Monday, April 30, 2007


I've just come out of a long conversation with the guy from British Gas who came to do a safety check on my boiler.

The fact that I live within a theological college meant that the conversation got around to faith. We began by talking about the differences between the different denominations represented here at college. This got us around to Unitarianism, and what is stands for.

We stood in my kitchen for half an hour talking. He asked me a lot of questions about Unitarianism, and I did my best to answer him. Then he started talking about his own faith. He was Pentecostal. He asked me for a Bible and showed me some proof texts as he talked about his faith and what it meant to him.

He talked in an articulate way about what he believed with gusto and confidence.

I fully enjoy such conversations, even though I feel inadequate to express my beliefs. I'm sure God is working in such conversations, but I don't always know what result God is working to come out of the encounters. Should one of us be converted by each other? Should both of us be converted? What kind of conversion are we talking about?

I judge that such a person is probably not likely to want to be a Unitarian, his current faith position is too far away. And I'm not going to become a Pentecostal, though a great deal of it I do love.

The question that runs through my head in such a conversation is where to engage. I disagree with much of what he says, but at what point do I engage? At what point do I disagree and hope something fruitful can come out of the conversation? These are my questions and issues:

How do you know the Bible is true? Just because its written in the Bible does that make it true? What if there were others saying different things that didn't make it into the Bible? Where does authority come from?

Does God take back God's covenant with the Jews? If God makes a covenant with the Jews then surely God means it and does not need Jews to become Christians. This would be God breaking the covenant God made.

'Through Christ all are saved' Does God really condemn some to hell?

Aren't the spiritual battles within us rather than in some supernatural realm?

Doesn't God care more about justice than right belief?

Shouldn't we be getting our hands dirty in the political and economic realm rather than just condemning it and separating from it? Isn't that consistent with the biblical witness?

If the Holy Spirit blows wherever it will, could it not be working in other religions?

In the end I didn't really ask any of these questions. The one issue I tackled him on was 'the Jews killed Jesus.' I said the Romans killed Jesus, but didn't really get involved in all the issues around that.

I also wonder whose witness is more effective. He was confident and talked like he had all the answers, he was sure he did, at least on some issues. I was quieter, asked questions, seemed agnostic on a lot of things and listened. Which kind of approach is better? Should I be able to talk with confidence for 10 minutes uniterupted about the basic principles of the Unitarian faith? Or in fact will that put people off? Is a dialogical witness better? Or is too wet, too weak, not enough answers?

This afternoon I'm having a dialogue with a Muslim as part of my class. More dialogue.


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