Friday, November 30, 2007

The Spiritual Discipline of Conversation Continued

I had blogged previously about conversation and the benefit I thought it could bring to the exchange of ideas in the Christian market, and I wanted to share some follow up.

Here is a thought from Brian McLaren in the book he co-authored with Tony Campolo called Adventures in Missing the Point. He is talking about the Bible, and how we can perhaps change the ways in which we relate to it. He offers 10 suggestions on how to "reclaim the Bible for contemporary readers, so we don't miss the point." Here is what he says:

So how about a Bible study or sermon that is successful not because everyone agrees on the preacher's interpretation, but because, when the sermon is over, everyone can't wait to talk about it and read and ponder and discuss it more, because they have become intrigued and mystified and enthralled? How about a congregation who may not have "captured the meaning" of the text, but a text that captured the imagination and curiosity of the congregation?
pg 84

This is the type of communication that encourages and starts conversation. Truth is seldom simple, and it often needs to be talked about and wrestled with before it is owned. This is a major way that we learn; through conversation.

Another author, scholar and professor Scot McKnight, says this in his book Embracing Grace:

It is my conviction that God designed the gospel to be a source of communion for all Christians and not a source of division among them. But this communion can emerge only if we respect one another enough to listen to what the other is saying, and if we go back to the Bible together to see what the gospel really is.
pg xiii

As I said before, one of the keys to this practice is listening. I will mention 2 others.

Respect. Without respect as an under girding agreement between the parties, it is no conversation (at least no healthy conversation) and the communication is doomed to fail. This does not mean that parties must be ever stoic. On the contrary. Passion, excitement, anger, humor etc., these may all be involved in this type of conversation, but they need not usurp the respect. If simple, common practices like not interrupting, not calling the other person names, looking for the others point rather than twisting their words, etc. are in place, they can all help maintain a level of respect. I feel like this is first grade material. I don't mean to insult your maturity or intelligence, but you would be surprised how many conversations don't follow these simple rules.

Thinking Gray. Steven B. Sample, in his book The Contrarians Guide to Leadership, advocates a practice he calls thinking gray. "The essence of thinking gray is this," he says, "don't form an opinion about an important matter until you've heard all the relevant facts and arguments." pg 8 This is an important tactic in conversation. So often do people make snap judgements. Wise decisions, however, come from listening to all the info and not assuming you know exactly what the other is going to say or the totality of what they believe.

May we continue to become good at conversing in a respectful manner, and may we honor God in our quest for greater learning.


Mark said...

I think it's not possible to really debate religion though. One can't debate dogma. Here is what I'm referring to Nick...

Why debate dogma?

Mark said...

Sorry about his in your face style. He's ranting against moderate atheists as well.

Nick said...

Hi Mark,

The video didn't bother me. Guys like that are a big part of the reason atheists are seen as angry.

He didn't really make many good points, and was arguing something it seemed he knew little about.

And you certainly can debate religion. You can talk about historicity and the holy books and the rational of the philosophy etc. Certainly some who you tried to debate it with would be idiots and it would be futile, but that is true when debating/discussing everythig.

Mark said...

Well, I liked what he had to say about blasphemy.

"And you certainly can debate religion. You can talk about historicity..."

I don't know Nick. I've tried. It always boils down to debating someone's faith instead of debating history and where's the debate there?

Anonymous said...

Hi there fellas

Its hard to debate something as controversial as religion since there are so many different point of views. Some say that Jesus is the way and others say that Muhammed.I didnt see the video. I guess that my point is that you cant really talk to people about it because of what Mark said, " It always boils down to debating someones faith".

Josh B.
P.S. Lets get together soon Nick. :)