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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

changing our minds...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A key part of the ethos of Spirited Exchanges is that it's ok to change your mind, even during a discussion! If we're all journeying in our relationship with Christ, growing to know him better, then it's likely... no, it's inevitable... that at times we will discover that what we previously thought to be the truth is either incomplete and less than the truth or is actually wrong. It's at these times that we need to be able to swallow our pride and concede the argument - to say, "actually, I was wrong on that, now I think this"!

The trouble is, that we Christians (or whatever we call ourselves) are not very good at this! We tend to see changing our minds as a sign of weakness rather than a point of growth - the beginning of a slippery slope towards losing faith! Paul Fromont posts 'here' a link to a paper by Canon Joseph Cassidy, of St Chad's college Durham, in which he writes, "…Spiritual freedom is rather a measure of whether I'd be willing to change my mind if God required it of me. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, urged his companions to aim for 'indifference': though it is a bit of a misnomer, in his terms indifference is a quest for equilibrium, a desire to be inclined to one option or another solely because it is closer to God's will for us. In other words it is a desire to be swayed by nothing other than God's will."

This reminds me of a conversation I was having with a friend last week in which we discussed the problem of power and intransigence in the church and compared it to the frequent cases in the Bible of God jumping out of the boxes that people had put him in. Perhaps the most classic case of this is Peter's vision in Acts 10, where God essentially instructs Peter to disobey the Word of God (not an easy one to reconcile with any notion of scriptural infallibility). Peter's obedience to God's will in this case opened up the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles for the first time.

And so, I wonder... what does the Church need to change it's mind over in order to be obedient to God's will and the missio dei in today's world? What do I have to change my mind over? What boxes have we constructed that we still only expect God to work in and through? Would we be willing to entertain the possibility that this is God's activity if it didn't fit those particular frameworks. I guess Peter could have easily concluded that his vision was 'demonic' once he 'weighed it' against his scriptures. Thank God he didn't!

Another friend of mine once told me that he felt 'called' by God to be a Bishop in the church, but not remotely called to be a vicar (or equivalent). Is he wrong? Is he power mad? Or is our system wrong that sets bishops in some kind of hierarchical arrangement? After all, isn't a bishop simply a member of the community of faith (the Church) with a specific ministry - no more important and no less important than any other member of this community? Why can't someone be called to this specific ministry without a call to other ministries first?

Don't get me wrong... I'm not overly hung up on this one. I guess it just may illustrate one such example of a box we may have put God in that he needs to spring up from and out of. I'm sure there are many more. Suggestions on a blog comment to....

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:05 AM


I enjoyed your comments, perhaps because I felt like I have been echoing them in my journal of late. About six weeks ago I wrote that God doesn't fit neatly into a box for us. Rather, we tend to stuff ourselves into our self-constructed "god" box, and then assume that only people shaped like ourselves are believing truth.

commented by Blogger janible, 1:21 AM  

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