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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Do We Write Our Own Story? (157)

In this podcast John and Gregg team up to discuss the notion that Gregg raised in Episode #153, where he rejects the idea that we “write our own stories.”

John finds the idea of writing one’s own story to be very important, to the point the we are “victims” if we do not.  Gregg wonders if he and John are using this term in the same way, despite the fact that John’s sense of the notion may be the more prevalent one.

On John’s view, the notion of writing one’s story is aspirational.  And one may not achieve what one is aspiring to.  Gregg notes that one’s story and one’s understanding of identity are closely related.

So Gregg is critical of cases where people use this notion of “writing one’s own story” to legitimate the full scope of their personal history.  In other words, he is critical of cases where people claim that the entirety of the events of their lives are good because these events have contributed to them being “where they are now.”

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faith AND suspicion; belief AND scepticism (156)

This episode is the fourth of a four-part series where Gregg reads excerpts from—and comments on—an excellent  conversation that took place in the Untangling Christianity Facebook group.  All comments and names are used with permission of the authors.

In this podcast Gregg engages with Amy’s comments about “preaching the Word of God” and “sensing the the Holy Spirit’s movement.”  He notes that the “typical” evangelical response is one that focuses almost entirely on trust and belief.  Yet Gregg explains that belief and trust are not “biblical principles” in that neither one of them “stands alone” but, instead, each in fact represents one “pole” of a complimentary opposition (or a mutually-informing tension).

So in order best to engage with Amy’s comments he takes the approach of decreasing trust and belief and increasing suspicion and scepticism.  For example, Gregg is skeptical—that is, he doubts or finds it rather questionable or simply does not believe—that most Christians without exegetical training (and likely without a commentary in hand, in the pew) would know if a verse is being taken “in context” or not.  Similarly, Gregg is suspicious—that is, wary of false orientations and hidden motivations—about how Christians view humility.  Specifically, evangelical culture tends to value certain virtues (such as humility) more than other virtues (such as confidence).  Yet in my experience it is just as easy to hide unvirtuous motivations behind a veneer of humility as it is to misrepresent a confident person as “proud.”  Further, humility also is not a “Biblical principle” but, instead, confidence and humility are two poles within a “productive opposition” (or a necessary tension).  So both are equally valuable.

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Problems with the Westminster Confession (155)

This episode is the third of a four-part series where Gregg reads excerpts from—and comments on—an excellent  conversation that took place in the Untangling Christianity Facebook group.  All comments and names are used with permission of the authors.

In this podcast Gregg explains his comments at the end of the previous episode, #154, where he explained that establishing the most appropriate, most productive relationships of dependence result in being one’s fullest and “best” self: being the most properly independent and also most functional version of myself, and so the happiest.

He notes a subtle but important difference between happiness (as the result of becoming “fully functioning” or becoming one’s “best self” and following St. Augustine’s work in De Beata Vita) and the formulation of the aim of Christianity prized by many Evangelicals, from the Westminster Confession Shorter Catechism, Article #1.  It states: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

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