A couple weeks ago my wife and I sat down for a game of Settlers of Catan with my sister and brother-in-law. It was Sunday, the end of a LONG holiday weekend in which we managed to take Junia to see all four sets of her grandparents. We were tired and a relaxed game of Catan was the remedy. Midway through the game my brother-in-law declared he would play a Knight card before rolling the dice. Every time we play Catan there is one constant: you roll the dice first in your turn. He argued the directions said he could play a knight. We got the directions out and set out to interpret them.
We both insisted our reading was right.
My sister and wife sided with me and we moved on. Hours later I went online and discovered my brother-in-law was right (we also neglected to miss a later page in the directions that explicitly said he was right).
Once I knew he was correct, I was able to interpret the game directions in a new way.
In our debate, we both approached the text believing we were right. We both read the text in a way that supported our conclusions. Even though it turns out he was right, the text of the directions is poorly worded. Either interpretation could be accepted (again, until you turn to a later page where it is more explicit).
It kind of reminds me how Christians fight over Scripture. There are so many topics Christians disagree on. We approach the text assuming we are right, welcoming the passages that clearly support our view and working hard to squeeze ones that appear not to into our theology.
In a previous post I dreamed about what the Christian community on campus at Penn State Berks could do. I also dreamed of what the church could do. At the risk of sounding overly pessimistic, I recognize the local church already does much of this.
Yet sadly there is much division. Diversity is not necessarily a problem and some degree of plurality within the church should be expected (read John Franke’s book Manifold Witness where he excellently argues for this). It seems that the real problem is that the Christian church cannot agree at which points diversity of opinion is okay and when diversity place someone outside of the Christian tradition.
(As a sidenote, and good food for thought, read Roger Olsen’s blog post on the the difference between being “Christian” and being “saved”).
Last week I was baking cookies for the college students who are moving on after this semester to new places. While baking I was listening to the Freakonomics podcast “The Truth is Out There…Isn’t it?“. The basic theme was that the more we learn about a subject, the more we desire to socialize with those who agree with us. In other words, we learn to gather information that conforms to what we already believe.
We do not want to change our minds easily.
That said, I suppose we need to agree to disagree on many things in order to get down to the work we have been called to, bringing hope to a hopeless world. I think the world looks on at some of the debates we are having and asks, “who cares?”
CSF at Penn State Berks spends a lot of time studying the Bible. But if all we do is sit around as a circle of Christians and talk about what the Bible means, we are not helping anybody outside of our little “in-group”.
I guess the best I can ask is what is more important:
Two Christians arguing about who is “right” about every little detail?
Two Christians laying aside their differences to go minister to those in need on campus?