James Fowler once studied the way people find a lifetime of vision and meaning. He brought together the insights of numerous interviews into a volume entitled The Stages of Faith. It was popular (and required) reading during my seminary days in the mid-1990s. Every Christian educator at the time had to be versed in what constituted human faith development over a lifetime.
One of the later stages is Conjunctive Faith--the capacity to hold contrasting views simultaneously, or at least function with them unresolved through a spirit of irony, authenticity and cooperation, especially helpful in a pluralistic context. This inability to resolve paradox drives rational, logistically minded people all sorts of crazy, and we wonder why theologians like John Milbank gave social scientists such a hard time.
Kenneth Botten takes a lengthy but scholarly look at conjunctive faith in evangelical experience, fitting for a Navy chaplain that knows the reality of life lived among the "wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind" (James 1:6).
As we enter a new phase of figuring things out in light of a highly pluralistic world that does not opt for a Christian or even Western view of the world, theologians and social scientists--both armchair and professional--attempt to grapple with controversial issues, such as same-sex relationships and Christian faith.
I want to introduce two new pieces into the discussion on same-sex marriage--one from last summer and one from last week.
The first is David Kyle Foster's article Former Homosexual Reveals 'Unmitigated Disaster of Gay Marriage' in Charisma News, July 18, 2014.
Their views also reflect persistent though opposing views on the same subject matter. I wonder if Foster and Irwin might not also represent conjunctive faith as it is lived today.
As Christians wrestle intelligently and faithfully with questions seemingly constructed out of impenetrable granite, they might just throw their hands in the air and dive into the ocean to swim obliviously as the fishes.
Or, they might duke it out with believers and non-believers alike on Facebook and at family reunions and in prayer meetings. This is just treading water, thrashing about until the inevitable wave to crashes over them and takes them under for good.
At some point, they may realize that the "figuring out" might take the rest of their lives. The tension will twist and turn but the struggle is not one easily avoided or absconded. Faith and its questions are invited, scooped up into a pile, and waded into as a toddler at the swimming pool.
It's a cheerful moment, splashing into the water for the first time, though the waters could be dangerous, even to the point of stifling the very breath of life. But, it's also a playground, a respite from the noonday heat, even a cleansing act that renews and reinvigorates. Step into the waters, and let's think this through.