7. You’ve been in many dialogues with nonChristians. What is the most challenging question you’ve had to answer?
Intellectually, why God should have had the Israelites kill even the infants of the pagan tribes. Culturally, I understand why this would have been done. I could even see God himself performing the task. Having the Israelites do it, though… that is hard for me to fathom.
Emotionally–many people who aren’t Christians used to be Christians, but have suffered somehow at the hands of other Christians, or have endured some tragedy where God seems to have been absent. Obviously, non-Christians can fit into both of those categories, too. They come at you with what they portray as intellectual objections but actually, they aren’t. They are deep-seated intuitions tinged with grief and despair. If you are lucky, this comes out early in the discussion. Since many of my conversations are over the Internet, I usually won’t discover this at all. I do, however, tend to just assume it. One has to work gingerly; if there appear to be clues present that something else is going on, I try to move the conversation in that direction.
As you might expect, they’d prefer to keep the conversation on their ‘intellectual’ objections.
8. Are you of a particular denomination? Do you feel there is a right denomination?
My background is in a conservative Lutheran denomination. That has certainly had an impact. C.S. Lewis (that man again!) observed once that in the ‘center’ of all the denominations, there seems to be folks who are very much alike, even theologically. I think this is true. I’m not a big fan of denominationalism. I think a lot of it is shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. Denominational structures will be consumed with fire, along with the universe. Only the people will be left. I think a lot of the effort expended in denominational upkeep amounts more or less to ‘systems management’ and as I just said, the Church is not a system, it is a body.
At the same time, ideas have consequences. Doctrines have implications. False doctrines can have seriously bad consequences, temporally and eternally. We cannot be indifferent to this and still be Biblical. Small scale ‘systems’ are unavoidable, but we should always bear in mind that they are temporal.