fruitful engagement with ‘other’ beliefs

I’ve had various interactions with various ‘non-orthodox’ (a.k.a. heretical) religious movements, and I grew up within one.  In my earlier, younger and sadly more arrogant stages, these interactions could easily become more heated, longer, and less productive than they should have been.  I just had another much more positive interaction with three young, polite Mormons.  There are two ways at least that I’m learning to make those interactions fruitful.

  1. Patient Intent.  My aim is to strike a middle ground between sending them away or trying to ‘convert’ them in one fell swoop.  I want, instead, to have a respectful conversation that gives them, and me, something to think about afterward.
  2. Respectful Engagement.  Instead of using whatever understandings I (think) I have as weapons to win a debate, I use those understandings as points of discussion.  This looks more like asking questions than making declarations.  For example, instead of saying (effectively) “You guys are wrong because you don’t believe in the Trinity”, I ask the question, “Could you tell me what you believe about God… you know… Father, Son and Spirit?”  This way they get to say what they believe in their own words, instead of having their beliefs described in worst form and then disregarded.

Having said that, here are a couple of those ‘discussion points’ for Mormons.

  1. The nature of God.  Mormons believe that ‘God’ was once a human, and that we humans can become ‘God’.  This relates to their belief that God the Father has a physical body.  They will use the language of “image of God” to support this, implying that to be made in God’s image includes being made in his physical form.  Here, it may be useful to point out the Christian distinction between the attributes of God that are God’s own unique attributes (Creator, divine), and those that we are meant to share as image-bearers (beauty, wisdom, justice, mercy, grace, etc.).
  2. Revelation.  Mormons believe that God is still revealing truth to humanity.  Significantly, this underlies their understanding of the Book of Mormon as an equal-level text to the Old and New Testaments.  Here, it is useful to point out the Christian conviction that whilst God is indeed still active in revealing truth to humans through Scripture and the Holy Spirit, Revelation has met its ‘finished’ point in the person of Jesus Christ.  No more is needed to reveal God to humanity.  And for Christians, the New Testament documents form together a sufficient and complete witness to that full revelation of God.  Other texts (at best) compliment that witness, or (at worst) confuse and conflict with it.

eavesdroppers

I used to work in sales at a lumber yard, where we sold all kinds of (mostly residential) building materials from lumber, to paint, to plumbing, electrical supplies, hardware, doors/windows, roofing, power tools, etc.  I grew up working with quite a few of these things, as my Dad was a residential framer.  Nonetheless, there were various things I knew very little about, having never used them.

Given a few years, however, listening to the advice given by co-workers, and listening to problems encountered (and solved) by customers, I ‘learned’ how to answer common questions.  I had never put in a p-drain myself, but I learned how to answer most questions a customer would ask!  Even more humorous, I had a co-worker who had almost no hand-on experience with anything we sold – yet nonetheless, she too learned to answer the common questions (often word-for-word what her co-workers had said the day before!).

I think this kind of learning is fine for what it is, but in various discussions I have, I often feel that others are (and I’m guilty of) operating with ‘knowledge’ they’ve gained from eavesdropping in this or that conversation or forum.  “Ohh, Aristotle was such and such…”, and “yeah, science has shown that…” or “Democracy was designed so that…”

This is the Wikipedia/Google-based knowledge that informs so many pool-of-ignorance building conversations.  People that know just a weeee little bit about a whole lot of things, pretending to be experts at it all.  “I remember seeing somewhere that…”

We… (cough) I… need to learn to just say, “I have no idea about that, to be honest.  Let’s both read up on it and get back to one another in [not 2 minutes, but…] a few weeks.”  Now that would just require far too much patience.

patience…

With any discipline or line of enquiry, patience is a virtue.

We must have patience regarding the amount we will ever be able to know about a given topic.  Whether your ‘-ology’ is of ‘bios’, ‘theos’, or ‘cosmos’, it’s essential to remember that there will always be more questions.  For some, this is an enquiry-stopper.  “Heck, if we can’t know it all, why bother?”  For myself, however, this is invigorating!  More to learn!  More to think about!  More to consider!  Let’s get to it!

good guns

A quick gun-related post after some recent events in NZ & thinking about it. When you encounter an action or idea that you find utterly insane or impossible to understand, it’s always good (pun intended) to look for some good reason behind it, which may have been distorted.  In the case of “gun rights” it’s not too hard to see some good things about having and using guns.

  • Guns are probably best considered as a kind of power-increasing tool, and power in and of itself is good.
  • To the extent that killing an animal (hopefully for food) is acceptable, a gun just makes this easier to do.
  • To the extent that killing a human (hopefully as a last resort and only self defense) is acceptable, a gun just makes this easier to do.
  • The case of gun shooting as a hobby or interest (i.e. gun collectors having meetings to share and shoot their guns, etc.) seems a perfectly acceptable activity.

Of course a similar list could be made of ‘bad’ things. As for what kind of laws to have to help gun users do more of the ‘good’ and less of the ‘bad’, I have only a few ideas, which I won’t bother mentioning here.  Ultimately, laws don’t change people.  To close, here are some positive & negative memories associated with guns.

  • I owned a black-powder rifle for around a year.  My brother, his friend Ralph and I went a time or two to a firing range and shot them.  It was fun.  Learning how to pack the powder, etc.  Boys and their toys.
  • I have a brother-in-law who hunts often, but only for food I believe.  I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and the animals die with more respect than they would on some cattle farms.
  • My Dad had a 44 magnum (still has?).  I remember him target shooting ‘out back’.  The sound was incredible.  There was ever so slight a delay from firing to impact – on the 50-gallon drum lid propped up against a tree.  As a small boy, I was in awe.  My Dad was Clint Eastwood.
  • My Dad used to go deer hunting, until those he hunted with kept going way over their legal limit for the season.  I still remember walking past the massive pile of deer guts. I’m proud of my Dad for not taking part in that.
  • I also remember (after shooting and hitting a squirrel several times – to no discernible effect! – with a BB gun) finally killing my first bird – a robin I believe.  It fluttered from the power line it had been perched on to the ground.  I walked up to it, and saw it twitching in pain.  The thought was so strong it seemed nearly audible – “Well what did you do that for?”  I put it out of its misery, and I don’t believe I’ve ever shot another animal again.

science thought…

Whether one likes it or not, and whether one considers it anti-science or not (I insist it’s not anti-science in the least in my mind), it occurs to me that the scientific project is inexhaustible.  Depending on one’s view of how valuable scientific knowledge is, one will either feel discouraged or like the proverbial kid in a candy store – I prefer the latter.  The world, stuff, ‘nature’, etc. is just that interesting. Continue reading “science thought…”