The Truth Is: I probably won't change my views on truth...

A visitor recently e-mailed me about my blog and my beliefs. He was respectful, articulate, and had a very different worldview from my own. One of our clearest dissimilarities had to do with truth. He viewed it as something to be “reached.” An “end,” if you will.
I have no problem with that. I think it’s a very understandable – and probably orthodox – vantage to practice Christianity from: Scripture is Truth; Jesus Christ is Truth. Getting to that confessional point is THE point.

And from a personal standpoint, I don’t even have much to argue with. I’ve affirmed my own belief in Jesus Christ as embodied truth, before. I think I’d be more comfortable saying that Scripture is truthful, because I don’t have faith that it is inherently “correct.” There is truth in Scripture, as there is also context, opinion, poetry, emotion, love, hate, atrocity, misunderstanding, redaction, deception, and a great story at the end about robots and computers and bar codes and atomic war and a UN Chairman who can bend time... Just kidding about that last part, none of that is in Revelation.

There was a point, several years ago, when I would spend a lot of time arguing my “case” over e-mail. Some of it made for pretty fruitful posts (in my opinion) but that’s all already on the blog. At this point, I don’t feel a strong need to defend myself, although I certainly spend lots of time advocating for ideas. And most of these posts are nothing more than my own working out and wrestling. Sometimes I get e-mails from folks who genuinely think it’s just a matter of me NOT KNOWING the CORRECT doctrine or interpretation. Their thinking seems to be: “if he can simply be made AWARE of his erroneous theological conclusions, he will then right his spiritual and theological course (and save his soul).” I’m not a scholar or a theologian. I’m not really academically-minded. I’m a lowly M.Div student and a lifelong Evangelical. I don’t presume to carry much depth of knowledge in any particular theological subset. But having been in the church for 31 years, and attended seminary for the last five years, I’m not wholly ignorant either, and it’s been several years since I’ve been “surprised” by a theological concept I was previously unaware of. You’re certainly welcome to prove me wrong and I don’t feel arrogant or proud saying any of that.

The reason I advocate for ongoing deconstruction, even as I attempt to construct something new and workable for myself, is that I don’t trust my own constructs any more than I trust your constructs or Paul’s or Irenaeus’. Kierkegaard wrote, “Concepts, like individuals, have their histories and are just as incapable of withstanding the ravages of time as are individuals.” The truth changes as we change and the world changes. As I said recently, whatever we can articulate as “the thing” stops being “the thing” at that moment. As the Tao Te Ching eloquently puts it, “The Way that can be experienced is not true; the world that can be constructed is not real.” I think we have a tendency, as soon as something becomes true for us, or real for us, to grab it and hold it fast – preventing it from changing, growing, or living! Static things are not alive, and I believe truth must be a living thing. That’s why Scripture, doctrine and theological systems (however helpful they may be) can be unhelpful when they place restraints or limitations on God.

All that said, my readers and online friends have had an IMMENSE impact on my personal faith and beliefs.  I have certainly changed because of feedback, comments and questions, so keep them coming! 
(just don't expect a quick "conversion" on my part... I'm dense and stubborn and far too convinced of Divine Grace to feel a lot of urgency to sort this stuff out in a timely manner)

6 comments:

roger flyer said...

I like where you're at.

Peter J Walker said...

Thanks Roger!

kate said...

Hi again, I do not know much about seminary or it's curriculum, but I am curious as to if you read this book: "Who Wrote the Bible?" by Richard Elliot Friedman.

Peter J Walker said...

Hi Kate,
I can't quite say that I 'read' it, but I have skimmed it. It's good material. However, one of my professors believes that the Documentary Hypothesis (or Wellhausen hypothesis) is a serious oversimplification of the development of the biblical text. Friendman's work is heavily influenced by the Documentary Hypothesis, which essentially posits that there were four original, complete (or near-complete) Pentateuch narratives. They were: Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist and Priestly. Each had a different spin, and the OT canon we have today is an amalgam of all the sources.

I'm not qualified to weigh in on that, but I tend to think oversimplified theories are less likely. More likely: each of those above listed sources existed in some form or another (probably not in complete narratives) and all of them were continually edited, redacted, and mixed with parallel narratives and coinciding minor texts. Not a clean process - rather, and ongoing evolution.

Did you read it? What did you think?
Peter

kate said...

haha yes but you probably got more out of it than i did. it was more or less an assigned reading in an anchient civ class. i dont know anything about documentary hypothesis but will do some reading about that.

kate said...

Questions... who is it that decides what new versions of the bibles that come out now? The church I go to uses the nrsv (disciples of christ). Do you think the text itself will change more as people transition to a post-modern view? If yes, how so?

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