A fitting end (the end already?)

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.

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2 thoughts on “A fitting end (the end already?)

  1. Good stuff, but I’d love to know specifically what things you’re finding produce tension between yours and the more liberal camp. Humility and patience are important, but IMO it’s also important that when we engage in conversation with others of differing views, there’s actually a possibility that we might change our own minds and see things their way, at least if we’re hoping they might come around and see things our way.

    Reply
  2. Bill, thanks very much. And thank you for taking a minute to check out my blog – I’ve read a few posts on your blog lately too! I completely agree with you, that when we enter into conversation we need to be open to the idea that our thinking might need to change. That’s what I meant by my (perhaps underdeveloped) “affirming the need to change.”

    My hope is that I’ll take the time to flesh-out these specifics with further posts, but just to answer your question… One example that is very important to me right now has to do with source- and redaction-criticism. I affirm the historical-critical method of investigation/interpretation, but I am unhappy with it taken (what I perceive to be) too far. Again, hopefully I’ll find the discipline to flesh this out further, but that’s one general example.

    Like I said Bill, I’ve read your blog and I think it’s great. Your posts are actually part of my inspiration to sit down and unpack these “feelings” and experiences and to enhance my own understanding. So, thanks!

    Reply

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