We Among Others: How to Deal

We are now returning to the series “The Joy of Theology” after a long but necessary detour with the series “A Feminine Masculinity.”  Last time I gave a parable on the individual and theology, and I argued that theology is not just a vertical pursuit (between God and self), but that it ought to be done in the context of others (horizontally). But there is a “problem,” namely, that there are others, and especially others who may not see things the way we do.  So, how to we “deal with” the fact that I am but one person in the midst of a multitude of people, each with their own history, personality, and view on reality? Or is it a problem?

OK, first, let’s treat this as a problem, and it is for many, and it often manifests itself in two extreme solutions.

The first solution answers it this way: Everyone is different, everyone views the world differently, and because of this, there is no way of knowing for certain what is true.  Thus, there is no certain truth, but only truth as people see it, and so truth is what is true for them.

The second solution goes like this: Even though everyone sees reality differently, but there is one truth and there is only one true way to view reality, and everyone must ascribe to this in order to be certain of what is true.

What is wrong with both of these solutions?  I can address it in one stone’s throw (that is, if both arguments were birds, thence I would kill them…with a single stone’s throw).

One fallacy comes from the argument of individualism.  The first solution makes the mistake of saying that individuals are left to create their own truth for themselves, while the second solution argues that there is one individual paradigm in which all individuals must ascribe.  The ultimate problem for both is that while acknowledging others around them, they are still focused on either their individual pursuit of truth or on a single pursuit of truth.

But wait, there are two more birds taking off from the marsh.  Luckily enough, I have another stone, and in one throw I can kill the two.  Another problem comes from the argument of certainty.  Both see the problem in light of a pursuit of certainty, but where one abandons the pursuit of truth in light of no certainty, the other tries to build an argument of certainty from nothing.

The fact is that we are not alone and there is not one way to view reality.  We need to acknowledge that our way of seeing the world is not the norm in which others see the world.  In fact, it is very likely that our view of the world is in the minority.  In fact in fact, when it comes to the Bible, our world view does not even closely match up with the world view of the Biblical audience.  Does that mean we need to abandon our world view for there’s?  By no means!  We simply need to acknowledge that our world view is different, but in light of the multiplicity of world views, we can learn something from others.

Also, we cannot be certain of what is true, but we can be confident that there is truth.  Truth exists, but it’s just seen differently by people. However, and this is a big however, we Christians believe that there is one (T/t)ruth, and that (T/truth) is Jesus.  What, then, did Jesus mean when he said that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6)?  Yes, this is true that no one can come to know God outside of Jesus, but we must recognize that our view of Jesus is not the view of Jesus.  It is a view of Jesus, and others view Jesus through their own lens of reality.

However, and this is a big however, I am not arguing that this means all paths lead to Jesus.  I am making light of the fact that while there is One Truth (and that Truth is Jesus), all of humanity sees Jesus through their cultural context and world view, and makes sense of him through that.  Praise be to God that we have a God that reveals Godself where we are at and wherever we are at and through whatever world view!

So, in the end, we are not alone.  We are all together, in solidarity, looking up to the Truth through our own eyes, but with each other.

1 Comment

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One response to “We Among Others: How to Deal

  1. I think you are right, (as they say on the X Files) “The Truth is Out There.” The drawback of our finite minds is that we can only partially perceive it. This generates a variety of perspectives and we don’t always see how someone’s piece fits. We may prematurely reject someone’s perspective simply because we think it contradicts our worldview – if we are quick to condemn. We may also too easily incorporate someone’s perspective when its actually contradictory and destructive to our own – if we are too quick to accept.
    It helps me to remember that Jesus is a person, and not a list of beliefs. We should think of our relationship to him, and accept others relationship to him, in the same way that we relate to a person – T.J. for instance. You know T.J. and I know T.J., but we know different things about her. Yet if I talk to you long enough our experiences will overlap and we will recognize that we are talking about the same person. However, if we meet someone who knows a different T.J. and talk to him long enough, we will soon find out that he does not know the same T.J. Now lets say someone takes information from each of us and tries to construct their own version of T.J. And if they are real clever, they can make sure it seems to fit perfectly with no contradictions. Will this deceive us? We may be fooled for a while, but if we have a real relationship with T.J. the person – we will ultimately discover how shallow this invented T.J. is.
    So for me “right beliefs” should be the byproduct of true relationship. Otherwise they are simply a list of facts – and even if they are the right ones, we will have no way of knowing, and we will have no means of preventing someone smarter than us, from shifting us away from the truth. And there is always someone smarter out there.

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