Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pastoral Question

I will present to you the same question I asked Dr. Habermas and Dr. Marcus: If you had someone in your pastoral office who you became convinced was not going to believe without evidence/data, what would you tell them (especially if you are inclined toward Dr. Marcus' perspective)? If you had someone in your office who you became convinced was not going to believe no matter how much evidence/data you gave them, what would you tell them (especially if you are inclined toward Dr. Habermas' perspective)?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is difficult to say what I would do in either situation, regardless of what position I am more inclined towards. I do believe that there are some people who do not want to be convinced of something regardless of whether it is a faith argument or a reason argument. If someone is not compelled by evidentiary argumentation it is not likely that they will be swayed by a more faith based argument. At the same time, if someone is not persuaded by more of a faith position it is difficult to imagine that they will be compelled by an objective, reasonable presentation of the evidence. I believe it is more of a question of how closely the individual in question is trying to sheild their presuppositions about his/her beliefs, more so than about which approach is more appropriate for evangelizing that individual.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I believe this is the wrong way to frame the whole thing. I don't think someone could be convinced to become Christian by either rational argument or by an invitation to take a leap of faith. People become Christian through a whole variety of ways and reasons. But the heart will never worship what the mind rejects, so for me it was a matter of discovering whether there were persuasive intellectual arguments against becoming Christian. When I went to seminary I was an agnostic, and I wanted to clear away the underbrush and argue with the best theologians and biblical scholars. What I found were people of both deep faith and incisive critical intelligence. I thought if they could do it so could I. And I would rather spend the rest of my life being with these kinds of people than any other. I learned that Baptism does not mean lobotomy. I made a decision to identify with several of the theological options within our diverse Christian traditions and to become a follower of Jesus. I am content within the faith today. But I am also content to live with the ambiguity and humility that there are many things I cannot know and will never know. I believe we are born in mystery; we live in mystery; and we die in mystery.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Socratic King said...

Dear "anonymous",
How does one get at these presuppositions that you talk about? What kind of presuppositions have you seen?

I delted that first post thinking that it would remove it completely. It simply said something about testing to make sure the system worked online. Sorry to make it look like I deleted something because of it being inappropriate (or something like that). Anyway...
It sounds as though you were looking for a reasonableness to Christianity, though this did not clear up everything. What was it then that compelled you to "decide" to move desipte the incompleteness?

8:24 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Thanks for a good question--it elicits "my story." So why did I decide to move from my agnostic situation to commit to being a Christian? Many reasons: 1) as a result of my seminary experience (early 1960's) I concluded that it is not UNreasonable, any more so than a decision to adopt any unprovable world view. But that is a negative reason, clearing away a roadblock; what was the positive attraction? 2) I studied the Hebrew prophets and that resonated with my own passion for social justice; 3) I realized that those prophet's connected their passion with a direct, personal divine-human encounter; 4) I saw something like a divine-human encounter or mystical experience, or experience of the Holy or Sacred as the source of all religious expressions, and that these were across cultures and times; 5) I earlier in my life had some sort of experience myself for which I had no language or cultural frame of reference to articulate, so it was natural to connect my experience with those and realise, Oh so that's what I had; perhaps that was one reason I went to seminary--to search out what it was; 6) I was socialized into the church at a young age; I was raised in a church that was moderate in it's theology and I had been friends with the minister in my high school years; 7) I read Paul Tillich and Reinhold Neibuhr and Rudolf Bultmann just as many of my classmates did and was attracted to their thought; I thought if they could be Christian so could I; 8) I knew that much of my life would be engaged with theological questions about God and Jesus; 9) so it was a natural evolution to decide to stay within the Christian community and continue my growth; and if I could get paid in the process--hey, what other career combines such a lucky set of personal and institutional intersections; 10) I had not thought of becoming a minister, but when the time came (my senior year!) to figure out what to do with my life I was lucky; I took a course in Ministry in Higher Education with Charles McCoy; he brought many campus minister into class as guest speakers; I did an internship in campus ministry at UC Berkeley; I realized that I could do that and be happy (God's Call!); so through providence or luck it was and has remained a good decision; my "deep gladness and the world's deep hunger" met; I believed I could serve college students who were in a "questioning faith" stage of development; 11) throughout was a clear motivation for social justice, to make this world a better place for people; Martin Luther King was scheduled to deliver our graduation sermon but did not appear because he was in jail in Alabama; our "charge" from our presiding faculty was "go and do thou likewise."
12) all our decisions are partial, messy, ambiguous, and rooted in unknown aspects of ourselves and the world. Since God is ultimate mystery this seems like a reasonable choice for a human being--to seek meaning through a Christian way of understanding ourselves and God; 13) The fact that I have been content may provide some ex post facto confirmation that my decision fits who I am. We live life forward but understand it backward (SK).
What is your story about becoming or choosing or continuing to stay a Christian?

9:26 AM  
Blogger Socratic King said...

Sounds like there was quite a complex set of circumstances around your becoming a Christian. Mine is somewhat more simple. Grew up in a Christian home. Not finding a way to know with certainty whether the resurrection actually happened or not, I left the faith for a while in college. I came back to Christ by reading C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, particularly the Silver Chair. Puddleglum's response to the witch of the underwold as she tried to tell them that Narnia was a figment of their projected imagination went like this:

"Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones…I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia…Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say."

Lewis opened a window on my imgination that allowed God's grace to shine in. I made what I have come to call a "graced decision," God's grace allowing me to respond in faith.

7:44 PM  

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