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.

naturalistic dualist?

I knew I’d have to blog about this one. I just got back from the latest TANSA (Theology and the Natural Sciences in Aotearoa) meeting at Laidlaw College.

The Speaker was Dr. Peter Wills, who, it turns out, is a naturalist (I also met and had a nice talk with a lady who shared that she no longer professed faith, so this was no Christians-only affair). Nicola, the chairperson for TANSA, opened with a lovely quote from theologian Michael Welker to give expression to the ‘T’ in TANSA, as Peter would handle the ‘N’ (couldn’t help but smile to myself seeing boxes of ‘Hell’ pizza behind this ‘godless’ scientist ;D ). Continue reading “naturalistic dualist?”

dialogue

Had another really enjoyable discussion forum today at the Shore Campus of AUT, where I was one of three faith leaders (Christian, Muslim and Buddhist) who presented on the subject of an ‘after-life’.

Not only do I enjoy there discussions for the respectful tone they maintain (normally!  One meeting with some humanists had a little bit of heat in it!?), but also the opportunity to compare and contrast belief systems and understandings, finding – as always – points of agreement and points of disagreement.  There was significant overlap between the Christian and Muslim (both, broadly speaking, Abrahamic religions) perspectives, and even some common points across all three – and of course, there were some very distinct points for each perspective as well.  Very enjoyable, and proof that holding firmly/passionately to a belief or truth-claim does not mean not being able to listen and discuss with differing points of view.