Imagine reading that the late Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were “best buddies.” Noted for their position on opposite ends of the judiciary perspective, one wonders, at least I wonder, could their relationship provide an illustration for the Pastor-Theologian? I believe so.
NBC News relayed Ginsburg’s reflections,
“From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies,” she wrote. “We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation.”
Receive, Doubt, Embrace
We face greater challenge by continually engaging different opinions/perspectives. My theological journey began early and continues to this day. Some are unsettled by the unsettled. What I have discovered is that it is required to investigate what you were given so that what you hold is your own. It hardly means we cannot say anything. Instead it means what we learn to say is our own.
Some people fear the word deconstruction. Properly understood the practice is without doubt constructive. The journey to embrace what is yours without an eye toward the constructive is destructive. The late Robert Webber wrote, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church – Revised Edition. In the original, I have not read the revised edition, Webber described three stages of faith.
We receive the faith. Many of us grew up in contexts where faith was inherited, passed down. We learned the faith of our parents, of the tradition in which we participated in community, and through which we learned the Christian Traditions, more or less. For those not reared in the Church the same applies in the sense that we receive that absence of a specific faith tradition. This is not to indicate superiority but to suggest everyone is socialized un/toward faith intentionally or by default.
We doubt the faith. Yes, doubt has become sexy. Webber described a faith that faces questions. These questions arise from human experience. The faith-ful and the faith-less come to experience the world as older adolescents and adults facing more of the world than we experience in our earlier years. Do the answers given work? Do they address the world as we are experiencing it? Some remain where they are. Some leave what they received behind.
We embrace the faith, or not. Working through what we received along with our own human experiences forces us to embrace what is ours. Some may not like the way it sounds. Eventually, though, giving other peoples answers will not suffice for the questions that bubble up within.
It may be that we are always working through the cycle. After all, as we pass through the phase where we embrace faith, we then discover there are always elements that we received as we looked for answers to the daunting questions of life. Maybe the journey of faith is continual, an ongoing conversion of sorts.
Webber used this framework to describe his own analysis as to why some were leaving Evangelicalism behind for Anglicanism. Some were not convinced by his argument as to the attraction of the liturgical. But, it is hard to argue against the faith journey as receive, doubt, embrace.
What startles us as we move from doubt to embrace is difference. How is it that some answer differently than what I heard, what I was told, what was insisted? We hear many reasons. Some come couched in a defensive rhetoric where difference is vilified. However, my experience is difference means richness.
More Challenged by Difference
One of the things that lay behind the re-branded podcast is the experience of learning from those with whom I differed. I think all the way back to my first serious interaction with a Reformed Baptist perspective. I was in high school. Today I agree with the contention, Reformed and Baptist – both require a curious nuance. Then I resisted as if my life depended on it. The Doctrines of Grace sounded so foreign.
My era of embracing a more Reformed filter endured for a period of time. The truth is once that way of seeing the narrative of Scripture works itself through, it is hard to extricate oneself to consider other perspectives. Eventually the system raised as many questions as it answered. I could no longer abide the idea that to discover the Reformed vision meant to finally read the Scriptures as they were. I never was an angry Calvinist. I am not an angry not-Calvinist.
The same experience that led me through that crucible is the same experience that led me past. Criticize the element of human experience. But, if we are realist about Jesus, his death and resurrection, then we must also take seriously our own existential moments, even when crisis challenges our system.
Yes, the issue was death. Untimely. Sudden. Out of order. Death. Answers that once came so quickly sounded more hollow with each time they were repeated. It was time to reconsider what was received. There are many things about which I am confident. Few of which I am certain. I am still on the Way.
Sharing Some of My Conversation Partners
Once I found a safe place to ask again, I also found the freedom to listen. Like Ginsburg pointing to Scalia, those with whom I differ often help me more than they realize. As part of the work of the Pastor-Theologian, I want to share some of my conversation partners. Sharing does not mean endorsement or agreement. Sharing does mean friendship and the opportunity to work through what has been received, to what is now questioned, to what may be embraced.
My most recent conversation partner is a young friend, Tripp Fuller. Maybe I was drawn to him for his own story, his own Baptist history as it were. Through the gracious people at Fortress Press I am able to offer the first chapter in Tripp’s book on Jesus, Jesus: Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Freaking Awesome.
Here is how to get it. If you are interested in interviews and resources for the Pastor-Theologian, and you also think difference means richness, then subscribe to the mailing list. If you are reading on a laptop or computer you will find it in the right sidebar. If you are on a mobile device, it may require some scrolling.
Once you subscribe you will receive an email with a link to the Chapter, a link to the book’s Amazon page should you want to read the rest of the book – you will want to, and a link to the series of which the book is a part.
If you are already subscribed, I will send you the link in a separate email. Thanks for being an early adopter!
I will be working with others to offer as many resources for you to evaluate and consider. From time to time we will offer giveaways and contests. If you have a suggestion, a different voice, email me and let me know. If you have a suggested guest for the podcast, include that in your email.
Let’s see if together, whether we agree or not, we may sharpen one another, even to the point we might become “buddies” like Scalia and Ginsburg.