Disclaimers and Dogmatism


During the "Living the Questions" workshops that I attended in recent months, the pastor occasionally made a reference to the disclaimer that attendees are theoretically supposed to read before they participate. I had not seen this disclaimer; I jumped into the series after it had already started, and I guess the pastor wasn't too worried that I would be disturbed by progressive theology. One of the times when she brought up the disclaimer was after Marcus Borg said on the DVD segment for that session that he didn't think it wasn't a requirement to believe in a literal resurrection in order to be a Christian. She expected that some people would be uncomfortable with a statement like that, and was prepared for some level of unease among the participants. As it turns out, in this case no one in attendance had a problem with what Borg had to say.

I always a little curious about what the disclaimer actually said. As it turns out, Chuck Currie posted it on his blog a few months ago. The opening sentence of the disclaimer refers to the fact that many have "suffered in silence" because of "voices of fear and false certitude claim to profess the unchanging truth of Christianity." I think that this accurately expresses the difficulties of this process. I think many people have internalized the fears that have been imparted to them their entire life by by those "voices of fear and false certitude." Wrestling with or overcoming these fears cannot be easy for everyone.

Here is the entire disclaimer:

“Living the Questions” is a study for the countless people of faith who have suffered in silence as the voices of fear and false certitude claim to profess the unchanging truth of Christianity. It’s purpose is to provide a resource for the discussion of what is already believed and practiced by many faithful people still holding on within institutional religion while harboring a conviction that what most churches teach isn’t the whole story. It may even be helpful for those who Jack Spong calls “believers in exile” – those who have left the church because of its refusal to take their questions or life’s situation seriously. It is not intended to spell out new doctrine or create new dogma but to serve as a catalyst to perhaps crack open the door to the future.

To make the implicit explicit, this study is not for:

  • those whose personal faith requires them to believe that the Bible is the inerrant and inspired word of God.
  • those who believe that the doctrines set forth by the early church are sacrosanct and not to be questioned.
  • those whose eternal salvation depends on their unswerving commitment to the above.
  • those who believe the reason the mainline churches in Europe, North America, and Australia/ New Zealand have been losing members and influence for generations is because they haven’t been teaching “orthodox” Christianity or preaching the true Gospel.

Please be aware that the issues and concepts discussed in the DVDs and written material will challenge many people’s worldview and understanding of the divine. For some it will be radically new information. For others, it will be an affirmation of what they’ve known deep down for a long time. Both facilitators and participants will want to be prepared for anxiety, conflict, and the need to be patient with those who are struggling.


Rowan The Dog said...

I think the clergy like to make these big disclaimers so that they can pretend to be doing something cutting edge. The fact is that most of us are light years beyond the typical "Bible Study" down at the parish hall and we are just keeping our mouths shut so as not to embarrass the vicar. They make religion a big waste of time, the clergy.