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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Meeting Non-Christians Where They Are At (154)

In this episode Gregg continues his review of—and commentary on—a conversation that took place in the Untangling Christianity Facebook group.  NB: All comments have been quoted (and names mentioned) with permission.

As with the first podcast in this series, this podcast is likely to move faster be “denser” than most, and so re-listening to sections may be helpful.

The basic topic under discussion is whether Christians actually engage with non-Christians well (that is, in a way that is “on their terms” and that respects the views and understandings of non-Christians).  In particular, Gregg sees the role of interpretation as the overarching concern, as well as the necessity for life and faith to be fully and duly integrated.

So Gregg comments that “Hence my emphasis in the Integration Project on “real life” and insisting that the only Christianity that makes sense and that is worth holding is one where faith and life are related in a way that is truly and appropriately reciprocal.  In other words, where life informs faith just as faith informs life.  And where we read (or understand) the Bible in light of the world and read (or understand) the world in light of the Bible.  Theologically, this is about interpreting the most accurate relationship between salvation and creation—the one that best reflects both biblical and “real world” information sources by doing justice to both, in their own contexts and through their interaction.  And here I cite my mentor’s formulation: ‘creation frames salvation, salvation refigures creation’.”

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Understanding Non-Christians Starts With Them (153)

In this episode Gregg summarizes–and responds to–an interesting conversation that took place in the Untangling Christianity Facebook group in mid-September 2017.  Note: all comments have been quoted (and names mentioned) with permission.

Gregg begins by indicating that this podcast is likely to move faster be “denser” than most, and so re-listening to sections may be necessary.

The basic topic under discussion is whether Christians actually engage with non-Christians well (that is, in a way that is “on their terms” and that respects the views and understandings of non-Christians).

After reading portions of his interaction with Amy, Gregg reads the main parts of an exchange between Amy and Anna. Gregg comments on a number of aspects of the conversation.  Particularly, he remarks on the need for such conversations to be sustained in order for participants to gain deeper insights and greater clarity (“sustained” in terms of engaging with a variety of related sub-topics that contribute to the assumptions held by many Christians regarding the main topic, and clarifying these assumptions and / or debunking false understandings, as necessary).

This podcast represents the first in a series of three that summarize–and respond to–this conversation in the Untangling Christianity Facebook group.