Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Letter to my pastor


So I was in a creative team meeting at church last night.  This is where the pastor and a few of the quirky artistic types in the church get together and hash out sermon series themes and figure out what kinds of assets we can create to help communicate those themes.  (Usually power point background images or little animations and such)  I don't remember the conversation that lead to it, but at some point I let it slip that I "don't believe anything this church teaches anymore."  Which really isn't true.  It's only specific doctrines that seem to be held up as literally true, and are taught that one must believe the literalness of the symbol in order to 'be saved' that I no longer believe.  Anyway, Curt gave me a 'serious' look and said we should probably talk about that.  So I wrote him this letter and thought that it was a pretty good (relatively) short and concise time capsule of my believes circa 2012, so I'm posting it for future reference.

Curt,

You expressed concern in the meeting last night when I mentioned that I don’t believe anything our church teaches any more.  I’m not sure if your concern is strictly for me and my soul, or if you’re considering quarantine to protect the church.  If it is the latter, I want to make sure that I’m very clear in my intentions and perspective so that you can make the best decision about how to proceed.  I know that in the vast majority of cases, when a church member stops believing the established doctrines of the church it is a ‘no-but’ kind of disagreement, which often blooms into conversion tactics where they go around trying to convince those in the church that the established doctrines are wrong and folks need to change to a different set of doctrines.  I’m not a ‘no-but’ kind of guy.  I’m a ‘yes-and’.  I perceive that the finger pointing at the sky is true, and I also look at the sky and see that that is true, then I ‘yes-and’ God is more than the finger, more than the sky, and more than the definitions we put on those things.  Perhaps I’m being too poetic, but I’m trying to not write a book of details, but just get you the general idea here. 

I think I’ve expressed this to you before, but I’ve recently had a very long email exchange with my dad where I had a chance to consolidate and distill the distinctions between me and the orthodox. (assuming you define orthodox as Lewis or Chesterton do)

1. THE primary difference is fundamentally epistemological.  I did not find some other set of doctrines from another church or teacher or philosopher and say, “Ah HA!  THEY are right, and my church is wrong!”  I envision this as one who moves from one city on a hill to another city on another hill.  This is how most conversions happen.  “THAT city was WRONG, so I moved to THIS city.”  Rather, my movement was to dig deep down under the ground of language using the shovel epistemology.  After all my digging I found myself back on the surface of another city on another hill.  And what I discovered from my dad, is that this hill appears to be directly BEHIND the hill of liberal theology as seen from orthodoxy.  In other words, from your vantage point and from my dad’s vantage point, my statements seem to be coming from the city of Borg and Schleirmacher.  They are not.  I don’t live in that city.  I’m in the city on the hill BEHIND that city.

2. I have no desire to convince anyone that I am right and they are wrong.  Because the city I found myself in is not habitable by most people.  It would literally drive them insane or into depression.  I love people and want them to be sane.  Because I came here through the tunnel of epistemology, and the provision bags of doctrine don’t fit through the narrow parts, there is no other way to access this city that I know of.  And to put it simply, most people can’t handle the journey anyway.  So I don’t invite anyone.  And since my ultimate position is that I don’t know anything, I can’t very well tell people what they should think.

3. There are no institutions that I know of that fit my perspective.  Therefore there is no ‘better’ church for me to attend.  What I share with this church is a love of Christ and sincere desire to Love others with the fullness that God can instill in us. 

4. So with this established: 1. My position is epistemological, not theological (thought obviously the one radically affects the other) 2. I am not a missionary or apologist for my position, and 3. I share this church’s heart, (depending on how you define the heart) I hope that brings a better context to interpret my statement about not believing anything the church teaches.  It’s not that I think these doctrines are wrong.  Only that A. I don’t technically speaking ‘believe’ almost ANYTHING, and B. I don’t believe that language is a suitable medium for composing meaningful doctrine.  Language is the best we’ve got, so that’s what we work with, but I trust that if my perception is correct about the limits of the medium of language, then God would have accounted for that limitation, and thus, would be far more ‘liberal’ (understanding) with His policies concerning salvation/damnation/grace/etc.  vis-à-vis doctrinal adherence.

Because language is so malleable, ESPECIALLY concerning philosophical and theological ideas, I have no problem entering the symbology of the Christian constellation of doctrines on one level, while not believing them to be an accurate portrayal of the Signified.  Yet I am not being deceptive, because I don’t believe there is a BETTER set of symbology to portray the Signified.  I no longer have any faith that specific doctrines concerning the Signified are true.  I simply don’t care about them.  They are mechanism, not heart.  For all I know the radically silly historical Jesus deniers may be right, and there never was a real man behind the character.  And that would not damage the Signified.  I ground my HOPE for eschatological consummation of all things in God within the framework of Christian types and signs because I’m familiar with them and have not found a superior framework.  I no longer have faith in anything.  I’ve liquefied that account and deposited all my assets into HOPE.  I instantiate my hopes in action based on my best reading of Love and human nature.  Some call that embodiment faith.  I don’t.  My dad’s interpretation is that I have so much faith I have managed to excise the word from my vocabulary.  Perhaps he’s right.  I don’t know.  I’m just doing my best to be honest with myself and others and Love them to the best of my abilities.

___________________

Update:

I met with Curt for lunch last weekend.  Oh, I should have mentioned that none of this came out of left field for him.  I've had several long conversations about this kind of stuff with him over the years.  So anyway, he assured me he knows me well enough to know that he doesn't have to worry about me, or worry about me trying to lead others astray.  It's great talking to Curt.  One of only a handful of people in my life that I can talk about epistemology, Hegel, and Wittgenstein who knows what I'm talking about. And because he is very relationally oriented, it's all about understanding the heart and how these ideas come about, rather than taking the ideas and presuming the heart behind them.  That's what judgmental people do.  Because it was a very long, very complex conversation I'm not even going to try to summarize   Suffice it to say that we are all good, and Curt still welcomes me and my family at our church and we are still working together on sermon series and such.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Bruno said...

Hey Josh,

This is a major turning point in your life! I admire your courage, although maybe from your perspective it is just "the logical thing to do".

Although I am not familiar with the technical terms you are using in your letter, the general drift of your letter makes a lot of sense to me, especially regarding the relation between the Christian symbology and the Signified.

When I was at this point, unable to believe "anything" any more what the church is preaching (or what the Bible says for that matter), it was a crisis of faith. However, I hoped that the framework with which I was familiar could at least outline what I've been missing out on.

I had an enormous stroke of "luck" to find the key to understanding Scripture--and myself. It turned everything upside down. But maybe it was me who had been living upside down and now had to get used to living "straight" (upside up).

It turns out that after a while I started to realize how much power we have to make our reality the way it is.

My first attempts to share things were recorded on http://alpbit.blogspot.com. I was already half a year advanced in the process of writing my book. It may interest you.

I trust that your discoveries will tremendously improve your outlook on life,

Yours,
Your friend,

Bruno Curfs

3:50 PM  

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