Wednesday, November 14, 2012

finding the finest

Doing serious research has taught be a significant life-skill.

If I want my own argument to be robust, then as I encounter those views which I oppose it is wise to paint them in their best light, not their worst light. It is about taking time to find the finest exponents of the views with which I disagree and trying to engage with them. Stereotypes and cheap-shots be damned.



This fine principle finds its way into all sorts of areas of life. Here are three examples.

In the world of personal relationships, it is about being as generous as we can for as long as possible with those with whom we are in conflict. Don't jump to conclusions. Think the best of them until there is clear evidence to think otherwise.

In the squabbles over labels, it is a graveyard out there. Hasty and unfair judgements, repeated again and again, has led to the burial of many a word. In this New Zealand Christian context, for example, I've pretty much given up on using words which once meant so much to me: 'exposition' and 'evangelical'. So pummelled have they been by being painted in their worst light, any resurrection seems well nigh impossible.

But maybe in our current global context, the most important application of finding the finest comes in the world of inter-religious dialogue.

For example, take the vexed issue of Christian:Muslim relationships. This comes into focus again for me with the South African cricket team in action. Hashim Amla comes across as one impressive individual. He appears to be so calm and disciplined, so quiet and compassionate. When I think of what it means to be a Muslim, is not making Amla my starting point, rather than the Taleban, a more useful way to proceed? That is what I am trying to do. Amla seems to adorn his faith so well. Given my own experience of the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus made real to me by his Spirit, it is not likely that I will ever find Amla's witness to be persuasive - but by considering it, I am pushed to live a brand of Christian faith that is more authentic, vibrant and compelling.

[And, of course, it works the other way. An understanding of Christianity which is shaped by the Crusades, as the NZ education system and much of the world still seems intent on doing, is irresponsible and poor history. They were 1000 years ago, for God's sake ... and they were not for God's sake really at all].

nice chatting - now I need to go into this day and try, in union with Christ and with the help of his Spirit, to be found as the finest Jesus-follower which I can possibly be.

Paul

2 comments:

Greg said...

Yes, Paul. This is such a good post and such a good point. For mine, I have found this principle to be of such use when interacting with liberal Christianity and Roman Catholics. Neither of them are my views, but viewing the best of them has taught me so much more than the charicaturing I grew up with ever did.

Paul Windsor said...

Yes, Greg - those are two other examples that come to mind, once you've mentioned them. The early days at Carey and being involved with ACTE, a consortium of colleges of diverse theological perspective, strengthened my own convictions - but also softened the way I related with people of those differing convictions.