Why it’s (not) important what you believe

Evangelical Liberal says:

“At this point the deep self with its prejudices, preferences and preconceptions – its underlying, unconscious belief system – is challenged to the core, and a new deep-level paradigm is offered which has the power to shift the person’s entire way of seeing and thinking and relating.

“But this does not generally come about from accepting a set of beliefs about God or Christianity. Rather the set of beliefs follow on from the encounter which brings about the internal paradigm shift.”

The Evangelical Liberal

Writing this blog I get to interact with a lot of people with widely differing beliefs – ranging from straight-down-the-line evangelicals to deists, agnostics, atheists and even the occasional pagan, with pretty much every other shade of belief and unbelief in between.

While I occasionally feel uncomfortable with some of the views and ideas expressed by those who take the trouble to comment, and I sometimes disagree with them quite strongly, I welcome this diversity. I think it’s healthy to engage with people who think and believe differently from yourself.

Not too long ago I’d have felt obliged to ‘correct’ views which seemed too heretical to me, out of concern for the safety of the thinker’s soul. These days though, it’s equally likely to be me who’s straying off the straight path of orthodoxy. And while I still challenge theologies I disagree with, that’s not generally because I fear for…

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11 Responses to Why it’s (not) important what you believe

  1. sheila0405 says:

    Excellent post. I agree with the author. Mental assent is far different from an inner way of perception and reactions. Encountering truth previously unknown can lead to a radically changed life. We must always be open to learning new things.

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  2. Chas says:

    Tim, I have replied to this in Harvey’s blog, but it relates to your post there.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Yes, I read your comment Chas and it was very interesting. Do you belong to a Pentecostal denomination? I did for quite awhile: Church of God and Assemblies of God. Though I no longer practice speaking in tongues, I don’t reject the practice.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, the churches to which I went were not under Pentecostal denominations: there was no insistence on being able to speak in tongues, although it occurred occasionally, along with interpretation. It is sad that you no longer feel inclined to either speak in tongues, or interpret, because both of them are God speaking through us, and interpretation gives a direct message to those for whom it has been sent.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas I do not deny this possibility, but such messages are very subjective and should be taken with great care and judgment.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, when you interpreted tongues, in what way did you find the message was in danger of being subjective? When I have talked to a person who first spoke in tongues and then gave the interpretation, she said that she was very careful to relay exactly the words that she was given, but I took that to mean that, because she realized that they were the very words of God, she needed to respect them by giving them exactly as she received them. (In a separate conversation about how she hears God, when He speaks to her, she said that she heard God as an ‘inner voice.’) Also of relevance is an astonishing conversation that I witnessed between two friends of mine (one from within the church, and the other who was at the service as my guest) after the friend from within this church had given a prophecy to the church. After the service had ended, my second friend asked him: ‘why didn’t you give that last part (showing that he had heard the same words from God) and my first friend said that he hadn’t given it because he didn’t know whether it might have come from him, not God.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, in both cases when I interpreted tongues, I had a strong feeling of the message while the tongues were being spoken; they were not word-for-word because I felt meanings–not words.

            The first case was in a large Assemblies church and no one, including the experienced pastor, seemed to question the interpretation.

            The second case was in a smaller Assembly of about 125. When the tongues were spoken, I felt the meaning, but I didn’t interpret it since someone else, who was a frequent interpreter, responded first. However, it was nothing like what I understood the message to be, so I delivered an alternative interpretation. Interestingly, the pastor later told me how the ‘prophecy’ affected him. He did not see it as an interpretation of the tongues, so he apparently accepted both ‘interpretations’ as valid.

            I doubt that a word-for-word interpretation is normal, because so many interpretations I have heard, in various Pentecostal denominations, sound a lot like Isaiah, Jeremiah, or something, so they are influenced by the speakers familiarity of the ‘Thus saith the Lord’ biblical prophets–in KJV language. I am also reminded of the high-school girl who spoke when some of her schoolmates visited her church; it was a message for her friends that included, ‘You are being snotty to my servant.’

            Particularly, I don’t accept that God reveals new truths or validates doctrinal interpretations using interpretations, prophecies, or visions. Anyone can say anything, and there is no way to distinguish such things. It is very subjective.

            On the other hand, often when I am dealing with an issue I receive a sudden insight that seems so perfect that I don’t know how I never saw it before; it is like a revelation. However, I do not think this is supernatural; this is how people think–it is a mental process. It certainly does not give my insights any kind of authority.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, since I have never been required to interpret tongues, I find your answer fascinating and meaningful – feeling the meanings, rather than receiving the words. This leaves you free to put those meanings into your own words, yet transmitting the meaning to the one for whom the interpretation was sent. I rather suspect that the first interpretation given to the second example that you quote was a false interpretation, coming from that person’s mind, not God’s. Like you, I too suspect that many ‘interpretations’ and prophecies really are that person’s own words, and I can see why you are suspicious of messages coming from these sources. However, you clearly have the gift of interpretation of tongues in its truest form (it has suddenly struck me that this is why the word used is interpretation not translation, because you are giving the meaning, not a translation of the words), so why let those who are giving their own words discourage you from using the gift that God has entrusted to you.

            The only way to distinguish between words truly from God and those coming from man is to ask God to give us discernment.

            I believe that your sudden insights are truly coming from God, as I also receive them and treasure them.

            In regard to your statement: ‘Particularly, I don’t accept that God reveals new truths or validates doctrinal interpretations using interpretations, prophecies, or visions,’ I have no reason to disagree with this. Many new truths have been shown to me through insights. I have received two contrasting forms of vision. One form, received only twice, has been a very clear, highly detailed vision; the other form has been what I call a ‘thumbnail sketch’ that conveys only enough detail for me to know what it is and begin to think about it prior to receiving insights.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, the primary reason I don’t participate in interpretation is simply because I no longer attend a church where tongues and interpretations are practiced. If I did attend such a church, perhaps I would interpret if I were impressed to do so.

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        • consultgtf says:

          There is no speak in tongues, as the original disciples were only blessed this, that too they were from different regions with different culture and speaking different languages but, all could understand what the disciples were preaching, this was talking in tongues!
          not shouting new language which none in the group can interpret.
          Read http://www.bible.ca/su-tongues-today.htm

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          • Chas says:

            consultgtf, you can be assured that speaking in tongues exists, in fact, it is God speaking through us. It does not have to be shouted, it can be whispered, spoken softly, or spoken loudly. What is claimed to be tongues in certain places in the Bible was not truly tongues, because those who wrote about it neither experienced it, nor understand it.

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