Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Looking Not to Find

I got into a recent discussion about spiritual seeking. We agreed that seeking in general is what God would want us to do, rather than being satisfied. But I wasn't so sure it is the seeking God delights in.

We got into this discussion because there is a guy we both know who is on a spiritual quest. He goes to church in the Episcopal tradition right now. But he has tried other denominations, reads about different doctrinal perspectives and different religious books, and recently tried out Wiccanism. The people I talked to believed that his search is a good thing, but he shouldn't be in a leadership role at church. I generally agreed with that. But I also questioned the legitimacy of his search.

From my perspective searching involves discipline, rather than getting a little here and a little there. If I am in search of being a surgeon, I can read a few books and ask mechanics and lawyers their perspectives on surgical techniques. But I will never be a surgeon. Unless I find out what it takes to become a surgeon, and then pursuing that course, I am confusing effort with truth.
There was a woman who was looking for her keys. A man came by and asked, "What are you doing?"

She said, "I am looking for my keys. I dropped them way over there by the bushes."

The man was puzzled. "Why are you looking over here?"

She responds, "Oh. The light is much better over here."

Do you see the problem? I encounter people all the time who say they are spiritually seeking, or seeking the existence of God. Some even say they are seeking the right religion. Is that really true?

Many times the real intent is find something that makes us feel good. But who looks for the truth? I mean, really looks. According to Scripture, the problem with mankind is that nobody is seeking. (Romans 3:3-19) I believe this is true. We use the idea of seeking as a smoke screen to help us feel important and purposeful. But we are really avoiding the hard answers. In essence, we are looking not to find.

So, it is much easier to be intellectual inquirers, transcend to another plain of existence, follow some guru, or just find our goal in the act of pursuit itself. But the goal of any search is to find. In our culture, it is sometimes seen as arrogant or wrong to actually find answers to your questions. It seems so shallow compared to being a doubter, or enjoying the journey of discovery. Finding what you are looking for seems so dogmatic. But the nature of truth is, well, dogmatic.

Monday, April 17, 2006

How Do We Know What We Know?

We can know something through observation, experience, and revelation.

Observation is not just about seeing things, but also involves the interpretation of causes and effects. Following, there must be assumptions already present. For example, you observe that an apple falls to the ground each time you let it go. You may interpret that some physical laws are at work that cause this to happen. But you must have the assumption that physical laws are unchanging (thus they are called laws). If physical phenomenon are not unchanging, we can not discover anything. Therefore, we can not know anything.

But experience confirms some of our assumptions. In the above example, our experience of letting the apple drop multiple times can confirm that it is likely to happen an infinite number of times, given the same circumstances. So with experience and observation working together, we begin to know something about our world.

But we really don't have a point of reference for our assumptions until it is revealed to us. In other words, if we are either taught or shown how the world works and what is true, we have a point of departure to make discoveries. So, we actually live our lives based on revelation.

Therefore, assumptions about our universe are derived through the combination of observation, experience, and revelation.

Unlike the Enlightenment movement, which said that the experience and observation of men bring us truth, God would say that truth from Him puts into context our experience and observation so that we can discover truth. Thus, knowledge of God (or rather revelation from God about God) is the beginning of all knowledge. We can not know anything without this. In fact, if we attempt to deny this, our understanding will become more and more absurd as time goes by.

Why is this distinction important? It is important because the average citizen is bombarded with so-called knowledge everyday. This knowledge is derived from the opinions of men, and opposing ideas falsely called knowledge. Sometimes this "knowledge" is used to manipulate people's thinking, even Christian's, if that were possible. So discernment is of even greater importance today in our fast-paced, information-saturated culture.

If we can first understand how knowledge is really derived, we can begin to evaluate what we hear. Perhaps we can grow up in our ability to discern.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Small Church Disease

About a month ago, Barna announced some new findings. It seems that many church leaders may be good at motivating people (92%), but really struggle with having any sort of good strategy when it comes to ministry, or goals. (Only about 14% have any strategic mindset.)

I am not surprised when Barna mentioned the struggle small churches (less than 100 people) particularly tend to have:
[We found] some interesting correlations between the absence of a Strategic leader and the condition of a local church. First, churches without a pastor, staff member or key elder in a recognized strategic leader position tend to remain numerically small. Such churches average fewer than 100 adults in weekly attendance. Second, these are churches that are significantly behind the curve in adopting new approaches to ministry. ...That condition is partly a result of the budget limitations attributable to limited attendance, but also relates to the narrower thinking common to such ministries.

He goes on the express the problems of many churches to recognize strategic leaders in their midst, and how that hurts the church. Why is that? Why is strategy seen as best, an issue of administration, or at worst a sinful attitude or lack of faith.