Fumbling Towards Unity Friday...

>> Friday, August 6, 2010




These words are huge in the Church...yet how much do we actually listen to other believers with whom we do not agree with on all points theologically?

How often do we really stop and listen to their story?

Is it possible to have an actual conversation where we exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions regarding the faith without belittling, demeaning, or talking over one another?

The purpose of Fumbling Towards Unity Friday is to intentionally dialogue openly and honestly with believers who have differing viewpoints and to provide a space to allow for others to join the conversation.

This isn't about being "soft" and not taking a stand. This is about listening and learning and growing in the faith. As believers we are to always take it to the Word of God. May His Words be our foundation and litmus test. We may not come to an agreement about interpretation, but may we never stop opening ourselves up to better reflecting our King.

We should never demonize those who oppose us.

"knowledge puffs up, but love builds up"  (1 Corinthians 8:1)

Travis Mamone is the first person to participate in this blog project . He considers himself to be an emerging Christian (if you have never heard of an emerging Christian you should do some research on emerging/emergent Christianity). Regardless of whether or not I always agree with him, I have found him to have a big heart with a love for finding truth.

In some ways, Travis and I are alike in that we both have questions. Lots of them. Yet in others we are so very...different.

This discussion took place via back and forth e-mails. I have just copied and pasted what stemmed from those in the order that they unfolded...

Mandie: What I would like to do is have you tell me the parts of your theology that you get the most heat  from the more conservative, old school crowd (because I tend to fall in line with the more conservative brand of Christianity...minus the stuffy stodginess and legalism, I hope). The focus is to shine a light on the sore spots and find where we are theologically different *without* being disrespectful and rude. I am going to treat you as if you are a brother in Christ (even if i disagree with you in some areas) and I expect the same in return.

So no low blows, just honest dialogue and discourse. Let's show this generation of believers that it is possible to not agree on all points and still be united in our faith in Jesus (in spite of the tension that we hold as a result of said differences) .

Here's to peacemaking.

Ready. Set. Go!

Travis: Thank you for stetting up this peaceful discussion. It's something I always wanted to do, but never had a chance to do because of either pride on my part, or pride on the other person's part. But hopefully this will help build a bridge between conservatives and progressives.

Most of my theology is fairly orthodox. I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. born of the Virgin Mary. I believe He literally performed miracles. I believe He died for the forgiveness of our sins, and He physically rose from the dead.

Now here's where things get controversial:

1. I have doubts that homosexuality is a sin. From what I've read, Leviticus chapter 18 is part of the Holiness Code, not the Moral Code. In other words, it's more about being ceremonially clean than personal piety. Also, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul makes up a word, "arsenokoitai," which is hard to translate. It has something to do with men, a bed, and female. So it might not literally mean "homosexual."

2. I have doubts about Hell. And no, it's not because I refuse to believe that a loving God would send anyone to a lake of fire for all eternity. It's because in the original Greek, the word for "Hell" was "Gehanna," which was a real place outside Jerusalem. From what I've read, Gehanna was basically a garbage heap, so Jesus might not have been talking about a literally lake of fire waiting for unrepentant sinners when they die.

I should point out, however, that I don't believe in universal salvation. I think the Bible is pretty clear that those who reject Jesus will not enter the Kingdom of God.

3. I believe Christianity is more than just a "Get Out of Hell Free" card. Yes, Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins. There's no denying that. But I believe there's more to the Gospel than just that. I believe in the Jewish concept of "tikkun olam," which teaches that the world is shattered, and it's our job to put the pieces back together. Mankind can't do it by ourselves, of course. We need to let Jesus work through us to help put the pieces back together.

Could I be wrong about numbers 1 and 2? Yeah, sure. But how can we find the answers if we don't ask the questions?



Mandie: I am going to do my best to address your points without being mean. What we have with this generation of believers is people who are reading the Word of God and coming to different conclusions. This would be the case with us, to be sure. I have been asking tough questions for as long as I can remember. This is just the way that I am wired. It has not been easy winding up where I am. It is a result of years and years of pleading, begging digging and searching with God and Him continually redirecting me back to His Word (a place that I desperately tried to side step around). With that being said, I don't see how I can back anything up without using the Word. I am not a theologian...I am just a girl searching for truth and wanting to walk in the manner that would make the Lord proud. In short, I am not perfect. My theology is not perfectly packaged...but I trust that His Word is reliable and true...so here we go...

I believe and affirm the same things that you do regarding the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. (it's a good thing, too, because that's a big one!)
So we agree there. Whew.

Of course, when things start to get controversial, I do not agree with you.

1. Homosexuality. This one hits close to home for me. When I was a teenager, I had a girlfriend. My closest friends were gay. I wore the gay pride necklaces and frequented gay clubs and bars. My sister (who was a karaoke host) worked at a gay bar every week and I loved all of my friends there...and yet (this is where it gets tough) when I study the Word, I don't see where it allows for it. Does God hate gay people? Is salvation not offered to you because you are gay? No way, and if you're standing on a street corner holding up signs saying that God says so I think you should be ashamed of yourself (or have your shins kicked, either way). I understand that this is a touchy subject. I lived this lifestyle. I would love to be able to say that I think it's okay and that we have the sexual freedom to be with whoever we want regardless of gender...but as Christians, we can't go on our wants or our thoughts. We have to stand on the Word of God (which I realize you are trying to do...this is why it's so difficult to discuss these things). Romans 1:26 comes right after a passage of Scripture that talks about what happens when we worship the created over the Creator. It talks about people being filled with sexual longings that were not right. Women lusting after women and men burning in their lust for one another. If you're like me, you might have a tendency to skim over parts of the Bible that are uncomfortable or that go against the grain of popular thought. This is one of those passages right there in the New Testament that addresses homosexuality (women laying with women, men laying with men....not just the act of rape or sodomy) and it is not addressed in a positive light. It truly stinks to have to stand up and say that something is wrong that is being accepted in the Church. You get labeled hateful. Closed-minded. Ignorant. I don't want to have to be the one to say that it's wrong. I want people to like me. I want to be friends with all different types of people...but I cannot make the text say what I want it to say or mean what I want it to mean. From where I am sitting, it seems to say that it is not ok to be both a follower of Jesus and a practicing homosexual (whether you're in a monogamous relationship or not). This is coming from somebody who has been there and done that. I am not some "stuffy" Christian who has no idea what they are talking about. I am very familiar with the gay culture. This is a painful subject for me. I have lost a lot of friends because of my stance...but until I see from the Word of God that being gay is okay, I cannot condone the lifestyle.

2. Hell. Ugh... hell. Let me just say that the idea of hell freaks me out. I would love if every living creature never had to suffer. Ever. I do not understand hell...BUT...I have to believe that the Word of God is true. If I am going to believe, I am going to believe all of it or none of it. Either it's true or it isn't...if it's partially true, what good does it do any of us? Before I go into hell, I just wanted to say one thing. We are not called to belittle or demean those who do not know Christ. It doesn't matter if you are pro-life, pro-choice, anti-gay, pro-gay, for politics, against politics. These things don't matter in the end. What matters is whether or not you go to hell. Just because I believe in hell does not mean that I should mistreat those who do not know Christ. Quite the contrary, I should be loving on them that much more. My job is not to change a persons politics or morals, my job is to point people to Jesus and His Word. Period. The rest is God's work to do. With that being said, I have to look at Scripture and what it says regarding hell. There are over six hundred warnings about hell in the Bible. 6-0-0. That is quite a bit. Do I want to gloss over it and pretend it's not in there? Absolutely, but in doing so I am not really practicing love. I can't obviously go through all the times that it is mentioned. I will go through a bit. First, you mentioned the word Gehenna. It wasn't just a garbage heap. Words were used in the Bible that spoke in the vernacular of that time in ways that the people of that day could understand. This helped give people an imagery in a way they could understand. When Jesus used the word Gehenna, it was an actual garbage dump in Jerusalem where a fire was constantly burning and full of worms and other gross stuff. It wasn't a pretty image. There is also the word tartarososas for hell. It was a word from Greek mythology that referred to a place below the grave where the most wicked and rebellious beings went...and they receive the most severe punishment. You have in Revelation 9:1 that talks about judgment and the opening of the bottomless pit...and then further on in chapter 12 it talks about a war in heaven. After that it goes on in chapter 20 to talk about being thrown in the lake of fire and brimstone (hey, hey, Jonathan Edward's <------joke). And we learn in Revelation that the elements are going to be destroyed and those who reject God are going to suffer so severely.We can't even imagine, really. Yes, hell is ugly. It's hard to talk about. Hard to understand. But it is so very necessary to address! It is the very reason that grace is so needed. I just wanted to end by saying that God loves sinners and if you come before Him with a heart that is seeking forgiveness...He will forgive. It doesn't matter the brand of sinner. There are theologians who can address this way more intelligently than I can, but I do know that it is in the Bible and it's dangerous *not* to talk about it.

3. I would have to disagree with you here as well. While it sounds all nice and lovely, it is not our job to put broken pieces back together.This is God's job. It is our job to love the Lord our God, love our neighbor as ourselves, and point them in the direction of Jesus and His Word. If you are loving your neighbor as yourself, you should naturally feed them when you can. You should naturally give them clothing if you have it. You should naturally be kind and gentle and respectful. I believe in acts of service. I believe in helping to improve living conditions. I believe in being a good steward of the earth and all of those things...but ultimately the only One who can bring about restoration is the Lord. We can only point people in the direction of the One who can put the pieces together.

Whew. There you go. I don't hate you...hopefully you don't hate me *wink*

And I completely agree with you about asking questions. We should ask questions...we should also pay attention to where we are getting those answers. As Christians, we should be constantly going back to the Word. We aren't always going to agree on all points and interpretations, but may we never stop going to His Word for the answers. (not to sound all Christianese. since you are a Christian, I speak to you like one)


Travis: Don't worry, I don't think you were being mean to me. There was a time when I automatically assumed that anyone who disagreed with me hated me, but after some therapy I've learned that it's not always the case. Although I will say that it is still sometimes hard for me to really listen to what the other side has to say. I hate being wrong. I really do. Which is why I really suck at debates; if there's the slightest possibility of me being wrong, I get super defensive. But I think this has been a pretty good discussion so far, don't you think?

I don't want you to think that I'm simply ignoring verses that talk about homosexuality or Hell. I take the Bible very seriously, and I believe God reveals His Word through the scripture. However, as we've seen throughout the years, scripture can be misinterpreted and abused. So I was just suggesting that maybe the way we've interpreted those particular verses are incorrect. But (even though I don't like to admit it) I could be wrong.

The homosexuality issue is especially tricky because I know many gay people who tried to "pray away the gay," but to no avail. And when those feeling didn't go away, they tried suicide. Gay people often feel like God will never love them because of who they are. So even if I'm wrong and homosexuality is a sin, I still believe we Christians need a better way to extend Jesus' love to the gay community.


Mandie:I do think that this has been good discussion. I think it's a good thing to listen to what other people are saying within the Church (even if we don't see things the same way).

I think it's okay to disagree with certain lifestyles without being hateful/hurtful. While I cannot change my stance on homosexuality (unless someone can give me solid evidence in the Bible that it's okay) I can change the way I treat people (gay or not). It breaks my heart to think of the people who have wanted to harm or kill themselves because they were led to believe that their sin was somehow unforgivable. Aren't we all sinners? Aren't we all broken without Christ? I definitely agree with you in that we as Christians need to find a better way to reach out to the gay community. I think there are lots of people who are doing just that, they just don't get a lot of recognition.

Thank you for doing this with me. I just wanted to let you know that even though I see things differently, I do not think I am above you. I think there are many things we can learn from the more progressive/emergent end of Christianity. I am listening...I just might not land on the same theological stance...but I'd like to try and learn and grow in my love for God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the people He has created.

If there is anything else you want to put on the table and discuss, maybe we can do a part 2 someday...

In Christ,


Travis: You know what's funny? I always talk about dialogue and conversation on my blog, but I never really believed it was possible.One of the things I love about faith is that it's all a learning process. Unfortunately, sometimes I get tired of the learning process. I wrestle with Scripture the way Jacob wrestled with the angel; I'm pinning God to the ground with all my strength and screaming "Give me a blessing now!" in His face.

But then realize that maybe I'm approaching faith the wrong way. Instead of pinning God to the ground demanding answers, maybe true faith is a journey with the Bible as my map. Maybe the point of studying the Word is to enter into the wonder and mystery of God, to explore the new places the passages lead me, to start conversations with the people I meet along the way, to ask questions when the directions aren't clear, and to eventually arrive at my destination--revelation.

Of course it'll probably take a while for me to reach my destination. But in the meantime, I'm learning to be content with living the questions...


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