aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

In order to believe, first you have to believe

A friend announced on FB that he was "evolving" on the subject of the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals in The UMC. I expect more of this. The UMC is in extreme pain right now, and nobody wants to be left holding the spear that has pierced its vitals.

A lot of people "evolve" on all things LGBTQ when someone they know and love "comes out" as gay or bisexual or transgender or something. They fear to lose their relationship with their loved one -- and sometimes, there is more than just an implicit threat that they might -- so they quickly endorse everything said loved one claims or does. They go from denial to justification in rapid order.

Side note: I have a cousin in prison for murder for hire (she was on the procuring end, not the killing end). Her mother, my aunt, is the last person to still maintain her innocence: "She was railroaded by a corrupt DA," and all that. This refusal to face facts is understandable, but it's still short of the claim that "some people just need killin'." But there are people who will go even there for their loved ones.

Anyway, my point is, there's an awful lot of confirmation bias involved in all our values. Most of our arguments for or against things -- religious, political, even scientific -- are all given to convince ourselves, not other people. And lest you think I'm exempting myself from that, let me point out to you that the Apostle Paul makes precisely this argument in his thesis statement in the Letter to the Romans:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live" (Romans 1:16-17).
That expression, "through faith for faith" (Greek: ek pisteós eis pistin) is one of the most difficult to express in English, and lots of Bible translations and paraphrases do a really poor job of getting it across. Which is why you still need human interpreters to preach and teach it; the bald statement in print doesn't explain itself.

Paul here is getting at the same kind of thing that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews was getting at when he said, "whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Hebrews 11:6b). In order to believe in Christ -- that is, to put your trust in him -- first you have to believe in him; that is, you have to believe that he can do what he says he can do before you can believe that he'll do it for you. A faith that it's true, or might be true, or that you at least would like it to be true is necessary before you can come to believe that it is, in fact, true -- which means, experiencing it as true.

Which is why no evangelism is of any account until and unless the Holy Spirit opens the mind and heart of the skeptic or otherwise unbelieving person to receive what God has to give. Faith is not something we do, it is a gift God gives. Then we go about arguing ourselves into accepting all the propositions that support our acceptance of that gift. Generally speaking, we don't work it out first, and then believe; we believe, then justify our conversion.

So for what it's worth, let me say, I would be glad to go along to get along. I find it very painful and distasteful to be on the outs with so many people who have decided that X or Y is just peachy-keen. I stand out in the crowd, and my standing in the eyes of those whose good opinion I would like to retain is often lessened. But I'm as tied to my data as any good scientist. Every time my values are challenged (whether religious, political, moral, or what have you), I sit down to re-work the problem. I go over all the data. I count the costs. And in the case of Scriptural morality, I keep winding up in the same place. I just can't make the Bible say what it manifestly does not say.

Oh, I've "evolved" on many things, including some things in the Bible. But integrity demands that I try to read what the writers actually said, not what I wish they had said. And what they say is plain enough. So, even though all my friends should burn the pinch of incense in salutation to the genius of the Emperor, I just can't.

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