Darius Is No More

This blog is not the first to have an ongoing conversation about what it means to have a blog, whether it is public or private space, and what constitutes appropriate behavior herein, but the conversation around these issues last week was robust.  More on that below, but first I’ll tell you what happened Friday.

With a minor amount of internet sleuthing, I discovered that Darius lives in the Twin Cities and is employed as an engineer.  I sent him an email inviting him to lunch.  He declined, and we exchanged several more emails.  In one, he wrote that it was my prerogative to use his emails here on the blog.  That was one of the several unsolicited statements that Darius made in the email exchange, so I don’t believe that I am betraying any confidences by writing about them here.  While I will not quote them directly, I will summarize them.

I invited Darius to lunch or coffee to talk through our differences.  My email was one line long.  He wrote back a relatively lengthy response sorta declining, and returning the the point he’s made many, many times in the comments on this blog: viz., that I am a hypocrite for calling him names and then scolding him for calling me and others names.

I wrote back another short email explaining that I was not going to debate these matters in email any more than I was in the comment section on the blog, and I reiterated my offer to buy him lunch, stating that regardless of our theological differences, two brothers in Christ should be able to break bread together (as I have with Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and John and Abraham Piper).

He wrote back a definitive rejection of my offer, saying that he does not consider me a brother in Christ.  And then he wrote another unsolicited statement: He will never comment on my blog again (with one caveat: he retains the right to comment on previous threads in which he is directly asked a question by another commenter).  I repeat, I did not ask him to retire from commenting on my blog.  I asked him to lunch and he unilaterally withdrew from the community that is this blog’s readership.

In my final email, I expressed regret that he wouldn’t even meet me for coffee, and I suggested that calling someone a “heretic” is far, far worse than calling someone an “ass.”  He agreed, but retorted that his referring to me as a heretic is not name-calling but merely a statement-of-fact.  And that’s where we left it.

The string of comments under the post “Darius” is fascinating — in fact, one college professor has emailed me to say that he’s going to make it required reading on the syllabus for a course on communication in the electronic age. If you take the time to read all the comments, you’ll see arguments for banning and keeping Darius far more persuasive than any I could conjure up here.  Personally, I think the comments arguing for banning him are slightly more persuasive than those for keeping him, but I am, of course, not objective in this matter.

More intriguing, however, is how Darius seems incapable of admitting to any weakness in his theological or rhetorical positions, regardless of some very smart and thoughtful comments to that effect.  I realize that Darius accuses me of the very same kind of blindness, but the difference is that I regularly admit that my positions on theological and social issues may be wrong, whereas I have yet to see him (or Marusha) do the same.  Which really brings us back to the origins of the emergent movement in which epistemic humility was possibly the founding principle.

I wrote that post, not because Darius was getting on my nerves — I actually always skipped over his comments because I find his reasoning not the least bit interesting or compelling — but because I’d received several emails from readers whom I respect asking me to ban him from commenting, or at least to put up a fence around him.  These readers’ emails were unprecedented in my seven years of blogging, so I had to take them seriously.

If Darius had agreed to meet me for lunch, I imagine that we could have forged some kind of rapprochement.  Had he refused to meet me but not offered to leave my blog, I would have suggested some parameters to his involvement and seen if he could, indeed, abide by them.  But those points are now moot, since he voluntarily removed himself from the community that is this blog’s readership.

In closing, a couple thoughts.  Several metaphors were suggested by readers as to the purpose of this blog.  I tend to like best the “front porch” metaphor, in which this is my property, but it’s available as a public venue for conversation.  Unlike many of my peers, I like to have open comments on my blog, even at the risk of attracting trolls.  But it is my porch, and if your involvement is causing others to leave (which the several “Unsubscribe!” comments seemed to indicate), well then I’m going to have you escorted off the property.  My front porch is not just for people with whom I agree, but it is for people who know how to behave.

And second, stop feeding the trolls.  Marusha will not begin to see her own hermeneutical presuppositions, no matter how many times you tell her to look in the mirror.  Ignore her comments if you can, and let’s see where to conversation goes…

Thanks for reading.  Seriously.

  • http://www.thechristianwatershed.com Joel

    That saddens me that he wouldn’t meet you for lunch. Aside from being overtly abrasive in comments, the very least he could have done is met you for lunch.

    This is coming from someone who disagrees on almost everything you say and who also writes in an unintentionally abrasive manner (I’m very open in what I say in person, but in person it’s easier because of HOW I say it…of course, I’m still learning that doesn’t always translate on the internet).

    I would hope that those who disagree with you (like myself) would at least be willing to sit down, have a coffee and lunch, and if the differences can’t be worked out, to at least find some commonality.

  • http://www.alexgamble.blogspot.com Alex

    I appreciate the wisdom of seeking contact with him, Tony. This is a fascinating story for blogging, and I think you handled it as best you could. I find Darius’ response fascinating as well: refusing to meet with you, voluntarily withdrawing, repeating the same stances again and again.

    It makes me think he never wanted to be challenged in the first place, only to challenge others. And that isn’t dialogue. That is solicitation.

    So perhaps your front porch should read “No Solicitors.”

  • Dan

    Your attempts to connect with someone who is so vehemently opposed to your position and person, is glaringly Christlike. The contrast between the two types of behavior (yours and Darius’) speak more than all the words in the comments. Thanks for your “witness” Tony.

  • Angie

    While I am not prominent by any means, I had an old friend from the Twin Cities recently talk to me through mail messages, telling me that I was a heretic and leading people astray (I’m a youth leader at a local church in NJ). This was based on the fact that I mentioned some of my favorite authors, including Rob Bell, Don Miller, and Tony Jones.

    I say all this because I wonder what is going on in the Christian world today. This was someone that I was friends with even! And he was unwilling to hear me, and only focused on giving me the plan of Salvation. It saddens me to see these kinds of things happening.

    Any thoughts??
    (I also wonder if my friend and Darius go to the same church???)

  • http://charlieschurchofchrist.wordpress.com Charlie’s Church of Christ

    yeah at the very least Darius get a free lunch out of it! I guess its easier to be a jerk when you have no face than at a table where the other person can look you in the eye.

  • t-man

    Tony,

    Fascinating and heartbreaking. If I look at the differences between Jesus, who ate with both sinners and Pharisees, and the Pharisees who refused to get near sinners and chastised Jesus for doing so, then I would have to say Darius looks a lot more like a Pharisee by not being willing to have lunch/coffee with you. If Darius is as concerned for your soul as he is for his apologetic then he should jump at the chance to meet with you. Certainly he should have no qualms in doing so. I grew up in a Christian environment that was largely fueled by the kind of apologetic stance that Darius takes. I can truly understand his approach, but I believe (I hope) I have grown in Christ enough to move beyond the Pharisee of my youth into a more gracious follower of Christ. This is not to imply that either I or you are exemplars of Christ-like behavior (far from it), just that a recognition of the humility we must have, both in our epistemology and our humanity, has become more compelling.

    I don’t like to talk about anyone, Darius included, in front of them, so Darius, if you are reading this I would encourage you to reconsider your rebuff of Tony’s invite to lunch. Be wary of judging another man’s heart even if you passionately disagree with his theology. Do not presume that you and God are on the same level when it comes to knowing if anyone is a true child of God. You might be right in your assessment, but you cannot know that for certain. And if you are wrong, how truly sad it is that you have taken such a stance, and how much more mercy you need from God (as do we all). I encourage you, by the mercies of God, that you be careful you yourself are not, instead of a child of God, a passionate apologist and theologically astute child of the devil.

    I write this with very limited knowledge of Tony, Darius, and anyone else who visits this blog. Forgive me if I have overstepped anywhere.

  • Greg Gorham

    This sadly seems to be a trend in heresy hunting. I was more or less kicked out a church a few months back by the Pastor. He was a new hire and was much more conservative than the old one. He called me a heretic at least a dozen times, pulled me from the Youth Ministry (where I ran the program), and took to shouting over me in the Bible Study, saying he had to protect his flock. I offered to meet him for lunch sometime so we talk out our differences and come to some kind of understanding, but he wouldn’t respond to any of my texts.

  • Darren King

    Tony,

    I think this was a wise decision, wisely thought out and prayed over, and wisely (and graciously) enacted.

    One of the real challenges with dealing with circular reasoning is that it often leaves no room for doors. Its a closed circle in that regard. And thus, two way conversation is impossible. And conversation is central here, and in the emerg-o-sphere in general.

    Lastly, I would say that – for those who are so sure of their positions that they won’t even consider the possibility that they’re wrong – this is a dangerous place to stand. And that’s the irony here. For all the talk about “dangerous positions”, some people seem incapable of considering that it is they who are in that position. The word “precarious” comes to mind.

    Lastly, I would agree that this has been an interesting case in point when it comes to civility and communication in general in the new media world. We need more of this. And I say that not because I am pro-censorship. But because I am pro-accountability, and pro-community. Boundaries are essential for life to thrive – whether virtual, or actual, or a little bit of both.

    Peace and love.

  • L. Reese Cumming

    Greg – Are you saying you aren’t a heretic or that you are a heretic?

  • nathan

    Thankful for your heart in this…

  • Patrick Marshall

    “He agreed, but retorted that his referring to me as a heretic is not name-calling but merely a statement-of-fact.”

    Jay Bakker has a great line…”Good theology that makes you a jerk isn’t good theology.”

  • http://joshuaseek.com joshua

    If someone offers to buy me lunch, I don’t care if it’s Osama bin Laden, I’m there. Who can resist free food?

    Free food aside, well played Tony. Classy approach.

  • Marusha

    AAAAAAH! It’s Marusha!

    Sorry guys (and gals maybe?). I think I am starting to see how much I must have looked like a jerk previously. If a may, it is largely due to the fact that I am new to this whole blogosphere phenomenon and I have always been clumsy when communicating through textual medium.

    I truly want to share the truth. Yes, you may say that it is ‘my version of the truth’ but I believe it is grounded in the Bible. Please understand that I don’t know everything. I know so little but there are things I can be certain of because they are clear in the Bible. I realize that there is a different hermeneutical approach taken by Tony and others here and it may seem impossible for us to come to any sort of common ground.

    I am truly sorry for allowing myself to get emotionally caught up in the past and feeling the need to defend myself.

    If there is anyone who is interested in my point of view, I would like to ask for Tony’s permission to continue on here. I will strive to be respectful and truly caring but please understand, I cannot compromise on what I believe to be true.

    Even though I live far away, I would totally take you up on your offer for lunch. I would love to see the Twin Cities! If those pictures at the top are any indication, it looks to be a very beautiful place. Thanks Tony.

  • t-man

    Marusha, I love your comments above. Thanks.

  • Darren

    Wow. I’m actually shocked – what with all of Darius’ comments about “being a man”, that in the end – he wasn’t even manly enough to come face-to-face with you, Tony. And in so doing, he also rejected the very Bible he says he believes in (and it’s clear that Matthew 18 would dictate that he meet with you one-on-one to clear these matters up). It saddens me that he’s banned, and it saddens me that he’s so benighted to think that he’s being so orthodox and non-heretical, and yet can’t manage to abide by the simplest of dictates in the Word: address those with whom you have disagreements (particularly ones which you would consider “sinful”). :(

  • http://www.blackcoffeereflections.com Tim

    There is an irony to the maxim of “not feeding the trolls” and offering to buy one lunch but I understand that it’s just an expression.

    In truth, this was the decision that I was hoping for as well not because I do not want a difference in opinion but often found the comments to be unhelpful to the post. Further, I think it is a misnomer to consider the worthiness of a post by the number of its comments. Sometimes the reactions to the best posts are Spirit-led convictions that are not measured digitally.

    As always, I’m grateful for you Tony – few people can do what you do … especially for the long haul. Grace and peace.

  • http://www.blackcoffeereflections.com Tim

    @Angie, I can relate very much. In fact, I could have been dismissed during the candidating process of my hiring because of my “emergent leanings” (Fortunately for me, the chairman of the committee was open-minded).

    Anyway, I am a youth pastor in Montvale, NJ (the north tip of Bergen County). Where in Jersey are you? Feel free to message me via my blog if you would like to connect.

  • Timothy

    Tony- Was there fear in meeting you face to face? Is it easier to call someone a heretic online, but more difficult when breaking bread? Maybe the story isn’t over. Maybe he’ll say yes someday. Don’t give up! Tim

  • Andy

    Tony, I applaud your decision and look forward to future posts. Thank you for effort in having conversations with those who are violent.

  • Jay

    While I still hold my opinion that it is best not to ban anyone from commenting on a blog unless it is obscene or hateful (of which Darius’s heretic ranting does come close to the latter) I do understand your decision after this last Darius blog fiasco. At the same time, I was a surprised at other commenters who could not resist ignoring Darius, especially when the comments were far off the topic already. I only wish that this one could be redone with everyone ignoring Darius, especially since Tony had from the beginning asked Darius to sit this one out, and then watch what would have happened differently.

  • nathan

    @Marusha:

    “AAAAAAH! IT’S MARUSHA!!”

    THAT was the funniest way to start a comment ever!

    :)

    I second t-man’s thought.

  • Greg Gorham

    L. Reese Cumming,

    I don’t believe I’m a heretic. I think I’m quite orthodox. But then every heretic thinks he’s quite orthodox. :)

  • http://lowerwisdom.com JS Allen

    I’m confused.

    Is Darius voluntarily withdrawing, or are you banning him?

    If he changes his mind and decides to respond to a future thread, is he welcome to? Or are his future posting privileges contingent upon his agreeing to be confronted in-person by you?

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      JS, he voluntarily withdrew. And he added that if he ever comments again, he would expect me to call him out as a hypocrite. None of those decisions were made by me.

  • http://www.kevinglenn.net Kevin Glenn

    Tony,
    Tough call, but one that is good for the blog, and good for Darius…the invitation to lunch not being withdrawn leaves the proverbial ball in his court.

    JS Allen,
    I think the answer to your question would be yes if Darius follows Marusha’s example.

    For All,
    Marusha nailed it with this phrase – “Please understand that I don’t know everything”. If we could all start from this place of humility I think we could avoid the “Darius Syndrome”.

  • Chris

    Tony,
    I was opposed to banning but you tried your best. Self-imposed exile in one respect probably made the most sense for all concerned.
    Darius really should not have been afraid to meet with you. He should have welcomed it, but he probably was afraid that meeting you would legitimize you and he couldn’t abide that. I disagree with you quite a bit but I would also have jumped at such a meeting.
    This whole affair makes me think of the conflict between Paul and Barnabas. I’ve read some commentaries of that narrative where it suggests that they were literally screaming at one another over something that was not a theological issue, but more about personalities. It suggests to me that Christians, even Christians like Paul and Barnabas can argue, wind up breaking fellowship with one another, and never come to a single accord, and maybe that’s sometimes okay.

  • Joey

    Hmm, it has been a difficult story to watch unfold. Tony, I think you handled this well, biting your tongue more often than many of us.

  • Joe L

    The denouement of this thing clearly reflects the realities behind the appearance, and is highly indicative of a larger problem within the modern church and society.

    Darius wasn’t asked to stop speaking; he was asked to stop speaking as if his answers were the only ones even conceivably true, and that those who didn’t hold to those answers were heretics, false prophets, wolves, etc.

    Hell, the simple addition of the phrase “Unfortunately, I still believe…” to the begining of almost any of his statements would have solved most of the problem, as in “I hear you, but unfortunately I still believe that homosexuality is a sin, and we should therefore denounce it.” Or “I understand that the issues you have brought up with PSA, but unfortunately I still believe that it is the central and most important understanding of the atonement, and that not recognizing that is a form of heresy.” People might not have liked these comments much, but they are still way better than “Homosexuality is a sin, and you’re a false prophet for saying otherwise” or “If you don’t accept John Piper’s view of PSA, you’re a heretic.” They had least imply some small epistemic humility, and demonstrate regret that you can’t come to a better mutual understanding while maintaining your intellectual integrity.

    But for all his stated desire to convert souls to Christ, and to lead his straying brothers back to the truth, he won’t so much as meet you for lunch. Stuffing your words down someone’s throat on-line is easy; doing it in person requires a much different level of courage.

    Rob Bell once attended some global conference on spirituality in children. He was there with leaders from various faiths, including the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu for some kind of prayer breakfast-like event. He made no theological pronouncements or lectures; it wasn’t that kind of event. But he was pilloried by all the usual suspects on the internet anyway. I loved his comment regarding the matter:

    “Beware them dogs which say they want to save the world but won’t even have breakfast with the nations.” (Paraphrasing the Apostle Paul a bit)

    Guys like Darius are not interested in forming community, building relationships, or frankly even saving souls. The live in the mortal terror (natural to mythic-membership stages of development) that the only way they can insure the absolute validity of their own ideas is to force everyone to adopt them as well. They’re interested in drawing the lines, and then in and out-grouping everyone. And this grouping isn’t just about their theological status; it involves the entire person. Tony isn’t just mistaken; he’s a hell-bound heretics, a wolf in the fold, fit only for destruction. To Darious, Tony’s ideas or theology aren’t just bad: Tony is.

    Post-modernism, and hence emerging/emergent Christianity, tends to be very leery of hierarchies, as they’re quite sensitive to the culturally-constructed nature of the meta-stories underlying them. The problem is that they rarely distinguish between dominator hierarchies (constructed and often harmful) and natural hierarchies (unavoidable and at the very core of growth.) Hence, we often end up with the extreme deconstruction that says since all truth is relative, no truth is better than any other. So I can’t very well shut down those Nazis, the Taliban, or the homophobe because after all, who’s to say their truth isn’t just as good as mine?

    But this misses the point that just because all truth is relative (or more accurately, we’re only capable of grasping truth in relative ways), that doesn’t mean that some truths are relatively MORE true than others. Mother Teresa’s truth is relative; so is that of Fred Phelps. But Teresa’s truth is relatively MORE true than that of Phelps: it embraces more of the realities present in the world revealed to us, it is more effective, it creates greater shalom when it is lived than that of Phelps.

    I think we need to distinguish between positions. The Dalai Lama has his own beliefs, but respects and is willing to understand yours. He’s even open to changing his ideas in the face of evidence to the contrary. Marusha isn’t likely to change her beliefs, but seems generally willing to follow the rules of civil discussion, and her heart seems in the right place in that she seems to genuinely care for the people here. But people like Darius aren’t interested in changing their ideas; they’re only interested in changing yours. And they don’t care what they have to do to change them. They respect neither your rights nor your preferences. You exist to them only as the stone exists to the sculptor…something to be chipped and hammered until it matches your vision of how it should be.

    We can dialogue with the first of these types, and respectfully disagree with the second in love. The third will provide us nothing but frustration in the long run, and should be engaged only to the extent that we’re looking to sharpen our own rhetorical swords. Because that’s about all we’re going to accomplish with them. They’re not interested in helping you become more like Christ; they only want you to become more like THEM.

    I would strongly recommend the works of Ken Wilber for anyone interested in this topic, including most specifically “Integral Spirituality” and “The Integral Vision.” For a more directly Christian discussion of the topics, works by Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating, and David Steindl-Rast.

    Next time you’re in Phoenix, AZ I’d be happy to take Darius’ unused lunch invitation. Hell, you can even order duck your heretical bird-killer.

  • L. Reese Cumming

    Joe L – Could you please define the ‘truth’ you are talking about in paragraphs 8 & 9. I’m interesting in your thought that truth comes in shades of gray.

  • Aran

    Marusha,

    Beautifully spoken . . . I don’t think anyone here would want you to back off of what you believe unless you yourself through thought, prayer, conversation, etc. decide to alter what you belive to be good and right and helpful. God knows we’ve all come to places and moments in our lives when we’ve had to rethink what we believe in light of things we learn and come to understand.

    None of us are born with a preset understanding of PSA or Christus Victor or any other atonement theory . . . we are taught those things and we filter them through our various . . . um, filters . . . and decide which best make sense to us. But we are of course deeply affected by our surrounding faith communities, cultures, authors, artists, blogs, and . . . um, filters.

    Thanks to all (Tony, Marusha, et all) who are trying as best they can to follow Jesus in the manner that seems best to them and to the Spirit of God. (Acts 15:28)

    peace to you

  • http://lowerwisdom.com JS Allen

    OK, I guess I was confused by all of the talk about you hunting down his location and employer information, contacting him unsolicited, and “offering” to confront him face-to-face. Why would you even mention that at all? Why not just say that he has voluntarily decided to refrain from posting?

  • http://Taddelay.com Tad delay

    Tony,
    Thanks for handling that in the way you did. It sounds like you demonstrated a lot of maturity and grace in reaching out to him like that… A great example of attempting resolution.

    I bet he’ll be back though, as Darius or some other alias

  • Joe L

    I’m not sure there’s any great complexity to it, at least on the level viable to address here. A simple example:

    “Christmas is a Christian holiday”

    This statement is true. Christmas is indeed a Christian holiday. My Outlook Calendar “Add Holidays” tool says so.

    “Christmas originated as a Christian holiday. Although it is still celebrated as such by millions around the world, it has also become a largely secular holiday, celebrated by many with little or no real connection to Christianity.”

    This statement is also true, and contains more truth than the previous statement. It includes the truth of the original, but transcends it by providing more detail. It is more useful in understanding Christmas in American culture today.

    “Christmas is a Christian holiday, which contains within it the reworking of certain earlier, pagan images within a Christian context, including the rebirth of the Sun King at the winter solstice, the return of light to the world as days begin to lengthen once again, etc. It has also become a largely secular holiday, celebrated by many with little or no real connection to Christianity.”

    More truth still. An individual who only understood Christmas by the facts presented in the example would know something true, but limited. The second sentence would provide more, and the third more still.

    Obviously, this is a fairly facile and banal example. Perhaps we could try a deeper one.

    “God is love.”

    Ok, for the sake of argument, let’s assume this is true, as the Bible claims. Now, what does it mean? Or, more accurately, what does it mean to me. You doubtless have some understanding of this. I do as well. Unless one of our understandings is wildly off, we both probably have some grasp of the truth stated here. But to equal degrees?

    For example, what if I think “God is love” means that God is therefore ONLY love, specifically, and not wrath. God being love precludes God being wrathful. You on the other hand believe that love does not preclude wrath. You can comprehend a “wrathful love”, whereas I cannot. And lets assume for the sake of argument that your conception is indeed a fuller, more accurate perception of the meaning than mine.

    I’m not utterly lacking in truth in my conception. God is indeed love. I just have a very limited understanding of what that means. You are also not lacking in truth…in fact, you grasp more of the truth than I do. Your truth includes my truth, that God is love, but it also transcends it, understanding more fully what that exactly entails. You understand that love can be fierce, uncompromising, even wrathful.

    Notice that none of this has anything to do with actual truth, only with my attempts at understanding it. For most if not all things, my ability to grasp absolute truth is highly limited, and I can be called into question even when I make the attempt.

    No five-ear-old can grasp the full meaning of “God is love.” They simply lack the developmental capacity and experience to do so. That doesn’t however mean they grasp none of it. But maybe the best they get is that God is like Mommy. True, in a sense; but hopefully an adult grasps a deeper, fuller understanding of that truth. I’m quite sure I don’t grasp all the truth of that statement either. But I probably grasp more than the child. My knowledge transcends the child’s, while including it.

    Putting aside age-based developmental issues, we still find the same thing. I doubt that Fred Phelps has a very complete understanding of “God is Love.” A man holding up the sign “God Hates Fags” is so clearly damaged that any significant comprehension of that concept is likely beyond him. Still, perhaps he holds his infant grandson, and looks into his face, and at that moment some tiny glimmer of truth concerning the phrase does surface.

    I’m not at all certain that “Truth” contains shades of gray. I’m quite certain that my (and your) comprehension of it usually does. There may well be a real elephant standing out there, but I and everyone I know are wearing imperfect spectacles. (We see now dimly.) However, those spectacles are not all EQUALLY imperfect. Some are better than others. Hence, some grasp more truth, some less…some have a much better sense of the elephant than do others.

    Discerning which view contains more truth is always the tricky part, and no easy matter. So I’m never sure I’m right; the best I can manage is being relatively sure that I’m relatively more right than the other guy upon occasion. Hence, epistemic humility uber alles.

  • L. Reese Cumming

    Joe L. – Interesting. This is all new to me. I have some concerns here that I will exercise through assertion, but in fact I am exploring my own thoughts for the first time on this subject, so I do not mean it as declaring conflict in our discourse.

    It appears you believe linking separate bits of information together is equal to more truth; each additional assertion becomes more truth.

    Your reflection upon Christmas as a Christian holiday, and the ensuing additional practices that became applied to Christmas as separate cultures took hold of this tradition, is merely separate facts strung together. There is no less or more truth, there is merely less or more facts or knowledge contained within this example.

    Truth is not knowledge.

    Knowledge is provisional; meaning its purpose or efficacy in providing goods for man is dependent upon truth, and subject to change according to further knowledge acquired through practice. In that manner, relativism survives, but truth is not knowledge. Knowledge is just fragmented parts of what is contained within truth, and placed within the context of man’s capability of social relationships and limited by his linguistics.

    One may know more about God’s love than another, but that hardly means the truth of God’s love is anything other than an absolute quality available to all. No man has more truth than the next simply because he does not own truth.

    It makes no difference how each person sees through their spectacles; the elephant is still there in front of us.

  • Joe L

    I appreciate your comments, L. Reese, and I’m not sure we’re in any fundamental disagreement. They seem to illustrate a difference that makes no difference, at least to me.

    I agree that the elephant may well still be there in front of us. For sake of argument, let’s even stipulate that it is. But that fact is useless to me in and of itself. I can only perceive the elephant as I’m capable. No amount of knowing the elephant is there will let me see it if I’m blind. No amount of knowing the elephant is there will let me hear it if I’m deaf. And if my entire life I’ve been shown pictures of hippopotami, and been told that they are elephants, I won’t recognize the elephant as an elephant at all.

    You describe truth as if it were a posession, something one can own. “No man has more truth than the next simply because he does not own truth.”

    But I don’t experience truth that way at all. My only access to truth comes in the form of either knowledge or experience. And since both are always, inevitably shaped by flawed, temporal sets of lenses (culture, physiology, language, etc.) I seemingly have no direct access to absolute truth, should it exist.,

    This is no denial of truth. It simply recognize my own limitations in coming to a full knowledge of that truth, and hence must remember two thing: humility on my part in putting forward claims about absolute truth, and doubt towards others who claim to do so, when they have the same limited tools which I possess.

    Anyway, we’re a little off-topic for the thread, and I don’t want to raise Tony’s ire, but thanks for the discussion. I don’t think we’re really that far apart on this; you just seem more confident than I am.

  • L. Reese Cumming

    I’m cool; not for the here and now.

  • http://www.thewanderingroad.wordpress.com Alan Stucky

    As a Mennonite, I’m well aware that Anabaptists have had a long and interesting history with Excommunication, or as it’s known in many communities as “the ban”. (The fact that you’ve actually been using that term to describe this whole even seems rather profound to me).

    One of the key things to remember about excommunication is that while it is often understood as an expelling of an individual, the intended understanding is that excommunication simply means that an individual has chosen to remove themselves from the community and that the community is recognizing that voluntary removal yet still leaves the door open for re-entrance into the community, provided they choose to re-submit to the standards of the community.

    What happened here is probably the most accurate and pure form of excommunication I’ve ever seen or heard of. Good work.


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