Can being “right” be wrong?
“Many times being right is the same as being wrong.”
Acknowledgement that you do not monopolize the truth
This blog is a response to Joe’s excellent article about healthy communities. I particularly liked point #3:
“A third sign of healthy community is acknowledgment that the group’s distinctive views and values are not always right, and that in the final analysis, maintaining these distinctive is less important than learning how to love.”
The difference between big “T” truth and little “t” truth
You may say, “But MJ, it sounds like you don’t believe in objective truth. Do you believe that no one is wrong? Does that mean no one is right?”
Absolutely not, the view of multivocality/acceptance/tolerance that I’m presenting is not a negation of the truth, but an affirmation of the truth. We need to understand that truth cannot be reduced to one specific view, tradition, denomination, language, etc., truth always transcend our limited perspectives. Think about what it means that The Truth (God), became a truth (an embodied human being–jewish, a carpenter, etc.).
This is what I think about in classes about systematic theology. One verse or book of the Bible will enlighten a certain aspect of God, but that verse/book of the Bible must be read within the Bible as a whole. What’s astounding to me is how are man-made theologies have done more in isolating people/denominations than teaching us about God. This is where being right can be the same as being wrong. (In my own personal experience in the church I learned more about who God isn’t than who he is, and right now I’m unlearning a lot of those deeply embedded fallacies.)
A new definition of heresy
I really like George Koch’s definition of heresy.
“From Greek hairesis. “Heresy” can be used positively or neutrally to refer to a sect, choice or way of life, or negatively, to refer to an action or belief that causes factions, disunion or division in a group. Although used colloquially to mean “bad doctrine,” its actual sense is the division that it causes. Thus, even good doctrine can be heresy if used in a way that causes division. See Schism and Heterodoxy—related words but not synonyms (What we believe and why, pg 288).”
Here we see that “good doctrine” can be bad if it is used to cause division. This makes me think of how ministries stress evangelism to the point of ministers sacrificing their children for the sake of fulfilling the great commission. Evangelism is something good, but sometimes we pervert it into an idol. Or take the purity movement. Because of such a strong teaching on the harm of premarital sex, many people have been taught to lie, hate their bodies, be self-righteous, be judgmental, etc.
What is truth?
St. Augustine said, “True is that which is.” More and more often, I’m learning that truth/reality is understood through language. Language is the bridge between reality and us. For example Jesus’ death and resurrection is a historical fact, but the question is, what kind of death and resurrection was it? Was it a penal-substitutionary death? A christus victor death? Or a moral example death? And even Church history has not been unanimous when it comes to understanding the nature of his death/resurrection. We all use different terms to interpret the historical event.
Furthermore, what about the apostle’s creed? We believe in those words, but how do we interpret them into real every day practical life? Or the Sabbath? Is it 5 minutes, 2 hours or 24 hours?
There is a part of me that wishes that life was more black and white. In a sense, I wish that I could just have a list of the propositions of truth and whenever I have a tough questions I’ll break it out and have the answer. I want spoon fed answers. But life is not black and white. Often, I wonder, “Why did God give us so much freedom of interpretation?”
Yesterday, my prof showed us a youtube clip of a man using “Biblical Hebrew” to prove that Obama is the Antichrist. He completely butchered the Hebrew language and inaccurately used a passage that wasn’t even talking about the Antichrist. It was ridiculous that the clip had 2 million views (most likely because it supported the view that the viewers held to begin with). But how can God bear to see his words used to support war, bigotry, injustice, neglect of social welfare, etc? Historically, the Bible has been used to support slavery, racism, corban, etc. Where do we go from here?
I don’t know the answer and I don’t even know two people who agree unanimously on everything so how can we find a church that we fit in to? As individuals and corporately, as the church, it is necessary to acknowledge diversity in views and values. We must also note that sometimes we are wrong.
Do you agree that sometimes being right can be wrong? Do you disagree? Do you agree that language plays such a huge role in discovering the truth? Have you witnessed good doctrine used in a way that caused division?