Are we unified?
I have thought about what the goal and purpose of the discussions we have on this blog and debates/discussions like Millett v. Johnson. One goal that Christians could have would be to “become one” as Jesus seems to demand of his followers. (Of course, one way to avoid the task is simply to deny certain groups the right to be His followers. ) As a critical thinking Mormon, who thinks Jesus’ request may be possible, I have the following questions for those who believe the Bible is the primary and final authority on religion:
1. Is the Bible obviously trustworthy? Can reasonable people doubt that the Bible is true and correct?
Follow up questions: Assuming that the Bible isn’t obviously true, even after diligent reading and study, what is the process by which we can find out if the Bible is trustworthy? What should we trust other than the text of the Bible to determine its worth?
2. Is your intepretation of the Bible regarding the nature of God and Jesus the only possible reasonable interpretation?
Follow up: If it isn’t the only possible reasonable interpretation and it is true that reasonable minds can disagree on the interpretation using the text alone is it possible to resolve these disputes? What are reliable places to look to resolve disputes in interpretation aside from the text of the Bible itself.
3. Is your intepretation of the Bible completely free of possible undue influence of your own personal history, background, emotional temperment, community, or family?
follow up: Our contexts and perspectives can often give us insight into things that others don’t have, and often can often lead us to wrong-headed positions. If you think this may not be true for your clear-headed thinking, you should admit that others may have this problem. If your own context and perspective may distort your inteprepetation, can we be so certain of our own position or uncertain that somebody may not have a clearer view from their perspective?
My own conclusion:
If you cannot answer “yes” to these four questions,and you are a believer in the Bible doesn’t it follow that the God of the Bible created (or allowed) reality where:
(1) the truth of the “true” religion is not clear and obvious to all observers, and
(2) it is difficult to determine whether we have the capacity to see clearly from our perspectives
(3) the correct interpretation of the inspired writings we have are is not unambiguously clear
(4) Differing intepretations, even on the most fundemental theological issues amongst even the most devout believers, are unavoidable
Thus, isn’t it unfair and unreasonable to assume that you are in a position to exclude believers in the Bible from fellowship of Christians solely based on your “correct” interpretation of the Bible? If so, isn’t it unreasonabe (and un-Christian) to exclude similarly believing people from fellowship of believers because of differing interpretations?
What unity must mean:
I think John 17:20-21 is a remarkable passage:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
To an Evangelicals, it seems that unity among believers in “the message” or “the word” is (should be) a critical part of spreading the Gospel to the world.
Given the text and the reality of ambiguity and uncertainty of interpretation, must not believers in the Bible seek and aknowledge some degree of unity with other believers in scripture prior to debating intepreptations of the Bible and despite differences in interpretation and belief?
Shouldn’t we be one before the debate begins?