Fruits are not outcomes

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Classic trolley problem: the greater good seems to be killing less people and saving many, so you should kill the one.

We’re all utilitarians; every last one of us. Whether it’s in individual decisions/actions (Jeremy Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism, individual acts that bring pleasure or limit pain for the individual) or rules that govern a mass of people (John Stuart Mill’s Rule Utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number), we default to this everyday in various decisions. We also run a country with utilitarian principles. And that may be simply because it’s pragmatic to do so; it gets stuff done. Example: What should America do about healthcare? Poor people are a huge number that are in need of good healthcare. Giving that large mass of people free healthcare would be a great good, though it would be at the expense of the others, but the good for the many outweighs the downside for the smaller group. Therefore, the greatest good (healthcare) for the greatest number (poor/not-rich) is universal healthcare. Simple calculus. Weigh the consequence and its impact on the greatest number, do the action. And this is not bad per se; it’s helpful and is a tool for navigating life. I use consequentialist/utilitarian calculus when I go to Panera (the best action is the one that makes me feel good, so I order the Napa Valley chicken salad sandwich).

However, for Christians, Scripture speaks of fruit, not outcome/consequences (I struggled to make this distinction until I read this and it clicked). It seems that for Christians in America, the greatest good for the greatest number obviously is played out in American political life. The point of ethical living is good outcomes for the greatest number; therefore vote for these things that are in-line with “Christian principles” (what are those? I didn’t know Jesus came to give us principles) because those principles bring good outcomes. This may be true to some extent (how to define a good outcome, though. If by living peacefully/nonviolently someone else dies, it that a good outcome?).

Jesus specifically tells His disciples to look for the fruit that is produced to know what kind of tree we’re looking at. In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel according to Matthew (Matt. 7:15-20), Jesus tells us how to spot false prophets: “thus you will know them by their fruits” (NRSV). Given Christian thinking in America, we connect that with utilitarianism and think, “Aha! Jesus means people who make good outcomes are good trees, and people who make bad outcomes are bad trees.” But is that what He’s saying? I think it’s even more straightforward than our utilitarian calculus of greatest good for the greatest number. The Christian life is not primarily about making good effects, producing good outcomes or consequences (though much of the Church’s life will do that). Rather, in the Christian life we seek fruit: simply following Jesus and allowing your life to be conformed to His. Fruit, remember, is dependent upon the vine or source. Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we (His disciples) are the branches taking sustenance from the vine and producing the proper kind of fruit (John 15). If fruit is born by abiding in the vine that gives it sustenance, then what kind of fruit is it? Well, what kind of plant are we talking? Answer: Jesus; His life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus shows us what fruit is by being fruit. Not only that, He is the vine that sustains and directs the development of that fruit. The fruit knows what kind of fruit to be by knowing the kind of plant it is a part of. So the question for Christians in America should not be: which action produces the greatest good for the greatest number on a federal or state level? Rather, the question we Christians should reflect on is: do I know what fruit is? I would argue a fruit that is born in the Christian life is a life of peace or non-violence. This is fruit, specifically, good fruit because it comes from Jesus’ life; it is imitating Him and, through prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to make us like Him. Paul even notes that the Corinthians should “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), and the author of Hebrews speaks of the Christian life as one of remembering “your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7). That outcome of their life is being like Jesus; living in obedience to Him.

This is radically different than a simple calculus that looks for what we think the greatest good is (we’re usually bad at predicting what we think will bring us pleasure or happiness or the like). In utilitarianism, fallen humans are set up as judges of what is a good outcome and a bad outcome. But Christians don’t look to themselves for that, but rather the vision of fruit that comes to us from outside ourselves: the revelation of God in Christ. Therefore, fruit in the Christian life is obeying Jesus, maintaining fidelity to the Scriptures, ordering our lives after the pattern of Jesus’ life and within the Story God is telling in Scripture. To bear fruit is to live faithfully to the pattern or story given to us rather than the one determined by us. Of course, this will severely challenge our current ways of thinking. For example, is supporting pro-choice/pro-life the end goal? Each claim to bring the greatest good for the greatest number, each focus on making America function a certain way, both completely miss the fruit that the Body of Christ is to produce: fidelity to Jesus within that community first that then goes out.

Utilitarianism is alluring because it “works.” Utilitarianism gets stuff done. But the Church is not called solely to be a sociological group that produces good effects. The Church is called to faithfulness, to bearing good fruit by God’s grace. And that good fruit is imitating Jesus, obeying Scripture, and self-denial, even if that may lead to “bad” outcomes.

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The Christ-rule as the way of life for the church

We all know the Golden Rule: do to others as you would have them do to you (or some variant of that). Of course the problem with the contemporary use of this rule is that it is separated from the context and narrative in which it makes sense. By so plucking it out of the pages of the Bible, it then becomes raw material to do with it whatever we want. I’ve seen in the philosophical literature many interpretations of the rule, all revealing how the rule is used to serve whatever human purposes/interests are at play. The use of this rule apart from the Story of our Lord is, in my mind, illegitimate and cannot be endorsed apart from life lived in the church following the crucified Jesus.

Rather than argue about the use of this rule in modern American politics and how “universal” the rule is, I think another passage of Scripture helps us see what Jesus means in how we (the church, His followers) are to be/act. This morning I was reading one of the lectionary readings for Maundy Thursday, John 13. This is the famous feet-washing episode during the Passover meal with His disciples. After washing their feet, Jesus states this is the example they are to follow: self-sacrifice and service to each other in church, as well as others (though the text focuses primarily on inter-disciple love). I love the detail John notes (v. 3-5 NIV):

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

Jesus knows Who He is, the power given to Him, the glory of having come from the Father and being Lord over all creation. And yet this isn’t an exploitative or coercive power: it is power redefined as weakness, service, and sacrifice. It is true power, because this is what power looks like in the Kingdom, the Rule of God, and our King is showing us this.

But even more than this, Jesus states that He has set the disciples an example. Verse 15 really stuck out to me as what I will call the Christ-Rule:

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Rather than think what I, the individual self, would want others to do to me (this is a misunderstanding of the Golden Rule) Jesus calls His disciples to act as He has acted, to do as He has done. That is the rule Christians are to follow: the self has been transformed, died and raised with Jesus, and this self is ordered toward doing what Jesus did and wanting what Jesus wants. This is the Rule Christians ought to focus on, rather than the myriad of isolated interpretations of secular accounts/bad accounts of the Golden Rule (obviously we should renew our understanding of this as well).

Jesus is our example, or King to whom we, the church, pledge our allegiance and whose life we follow. Because we proclaim in faith that the new creation has come in the One who washes grimy Middle-Eastern feet before dying in humiliation, showing Himself to be the Way into God’s Kingdom. Lord give us grace through the Holy Spirit to have the power to be weak and Christ-like.

Deconstructing harmful things

I didn’t grow up in a denomination that hurt me. I didn’t know people in church who manipulated me or hurt those close to me. I have only thought some pastors said dumb things that, while doctrinally or theologically problematic, were albeit harmless to my emotional or psychological state. I have hardly ever found myself incredibly angry or resentful towards a certain group of Christians (Southern, Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, etc.) except when I read about them doing things contrary to the way of life the worldwide church is called to in following our Lord. I don’t understand what those experiences are like: possessing a deep distrust and harboring still-raw wounds from church leaders or Christian groups. I don’t really get socially uncomfortable being associated with “those Christians” if it means I am being faithful to what Jesus teaches, or Scripture teaches (I’m thinking of sexual ethics or care for poor people/immigrants, things like that). Maybe I get uncomfortable sometimes, but it’s usually because I want to know that the person I’m talking with is really engaging with the message and not just putting me in a camp and thereby allowing themselves to sidestep having to face something challenging (i.e. who Jesus is and what He wants from us).

However, I have met people that have been hurt; that still are hurt. I have met people that live their lives (I think outsiders may see it clearer than they themselves) in complete opposition to “those Christians” they grew up with, defining themselves in opposition to that denomination. “Oh that Christian conviction makes me like those Christians I grew up with? I’ll do the opposite.” Obviously it’s more complicated than that, as they think certain convictions are better than others (e.g. personal autonomy is waaaaaaaaaay better than institutional authority or any kind of authority external to the individual). I’ve met brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with that past, as well as struggle with how to go on and live now. It seems especially excruciating when they sense they can’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater” on certain Christian convictions, all the while wrestling to disentangle those convictions from the horrible people who held them in their past.

I struggle to engage with people like this. First, because I simply don’t know what it’s like. My initial (bad) reaction is to say: “move on, get over it, go to counseling (which they should!) why are you so hung up on that?” I’ve been learning to listen a lot to these brothers and sisters the past few years, and it’s exposed a second thing in me that I always struggled to articulate, but that I recently learned to do with my counselor: I desire to dominate the other. I want to force people into what I think is right, rather than present in word and deed, in love and truth, and allow them to respond. Maybe that’s some sort of conservative genetic thing, or a personality type, or a crazy complex combination of things, but I realized that’s what I do. And I realized I do it because I’m insecure. I don’t want to be out of control. But as Stanley Hauerwas says, Christians (especially in America) are a people who must learn to live “out of control.”

So I guess I’m becoming more sympathetic with those who want to “deconstruct” their previous Christian experiences (yes this is not the technical meaning of the term, but it’s how it’s deployed in common usage). The problem is that I don’t want those brothers and sisters to deconstruct themselves to spiritual death: you can’t lose what is life giving, what is true, even if that takes years and therapy and disabusing yourself of the association of that conviction with horrible Christians. I don’t know how that exactly works; certainly the Spirit changes us all in our common life together and through the Scriptures. But I’ve been learning to listen to those who have had a very different Christian experience from myself, as well as to better speak truth and love to them. Which means embodying a life like Jesus’ and always being a part of that tattered community called Church, the Body of our Lord. That may result in hard conversations and conflict. But I suppose conflict out of love and truth, oriented towards redemption and healing, is better than no conflict and a continuing of spiritual ruin or malformation. I’m still learning how to best go about this, but I know I need my brothers and sisters to help me, and especially the Scriptures, because that’s the only vision that is true and I need someone other than myself to help me aim at the truth. We all do.

(This article and podcast inspired this post: https://www.mbird.com/2018/03/closer-than-you-think-the-trouble-with-deconstruction/

Mockingcast episode 125: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-125-wont-you-be-my-neighbor/id1224964658?i=1000407367754)

Not admirers, but cruciform people.

The Roman Catholic Church across from our apartment faces the sunset, so the cross is illuminated on clear evenings.

I take it as a given that all my own understandings, my assumptions, my thoughts of right and wrong, just and unjust, everything, are all necessarily dependent upon God’s grace. That would mean, then, that being made more like Christ means becoming less “me,” and that’s a good thing. It’s good because that “me” is caught up in sin, death, self-deception, pride, arrogance, and in need of new creation, new life, a new self. Therefore, my starting assumptions and my understanding of the world and myself must never be universalized and taken for granted, but open to being destroyed; and God’s grace, His Word through His Holy Spirit, creates something new, something true. I’d take God’s constructs (by faith, of course) over my own or someone else’s any day.

This is scary because it’s a death; but it’s good because that new creation, being truly human in Christlikeness, is what we are made for. That’s what Lent orients us toward: dying to self, picking up the cross, following Jesus. As Len nears, I’m reflecting on how I’m in continual need of illumination by the Spirit, that my intuitions and thoughts may not always be the best things to lean on (I have OCD, so when people tell me to “follow my heart” or just to “trust your gut” I think, “you don’t know how f*cked up it is. I can’t trust it”). The death that we follow Jesus to, then, is a gift. It is a call to die and to be made new by God’s action. The Scriptures attest to this newness of life, this new creation brought about by Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promise to come again.

I was reading a Stanley Hauerwas essay over this past weekend. He was arguing that Scripture is difficult for us to recognize and see without trained eyes, because seeing the resurrected Jesus is not easy either: both require God’s help, and both are more radical than we think because both call us to die to ourselves and be reshaped (I think this is why a lot of disagreements happen in the church: we simply don’t want to accept the new creation, the God-given vision of various things like care for poor people, immigrants, human sexuality, etc.).

He recalls a story of a man who started one of the earliest integrationist/interracial communities in Georgia, called the Koinonia Farm. Clarence Jordan, the founder of the community, ran into an issue getting liquid propane delivered to the farm in winter (against the law not to deliver it). He called his brother, Robert, a lawyer and later senator and justice in Georgia’s Supreme Court, for help. The exchange is revealing and, I found, convicting:

“Clarence, I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.”

“We might lose everything too, Bob.”

“It’s different for you.”

“Why is it different? I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church on the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point.”

“Could that point by any chance be–the cross?”

“That’s right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

“Then I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer, not a disciple.”

“Well now, if everyone who felt like I do did that, we wouldn’t have a church, would we?”

“The question,” Clarence said, “is, ‘Do you have a church?'”

The Hauerwas Reader p. 258, quoted from James McClendon Jr. Biography as Theology p. 127-28

It’s easy to think we’d be the people who resisted the temptation to simply be an admirer of Jesus. But we’re not. I’m not. We always have to ask Christ to fashion us into his people, his church, his disciples. Even if that looks irresponsible in some ways, such as risking there even being a church at all. I pray this Lent that we remember, on our own strength, we are nothing but admirers. But, with God’s help, we become new; we partake in Jesus’ resurrection life. But that begins with the uncomfortable, inconvenient, offensive cross.

Idolatry is bipartisan and doesn’t care who you are

I preached Epiphany Sunday about the nature of the Church and her (because the church is a her and not an it) political witness being one with her spiritual witness. Our life together, both towards each other as believers and in our service to anyone outside the church community, is a witness to and proclamation of another kingdom, God’s Kingdom.

There is a danger always latent in life in a fallen world of idolatry of all kinds. For one, we can worship that which is not the true God. For another, we can worship God in the wrong ways which leads to a misunderstanding of who God is. This is especially true in America where the temptation to idolize American politics cuts across all parties. Conservative Christians can make an idol out of America, the military, and making America a Christian nation through worldly political power. Liberal Christians can make an idol out of social activism, individual experience, and making the world a better place. Both, and all in between, can make and have made idols out of human choice, freedom, the free market, democracy, etc. And while Christian life in the Church will sometimes look “liberal” from this angle, or “conservative” from that angle, we are something entirely different, an altogether other worldly, yet in-this-world social order: the Kingdom of God. Indeed, Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world (John 19).

The Kingdom of God has begun in Jesus’ coming, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and promise to come again. He has given us, His people, the task of living this out. He asked the Father, and the Father has given us the Spirit to be empowered to live as a foretaste to the new creation. The Kingdom first starts, not with getting the right policies into whatever government we Christians happen to be under, nor with focusing purely on an inward grasp of some theological propositions about God and Jesus. Our primary job is not to fix the world; it is to be the church (as Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon put it in Resident Aliens). Will the world be better because of us being the church? Yep. But this cannot be our primary concern, as we first must come into the community and be transformed by God’s Spirit, and receive the gift of faith and grace, and learn what life together in the Kingdom looks like. The Church’s primary witness to the world is the Church’s life together (John 13). Intimately related and necessary to that is the Church’s going out and serving others, imitating the example of our Savior. I’m reminded of James’ exhortation to have faith and deeds together (James 2).

But we Christians seriously have to rethink and patiently pray about how Scripture calls us to be in this world as it is passing away while the Kingdom is coming. As Christians in America we have become too zealous for this country, whether to the political right or left. It irritates and saddens me when people are more energized by voting than by their life as a Christ follower with other Christ followers. I think it reveals that forces are shaping us for other kingdoms besides God’s Kingdom. Does that mean we shouldn’t vote? Not necessarily. But can we participate in American life in such a way that it doesn’t swamp us? Have we already been swamped by it? Has it taken over our imagination, leaving no room for the vision of life Jesus calls us to as His followers, the future hope that will come? If it has, let’s just admit it and repent and begin worshiping, as God’s chosen people, the true God who calls us to proclaim and embody His Kingdom coming by the power of the Spirit. Sometimes, that may look irresponsible to the world. That may look weird. That may mean you do less as an American citizen. But then know that what you are doing is being the Church, which is exactly what Christ has called us to be. And that is doing immensely more than you may think.

 

The weary world rejoices

I just finished reading David Bentley Hart’s Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the Tsunami? It’s an extended theological and philosophical reflection on evil, suffering, and theodicy. It was beautiful and substantial and encouraging. However, it is not a theodicy proper, as he offers no “explanation” to justify God’s ways to us. Hart brilliantly draws Christians away from banal and asinine responses to evil and death; we are people of hope, who live in the midst of two Kingdoms. One is passing away and is ruled by the “powers and principalities,” as well as satan. The other has broken in in Christ’s coming, living, dying, rising, ascending, and will fully come upon His return.

We Christians can therefore hate evil “with a perfect hatred,” and eschew insipid responses to evil and destruction. There is no “inevitable progress of history,” but rather the expectation through faith that God will make all things new. Some history, Hart notes, is simply “false and damnable.” Further, evil is not “a part of God’s plan”: it is alien, intrusive, and has been judged in Christ’s coming. The Christian vision of future hope is “not some rational deduction from empirical experience, but is a moral and spiritual aptitude — or, rather, a moral and spiritual labor.” We must be taught to see this hope via God’s Holy Spirit, labor after it as God’s people, and conform ourselves to it. I could go on and on about this book. There’s some technical philosophical theology in it, but it comes together beautifully to spur us onward towards the hope we Christians have as God’s people in Christ.

I was incredibly grateful to have read this on the tail end of Advent and be reminded that Jesus’ coming is not soft and meek; it is an invasion into the broken world to make all things new. We all experience weariness and waining hope. Now One comes, the “one of peace” (Micah 5:5), who begins God’s redemptive plan to create a people to live in this new Kingdom in the midst of the old, living towards the hope to come. “When the incarnate God appears…it is to rescue the beauties of creation from the torments of fallen nature, but it is also an act of judgment and conquest.” My weary heart rejoices, the weary creation rejoices, our Hope has come.

Education and Formation into Christian Maturity

I’m in a Children’s Literature class right now with a whole bunch of education majors. They’re…intense. But being a Philosophy student has taught me to think about things in certain ways; in the case of this class, education. I was quizzing a fellow student and Ed. major on various aspects of classroom structure (scaffolding for children that facilitates learning) and why there’s such a big push for more autonomy for students (why is this happening? Is it good? Could there be downsides?). It was interesting and illuminating for me, since I don’t know a lot of the nuts-and-bolts of education. But it made me reflect about the fundamental assumptions that go into answering the questions: What is the purpose of education, and what is it exactly?

I find the philosophical training I’ve received immensely helpful in thinking about educating and forming Christians. There are plenty of faithful Christians way smarter and wiser than me writing and thinking about this, so I know I have much to take in and think about and read. However, I’ve noticed some practices within American education that I worry have and will carry over into the Church, practices that I find questionable and I want to interrogate.

  1. Education is about knowledge. Setting aside the important and challenging questions of what knowledge actually is (we all assume this in the background of much of our thinking), this can become Gnostic really quick. Knowledge seems to be treated as an abstracted cluster of sentences that you think about in your head. Never mind what you (singular and plural) do with you body, or community, or your daily habits/practices. Knowledge is not less than mental assent to propositions, but it is (or should be) always more than that, involving the whole person. When it comes to forming faithful disciples, ‘facts’ don’t form us; the Spirit does through Scripture in the Church community. Bible trivia or historical study(“did you know that their historical context was (fill in the blank)?!?!?!”) are necessary, but they don’t magically create mature, fruit-bearing Christ followers. Formation and discipleship are about more than true sentences you memorize. This gets to the general tendency of many people to divide theory and practice, and has infected the Church. I hear people say “God doesn’t care what you believe, just how you act!” The fact those are two separate things to many Christians is a major problem. Theory/Doctrine and Practice are to be seen as one.
  2. Education will solve our problems (societally, politically, theologically, etc.). This makes the dubious assumption that ignorance is the main human problem. While that is very often the case, even if people get ‘educated,’ we’re sinful and distorted; we misuse and abuse what we learn, using it to our advantage or to the detriment of others. And again, assuming ‘education’ simply means learning some ‘facts,’ what do these actually do to us? Are people always won over by facts? Nope. Which leads me to think education is more than just facts, requiring a telos or end goal that directs how we think about education. Within the Church, more Bible facts help to get biblically illiterate Christians reading Scripture and engaging with the Divine Story present there, which is great. However, more is needed. Spiritual disciplines, daily habits, prayer, communal worship, and entry into the Story we claim is true (the Story of God the Father redeeming the world through His Son by the power of the Spirit) are all crucial components of formation.
  3. Education is helping people think for themselves. This one irks me. It seems the general trend in Western culture in particular, reflecting a hyper-individualism and something many Christians have absorbed. American education particularly seems geared to end goal of: “Just make up your mind what you think about this, and that’s what it is for you.” Really? What if they’re wrong? Why do we do this? Why is ‘making up your own mind’ good or the goal or even desirable? Thinking for yourself is interesting, because you never actually make up your own mind that you will think for yourself; someone teaches you. Now, of course individually appropriating and taking in what you learn is very important and necessary. However, maybe it’s gone too far. The communal/societal nature of human development provides you with the structure (i.e. Disney movies basically) that encourages you to think for yourself. But in education, it seems, there is never any defined objective or object towards which you’re moving, just the thinking itself, which is strange to me. Within the Church, the challenge of individualism is immense. The Faith (the truth of God in Christ, the whole Christian Story) is not something we make up for ourselves; it is received. Paul makes this clear to the Corinthians when speaking of the resurrection of Jesus and the truth of the Gospel. “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received” (1 Cor. 15:3a). We receive the Faith as passed down to us within the community of God. Of course, what we as individuals do with that is up to us. We can accept or reject it. If we accept it we must each ask the question: How does this truth shape me? We don’t get to adjust it as we see fit, but following Christ into life and maturity does require that we ask how it functions for us. This is a tricky balance and a tension that must always be worked out in the Church with brothers and sisters. Individually appropriating the truth of the Gospel is not the same thing as individualism, and we need it for the upbuilding of the Church so that we’re not all the same person (we obviously are not). There are individual spiritual gifts for a reason (see Rom. 12:1-8, 1 Cor. 12, Gal. 5:22ff). We need to rethink thinking for ourselves and what it means for the life of the Church.
  4. Facts are what we educate people with, not opinions. The distinction between a fact and an opinion is philosophically problematic, contrived, and unhelpful. Sure, the empirical sciences furnish evidence for many true things that help us all see the world more clearly. But it never tells us what to do with that, nor how we should/ought to act, or what should be; It never can. This whole dichotomy needs to be interrogated, and as a philosophy major I try to do that regularly. In the Church, this distinction seems to have leaked in. I’ve met many Christians where, to them, all of the Christian Faith is opinion, or just up to the individual. “Jesus’s teaching on money is just an opinion, and that was long ago, so I (stress, individual) can decide differently.” “Jesus’s teaching on marriage was culturally conditioned and I can choose differently, because it’s just a matter of opinion.” “Jesus is Lord and Savior, but that’s just my personal opinion.” Of course, I think many of us do this because we’re afraid of authoritarian leadership forcing the truth down our throats, or seeming that way to others. But we’ve gone too far. As Christians, we must develop a bigger, broader, more convicted, and humble imagination about Truth: that Christ is Truth, that we are people who submit to that Truth, that it shapes us, not we it. We are people who proclaim the Truth, but it’s understood through Christ. We know the Truth, but it’s because it’s been revealed to us, not because we’re so smart and figured it out. It is what we live out in our life as the Church following our Lord.

 

Those are just some haphazard thoughts for now, I’m sure there’s plenty more I can’t see or think of. Also, I recognize putting the word ‘facts’ in scare quotes may set off alarms for people, given that a certain orange person has encouraged the understanding of ‘alternative facts.’ I am in no way intending to go down that road, but rather to philosophically and theologically analyze ‘facts’ and what constitutes them. A theological understanding of what’s True may not be available/seen by ‘all reasonable human beings,’ but it’s true and what we Christians proclaim and live. We must get beyond the Absolute/Relative dichotomy as well.

Here are great places to start:

http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/09/05/wouldnt-you-love-to-know-towards-a-christian-view-of-reality/

https://livingchurch.org/covenant/2018/04/19/forming-communities-of-practice/

https://livingchurch.org/covenant/2018/02/07/toward-a-new-vision-for-formation/

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2017/08/30/what-to-do-with-what-you-know/

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/03/is-ought-and-natures-laws