Doing Unto Others…

In college, the a cappella group that I was in often had a booth on our quad to publicize various auditions and concert events and I spent a lot of time manning that booth. This usually meant sitting for an hour or two at the table waiting for the occasional passerby to take notice and come up to ask a question or get a ticket. That is, unless we happened to be placed in a booth next to the one that the Mormons were using.

I dreaded sitting on those days, because I knew they would want to talk to me. I dreaded it because in everything they said, I felt like they were positioning themselves to share their beliefs with me, even if it was the most innocuous “Hi, how are you.” This always put me on the defensive because I didn’t want to hear their beliefs. I didn’t want them trying to convert me, and yet here I was publicizing a singing group whose sole agenda was to share the love of Christ to the campus.

I don’t bring up spiritual things with people because I am afraid of being like those Mormons. I’m afraid that people will react to me the same way that I react to people of other faiths who try to share their beliefs with me: by clamming up and going on the defensive. I don’t want to share my faith because I don’t like other people sharing their faith’s with me.

It’s not that I’m afraid that they may be able to ‘convert’ me or ‘defeat’ me in some way. I’m very confident in what I believe. The trouble is, I have a sense that other people are just as secure in their beliefs, so trying to talk about them in a persuasive manner is an exercise in futility. Why should I bring up a topic like faith with someone who is as set in their own ways as I am in mine?

Perhaps the issue is how much emphasis I place on persuasive speech. If my faith were as much a part of me as, say, my love of snowboarding, why should talking about my beliefs with other people be any different than talking about the gnarly slopes I hit last weekend? Any time faith or beliefs comes up in conversation, my mind immediately jumps into ‘debate mode’ (which is sad, because I’m kind of terrible at debate and I know it so ‘debate mode’ really turns into, ‘say nothing of significance so I don’t mess up other people’s witness in the future mode’). Perhaps I need to train myself to not jump into that thinking and instead just talk about my experience of faith. I could take a lesson from Paul about staying away from subtle argument and persuasive speech and leaving room for the Holy Spirit to work, because He’ll do a much better job of it than I ever could.

The Church

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Church and her position, commission, and mode of operation in the story of time. This song has become one of my favorite hymns because every time I sing it, I can catch a glimpse of the Church as Jesus intended. It is the Church firmly rooted and fully dependent on the Holy Spirit, eagerly anticipating the renewing of creation at the coming wedding feast with the Son, and passionately seeking to glorify the Father in defending the poor and destitute.

I also heard an great sermon by Francis Chan called “Is This Really Church” in which he goes into detail about exegesis and eisegesis. Being the high and might Bible School graduate that I am, I felt very good about knowing what he was talking about already, but he took it a step further than I’d ever thought about and talked about exegetical living. Basically eisegesis is taking preconceived ideas, notions and norms and finding texts that support those norms outside of the context of the passage. It’s generally considered a bad thing. Exegesis is the opposite, where you come to a passage and without any preconceptions, say “What can I learn from this passage of scripture.”

When we think of the things that make a Church a church here in America, there are a few things that stand out. Worship Music (4 or 5 songs with some prayers by the Worship Director interspersed), followed by 20 to 30 minute sermon by the Pastor, then the offering, another song, and then everyone gets to leave. Of course, this all takes place in some big meeting space with auditorium style seating so that people don’t have to look at each other and breakout space so the kids can go with the Youth Director. But if we look look exegetically at the model for the church that is laid out in the New Testament, I think we’d come out with a vastly different picture.

The Church that the Bible talks about is one centered around a community loving one another, providing for each others needs and sharing the Gospel. It was about breaking bread together and taking communion regularly to remind each other of Christ’s sacrifice for us all. Can we really call it Church on Sunday when most of us find an inconspicuous place to sit, soak up some knowledge and bolt as soon as we’re excused?

Not that Sunday services aren’t good things, but we as the American church need to recognize that we are called to so much more than the 3 hours we put in on Sunday mornings. We’re called to administer our spiritual gifts to one another in communities that are interdependent.

Frame of Reference

Geocentric model and HeliocentrismImage via Wikipedia

In 1543, Copernicus published a book in which he systematically and scientifically justified the heliocentric model of the universe. This was a major shift from the old Aristotelian model where the Earth was at the center of the universe and all other bodies rotated around it.

This is often hailed a major milestone and a start of the scientific revolution, but really it is an example, on a grand scale, of what the scientific process is.

An interesting fact about the Aristotelian model that is not often mentioned is that this model is still entirely accurate for viewing the celestial bodies. One can track and predict exactly where a star or planet will appear in the night sky using the model. It is not inaccurate because it doesn’t work, it is inaccurate because it doesn’t represent the whole picture.

What Copernicus did in his new model was to recognize that our frame of reference was part of the system and therefore could not possibly offer the true model. Copernicus had to shake people of their reliance on sight alone to form their reference.

Today, science once again is set in its reliance on the frame of reference provided by our senses. But to say that these five senses are all encompassing and that nothing exists that cannot be observed by these senses is to end up in a contradiction, for why bother to expand our knowledge since knowledge cannot be observed by the senses?

We have reached a barrier. In order to get a truer picture of our universe, we need to take a step back, just as Copernicus did, and look from outside the box of our five senses. Some would say that this moves into the realm of philosophy, but if the scientific community wants to make truth claims about models that enfold their own frame of reference, that is exactly the realm into which they must move.

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