Different Jims (in which I argue against myself)

In an earlier post, I made a big deal about how Wheaton was wrong about putting Dr. Hawkins on administrative leave.  I still think they were wrong. But, it’s not a simple issue.

“It is!” you might be saying to yourself.  “You’re just an academic who makes a simple issue not simple.”  Which might be true, but not in this case.  I started studying theology because people told me simple issues were simple and a lot of issues weren’t simple at all.

Some issues are simple.  Did Jesus rise from the dead? 

It’s a yes or no question that some theologians have made more difficult because they want their no to still be a yes.  If you say no to that question, you’re not a Christian, not in any meaningful, historical sense of the word. Paul sets this out in 1 Corinthians 15.

Some issues are complex, and we reject attempts to make them simple. Why is there suffering in this world? Why does a 8 year old get leukemia? Why did that city get destroyed by a hurricane. Why did this man get Parkinsons?

Because of their sin? Because God is vindictive?

Some issues are not very simple, but are made to sound simple and then just cause arguments.

When should we baptize someone who is born into a Christian family?

The Bible gives us examples of people baptized when they are adults.

Clearly adult baptism is right!  The Bible also gives us examples of whole households being baptized when the patriarch becomes a Christian. Clearly babies were baptized!

jim_carreyThen bring in the issue of original sin, and what happens at baptism, and there’s a few more considerations.

Making a complex issues simple led to major divisions in the church about what God wanted.  If it’s simple, then the person who disagrees is not “one of us.”

So the problem at Wheaton.  Which goes beyond Wheaton in highlighting how theology and faith are dealt with in our society. 

For the next little while, I’m going to add some more thoughts and maybe conversations on this topic, because it’s not as easy as some think and I think it’s a key moment in learning how to listen to each other. 

Especially when the anger and disagreement comes out of how a word is being used.

Same.

That’s the trouble word.  Same is one of those words that means something and nothing. Same is same, but not always exactly the same.  How much difference can same absorb?

Back in September, this issue came up in a blog I occasionally follow.  I responded with a few posts arguing Islam and Christianity are talking about different gods.  Which makes my recent response even more curious given that I’ve yet to change my mind and still affirm what I said in both places.  Same opinion, different arguments.  Lest I fall into more confusion, here’s that earlier exchange:

A commenter wrote: “Like Christianity, Islam is based on Judaism, and it is all the same God; just different names in different languages…. How on earth do you share the same story elements, but not have the same God?”

Here’s what I wrote in response (compiling a few different comment posts): jimhenson

“How on earth do you share the same story elements…”

Jim was born in a small town in Iowa. Parents were Ed and Mabel, has two sisters. His best friend was Jimmy. Jim likes Golden Retrievers, ever since his childhood dog saved him from drowning. Family lost their farm due to some unsavory but not quite illegal actions by the local bank. He worked his way through college, then law school, worked as a law clerk, then became a judge, rising to the Supreme Court.

or

Jim was born in a small town in Iowa. Parents were Ed and Mabel, has two sisters. His best friend was Jimmy. Likes Golden Retrievers ever since his childhood dog saved him from drowning. Family lost their farm due to some unsavory but not quite illegal actions by the local bank. He worked his way through college, then law school, decided he hated the legal system and organized a militia which sought the overthrow of the government.

Same initial story elements, different Jims.

jimGaffigan_It’s an understandable argument, that Islam and Christianity have the same God, but at what point do similar starting points and general claims diverge into different subjects?

Christians say Jesus is God. There’s no room for that in either Judaism or Islam.

So, there’s a fundamental identity issue. Did this God choose Isaac or Ishmael? That’s a huge distinction in action and subsequent history that reflects in a very different pattern of salvation, life, worship. At a certain point, it seems there’s different content behind the title “God.”

I don’t think we should say Tash is Aslan and Aslan is Tash.

“What is so difficult to understand about that Mohammed said the Jew’s God was his God?”

What’s so difficult to understand that the Jews disagreed with this? And to see Mohammed co-opted and changed the narrative. I get that people say there’s a similar title going on, but the key is that the title is being attached to very different sorts of characters.

If I started saying that Jim is a neighbor of mine and has promised me $5000 a month for the rest of my life, but the Jim you know doesn’t have that much money and doesn’t really know me, you’d say I must be talking about a different Jim, or that I’m simply wrong about who Jim is.

Clearly I should ask Jim.  Do you have his phone number? I could use the money.

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