Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Controversies in the church: why in the world take that approach?

Now that I've posted the first piece in the "controversies" series, I wanted to put just a quick note explaining why I've taken that approach. Here are the basic points I've tried to address, and what I hope to accomplish with them.

The common ground: you can only have a controversy when there's a common ground to start with. There aren't controversies over whether the Houston Texans are better than the Utah Jazz. They'll never meet in regulation play.

The group's beliefs on the controversy: Can we define the group in such a way that both groups recognize it as a fair representation?

Internal diversity: Because many beliefs fall along a spectrum and are more complicated than simply being opposites.

Strong points: For every belief, there's an honest reason why people believe it.

External criticisms: For every opposing camp, there are things they just don't get about the belief in question.

Response to criticism: Most groups actually have thought about what the other camp has to say. It's not necessarily that they're closed-minded; they may honestly find the opposing arguments unpersuasive.

The slippery slope: If a controversy makes for a spectrum of beliefs, and if beliefs out among real people lie along a bell curve, then what is the outward edge of a set of beliefs? Can you articulate how to keep from going to the extreme, for your own side? Can you recognize that not everybody is at that extreme, for your opponents' side?

Uncharitable moments towards the other side: What is it about this group's reaction to the other group that tends to fuel the fire?

Charitable moments: What outlook would permit conversation again?

Fair questions: What are the honest questions about the actual beliefs of the other camp?

Related controversies: Because very few controversies stand alone.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

This is such a very well thought-out approach; bravo!

Okay, well, I think it should be brava. Whatever...

Craig said...

Do you have a definitive list of controversies you plan to cover yet? Or is that still being formed?

Also what criteria will you use in deciding whether to cover a controversy?

Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you, Anastasia. I think in English where adjectives are gender-neutral, you can get away with 'Bravo.' I'm just flattered that you would apply it to this. I really hope I'm doing some good, or will do.


Hi Craig

Don't laugh, but (well, ok, go ahead and laugh, I don't mind) -- I would like to cover all of them, or all the ones that cause schisms between Christian groups.

I heard once that there are 30,000+ Christian groups. But if there's a 2-way split over each issue ... well, you only need 2 to the 15th to get that many divisions. ;) I.e. if all the things that go into the liberal/conservative divide were addressed in such a way that people decided to get along, you might well be down to 15,000+ groups; or you might still be at 30,000+ groups but they got along twice as well.

I have been so tempted to lay out my own list of favorite controversies. But I am really trying to resist that, because my purpose is to graph the fault lines within Christianity.

Which is a long way of saying, "The exact contents of the list aren't finished yet, but are being formed based on this question: What causes any two Christian groups to separate from each other?"

I wonder if I should tackle that list next.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Craig said...

"What causes any two Christian groups to separate from each other?"

Not to press the issue too much further or deeper, but this question will, in turn, be formed by how you define Christian. Are you assuming the boundary of the Nicene Creed? Or will you be considering early christological heresies as controveries?

Also do you plan to cover Reformation era controviersies in and of themselves? Or only if they are historically relevant to more modem day controversies?

I don't mean to be difficult. I am looking forward to this series no matter the scope. I'm just curious about the extent you have in mind.