Nothing Personal

I have tried, over the past week, to generate a few different posts on a few different topics, but found that I couldn’t bring myself to write them. I think, in looking back, that the reason for this grew out of the fact that they were all sort of interconnected in a way I hadn’t quite grasped yet.

I think I’ve got it now, so I’m going to give this a try.

Last week, a tragedy occurred. A poorly-maintained, heavily-traveled transportation artery constructed more than forty years ago failed due to neglect, and people died.

About 100 of them.

No, I’m not talking about the I-35W bridge in Minnesota. The cost of that catastrophe, in lives, at least, was thankfully much smaller than it might have been.

The same day, however, on the other side of the world, a train wreck in the Democratic Republic of the Congo took a far higher toll.

Also last week, as I noted in my last post, a religious talk show host made and defended statements linking the Emergent church movement with terrorists from al Qaeda.

Over the weekend, the Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, which took power early this year after capitalizing on unethical and morally questionable tactics employed by the former Republican majority, violated the House rules they themselves had established, changed the total of a razor-thin vote after the Chair had gavelled it closed, and expunged the old total from the record, literally stealing the vote on national television. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was heard on camera responding to protests against the violations of parliamentary procedure with, “We control this house, not the parliamentarians.”

This week, one of my favorite bloggers, “Naked Pastor,” was viciously attacked on a popular “Christian” blog, where the author and several commenters cast brutal personal insults and aspersions masquerading as critiques of his blog’s content.

What on earth, you may ask, do any of these events have in common?

Perhaps it is the ease with which communications are conducted electronically. Perhaps it is the breadth of information that is easily available, allowing anybody who desires to become an intellectual. Perhaps it is the fact that government interventions and intrusions have eliminated the necessity for people to just grow up and be adults.

Perhaps it is all of these, and more, but it seems to me as though we have entered an age where we interact with numbers, figures, statistics, information and data, and forget that we live out our stories here on earth interacting with other people.

The news media has had a field day with the I-35W bridge collapse, giving it nearly wall-to-wall coverage ever since it occurred. In all the talk of recriminations, blame and fallout, the one thing I have yet to see is an ounce of sorrow over the lives lost.

“If it bleeds, it leads,” according to the common news media slogan . . . but that doesn’t mean they treat it as the human tragedy it is.

Still, since it is, after all, an American tragedy, at least it gets some recognition. The same day, virtually the same event in a country on the other side of the world received nary a breath of coverage, despite the far higher loss of life.

I asked my wife why she thought this might be, and her response was very telling. She said, “We care about the tragedy in Minnesota because that could have been us.”

That’s just it. We don’t care about the people who have lost loved ones. We don’t care about the lives lost. We care because it could have been us. Those of us in the Washington D.C. area care because we’re in the process of getting a new Woodrow Wilson bridge due to unsafe conditions on the old span similar to those that cause the I-35W collapse. Our emotions are not filled with sorrow, but with relief.

We don’t care about the train in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, because that could not have been us.

In my last post I talked about Frank Pastore’s article excoriating the emergent church movement. I’m not going to rehash my previous words here, but it seems to me that this is the opposite extreme of the very same phenomenon that I talked about relating to the transportation tragedies in Minnesota and Africa. In Pastore’s case, it’s dehumanizing by taking things too personally.

Whoever you are, whatever you believe on any give subject, right now, I want you to think of the single issue you care most about in all the world. It can be a political issue, a philosophical issue, a religious issue, or your favorite color for all I care. I want you to think of a person with whom you have often and/or emphatically disagreed with on that topic. I want you to repeat after me. “Just because they disagree with me doesn’t make them stupid.”

I myself have fallen into this trap more than once – the trap of believing that disagreement with my staked-out position on some political, theological or philosophical issue is an indication that the one doing the disagreeing is less “enlightened” or “informed” than I.

That may well be true – but it may well not be. Very intelligent people are capable of coming to very different conclusions on the very same issue. Assuming that one who disagrees with our chosen beliefs is “stupid” is to assert that we know all there is to know on that subject . . . to assume that it is even possible to know all there is, on this or any subject. It is the height of arrogance.

It is this same arrogance that has led the political leaders in this country – both Republican and Democrat – to forget why they are there. In the case of our nation’s leadership, they have dehumanized the very people who put them in leadership in the first place, by treating power as an end in and of itself, rather than as a means to the end of leading this country well. When former House Speakers Newt Gingrich and Tom Foley, whose political views are as opposite as they come, can agree with one another that you’re doing something wrong . . . odds are pretty good that you’re probably doing something wrong.

In the case of the transportation accidents, we have dehumanized the victims. In Pastore’s article, he dehumanized a group of believers. Congress dehumanized those they’re supposed to work for.

In the final example I listed, though, a group of people did their best to deliberately and viciously dehumanize a single person who had done nothing to them . . . and in the process dehumanized only themselves. Many of the commenters chose to attack him simply based on the vague and provocative descriptions provided in the blog post itself, and the author of the post felt it necessary to filter out comments supportive of the attacked pastor, and then defend herself against his supporters in a second post.

Naked Pastor’s response is one more example of why I like him so much – it is full of the very same grace and kindness that his attackers chose to eschew. He doesn’t become defensive or take the bait of their vitriol. Instead he says,

To my sister Ingrid and Slicers. Thanks for the review of my blog. I’m truly honored that my blog even got noticed, nevermind a mention! A couple of things:

Your filters only block words, not pictures. The word “naked” in nakedpastor, a blog where I try to bare my soul and not much else, is what’s being blocked. You probably couldn’t get The Naked Archeologist either, and he just shows ruins and pots. I consider what I show on my site to be artistic and tasteful. We disagree there. I just wanted to correct you on why my site is blocked by porn filters.

Ingrid: I’m surprised you didn’t mention my cartoons! Come on – admit it – you HAD to like some of them. You could’ve written some of them yourself. That’s okay though – you were critiquing one aspect of my blog. But from my artistic style and taste to conclude that my site is “theoretically supposed to be a pastor’s blog” is quite a leap. There’s nothing theoretical about it. It IS a pastor’s blog, no matter how different in taste and expression he is from your image of what a pastor is or looks like. That’s okay too though. I don’t expect full endorsement from everyone.

This is just a slice of who I am. If you read through my site you might discover that we are, after all, brothers and sisters with the same Lord. You would “meet” some people from my church who I consider heroes of the faith – of the Hebrews 11 caliber! It interests me that some of you are so quick to call names like “pervert” and question my call as a pastor or even a Christian. But that’s okay too. I suspend judgment and hope that we can cross kinder paths in the future.

Lord haste the day when we will all finally stand naked before you!

david (aka “nakedpastor”)

Even in the midst of personal attack, he treats his attackers as human beings, with different tastes, opinions and beliefs – and that’s exactly what they are.

All of this talk about “dehumanizing” begs the question, “what does it mean to be human?”

I think, as I write this, that we have to return to the creation story to answer that.

Genesis 1 doesn’t tell us very much at all about humanity, other than that it was created. Neither does much of Genesis 2. Verse 15 tells us where God placed his first human. Verses 16-17 tell us of God’s first interactions with his first human.

Not until verse 18 do we learn anything at all about this creature Scripture calls “man.”

What, then, is the very first thing we learn about man? It is the simple fact that “it is not good for the man to be alone.”

There it is. The very basis of what humanity is. We were created for relationship. When we eschew relationship, we dehumanize ourselves and those around us. The more we pursue genuine, open, honest relationship, the more we are being what we were intended to be.

But instead of relating to . . . and grieving with . . . sufferers, we sigh in relief that it is not our own suffering. Instead of engaging in dialogue with others who do not believe as we do, we think them simple-minded or immature. Instead of serving one another we seek as much power as we can, and instead of being kind in our differences we are cruel.

What a fallen and broken race is this humanity! Where we are intended to nourish one another emotionally, instead we feed on each other, engaging in emotional cannibalism, and very accurately say, “it’s nothing personal.”

Indeed it isn’t. That’s the problem.

An Anti-Christian Christianity

My friends, it has again been a long time. I think I find that some posts just flow from my fingers, while others take time to germinate and grow in my mind. With this latter type of post, I feel – as I have always felt, with many projects and pursuits throughout my life, to allow it to gain a level of maturity before I share it with the world.

This is such a post.

Many of you who read this might consider yourself representatives of the “emergent” or “missional” community as it is sometimes known. I need to preface this post by the fact that I consider myself neither, for reasons that have nothing to do with the reasons those who take these names have for choosing them.

I simply do not like the terms. The first – when taken to its logical conclusion – seems to me to imply that believers can somehow “emerge” to different levels of spiritual enlightenment. In one sense, I have “emerged” from the institutional religious setting known in the 21st century as “the church.” But in truth, the sense in which I have “emerged” is the same sense in which all those of us who follow Christ are free from the bondage of our own sin and the weight of our humanity.

The second, it seems to me, misses the point. Even those who consider themselves “missional” define it as a different way of “doing church,” a different focus.

All of that said, I have a tremendous amount of respect for many of the ideas espoused by missional and emergent thinkers, and for those who espouse them, particularly their focus on how much of Christian tradition is precisely that – mere tradition.

It is for this reason that I was incredibly disturbed by something I read on the popular conservative political site formerly operated by the Heritage Foundation, Townhall.com.

I was disturbed because it was one more reminder of who I used to be . . .

The item in question was a column by Townhall columnist Frank Pastore, referred to in his bio as “a former professional baseball player with graduate degrees in both theology and political science,” who is also a radio talk-show host for KKLA 99.5 FM in Los Angeles. His original column has now become two. They can be found here and here.

The first column is entitled “Why Al Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church.” It is a lengthy diatribe against members of the emergent movement, the logic of which seems to run “Emergents are generally not politically conservative. Political conservatives are the only people interested in fighting al Qaeda.” Therefore, Emergents are allies of al Qaeda.

His second column is a defense of his first, in which he responds to challenges for his “sources” by citing several emergent writers and a number of critics of Emergent, none of which, according to his citations, at least, says anything about al Qaeda at all.

The most ironic thing, for me, is that as someone who is generally pretty politically conservative, I probably line up with Pastore’s political views a fair percentage of the time. Nevertheless, despite the fact that I do not consider myself “emergent” or “missional,” I feel the sting of Pastore’s accusations myself, simply because I seem to fit his overarching definition of an “al Qaeda ally” – by which he seems to mean anybody who disagrees with his personal, political and spiritual agenda. I have written a lengthy response to his first column that addresses several issues he raises point by point. That response continues below the fold . . .

Continue reading An Anti-Christian Christianity

Living with Desire

As you may or may not have noticed, I’m taking a page from my wife’s blog with the title of this post. I was prompted to write about it by a running email conversation with my dad over something in another recent post of mine. I recalled a conversation with my best friend Nate from many years ago, in which he said, “I have such a hard time wanting anything . . . mostly because we were always taught that the wanting itself was a problem . . . if we truly want anything, it must be bad for us to have.”

Understandably, my father wondered who, in this particular instance, had done the teaching. It was understandable because this was certainly something I never heard from him.

I’ve talked a lot on these pages about choices . . . and about the importance of taking responsibility for our choices, and indeed, responsibility for making them in the first place.

The problem with the choices that led me to this particular place – the place of truly believing that desires were evil things – was that I made those choices when I was very young, and did not truly understand the ramifications of those choices.

I never consciously said to myself, “I think that from now on I’m going to decide to believe that desires are bad.”

I did, however, sit through years of teaching in churches and para-church organizations that imparted to me gems of wisdom like�. . .

  • being a Christian means being hated by the world
  • being a Christian means sacrificing
  • being a Christian entails suffering
  • being a Christian means forgoing our own desires in favor of God’s

Pretty standard fare for the sort of fundamentalist Christianity I grew up under, right?

Think about it though . . . what happens if you couple being hated by “the world” with an unhealthy dependence on the approval of your fellow churchgoers who are supposed to help “keep you accountable”?

You end up psychologically predisposed to crave the approval of those around you, and unless you end up spending your life in a monastery, those around you are predominantly the same ones your church calls “the world.”

So much for a desire to be liked by . . . just about anyone at all, really.

How about the sacrificing and suffering? If you’re told your whole life that being godly means hardship, and that if things aren’t difficult for you then God must be “putting you on a shelf” because of some sin in your life that is preventing Him from using you effectively . . . what’s going to happen to any desire for success or fulfillment in life? Either you’re going to kill it because it’s “sinful,” or you’re going to live with guilt your whole life.

And how about subordinating our desires to God’s? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it taught that when scripture promises that God will “give you the desires of your heart” it means that he will literally reach into your heart and tell you what to desire. Instead of being a wonderful promise of His easy yoke and light burden, it becomes another form of manipulation and control, and kills any reason to desire . . . well . . . anything. After all, if you’re following God, then He’ll tell you what to desire, and if you’re not, well, you shouldn’t be wanting that anyway . . . and after all, since you’re not living in constant suffering and misery, you must not be following Him anyway.

Welcome to the teachings I absorbed throughout my childhood and teenage years.

And I made a choice . . . a choice to buy into them wholeheartedly.

It didn’t seem like much of a choice at the time, really. After all, my Pastor and other seemingly unassailable “spiritual authorities” were speaking as the mouthpieces of God, right? How could a young teenage boy look up at them and say “that doesn’t make sense!”

Wouldn’t that have been an act of most grievous pride . . . tantamount to spitting in God’s face? They sure seemed to think so . . . and oddly enough, some of them still do.

It just so happens that I’m an adult now, and can understand much more how . . . human . . . we humans really are, even the ones who wear special clothes or stand behind pulpits.

Nevertheless, I am still responsible for those choices. But how do we deal with the choices we made years and years ago, when we were too immature to recognize them as choices at all?

I think the first step is to do just that. Identify your choices . . . own them . . . acknowledge that “I made a decision, be it recently or many years past,�to agree with this.”

Then make another decision . . . to continue believing what you believe . . . or not.

For me . . . when it comes to living from a place of desire, or killing off my desires and hoping against hope that God comes and whispers His�desires�into my ear someday, so I know what I’m “supposed” to want (which, oddly enough, has yet to ever happen) . . . I’ll take a life of desire.

Virtual Community

My apologies for not writing much in the last week. I think I’m still recovering from being out of town for so long. I’ve got several big ideas floating around in my head for posts, but can’t seem to get anything down on paper lately.

I did want to mention a post I saw this morning over at the Naked Pastor. It raises both excitement and concern for me.

The excitement comes in the form of a project he mentions, entitled “Wikiklesia.” The project seems to be taking the popular “wiki” concept used in the online, collaborative encyclopedia “wikipedia,” to a new level. It claims to be “an experiment in online collaborative publishing.”

Given my two-fold interest in writing, and in the enablement of the individual to pursue his or her goals free of middlemen, I will be keeping a close eye on this project.

The folks who dreamed up this site have hit on a concept near and dear to my heart. I am working to unpack this concept more in a future post entitled “The Illusion of Control,” but the basic thought is this: In the 21st Century, the ability of individuals to control each other is at an all time low. This fact brings with it a unique set of opportunities and challenges, but before the opportunities can be realized, and before the challenges can be met, they have to be recognized and embraced as the product of a sea-change in the way technology, communication, and information are created, processed and distributed.

This gets to the heart of my concern with Naked Pastor’s post. He’s been invited to author a chapter in Wikiklesia’s first online book. He summarizes his chosen topic:

“Being a pastor of a local community, I want to explore how the idea of online community being virtual (not real, but seeming to be real) is not a symptom of the internet, but a condition of fallen humanity that finds expression even in our local churches and congregations. In other words, virtual is not an internet problem, but a human one. I also want to tie in the notion that the principalities and powers find their vitality and expression through the maintenance of the virtual model, locally and online.”

My concern is over the definition of the word “virtual.” Naked Pastor takes this word to mean, well, exactly what the dictionary says it means: “Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name.”

I agree with his thesis that the dearth of authenticity seen in many Christian (and also, incidentally, in many non-Christian) contexts today has been wrongly attributed to the internet and other technological advances, and that the fault for this problem truly rests in the fallen condition of the human heart. However, I have to take issue with his languaging.

It seems to me that the definition of the word “virtual” has changed over the past decade or so, and that dictionaries and individuals are still working hard to catch up. The dictionary page linked above at answers.com contains a “usage note” reading, in part, as follows:

“When virtual was first introduced in the computational sense, it applied to things simulated by the computer, like virtual memory – that is, memory that is not actually built into the processor. Over time, though, the adjective has been applied to things that really exist and are created or carried on by means of computers. Virtual conversations are conversations that take place over computer networks, and virtual communities are genuine social groups that assemble around the use of e-mail, webpages, and other networked resources.”

I’m sure anybody reading this has no trouble understanding that the “virtual money” you utilize when paying for something with a credit or debit card is very, very real.

In the same way, I have been able to experience very real relationships largely over the very “virtual” media of email, telephone, instant messaging, forums, chats and blogs.

The problem with Naked Pastor’s thesis is that – well – he seems to still view this as a problem.

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding. We seem to agree that a lack of authenticity in relationship is hardly restricted to online communication, and that it is not the fault of the medium, but of the users. Nevertheless, I find all too often that some of the biggest roadblocks to others understanding the nature of my current spiritual journey outside of traditional church come when I tell people my primary methods of learning about God come through online study, blogs and podcasts as opposed to sitting through sermons in church.

Some just can’t seem to understand that “face-to-face” time, while still valuable, is only one of many very valuable forms of communication. I find that my most fruitful and rewarding relationships are able to exist in any medium – that they can be just as genuine over the phone as in person, just as real via email as over the phone, and just as authentic via instant messaging as through email.

Of course, each method of communication comes with its own advantages and disadvantages: One cannot judge body language over the phone, or vocal inflection through an email. But the same is true with face to face communcation – where one cannot always give a thoughtful, measured response to a query on the spot. There have been many times when I have begun to respond to a particularly difficult email with an angry, reactive response . . . only to think better of it and dig deeper to judge why I was reacting that way to words I may well have misunderstood.

In person, who knows what I might have said.

This, then, is the concern I have with Naked Pastor’s post. If he means that “virtual” relationships are not the problem they have been painted to be, then I agree wholeheartedly. However, if (as it seems) he means that “virtual” relationships are a problem that has simply been attributed to the wrong source, I’m afraid I must disagree.

It seems to me that the ongoing communication revolution we have seen in the last days of the 20th century and the first days of the 21st is perhaps the most amazing opportunity for generating real, genuine, honest relationships that has ever occurred, since the day Christ first offered Himself in relationship with each of us.

The Market-Driven Church

I just got through reading a very moving story posted at “We are in Jesus.” It’s a post on how we believers tend to market our churches, rather than sharing our God with those who do not know Him. It’s a story of believers who had an opportunity to offer new life to someone hurting, and who could only offer a new “program.” This story brought tears to my eyes, because I’ve been there. I’ve been the one who participated in the church Bible Clubs and Vacation Bible Schools, and who, at the end of the program, could not say to those wonderful, hurting children in the worst parts of our town, “I’ll see you soon . . .” because our program had no follow-through . . . no way to go back and continue being a part of those young lives who so desperately needed someone to reach out to them.

Instead, all I had to offer was, “come to our church on Sunday.”

I remember one young boy in particular, Jose. He was a regular attender at the Vacation Bible Schools we held each summer several blocks from our church in the very worst neighborhood in our Sacramento suburb. His older brother was a local gang member, and they often used Jose as a courier for drug deals and other gang matters. He was, if I recall correctly, about nine years old.

I remember the look on his face the day his older brother tried to come and talk him out of hanging out with us in the park. I remember how he stood up for himself, and told his brother that he was going to stay.

I remember talking with Jose, after one of the messages. I remember the tears in his eyes as he talked about wanting something more. He didn’t know how to express it, but the conflict was plain in his eyes between the part of him that wanted to gain status in his older brother’s eyes, and the part that wanted to continue in relationship with us and the God we tried to introduce him to.

I remember asking the leaders of the event what we could offer him in the future.

I remember being told to let him know that we’d love to see him in church on Sunday.

It was, after all, right up the road. But how could any of us, who took Saturday off from our nice, middle-class life to come and spend time with the kids who had nothing, ever comprehend the pressures that held him there, that kept him from walking those ten blocks the next day. He was nine years old, for crying out loud! We didn’t even offer to come pick him up (I say “we,” even though I was only 14 or 15 at the time and didn’t have a car or a license to use one.) We just expected him to “show up,” simply because we said it was the right thing to do.

I and my church failed Jose. We failed him not because we didn’t tell him of Christ, but because we didn’t care enough to show him what a Christ-filled life should be like. We cared more about getting him to church . . . the “right place” to teach him such things.

As I have reiterated many, many times, I have a number of dear friends who have found wonderful church families inside a “normal,” organized, institutional church. That is the path they have chosen, and it is their choice to make. I rejoice with them in what they have found on that journey.

However, it seems like we often miss the point of that path. We forget that, while churches can be valuable tools for aiding in one’s search for Christ, it is He who is the point . . . any time we fail to demonstrate that, we fail Him.

I failed Him, with Jose, and each time I think about that day in the park, I wish I could find Jose today, a decade or so later, and beg his forgiveness for not offering more.

Let us always remember that the trappings of religion we adopt, be they churches, or traditions, or practices, or habits, or behaviors, are only a means to Christ.

He is the point.

Why I am an Agnostic Christian

I have been asked, of late, by a number of people whose opinions I value, why I refer to myself at times as an “agnostic Christian.” Some have expressed concern with my answer, and I therefore feel a need to clarify. This post will be the first of several relating to my thoughts and studies of late on a number of spiritual issues that have been troubling me for some time now.

To begin with, I have been told that the term is an oxymoron – that it contains two terms that cannot be reconciled. I disagree. I find it more of a paradox – two terms that seem to be irreconcilable, but which, under closer examination, make perfect sense.

Why then do I call myself an “agnostic Christian”? To answer that, I need to break the term down. The latter part is the easy one. I call myself a “Christian” because I believe Jesus Christ – the same Jesus whose name appears in early first-century Roman records from the province of Judea – was more than the great teacher many thought him to be at the time. I believe, as did his closest friends, that he was God incarnate, who was born as a gift for his creation, mankind, died to absolve us of the guilt brought onto us by our sin and that of our progenitor, Adam, and rose from the dead in victory over the physical death that is Adam’s curse. I rely on this same Jesus . . . on his life, his death, and his resurrection . . . for absolution of my own sin, and for the promise of eternal relationship with him.

The question of why I call myself an “agnostic” is a bit more difficult to explain. At its root, the word agnostic is derived from the Greek word gnosis – or knowledge – and the prefix a – indicating a lack thereof. Thus, an agnostic is quite literally one who does not know.

This, I find, describes me more by the day. I was enamored, recently, of a bumper sticker I saw, that said, “don’t believe everything you think.” This saying fits me to a tee. I find with each passing day that more and more of what I think is wrong. Therefore, while I hold my beliefs (any beliefs) firmly until they have been disproven, I am always open to that happening. Given how much of what I once thought has been shown to be wrong, I live assuming that much of what I still believe is probably wrong as well.

So by that most basic of definitions, I am, quite literally, an agnostic Christian. I believe in the existence of absolute truth, but not necessarily in the assertion that I have grasped it completely – or that I ever will, though I will never stop searching.

The problem then becomes the fact that this word “agnostic” has been used for centuries to describe one who does not believe the existence of God can be proven.

It might shock some who know me well to hear that I agree.

You see, Paul’s letter to the Romans says that, at present, we “see through a glass darkly” and that the time when we shall see “face to face” is still in the future. To my mind, the instant I assert that I “know�”. . . or even that I can “know” . . . that God exists, there is no place for faith in my relationship with God – and faith is an essential . . . the essential . . . ingredient in a true relationship with him.

If I assert that I “know God exists,” this assumes that I know exactly who I am talking about when I speak of Him – that is, that I know his attributes, his character, his form and behavior.

Needless to say, I don’t. If I did, the request he makes of me to trust him, to commune with him, and to love him would be a simple task. If I made that claim of God, it would mean that I know him better than I know my wife, my family, my dearest friends. While I hold God as my most important relationship, I wouldn’t dare to presume that much.

So the simple truth is that I don’t know if God exists. It is enough for me to believe that He does. That, to me, is the faith He asks of me.

Filters

Greetings.

Whereas my dear wife began this blog with a biography, I will begin with a challenge. Many of the salient points of my story that do not appear in my biography (found on this blog’s “About” page) will come out in future posts.

The challenge I issue to those of you who read this blog – be it one time, or regularly – is this:

Before you begin, ask yourself this question, “What assumptions am I bringing to the reading of this post (or page, or comment, or forum entry)?”

The beauty of this particular medium of communication is that I do not have to pretend to be impartial or unbiased. Those in the journalistic realm often claim objectivity. Those in spiritual pursuits often claim to be reading unvarnished truth into their preferred sacred text.

The truth, however, is that not one of us is truly impartial. We approach every interaction – be it with another person, a piece of literature, a point of view, or even a blog like this one – with our own presuppositions.

To make it easier for you to read and understand what I write, I will lay mine out on the table. If you like, I would be more than happy to converse with you on any or all of these subjects in the comments section or the forum:

  • I believe in the existence of absolute truth – and in my inability to grasp it completely.
  • I believe that matter, time, and logic are all creations of an eternal being who is all-knowing and all-powerful.
  • I believe that the writers of the Bible were inspired by that eternal being to craft the writings they did.
  • I believe that humans were made to be free.
  • I believe that definitions are important.

The last of these presuppositions is the key to all of them. One must define one’s terms if one is to engage in anything remotely resembling reasonable conversation. There is a reason I chose the word “absolute truth,” rather than “right and wrong.” There is a reason I chose the word “logic” rather than “knowledge,” or “wisdom.” There is a reason I chose “inspired” rather than “infallible,” and there is a reason I did not elaborate on what I mean by “free.”

I hope each of these reasons will become clear to you in future posts, but please understand that when you (or I) use a word, it is in the context of our presuppositions. For example, in the previous paragraph, it might be your presupposition that the words “inspired” and “infallible” are synonymous when referring to Scripture. It is my presupposition that they are not. In order to have a meaningful discussion on this topic, you need to know that about me, and I need to know the same about you. I’m certain that when I said, “I believe humans were made to be free,” it brought a thousand connotations to your head – probably both positive and negative. I would love to discuss further with you what I mean by that, and how I think many people misunderstand it. I will certainly address it at length in future posts.

For now, though, just ask yourself, “what are my filters? What am I assuming to be true as I read this post?”

Do that, and it will make this conversation that is Unedited Life much, much easier and more enjoyable for all of us.