Author: Jon Hirst
Category: Truth and Pluralism
In Tom Steffen’s book "Reconnecting God’s Story to Ministry," he shares about the "blinders" that we can have when our worldview shapes our theology.
"Worldviews influence the development of theological categories of convenience; they also automatically create blinders to other themes of the Storybook. All theologies are local theologies, but Western theologies tend to conceive of themselves as containing the fullness of the truth. In fact, many Westerners don’t believe that culture impacts ones’s questions and interpretations of theology. They argue that one is able to remain cultureless while interpreting Scripture." (pg 87)
This idea of blinders is a significant one. Each worldview has a truth lens, as we talk about in our book, and many times those who hold a certain worldview believe that their understanding of truth is the only acceptable way to view it.
Tom does a wonderful job here jolting us out of that understanding and daring us to think that there could be more than one way to view something as deep and intricate as theology - the study of God. Paul Borthwick described this so well in the introduction to our book when he speaks of an encounter with an Ethiopian Christian and their disagreement. Here is what Paul said,
"We disagreed, but as we walked towards our next meeting, he (the Ethiopian believer) turned and said, "We must have these conversations, for if we do not, we will each end up with our own village God." (pg 4, Through the River)
That is powerful! Because many of us have the tendency to focus on our own beliefs and understandings of truth as the only way to view the world, we become isolated and we make God as small as our understanding and our reality. God is much bigger than a village, but for our comfort and security we confine Him to a space that we understand.
Now the opposite is no option either. Many people swing open the gates of their village and say that God is whatever you want Him to be. This is the prevalent way of viewing truth in our culture today. And those who have a village God fight it with all their might. But the tide is too strong. Why would you ever believe that God is as small as a village when you could set God free to be whatever anyone wants?
So that is where we (and Dr. Paul Hiebert) present a third way. We call it "the truth you know and the truth you are learning." In our book we share how those who have liberated their village God and have now found that a God without any absolutes is no God at all, have another truth lens to consider.
This truth lens we share as an third way is simply that there are absolute truths that we have identified throughout Christian history and can be confirmed within our setting. These are the undeniable truths of the faith. But there is also a huge amount of truth about God that we have not yet understood. That "truth we are learning" is slowly uncovered through our experience with God, through other cultures and through the unfolding of history. Slowly God is revealing more and more of Himself as we engage with other believers and humbly learn together in community.
So what truth lens do you have? Do you believe that all truth is knowable and that your village represents all of what God is? Do you believe that God is everything to all people and that personal experience defines who God is? Or do you believe that there is truth we can know and truth we are learning in community?
What you believe about truth matters? It colors your faith, your relationships and your outreach. Pray about it and share where you are in your journey of truth.