've asserted that our own understanding (through which we filter scripture and revelation) is flawed and untrustworthy in itself, how do we proceed? What else do we have that transcends our own perception of the world around us? It's not a secret, really. I see it again and again in the text. We have what Paul calls the body of Christ. We have each other. We have the first century leaders working out their understanding through the spirit preserved in our scripture. We have the early church fathers that followed dealing with issues of culture, oppression, and understanding of Jesus. We have those who struggled as Christians assumed responsibility for powers of the state. How do you blend those? We have the long traditions of the church that, though they split around 1100 both grew communities of those who could together work through and preserve the understanding and application of that frame in a world where the majority could not. They could simply receive. We have the Protestant tradition crying out against practices that had become perverted, even if ultimately their grasp for perfect understanding and belief became a problem as well. And we have those with whom we live and worship daily today.

That web of relationship which mystically forms Christ's body and bride, those who are called out or apart, who together all contain the living Spirit of God, and have throughout the centuries; those people are the safety net, the preservative, and the agent of change that Jesus has built. It is not perfect just as we are not perfect. It can and has gone astray. But voices within it have always pulled it back just as they adapt and interpret the news about their Lord to every culture they contain and turning them upside down.

So to me, the various things churches have as pillars are all silly. To some it is the tradition of the church. To others it is reason. To others it is scripture. To others it is the Spirit. To others it is some combination of the above. And they all build cases for it. But the center is really Jesus, as recorded in scripture, understood through our reason and the Holy Spirit under the influence of our culture together with each other with the protective correction of the traditions of the church. And even so we'll still get it wrong sometimes. But you can't remove or trivialize or elevate any aspect, especially not above Jesus.

At 6:46 PM, Blogger -tg2 said...

scott m, lets not wander too far from what God's Word has to say, James 1:5-8 & Proverbs 2:6 (along with MANY others -- these are just my personal favorites) tells us where understand of the Bible comes from. We (as believers) must not rely on our own "interpretations" of scriptures (Proverbs 3:5-6) lest we think ourselves wise -- 1 Corinthians 1:20-31.

Not looking to open another can, just want to make sure we're not headed down a path I've been down and come back again -- trust me, it ain't someplace I want to return to... ever!

At 4:46 AM, Anonymous scott m said...

All we ever actually have is our own interpretation of scripture. To quote one of the definitions of the word:

A mental representation of the meaning or significance of something.

In fact, it seems to me a failure to recognize that reality may be as much a factor in those who are led astray by false teachings as too much reliance on it. It's neither good nor bad in itself. It simply is. The words were a medium to record information and have it understand by people in a specific context. As we read it, and attempt to understand, we are hampered by the fact that we are filtering it through a completely different cultural context. However, that just makes the difficulty more apparent. We have examples, even in the first and second century, of those who were a part of the culture, but still attained an incomplete or incorrect understanding from the text.

Even the process of attempting to relate those words to our modern understanding, culture, and language (that which we call interpretation) is more art than science. And then every decision a scholar or an individual makes that this fragment in this location of the text is related to this fragment in another location is part of the process that builds the house of cards of a mental representation. Too many people believe their own accepted mental framework is really the brick wall. The one and only way you can tie those pieces together. And that is dangerous.

Nothing is certain. No approach is foolproof. We have an incredible, native ability to rationalize and justify almost anything. We hardly need any help from Satan for that. And anything can be abused. However, the approach I attempted to illuminate in my prior post would have probably protected you from the specific wandering you mentioned. The fact that you thought I was describing a purely personal understanding tells me I did a poor job conveying my own thought. I was actually describing how to protect against false personal understandings, how to validate or check your own understanding.

But I started from the premise that all you really ever have is your own understanding, interpretation, mental framework, whereever and however you got it.

Mine remains pretty fluid all the time. There are those few things at the core. There are those things that have been tested. There are a lot of things I think I believe, but have never been tested and remain in a pretty fluid state. There are those things I think I might like to believe, but don't really yet. There are those things I'm pretty sure I don't believe, even as I admit they are not completely without merit. And there are those things I reject, some emphatically others with some regret.

At 5:21 AM, Anonymous scott m said...

A possibly clearer way to say it occurred to me.

We all need to validate our own personal interpretation or understanding through our relationship with Jesus, directly (illumination of the Spirit) and through our relationship with his body, the church.

Still doesn't look quite right to me, but maybe it's closer. The danger I sense in the thought behind some of your assertions about scripture is the idea that those words on paper can be rationalized and completely and correctly understood. Once you start down that path, you then have to align with that which you believe to be the one right interpretation. That immediately casts the vast majority of other Christ followers as, at best, misguided and, at worst, heretics. This is one reason the Protestant tradition has splintered with a pretty bloody history. And it's definitely part of the reason the Enlightenment, with its ideal of a secular world, looked so attractive.

And another problem, of course, is that any attempt to build the one, right, inflexible interpretation inevitably cracks under the strain. And once the cracks form, it's very easy to be swept away in the flood. This actually leaves people more, not less vulnerable to false teachings.

At 6:56 AM, Blogger -tg2 said...

Those words on paper are the very breath of God. By saying that we're not capable of understanding what God is trying to say to us minimizes the ability of God Himself to communicate with us.

It's like Jesus talking to the woman at the well, he didn't talk to here about how to parse the Torah to gain a better understanding of it, he talked to her about... water. She (being wrongly educated about God) still got it enough to tell the whole town about who she just met. It doesn't get any easier than that -- no reason to make it hard.

All my post (above) says is that God Himself tells us that we can understand what He's trying to tell us.

Let's not expect God to not be able to fulfill His word. "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. [James 1:5-8].

That's God Himself speaking to ME through James. That's not starting from my own understanding, interpretation, or mental framework. That's coming directly from the God that created the heavens and the earth.

If He tells me that all I have to do is ask... that's all I have to do.

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous scott m said...

Now it almost appears that we've flipped sides and are each speaking for the other's perspective. [g]

Absolutely. I called what you describe by its classical term, illumination of the Spirit. I was just also pointing out that we possess boundless ability to fool ourselves and we can also easily be fooled by others. Besides, the very statement that God will give you understanding reiterates my point that the words themselves have no real inherent meaning or we would have no need for understanding from God.

But Jesus didn't just give us the Spirit. He knows our weaknesses. He gave us himself embodied in his church. Yesterday in youth, as we sang the words "I stand in awe of you" to Jesus, I was reflecting that we generally don't. After all, he said that whereever two or three are gathered in his name, there he is also. And one of the pictures we're given is a body. Or a building of which the chief stone forms the foundation. Do we see Jesus in our fellow believers? Do we stand in awe of Jesus in them? And thus with us? As I reflected on that, I began to be in awe of those teens around me trying, imperfectly, to follow their Savior, the other leaders also trying, imperfectly, to help them. Pretty awesome stuff.

Anyway, attempt to form a perfect understanding in a vacuum and you'll fail. Attempt to rationalize scripture and you'll fail. Assert that you have the one correct understanding and at some point in your understanding you will be wrong. And do it in isolation and you will wander far astray. The body, both in the explorations it has already done, and in daily life and experience adapting those, provides us part of the relationship with Jesus that serves to keep us from wandering too far astray.

Honestly, I really can't tell at this point if we essentially agree or not. We seem to be saying somewhat similar things perhaps coming from a different perspective or context.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger tom cottar said...

So...would it help to come up with somekind of [beginning] list of what makes up the frame? Tenets, if you will, of what makes up our collective frame.

Virgin birth? Inspiration of Scripture? Depravity of man?


At 10:24 AM, Anonymous scott m said...

I don't know. Just from the random things you threw out I had varying reactions. The virgin birth is simply the name which, throughout the lengthy tradition of the church, we give to the mechanics of the incarnation. We don't understand the God side of it all, but we know what a virgin is. And we can understand that God caused a virgin to be pregnant somehow and Jesus was the issue of that pregnancy. It's an aspect of a truth that is obviously critical, God becoming fully human.

However, with "inspiration of scripture" you move into fuzzier territory. It's a concept with which pretty much all traditions of the church agree, but they would all offer explanations of the phrase that would sound somewhat different. So by throwing that one out there, we then begin discussing what you mean by "inspiration of scripture". Do you mean that there is one and only correct interpretation of the written words and you are in possession of that true interpretation? Or do you mean something more fluid?

And then "depravity of man", at least these days, is a phrase that tends to be associated with calvinism and the more cynical branches of lutheranism. And that's certainly not a part of my framework, though I have no problem acknowledging the possible validity of the perspective. I guess in that arena, I adhere as much to the Catholic belief as anything else.

While we build practice and belief because we must, I think we might err a little by always striving to put too much in the frame instead of leaving it in the springs. If it's in the springs, then we should be better able to accept that, though it is not what we currently believe, these other Christians (which is almost always a larger group than our own circle, however we define it) have a point and may be right. And we should all agree that it's important to honor each other more and fight against each other less.

Jesus must be the frame. The truths about him that are stressed again and again. He was God. He was man -- fully man. He was savior and redeemer through the cross. He rose from the dead. And he's coming again (however you interpret that). After all, Paul tells us that in Corinth he preached nothing but Christ crucified. You have to have some insight to life under the Roman empire to understand how bizarre that statement is. And it came after he had been laughed out of Athens after giving his most logically persuasive speech recorded.

As his body, the church must also be part of the frame. Never perfect, ever fluid, yet still his body. You see that shine through in all the exhortations on how to do "church", build each other up, "edify" each other, encourage each other, and on and on. And I certainly sense it in the horror Paul and (through Paul's words) Apollos felt and expressed at the church dividing itself into various camps.

The more you attempt to alloy into your frame and the less you leave in the flexible springs (where you are at least willing to acknowledge the possibility of error), the less able you are to honor other Christians and truly treat them as one, and the more fragile your frame becomes. The more fragile your frame, the more energy you have to expend shoring it up.

At least, that's my perspective. I probably need to read the book with the analogy at some point, but this is my take, whether or not it matches anything the author actually had in mind. It's what I think of when I think 'trampoline'.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger -tg2 said...

I'm with Tom, what are the things (for us) that are not fluid? The things that you can hang your hat on and know that they are true, rigid, immobile, unfluid, rock-solid, etc...

- All scripture is God breathed.
- Salvation / sanctification / righteousness / justification / etc. is from Christ alone.
- Jesus was born of a virgin
- He has always been here
- Doing His will is my ONLY calling

Others? Anyone else?

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous scott m said...

Jesus has always been here. Certainly. Forgot that one. Why not just go ahead and affirm the entire Nicene Creed as foundational to Christianity instead of piecemealing it bit by bit?

However, your very first statement, while one all three traditions (even most of the many splintered wonder that is Protestantism) would affirm, still seems to me to be far too fuzzy and ambiguous to be part of anything considered a frame. An excellent example is this current thread on Scot McKnight's blog Translation: A good example. Read the comments too. Heck, we have a difficult time now even determining if the author had in mind the passage of a day or the three fixed hours of prayer. And that comes before we attempt to understand the larger poetic imagery in which it is embedded. And all that comes before we attempt to find its meaning in our life today.

It's not that I have any problem with it being in the frame. In fact, I guess an acceptance of it goes hand in hand with a true acceptance of the lengthy tradition and understanding of the church. I just really don't see what it buys you in practical terms by being there. I guess the acceptance that it is of God is pretty critical, but it seems most discussion of what that means (working it out) belongs in the springs.

I'm not very good at reducing my faith to lists. But I affirm all the Nicene Creed. Can we start there?

At 1:48 PM, Blogger tom cottar said...

Let me see if I can succintly restate my thoughts. ...

Virgin birth--I think you (scott ) phrased it well as "God caused a virgin to be pregnant somehow and Jesus was the issue of that pregnancy." Critical, because we worship the 200% God: 100% God, 100% Man.

Inspiration of the Scripture--my thoughts were along the lines that all Scripture is God-breathed. That it was written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, from the 'hand' of God, by which it is authoratitive. (I also know full well that the interpretation of that Scripture is another beast--not to mention its application--but for now I'm looking for frame material. For myself, most interpretation is frame, but the frame is that Scripture is authoratitive because it is from God, not man. (I also know there is a great deal of discussion to be made about that...but I'm just sticking to bare bones here...)

Depravity of Man---the Calvinist beast rears its ugly head. I should have been more specific. Part of my frame is that of Luther's: Sola Fide. It is by faith alone/grace alone that we enter into a relationship with God because man's nature is basically evil. It is our nature to sin, not to do good. We teach our children to be polite, to share, to 'be good'. Why? It is not innate and therefore must be learned.

I would think the Nicene Creed makes a stable frame.

One thought about 'truth'. Scott brought up an interesting thought. He said "Heck, we have a difficult time now even determining if the author had in mind the passage of a day or the three fixed hours of prayer. And that comes before we attempt to understand the larger poetic imagery in which it is embedded. And all that comes before we attempt to find its meaning in our life today."

One of the irrepressible qualities of truth is its dimensions. Good understanding of poetic imagery adds another layer [like an onion]. Knowing cultural backgrounds and events adds yet another. While accurate translation and cultural ingredients need to be taken into account, some things are pretty simple: don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal. Love God with all your heart. (yes, fleshing them out can -and probably should- lead to debated springing. But it also seems like 'don't kill' doesn't need much author interpretation to have at least a little truth behind it. [:)]

At 3:16 PM, Blogger -tg2 said...

And all the people said... Amen

At 4:42 PM, Anonymous scott m said...

Scripture is given to us by God and that's why we grant it special attention and authority. I have no issue with that at all and I suppose it's always been a part of my frame. Beyond that, however, I see it in the springs. I can't even make the claim that others have of sola scriptura. Rather I see it as all intertwined. He has given us the scripture for guidance and as a source of understanding. If it were all we needed, there would be little need for the active role of the Spirit. But we have been given the Spirit, in part, to illuminate scripture especially in the area of application. And because we are easily fooled (by ourself and others), we have been given the relationship of the body of Christ in part to reel us back in when we wander too far. Which has authority? Well, that depends on our situation and issue at hand. Which provides the function we require at the moment. Intepretation and application, though, is best worked out through the Spirit with others under the now lengthy traditions and understandings of the church. At least that's my take. Is that close enough to let me in the club? [g]

I'll grant you that some truths seem easy ... except when they aren't. That whole killing and loving enemies thing became a whole lot more complicated once Christians also had a role in earthly governments. For into the conversation then must enter things like war and capital punishment. Adultery seems easy until you realize that Jesus said that someone who marries someone with a living ex commits (and presumably continues to commit) adultery. So as you peel back the onion, even the apparently simple becomes complex.

On depravity, I'm familiar with the view that Luther and Calvin shared. I just don't also share that view, so it's clearly not any part of my frame. Yes, we have all chosen to do evil, but that is both our weakness and the influence of a fallen world. But the idea that flesh is totally evil really comes from a classical Greek philosophical view and belongs more with Gnostic views than Christian ones. And the analogy to children is not a good one at all. Anyone who has ever experienced the unconditional outpouring of love, the desire to please and be pleasing, the uncritical acceptance, and the early manifestation of an untaught sense of fairness that extends beyond self that a young child exhibits knows that they are born knowing good. Jesus even used little children to describe those who enter the kingdom. We mostly struggle to teach them cultural norms, not good. Of course, they do live with the same sorts of temptation with which we live and it is inevitable that they will make wrong choices. The fact that some of that temptation springs from within does not translate into totally evil. It's the same nature we received from Adam who failed his own inner temptation. He was created by God and that creation was good, so clearly the inner voice to choose something different is an aspect of the freedom to choose at all. (And that point holds whether someone is in the camp that views the beginning of Genesis literally or in the camp that takes it non-literally.) I know Luther was attempting to correct something that had become a religion of works and restore the prominence of grace, but his view has always struck me as an over-correction.

Like I said, my understanding of scripture on that point is more heavily influenced by other voices in Christian tradition than Luther or Calvin. I hesitate to say Wesleyan because I truly doubt that we are able to complete the transformation to Christ-like holiness in this life. But from the protestant tradition, I'm probably more Wesleyan on that point than anything else. I'm absolutely certain I reject the view that babies are born evil (depraved, condemned, wicked, lost, sinful, et al). Whatever else, I do know that.

I've rambled again. Anyway, the statements contained in the Nicene Creed are the ones to which I've attached my springs. I'm certain of those. Less so of much else.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger tom cottar said...

I'm digging the discussion. Scott, your club membership card is in the mail. Dues are payable on the first of the month. (Blood is fine.) :)

At 7:57 AM, Blogger tom cottar said...

What about grace? Shouldn't it be part of the frame? Or just a spring? I'm not sure how I would define grace as framework, just that God's grace (1) extends to all mankind, and (2)it covers my sin, past, present and future...

still formulating that one..

At 9:28 AM, Anonymous scott m said...

Since we've agreed to the Nicene Creed, what do you want to add to For us and our salvation He came down from heaven,? It seems to me that once you move past that, you're moving into spring land. At least, I certainly see tremendous variety in the specific application of grace. Don't misunderstand me. Grace and mercy are incredibly important to me. They permeate my faith, intertwine at the boundaries of my understanding, and infuse the lens through which I see the world. But if I insisted that others shared my understanding of grace, my trampoline might get a little lonely.

Or am I missing the point of the analogy? I don't think you can actually work out your beliefs any other way than through relationship with other believers. So I try to focus the frame of my trampoline on those precepts which are truly central to Christianity and put those which do not look central into the springs, even if I believe they are important. The fact that I've placed a belief in the springs does not mean that I'll ever change it. It simply means that I'm willing to consider alternative Christian perspectives. And even if I decide against it, I'm willing to honor the alternative view and acknowledge that I could be wrong, even though I don't believe I am.

There are, however, some things that you must believe and be willing to confess or the confession cannot truly be considered Christian. Those are the only things I try to keep in the frame.

Does that make sense? I may be taking the analogy to places it wasn't really intended to tread...

At 4:58 AM, Anonymous scott m said...

Maybe I can make the way I see this issue a little clearer. The frame is the core of our faith. It's what it means to be Christian as opposed to something else, not what I personally feel is the correct answer. When we insist that all our bricks are essential, we build walls. And as we build the walls, we decide who gets to be inside them.

Haven't we done enough dividing of the body of Christ? Especially these last 500 years? Look at all the martyrs that were killed by other Christians because they refused to carry the same bricks. If you think those outside don't notice, you're wrong. It just came up again for me in a conversation with a non-Christian. A pure belief system (I hesitate to call it faith) is useless if you've excluded almost everyone else from it.

Instead of looking solely at what I believe, I make a concerted effort to ask a simple question. "If someone had a different perspective on this point, could I still accept them as a fellow Jesus follower?" And I don't ask it hypothetically. I go and see what some of the different perspectives might be or have been. It goes in the frame if and only if a failure to confess would truly look like something other than Christian belief. The springs have to include even things about which we think we are certain or there is no room for communion with other believers. That's what makes it a challenge. Yet isn't that what it takes to be one?

An enormous amount of healing is required, both within the body and among those who have been left in the wake, our collateral damage. It all starts with four words that are among the hardest for us to say (and really mean): You might be right.

And I keep seeing Jesus as the core of our shared faith and thus keep redirecting to him. We either are his followers or we are not. And to truly love God by following him, you have to believe he is who he said he was. He is eternal God. He also became and remains fully human. He lived. He suffered. He died on our behalf, without which we had no hope at all. He rose on the third day. He will come again. Is our faith built on anything else?

As soon as you accept someone as a fellow Christian, you are saying in every area in which you disagree that there is a possibility, however slim, that they are right and you are wrong. Or you are calling them a poor misguided fool who needs to be corrected -- in your mind, at least, even if you never say the words aloud. And if the latter, how arrogant! And unbrotherly. That path truly is one of those slippery slopes. The step from that attitude to the sorts of things Christians have done to each other for centuries is much shorter than you think.

So be generous with what you are willing to acknowledge as a spring. And depend on the person who is the frame to support you in your dance with your brothers.


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