Swinging from the Vine / 790 posts / 2,698 comments / feed / comments feed

knowledge and experience, now what?

This is part 1 of a 2 part conclusion to the series, “My Knowledge Trumps Your Experience”

Part 1
an aside
an aside 2
Part 3
an aside 3

Telling my stories in this series and all the processing in between has been very helpful to me … and from the comments I have received, to many of you as well.

So what do we do with all of this? Clearly, traditionalist moderns and progressive, emerging post moderns are very different in many ways but we all live on this planet together and move in the Body of Christ together and each one of us has to determine what we’re going to do with all this chaotic mess of change.

I think it’s important to point out that, generally speaking, a person does not look at this “thing” called modernity and say “I like that, I’m joining up with them”. No, they say “that’s me, I identify with that” and then they are able to find others who similarly identify. And post moderns, more often than not, are those who look at the post modern way of seeing the world and say “I relate to that, that speaks to my experience and feelings about things” and then that label helps them identify others who similarly identify. I do know several moderns who are also emerging and I also know traditionalist post moderns and this phenomenon speaks to the transition we are in as humanity.

In my experience, post modern or modern is just something you are, it’s an ingrained way of thinking and viewing the world that is neither good nor bad, it just is. Emerging vs. Traditionalist has more to do with how being modern or post modern affects your spirituality, your faith. I know lots of moderns who are participating in the emerging conversation and are able to connect and identify with post moderns and vice versa. Now, the academics out there could likely pick apart this overly simplified analysis but this is how I have perceived it based on lots of experience and reading.

All of this merely points to the complexity of the age in which we live. Modern Traditionalists are trying to figure out how to cling to what they know and what is important to them and pass that on to a generation that is increasingly turned off by it all. Post Modern Emergents are trying to communicate things that even to them are still nebulous while trying to be accepted by people who they care about but strongly disagree with on many important points.

And somewhere lost in the mix we have a world that is soul sick.

So what to do?

Post moderns are classically tolerant of most everyone except those who are intolerant…both in and outside of Christianity. We have been “rightly” accused of being like trying to nail jello to the wall because it’s almost impossible to get out of us what we really believe in any given situation without equivocating. Post moderns and emerging Christians tend to value experience and really value knowledge only when it is fleshed in some way through behavior and experience.

Moderns are classically tolerant of most everyone who thinks like them. They are often “rightly” accused of being so rigid in their beliefs that the slightest tremor brings down the whole wall. Moderns value knowledge and really value experience only when it proves their knowledge.

So again, what do we do?

It seems to me that we have the following choices:

1. we can determine that we disagree with each other, draw the lines in the sand and fight to the death to prove we’re right, calling everyone who disagrees a heretic or an intolerant archaic antique.

2. we can go our separate ways but at least avoid bashing the other in the head on a daily basis and instead aim for the toes, growing our own communities and ignoring the fact that the other even exists.

3. we can acknowledge our differences, realizing that moderns and post moderns need to function fully in this age in what they do best, and co-exist nearby but still in our separate spheres, working to bring out the best in each other and working together in those things we have in common

4. we can try endlessly to work together in the same existing structure, trying not to offend, getting along at all costs and continue building the same empire we currently have in the Church.

The final post in this series and part 2 of the conclusion coming next.


  1. Tia Lynn — September 29, 2007 #

    That is so funny what you said about post moderns being tolerant except towards the intolerant. I was just asked about this the other day and I feel the exact same way. I can embrace the “worst” sinner (as if I’m picnic) or anyone struggling, confused, with different positions….UNLESS they judging or putting down the “underdog.” Which in turns makes me intolerant of them…

    I like your analysis of the tension between traditionalists and emergents. I can identify with so much of what you talk about…I’ve never labeled myself as either-especially the last 3 years have been a MIND awakening to spirituality…actually thinking through and investigating my own beliefs, purposely reading books that contradict my own beliefs to see if they hold, and becoming more GREY in a world that wants everything to be black and white, simple and clean. My thinking process has changed so entirely that I haven’t even thought of what it has done to my “label.” I’m starting to wonder If I am really a post modern living in a modern world (church body).

  2. Christy Fritz — September 29, 2007 #

    i just want to say again… thanks for the series :)

    i think if i made a choice,my choice would be 4 cause i just haven’t seen where tolerance (in relationships) really works or “fits” within the the body of christ. i think it possibly serves as a first step toward something better, but even then, has so many limitations, and in the end seems to breed, or maybe just justify judgemental attitudes. maybe i don’t fully understand the complexities of bein tolerant or coexisitance.

    it seems to me, we have a better way, a much deeper and harder path to follow. loving …and speaking truth in love, to challenge and encourage one another…always. i don’t think anyone on either “side” gets this “perfect” ( which i think is a relative term). and that is why we should keep pressing on. especially to avoid the polar extremes that come from division. if we don’t give up on that process in our personal relationships, within our own communities of faithful followers from varying backgrounds… i see healing on the small scale leading to unity in the kingdom. maybe that’s the point of being on the journey.
    if we just tolerate our sister/brother, and lack depth in our relationships, i think our effectiveness in loving “outsiders” obviously weakens (as pointed out by the barna report) . i definitly think tolerance is ineffective with outsiders as well. it just seems too shallow for me. i also think that when tolerance and indifference has divided generations of believers, than it is unwise to just let it be, in most cases. praying for reconcilition and really believing we are one… is difficult for any relationship, but is valuable to them all.
    i think many post-moderns like to listen and analyze and identify with people. i think practicing that effectively with those who think and process information differently (moderns), is always beneficial, even if one’s perspective doesn’t shift on either side. i know my beliefs have changed since i’ve had more challenging and meaningful relationships and responsibilities. escpecially, when that includes relating to someone extremely different from myself. i think that engaging with eachother for change, and feeling that we have the responsibility to do so, is the only way to go.( my modern dad and i have alot of talks and it’s cool how it has developed into a really respectful, and life-giving and changing conversation..)

    i guess that it’s not that i ever have to necessarily come to share or hold to a similar belief, point of view,or experience as a person from a different denominational, generational, or cultural experience… but within the body i think we have to be ready, and even excited about listening to eachothers seemingly hairbrained ideas, and always acknowledge various perspectives as valuable to be considered with a loving heart towards one another. to view others opinions to be just as valuable as our own, even when we think those opinions could hurt someone else… after all most issues that divide are truly just opinions based on the individual interpretation (most often) so let the conversation continue.
    in doing so, i think truth will always show itself in our discussion .

  3. Mak — September 29, 2007 #

    Christy - so do you believe that moderns and postmoderns should keep trying to work together even if it means simply tolerating one another or even castrating themselves to try to “get along”?

  4. Geoffrey — September 30, 2007 #

    I have learned much about the whole “emergent” thing, from you, from this series, much more than reading actual stuff at, say, Adam Walker Cleavland’s Pomomusings, as interesting and enlightening as that is.

    I like the bit about being tolerant of pretty much everything but intolerance. While I personally don’t consider myself “tolerant” precisely because the word seems to imply a certain hauteur towards those different from us, the emphasis upon the practicality of refusing to allow the narrow, the dogmatic, and the self-appointed spokesfolks for God to dominate a conversation is pretty much where I come out.

    I tried, within the past couple months, to have conversations with various fundamentalists on-line. Rather than a conversation, they have only the desire to show me how wrong I was (I even got featured on a couple posts, showing how illogical and erroneous are post-moderns and their thought) and to insist that their way is the Only True Way there is. As laughably absurd as such a proposition is, they do not believe it - the KNOW it. I now avoid such creatures at all costs.

    I believe it is not just warranted, but downright healthy, to recognize the reality that some people just are beyond reasoning with. I have no wish to attempt a dialogue with those for whom dialogue means a lecture and submission to their truth. I do believe the goal is the freely willed work towards the Kingdom of God, seeking justice, etc. - which is why all the blather about doctrine really, in the end, turns me off, because we shall never get that right. We certainly should try to figure it out as we go, but let us never rest on our laurels, and be far more concerned with loving others rather than getting sentences correct.

    Man, I’ve taken far too much space. Enjoy your Conference.

  5. Christy Fritz — September 30, 2007 #

    I think that really working together would require dying to ourselves and our ideas constantly (on both sides). I don’t think that always means giving ideas up or saying we don’t “believe” or agree with somthing, it just means the process of coming together with different beliefs would not look as “hostile” because we know and value that the Spirit is at work in the midst of us, even in the unfamiliar, and his “ideas” and truth are really what matter. And I think that simply tolerating someone isn’t loving them, and so that wouldn’t be enough to really “work” together. Getting along is different than loving someone. I can pretty much get along with anyone, I am just a good “people person”. But lay down my pride and love someone… I struggle everyday. And that has been the hardest part of my journey,so probably why I emphasize it’s importance for all of us.

    Also, I spent alot of time in other countries as a child and young adult. It just always shocked me ( even though it shouldn’t have) that God was big enough for all the different people and cultures that I encountered. That he made himself known to us all… that he is at work everywhere. I was truly in awe of his unifying power, as I saw people worship him. I never spoke the language of those around me, but could feel the Spirit in our midst. It amazes me how that is possible.

  6. Mak — September 30, 2007 #

    Christy - I agree with what you’re saying. But the reality is that many traditionalists aren’t willing to do that unless the emergents give up their convictions…so seeing that as the reality, what do you propose the emergents to do? Stay within the existing structure and give up their convictions for the sake of “unity”?

    Geoffrey - thanks :) of course, keep in mind, you now only understand MY ideas about this issue, I don’t claim to know how everyone else thinks about it.

    Next maybe I’ll tackle “missional” hehe

  7. Christy Fritz — September 30, 2007 #

    what is the existing structure as you see it? and what convictions would you have to give up? i think i have an idea, but i want to clarify what the reality is, it probably hasn’t been my experience yet…

    i think true unity doesn’t look like we may imagine. it certainly isn’t everybody being or thinking the same… and even some of the fundamentalists i know would embrace that general idea. (not many, as you are right to point out) they, by nature of their beliefs, make it more difficult to talk. many think conversation is to only convince or share their story. listening to someone is also just a means to justify their next end. it is just a really bad way of communicating. and it often comes from fear. they truly need help in that department. scary sometimes. but i don’t think i am ready to throw out all their stories yet. i think legalism will always hit both sides of any coin eventually. we always need to be shown our need for grace.
    jesus certainly called it out in his day, he won’t let it go on forever. but he let religious traditional people question him too, and answered them with truth in love.

    i also want to clarify that i don’t think “loving” is always, or even most often ever, “nice”. i agree sometimes the loving thing, is to separate yourself from someone. that is healthy and important for both sides. but IMO, separation should always come with an open door, ready for reconciliation, considering certain boundaries in the relationship that are personally given from god. i think if reconciliation comes, that ultimately will show god’s unifying power. true unity maybe. i don’t think unity means laying down anything we know is from god for us (personal convictions)… and that goes for both sides. and that is what i think should be valued and often is not. we should only question eachother with that in mind. if someone on either side can’t come to the discussion that way, than i’d say let it be for a time, but be ready to talk when people are ready.

  8. Pingback - Swinging from the Vine | knowledge and experience, now what? the finale — December 3, 2007 #

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