As I analogized last post, my wish is to spread across our shared table the sheets of ideas Jack Crabtree expressed a couple years ago in his paper and talk, The Two Most Important Things I Have Learned and (not without trepidation) to scrutinize them. My response will lay out the different ways I'm seeing things about faith from a five-years-new Orthodox Christian perspective.
Before I start, I'd like to share five important aspects of where I hope to be coming from:
1. These are just my observations.
Conflict is something I have a lot of trouble dealing with. I want to say I would rather run than argue, but the truth is I argue too easily. When the little furnace of emotion begins to ignite, I often rashly speak. And yet I truly do wish to (calmly, rationally) dialog about the most important things in reality, or I wouldn't be writing this. I know talking about belief in God--just stating it in most contexts--is asking for trouble, for argument, for pain. And so I want to state and repeat throughout this endeavor that I am making observations about Jack's ideas in comparison and contrast with Orthodox views. I'm not trying to coerce others to share those views.
When Tim and I sit down to talk finances, there are always moments when one or the other of us hits a sore spot regarding our different ideas about spending the money. This can't be helped, but we still love each other. Something like that scenario is what I hope for here.
2. Presuppositions are okay.
As someone from Gutenberg recently said, we can't very well exist without presuppositions. Each of us needs an operating framework for daily living. In my response I hope to point out presuppositions I've observed and how those might influence ideas (Jack's and mine).
One more thought on them for now is that throughout the gospel accounts we find people encountering Jesus and having their presuppositions shaken. The woman at the well in Sychar (Photina, as the Orthodox remember her) was amazed when Jesus spoke to her and even moreso when he told her things about her life he couldn't have known. Her amazement kept her talking to Jesus, kept her from fleeing when he exposed her presuppositions and made new claims for her to ponder. That element of surprise Photina experienced has been shared by just about everyone, I've noticed, who came into some form of contact with God in the Bible. I have to remind myself that it is part of faith's territory.
3. Culture is powerful.
I know I'm not shaking anyone's presuppositions with that statement. As someone who only ever was made to feel at home in the culture and community of Reformation Fellowship and Gutenberg College, I have sensed myself carrying that culture with me and rejoicing whenever I discover a similar spirit to it along life's way. I think I've really observed these past five years that, even though the prevailing cultures we inhabit shape and pull us in varying ways, there is a culture (of love) which can't be overcome, and perhaps it can't be completely defined or described, either, but when it shows up it is hard to deny.
I can't tell you how many, many times over the past five years I have stepped back and marveled, when the "new" interpretations of scripture I've been exploring completely concur with those of Jack and his colleagues. Other times, it's been more like hearing the same note Jack "played" in his surmisings about things said in the Bible, yet in a more complex and deeper sense, sort of like a single horn compared to the full orchestra.
And so I want to emphasize in my response that I have observed Jack coming so close, right up to the doorstep, or right onto the station platform. Like the archeologist piecing together shards of bone, he has studied at the true "site" and is simply working out how this or that piece he's found might fit into the complete picture.
This is all to say that I have nothing on Jack as a scholar, philosopher, and imaginer. I might be terribly far wrong when I point out where I think he is missing something. I'd really like such errors in my thinking to be pointed out. (It happens fairly often, actually, in the studies I've done with Orthodox people--they will point out such errors on my part in critiquing Jack; this is how I've come to appreciate Jack's efforts even more than I did before.)
5. I am wrong.
Hopefully this follows from what I've already said. While I might never like to think so, I take a long time to truly get things. As an observer by nature, I tend to try and express what I think I'm seeing. This helps in reaching even tentative conclusions. It's like climbing a ladder or stepping onto the hiking trail. One rung, one effort at a time. If this is the wrong trail or a too-rickety ladder, I want to find that out.
But--and here's another observation--I need help in the process of seeking the truth. Sometimes it's really hard to see that one is shunning help and climbing the unsteady ladder alone. Hard for me, hard for Jack. For anyone. There's no sense, of course, in accepting help from an uncaring helper, from someone who chooses to remain stubbornly blind yet wishes to guide others. This was never the case for me with folks at Gutenberg/RF. And so I ask your help, and I hope for your consideration of the loving helpers I think I have discovered.
Next post, I will, really truly, begin my response to Jack's treatise.
Part 3 has arrived.