Figuring Out Stuff

March 16, 2018

In a typical week at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I'll go to the Protestant chapel service on Sunday afternoon, the Mormon service on Monday evening, the Buddhist meditation service on Thursday afternoon, and the Catholic Mass on Friday afternoon. There's no way any human, even me, needs this much church. But there's nothing cheaper for me right now than time, even if most everything else is essentially free, thanks to the American taxpayers.

 

Everyone, at some point in his/her life (hopefully always) is on a quest for truth. That search is at the heart of all religions which attempt to explain 3 existential questions--who we are, why we are here, and where we are going. The specific answers to those questions are in many ways impacted by the language and context by which we frame those questions. Let's face it, our beginning point of reference is impacted by history, culture, and science. We can't help that, but we can keep asking the important questions.

 

I recently read a transcript of an address given in 2016 by Michael Goodman when he was an Associate Professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. Goodman told his student audience there are 3 crucial steps in any quest for truth. 


These steps are--
     1. Become a seeker--do not fear questions
     2. Love and respect all, regardless of whether we agree with their conclusions
     3. Learn and share the vital principles and practices for knowing truth

 

With regard to practices for knowing truth, Goodman used the metaphor of a 3 legged stool. We know a stool with only 2 legs is unstable, but better than a stool with a single leg, which is treacherous. Obviously a good stool requires all 3 legs to function properly. Similarly, he suggests 3 methods which we should use to discover and live by truth. We must use them all, as each, on its own, is incomplete and can be more harmful than helpful. 

 

These 3 methods are--
     1. Rely on our best logic and reasoning. Sound reason eventually leads to faith and helps avoid unreasonable ideas that cause us to doubt our faith. Beware of authoritarianism and rationalism.
     2. Rely on our lived experiences. Be utilitarian and pragmatic. The only way we can deepen our knowledge beyond mere philosophy is to be willing to live it. In living it, we also sometimes get to experience the consequences of our worst thinking. But we can still calmly abide in all our experiences while learning and growing.
     3. Rely on God's revelation. This is what I would call God's revealing Holy Spirit--the "still small voice" that lives within us. It's part of us, our True Self.  Jesus claimed to be "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." That means He is not simply the Truth. He is also the means through which we obtain the Truth.

 

While the language is slightly different, Goodman's message is very similar to Franciscan teachings within the Catholic church and Buddhist practices on achieving enlightenment. As a Recovering Baptist, I've learned that other religious traditions offer a broader perspective into my faith, often providing insight and deeper expressions and practices than I have now. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised by this, but I am. 

 

So, maybe I do need all this church after all.

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones