Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Conversations from the Back Pew

I recently participated in a very interesting conversation about the issues of spirituality, community, and gnosticism, which is a followup to my review of the book View from the Back Pew.   The author, Tim O'Donnell, arranged with blogger Evita Ochel to set up a conversation that included Tim, House Church pastor/blogger Matt Appling, and me.  Tim -- in part due to my designation of him -- represented the "Spiritual but not Religious" grouping, Matt represented non-institutional Christianity/religion, and by process of elimination I was the representative of institutional religion/Christianity (not that I'm totally comfortable with that designation.  The conversation was enlightening, respectful, and hopeful.  It was also a learning experience for me -- as it was my first skype group conversation.  The conversation lasts 59 minutes, so I invite you to take a moment and join in the conversation.   

6 comments:

Evita said...

Hi Bob

It was a pleasure to facilitate and host this. You three were indeed respectful and opened up this dialogue further for so many more to consider and ponder upon.

Obviously there is a shift taking place and the institutions or churches that look deeper at it and perhaps take it seriously, gearing more towards what the people need will have a better chance of survival than those who are stuck in their ways and feel that change will somehow undermine their authority.

And so, I guess we shall all see how this continues to play out...

Brian said...

I'll make a commitment to watch it.

Alex M said...

Okay, so I listened.

I was struck by several aspects of the conversation:
a) The irresponsibility of parents in “outsourcing” their children’s spiritual education.

This is true about spirituality in general, both within and without the church. People are content to let others influence their children on matters of faith all too much. Not that the influence of other’s ideas of faith is not a healthy leavening, but if we are content with our beliefs (and even our sense of doubt), whether we belong to a church or not, we should want to share that with our children. And we share that with our children not with our words of faith but with intentional acts of faithful living - true to what we hold on to as genuine. They internalize what we do far more than the words we speak. I want my children to join with me in my faith journey and I want to be a part of theirs.

b) Throughout the whole clip there was little discussion of the work of God (the Holy Spirit) in the world.

The whole discussion ignored the work of the Holy Spirit in this whole process. I can understand Tim being silent on this but I would have thought that either Matt or Bob or both would have introduced the notion that the Church is the manifestation and work of the Holy Spirit in the world. I recognized that this borders on doctrine, but the discussion was not focused on general religion but on the perceived disintegration of the Christian religion. As such it seems fair to interject and inquire into the will and the role of the Holy Spirit in the process of formation, fracture, and potential reintegration. I’m just saying.

c) There was a suggestion by one of the speakers that doctrine has failed to take note of scientific (and sociological) developments coupled with Tim’s confessed problems with Christian doctrine.

Bob in part spotlighted this issue in the end with his discussion of his rejection other people’s problematic notions of God. The fact that the faith tradition we were raised in has problematic doctrinal stances, does not indict all of Christianity - other strands of Christianity may well take very different doctrinal positions. In fact, there are strands of Christianity which encourage each believer to form their own doctrinal positions. The response of the Old Testament character Job to his predicament provides a perfect example of an individual confronted by real life circumstances which cause him to call into question and in fact reject traditional doctrines and reach out personally to God for an explanation which makes sense of the reality on the ground. While the book ends without God providing an answer, God does affirm that in all of his questioning and challenging and doctrinal rejection, “Job was blameless.” In fact God goes even further by indicting those around Job who tried to force Job to buy into traditional doctrine in the face of the evil message suggested by those doctrines.

And notwithstanding the individual spiritual striving of Job, the story of Job was created to be shared within community - perhaps because while we all partake of the spiritual journey in our own hearts, we do so most fruitfully when we do it with friends.

Alex M said...

I recieved an email about this comment. I'm really confused because it says it's from me (Alex McCauslin), and the Alex M profile links to my blog... but it is not from me. Please help me understand what is happening here?

John said...

Sorry,

Forgot to log out and back in under my own name.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

John,

Thanks for the comment in your daughters identity! I would love to have Alex watch and respond!

On the question of the Holy Spirit -- well that will have to be the next topic of conversation. Time doesn't really deal with it in the book, and so we kind of stayed with his central points and my central questions, which had to do with structure, community, and gnosticism -- though with community the HS does play a key role in our thinking.