Paradigms have a funny way about them. For example, everyone with kids knows the impossibility of understanding what it means to have kids until you have kids. There was a time when I fought this idea more than anyone. I demanded that I really did know what it would be like to have kids and hated feeling like I couldn’t understand something until I had experienced it. I have friends who were insistent that their lifestyle wouldn’t change once they had kids, only to find them six months later asleep on their couch at 9pm on a Friday night, and liking it. Having kids is an oversimplified way of talking about a “paradigm shift.” You have had an experience that causes you to see the world in a way that you could never have seen it before you had that experience, though for some that shift is more radical than others.
What I found is that the shift in my faith over the past five years easily qualifies as one of these “paradigm shifts.” I have had experiences that cause me to see God, the Bible, the Church, and Jesus in very different ways. And one of the most frustrating things about having gone through this shift is that it is incredibly hard for people who have not had my same experiences to understand why I come to the conclusions that I come to. And the same is true for me. The further down this road I go, the harder it is for me to remember the path I took to get where I am, the harder it is for me to understand the logic of your conclusions.
This next week I am going to San Diego to present a workshop at a Christian conference called Soularize. Because the world I live in is largely a world of wonderful friends, but friends who operate out of a different paradigm of faith, the most important part of this conference will be the opportunity to be sharpened by people who have some of the same assumptions and beliefs about the Bible, God, and Christian culture, that I do. And as I reflected on my presentation, called “Apologetics in the Postmodern World,” I was astounded at how my paradigm has shifted. Here is a summary of my main points on how to “defend your faith,” all of which I would have vehemently disagreed with a decade ago:
- Not only does certainty not exist, it is an idol that must be torn down if we are to depend on Christ alone and show others to do the same.
- Not only does doubt not extinguish your witness, it strengthens it by creating common ground with fellow seekers.
- Not only do most of my beliefs not matter in conversations with someone who isn’t a Christian, I willingly sacrifice most of them as barriers for people to see the person of Jesus.
The beauty of the Body of Christ, though, is that even in my most frustrated moments, I am forced to listen to those who start from completely different paradigms. They are the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving that is family, whether I like it or not. And I too am that crazy uncle to someone else. So I pray that one day I will finally recognize that I am not God, that I cannot contain the truth that is in Christ, and that one day maybe, just maybe, I can actually celebrate the diversity of paradigms because our God is too big to be seen from only one angle.