The Most Honest Places in Town

“Churches should be the most honest place in town, not the happiest place in town.”

– Walter Bruggeman

Pete Enns shared the above quote in a post that highlights the psalms of lament. The Bible, taken as a whole, doesn’t suggest that human beings ought to simply believe, or keep their doubts and complaints to themselves, or never question. Job is praised for questioning and his friends condemned for giving pat orthodox answers. The Psalms are full of complaints and questions. Churches should be places that provide support for honesty, and not places where we cover up hurts or maintain a facade of either having all the answers, or always feeling like we’re on top of things. I’m grateful that the church I attend, Crooked Creek Baptist Church, is a place that seeks to make such honesty not just a theoretical emphasis, but a lived reality.

Photo by Jim Grey

 

  • Brian P.

    I’ve found most churches to be places one can be honest within certain plausibility structures. One, generally and in my experience, can be honest about one’s own slightly-to-greatly divergent beliefs for only a short period of time. (Especially where it might concern “bedrock” beliefs; grace might be more aligning than, say, some sort of statements on Scripture.) After that, one isn’t “in” and gets culturally distanced, sometimes to the point of being anathematized. In my experience, the “lived reality” of honesty is often 1) still laden with the agenda to fix someone else’s beliefs with group norms and 2) done so for a limited period of time. If Crooked Creek has long-time parishioners with diverse beliefs from the 7 bedrock items, I would be most interested in hearing their stories from both their perspectives as well as from others. To me, that would sound much like Grace itself as bedrock.

  • antiallanbloom

    I draw the exact opposite conclusion

    Doubting Thomas is reprimanded for his doubts, and Paul and Revelations state the nonbelievers are cast into hell. GJohn has Jesus calling Jews children of the devil for not believing. Salvation from eternal damnation is the whole point of the bible, and unquestioning faith in Jesus is what is required.

    If you are familiar with Star Wars, what is the saga taken as a whole about, Luke or Anakin?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Am I familiar with Star Wars? Is that supposed to be a joke? Or did you just find your way to this blog for the first time today and not even poke around enough to find out what it is about?

      Thomas is not reprimanded, but those who believe without seeing are pronounced blessed in the Gospel of John – in order to encourage the audience who was in that situation. Where does Paul refer to unbelievers being cast into hell? If you cannot even get the name of the Book of Revelation correct, it is not surprising that you are unfamiliar with its contents. On the whole, you have been told that something is “what the Bible teaches” and have accepted that teaching without fact-checking it.

      • antiallanbloom

        Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

        sounds like a reprimand to me.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          The story is crafted so that Thomas offers a climactic confession of Jesus’ identity after seeing him. An appearance to him is granted, and no longer does he ask to examine the wounds, even though he is invited to do so. The entire scene is created to make a point about those who lived later and had no opportunity of seeing what a previous generation claimed to, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

          • antiallanbloom

            Translations and cultural issues aside, the way I see it, if someone openly doubted someone’s ability, and told that person’s associates they don’t believe in that person’s skill or ability, and that person then hears it, appears, and demonstrates that skill and says “Stop doubting and believe.” that would be a reprimand. So to offer a hypothetical example, if an Arab under Sharia law openly doubted in front of Muslims he didn’t believe Mohammad is a prophet, and doubted Mohammad’s miracles, and was told by Sharia police to stop doubting and believe, and had some barbaric event like getting stoned to death for blasphemy that would be a reprimand.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              So basically if the text said something different and was written in a different context it would mean something different? No surprises there!

              • antiallanbloom

                the text and context was about Thomas unbelief. Thomas openly stated he did not believe. “Stop doubting and believe.” is a rebuke to Thomas unbelief.

                Elaine Pagels in Beyond Belief contrasted GThomas w/GJohn and she, like me, saw this doubting Thomas story as showing the GThomas gospel as being false and faithless.

                To use a star wars example, in one scene Vader talked about the force much as the disciples claimed the resurrection, on the death star. One person doubted the force. Vader then force-choked him, and said “I find your lack of faith most unsettling”. I’ve always wondered if Lucas was inspired by the doubting thomas scene. I can find it on youtube if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Are you a troll?


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