Disagreeing, or Disagreeable?

August 9, 2006

I’ve been struggling on how to handle a particular commenter, posting under the name Athena.

I genuinely want to have a site which encourages minds of differing opinions to come together and dialogue.  My struggle is that there are times when that is very difficult.  This commenter poses one of those difficulties for me.

In my opinion, the commenter poses responses that are more like responses to a legal debate than spiritual meanderings down the journey of life.  Those are two different languages, and while I am not attempting to place value judgements on either one, I have found in my experience that they are difficult to translate.

I could respond to this by dissecting the logical arguments one by one- there is flawed logic which can be argued with.

But that causes, in my judgement, the same problem that the commenter has.  It misses the overarching point by getting bogged down in details.  In typical lawyer fashion, the belief is that by disproving a single point in a larger overarching theory, the larger theory is invalid.  It is “little picture” instead of “big picture”.  I believe that the Pharisees, Saducees, and Scribes, fell victim to such legalistic interpretation of law.  Love God, and Love your neighbor as yourself– off these things hang all the law and the prophets.  This larger context is what they missed.  This point is what gets lost in this legalistic debate.

Again- this sounds like a value judgement on my part.  It is not.  It is simply an acknowledgement diversity is a gift, and I am not a person who needs the legalistic view to survive, while others are.  We all need different things, and legalism- fine, detailed, examination, is not one of the things I require in order to move forward in life.  I am a “big picture” person.  I leave the details to God, trusting that God is big enough to handle the rest.  I also understand that there are people who need to understand the “fine print” and trust that God will put together a comprehensive plan which handles the “strategic goals” that God wants to accomplish.  To me, that is what diversity is all about.  That we all have different perspectives.  That is the beauty of humanity.

So here are the posts of the commenter in question.  Her name is Athena.  Athena, you can use this as your forum to post anything further you wish to say.  Anything you post elsewhere on the site will be moved here unless the tone changes.  And, genuinely, thanks for stopping by and adding to the menagerie of the site.  And, since I don’t have the facilities to response, I’ll hope that one of the other readers does.

j

——-

Jeff, you stray from the issue:

The issue is NOT the quality or completeness of human understanding of God. Human understanding of God will always be limited and flawed. I agree that we all need intellectual and spiritual humility as human beings.

The issues are (1) whether the Creator has in fact, effectively communicated to his Creatures what he requires of them and (2) whether God will at some point in time judge human beings according to whether or not they have obeyed his Word.

Touching on the first issue, we, as humans, do not have to know everything there is to know God. We, as humans do not have to have an answer for all possible theological questions. What we do need to know is WHAT DOES GOD REQUIRE OF US? I assert that any God worth worshipping is capable of communicating clearly to his Creatures what he requires of them. I also assert that God has done just that.

Touching on the second issue. Your position requires that a student of Scripture ignore literally hundreds of passages in the New Testament that state that God will in fact judge humanity. It is proper for a Creator to judge his Creation. It is not proper for a creature to judge other creature.

Now as to your past last post:

JEFF WRITES:
Essentially, I read your question as this:“Why do I trust Jeff’s (or anyone else’s) view of theology and not the view that I have always held?”My answer to that is very simple: You don’t.

But I also believe that it is incumbent upon all people of faith neither to hold so fast to answers they have learned by rote memory that they cannot hear what the Spirit is trying to tell them.
END JEFF QUOTE:

Firstly, Jeff you assume that the view I hold now is the view that I have “always held.” Liberals reflexively like to assume that people they classify as conservatives are think in a rigid and rote manner.
Frankly, it insults my intelligence to asset that I have learned theology by “rote memory.” In point of fact, I hold degrees in law, electrical engineering and economics and I have lived 3 decades longer than you have. I have actively represented thousands of clients in hotly contested trials and I have a fairly deep knowledge of life and human nature that comes from obserivng human beings under stress. Your assertion that my ideas are acquired by “rote” is insulting. I will forgive you because of your extreme youth however.

In your second paragraph, you refer to “what the Spirit is trying to tell them.” This presupposes that you have access to what the Holy Spirit says. This ALSO presupposes that the Holy Spirit is saying something that CONTRADICTS what the Holy Spirit said to Christians in the centuries before us, twenty centuries, in fact. This assertion is made with no authority other than your own individual belief.

JEFF WRITES:
I am not afraid of being wrong. In fact, I know that there is much I do not know. That is a key differentiator from me and the traditional point of view.

God is infinite. We, as humans, are finite. We, as finite humans, cannot possibly know all that there is to know about the infinite God. We are imperfect. We are bound to screw it up somehow. We cannot, as humans, come up with a perfect theology.
END JEFF QUOTE:

This point was addressed in my very first post. The issue is not whether humans will ever acquire a complete knowledge of God. The issue is whether GOD is capable of communicating clearly what he requires of humans to humans. The answer to that, of course, must be yes, or He would not be a God that was worth worshipping.

JEFF WRITES:
But to hear the traditionalist point of view, there is an absolute truth that we are capable of understanding. I reject that. We have seen throughout history that the human understanding of God has changed. From the dawn of time our understanding of God has grown. The one thing that has not changed is the ability of God to love us and give us grace.

On the ability to “pick and choose” what I like out of the Bible, I would argue that we all pick and choose.
END JEFF QUOTE:

Well, at least you are honest. YOu state that you reject the idea that “there is an absolute truth that we are capable of understanding.” Jeff, that is what religion is about. People are looking for absolute truth, for there is no other kind of truth. Religion is the search for the absolute. If it is does exist, there is no point in proceeding. I do congratulate you on your honesty in admitting your position.

You assert that I pick and choose what I will out of the Bible. I assert that I accept the interpretation of Scripture as taught by Holy Orthodoxy. Eastern Orthodoxy has maintained a consistent theology since the days of the Apostles. It teaches the same doctrines and uses much the same liturgy. Orthodoxy teaches that Scripture is like a jewel held in place by precious stone. The Stone is the Tradition of the Church, a group of writings by persons revered to have been guided by the Spirit and to have been anointed in an unbroken chain from the Apostles. You are free to reject this Tradition. However, I maintain that you know little of it and are in no position to refute it.

JEFF WRITES:
You have judged me– fairly harshly. You have disregarded “judge not lest ye be judged” in favor of some other passage.
END OF JEFF QUOTE:

Jeff, if you venture into the world of ideas, you need to expect to have your IDEAS tested and debated. I did not judge you, I tested and debated your ideas. If you are going to engage in theological discussions you have to be prepared for this.

JEFF WRITES:
The Bible is too inconsistent to believe the entire thing.

Jesus clearly indicated that he was coming back soon and Paul backed him up. What does soon mean? To me it means sooner than 2000 years, and it hasn’t happened. You can twist the words, you can argue a metaphoric meaning, but it isn’t 2000 years. We choose to now disregard the “soon.”

We are all selective literalists. Perhaps you have a psychological need to find absolute rules in your life. Perhaps that is why you now seek a church that reinforces a rule-based religion- orthodox Catholicsm or eastern orthodoxy. I can’t answer that.
END JEFF QUOTE:

First, I disagree that the Bible is inconsistent. The New Testament states that Jesus opened the eyes of the Apostles so that they understood the Scriptures. This understanding has been passed down from generation to generation to the present day.

Second, letus assume for a moment that what you say is true. IF the Bible is so inconsistent, THEN, why should anyone give it ANY credence. This is an answer you need to provide?

JEFF WRITEES:
I can only say that I believe we are called beyond our current capacity to push our limits. To go beyond our comfort zone into what makes us uncomfortable. That, I believe, was the message of Christ. We are not good at it– none of us. But that, I believe, is what we are called to do.
END JEFF QUOTE:

I am sure that you “believe” various and interesting things, but, since you have disqualified the Bible as a real authority for anything, by what authority should anyone give any weight to what you “believe.” Since the Bible is inconsistent WHO or WHAT is “calling us to do” anything?

—-

Jeff writes: The Bible is too inconsistent to believe the entire thing.

Jeff this gives rise to a terrible problem for you. If you assert that the Bible is “too inconsistent to believe the entire thing” then why in the world should ANYTHING in the Bible be granted authority.

You make reference to the Holy Spirit. How did you learn about the existence of the Holy Spirit? How do you know it is Holy? How do you know it is connected in some way to the Bible reverred by Christians?

Deep Six the Bible and the Tradition and you have no life preserver. You are just like the fortune tellers and tea leaf readers at the local “Zodiac fair.”

—-

Juding harshly?

Jeff you accuse me of “judging”you “harshly.” Yet, you assert that because I disagree with your theological positions that my ideas were “learned by rote.” This is quite insulting to me. My theological positions are based on reading, study, discussion and quite a bit of intense living and learning. Try to remember that I am about 2.5 times older than you are. Whatever my ideas are, they are certainly NOT the product of rote.

On the other hand, nearly everything you have proposed I read back in the 1960’s probably 40 years before you were born. It is nothing new.

Going beyond the “comfort zone” into that which makes us uncomfortable?

I would feel “uncomfortable” stealing books from public libraries or pushing little old ladies down staircases?

Should I push beyond this sense of discomfort and do those things anyway?

How do you expect people to receive guidance for the difficulties life will throw at them with this type of thinking?

Jeff

You should read my posts more carefully.

JEFF QUOTE:
However, please make sure that you do not ever tell me what I need to get out of Scripture. Please do not ever try to legislate based off of your beliefs. Because when you try to hold an absolute standard that is based on human interpretation of a historic document subject to interpretation, you have failed to allow for the many, many, rich and varied layers of that document which cause it to be rich and wonderful.
END JEFF QUOTE:

My proposition is that I accept the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, something initiated and preserved by the Holy Spirit. The Tradition is definitely NOT my interpretation. I accept the interpretation of the Church which has withstood much more than you have experienced in your short life.

Secondly, the fact that various humans have from time to time asserted false doctrine or heresy is not proof that the Faith has changed. I accept the Eastern Orthodox Tradition AS INITIATED AND PROTECTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, not as “my interpretion.”

I understand that you take umbrage at the suggestion that I, as an individual, would “dictate” to you how to interpret the Scriptures. I don’t suggest that I, as an individual do so. I suggest that there exists a Tradition initiated and upheld by the Holy Spirit.

Again, although there will always remain many msyteries and unanswered questions, I have concluded that God has effectively communicated what he requires of us, His Creatures in a way which His Creatures can understand.

As to the “rich and varied” layers of Scripture. Contradiction does not make a document “rich” it makes it incoherent and of questionable authority. The term “double think” comes from Orwell and it isn’t a complement. Your style of interpreting Scripture amounts to little more than intellectual incoherence.
You have actually expressed something close to contempt for Scripture on this web by stating that Scripture contradicts itself so much that there is no way to decide what to believe.

As to a decision to “make something shift within you” you are essentially stating that I should reconsider my conclusion that Eastern Orthodoxy has preserved the Truth Faith. While the decision to accept the Tradition is mine, I did not create the Tradition. Your disagreement is not with me, Jeff, it is with
twenty centuries of Christian thought.

Now you assert that God judges, something I that I asserted. Well, it would be unjust for God to judge UNLESS he had first clearly communicated what he requires of His Creatures, don’t you agree?

—-

From incoherncy to a “masterpiece”

JEFF QUOTE:
You have changed a masterpiece- a wonderful mosaic- requiring skill, craft, and spirituality to interpret- into a simple rule book.
END JEFF QUOTE:

Again, as noted, I accept the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church. That Tradition is a marvelously fecund and complex body of thought, it is not merely a
“simple rule book.”

I believe you referred to an association with ECUSA. ECUSA is crumbling apart as we speak. There is no truer test than the test of time. What Henry the VIII initiated has NOT held together, it is breaking apart right now. I consider the break-up of ECUSA to be a setback for world Christianity and I don’t enjoy seeing it, but, it is a fact.

If you a truly a suitable candidate for a position as a spiritual leader, you need to be prepared to provide coherent support for what you advance. To date, you have advanced only the idea that Scripture is inconsistent and unintelligible and that you, Jeff, somehow have access to the promptings of the HOly Spirit. The Spirit which with you commune apparently advises you to cast off the teachings of twenty centuries. So much for “such a cloud of witnesses.”

—-

Open debate UNTIL Jeff decides to block access to comments.

A person who has selected himself as a leader in a Christian community should be prepared to engage on an intellectual level with others. He should be prepared to debate ideas.

Please note that Jeff frequenlty characterizes those who disagree with this position as intellectually deficient. People who disagree with him have learned their ideas “by rote.” People who disagree with him have reduced the Bible to a “simple rule book.”

Apparently Jeff possess the “skill, craft and spirituality” necessary to interpret the Bible. But, the question remains, how do we know WHO has those requisite attributes? Does everyone who attends an Episcopalian seminary possess them? If so, why is ECUSA splitting apart at the seams as we speak?

Inquiring minds want to know, if they get past Jeff’s blocking technique. Ah, the liberality of the “liberals.”

—-

Why is “rote learning” not a perjorative?

If as you say, you claim no superior knowledge why have you charactertized the positions of people who disagree with you as having been learned “by rote.” Rote learning is considered to be a mindless exercise devoid of understanding and critical thinking. You have additionally stated thaat people who disagree with your position would reduce the Bible to a simple “rule book.”
Again, this is a disparaging remark, accusing people you disagree with of having limited and rigid minds.

These are fairly sharp comments. You feel no compunction in making them. I personally am not emotionally shattered by them, but, I think you are not being honest with yourself if you don’t recognize the genuinely perjorative nature of your descriptions of your opponents.

As a point in fact the people whom you have characterized as reducing the Bible to a “simple rule book” include the entire membership of the Roman Catholic Church and all of Eastern Orthodoxy. I question whether the Church that created the majesty of St. Peter’s is composed of people who think “by rote.”
Was Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Anthanasis (spelling?)dull witted individuals afraid of intellectual debate and exchange.

—-

“No special knowledge?”

Anyone who departs from the Christian tradition must be “by definition” claiming special knowledge.

Anyone who attends a seminary for the purpose of acquiring the credentials for leading a congregation is setting himself apart from the ordinary believer. You are by definition seeking a leadership position in a Church, unless you intend to use your divinity degree solely as an academic. Even if you were to restrict your theological function to that of a scholar, you would still be participating in the intellectual life of the Christian Church in something of a leadership position.

—-

ECUSA and its health

ECUSA has lost 40% of its membership over the last 40 years and there is no sign that that trend is reversing.

I am not an expert on the state of ECUSA at this time, but, I know enough that major churhes have left ECUSA. Here in my own metropolitan area, the largest and livliest and best endowed ECUSA church bolted and is permanently gone. Leading ECUSA churches and clerics in other ECUSA areas have also left. The TEC has generated a theological controversy which has reverberated across the world, into Canterbury, Brazil, Hong Kong, Nigeria and South Africa; just for starters.

No, I am not an expert on ECUSA but there is a volcanic and fundamental melt-down going on inside the ECUSA and it is certainly not a trivial matter. Even without the meltdown the membership continues to drop in numbers and the remaining members are older and older. There are very few young families coming into ECUSA. I don’t think attracting some gays will offset that membership drop. Gays tend to be….ummmm…..sterile, while non-gays tend to marry and produce children which carry on the life of the Church.

Yes, gays can have children but if they adopt an exclusively gay lifestyle and live in a same sex household, they cannot “have” children unless that child is denied either a mother OR a father. But the desires and comfort of the adults are more important than the development of the child so this is just peachy.

—-

ECUSA and its health

ECUSA has lost 40% of its membership over the last 40 years and there is no sign that that trend is reversing.

I am not an expert on the state of ECUSA at this time, but, I know enough that major churhes have left ECUSA. Here in my own metropolitan area, the largest and livliest and best endowed ECUSA church bolted and is permanently gone. Leading ECUSA churches and clerics in other ECUSA areas have also left. The TEC has generated a theological controversy which has reverberated across the world, into Canterbury, Brazil, Hong Kong, Nigeria and South Africa; just for starters.

No, I am not an expert on ECUSA but there is a volcanic and fundamental melt-down going on inside the ECUSA and it is certainly not a trivial matter. Even without the meltdown the membership continues to drop in numbers and the remaining members are older and older. There are very few young families coming into ECUSA. I don’t think attracting some gays will offset that membership drop. Gays tend to be….ummmm…..sterile, while non-gays tend to marry and produce children which carry on the life of the Church.

Yes, gays can have children but if they adopt an exclusively gay lifestyle and live in a same sex household, they cannot “have” children unless that child is denied either a mother OR a father. But the desires and comfort of the adults are more important than the development of the child in their eyes.

Lest you quote the notorious “studies” that show that children do “just as well” in gay homes, I would point out that there have been only very scattered studies with very restricted population bases, generally less than a statistically significant sample. Secondly, there has never been a true LONGITUDINAL study of the welfare of children raised in gay households. People who support the placement of children in gay households are proposing a massive experiment with unknown results which putst the welfare of the children at risk for the convenience and comfort of the adults.

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16 Responses to “Disagreeing, or Disagreeable?”

  1. Susan Russell Says:

    Bless her heart.

    Any comment that starts out “Jeff, you stray from the issue …” indicates to me immediately that the poster thinks she has permission/authority/whatever to frame the discussion.

    Good for your for respectfully holding your ground. If the nat’l Episcopal Church had been able to do a little more of that in the last six years and little less of letting the right wing fringe dictate “what the issue is” we’d be in much better shape.

    We miss you! 🙂

  2. Jeffrey Says:

    I’m not sure what caused the jump from knowing God to slamming gays, but after reading that tripe, I vote for “disagreeable.”

    Jeffrey


  3. I have heard that the unique point in the moral teaching of Jesus was that we should love our enemies. The Golden Rule appears in various forms (perhaps often stated in a negative way), but the expectation that we should love — not just tolerate — our enemies is unique and unparalleled. I realize calling this poster an enemy is a bit extreme, but this teaching does give us the basis on how to interact with those we have trouble with. You might consider the words of John of the Cross:

    “Have a special love for those who do not love you, for that is how God loves us and gives us his Spirit so that we may love that way, too.”

  4. D Hamilton Says:

    Just Disagreeing …. and a most worthy foil in this collision of ideas.

    Also, one that makes you bring your A-game. Sometimes gifts and learning experiences are not pleasant, but Athena should be valued by someone looking to stand as a leader in the church.

    D

  5. Jeff Says:

    To DH and Monk, whose points are similar in my mind.

    I have done my best to honor this person by bringing her ideas to the forefront. I honestly didn’t realize until now that it could appear as if I was “setting her up” or disparaging her.

    I simply don’t want, as the owner of this blog, comments like “as long as Jeff doesn’t start deleting my comments” or some of the other inflammatory things detracting from the messages of those posts.

    I felt I had two choices. remove her posts (which I still reserve the right to do as the owner of the blog) or this. I felt this allowed her views to remain visible and bring forth a viewpoint on the site but also do it in a way that doesn’t distract from the other posts.

    the question here isn’t about loving my neighbor or valuing her opinion: it is about dialogue. I don’t see a tone in the posts which is conducive to dialogue and that is a prerequisite for participating on my site.

    however, I have chosen to give her some leeway and this forum, should she choose it, to express herself in whatever way she chooses.

    I hope that clarifies.

    j

  6. Rick Harris, O.P. Says:

    Jeff, you’ve done a very good job on this blog of encouraging and fostering a civil and respectful tone in your initial articles, mostly by your own example, but also by your gentle responses to the posts of others. I have visited and contributed to a lot of Anglican/Episcopal blogs over the past three years, both liberal and conservative, and the overwhelming majority of those blogs, on both sides, take frequent excursions into discourse I can only describe as ugly and ungodly. There are of course some wonderful exceptions, such as Kendall Harmon’s blog, which is actually patrolled by a crew of “web elves” who are empowered to remove comments that are either “over the line” or irrelevant to the initial post. You don’t have those kinds of resources, and it frankly impresses me that the tone here is as good as it is.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about whether what you did was exactly the right thing. It was certainly well within the range of reasonable and thoughtful responses to the situation. It’s OK to make rules. It’s OK to enforce the rules.

    I was puzzled, though, by Rev. Susan Rusell’s comment. Framing and reframing the issues is how debate and discourse usually occurs. In the current controversy in our church, liberal/progressives try to frame the issue as one of civil rights. Conservative/orthodox folks try to frame it as one of obedience to Biblical authority. To be sure, each side is willing to cross over and debate the presenting issue the way the other side frames it, but each side also prefers that the debate be conducted within the bounds and framework it has set out, because each side perceives, correctly, that it has an advantage if it gets to be the one who asks the question we are going to debate.

    There is a very good example of this in a current political debate that has been raging in our country for many years– the debate about abortion. Pro-choice advocates insist the question is: “Should a woman have a right to control her own body?” Pro-life advocates insist the question is: “Is it OK to take an innocent human life?” Obviously, how you ask the question has a big impact on the answer you get back.

    Framing and re-framing questions, and disagreeing about what the question is, are things that happen in discussions of controversial issues all the time. I don’t understand Rev. Russell’s objection.

  7. Susan Russell Says:

    Rick, Thanks for making my my point better than I did. I could have started with the previous unasked question: are we having debate or dialogue? In dialogue we attempt to learn from each other. In debate we attempt to defeat each other. My impression of Jeff’s blog is that it be a place for dialogue and the challenge has been this commenter-in-question who wants to engage in debate.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. There is, I believe, a time and a place for both. But we’re never going to truly learn from each other — or be open to changing or growing — if we’re so busy setting the context .. framing the “debate” that we don’t even hear the perspective of the other person.

    Case in point: A sentence like “In the current controversy in our church, liberal/progressives try to frame the issue as one of civil rights” is precisely the kind of “framing” that sets the context for the “debate.” The problem is it may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with the actual perspective being presented.

    My argument for full inclusion of LGBT people in the Body of Christ is a baptismal argument … not a civil rights argument. I do indeed make the civil argument in the civil arena but the presumption that those of us who support full inclusion in the church do so on political rather than theological grounds is not onlly problematic to any genuine dialogue but precludes even any effective debate on the issue.

    Long story short, my point is and was bloggers like Jeff have the right to set the context for the conversation they are interested in having and also the boundaries for those conversations.

    Let the dialogue continue!

  8. Susan Russell Says:

    Rick, Thanks for making my my point better than I did. I could have started with the previous unasked question: are we having debate or dialogue? In dialogue we attempt to learn from each other. In debate we attempt to defeat each other. My impression of Jeff’s blog is that it be a place for dialogue and the challenge has been this commenter-in-question who wants to engage in debate.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. There is, I believe, a time and a place for both. But we’re never going to truly learn from each other — or be open to changing or growing — if we’re so busy setting the context .. framing the “debate” that we don’t even hear the perspective of the other person.

    Case in point: A sentence like “In the current controversy in our church, liberal/progressives try to frame the issue as one of civil rights” is precisely the kind of “framing” that sets the context for the “debate.” The problem is it may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with the actual perspective being presented.

    My argument for full inclusion of LGBT people in the Body of Christ is a baptismal argument … not a civil rights argument. I do indeed make the civil argument in the civil arena but the presumption that those of us who support full inclusion in the church do so on political rather than theological grounds is not only problematic to any genuine dialogue but precludes even any effective debate on the issue.

    Long story short, my point is and was bloggers like Jeff have the right to set the context for the conversation they are interested in having and also the boundaries for those conversations.

    Let the dialogue continue!

  9. Rick Harris, O.P. Says:

    Dear Rev. Russell: I’m not sure I understand, but let me ask this: If you were to present your baptismal argument to me on this blog, and if I were to disagree with your argument, would we be having a debate or would we be having a dialogue? Or, is there more to it? Suppose your baptismal argument (which I am unfamiliar with) makes a certain core assumption about baptism or God or what Scripture says, or what Jesus really taught, and your argument proceeds something like, if assumption A is indeed true, then it logically follows that conclusion B is also true. If I agree with assumption A but disagree that it logically leads to conclusion B, and say so, and say why, am I debating or dialoguing? If on the other hand I say, no, assumption A is not correct, so it doesn’t matter if it logically leads to conclusion B, am I debating or dialoguing?

    I’m just having a little trouble here distinguishing between debate and dialogue. As I understand the meaning of these two terms, a debate can be quite civil and respectful, although debates often are not. Conversely, a dialogue can be quite contentious and mean-spirited. Maybe you are using the terms a little differently than I would? I’m not sure.

    I do apologize if I have mischaracterized your arguments. When you were quoted as saying, in an Integrity press release dated June 28 of this year, “The resolution passed on the final day of our General Convention contained veiled language calling for the discrimination against gays and lesbians in this church,” I took that to be an argument or a proposition grounded in an assertion of civil rights, i.e., that LGBT’s have a right or ought to have a right not be discriminated against in the positions they may hold in the church.

    I certainly agree with you that Jeff and every other blogger has the right, and perhaps even the ethical obligation, to set limits and boundaries on their own blogs, and to create a context for conversation (which I think Jeff does gently but very effectively).

    Blessings.

  10. Jeff Says:

    I’m not sure I can articulate the difference between debate and dialogue, but it’s what I tried to say in my part of the original post.

    I think for me, dialogue is about a friendly interaction that doesn’t necessarily have an agenda to change the other person’s mind. It is informational and friendly in nature.

    Debate, on the other hand, has a defined agenda, and that is to “win”. It is to prove an argument, and have the opponent concede defeat.

    For instance, Rick, when you and I interact on this site I think that we know neither of us is going to change our position on much of anything.  But I think that we are interacting so that we can understand one another better.  At least that is why I am doing it.  To debate to try and win is to belittle the other’s opinion, I think, and devalue it because that implicity says that the other’s position is worth less than mine.  That is not my belief.  I believe it may be different; it may not be something I believe in or could believe in; but I also believe it is important for the other to have the ability to believe it.  I believe that it is up to the Holy Spirit to guide the other in new directions, and perhaps my interaction is one source of inspiration for that, but it will not happen simply because I’m the best at arguing.  Similarly, I may add to or change my beliefs based on my experience with others in the same way.

    In my opinion, we have had too many debates in the church and not enough dialogue. Everybody is always out to change the mind of the other. My belief is that we should all do more listening and less convincing– and the only thing I would “debate” in order to try and win is that we should all stay together under one big roof to do it because I think we’re better off as one big diverse church rather than not.

    j

  11. Athena Says:

    Debate and the life of the mind

    JEFF QUOTE:
    I could respond to this by dissecting the logical arguments one by one- there is flawed logic which can be argued with.
    END JEFF QUOTE:

    To debate is to search for the truth, not to belittle your opponent. No one has the right to demand that others respect his ideas if he cannot articulate them or defend them. Readers of Jeff’s blog have every right to question Jeff’s theological assertions and ask him to supply support for those assertions.

    First, Jeff has chosen to study theology in a seminary. This is significant because he is preparing either to participate in the intellectual life of the Christian community as a scholar or as a leader of a congregation.
    I have not buttonholed some unsuspecting parishioner and fired off questions. I have submitted legitimate questions and comments in response to various assertions made by Jeff. My assertions are subject to the same type of questioning.

    Second, Jeff has created a public blog for the discussion of theological issues. By doing this Jeff has invited comments and debate. Debate is a tool that has been used by those who live a life of the mind for centuries. The use of questions to find the truth is called “the Socratic method.” Persons claiming standing in the world of the intellect are not entitled to withdraw from debate.

    It is not correct to claim that Jeff rejects debate and logic because he wishes to concentrate on the mystical which defies logic. Alert readers will remember his near contemptuous comments about contemplative Christians who have devoted their lives to prayer. This approach was not something that Jeff said was likely to “change things.” So, Jeff is no retiring prayerful monk, he is interested in changing the World we live in now.

    The reader has every right to assume that Jeff lacks answers to my questions, the questions I have every right to ask someone who is proposing himself as a future leader of the Christian community

  12. Athena Says:

    Floating in the world “above logic” while risking the souls of others

    Back in the ancient days of the 60’s, the country was swept with a form of insanity. Some of the intellectual elite adopted the idea that recreational drug taking could promote “self-actualization.” This was and is patent nonsense. However, people as notable as Timothy Leary and Albert Mazlow asserted it loudly and they were accorded great deference by many in the academic world and the intellectual elites. After all these people were Harvard trained.

    Well, that particular form of cultural insanity has run its course. People of my generation can testify to the devastation wreaked in millions of lives by “recreational drug use.” It’s not quite so fashtionable now.

    Back then, when I rejected the idea that “recreational drug use” was morally or intellectually healthy I was told the same thing Jeff is telling me now. First, I was told I was “ignorant.” This argument didn’t work well as I held degrees from leading academic institutions. Secondly, I was told that I suffered from a psychological or character defect. The defect was that I had a “rigid” mind and that I liked everything “tidy” and that I was intellectually inflexible and afraid of life and change.

    Here, Jeff, stoops to tell me the same thing all over again. Allegedly he CAN supply logical responses to my
    questions; questions his parishioners will undoubtedly ask him someday. BUT, he lives above the level of mere”logic” on some higher plane. So be it.

    I happen to think that souls are at stake. Those who take it upon themselves to guide souls take on an awesome responsiblity. Something I would hever have the courage to do, yet, Jeff states that “I don’t worry about whether I am right.” Perhaps Jeff has the freedom to take risks of that kind with Jeff’s soul but Jeff doesn’t have the right to take that kind of risk with the souls of others who may look to him for guidance.

    .

  13. Athena Says:

    Going beyond boundaries

    If going “beyond boundaries” is good for a person, perhaps Jeff should take a sabatical from the seminary and spend time with people who don’t use “church speak.”
    Church speak is a language and a vocabulary used by religious professionals, it is developed by and for religious professionals. Christ Jesus did not use “church speak” he spoke plainly and directly. If a sprirtual leader cannot speak plainly and directly in the language of the people, then he is trapped inside a specialists worldview and he is merely spouting “churchspeak.”

  14. Rick Harris, O.P. Says:

    That was helpful to me, Jeff. Thank you. I had been understanding the terms, “dialogue,” and, “debate,” differently than you and Rev. Russell, but your point is a very good one. I see how those terms can be used to draw a useful distinction between two very different kinds of discourse.

    I have been a lawyer for nearly half my life and I very easily lapse into advocacy mode. The goal of an advocate, of course, is to win, or to win over. I’m not sure if that is a result of my legal training and professional experience, or if my own personal tendencies drew me to the profession, or perhaps it is both of those things working together.

    I think I lapsed into advocacy in my last post, particularly when I challenged Rev. Russell on the civil rights question, and I apologize to you and to her.

    Nevertheless, I still think it would be possible to have a dialogue, as you use the term, and yet suggest that the issue has been improperly framed and ought to be put differently. I could maybe say, “Jeff, to me that is not the question. Instead, I think the question is . . . .” But now I am quibbling.

    As to more listening and less convincing, I agree that we all need t learn to be better listeners, and some of us REALLY need to learn to be better listeners.

    But at the same time I cannot imagine giving up evangelism– trying to convince others of that each of us desperately needs God’s saving grace as manifested in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I also cannot imagine giving up discipleship, which in part involves showing professing, believing Christians that the most important thing they can possibly do is to tend to their interior lives through activities such as prayer, meditation, study of Scriptures, confession, and repentence.

    I can only do those things if I am a good listener, though.

    Blessings.

  15. Jeff Says:

    Athena –

    I will only say that you must make a good trial lawyer.

    You have taken started with hard facts, moved to half-truths (semi-quotes weaved with your own personal twists to end up with a complete misrepresentation of what I said), added your own opinions, and then inserted your own conclusion (Jeff should not be in seminary).

    That is debate, as you plainly agree, and the change to which I refer is the ability to learn from your neighbor rather than to go through trial lawyer antics to get to your agenda.  Instead I believe we are called to just be open to the experience of others and see where that takes us. Perhaps it will lead nowhere but reinforcing what you already believe, and perhaps somewhere else that will be better than you can imagine.

    No, Athena, I will not debate, because this is not a courtroom. As a future priest my role is not to be able to present my view as a lawyer would and debate it. The role of a priest is to listen, to heal, to unite, to relate, and to reconcile. There are times and places for priests to inspire change, activism, and convincing, but I don’t see that as the primary pastoral role for me (although it certainly may be for other priests).

    My dilemma with you is that as a future priest, I am not sure what to do with someone who does not want to be a part of that process but wants to be part of my life through my website.

    That is why I have given you this forum. As you continue to distort my representations to you, I think you will find that the audience here knows me well enough to understand that I would never judge so harshly as you indicate. If I have come off that way, I apologize. It is not my intent nor my belief that you are inadequate in any way. It is my belief, however, that God loves you fully as God loves me fully, and that God wants us to be civil one to another, and learn from one another- not change each other’s minds.  Conversion is strictly the realm of the Holy Spirit, although we may help the process through inspiration.

    j

  16. Jeff Says:

    Rick –

    I agree.

    I have heard it said before that God gave us two ears and one mouth, and we should use them in that proportion.

    j


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