In my Orson Scott Card posting, SocietyVs had some great points about belief. He asserted that mere belief is almost pointless; it is the resulting action that counts. If a belief has no practical impact (i.e. it doesn't cause you to love your neighbor, or feed the poor) then he now places it in the category of "non-belief".
I resonate with that, because I was brought up in a Faith community that was all about having the "correct" beliefs lined up; but had little impact on those around us.
I forget what it is like to be in those circles, but I had a reminder today. I keep a channel on my reader open to Mormon Coffee. I rarely see eye to eye with these folks, but it can be an interesting read. Today their post brought home again how, to some Christians, it is all about the right checklist. Here is a passage from today's post. The blog author is responding to a question about how to share your faith with a Mormon without being offensive.
"In that kind of situation I think the best thing you can do is start asking simple questions. “What do you believe about the afterlife?” “What do you believe about the nature of God?” “What do you believe about sin and salvation?” “Do you believe your sins are forgiven?” “Do you have an assurance of eternal life?” You can read the full article here.
This is my opinion, and feel free to chime in, but I think a more effective mode of discourse is for the two people to ask questions together. In the above example, the questioner has the answer and the listener is being led (or coerced) down a given path to a set result.
Hans-Georg Gadamer argued that conversations that do not contain the element of surprise are not really conversations at all. When we begin a truly open dialogue, he said, we let go of the destination; we are not sure where we will be when we are finished. If one party is in control, then no exchange is taking place.
It would seem to me that if you are going to truly converse with someone, then the question must be self-reflective at the same time it is asked. Therefore, instead of asking questions intended to lead or pin someone, might I suggest these questions:
- Does my love for God cause me to love those around me, regardless of religious status, more or less?
- Does my faith cause me to become irritated with those who do not share my views?
- Has my faith caused my associations with those not in my faith to broaden or shrink over the years?
- Are my studies of scripture challenging any of my imparted views of justice, mercy, and kindness?
Evangelicals are so caught up with what people believe. If we want to change the world, we have to put away our formulas.
It is for freedom's sake that Christ has set you free!