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In this episode John and Gregg follow-up to Episode #159, where they began discussing the process of letting go of what is old and familiar in favour of what is better, especially as it relates to Christian beliefs, beliefs about ourselves & our world, how we interact wit other information sources.
Topics for today include examining our modes of investigation, resources we use, the boundaries we set (and when to break them), how we assess success and what have we learned to avoid.
Gregg asks: What are John’s success criteria in terms of beliefs about God, Christianity, himself, etc.? Gregg notes Anna’s point from last podcast and contrasts the pursuit of certainty (which seems an impossible goal and an impossible assumption—that certainty can even be attained by human beings) vs. pursuing truth, which seems both possible and essential for right living.
John does not think of himself as “pursuing truth” but as making sense of things, connecting dots. John explains how this sense-making process plays out in business and notes that he measures his success in these areas subjectively. For example, within a project management setting success means less chaos, smoother meetings, better collaboration.
Gregg wonders: What role does external feedback play in terms of John measuring his success, and how does bringing other people into your faith investigation help?
John responds that this is what he did by seeking Gregg’s help with aspects of Christianity that John found problematic. Gregg wonders: is John undervaluing his skills when it comes to evaluating beliefs and “making sense” of Christianity? Specifically, John’s desire to bring order to chaos and clarity to confusion seems not new but to be an intrinsic part of John.
John agrees, and explains that in his view L’Abri helped him empty his proverbial “backpack of beliefs” of bogus things, but the issue is that John’s “backpack” is still relatively empty. In other words, John wants to be able to articulate what he believes and why in such a way that someone else would want it, but John does not have the “belief content” to be able to do this.
Gregg challenges John: he thinks that there is more in John’s backpack than John is giving himself credit for, and while Gregg sees John as very skilled in his ability to assess beliefs in practical terms Gregg argues that there is a large part of Christian belief that focuses much more on emotional connection, like being in a love relationship. So Gregg suggests that a necessary component for John to experience “success” relative to acquiring Christian beliefs that he can articulate and that others would find desirable is for those emotional aspects of John to be enlarged or enhanced.
John agrees that this may be an under-developed part of himself and so this is worth investigating.
Gregg next wonders what role did L’Abri play for John relative to his beliefs: why did he decide to go and why did he stay so long? Gregg is particularly interested in the roles that trust and expectations played in this process. John explains the history of his decision, and notes similarities between his decision to go to Switzerland and his current decision to quit his job and move toward coaching full-time. John notes that by viewing his bid to move into coaching as an “experiment” he is much more at peace with whatever outcome arises from this bid.
Gregg sees John’s example of moving into coaching as a great example of how people should deal with a non-functional faith structure. First, Gregg argues that just as John has made a “jump” into this new situation despite the fact that John’s work and earnings are important because he needs to provide for his family, so too Christians who are having to contort themselves into believing things that do not make sense or that they do not find believable should be making the type of thoughtful, ownership-oriented “jump” that John has made with coaching. Second, John has made a number of preparatory steps to be able to make this jump which Gregg sees as similar for making such a move in a faith context. Third, Gregg compares making such a jump to putting together the pieces of a puzzle, and notes the difference between having 9 out of 10 pieces put together (and searching for the last piece) vs. having those 9 pieces scattered on the table (and missing the last piece). In both situations the same amount of content is present, but the feeling may be very different.
Gregg’s final question: What else has John done outside of L’Abri in “getting to better” in terms of his beliefs? John mentions that it would be hard to overstate the benefit of the podcast.
John notes several key factors about the podcast. First, be prepared. Second, be open to being sharpened through conversation and dialogue. Third, through the above process John “found his voice.” In other words, the result is a sense of empowerment—it helped John to be a more authentic version of John.
John finishes by explaining that he thinks that it could be helpful for others to start putting out their thoughts through starting a blog, even if anonymously. He notes that Facebook may be more difficult because it is very easy to receive immediate critique.