Thursday, July 6, 2017

When you "Do Not Know" what you "Do Not" Know; Making the paradigm shift accessible Part 1

This blog chronicles my paradigm shift. Once the paradigm shifts, it is easy to look back and marvel at the fact that you held the former paradigm in the past. So to be clear let's look at the definition of paradigm found at dictionary.com. For the purposes of this blog and my "paradigm shift" this definition is the operative one: "A framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community... and it goes on to include... such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group." I certainly believe that theology and theological doctrine falls squarely within the confines of this definition. To describe it further in theological terms, a paradigm is a lens that one sees theology through. It includes hermeneutics and exegesis. Most importantly, it deals with the way in which we look at and interpret scripture.

In my experience, evangelical doctrine and dogma have a limiting effect on the paradigm. I do not want to make this post a dictionary per se, but I feel that it is necessary to define dogma to be certain that the meaning is clear for the title. Again, the kind folks at dictionary.com define dogma this way: "An official system of principles and tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior etc. as of a church, ... prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a group." I want to emphasize "prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true" for my purposes here in stating that dogma, more than any one other thing stands in the way of a paradigm shifting.

So then, the title of the post "do not know" what one "does not" know explains the dynamic of being so afraid to question dogma that one becomes stuck in a paradigm without a way to shift it even if a shift seems indeed necessary. I believe that Christianity in general is standing on the precipice of a paradigm shift that seems as fearful as a dark abyss, but is in reality, merely a step through a curtain into another dimension of greater understanding.

Here are the facts for me: In the past, I saw a lot of contradictions in the scripture that dogma had a way of dismissing that did not seem to make sense. However, can one dare to to question dogma and the authoritarian position it holds? If one dares to question dogma, immediately one is accused of not truly believing, not being a true and good follower of Christ and on and on. When one has heard a paradigm over and over it becomes impossible to change. When a paradigm begins to change, the first thing to go is the norms that groups establish with respect to appearance. Suits and ties are discarded in favor of less formal attire. However, this does nothing to free one up from restrictive and unhealthy dogma, and even more to the point, restrictive and unhealthy theology.

I hear repeatedly people saying that the scripture plainly teaches this or that. The truth however is that the paradigm insists that the scripture teaches this or that. How can someone realize that the paradigm with which they look at the scripture is faulty when they cannot ever challenge the paradigm? It is funny, because since I have had the paradigm shift, I see that it plainly teaches what I have come to believe. Now, have I got some things wrong, or do I not see it in totality? Of course I do not. It is only a logical conclusion that I do not have it ALL right, but so much of my paradigm rings true, and ALL of the apparent contradiction disappears.

What I observe is this: There are many people questioning much of dogma, but it is on the fringe, and this questioning does not question basic doctrinal tenets. Or, and this is equally detrimental, doctrine is questioned so much that the divinity of Christ, salvation, and a supernatural relationship with God is dismissed as superstition. In any event, the gospel as it was presented by the first century saints is compromised. What do I mean you ask? I mean the gospel (good news of the grace of God) which was the main focus of Paul and the other New Testament authors is neglected in favor of a different gospel. It seems to always include some kind of performance standards and required good works. Let me just say this. There is a performance standard in my paradigm as well. It demands that you believe God's declaration that he was indeed in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and that the full reconciliation was accomplished in full. The required performance is to rest in that fact, and rely completely on God's grace.

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