A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Friday, January 13, 2006

James Berkley, with Presbyterian Action, a conservative pressure group, is perplexed that some in the church are ok with or even celebrate a church which can allow a wide range of differences. Is it not the case that some convictions are so deep seated that it is intolerable that the other view is allowed a forum in the same body?

It is the case, that I'd like my views to win out and have majority support, in this case with gay and lesbian inclusion. And likewise so would Jim Berkley and his opposition to such a thing. But it doesn't follow that I want to create coercive mechanisms within the church to mandate uniformity on this issue. And I can still celebrate a church which allows a diversity of viewpoints.

But if I think the other side is wrong, how can this be? I'd appeal to John Stuart Mill's argument here. It may be, and I suspect most of the time this is the case, that both sides are partially right and partially wrong. In which case, opposition can be the where people's views are refined, where they have to take account of other voices.

It could be that one side is right and it would be a grave mistake to silence such a position. It may be that such a side is wrong, but nonetheless one needs to hear folks who disagree to understand why it is that one holds the views they hold. Even if I believe I'm 100% right, I don't want to silence others and to do so would be to assume an infallibility I and no one else has.

Two other arguments that I don't believe are from Mill. I don't want to create the sort of church that can mandate uniformity on one issue because once it's created, if the church is ever wrong on future issues there is no place for oppositional voices to hold the church to account. The scientific method has peer review, the question is: what does the church have to check our claims and practices?

One place this can happen is through oppositional voices within the church that can raise questions and doubts. Shut that off and you've created an insulated body. And lastly, some of us believe that God is best able to challenge us and remind us not to place ultimacy in our own ideas through the interactions of other people. So to silence them, in that sense, is to cut off the possibilites of God having a say.


At 9:28 AM , Anonymous Rich D'Ippolito, Pittsburgh said...

You state:

"The scientific method has peer review, the question is: what does the church have to check our claims and practices?"

Uh, how about the Bible?

At 10:06 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

That can work but if it's only one group of folks with only one kind of reading, the same lack of other perspective remains.


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