Point of View

Continuing the conversation from the last post about dealing with differences in relationship and attempting to find unity in diversity…

This example helps me when I find myself in situations with people who see things differently than I do.

If a friend and I were standing on different sides of the corner of a building, even if we could see each other, we would not necessarily be able to see all of the same things. For example, if I could see a tree that my friend couldn’t see from where she is standing, I would not get frustrated that she cannot see the tree. I would simply accept that positionally we are not seeing the same things.

There is often a tendency to place a value judgment on differences of perspective. However, I am not better than my friend or more enlightened because I see the tree, I am just standing in a different place.

Reading Ed Cyzewski’s new book, Coffeehouse Theology, helped me to realize that the tendency toward black and white thinking, the need to declare something either right or wrong, to get everyone on the same page is symptomatic of the influence of modernism in which most of us were raised. I will be reviewing Ed’s book soon. It is now availabe to order here.

It is helpful to remind myself that if someone has a different perspective, it is because they are not standing where I am standing. This keeps me from putting unrealistic expectations on them, gives me a better opportunity for unity, and reminds me that I need to listen to other perspectives in order to learn of the things that I cannot see from where I stand.

“Where we stand determines what we see.”

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28 thoughts on “Point of View

  1. It’d be interesting to get Ed’s thoughts on Bentley/Lakeland. I wonder if he’d think our concerns about Bentley’s theology, methodology, and the whole New Apostolic Reformation thing were simply symptoms of us all still thinking “modern”. ;)

  2. robby,
    I can’t speak for Ed, but there are certain areas where I am not capable of seeing gray. In fact, I am mostly still prone to black and white, but maybe more willing to allow others to exist peacefully in the gray zone.

    As an example, we have a friend who only recently stepped into the charismatic realm. He is enamored with it all. Everything is new and shiny. I certainly can’t expect him to see things from my jaded perspective. He will have to have his own experiences.

    As with many of my friends, telling them my concerns about these things will do nothing except harm the relationship. To be honest, I’m not sure if any of them will become post-charismatics. I’ve tried to imagine their response to your book.

    I don’t know how I always end up being a few degrees off of “normal”.

  3. do you find it difficult [I do], when you can see [and understand], someone’s perspective, because you have come from there – but they cannot, [and aren’t willing to], consider yours…and even feel you are deceived, etc?

    this has been happening lately.

    I know it’s possible to come over as a ‘know-it-all’ when you try to explain to someone that you understand, as you used to feel/believe that way too…[and you’re only doing it to answer their [initiated] questions – not because you initiate trying to ‘teach them’ something, or control or change]

    but even though you try to be sensitive it doesn’t stop it looking as if you are being a kill-joy know-it-all, or deceived etc.

    I know we have to examine ourselves, continually, for any holier than thou, or cleverer than thou, feelings/approach, but what if we have done all we can…is there not a sense that sometimes, the other person does not value continuing to be teachable?

  4. Robby, coming from the Evangelical fold, I’ve grown frustrated with the skepticism leveled at all things related to manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Do I approve of all things Lakeland? No. But somehow Evangelicals have generally (and I’m saying generally here) overlooked just how powerful the Holy Spirit can work in our lives and in our world. When Lakeland happened I sounded for it because I was reacting to the immediate skepticism of my own tribe. I have appreciated the caution of believers such as Grace who see the other side of this.

    A relative of mine, who comes out of charismatic circles, but isn’t immersed in it, shared the following about Lakeland, “Take the wine, but you don’t have to take the wineskin.” Bentley’s “emotional affair” with a staffer is proof enough that her take was on the money. God can still work, but the people and methods will always need to be scrutinized.

    I think it’s too narrow to blame “modern” thought on this lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit in Evangelical circles. I’m not sure what Medieval traditions were concerning the Spirit that led into the church of the 1500-1800’s and since Azusa happened at the twilight of the modern era, it’s just hard to say. I will say that it’s very likely the modern era that sent Evangelicals clinging to scripture as their foundation or starting point, which means they will always be suspicious of charismatics who claim a “prophetic word”. You’ll just see Evangelicals flipping through their pages to see if the Bible validates what they heard.

    All that to say, I think Grace is spot on with this post because Evangelicals and Charismatics need to learn from one another. Evangelicals need a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit actively working in their midst, while Charismatics need to be a bit more grounded in scripture. I’ve seen the extremes of Charismatics who use prophetic words to bully others, ascribing way too much authority to them, while Evangelicals have ignored words that would have been blessings. For example, I’ve been healed physically and given a prophetic word during a hard time of transition in my life. I still cling to that word today because I believe it was something God had for me, but I’m still checking that word with scripture.

    If anything, I’d say our issues with the Holy Spirit began in the Garden of Eden where our ancestors hid from God because of their sin.

  5. Great discussion everyone. I sure don’t have all of this figured out. I’m just trying to share how I maneuver through some of these things.

    smudge,
    Both difficult and helpful because I can relate to where they are at. I have to consider whether it is wise or helpful to share all of my views when I know there are differences.

    ed,
    Thanks for weighing in here. I enjoyed the parts of your book that emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit and the way that you shared how you allowed your beliefs about the Holy Spirit to be challenged in the ongoing process of developing theology.

    Your explanation of modernism was really helpful to me in recognizing the tendencies in myself and others to attempt to conform everyone to a universal truth. It hasn’t necessarily changed what I believe, but it changed my expectation for others to agree with me.

    I have strong opinions about many of the issues in the charismatic church, and I am fairly direct on my blog about where I stand on these things. I believe the need for the post-charismatic perspective within the church today is vital and was obvious during the Lakeland situation.

    With a tone that continually affirms the role of the Holy Spirit, Rob’s book Post-Charismatic addresses some of the inherent flaws in charismatic theology in a way that both disillusioned charismatics and evangelicals can understand. Perhaps that is what is most needed at this time, balanced voices who can clearly discern and explain the excess and error in a way that isn’t bombastic. There is a point in doing so where our statements are black and white.

    The issue for me isn’t necessarily whether my own beliefs are concrete, but how I respond to real people that I am in relationship with when I am aware of those differences. Ed, I found your book really helpful in that regard, always emphasizing the importance of love and unity.

  6. Great post. To follow your analogy, I am seeking how best to move my position intentionally, without going too far. I am also relying on others whose vantage I cannot have, without uncritically accepting everything. Finally, I am also careful not to always trust that I am understanding what I am seeing.

    That is, the big picture is far too grand to see from one perspective, so I need to intentionally explore, while recognizing this must be done carefully, as we can easily walk off the property, so to speak. We were not created to get the whole picture as individuals. We were created to discover truth together in the unity of the Spirit as His Body of many members. Finally, like looking with awe and appreciation upon a grand cathedral, I cannot begin to understand on immediate observation and experience, the complexity and grandeur of what I am looking at.

    Great post, Grace!

    Peace,
    Jamie

  7. Kingdom Grace,
    Great “series” on perspective.

    Amen to the Truth that we all “see” things differently, and this is what actually enables us to need one another in order to grow in understanding. God so created this way so that we can learn to see things from a different angle. I love how you describe this in terms of “positionally.”

    “…the need to declare something either right or wrong, to get everyone on the same page is symptomatic of the influence of modernism in which most of us were raised.” -Grace

    Sigh…so true. Black-&-White thinking is so pervasive in our culture, and I believe that quite honestly the teachings of institutional organized religion only seems to feed this destructive mindset.

    P.S. I love the picture you used above. :)

    Blessings,
    ~Amy :)
    http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

  8. This post, and the previous one (The Real Faces of Charismania), should be required reading for many a leader in the contemporary church. Too often we see our way as the “only” way, refusing to acknowledge that those who worship, baptize, or celebrate communion in a way different than us can truly love the Lord.

    Just yesterday I read John Wesley’s sermon “A Catholic Spirit”. It speaks directly to the greater point that is being made. Please know that, like Wesley and Grace, I am not condoning heresy or wrong thinking. I am merely agreeing that we must be careful in exalting our preferences and convictions to the level of absolutes. In most cases there is still more that binds us than separates us. A modern language version of Wesley’s “A Catholic Spirit” can be found at http://www.crivoice.org/cathspirit.html. Stay blessed.

  9. Grace,

    I think that one of the things about “speaking the truth in love” that many people don’t get is that just because something is true, it doesn’t mean that you must tell it to anyone and everyone at all times and in all circumstances.

    There is a time and place for speaking truth into the heart of another…but, as mentioned on the last post, the weight of the truth being carried must depend upon the strength of the relational bridge that exists between the one telling and the one hearing.

    When Jesus challenged those who had ears to hear, I think this is what he was doing. He was only willing to disclose much of what he had to say to those who wanted to stand behind the Messiah and look out through his eyes. I think leadership is about drawing people to want to see what you see, not twisting their heads off….

    The point about knowing the truth is not to be able to hold it over others…it is to be truly set free.

    …how much freedom can you stand?

  10. Fantastic post Grace!
    I also really like Ed’s comment on how charismatics and evangelicals need to learn from each other, kinda reminds me of one of Mike Pilivachi’s (the leader of the Soul Survivor movement here in the UK) comments, he says;

    “too much Word and you dry up, too much Spirit and you blow up!”

    Nick

  11. I also feel my personal perspectives are a mix of theory & practice no matter how adamant I am defending them or keeping them to myself.

    I am a product of much data input from various sources. Dependent really. I don’t know that I have a unique theological perspective though I do know my perspective is a synthesis of all that information.

    I hold some beliefs loosely, not even willing to defend them or share them often. Others I can get quite animated about even though I attempt to keep my rebuttals out of the personal attack area. Not that I succeed every time.

    And my experiences will indeed be different than other peoples’ but my experiences are what become the most ‘real’ in a sense. My conclusions or reactions may be wack, but those visceral experiences will give great weight to my perspective far longer than a theoretical discussion on a message board/blog.

    There is a delicate balance of first affirming someone’s perspectives/experiences yet not letting those selfsame perspectives/experiences become an artificial benchmark used to measure others against. Makes it a very subjective method of ‘getting along’ though…

    There are going to be many people that I do not agree with in principle, but I can still enjoy their company. There are going to be many people that I can find many areas of agreement, but I would prefer to avoid them at all costs. In this instance, behavior trumps beliefs & really the better barometer of a person’s personal convictions.

    I do not think mental ascent of good theology ever justifies the excuse of being unChristlike. But then what is sometimes considered offensive to one party not at all understood that way be the other.

    I am thinking there is no central ‘truth’ & how that is expressed in faith+practice. Theological discussion can get so raw at times it seems better to avoid other saints just to keep one’s sanity…

  12. Nick, I remember that phrase being quoted at Spring Harvest ’83…
    I think it goes further back than Mike P.
    As do R.T. Kendall and Paul Cain in their joint collaboration of the helful book ‘Word and Spirit, and the tapes of the conference of the same name at Westminster Chapel in about ’96, that me and my husband had to take turns in attending.
    The balance [marriage] of Word and Spirit has been a continual discussion through the ages I think.

  13. wish there was an edit on blogs [that’s why I favour phpbb forums]
    not ‘helful’ in the slightest…despite the nasty rumours about an old gentleman who I have been priviledged to correspond with.

  14. Ed, I appreciate your comments in response to my original comment.

    However, if I’m understanding the following quote correctly, and if I accept and practice the idea that: “the tendency toward black and white thinking, the need to declare something either right or wrong, to get everyone on the same page is symptomatic of the influence of modernism“, then it just makes sense that Bentley/Lakeland should never have be questioned or critiqued by anyone, any time.

    So all of us bloggers who dared to speak up would therefore be guilty of declaring something right or wrong, and by sounding a warning, we would be making judgments that would only prove that we’re hopelessly mired in modern thinking.

    Which, of course, would make us “wrong”, if we accept that modernity = bad.

    Am I making sense?

  15. Hey Robby,
    The quote is mine, and it doesn’t do justice to the ideas that Ed explained in the book. It actually isn’t what he said, but my reaction to what he said.

    The book helped me recognize the influence of modernism that plays into absolutism, certainy, and other dogmatic attitudes. We’ve all run across the extremes of this around the blogosphere.

    Ed was quite careful to stress that there are concrete essentials upon which we anchor our theology. He also actually represented the strengths and weaknesses of both modernism and postmodernism for the purpose of recognizing those cultural lenses when we encounter them without indicating that one was preferable over the other.

    Anyway, the poorly communicated quote is attributed to me, not Ed. Sorry I muddied the waters.

  16. jamie,
    I always enjoy your thoughts and the way that you express yourself. The community aspect of perspective is important and the humility to achieve that essential.

    amy,
    Understanding the importance of needing one another I think is what enables us to appreciate the differences we encounter in other believers.

    I enjoy finding pictures to illustrate my point, and I am particularly drawn to “black and white.” ;)

    pastor griffin,
    This is a great statement…

    “In most cases there is still more that binds us than separates us.”

    Exactly!
    Thanks for the link, I’ll be sure to check it out.

    Peggy,
    You’ve hit on a key point. At what point has our opinion or information been invited or requested? None of us want to be “truth bullies” who wait to pound their latest victim over the head with everything that they know.

    Nick and smudge,
    I have heard various teachings also about the balance of Word and Spirit, and I’ve also heard that particular quote although I can’t remember where.

    joseph,
    I think someone once said something about clanging symbols and “if I have not love.” That’s kind of the bottom line isn’t it.

  17. I”ve heard the “all spirit and no word we blow up, all word and no spirit we dry up, the spirit and the word we grow up” quote attributed to John Stott, but it may not be originally his either. :)

  18. Too lovely!!!!!

    where we stand determines what we see …

    I LOVE this thought!!! I think every now and then it’s a good idea to keep moving and not just stand (we might try and play King of the Castle!!) because then the view will continually evolve – I think it’s called emerging.

  19. I’ve been mulling over this post for days. One thing that keeps coming to me is that it is very difficult when you use to stand on the other side of the corner–the one you’ve left behind and your friends still occupy. They cannot see what you can since they’ve not yet rounded that corner, but you know exactly what they are seeing because you stood there yourself for so many years.

    I’ve found that I can stay friends with people who are still on that corner, but I have to accept that there will be real limitations in their ability to enter into my world because they cannot see what I now see. I don’t mean that as a superiority thing, it’s just the way things are. I think it puts a real limitation on the depth of the relationship, even though we can still hang out together, love each other, and converse about certain topics. It doesn’t mean that they don’t still have much to offer in our friendship, but it does mean that there will certain aspects of my life that they will just not be able to enter into because they cannot see what I now see, while I know what it is that they are seeing because I viewed it myself for so long.

    Thanks for the great thought-provoking post.

  20. mark,
    Agree! To keep moving is a good idea.

    Tracy,
    You explained that really well. I think we frequently find ourselves in situations where we have more understanding (memory) of the other person’s perspective than they might have of ours.

    That kind of ties in with the following post too. What do we do with our expectations of being understood by the other person or any expectations for them to turn the corner?

  21. Thanks Grace for the clarification.

    Robby, I would say in the case of Lakeland that there’s a need for a humble certainty. I used to think that it only mattered if I was standing for the truth. Christians are unfortunately notorious for this. However, there is a place to be humble, to listen to others, even if you are fairly certain you have the right angle.

    So in the case of Lakeland… I really appreciate the critique from post-charismatics. I could never offer that. However, I want to make sure we don’t brand the whole thing as false, because I have spoken with people who were blessed by it. I’m coming from the Evangelical camp that would be skeptical of anything with healing, deliverance, or any manifestation of the Holy Spirit. So I’m calling for caution and humility, not relativism.

    I hope you have a chance to give my book a read in the near future. I would be interested in your thoughts on it.

    By the way, I love “all spirit and no word we blow up, all word and no spirit we dry up, the spirit and the word we grow up.” That’s where I’m at. I’m just trying to figure out what that looks like practically.

  22. Ed,
    I would suggest that many of us who self-identify as post-charismatics had our BS detectors pinning with the Bent Lakeland extravaganza. We saw the usual suspects stepping up to the plate and went “been there, done that, recognize what’s operating.”

    Were there sincere Christians involved with Lakeland? No doubt. Was the Lakeland Revival false? Yes. And incredibly embarrassing as well.

    Sorry to be that categorical. Actually. No I’m not.

  23. Bill,
    I hear ya. I admit, I don’t benefit from the experience of seeing the usual suspects doing their thing. I suppose I just have a hard time labeling something as “false” since I know people who were blessed by it. I guess I just don’t know what exactly to do with it. The means and vessels seem to have had issues, but there wasn’t there some good that came out of it? Can we perhaps say it was deeply flawed, even if it wasn’t 100% false?

    It’s funny to find myself defending a group that I haven’t had too much exposure to outside of a few people I know, which is probably my greatest problem! I’m probably speaking up for those people rather than a whole movement. As I learn how to live in the Spirit this discussion has been really helpful.

  24. ed,
    I can relate to how you feel when there are people that you care about and respect involved in a movement being questioned. That was the point of my recent post, The Real Faces of Charismania.

    Many of the post-charismatics that I know had the “privilege” of being involved in leadership in charismatic circles and thus the opportunity to witness behind-the-scenes manipulation that many charismatics in the pew never see. Perhaps our cynicism meters are touchier than most, but likewise our awareness is also heightened to recognize patterns of error.

    Concerning Lakeland specifically, my opinion is that it was a prime example of error in motives, methods, and mentalities. I believe that people were genuinely blessed because God is good and faithful. However, I don’t believe we can use that as an excuse to overlook error. (Brad Sargent is taking an indepth look at this which might interest you.)

    Post-charismatics speak out of a genuine love and concern for the gifts and empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and the church. It is this concern which drives the need to address the extremes and abuses which lead to hurt, abuse, and ultimately disdain for the things of the Spirit.

    Robbymac’s book Post-Charismatic? addresses these errors in such a balanced and fair way that I am hopeful it will be heard by charismatics and by those interested in the life of the Spirit but concerned about the extremes.

    The charismatic crowd might be a harder audience to capture because many of them still enjoy and embrace their extremes, and they often don’t realize that they could benefit from a broader perspective than their specific theological circle.

    I don’t mean to be hypocritical. I’ve been very dogmatic in the posts I’ve made on my blog over the last couple months concerning these issues. However, I don’t approach my charismatic friends with that same certainty. In that situation, for me, relationship trumps opinion, and when necessary to prevent hurt feelings, I keep my opinions to myself.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion and for sharing your perspective.

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