I’ve been thinking about blogging or writing a book for a number of years. For some reason, I have a desire to help people resolve differences of opinion, to act as a peacemaker, to help folks see eye to eye — i.e., to reconcile viewpoints. Whether it’s trying to straighten up arguing siblings (e.g., my kids… not so good at that) or helping sports bloggers to resolve miscommunication (a little better at that), my tendency is to try to bring opposite parties together. This could be because I try to avoid conflict myself, and helping others avoid conflict helps me avoid it too. Regardless of what my internal motivation is, I have a desire to help others see things from another angle, hopefully so that we can “reconcile viewpoints” and resolve differences of opinion.
I grew up Catholic and had what I consider to be a real faith – I believed in Jesus, knew of his death and resurrection, and knew that I could talk to God anytime and He would listen. In the Catholic church though, I cannot say that I was well-equipped or understood what my relationship with the Lord was supposed to be like. When I went to college, I fell away from the faith and took up drinking. A few years later when I was on the verge of flunking out, I was found by God’s grace and came to faith. In the years since, I have been a part of churches across a broad spectrum of denominations: Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, Methodist, Assemblies of God, an independent Bible church with Baptist roots, not to mention the Catholic church of my youth. Although this list is certainly not all-inclusive, it has exposed me to a wide array of viewpoints regarding our Christian faith. And, not just in regards to the theology, but also to the practical application of walking out our faith. The variations in thought and action between different denominations of Christianity can be nearly as broad and diverse as the differences between “western” and “eastern” thought – we really have different ways of looking at things.
Towards the end of my college career, I went through a period where I looked at some of the “tough questions” regarding Christianity – questions that didn’t have easy, simple answers. (Questions like “what will God do with the Buddhists… or Hindus… or Muslims…?”) I went through a few years where I questioned my faith, and I fell out of fellowship for a while. I felt very alienated from other Christians because I thought that having doubts and questions indicated a lack of belief, and I was afraid to show my “true self” in areas where my questions bucked against traditional beliefs. Towards the end of that period, I met my wife and knew that I needed to “get right with God”, decide what I believed, and get back to living out my faith — I really had been floundering and getting nowhere during my “questioning period”.
It was around this time that someone introduced me to Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Lewis had gone through his own struggles with belief: at one time, he was an atheist intent on proving that God didn’t exist, yet he became one of the great theologians of our time. Lewis’ practical illustrations described the “nuts & bolts” of the faith in such a way that it was easy for the concepts to sink in. Plus, he addressed some of the same questions I had, and he didn’t seem to mind leaving a question unanswered. This indicated to me that it was ok to have unanswered questions – it didn’t mean I had a lack of faith. In the years since, I’ve continued to try to think “outside the box” and wade through some of the tougher issues, reconciling a belief in God’s Word with worldly “truths” that seem to conflict.
Some examples of issues that have been rattling around in the back of my mind for years (there is plenty of empty space, you know):
* How do we reconcile a belief in God that tells us to be kind and merciful and love our enemies with a belief in a literal “fire & brimstone” hell where sinners are tormented “day and night forever and ever”? To the world, it doesn’t make sense that God would torture people in hell, so they refuse to believe. How do we reconcile our belief in a loving God with a literal hell?
* Creation. I believe wholeheartedly that God created the universe and everything in it. Do I have to also believe in the literal six 24-hour days of creation in order to be a true believer? Can we reconcile a belief in an “old” universe with a belief in the God of the Bible? (Question: if God created in the literal 24-hours days, how was time measured the first few days, since the sun and moon weren’t created until the 4th day?)
Notice that underlying both of these issues is a question — what parts of the Bible should be taken literally and what other parts should be taken figuratively? When Jesus said “this is my body, take and eat”, was he being literal or figurative? Depends what denomination you’re from, right? Have you ever considered how many other denominational differences stem from variances in literal vs. figurative interpretations? How about issues where society’s norms have changed over time? That depends — are we talking about women covering their heads and keeping silent in church, or are we talking about accepting homosexuals in the church? (Now there’s a really tough topic… I’m not sure I want to go down that road, not only because I’m not completely sure what I believe, but also because I know many people will vehemently disagree with me, no matter what I say on the topic!)
The bottom line? This world is a complex place, and we all have a different perspective on it (we have to, don’t we? you can’t see through my eyes, and I can’t see through yours). I am thankful that I have God and the Bible to help guide me through this mixed up place, but I’m also well aware that others aren’t going to see God or His Word the same way I do. However, if we take the time to examine what we believe and attempt to “reconcile viewpoints” when “truths” seem to be in opposition with each other, I think we can help each other to grow and mature, so that our “love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.” (Phil. 1:9-10).
So, what is my hope and prayer for this blog? I was about to say “I don’t know” when I remembered — I’ve already put together a “mission statement”! (I did mention that I’ve been thinking about doing this for awhile, right?) So, here goes……
My two-fold mission statement for Reconciling Viewpoints is to:
- Promote unity among believers by finding common ground where there have been differences in belief based on biblical interpretation and theological understanding, and
- Promote the gospel among nonbelievers by reducing or removing stumbling blocks that arise from intellectual objections that deter people from coming to faith.
Hmmm….. That’s a pretty lofty goal. Good thing that we have a big God — if anyone can help me get there, He can. (I guess it’s time to press on…..Phil 3:12-14)