Friday, August 24, 2012

I was wrong about being right

"All truth is God's truth." The writer of this excellent post, Without Fear: Books & Truth (posted August 20), says that though she has always claimed to believe this, she used to only read books written by Christian authors. She kept her reading list safe, censored, sanitized. But finally she realized that "All truth belongs to God. No truth, despite its origin, threatens God or diminishes His authority." Since then, she has taken every opportunity to read and learn from tons of different authors, even though she may not agree with them on everything. And it's been awesome.

I love this! It reminds me of how much of a n00b I was in the past...

I used to think that everything written by a Christian was true. Christian books, articles in Christian magazines, Christian music, anything said in a sermon- all of it was just wonderful and completely true. And that there was one right answer for "What do Christians believe about [fill in the blank]?"

I remember going to a seminar about creationism at a church many years ago. During Q&A time, a member of the audience expressed concern about the lack of "peer-reviewed research" or something. And I thought, "hey, whose side are you on?" Because CLEARLY this is what Christians believe. If you question it, that means you hate the bible. Or something.

I remember reading an apologetics book, with answers to a lot of common questions about Christianity. One of the questions was "If we say the universe is so complex that it requires a creator, doesn't that mean the creator is even more complex? Who created God?" And I thought, "wow, that's a good question." I read the answer given by the book, and I didn't understand it. But I thought, this is The Answer. I need to memorize this so I can recite it if anyone ever asks me this question. Something about God being eternal and not created.

I know, I was a n00b. This was back in middle school or high school, okay?

I thought becoming a Christian was about arguing. People would debate, and then if one of them ever didn't have an answer, they'd have to change religions. And the "answers" weren't things I'd decided after thinking through everything on my own- they were from books of apologetics, written by experts who were totally infallible.

It was a very "us vs them" mentality, about arguing and needing to always be right. Actually, I guess I subconsciously thought being right was more important than being honest.

Because under this "always right" mentality, let's suppose someone asks a hard question about Christianity. Here's what happens:
  1. Someone asks "if God is good, why do bad things happen?"
  2. I have a moment of fear- this is a hard question, and if I don't come up with an answer, then we'll all have to convert to atheism right now.
  3. Oh my goodness, I remember reading about this question in a book! Here's what it said: I list a couple points, with all the emotion of a computer program checking a look-up table.
  4. Good, crisis averted.
Soooo... that's incredibly insensitive. Yeah, as if people just need to have all their doubts and questions shot down by "oh, I've heard that argument before, and here's the answer." And then they'll become Christians.

Pictured: Helping people come to Jesus. Image source.

I don't believe that any more. I believe in actually wrestling with those questions. If God is good, why do bad things happen? Perfectnumber, take a minute to actually consider it, and understand why it's such a tough issue with so much emotion behind it. And maybe people don't need a bunch of words in the form of an argument- maybe they need my understanding and whatever compassion I can give.

And maybe it's okay for me to say I don't have an answer. Or, I have a couple thoughts but I understand if that doesn't answer it for you.

And all of this brings me back to the conclusion of the post I linked to above. Just like the writer of that post concluded that no truth threatens God, I conclude that no question threatens God. Now I believe everyone has something to say, and everyone is worth listening to. And I realize more and more that I was wrong about a lot of things- and that's okay, everyone is wrong about a lot of things- but I try not to be.

And "trying not to be" means actually thinking about these questions, not being afraid of doubt. It means listening to people. It means that compassion is more important than informing others about what "the right answer" is.

8 comments:

  1. This is awesome. "Yeah, as if people just need to have all their doubts and questions shot down by "oh, I've heard that argument before, and here's the answer." And then they'll become Christians."

    You are throwing me back to high school, omw. I remember one 'debate' I had - with a Catholic, no less - about how he needed to become a christian, and he just needed faith. 'you just have to believe'. OMW. That's mortifying to think about now.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, I wish I had been taught to listen to other people's points of view, instead of thinking I was right and that was that.

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  2. No question threatens God - so true. Love that!

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  3. This was so awesome and timely! Thank you!!!

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  4. Well said. It occurred to me at some point along this line of thinking, that it was really important to me to be taken seriously, listened to and heard, and to have my point of view seriously considered and not summarily dismissed. And also that Jesus said, "whatever you want others to do for you, you do for them."

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    1. Exactly! Why should people listen to us if we're not willing to listen to and learn from them?

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