secret conversations

A funny thing happened this week. I was in a discussion with some Christian friends about predestination, hell etc. (you know that conversation, we’ve all had it). One of those friends works for a church. Afterwards, he took me aside: ‘I can tell you’ve been thinking about this and you’re not really satisfied with the traditional view.’ He was right. He was about to recommend a book to me, when we were interrupted. So, just as I was leaving, I asked him about the book. ‘I’ll let you know in an email,’ he replied.

The email came the next day and he explained that he wasn’t willing to recommend the book in front of others, but that I should read it.

On googling the book, I discovered that not even the book’s author would associate his name with it. It was written under a pseudonym.

(you all want to know what the book is now!)

Burning books

So my question is, what is going on? Why the secrecy?

I do it myself. I’d much sooner ask a tricky question of the internet than of my pastor. I’d much sooner post my ideas here than in a Bible study.

We can’t burn books anymore, but do churches have a culture of silence which attempts to achieve the same effect? If we did, can it succeed? Are people actually sheltered from dodgy ideas? Or do they just sit quietly in the pews with their own thoughts and questions, sharing them only with google?

Is it naive to think we should talk openly about our questions and our about ideas about Jesus’ teaching? After all, there is certainly a role for experts; ignorant discussion can take you to some very strange places. So is it better for some things to stay ‘hush hush’ until you’re absolutely positively sure you’re correct? But how can you be sure you’re correct unless you open your ideas up for discussion?

Should we challenge this culture of silence? What would healthy discussion look like?

(and the book is The Evangelical Universalist by ‘Gregory MacDonald’)

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4 thoughts on “secret conversations

  1. Oh, I know that book!

    An unkind comparison might be of Nicodemus going to see Jesus in the middle of the night – although in that case we are all like the Pharisees!

  2. That culture is definitely there (in either camp of any issue – I feel I have to bite my tongue at my bible study when my Arminian-charismatic friend starts saying troubling things about Paul’s conversion). The problem is that challenging these things almost always (for me at least) leads to an argument. How do you disagree about important-but-not-quite-gospel issues without it being a “quarrel” or “argument over words”?

      • I do it by setting the example in two ways (I hope!)

        First, I share my own doubts/questions with those I lead (all the while reminding them that I’m safe because I am in Jesus’ hands, not because I have ‘correct’ doctrine!)

        Second (and perhaps this is easier in Adelaide, where I’m from!) by modelling interaction with those who think differently – because they’re saved by Jesus as well, rather than by having correct doctrine!

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