Last week I had to good fortune to be on the Backsliding podcast with my dear friend Tommie Marshell .
It's so easy to get in over your head when thinking critically through scripture and theology, and sometimes it's easy to lose your own voice in it. Today I share my conversation with Teer Hardy where we talk about just that. Listen as we go from the need to think critically, using your pastor as a resource, being vulnerable and listening to those you don't always agree with. I'm thankful for Teer and the time he gave to chat with me!
Engaging theologically and critically with authors, commentaries, and preachers we agree with and disagree with is a balancing act professional and lay Christians must all attempt. I dive into this in the episode by describing my experience a few Lents ago by listening to Joel Osteen for forty days. In a world where we are polarized beyond anything we have seen before, it is of the utmost importance for us to consider opinions and theologies different from our own. The reasoning is twofold.
First, we cannot know what we believe if we have not considered varying ideas and beliefs. This is one of my biggest gripes/critiques of progressive Christianity. It is not enough to say that Mark Driscoll is a misogynist or that France Chan's theology of the eschaton is flawed. You have to know why Driscoll is a misogynist and Chan is wrong by engaging their work. This is not suggest that you have to read every book or blog post they'e written, or that you need to listen their preaching weekly. But at the very least you need to know what others have said on the topic and why you disagree with that.
Second, living in an echo chamber is not healthy. With the extreme polarization we are experiencing it is easy to surround ourselves only with people who think like we do. This can be in regards to political or theological topics but also cultural/popular entertainment. How can we grow or consider different ideas if we only hear what we want to hear? How can we consider personal and theological growth if we are not engaging differing ideas in our day-to-day lives?
As I talk about in the conversation with Tommie, a short-coming of my education is that I have been heavily influenced by the Wesleyan tradition, through United Methodist institutions of higher education. This Wesleyan emphasis is something I need to keep in the back of my mind when engaging scripture and doing theological work.
Either way you slice it, our polarization has had a negative impact on the way we view the world and one another. Theologians have an opportunity to work towards the de-polarization by engaging ideas they would not normally engage.