the church should be the safest place for question

church safe place to question cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

“Questions to Exclamations” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

Last night 7 people representing the LGBTQ community from New Direction with Wendy VanderWal Gritter came to my house, and along with some local friends we had over 20 people stuffed into my living room. We had wine and ordered in pizza. They arrived at 5:30pm and I expected them to stay only a few hours but it was almost 11pm by the time they left. It was an amazing evening full of deep discussion, tears and laughter. The love and sense of community was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

The one issue that prevailed in our discussion was community. They had a lot of questions about our online community The Lasting Supper. (By the way, I invite you to join us!) All of them have experienced this cartoon. There are a lot of questions, but living in the question with questions is generally not a welcomed posture to take in the church. We all hunger for the kind of community where we can just be ourselves without being judged, segregated, separated or alienated. All we want is a safe space where we can learn to be who we authentically are and where we can learn to give that same respect and space to others.

The philosopher Slavoj Žižek suggests that the purpose of philosophy is to ask the right questions. I believe that is the purpose of theology, and church ought to be the safest place to do that. But no. Rather, the church has become the most dangerous and even most fatal place to do it.

Everyone in my home last night can attest to that. I personally am committed to providing safe spaces for questioners to thrive.

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Grazer #E2H

    Great to hear it went well :)

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    Too often, the church seems like little more than the place where one can get easy answers.

  • Dennis Irwin

    ” We all hunger for the kind of community where we can just be ourselves without being judged, segregated, separated or alienated.”……And this Utopia will only happen once we get rid of all the humans.

    “There are a lot of questions, but living in the question with questions is generally not a welcomed posture to take in the church.”…….. Generally…… not true.

    ” the church has become the most dangerous and even most fatal place to do it.” ……such a convenient boogeyman. You can touch, see, even hear “a” church, But “the” church allows you so much cover……you can’t really see it. Is “the” church the Catholic church? The Pentecostals? The Orthodox? The layman? Or no….the leadership! Are the JW’s included? How about the Jews?
    Honestly, I think this place and the people I’ve chatted with here are way more unwelcoming to different ideas and questions than any church I’ve ever been in.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Yes, I entirely agree that the Church should be a place where questions are asked BEFORE one seeks for answers.

  • Jon Fermin

    Questions are important, questions are needed, Questions are not ends in themselves. Questions should be asked in church but their ends should be towards exploring the truthful answer to that question. Questioning for it’s own sake becomes another way of saying that truth is relative, which is a self-defeating statement. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s the great divorce when I come to this page, particularly chapter 5. it’s a quick read, I recommend it to everyone.

    http://readanybooks.net/fantasticfiction/The_Great_Divorce/14759.html

    the setting is the threshold of Heaven. the souls of the soon to be damned are taking a day trip to the entrance to Heaven so that the souls of the just may persuade the ghosts to leave Hell behind and join them. this arduous process of leaving the town of Hell and climbing up the mountain to Heaven proper is Lewis’ purgatory. Lewis’ cosmology (which by his own admission) in this book is designed more for allegorical than eschatological purposes, but it is still worth a look. I won’t spoil the story, but do give it a read.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    I’d love to see your showing your own good experiences within the Church rather than trying to condemn those who have felt too often the evil stare for even having times of doubt.

  • Dennis Irwin

    yep…the Church is only place where you get an evil stare.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Yes, but you’re dodging my remark. Instead of saying OH NO THE CHURCH IS A SAFE PLACE YOU’RE JUST BEING MEAN TO THE CHURCH, show examples of religious institutions, of which you’ve been a part, helping your through doubt rather than hammering the doubt out of you.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    The thing about saying that the truth is absolute (as your calling “truth being called relative is a self-defeating statement” implies that you call truth absolute) is that truth can change. Knowledge can alter what we thought was true.

  • Dennis Irwin

    9:15AM Sunday mornings, Life Application Sunday School. Ages: 15-65. Wings of Faith Fellowship, Ocala FL. I’m the teacher. Doubt is a common topic. As well as lying. And stealing. And hating. And abortion. And homosexuality. And politics. And grandbabies. And kids. And forgiveness. And Christ. And sometimes we hammer. So what.

  • Dennis Irwin

    Knowledge never changes the truth. It just wasn’t true to begin with.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Wow, you sure love to sound incredibly silly.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    It’s quite clear you’re actually dodging, now. Please take your anger and resentment towards those who dare speak out somewhere where such is welcome.

  • Jon Fermin

    well at the very least consider the very statement “there is no objective truth.” is this itself, not a statement asserting an objective truth? and if it is not, does it not mean there is at least an objective truth? that which is true, is true independent of our own perceptions. whether I as an individual existed to perceive it or not, 1+1 still equals 2, and it will continue to do so long after I have died.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    You are playing a semantics game.

  • Dennis Irwin

    Dodging what? You did prove my point though. I welcomed you to my SS class……and you told me I wasn’t welcome here! lol!

  • Jon Fermin

    really how so?

  • Cecilia Davidson

    It’s extremely obvious that doubt is not a welcome state of mind for some people posting here. Rather than exploring doubt, so many groups and institutions want to guide you into their solution, to hammer the doubt out of you rather than allowing one to understand the truths that are within.
    Some questions cannot be answered and there is no reason to try and FORCE an answer.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    While referring to sexuality or identity, still relevant. It’s pretty clear that you want exact and absolute remarks when life doesn’t work like that, especially for the very small or very large. In the end, you are arguing that questioning is a bad thing and should be removed, when there will always be a niggling question.

  • Jon Fermin

    there are questions for which the answer is unknown, but this is distinctly different than saying the answer does not exist. for example, the question of whether or not God exists has been answered either as yes know or I don’t know but in the final analysis, He either exists or not. there is no logical place for I don’t know because there is no ontological state between being and non-being.

    Schroedinger’s cat is often cited as a counter to this argument, however Schroedinger himself never proposed the thought experiment be used to discuss ontological reality. it’s only purpose was to discuss the relatively unpredictable quality of radioactive decay, after which observation will conclude one result or the other. likewise, objective truth either exists or is nonexistent. there is no intermediary state. Unlike with Schroedinger, objective truth can be known to exist from simple applied logic. what you Cecilia are calling “truth” is in actuality knowledge. Knowledge can be true or false. it’s truthfulness is determined by the degree to which it correlates to objective truth. knowledge can change, truth does not. knowledge in this regard is the seeking, the question, truth is the answer to which it is intended.

    sometimes shortcuts are given to explain how something is, but not why something is. basic pedagogy will tell you it is better to start with what a wheel is rather than try to deconstruct it in an attempt to reinvent it, and not without a basic grasp of physics. likewise truth existing objectively is a given. the philosophical basics for this are axioms which are incontrovertible, like the law of identity and the law of non contradiction which form the basis of epistemology.

    without these basic starting points, logic and knowledge absolutely fail. not just human logic but logic in the abstract itself. there is no intermediary position or truths. either logic exists or semantics degrades to the point where the words you and I utter mean absolutely nothing. that you can even find any meaning in anything, means that truth does exist and by the basic axioms of thought, this truth must be objective.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    You still deal in the absolute when logic and knowledge CAN fail. Explains why racists are wrong.

  • Jon Fermin

    you are misrepresenting my position. I never argued that questions are a bad thing, but that questions are a means to an end, and not an end in themselves. My position is if objective truth exists, then the answer to a question, though personally unknown or personally (within the limits of human reason) cannot be known, can exist and does exist. the disconnect is there are things which logically can be known, like the physiological and ontological properties of being qua sex. that disprove the existential position that says our identity is a product of will. some people are emotionally upset by that, but this does not change ontological reality.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Then you are dodging the whole point of the cartoon.

  • Jon Fermin

    you fail to make the distinction between logic as an abstract and applied logic where the application can fail. who is playing semantics now?

  • Jon Fermin

    On the contrary, I am expounding on it. the title reads “the church should be the safest place for question” I ask, why is that so? I argue that it is the safest place for a question because it knows what a question is for, a truthful answer. Is david himself not violating his own principle when he says that church OUGHT be the safest place to ask a question? His purpose was to emphasize valuing the asking of questions as it’s own end, yet simultaneously, his OUGHT implies a value judgement all it’s own. indeed Church is among the best place for questions, but not for the reasons he supposes.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Actually your regime would allow for questions, but not the right kind. You presume there is an answer. This violates the question.

  • Dennis Irwin

    Because there’s only one race.

  • Jon Fermin

    there is a distinct difference between an answer existing and saying an answer is known, answers can exist while being unknown. David, how would your proposition be able to even determine what the “right kind” of question is? saying there is a right kind of question conversely admits some questions are more right than others. it’s a standard. is your standard objective or is it merely the exercise of your will? on what ground do your value judgements exist? if there is no objective truth, your value judgements are ultimately meaningless. if there is an objective truth then it can be the basis by which truthfulness can be measured.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    I wonder though… I think “objective truth” is suitable for certain stages of spiritual growth. Early stages. I suggest later stages have what I would call “open questions” where the questioner no longer needs an answer but is at peace in the mystery.

  • Jon Fermin

    there are theological questions (like those surrounding the trinity) which have answers that exist, but are beyond comprehension. there is nothing wrong with mysteries. there is much ground for contemplation and one can be at peace with the mystery, where I see the issue of eliminating objective truth is the problem with eliminating those very same foundational facts about God which undergird the basis by which these other questions and mysteries may be explored.

    for example, asking “how does God manifest His truth?” is meaningless without asserting God is Truth as a first premise. this premise has logical consequences that fall from it. per the law of non contradiction, God is consistent in nature. by this basis we can enter into the mystery of the incarnation. In the incarnation His consistency of being was entering into temporality, neither diminishing or altering His nature, this is a real mystery, not merely the part about becoming human, but that God remained fully human and fully divine.

    if God is truth, per the law of identity he is also one. but also the trinity. the mystery comes from how such an apparent paradox can be. it loses all sense of mystery without the principle of unity. likewise if there are “multiple truths” then God may as well be any number of heretical positions simultaneously, lacking then truth and consistency of being, the existence of God himself becomes trivial, in fact in a practical manner, God ceases to be at all.

    If God exists and objective truth exists, constructive questions involve the premises which follow from this truth and it’s axioms. to avoid doing so is to build one’s house upon sand.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Your premise “God is truth” is questionable because I would ask what your idea of God is.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    And that right there my man proves my cartoon! Thanks for a vivid real-life illustration.

  • Jon Fermin

    well david, if God is not truth, I must ask, to what truth do you lead your flock? if there is no truth, perhaps you lead them nowhere.

  • Al Cruise

    Lets not beat around the bush here. The north american Christian Church wants to claim exclusive rights to the answer of what happens to you after death. You go to heaven or hell. They define who goes where and why. You are not to question them. That’s what this is all about.

  • Gary

    You really should pay more attention before you reveal so many false assumptions. I would be very embarrassed in your position.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    It’s quite clear that you’re trolling. Please, if you want to mess about with the Progressive Christian channels just to get something out of the day, find a better hobby.

  • Dennis Irwin

    Welcome to Bizzaro World Jon. Where you’re smart for not knowing.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    We look to the truths of our own nature. -

    1) That we are scared of the unknown
    2) That we are capable of cruelty
    3) That we can make things better if we bother to try.

    Religion tries to answer this. It is when the answers are forced upon others and that being human is forbidden (doubt, fright, selfishness) that we go from being scared ?s to rigid, cruel !s.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Save the abuse.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Your classes are too likely to have “answers” that condemn and demean rather than uplift. No thank you.

  • Gary

    I personally would gladly admit you are not welcome in my life. There are some abusive views, and the abusers who promote them, which I will not allow to pollute my life or my happiness. That is infinitely more honest than proclaiming that everyone is welcome and then seeking to strip their identity from them. Why would I want to accept your “welcome” only to suffer your rebuke and abuse for my views?

  • Cecilia Davidson

    It’s not merely that, but that the answers are forced upon you and you MUST accept them, or you will go to hell. The ?s are remolded into !s, and the latter, with their looks of anger and determination, are such against their nature.

  • Jon Fermin

    to be quite honest I am wondering how this got on the progressive christianity board anyway. relativism is as old as Plato and rejecting God as truth contradicts the words of Christ, so it really can’t be called Christian either.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Okay, it’s pretty clear that you’re all about shaming – Please leave.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    I do wish I could have gone, but I don’t live anywhere near the Canadian border.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    But this proves my point Jon. I write a thought that maybe we shouldn’t ask what truth is if we say God is truth because if our idea of God is wrong then obviously our idea of the truth is wrong. I think that’s a legitimate question lots of people are asking today.

    What’s your response? “How can you call yourself a pastor?” That’s shaming. You would say the same thing to anybody… “How can you call yourself a Christian?” And you would approach them with your superior knowledge and tell them God is truth, PERIOD!

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Can’t you see that?

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Gaia Online’s Morality and Religion forum would love you (probably not)

  • Gary

    And what if YOUR truth “just wasn’t true to begin with”?

  • Al Cruise

    Agreed.

  • Jon Fermin

    it’s not the same thing, and it really can’t be said to anyone. a pastor has more responsibility, a person who is a Christian can have doubts and struggle with those doubts, as a former atheist I certainly struggled with doubt quite a bit. the average person on the pew should have a few questions to ask there is no shame in that. what is shameful is when a pastor responsible for addressing those questions does not take the responsible step of reliving himself from his duties until he sorts it out, there is the shame, not in having those questions, but in causing others to fall into that same state of confusion. that is criticism of poor leadership, not shaming.

  • Gary

    You know nothing of David do you?

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Your model of pastor and average person in the pew is painfully outdated. I claim everyone in the body should be living the question, the mystery, including the pastor. As Nouwen wrote in “Wounded Healer”, the pastor ought to lead the way in doubt, questions, and struggle, not lead the way in certainty, answers and victorious living.

  • Jon Fermin

    by that same token, Nouwen also said

    “When we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.”

    while admitting my own seeming harshness as shortcomings in this regard, I also illustrate Nouwen’s rejection of relativism, His message was one not just of doubt, but hope and faith working in doubt. It appears in contrast David, you have accepted relativism. that is a step too far.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    If you have a problem with David, take it in private.

  • Guest

    Cecelia, what right have you to complain? my truth is as good as yours after all.

  • Dennis Irwin

    There is no “your” truth.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    I’m not talking about belief or relativism. I’m talking about a safe space for people to question. I should be able to find a place where I can say, “I no longer believe in God! There’s no difference between the Christian God and any other god. They’re all the same! What do I do now?” without you jumping in to say that’s not allowed because it’s relativistic. You drew the line restricting the community which violates authentic community. I would never ever come out to you spiritually.

  • Dennis Irwin

    What a ridiculous satement. What planet are you people from? It must be absolutely impossible to be so wrong about something and not have it follow you into other areas of your life.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    What a cruel remark from a troll. Go home.

  • Jon Fermin

    well if it’s not me David, I hope you come out spiritually to someone. after all I am not a pastor, just a regular guy. there are plenty of places to go with doubts and questions and never be judged, for free even! but let me be serious a moment…

    there has to come a time when doubt runs headlong into faith and the result is painful. this however can be a grace. As Flannery O Connor once said, “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” The pastor, like a good doctor must be willing to treat the patient, even if the operation entails pain and sacrifice. He must educate them of what to expect and lead them in a spirit of hope and a desire for treatment His good bedside manner will see him sharing in the pain, for this is the essence of compassion. and he will be there to offer treatment in the recovery.

    He will not just offer him painkillers and hope that the problem goes away by itself.

    even a wounded healer needs to write the prescriptions, pull out the scalpel and give the hard, but vital news.

    Here’s to a sincere hope that to all of yours that they may be open to grace and have the courage to overcome stagnation in the soul with a sense of urgency and faith.

  • Dennis Irwin

    Who said anything about wanting to be in your life? Very pretentious.

  • Dennis Irwin

    A very common trait in your opinions on this thread………….having no idea what your talking about.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    A very common trait in yours – antagonizing the author first, not even bothering to reflect.

  • Dennis Irwin

    Are there only three?

    “Forced”? Ridiculous. You do realize that not only can you leave a church. ….you can start your own!

  • Brigitte

    Everyone has doubts of various kinds at various times. That is not the “question”. The question maybe is, as Lewis touched upon in “Four Loves”: is God love or is love God. And what kind of love. When Eros becomes God, it quickly becomes a demon. Anyhow. I like Dennis Irwin’s statement “Honestly, I think this place and the people I’ve chatted with here are way more unwelcoming to different ideas and questions than any church I’ve ever been in.” Every day one reads negative stereotyping of people who are persecuted all over the place, here, and if one dare resist or critique the “troll” card comes out immediately, or people are sent away as Cecilia did somewhere above. What kind of love is this?

    I was fortunate to spend the last ten days on Hawaii, Honolulu. I drove past the demonstrators at the state legislature holding signs “Ask the people.” The gay marriage law was getting jammed through the legislature. (I live in Canada so American politics is always something foreign to me, but the complaint seems to have been that the population was not consulted and did not feel represented.) And what does one read in the newspaper a few days after? — The school curriculum down to the pre-school level must be revised, says some kind of lobby group from New York, which also has a chapter in Hawaii. It does not look like anyone will be allowed to question any of that.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Common trait in your own is attacking the blog author and refusing to even give his view a chance.

  • Al Cruise

    He has given a typical response when confronted with something that makes him uncomfortable, they go immediately judgemental and holier than thou. Totally predictable.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    sadly so

  • Dennis Irwin

    I think it’s cruel to misrepresent “the church”. You happen to be one of the most uninformed people I’ve heard opine on the life and times of the church. And I haven’t missed your point…..your point is ignorant.

  • Dennis Irwin

    No….just pointing out ignorance. It’s kinda annoying.

    “……..answers are forced upon you and you MUST accept them, or you will go to hell” That’s just somebody that has no idea what they’re talking about.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    The irony is so thick.

  • Ghost_King

    maybe your replacing “pastor” with “God”…?? God prunes if He so desires- not man, or a pastor who is a man and nothing more than the rest of us…

  • Ghost_King

    Cecillia even though he might be trolling and all about shaming- he still has the right to write what he wants- if we confess a greater revelation of grace and modesty towards people with questions, like it seems you do, then should we not have different attitude towards people like so many condemning churches (temple-worship) these days? By all means dialogue with him till it gets heated and you want to scream and walk away, but never close the conversation in someones face even though he might just be a troll…we are not people living on our own island, screaming at each other from a distance, we walk past each other everyday, even though we like to be blind to this fact.

  • Gary

    What incredible arrogance is on display in your comment here. Your presumption of the spiritual high ground is ugly.

  • Gary

    I was making a point about your “welcome” to your sunday school class. Your dodges and asinine comments are ridiculous.

  • Gary

    Hmm…interesting you can see this in everyone else but never in yourself…LOL

  • Gary

    Dennis you have become a caricature of insanity here. You are exactly what we speak of when we reject the arrogance and absurdity in so much of the church. And if you don’t like something…you simply declare it to be false all the while proving the truth of it in your baseless declarations of denial.

  • Dennis Irwin

    Truth exists with or without us. Nobody owns it.

  • Dennis Irwin

    My denial is not baseless……..I live in “the church” culture in the bible belt. I have first hand experience. Something tells me a lot of folks here….don’t. The claims on this thread about the church are wrong and, ironically, you actually play out all the things you complain about. You bully, you exclude, you don’t like other thoughts, you’re bigots, prejudiced and uninformed. All the while I live in the culture you claim is like this…..and it isn’t even close to the degree you exhibit here. We all know whenever people gather together, there’s always problems. But the way “the church” is portrayed here tells me…..ignorance via unbelief is driving the train here.

  • Dennis Irwin

    Jon, you’re right. Which is why it’s very difficult to discuss topics with the folks here. There is no foundation. Some will say they are believers…..but the bible is not the word of God. As you’ve picked up on…..it’s all relative.

  • Dennis Irwin

    “if we confess a greater revelation of grace and modesty towards people with questions,” oh the irony. lol
    Good call Ghost King.

    And why is it I can tell Jon is a sincere, nice guy trying to figure out what’s going on in here. And you open minded brainiacs treat him like a criminal. lol The truth is…..if you came to my church with all these questions you have…….you would NEVER be treated as you have treated Jon. It’s quite pathetic.

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    Dennis, perhaps all Bible Belt churches are not the same?
    Perhaps everyone’s experience of church is not the same?

    For example, a straight white well-off educated male would almost certainly have a different experience of church than a poor black transgender woman.

    Given this diversity of experience, perhaps we could understand each other better by asking questions, rather than trading accusations.

    Why do you feel angry and frustrated when people tell stories of difficult church experiences?

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    But Dennis, would we be treated as *you* have treated us?

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    Jon, why do you assume that doubt is the same as “stagnation in the soul”?
    Can you imagine doubt fuelling a changed understanding of God and of people?

  • Dennis Irwin

    You’re right Tim, churches are not all the same. And obviously I’ve not been to all of them. This is kind of my point…..to paint broad strokes and claim “the church” is mean or judgmental or shallow is inaccurate. “A” church…….. Ok. “The church”……. nope. “The church” is made up of millions of people just like everybody here. Some are liars, some are sweet, some steal, some give all they can, and some love. It’s really quite beautiful. So I try and balance out the argument…..maybe somebody is listening.

    And btw…..”For example, a straight white well-off educated male would almost certainly have a different experience of church than a poor black transgender woman.”……is that a bad thing?

  • Dennis Irwin

    I think that might be apples and oranges Tim. Since I’m an unwelcomed guest here……but a welcoming member of my church. Now if I attacked you on your way into the door of our sanctuary…..I would expect you to defend yourself.

    How have I treated you Tim?

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    I understand now – I had completely missed the distinction between the generalised descriptions of “the church”, and the specific, “in my own experience”, “a church” (or “some churches”).

    As for the transgender black woman, in my experience, a transgender black woman has described her distinct experience of church as far more difficult than the experience of the majority. And many others who share one or more minority attributes with her, have said similar things.

  • Jon Fermin

    if we are talking about a relationship with God and the people, I imagine it would work just as well as any relationship predicated on mistrust. Imagine a marriage where you constantly assumed your spouse is cheating on you. does this sound like a safe place for questions? so it is in the spiritual relationship fueled by doubt. Paul uses the imagery of a marital relationship when speaking of the relation between God and the church. As it is when there is no faith in one spouse or the other, a divorce is around the corner. so it is when a church is predicated on doubt, if nothing is done to address these doubts, this church will self destruct.

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    Dennis, I don’t give that situational distinction very much weight – Jesus didn’t restrict “turn the other cheek” to specific situations (such as church, or being a welcome guest).

    You have politely engaged with my polite questions, without labelling me directly, or unintentionally engaging in behaviour that would trigger associations with previous traumas. I appreciate that – it makes the conversation flow smoothly, and I have benefited by understanding your concerns more clearly.

    However, I know some of the people who have responded negatively to various intentional and unintentional content in some posts. In places, the negativity seems to have escalated to the point where understanding is very difficult.

    As you were part of that discussion, and the ensuing escalation, I had

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    (Disqus and my iPad aren’t playing nice.)
    … I have been very careful to phrase my comments in a neutral yet inquisitive manner. I’m still a little concerned that I will cross some line (which I’m completely unaware of), and then I will become part of the labelling and triggers.

    I don’t want to do that – it’s exhausting and tends to shut down genuine conversation.

    So, while I am not trying to blame anyone for the impact of the conversation on me, that’s how I feel I have been treated while reading and posting in this conversation.

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    What is the opposite of faith (or trust)?

    I think it’s apathy on some circumstances, and dogmatism in others.
    But, if I understand you correctly, Jon, you think it is believing negative things, which you call mistrust.

    But what if I doubt beliefs that are negative?
    What if I doubt beliefs that are untrue?

    For example, what if I believed that God was constantly looking to punish me for my sins?
    If I then come to doubt this belief, I need a safe space to process the resulting questions. Perhaps then, I will come to believe that God is far more eager to forgive me, than to punish me. But this could me much harder if the conversation is shut down when I express my doubts.

    There’s a subtle distinction here: I can continue to trust God, while doubting the accuracy of my beliefs about him. I can contribute to

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    (Disqus / iPad incompatibility strikes again!)
    I can continue to trust a community, while disagreeing with various ideas expressed by various members.

    These situations fuel growth, by allowing people safe spaces to process their doubts.

    To borrow your analogy, a couple who can’t communicate with each other about their doubts, are at far more risk of divorce, than the couple who honestly acknowledge their doubts, and process them in a safe environment of mutual respect.

  • Jon Fermin

    if there is no center, if God is not truth, then how can one tell the difference between progression and regression? how would one even go about determining a belief is untrue if truth is relative? I chose the idea of infidelity explicitly because our doubts are a kind of accusation against the fidelity of God. communication is key, this is true, this is what prayer is for, but at the same time does one who accuses God of infidelity really listen to God, or only listen the parts he wants to hear? an “environment of mutual respect” cannot happen first without trust at a certain level. however if there is no objective truth, there is philosophically no place to put that trust except inward to experimentalism and solipsism. rather than this relationship being about the shared unity between spouses which brings new life, it is the pursuit of parallel individualism. to borrow C.S. Lewis’ quote from the great divorce, “Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage”

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    Jon, I can’t help but feel that you’ve replied to things I didn’t say – or perhaps to a different comment.

    Did I imply relative truth? That was never my intention. And I’d prefer not to sidetrack into that discussion: it would have the effect of shutting down my actual enquiry.

    So I’d like to focus on the core of what I intended to say:

    What is the opposite of faith (or trust)?
    I don’t think it’s doubt. I think it’s apathy or dogmatism. It’s being unmoved by the object of faith.

    There’s a subtle distinction here: I can continue to trust God, while doubting the accuracy of some of my beliefs about him.

    But this could me much harder if the conversation is shut down when I express my doubts.

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    (Again, my apologies – my iPad and Disqus are conspiring to prematurely end my posts.)

    To boil it down to a single question:

    If your beliefs about God never change, if you never doubt, does this make you:
    arrogantly dogmatic (or, alternately, completely apathetic); or absolutely perfect?

  • Dennis Irwin

    Irony abounds Tim. Your example of the transgender black woman brings up the very point I’m making with all the open minded and wise progressives here. A lot of them are exactly what they complain about. “The church” is such an easy target. The truth is ALL places where groups of people gather , including here, are full of judgment and bigotry. And we’re kidding ourselves if any of us thinks we’re exempt. Back to the irony……I have stated here before that I’m an adult Sunday School teacher. I have a very diverse crowd of men & women ranging in ages from 15-65. And one such person, who has been coming on & off for about 2 years, is a 19 year old transgender black man (he would say woman!). He keeps coming back. Why? Because we’re extremely judgmental? Maybe it’s the extreme…..unwelcomeness?! Yeah, he’s attrackted to that! Now you’ll notice, I’m not hiding behind some fake avatar. I sign in with my Facebook. I can be checked out…..and if someone here wanted to friend me I prob would. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky dream I’ve made up. Check me out. You might even figure out who he is from my friend list. Because he’s my friend. And unlike some here…. we welcome everybody.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    My view is that the existential considerations of “Absolute Truth” is really irrelevant. There is no way we can ever really tell if we have arrived at the “Absolute Truth”. To claim it is in the bible (or it is what Jesus says it is) is very problematic because we can’t know for sure that the bible (or what Jesus said) is anything other than the opinions of the scriptural authors. In either case (Absolute Truth existing or not) we have work to do. We as a community of people have to work together to jointly decide what is good or true (lower-case truth). I believe this is true regardless of whether or not there is “Absolute Truth” out there waiting to be discovered. We need humility in that what we now think is good and true may be able to be improved upon in the future. I think the main failing of many churches is that they cling to what people in past ages thought was good and true and claimed it was Absolute Truth and impeded social progress and the common good. Can we know for sure that modern ideas are better than older ideas? Perhaps not in any absolute sense but I do have trust (faith if you like) that humanity can improve and refine its moral code over the course of time. Sure there are set-backs but I believe things are going in the right direction. Once there was slavery, now not so much. Once there were very ridged gender roles, now not quite as much. Once there was extreme racism, now not so much. Once there was the application of thumb-screws for theological differences, now not so much. Once there was the belief that people with the wrong theology would go to hell, now ???

    In conclusion, whether or not there is Absolute Truth out there, we have to operationally exist as if it is all relative. We have to find ways as a community of people to define and arrive at what we consider good. We also can’t trust any one source as our guide. We need to use multiple different sources and arrive at a consensus.

  • Al Cruise

    The irony really abounds. You make very good points here Tim. Look at the comments on David’s “Bob Jones” cartoon, mostly silence from those who like to comment on topics like this one. They live in a Pollyanna world with rose colored glasses on.

  • Jon Fermin

    the question never was about whether our beliefs in God change, they certainly can. but whether God Himself changes (by change here I mean nature or character).

    the proposition I made to David is that God is truth. I’ll expound this, that all that is true exists in God and that truth is not merely an aspect of God but integral to his ontological being. the nature of untruth is a privation of God just as darkness is a privation of light. If God is truth ontologically, it also logically follows that His nature is consistent with reason, he does not contradict himself (I.E. will himself to do something He does not will) and is also exists consistently (he does not exist/not exist simultaneously) and because his nature is ontologically truth in the fullness, it does not diminish or change.

    whether we are aware of it or not, in God objective truth rests. this means that we may speculate and question truths about God, but in the final analysis, those truths already pre-exist us. we do not make truth, truth is discovered. the problem in communication we are having is that many on this board are convinced that one cannot know God enough to say that one can come to any conclusions on His nature. some will say that the only way we can arrive at truth is by consensus. I say this invites an infinite regression of an appeal to tradition which makes arriving at any moral or truthful statement fruitless. it treats the words of Christ as unreliable, it treats the entire history of God’s revelation to humanity as insignificant. It’s a theistic solipsism. To be a Christian means we must take Christ’s words and teachings to be our window into the nature of God, because He is God.

    despite our desires and some of our differences ecumenically speaking, the position of progressive Christians dumping out the bible’s authenticity or authority is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. when we dismiss the history of the church as irrelevant because it is old, we assume our own kind of arrogant dogmatism. as Chesterton once said, “There are two kinds of people: those who accept dogmas and know it and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.”

    the question is not should we accept dogmas, but which dogmas are consistent with the nature of God. If the church and the scriptures it compiled under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are our window into the nature of God, we should not so casually dismiss them to prefer “dogmas” according to popular fashion or personal taste. In all likelihood I expect by the time one finishes this post it will likely get voted down or flagged without giving an honest introspective look into our own “dogmas”, but I’ll write it because you deserve better than silence. to be fair, I don’t have all the time in the world either, so I’ll be taking a break from posting. but consider that in the end God exists, there are ways that we may know Him. He is consistent and non contradictory. likewise our search for truth necessarily means knowing God, in His words and in all that He has left for us in the church. Good night.

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    Hi Jon,

    I agree – ending the conversation here is a good idea. I was going to suggest it myself, as I’m still having trouble relating your posts to the questions I’ve asked.

  • klhayes

    It’s ok to have the questions, you just have to come to the same conclusion as everyone in the church. That’s the danger.

  • klhayes

    Exclusivity….good point Al.

  • JenellYB

    From my observation, most in the church do have real problems with question and doubt. And, I think that is where the church loses a lot of new seekers, and loses them fast. People ask questions to learn new things. Serious teachers such College professors LOVE students with questions, it demonstrates to the teacher that the student is absorbing and processing the new information being presented, the student is thinking, and learning. A new employee on a job listens to the more experienced supervisor that explains the tasks to be done, and the new employee asks questions about things he s not sure he understands correctly, needs clarification about. Asking questions is part of a normal, healthy learning process.
    Now that new comer to church listens, is absorbing, processing, and when something isn’t clear, he doesn’t understand how this got to that, or why this means that, and asks a question, the response he gets is likely to be very different from in a college class or new job situation, where his questions were expected, understood, and encouraged. The kind of sharp, negative responses to questions in a church, questions that seemed quite ordinary and reasonable to the new seeker, isn’t what he expected, and not something he is comfortable with. Most often the response is of a tone either, as if addressing a child that just must not be ready to understand, or taken as a challenge, questioning the validity of something. I’ve actually has a couple experienced, as a mature woman well into middle age, of having my question trigger an outright hostile and defensive response, that suggested I take their word for it because that’s what God says and don’t question god. Why these negative responses? the ‘teachers’ don’t know a reasonable answer himself, but there’s a ‘rule’, never admit “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.”
    Doubt is the first step to both testing sound knowledge, and tearing down unsound knowledge. Knowledge is not truth, knowledge is not fact. Knowledge is merely a strongly held opinion, a conclusion drawn from what aparant information we had at the time. Knowledge must always be held tentatively, never solidly. It is tentative because it’s validity is entirely dependent upon both the foundational information we drew it from, and the soundness of our reasoning process, logic, in forming the conclusion. If one cannot articulate why one hold something as knowledge, they aren’t holding it as knowledge, but simply parroting someone else. But knowledge must be always held tentative, because all it takes is for one piece of the information upon which we based the conclusion, to prove incorrect, and that knowledge crumbles, must be revised.
    Doubt is the first step of both testing sound knowledge and discrediting unsound knowledge. Doubt is no threat to sound knowledge. Only unsound knowlelge is averse to doubt.

  • Ghost_King

    Dennis, i think you miss read what i said, like so many people do with each others scribbles- but thank you for the compliment- “open minded brainiacs”, thats awesome, and i love to think of myself just in that regard!! But to disagree with you, no church is different from the other, its called human nature… That said you might have a different theology concerning the meaning of church than me. I have a lot of friends like Jon, well some even more angry (if i have to attach an emotion). And we get along just fine- well they love me and i do them to be blunt, they do not think of me as some turd or twat who is sitting on a higher moral and righteous pole than them. And the best thing is, i dont even have to claim that i am a christian nor do they have to come to my groupy or some sort of cult like cold hearted building called a church by many. We drink alcohol, dance, laugh and enjoy life! I merely pointed out if we as ‘christians’ claim that we have some sort of life changing revelation about how to treat people different than how the “church” (temple) treated us, then we should grace others in the same regards even if we think they troll just to stir up emotion, like she claimed Jon does… Understand? I am not on anybodies side…so maybe you should try the open minded brainiac side of life, if possible…

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