February 16, 2011

Apprenticed to a Truth-Seeking Community

In doing some research for my dissertation I am studying quantum physics and its influence on theology and the church. I came across a quote today by John Polkinghorne (a scientist and christian) regarding the knowing of truth--Polkinghorne was referencing a philosopher, Polyani, and he summarized the comments saying:
"The method of science has to be learned through apprenticeship to the practice of a truth-seeking community, rather than by a manual of technique."
This caught my attention.  Interchange "science" with "faith".

The method of faith has to be learned through apprenticeship of a truth-seeking community, rather than by a manual of technique.

Faith is a method to a large extent.  It is feeling, yes, belief, yes...but it also the methodical practice of believing.  And faith is best developed through apprenticeship to a truth-seeking community rather than a manual of what to believe.

Last week our campus had a wave of division sweep over it as many raised issue with teaching that was considered anti-biblical.  There is much to be said and discussed about the theology and biblical interpretation and context of what was presented. That's for another post.

Instead, how do we learn faith?  Isn't it in the midst of a Truth-seeking community?  Don't scientists spend their lives questing for truth?  We can learn from the scientific community that works out their understandings in community instead of referring to a scientific doctrinal statement.

I think that doctrine is good and important.  Orthodoxy is necessary for orthopraxy. It matters what we believe and why because it effects how we live. But when things come upon us that stretch us and call our faith and belief into question, it isn't a doctrinal statement that I go looking for.  Give me a truth-seeking community that wrestles together with what is true and what is not.  And a truth-seeking community that is living out their statement of belief in flesh-and-blood real life terms. A community that is willing to wrestle, to listen, to push one another, and to come to the table together to dissent and question and probe.  Doctrinal statements certainly help us identify heresy and orthodoxy, but it's best (or perhaps only) in the context of real people doing real spiritual work together.

It is easier work to say: "this is wrong, it's outside of the manual of faith" than it is to say, "in our relationship with Christ, scripture and each other, let's reason this out together".  Relationship is always more difficult that propositions.   I want to be apprenticed to a community of people that do the hard work.
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