In this episode John and Gregg discuss two different cultures, those who find Christianity and Christian beliefs to be suspect and those who are not questioning or believing that anything is wrong with their beliefs. They then focus on how to work with the latter group.
Gregg explains that indeed he is experiencing culture shock now that he is working with a group of people who largely believe that “the church” is okay and that what we are getting from the church is generally reliable. This is in contrast to engaging with the majority of people at L’Abri, where a culture of suspicion, about Christianity and the church, is dominant. In Gregg’s view a culture of suspicion arises out of people experiencing Christianity in a way that does not work and that may be damaging or hurtful.
The question of how to promote a lecture series about Christianity within a culture of trust has arisen between John and Gregg.
John favours emphasizing the benefits to be gained (such as better interactions with the world around us, with God, with oneself and with others) while Gregg favours emphasizing the issues that need to be overcome. Gregg initially thought that his emphasis was due to his past academic training of presenting an issue and offering a solution.
Instead, Gregg notes that based on his observation the reason that there is low turnout to his Sunday morning discussions is that for most of these people who in a culture of trust their lives take place in the realm of “good.” On the one hand, there is very little impetus for people who seem to see their lives at 7/10 to put in time and trust in something unknown in order to move to 8/10.
On the other hand, however, Gregg suggests that this culture of trust and this environment of “good” offers a distorted picture of their reality. Specifically, the true picture is that we—all of us, Christians included—are self-deceived (we have only to read the biblical prophets for this to be confirmed). Yet there is no practical understanding, or certainly no application of counter-practices, within this church as a manner of revealing and defeating the sinful practices that self-deception fosters.
Yet John wonders: can this sort of thing be marketed at all? For unless someone can see the issue and wants to change, won’t they just continue with the status quo? Gregg replies that while this may be the case in many areas of life, but in Christianity there is the built-in understanding that nearly all Christians accept, which is the idea of sin and sinfulness. Yet when put into practice in the church this understanding falls far short of the biblical description!
So Gregg’s aim: in a culture of trust to breed suspicion, in a culture of suspicion to foster trust. In other words, the tension between suspicion and trust must be kept sufficiently balanced in order to allow it to function properly. So Gregg argues for the need a) to identify one’s immediate reflex and to think about what it would mean to reverse it, and b) to love our neighbours by valuing their ideas and texts as much as our own.