Inductive Blog Commenting

I almost swallowed my H. Upmann Churchill whole reading Dr. Scott Clark’s definition of an inductive bible study. To wit: An inductive bible study involves “the approach to Scripture whereby folk try to read it as if no one has ever read it before, where we sit in groups and pool ignorance. It’s the attempt to read Scripture outside of some confession or system.”

Of course the part that got me choking was the pooling ignorance part. And the sitting in groups part brought some pictures to mind that were very close to home. How well I remember the guilt I felt when I began to skip going to “care groups” because I suspected I was wasting time.

The article about which Dr. Clark is commenting above is in reference to inductive bible studies that are the hallmark of the Intervarsity para-church organization – an organization which has carved out a good foothold on many college campuses. Hence, they are dealing with intellectuals – folks who are in the process of being trained to think. So, even though you’d think that students are used to submitting to the authority of experts in their chosen fields of study, it turns out that this approach to religion may very well be the very thing one would expect on a college campus in America in the evangelical climate of the 21st century.

How so? First, rationalism is being groomed at our universities. So much does this come with the territory that such an assertion isn’t all that different from saying all bachelors are unmarried. Since my reason is the master, I don’t need any objective presuppositions in order to master these texts.

Second, the individualistic spirit in America hailing from the post-colonial days has fostered an I-can-do-it-myself attitude that most certainly has had its effect on religion. Nathan Hatch has written an insightful book entitled The Democratization of American Christianity which details the disestablishmentarian mindset that swept aside the notions that a minister might need to be educated to preach the gospel. To this day, American Christianity has a congenital distrust of outside help – which would include confessions, systems, dogmas.

Third, the evangelical climate today with its liberal bent for feeling the Christ within is tailor made for self expression. The thought of an ecclesiastical faith centered around word, sacrament and discipline is nowhere near as appealing as the apparent therapeutic value of  relating what the text means for you.

Finally, what better phrase than “there are no wrong answers” could one offer for a description of post-modernism. Of course, Horton is right when he says that post-modernism is really most-modernism, rationalism on human growth hormone.

Comments? What does this post mean to you? Don’t be shy, there are no wrong answers.

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34 Responses to Inductive Blog Commenting

  1. Rick says:

    I spit out my José L. Piedra (I had to look that up) when I read this post.

    But are all bachelors unmarried? It depends on what are is.

  2. RubeRad says:

    There are two separable topics in this post: inductive bible study, and InterVarsity. I seem to recall hearing OHS Riddlebarger lecturing that even Warfield had to contend with contemporary abuses of the concept of “inductive” bible study (and the Old Lion was himself “inductive”). So there is a good, historical, sense of “inductive bible study”, and there is also a bad, modern, sense. (Much like the mogrification of the term ‘evangelical’).

    A separate question is whether InterVarsity practices or advocates good or bad inductive study. As an undergraduate, it took me a few years to find a decent church home, so in that interim, IV was my church — parachurch organization though it was (and it was never my experience that IV set itself up to be anthing more than parachurch). I went to “large group”, I went to bible studies, I went to camp and got trained to lead studies, and I led studies.

    In all that time, I never ran across the sentiment “there are no wrong answers.” Bottom line, if an answer could not be justified by the text at hand, it was wrong.

    From my current vantage-point, the chief fault I now see with the IV bible study, is slavish restriction to the current text alone. Having to recourse to some other passage to explain the current passage, was seen as kind of a necessary evil, to be avoided. And bringing in commentaries (or confessions), etc., was not even a question (it would be entirely counterproductive, given IV’s very heterogeneous membership). Although there is something to be said for maintaining focus in a group discussion, I now see that such a narrow restriction doesn’t leave enough room for analogia fidei.

    A few years back, I heard an interview (I think on Mars Hill Audio) of a guy describing this same “there are no wrong answers” problem; that home bible studies are dangerous when everyone is too nice to tell each other ‘no’, so anybody gets to say anything they feel. I’ve since found it quite helpful to remain aware of that concept, so that when I participate in (or lead) bible studies, I can try to speak the truth in love. I wish that concept had been part of the IV leadership training. (Maybe it was, and I fell asleep in that part!)

  3. Zrim says:

    “Bottom line, if an answer could not be justified by the text at hand, it was wrong.”

    How is that unlike biblicism? Arminians justify their positions by the text at hand–the good ones, at least. What’s the old saying: “The man alone on a hill with his Bible is the most dangerous thing in the world.”

  4. Bruce S. says:

    From the article in question:

    I was trained that almost the worst thing I could do is to tell someone their idea about a passage was wrong, since our goal was to get people to experience the Bible on their own. The leader asked questions, and allowed the participants to answer the way it seemed to them. Unless someone was way out of the box, their idea was to be given credence, and even if they were way out of the box they were not to be told directly that they were wrong. All individualism, no authority. All my truth, no the truth.

    Maybe IV has entered the post-modern world while you weren’t looking. FWIW, the IVP book How to Study the Bible came out in 1985. I don’t know if they have the line “no wrong answers” but I do know, having skimmed the book, that inductive means please check your presuppositions at the door.

  5. Echo_ohcE says:

    For people in anti-intellectual (Arminian dispensational) churches, the inductive bible study method is at least a step in the right direction. These people have presuppositions that NEED to be checked at the door.

    For some people in these churches, they are asking for the first time, “What does the TEXT actually say?” rather than “what do I think?”

    Maybe IV is not doing that, and I wouldn’t defend IV. I’m also not advocating the use of inductive bible studies. BUT, for some people, it’s at least a step in the right direction.

    For example, my parents studied Romans with the inductive Bible study, and eventually left the Baptist church and are now OPC. It was just the first little baby step, but it was a step. They began to think that they weren’t being taught what the Bible actually said. Nothing more, but nothing less. It eventually led them to seek out something more, and they eventually found it.

    I would have the same opinion about say, John Piper’s writings. In general, I wouldn’t recommend them to a reformed person. But I would urge a Pentecostal to read it, because it’s a step in the right direction that they might find palatable.

    I’m sure I’ll be labeled pragmatic for this, but I can live with that.

  6. Bruce S. says:

    For people in anti-intellectual (Arminian dispensational) churches, the inductive bible study method is at least a step in the right direction. These people have presuppositions that NEED to be checked at the door.

    This is a good point that I had not thought of. However, my feelers are out for a shot from Texas about a so-called Calvinistic “grid” that he would like to see ditched as well.

    Words like grid may not be all that good at conveying what is really going on. Things really started to click for me when the word lens came into play. If your system or grid or central dogma or personal relationship with Jesus aren’t sufficient to elucidate every aspect, genre, facet of scripture, then somewhere you are going to come up short. But if you have something that works as a lens (wide angle or magnifying glass) through which all scripture can be understood, then you’ve got something. I, of course, believe that lens to be the covenant(s). And I also like the stereo vision that mono-covenantalists have to do without.

  7. Echo_ohcE says:

    And how. What your friend from Texas can’t grasp is that there is such a thing as a “grid” that Scripture commends.

  8. Zrim says:

    If having an extrinsic lens is what’s needed (I agree, of course), I wonder why the inductive method is “a step in the right direction.” What do you mean, Echo? Maybe I am missing something about just what the IM is, but basically it seems like a pedagogy that agrees with “lens” but simply relativizes and internalizes it instead of an extrinsic one that comports with sola scriptura (read: scripture and tradition). To me, it seems like saying to a blind person who dons a pair of glasses, “Well, it’s a step in the right direction.” Really?

    Also, as much as I understand it, the problem with casting our Arminian friends as “anti-intellectual” is that they really do stand in a tradition that has intellectual wherewithal. Jacob Arminius was an intellectual stalwart worthy of Gomarus’ acumen; Roger Olsen and Stanley Grenz are very intellectual figures. Methinks there is a very valid point the other side of the table has when they charge us with intellectualism, as if all one need do is turn on the mind to get it right. I know plenty of Arminian-Dispies who are not afraid of their own minds, etc., and I know plenty of Reformed and Presbies who are. True, the former as a general rule tend heavily toward a- and anti-intellectualism for various and sundry reasons. But there is a great fallacy in believing that biblical truth is merely a matter of the mind.

  9. RubeRad says:

    I also like the stereo vision that mono-covenantalists have to do without.

    Nice!

    there is such a thing as a “grid” that Scripture commends.

    Certainly, rather than floating freely with no structure, the entire law and prophets do hang on something!

    my feelers are out for a shot from Texas about a so-called Calvinistic “grid” that he would like to see ditched as well.

    As we know, presuppositions cannot really be ditched; the point of letting the text speak is to raise awareness of presuppositions, and letting them be confirmed or destroyed by scripture, as appropriate. Thus we should not be afraid to “enter the ring” without our armor of reformed confessions and calvinistic commentaries; once digested, they give us the scriptural anchor points to rebuild a scriptural grid on-demand, as it were. But this becomes difficult if the mantra for a home bible study is “that’s nice, but what do you see in this half-chapter that we’re studying today?”

    Better, I think for the a bible study to be conducted in the following mode: “how does this half-chapter that we’re studying today relate to the whole of scripture? As bible study leader, I have assembled a set of relevant passages that will help us to answer the hard questions that will arise when we look closely at this particular text.”

    In short, I see the IV inductive method (as I learned and experienced it) to be “what does this text say in isolation,” when it should rather be “what does this text say in context?”

  10. RubeRad says:

    I also want to affirm that (in the spirit of Echo’s “step in the right direction”) I am thankful for the role IV played in my lifelong journey towards understanding the Bible.

    Since my boys are all going to attend UCSD (which I think I’ll be able to afford), I would say “you don’t need to burden your schedule with a parachurch organization like IV, since you’ll still be fed by your church home.”

    But if for some reason they want to go into debt (and make me go into debt!) by going to some crazy out-of-state private liberal arts college, I would advise them, “If you are having any trouble finding a solid, reformed church, and Christians your age to fellowship with, you should definitely look into IV — just be aware that their heterogeneous membership and inductive bible studies can tend towards doctrinal relativism and tunnel-visioniosity.”

    But who would ever want to go to some crazy out-of-state private liberal arts college, when there’s a perfectly good world-class university right in town, with affordable state-resident tuition rates?

  11. Zrim says:

    Uh-oh, Rube has broached the education category.

    (I still don’t quite understand this “step in the right direction” stuff. If we are going to wax anecdotal, though, I will say that my old PREF-Dispy days were inductive up one side and down another. The only way I came to “understand the Bible” was to step OUT of that altogether. So, what is this “step in the right direction” stuff?)

    “If you are having any trouble finding a solid, reformed church, and Christians your age to fellowship with, you should definitely look into IV — just be aware that their heterogeneous membership and inductive bible studies can tend towards doctrinal relativism and tunnel-visioniosity.”

    Huh. Can somebody tell me why public education gets so demonized, yet when it comes to efforts to discern eternal truth there is a liberality like this? I am not accusing Rube of being a public education hater, but in general it has always seemed odd to me how much rope religionists give loopy parachurch endeavors yet go running for the hills when it comes to public education. Must be a lot of leftover early 20th century modernist controversy yet unshaken, or something.

    I guess Calvin College is a “crazy out-of-state private liberal arts college.” Hey, I am no neo-Kuyperian transformer–you all know that–but if it’s a good, liberal arts education, and if you got the bucks, you’d do well to come to K-town. Ideally, mine would go through the local PE system and attend CC.

  12. Eric says:

    I was first discipled by an IV staff leader at a small liberal arts college back East. While I agree in retrospect that the inductive Bible studies were often counterproductive (one of them led by a Catholic girl who tried to influence me into RCIA), I do believe that IV provided some good foundations for Christian life (and the life of the Christian mind) that enabled me to seek out a progression of churches culminating in my current candidacy for membership at an OPC church on the West coast.

  13. Rick says:

    Zrim, This might take us a little off topic but,

    More than once you’ve defended certain “Christian” colleges because of the quality of the education one might receive regardless of the neo-Kuyperianism that prevails at most of them, which is fine, because I agree that Calvin along with Dordt, and Trinity (as examples) are fine liberal arts colleges that I wouldn’t discourage my kids from going to someday if the degree programs end up being right for them. But it has also been well established that you prefer a Public Education for K-12.

    Can you help me understand this a little better? Why do Christian Colleges get a pass while “Christian” K-12 institutions don’t?

    Shouldn’t we encourge our kids to attend a public university so they can live and learn in both kingdoms?

  14. Zrim says:

    Rick,

    Good question. I have queried over that myself, of course.

    I think it centers around just what the assumed project is when we talk about education. When I listen to parents talk about what they think Xian education (K-12) is it always seems to me they think it to be an affective project. That is, they think “souls are being nurtured and human beings made.” The refrain is, “They get it at home, at church and at school.” I take “it” to mean religion, and I further take “religion” to be a tool whereby we are making human beings, a very socialized view of true religion, if you ask me. (True) religion doesn’t make human beings, it redeems them.

    Making human beings is the project of only one institution: the family. Much as projects may intersect and education plays some role in what parents do, no school is ever ordained for the making of human beings.

    When it comes to post-secondary education, some of that seems to yet linger. But, mainly, all seem to agree that we have moved on from an affective project of making human beings to preparing people for more specific vocation. That is why I have an easier time with post-secondary education in “Christian” forms. One benefit to (mistakenly) thinking secular and common endeavor are implied by sacred belief is that, well, you end up doing that thing well! And, voila, world-class education like Calvin.

    So it seems to me that it may revolve just what folks consider is happening in the respective environments. For the record, I have never begrudged Xian education K-12 per se. I may sound like it in order to make certian points (!). But I would send mine to one if that was the only good choice around. I would also send to a Catholic or Montesorri School as well. The point of education is to get well educated, not be made into a human being. (That is to over-realize education much the same way many over-realize politics as a mode to exact justice versus proximate justice.) Moreover, we ought not send our kids to school for anybody else’s interest but our children’s to be educated. We do not send them to evangelize others; some Xians I know justify their public schooling this way–I find it as skewed as thinking the project is more affective than it is intellectual.

    “Shouldn’t we encourge our kids to attend a public university so they can live and learn in both kingdoms?”

    Because at this point they are preparing for specific vocation, I think we should encourage them to take responsibility for their own lives and decide. By my approach, they have been living and learning in both kingdoms already for quite some time (i.e. high calling to God’s world and God’s Church).

  15. My wife attended Campus Crusade for Christ when she was a student at UC Riverside, and it sounds pretty similar to IV (we were dating at the time, and I went with her to several of the meetings).

    My main impression of Campus Crusade was that it was a “youth group” centered on a school campus instead of a church, and many of the students there treated it mostly like a place to find Christians to date. There was prayer, and there was a bit of Bible study, but it seemed like the focus was more on fellowship than anything else.

    Such places are definitely not a good place to receive your primary Biblical instruction, though the connection with other believers is certainly worthwhile.

  16. Zrim says:

    “…but it seemed like the focus was more on fellowship than anything else.”

    That is a funny word, fellowship. I think what people generally mean is “glorified socializing.” I think it comes out of the transformative nomenclature that believes there is something special about a common activity just because Xians are doing it. We have a wing on our church called “Fellowship Hall.” It’s where we all go to do common things all created people can do (drink coffee, eat cookies and talk about our lives) after doing what only Xians can do (worshiping God in the sanctuary). Being the contrarian and exacting Calvinist that I am, I have come to refer to “Fellowship Hall” as “The All Purpose Room,” since fellowship hall already has a name, the sanctuary.

    Anyway, I always get a chortle out of how often times believers feel the need to sanctify common activity, even in little ways, like calling a get-together fellowship.

  17. Rick says:

    Z,
    I’m letting your answer to me churn and bubble. There are still some things I don’t get. For one, the very existence of Christian colleges seems to be to offer a sacred version of the secular – a “safe-haven” – why else would they have even started in the first place other than to say;

    “hey, get out of the nasty liberalness of the world’s universities and learn your skill surrounded by your own type of people – and learn it the ‘Christian way’ don’t put a price-tag on your sanctification and don’t drop the third-leg of the three-legged stool just yet…live and learn to the Glory of God for 4 more years, meet your future Reformed spouse, learn to change the workplace for Jesus…”

    That was a rant, but you see my point. But yes, the quality of the education is the first priority.

  18. Zrim says:

    “For one, the very existence of Christian colleges seems to be to offer a sacred version of the secular – a “safe-haven'”

    Yes, I fully agree. My answer to you had the presumed, standing W2K policy that sacred versions of the secular don’t jibe. The label Christian over any version of education (i.e. something grounded in creation) is a misnomer and something a Klinean versus a Kuyperian attending one would always have in the back of his/her mind, it seems to me.

    For what it’s worth, I try to give credit where it is due. I have never really perceived our local Kuyperians as being as fundie as your rant might imply. Maybe your being a Dutchie knows something I don’t, but your rant sounds like it might apply how my Fundies look at education (i.e. a smaller piece in a larger affective project wherein we are making human beings…our kind, that is).

    Also, I thought of another dimension with regard to our local scene. I have begun to see that a lot of this CSI stuff is a carry-over from when you all got off the boat. It seems to be more a way to have preserved a certain ethno-cultural-social-religious heritage and has a lot less to do with pure Kuyperian thought that the sacred implies a common endeavor. In other words, it seems like a social project and not so much a truly religious one (this would also apply to the immigrating Catholics and Lutherans, etc.). It is interesting to ponder how, given the fact that the Dutch Reformed have undergone so much assimilation to American culture, how they view it now. It seems, to keep with their assimilation, they have begun to have more in common with an American pedagogy with regard to just what CE is (read: a way to not do evil and icky public education and hem the kiddies in from the great Satan). That said, your rant might be failry accurate insofar as nobody is really preserving a social-cultural heritage anymore since they have all pretty much assimilated anyway: now it is about making Christians…which really is the Church’s role.

    To summarize:

    Family makes human beings; Church redeems them; education educates them. Family and education are grounded in creation, Church in redemption.

    And for no extra charge, RSC recently wrote that it was every Christian parent’s MORAL duty to make sure their kids receive a Christian education. I couldn’t disagree more. (That is for you, Kazoo, who might be inclined to think we confessional types are all about snotty group-think.)

    …Update…Drat! I couldn’t locate the post where RSC said that. I think it was actually incidental to a broader point he was making. But that he said it is etched in my noodle. Anyway, I found this one of his I found fairly interesting. If what he is saying is true, I simply have no idea why I am less than moral for sending my kids to PS. I have a moral duty to see to it my kids are educated well, but why it has to be Xian I still don’t understand. This moral invective of Clark’s signals something I have observed even amongst fellow 2Kers: when it comes to our children somehow the 2K line gets blurry and we allow for Xian versions of education. I think this betrays just how so many yet think education is primarily an affective project. It is understandable, since we rightly see caught up in our children our values, beliefs, aspirations, etc. Unfortunately for those yet tempted to heap moral sanction, though, those things are only for us as parents to instill. Don’t blame me, I didn’t ordain the creational rule.

  19. Bruce S. says:

    This:

    I think it comes out of the transformative nomenclature that believes there is something special about a common activity just because Xians are doing it. . . . . Being the contrarian and exacting Calvinist that I am, I have come to refer to “Fellowship Hall” as “The All Purpose Room,” since fellowship hall already has a name, the sanctuary.

    captures what you have been saying probably better than anything I have read.

    FWIW, wasn’t its original name “the All-Purpose Room” anyways?

  20. Zrim says:

    Bruce,

    What, that I am a contrarian, exacting Calvinst?! Kidding.

    Being relatively new to church culture/life, I have no idea what it used to be called. I will have to ask your pops next Sunday as he descends from his perch in the balcony…which is the elevated part of fellowship hall/sanctuary. Anyway, it is fun playing with peoples’ heads when you tell them you will meet them in the all-purpose room (instead of fellowship hall).

  21. Rick says:

    Fel-low-ship (-ship’)
    1. Companionship; friendly association. 2. a mutual sharing as of experience, activity, interest. 3. A group of people with the same interests.

    So really, the whole Church building on a Sunday is a “fellowship hall” and the word doesn’t need to have sacred connotations at all.

    So I’ll give auggie a break on this one.

  22. Bruce S. says:

    OTOH, I bet you anything no one said after the Super Bowl, heading off to their Super Bowl party of choice “Hey, dude, let’s get going to the Playboy Desert Oasis and Resort. The party has already started and we don’t want to miss out on any of that fellowship.”

  23. Rick says:

    OK Bruce you’re probably right.

    But what makes a fellowship sacred is to use the Greek, Koinonia.

    So if I joined Campus Crusade simply because it was a great place to have Koinonia, then we have a problem.

  24. Zrim says:

    Bruce,

    Nobody would say that because people don’t speak that way (!).

    Rick,

    I would say that the whole church building is not fellowship hall, only the one room in which a sacred actvity takes place: the sanctuary. Take that room out and there is no reason to “congregate.” The actvity going on around it is common activity being done by those individals in whom the new aeon has intruded.

    Auggie,

    Sorry I had a fight at your black-panther party.

  25. Rick says:

    Why does Fellowship = Sacred?

    People don’t talk the way Bruce suggested but they could and they wouldn’t be wrong according to the definition of the word “fellowship” (which I have helpfully posted above).

    now, the “Fellowship of the Ring” – that was sacred.

  26. Bruce S. says:

    Notice the men’s fellowship meeting of OURC is being held at Giblin’s Pub in Carlsbad Village.

    I can just hear a waitress come by and say, “Gentlemen, would you please keep it down. Your party is disturbing the fellowship that is going on at the Super Bowl gathering in the next room. Thank you.”

    Zrim, you cracked me up. And now I crack me up. Somebody, unplug me!

  27. Zrim says:

    Rick,

    It doesn’t. There are two different kinds of fellowship: common and sacred. The latter is restricted, the former open. There is fellowship that flows out of creation, and that which flows from redemption (law/gospel, CoW, CoG, etc.).

    I like the way Hyde and company are mixing their kingdoms.

  28. Echo_ohcE says:

    “Step in the right direction” means better than what they typically do.

    The typical, run of the mill, average man in the pew in an Evangelical church listens to his pastor spoon feed him dispy-arminian garbage about how he needs to work to earn his salvation, or come down to the altar to get saved all over again.

    Then the man goes to an inductive bible study, where they’re looking at, say, the book of Romans. And he begins to look at what the text actually says, rather than what his extremely misguided pastor spoon feeds him.

    This is a step in the right direction, because if he looks at what the Bible actually says, he is no longer relying merely on the spoon feeding, nor on his own presuppositions resultant from said spoon feeding, but he allows himself to consider what the Bible says. Once done, he may now compare it to what he knew before, and eventually, his pastor’s spoon fed garbage will begin to leave a bad taste in his mouth.

    Again, this is exactly what happened to my parents.

    Is the inductive bible study method generally good? No, it makes the man in the pew think he’s really doing exegesis, and no longer needs the church. Further, he divorces the text at hand from the text of all of Scripture, and is not being guided in his interpretive efforts by a well trained expert.

    Nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction, because a man alone with his Bible has a better chance of discovering the truth than the man sitting in the pew listening to a false gospel uncritically.

    Thus it is a step in the right direction. But ONLY a step, a tiny little baby step.

  29. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    I see. So you are saying that the IM gets folks to open the Bible. Back in my inductive circles we had the Bible opened quite a bit.

    I am not so persuaded that simply opening the Bible is a step in the right direction (gasp!). One still needs a grid to interpret it, and the Remonstrants sure had one. I guess I still think a step in the right direction for the blind man who wants to see is radical medical intervention instead of a pair of glasses, and those who want to understand revelation need a hard mixture of grace and confessional orthodoxy.

  30. RubeRad says:

    standing W2K policy that sacred versions of the secular don’t jibe

    So let’s move away from “Christian Colleges”, which allegedly attempt to sanctify secular education, and press the point further — what is a Seminary?

    OTOH, I bet you anything no one said after the Super Bowl, heading off to their Super Bowl party of choice “Hey, dude, let’s get going to the Playboy Desert Oasis and Resort. The party has already started and we don’t want to miss out on any of that fellowship.”

    Our church-brewmeister’s (no, that’s not an ordained office (yet)) annual Super Bowl party was this year renamed “Super-Fellowship Party.” It was rockin, and my mango salsa was a hit!

    There are two different kinds of fellowship: common and sacred

    Completely agreed, but while there is an extreme qualitative difference between sanctuary fellowship (“commune”-ion in a broad sense) and all-purpose fellowship (communion in a broader sense), I still think there is a useful distinction to be made between Christian non-sacred fellowship, and secular fellowship.

    This that we’re doing, right here, is explicitly Christian — we’re trying to understand the Bible, and agree on a common confession of faith.

    It is precisely because this is not possible with non-Christians, that I have few-to-no non-Christian friends. Unlike many at work, I am very reluctant to do anything like “fellowship.” For the most part, I have no interest in interacting with non-Christians because their lack of a Christian worldview makes me have no interest in almost anything they have to say.

    There are some exceptions, which I would put mostly in the realm of hobbies. I like to play disc-sports, thus I am in contact with a group of people who play Ultimate (a.k.a. Frisbee Football). But really, I wouldn’t classify them as “friends”, just nice folk that I have a good time chucking a disc with. Recently, I’ve spent a number of weekend hours with a guy from work on a carpentry project. And as far as woodworking goes, I respect his knowledge and experience (and tool-filled workshop!), and very much enjoyed working side-by-side with him, but was it “fellowship”? I don’t think so. Sure, it was “secular fellowship”, if we allow Rick the broad dictionary definition. But still something quite different (less) than “non-sacred Christian fellowship.”

    Maybe it just boils down to the fact that, basically, I don’t like people.

  31. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    The work of a seminary is different. It is a corollary to the work of the Church. It’s project is special, not common.

    “I still think there is a useful distinction to be made between Christian non-sacred fellowship, and secular fellowship.”

    Not me. But, then again, I’ve got unbelieving families in the “complete” column.

    “This that we’re doing, right here, is explicitly Christian — we’re trying to understand the Bible, and agree on a common confession of faith.”

    No, none of us are called or ordained to office, this is a blog and not church courts, etc. This is a common discussion over special content. This is not fellowship. To say we are trying to agree on a common confession, I think, is again over-realize an activity. Again, we can drink coffee, eat cookies and talk about kids with anybody, but we can only eat his flesh, drink his blood and proclaim his death until he comes again with very particular people. Talking about things related to the latter is not fellowship…doing them is. If not, I don’t know why we need the Sabbath. Fellowship, just like when and with whom we do it with, is very narrow and restricted.

    “It is precisely because this is not possible with non-Christians, that I have few-to-no non-Christian friends. Unlike many at work, I am very reluctant to do anything like “fellowship.” For the most part, I have no interest in interacting with non-Christians because their lack of a Christian worldview makes me have no interest in almost anything they have to say.”

    Yeow. Really? Yeow. I prefer my common time to be with unbelievers since believers seem to prone to over-realizing common activity. What do you do with Aristotle? He seemed to have some interesting things to say even though none of it gets us to God. Like I told Stellman, I am actually looking for a place with LESS Xians per geographical square inch. I want to meet my Xians at church on Sunday, not everywhere and all times. There’s Xian worldview and there’s Xian worldview. My Xian worldview tells me there’s no such thing as a Xian worldview and that unbelievers are more trustworthy when doing earth. A Constantinianism yet shaken off struggles with that though.

    “Maybe it just boils down to the fact that, basically, I don’t like people.”

    !! Yeah, people suck.

  32. RubeRad says:

    This is a common discussion over special content.

    That’s cool. And the fact that I cannot include any special content in my interactions with my ultimate or woodworking buddies or cow-orkers, just makes those interactions, well, less-than-special for me. (I realize I am conflating two meanings of special there, but really, the “special” (grace, revelation, …) is more special (better, more important, more valuable) than the common)

    We can drink coffee, eat cookies and talk about kids with anybody

    I have no interest in kids to whom I am not bound by some form of baptismal vows (by ‘some form’, I mean to include standing up front for the ‘dry-baptism’ of my nieces & nephews) to “assist the parents in the Christian nurture of this child.”

    And I get together for coffee every Monday morning before work with some brothers from my church, but I couldn’t imagine spending time hanging out and drinking coffee with Joe non-Christian. What ever could we talk about?

    All that to say I do not feel capable of drinking coffee, eating cookies, and talking about our kids with just anyone. To do so would require drumming up of fake interest, which would no doubt leave the target with the bad taste of “friendship evangelism.” (And in this respect, I think the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

    Like your trade-in of ‘fellowship-hall’ for ‘all-purpose-room’, would you also trade in the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’? It seems to me that those with whom we fellowship (in your particular sense) are our brothers and sisters all through the week, to a greater degree than our neighbors.

    What do you do with Aristotle?

    Nuttin’, at least consciously. My engineering training has never included any readings in Aristotle. In terms of me interacting with (almost) zero “special content”, this is probably about as good as it gets.

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