Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lion-Tamers Wanted

Ideas are dangerous. And as G. K. Chesterton points out, ideas are most dangerous to the person who is unfamiliar with them. Such a people is liable to pick up the first idea they are exposed to and take it to an extreme. Chesterton pictures the person who is familiar with ideas as a lion-tamer who makes their way among various competing ideas and is not driven to extremes by any one of them. I think the same thing is true of emotions. Emotions are dangerous. But they are most dangerous to the person who is unfamiliar with them and who gets carried away by any feeling they happen to encounter. The same thing may be said for rules. I am convinced that what we need in the Christian church is more lion-tamers. People who are unlikely to be blown off course by some extreme, because they understand the territory. And who can help others gain perspective on the issues involved.

Now one of the problems we face in the Christian church today is an unwillingness to let people think for themselves. We are afraid if we do so they will reach the wrong conclusions. There is a real danger here. But the idea we can preserve people's faith by sheltering them from contrary ideas or feelings has long ago become unworkable, if it ever was workable. And there is no way that we can avoid people having their faith challenged. To not prepare them for it is to set them up for the first person who challenges their faith. It is better to have them hear the issues from us, so at least they can hear both sides. Being challenged is a way to grow faith. But we all have to make our own choices. If someone's faith is challenged, they may choose to desert it and walk away. But I frankly I have to ask, if a faith evaporates when it is challenged, how much of a real faith was it in the first place? It is the faith that has faced challenges and has come through that is prepared to stand for Christ in every circumstance.

But there is also a problem that we have so nailed down every detail of belief that we do not dare let people think for themselves, I am not convinced this is a good thing. I would rather a person disagreed with me on details but understood why they held their view, then someone simply following what I told them. And it is only those with general familiarity with a broad number of positions who can have a firm understanding of why they hold what they hold. And it is only with broader experience that people can become lion-tamers. Those who can deal with ideas, emotions, and rules, and put them all in perspective.

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