how much judging can we really do?

July 7, 2008

I am all over the place on this topic. I have seen many people in the blogosphere roast every last quotation of Rob Bell – dissecting what they believe he MUST mean when he says things, and on the other side I was criticized for mocking the Universal Life Church over at my internet junk blog.

Well, here are my thoughts (why else would you be here?):

1. I am a big fan of giving people the benefit of the doubt. I mean, to a fault. If I were an atractive girl, I would totally always go back to the jerk who cheated on me.  When it comes to theological writing, I feel like we should really assume that there is something good that we could extract from what people write. Romans 1 seems to suggests that everyone has a generic understanding of God hard-wired into them, and I think that can provide some insight. This, unfortunately, leads me to…

2. Human writers are going to be, in some way, wrong. Some, much more than others (see: my potshots at the ULC) but no one has everything nailed down. Not only does the Bible affirm that we have the image of God, but we also, deep down, are crappy people. Until Jesus returns in glory, we are all going to do some egregiously bad things. We might not all be arsonists and murderers, but that doesn’t mean we won’t yell at the McDonald’s worker for no good reason every now and again. That badness that plagues us affects everything, including our understanding of God.

So, how much judging can one really do? On one hand, you should really be kind and assume that everyone is really trying to speak truth about God. On the other hand, people suck and we better watch out because there is bound to be some sort of lie just waiting to infect my already sin plagued psyche.

Here is my proposal. And by my proposal, I mean a proposal already stated somewhere else that I like. Everything really should go through the same filter – whether it is my best friend or the kid who beat me up in elementary school, everyone deserves to be heard out for what they have to say. When you come to any piece of media (books, video, blog-o-net) with a personal vendetta against the author, you are just setting yourself up to miss something good. But to remain in accordance with point 2, we really have to scrutinize what we intake. There is lots of crap out there, and I ought not just take everything in. Some stuff is really wrong.

For example – the universal life church website offers their online absolution. They confirm the idea that it is good to try and lead a good life. I can read this and reaffirm the fact that my faith is not about thinking right things alone, but about also acting on those convictions. They also affirm forgiving others, which is something that Jesus commands us to do.

But then we get to the part where my filter kicks in. The lack of mention of Christ on their ‘Instant Absolution’ site destroys the idea of forgiveness. We can’t just forgive ourselves, and a javascript form just doesn’t have the authority to proclaim that I am forgiven. No, that power belongs alone to God. And then it goes on from there.

The point is this: in Philippians Paul talks about not caring the motive behind some preaching the gospel as long as Christ is preached. Since everyone has the ability to say something true, we should give them a chance. But, since everyone makes more mistakes than not, we shouldn’t ingest what they say without thinking.

P.S. ULC offers a ‘Doctor of the Universe’ diploma. If I ever meet someone with said credentials, I refuse to refer to them with the title ‘doctor.’ Just not gonna do it.

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