Monday, March 08, 2010

Right Belief...or....Believing in the right way?


Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. 
-Letters to a Young Poet...Rainer Maria Rilke 

I think questions birth the kind of mind that can sustain and live in Faith. An unquestioning mind is an unhealthy mind in my opinion. It prevents learning. Light is needed and light travels fast and rarely sits still. Capturing light is an art that requires asking questions in all spheres of life. Light is also fire..and many people are have a lot of trepidation about the destructive nature or possibilities of fire. But they who learn to rightly fear fire...can learn to be illuminated...or illuminate. Fear is often at the root of control, tradition and religion. Fear can breathe wonder or cripple the soul. So whenever I see fear...I try to examine it if is the fear of God, which is a holy mystery...or the ignorance of the intelligence that breeds subservience, privilege and dominance. Humility isn’t afraid. Love can be killed but not conquered. So, in our journey together...let's let go of the fear of questions...they are allowed and wanted.

I’ve been mulling over some recent conversations I've had with some good people and have been trying to articulate a sticking point to me that is problematic in some of what were wrestling through. After re-reading a section from Peter Rollin’s book “How (Not) to Speak of God”...I was able to name what I was concerned about. 

It has to do with the issue of “Right belief vs Believing in the right way” 

It reminds me of a conversation the early American pilgrims heard from their pastor before they boarded the Mayflower to head off into the great unknown, which I read in Brian McLaren's new book:

“I charge you before God and His blessed angels that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth from my ministry for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw. Whatever part of His will our God has revealed to Calvin, they (Lutherans) will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a mystery much to be lamented. For thought they were precious shinning lights in their time, yet, God has not revealed his whole will to them. And were they now living, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as they had received.” 
-Pastor, John Robinson

As I reflect on that, I couldn’t help but think that is so true of this spiritual journey we are on together. Below is the main chunk of Rollins statement about “Right belief vs Believing in a right way”. I am not sure if everyone is going to be able to understand the nuance he is getting at...but Im still going to put this stuff out there. Part of me that is concerned with moving people too fast in reorienting theological conversation. I think the quote above by Rainer Maria Rilke best expresses the manner in which I think is most healthy to move through this season. It's good to be hungry...but don't gorge yourself so much that you end up hemorrhaging your soul. 

In contrast to this, I argue here that those involved in the emerging conversation exhibit the conceptual tools that are necessary to move beyond these modernistic and problematic positions. Here I picture the emerging community as a significant part of a wider religious movement which rejects both absolutism and relativism as idolatrous positions which hide their human origins in the modern myth of pure reason. Instead of following the Greek-influenced idea of orthodoxy as right belief, these chapters show that the emerging community is helping us to rediscover the more Hebraic and mystical notion of the orthodox Christian as one who believes in the right way--that is believing in a loving, sacrificial and Christlike manner. The reversal from 'right belief' to 'believing in the right way' is in no way a move to some binary opposite of the first (for the opposite of right belief is simply wrong belief); rather, it is a way transcending the binary altogether. Thus orthodoxy is no longer (mis)understood as the opposite of heresy but rather is understood as a term that signals a way of being in the world rather than a means of believing thing about the world. 
-Peter Rollins "How (Not) To Speak of God"

I am committed to finding solid ground to stand on or walk upon, scripturally...but, sometimes answers don't satisfy such minds...and questions are all we are left with. Emerging involves gaining new wings to lift the transformed life...there is that which is the same and that which is new. Some is simply a reforming of the old or a reconfiguring it to enable life at a new stage. How to live this stuff out in this emerging new season of our life is going to be where the rubber meets the road. I think love is the only “way” through this transition season...but that doesn’t mean it won’t be rough in spots. But if the manner in which we all travel gets us crucified...so be it...because God didnt tell us to understand all things....He has commanded us to love. It’s both the liberator...and the clarifier...in this emerging life.

Below are some chucks of writing that I think many of you will resonate with...drink deeply, savor and be ok with the moment. 


Paradigms and dogma can be defended and enforced with guns and prisons, bullets and bonfires, threats and humiliation, fatwas and excommunications. But paradigms and dogma remain profoundly vulnerable when anomalies are present. They can be undone by something as simple as a question.
-Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity

For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. 
-Albert Einstein, from an address presented at The Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in 1940 

O LORD, … It’s hard to admit, even to myself, that there are no easy answers to life’s hard questions. Help me to see things as you see them. In wrestling with you, my imperfect faith is made stronger. In wrestling with you, I discover a deeper truth: that my questions usher me right back to you.
-Missy Buchanan “Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms”

Instead, Jesus asks questions, good questions, unnerving questions, re-aligning questions, transforming questions.  He leads us into liminal, and therefore transformative space, much more than taking us into any moral high ground of immediate certitude or ego superiority. He subverts up front the cultural or theological assumptions that we are eventually going to have to face anyway.  He leaves us betwixt and between, where God and grace can get at us, and where we are not at all in control. It probably does not work for a large majority of people, at least in my experience.  They merely ignore you or fight you.  Maybe this is why we have paid so little attention to Jesus questions and emphasized instead his seeming answers. They give us more a feeling of success and closure. We made of Jesus a systematic theologian, who walked around teaching dogmas, instead of a peripatetic and engaging transformer of the soul.  Easy answers instead of hard questions allow us to try to change others instead of allowing God to change us.  At least, I know that is true in my life.
-Richard Rohr

There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.
-James Nathan Miller

“There are four questions of value in life... What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.” 
-Don Juan deMarco 

“Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.”

A shout out to "The Weary Pilgrim" where I lifted some of these quotes.
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