Friday, April 28, 2006

Idealists and Intuitives

I am quite clearly an idealist. That is to say, I try to live out of ideas . . . principles that are as true as I can make them to my own understanding. I guess it goes with being an idealist that one then tries to order life according to those ideals, which means that integrity is the consistent application of those truths. For an idealist, to lack integrity is to not aspire to the truths one knows. In other words, to know, but to ignore and do otherwise.

One thing I have learned, that has tempered my idealism, is that my hold on truth is flawed. Furthermore, the exact nature of where my perception is flawed is hidden from me. So my idealism is for me the way I must go, while I must also be constantly ready to adjust that idealism to new understandings of truth.

We had a guest last Sunday, a Roman Catholic scholar who spoke (among other things) about Aristotle's view of man. One of the fundamental characteristics of man is his desires, which is quite different from the mind. For me it is natural as an idealist for my desires to be for a life ordered more about the mind seeking truth - and as a Christian truth is the person of God.

However, I see that others order their lives around their desires, and the mind for them works to support their desires. I am not talking about sinful, fleshly desires, just that they seem to want, not as the result of thinking, but just out of who they are. I am also not suggesting that their desires are selfish. Perhaps I could contrast their approach as more intuitive versus my idealism. This is, I assume, as natural for them as my idealism is for me. But it sure drives me nuts!

So here's the confession . . . being with those who think and live this way is work for an idealist! I just don't know how to do this well (at least "well" in the way I think of it). But that's another whole subject . . .

So here's what happens: I think about how we should be based on seeking truth, my desires not being as important as finding truth - at least as well as I can grasp it at this moment. These other people, most unlike me as they can be, seem to desire a way to be. I am not saying this is wrong, just talking about how foreign our processes are to one another.

While my thinking is toward discovering how we should be, their thinking seems to run toward finding ways to say why we should be as they desire to be. I can see all sorts of inconsistency in their thinking. What is put forward to "support" a desire would be disowned by them in an instant with regard to another of their desires that it would not support. But I realize that "consistency" in thinking is important for me in ways it is not likely as important for them.

This drives me bonkers. For me, living by my thinking (flawed as it is, but what else do I have?) is my end; for them, thinking is a means to support the ends they desire.

The weird thing for an idealist to realize is that their desires have as much a chance of being "right" as my grasp on truth. Since my best efforts to order life around a search for God, in a particular manner, is always flawed, their desires might be as true or even more correct. Whose to say?

So we are left to muddle through, living as inscrutable creatures to one another. And so here is God - creating space for the practice of grace, patience, love, acceptance, and all other aspects of his nature by shaping some of us as idealists and others as intuitives. That we live in this tension is likely more important than sorting out our different approaches - which probably will never happen anyway. There isn't much chance of me ever not being an idealist. I can't expect to turn intuitives into people like me.

An intuitive probably wouldn't have spent the last hour trying to sort out a cognitive framework for understanding this dynamic.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I watched a PBS presentation on Bonhoeffer last night. The show was really well done with interviews with his students, his best friend from when he was teaching in the seminary in northern Germany, the sister of the young woman he proposed to . . . and of course they included many of his own words from his books and letters.

His understanding that faith had to have concrete expression in the world - which did not allow him to ignore the Nazis' actions - is compelling. His willingness to identify with the hurting and marginalized people, abdicating his position of safety to risk death with even those who did not share his faith, is truly a story of the presence of Christ.

He obviously wrestled with the meaning of faith - pursuing with sincerity what he believed was truly faithful, while struggling with profound questions.

As much as he believed that his faithful duty was to oppose Hitler, and even to try and kill him, the events show that it was not God's will that Hitler die by another's hand. I don't intend to defend God's choices . . . God has mercy on whom he has mercy.

I have no doubt that Bonhoeffer was faithful and pleasing to God even though what he tried to accomplish God did not wish to do. Instead of bringing a tyrant to the grave, God gave the church a martyr . . . and a clear voice that needs to be heard today.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Recent Blessings . . .

Had a visit from Eddie Rogers last week. Eddie and his wife Kathy were missionaries in Kenya when we were in Tanzania, and I hadn't seen him since before they left Kenya in 1997. It was so good to see him again . . . and to talk.

They have recently moved out of their denominational heritage and are discovering what else they've been missing. It's never all good, but there is more good in Christianity than is contained in any of it's denominational manifestations.

We remembered conversations long ago about such matters . . . while sitting in their home in Sotik, and later Kericho. They lived along the road we would take for the 13 hour drive from our home to Nairobi, Kenya for doctor's appointments and to stock up on supplies.

We were talking then about a journey which continues now in different circumstances - but it is the same seeking of God that we were about then. Today we are still being formed more by the Misseo Dei than pragmatics, economics, career opportunities, denominational structures, or such.

I was also blessed last week to hear Brian McLaren speak at Samford University on the subject of interfaith dialogue. His sense of needing to be generous and respectful, truth-seeking while not fearful, open, careful, and nuanced in dialogue, and to be true to convictions all resonate powerfully with me. It was a reminder of what I have sensed is so needed.

In one week, these two events reaffirmed to me the journey which I first understood in Africa, and the difficulties of pursuing it where civil religion and the lure of respectability and practicality demand other choices. This Easter we need a resurrection of simple faith, discipleship, obedience, and love in a Christian world too enamored with its economic weight, media inroads, political initiatives, and institutional efficiency.

I guess, like Paul, I want to say "I was not disobedient to the vision" (Acts 26:19). It is not an undestanding that I force on anyone, but concerning which I will speak to everyone who is willing to listen. Ironically, it is a vision which includes room for those who don't share it . . . which is the posture Brian was talking about.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Being gracious.
Exuding love.
Patience which is long-lasting.
Unpretentious kindness.
Deeply rooted humility.
Ready forgiveness.
Self-sacrifice for others.
Promoting peace.
Generous assumptions.
Loving what is good.
The uncommon manifestations of the presence of God in us.