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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Within the Pale

How do you deal with someone who wants to argue a point in the Bible? What if that person has honest questions and you don't have the answer? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1476).

There are five basic kinds of questions: who, what, when, where, how.  The major difference in political parties in America is usually "how".  When it's more than that--when it shifts to the plane of "what" (fundamental purposes, goals,and meanings) conflict shifts to a whole new level--witness the Civil War.  A question of`"how" is illustrated by the question: "how best to address the problem of poverty?"--very few would assert that empathy, compassion,  and respect for the individual are divorced from democratic governance.  If one replies "what problem?" clearly they have an anomalous view of the underlying values of democracy.

I have never argued a point in the Bible with believers because I have never encountered a believer that does not attest to the first and second commandments (Matthew 22:36-40):

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That is, contrasting interpretations of Scripture boil down to a matter of emphasis and timelines, not fundamentals.  For many months I have been having discussions with a Jehovah's Witness couple.  Some Protestants and Evangelicals view Jehovah's Witnesses dismissively.  I do not share this viewpoint.  We are able to have cordial discussions for I have found within their faith belief in Jesus as the Son of God, belief in the resurrection, belief in eternal life.  The things that would divide us I view as timeline issues or matters of emphasis--belief that a person does not immediately continue with eternity upon death; the view that the Son of God is under the authority of his Heavenly Father to the extent that the full equality of the Trinity is counterintuitive; or contrasting views regarding the date of the Kingdom of God's commencement upon earth.  The things that unite us are overwhelming--belief in Jesus as Savior of the world, a yearning to be faithful to Jehovah, commitment to following  the first and second commandments and the values they entail.  I know we are on the same page because my Jehovah's Witness friends manifest the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

Someday I will no doubt meet an American who does no share my democratic fundamentals and American ideals. Then conflict will occur on a level quite different from conflict over tertiary issues of "how" or "when".  Likewise with religion, the spirit underlying belief will differ.  At those times forbearance will be insufficient, and I will require the intervening power of heavenly grace. 

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