Thursday, February 5, 2009

Current discussions on theology . . .

I am engaged, as usual, with my friend Floyd, and with several other friends who have not given me permission to use their names, in conversations about things theological.

I often find these discussions fresh, and almost always a challenge.

One of my friends I am discussing a topic with currently, wrote that he compared our friendship with that of the Star Trek characters, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy.

My friend now begins his emails with "Hello Dr. McCoy" or "Hello Bones!" Bones was the name Captain Kirk called Dr. McCoy . . . a term of enderment I hope.

He also signs his emails now with "Mr. Spock."

I guess that is not as bad as relationship being compared to that of Lucy and Charlie Brown!

I'm guessing I would be Charlie Brown.

Good grief!

From what I remember about the first Star Trek series . . . Dr. McCoy was often frustrated with Mr. Spock's devaluing of human nature, especially human emotion. Dr. McCoy's response . . . "It's what makes us human!" (my paraphrase). To which Mr. Spock replied . . . "Pity."

Since my main focus in ministry for many years has been pastoral care, I have worked hard, and studied a lot about human nature, with my study of late being guided by a local professional licensed counselor.

My curiousity about human nature is probably why I am so drawn to the stories in the Bible which speak of how humans have, and have not, responded to God.

Human nature is an amazing thing. And the primary guide for human nature throughout history has been, in my opinion . . . experience and the reactions to experience. More on this in a moment.

In several of the conversations I am having with friends right now . . . the thrust of the conversation is how we balance human nature and experience with scripture, reason and tradition. In our United Methodist tradition . . . we have what is called the "Wesley Quadrilateral" which I best explain as a series filters or lenses we each see all of life, especially matters of faith and theology.

These filters are Scripture, Experience, Tradition and Reason.

In other words . . . Scripture, Experience, Tradition and Reason are the filters which catch the "stuff" that would take us off track in life . . . the stuff we don't need to mess with or that is really a waste of time in the grand scheme of things . . . the stuff that could influence us to act and live in a way that would be harmful to ourselves and to others.

The key for me . . . is to strive to keep the four things in a balance . . . for when I do otherwise, I find myself taking shortcuts, and only using the one filter I have come to appreciate most.

It is not as easy as it sounds . . . becasue what I have come to understand about human nature and different personalities . . . is that there will usually be one "filter" we will prefer to use. And I caution others, and most especially myself, when we do this. The Quadrilateral is a "recipe" in my understanding. And Scripture, Experience, Tradition and Reason are ingredients in the recipe of equal parts.

I am in agreement with our church doctrine that scripture is the "primary" or first filter to be used, and I think the order in which Experience, Tradition and Reason are used is important as well.

To change the recipe, to add the ingredients in the incorrect order . . . is to possibly taint the recipe . . . at least that is what I fear sometimes happens as a result. It has happened to me.

Scripture is the first, primary ingredient. Yet, I know that right now, in my life, I could easily make experience the most important of the four . . . for me personally. Yet, I know that to only use the filter of experience alone, without the balance of the others bring when they are used together, will leave me with a skewed perspective . . . especially what I come to believe about God.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Steve Heyduck said...

This reminds me of what I preached yesterday - the difference between the Jesus we've each defined in our own lives and the one in the Gospels.

One of these Jesus' has real power, the other, only the power we have in us.

Rick said...

I've read the NT "Gospels" about 6 times in the past two years. After each reading, my understanding of Jesus grows and grows.