It is very fitting that at the end of my first academic year at BU I am working on a final project studying the nature of the evolution and theology debate and how it manifests in the Nazarene church. This issue, though complex, illustrates the enduring legacy of modernity on the life of the Church, both positively and negatively. All types of people have a stake in it, and it is easy to identify the two extremes of the debate, the “liberal” camp versus the “conservative” camp. But I am focusing on the religious and educational leaders in the Church of the Nazarene that are standing in the gap, trying to bridge the divide by careful conversation and serious education.
And that is perfectly illustrative of what I am trying to accomplish here at BU. I’m trying to reconcile the world of my traditional faith with the world of theological liberalism – trying to work out the hindrances and draw-backs as well as the edifying aspects of both. I have struggled over this since the first week of classes. There are ideas and theological affinities present here that I have never come across except in books – but now I am friends with people who hold these ideas that are radically different than my own. It’s difficult to confront ideas about God and Christianity that at first glance are contrary to what I’ve believed for a long time. But what I am beginning to learn is that I don’t have to give up my stance on certain issues to understand where those contrary ideas came from, and even to sympathize with many of them.
What this means for me is that I recognize that theological differences will always remain, whether starkly contrasted or lightly nuanced. For one, this realization gives me the confidence to stand where I stand and to not be ashamed of it. Second, it reminds me to always be humble in my position and patient when I hear other approaches. And following this second point, I am grateful that I am gaining the theological education, the logical tools, and the personal maturity to discern potential challenges, to recognize their sources and implications, and to feel okay standing strong where I have always stood or affirming the need for change.
It is my hope that in my role as a religious leader I will be able to foster this type of conversation within my own tradition, as well as within the Church as a whole. I want to learn how to make safe space for healthy conversation that emphasizes humility, patience, and understanding.