Monday, March 29, 2010

Avoiding '-ism's'

A large part of my Christian life, especially since starting college, has been focused on what 'camps' I fall into. It seems that ever since I realized that there was more than one perspective on most issues, I have been trying to figure out which ones were right, or more often, which ones fit best with what I already thought.

This happened in lots of areas.

Philosophy. Am I an empiricist, a rationalist, a monist, an idealist, a realist, a constructivist, a dualist, a materialist, a determinist, a compatibilist, a positivist, a verificationist, a foundationalist, a fallibilist, a perspectivalist, a platonist, a modern, a postmodern...the list is nearly endless.

Theology. Am I a Calvinist, an Arminian, a charismatic, a cessationist, a dispensationalist, a supersessionist, a fundamentalist, a presuppositionalist, a humanist, a kenoticist, an open theist, a satisfactionist, a substitutionist, a millenialist, a preterist, a literalist, an annihilationist, a universalist, a sacramentalist, an Augustinian, a Thomist, an egalitarian, a complementarian, and on and on ad nauseum.

I'll spare you the areas of ethics, Christian living, denominational disputes, history, politics, science, etc.

The point is this: I tried very hard for quite a while to see which 'ism's' were compatible with my Christian beliefs and my view of the world and which were not, and I took a fair amount of pride in deciding which one I was closest to, thereby adopting my new title and learning to defend my new position. Sometimes, it almost gave me a sense of belonging.

Looking back, this was a very foolish thing to do.

In attempting to 'take sides' on some debate or other, I often ended up either imposing the presuppositions of that particular view on the Scriptures and interpreting them accordingly or else missing what they had to say entirely.

If I am to be totally honest, this is still something that I struggle with. When asked about my position on some topic, I am still often tempted to respond with one or another of the above titles, and sometimes for convenience I still will. But this is something I have recently started trying to get away from. No matter how bad I might want to make it, Christianity is not an 'ism.' And it just refuses to fit easily into any pre-existing categories.

These categories existed in Jesus' day, too. Remember the Pharisees and Sadducees? They were divided, among other things, regarding their views of resurrection. And Jesus criticized both.

Now don't get me wrong, categories and titles can be useful. But when we try to fit Jesus and His teachings into them, we inevitably come up short somewhere.

Jesus did not come to give another competing interpretation of the truth. He claimed to be the Truth. As Christians, we have unique and respectable ways of answering life's questions and explaining the world. These are not just our best guesses. They are the truth. And there is no reason to prefer other titles over 'Christian' or to be ashamed of the answers Christianity gives. After all, we have them on good authority.

* The following is for technical blog stuff. You may ignore it.   YT4T522P39BD

1 comment:

  1. One of the reasons why Jesus was repeatedly asked about his views regarding divorce, was to see which house would he place himself in. Would Jesus come down within the House of Shammai or the House of Hillel? The House of Shammai held that a man may only divorce his wife for a serious transgression, but the House of Hillel allowed divorce for even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal. Even a serious offense is not what we think of, i.e., adultery, because that was clear. Levitical law said she was to be stoned. We know that Jesus commented on why Moses permitted divorce, and pointed toward marriage's original purpose.