Eddie Fox, Candler's Conundrum and the Role of Ambiguity in Theological Education



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Decent points, but...

What is often infuriating about both Methodists and liberals is our ability to see both sides of things, or more than two sides, and a hesitancy to take a bold stand lest we offend some. And yet, I think your scriptural examples are by and large hyperbolic.

I like the saying "Honor the man who is seeking the truth; beware of he who says he has found it" or some variation, I think often attributed to Lao Tse or somesuch.

What I'm thinking of was what I encountered when I participated on a right-wing Christianist message board; after I was banned for not being politically correct, one member posted that she prayed I "will find the Truth". She did not mean at all the Truth of the Gospels and the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob: she meant the "truth" of right-wing political correctness, of removing children of LGBT parents, of slut-shaming birth control advocates, and of abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.

While I am sure that is not what you are advocating, what you have written here could easily be employed to support it.

Oh, and while your movie analogy is dead on but also quite classist, Bruce Springsteen, ambiguous? Springsteen is at best an overrated superstar beloved of mellow liberals who've never hear of Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones, Public Enemy, Candye Kane, Doug Sahm, and The Reverend Horton Heat, and who'd be afraid to go to the parts of town where the clubs they played in are located. His "ambiguity" is what makes him a middle class hero; like ice cream, he's soft and sweet. Springsteen the man is of course a tireless advocate for social justice, but Springsteen the performer and songwriter is at best middlebrow and less deserving of superstardom than a risk-taker like Madonna or his homegirl Patti Smith.

George Nixon Shuler more than 8 years ago

Ambiguity within assurance

We need ambiguity within our assurance.
Jesus's first words about the in-breaking of the Realm of God do not need to change. The ambiguity lies in asking "What is the proper response to the message? What does repentance really look like?" Jesus is indeed "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," but how may I best follow him? Is the Way to be found in Methodism or in Orthodoxy? Peter, James, John, and others may know that they carried "a message with universal import and eternal significance"--I know that of myself, too. But I hope they also knew that there was more than one right way of conveying that message. More than one right way brings ambiguity within our assurance.
There may be a fundamental differences between people, so that some faithful Christians need to emphasize ambiguity and others need to emphasize assurance, and still others need to emphasize one over the other depending on the context.
I myself am amazed at the assurance I have of the love of God for me and for all Creation, conveyed to me in many ways, verbal and nonverbal. I am also amazed at the ambiguity of words and language, the variants in holy manuscripts, and the varieties of testimonies I encounter. The ambiguity keeps me humble. The assurance makes me bold. Let's not deprecate either pole of our hermeneutic universe.
There is ambiguity within our assurance, and there is assurance within our ambiguities.

Tim Riss more than 8 years ago