79: Beneficial Disagreement

In this episode John wonders why Gregg was so pleased when, during the last episode, Tommi disagreed with Gregg’s perspective.

Gregg explains that he is excited and positive about several things. First, that listeners such as Tommi are listening attentively to our episodes, grasping what is being said, formulating their own views on the subject, and being willing to engage with us about the differences. Further, Gregg is becoming further aware of his own perspective on Christianity, even that much of what he and John are doing through this podcast (and in particular, challenging what “counts” as information sources about God, about humanity, and about the relationship between the two) Gregg would now consider to be his vocation.

Gregg summarizes how his spiritual journey (of being a Christian for 7 or 8 years, then as an agnostic for 7 years, and finally as a Christian again for the past 15+ years) was very painful yet also very beneficial. John guesses that this a rare trajectory. Gregg explains that even as his current views about Christianity have been formed by this difficult process, so too Gregg believes that the integration of Christian beliefs and human existence that he is presenting will be mostly unfamiliar (and so challenging) to others. And so perhaps the best sign that listeners are really engaging with this material is that they are having some of the same reactions that Gregg had himself, when he was first grappling with these ideas!

Gregg further specifies that when he was faced with the numerous experiences of evil in his life that, even if Christianity was a lie, he determined to be a truth-seeker. So when he realized the full picture of this familial abuse Gregg made the decision that he would resist the legacy that abuse can imply—to be an abuser oneself—and that in important regards he would be a better man that his father.

Gregg underscores, however, that a crucial element in his return to Christianity was realizing that he was actually best able to follow through on his commitments to be a better man than his father was by embracing the new experiences and understandings that he had had about God and himself. So by seeing the truth in Christianity Gregg was forced either to maintain his agnosticism (and deny truth, as his father had done at crucial moments) or become a Christian himself.

John enquires: what were these truths in Christianity? Gregg listed a variety on topics (such as who God is, what hell is [and is not], what goodness is and how it can be measured). John also wonders: how do the disagreements of our listeners impact Gregg?  Gregg notes that he is a gut-level thinker and so he often has a sense of something being important, or perhaps skewed, before he is able fully to articulate why and how.  Gregg expresses his gladness that the disagreements that Tommi and Anna have shared demonstrate that these listeners are thoughtful, engaged, and committed to the topics, and notes that listener disagreement is above all challenging him to bring out more of his thinking / the application of his experience.

John raises the notion of confirmation bias and wonders how much this plays into Gregg’s approach. Gregg counters that when listeners “push back” against his perspectives he actually experiences some of the same tension that existed when he transitioned from agnosticism back into Christianity, and that he has learned to use this tension as the fuel for highly productive writing—“bringing out” more of his views that have remained as unspoken assumptions or unformulated, gut-level notions.

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