Fuzzy non-Christianity misrepresents non-Christians (162)

In this episode Gregg reviews an episode from the Whitehorse Inn podcast by Christian academician Michael Horton entitled: “Do all paths lead to God?”

Gregg begins by noting that this podcast was offered in the Untangling Christianity Facebook group as an example of how Christians engage well with non-Christians (i.e., how Christians can engage thoughtfully, on point, and respectfully with non-Christians and their perspectives).  Gregg found just the opposite.

Before beginning with a point-by-point examination of the episode Gregg first offers what he views to be a better way not only of engaging with non-Christians but a better approach to both life and faith.

Gregg refers to this as an “integrated approach” to life and faith.  This integrated approach emphasizes that unless we realize and address the problems associated with starting somewhere other than “with ourselves,” we are bound to misfire when we try to engage with both life and faith.  And Christians are certainly bound to misfire when it comes to how they engage with non-Christians.  On the other hand, an integrated approach positively emphasizes the crucial things that human beings glean about themselves and the insights that are offered relative to Christian belief (and the Christian God) by living in the world—what Christians refer to as “creation.”

In other words, because creation and salvation are necessarily linked, human beings can derive ready, preliminary insights into who God is / the nature of the divine-human relationship by virtue of right living and rightly engaging with life.  Gregg believes that this link between creation and salvation can best be expressed as “creation frames salvation, salvation refigures creation.”  Creation frames salvation, salvation refigures creation.

Foggy Interpretation (161)

In this episode Gregg returns to the notion of interpretation and its importance, particularly for Christians, given to the extent a central text—the Bible—informs and grounds their beliefs.

Gregg explains that interpretation is a way of engaging with the world that we are always already doing.  This is so much the case that interpreting is not so much an action that we perform but something that is inherent to our way of being in the world.

In this way, we can think of our interpretation according to the four levels—or stages—of competence, ranging from unconscious incompetence (where we are unaware of our inability) to unconscious competence (where we are so skilled that can perform an action without paying attention to it).

In most cases, adults interpret the world around them with unconscious competence, such a seasoned driver responding to a Stop sign.

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The Lightning Round (160)

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.

Does Belief Have to Make Sense? (159)

In this episode John and Gregg consider Anna’s comments regarding the episode Problems with the Westminster Confession (155) and how they might respond to some of the situations that Anna is experiencing.  Anna writes:

I think that each person lives their lives according to a unique narrative that belongs to them and them alone.  No two people see the world, the narrative, the story, the truth, etc. in the same way.  This is most disconcerting, in some ways because we as human desire certainty and yet those very things bring unrest.  Thus I wonder: what hope is there for any of us, if we insist upon ‘our truth’ being the ONLY ONE.  Then we in essence assert ourselves to be God, the ONE omnipotent all-knowing being.  Was this not the sin of Satan?  And yet if we humble ourselves and acknowledge that we cannot assert our truth to be the only one, we set ourselves adrift in a sea of uncertainty, which is very uncomfortable.  I mean VERY uncomfortable.

This episode was full of examining truth and the way that it is presented as well as maintaining that love and truth are co-central, which is the jumping off point for my comment. . . . I am in a place in my life that is difficult, a deconstruction of sorts and I don’t know what let go of and what to hold on to anymore.  I have been reading a lot: many many different perspectives, narratives, claims to ‘truth.’  It’s overwhelming.  The sometimes terrifying feeling of being adrift at sea.  I felt so much safer and more secure when I was more certain of matters of God and faith.  That’s why I have been honing in on truth claims and how to discern what you [Gregg] term as ‘better or worse’ interpretations.

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Narrating, Not Writing Your Life (158)

In this episode Gregg takes up John’s challenge of episode #157 to to lay out exactly what Gregg meant in #157 by explaining that we all seek to “occupying the narrator’s position” in our own lives, and particularly what he meant by the idea of narrative identity (and why he believes that this way of formulating the matter is better than “writing” our own stories).

Gregg explains that “narrative identity” is the idea that human self-understanding comes from—and always produces—stories.  Also, our self-understanding is composed of 3 different elements because we experience life in (and through) time.

First, the events of our past, that really took place.  I call this one’s history.  Second, the story that we write about those past events, based on memory and outside information.  I call this one’s historiography.  Third, my own story about who I am and wish to be / become.  I call this simply, one’s story.  My story is informed my who I have understood myself to be in the past but is also in tension with this self-understanding, because I am not bound to the past.

So three elements: one’s history, one’s historiography, one’s story.  They are all related to each other but they are all, also, distinct.

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