Somewhere, from a friend whose name I cannot recall, I recently heard it said: “The path to re-understanding is often through misunderstanding.” I profoundly agree with this insight. My own journey to what I call missional-ecumenism has followed a path of re-understanding what the church has taught in previous centuries, especially in the early centuries, that began when I plainly began to see that things I misunderstood where the very things I assumed to be correct. So my path to re-understanding followed a road that began with my misunderstanding.
I find myself hoping and praying, almost every day, that more and more Christian leaders would acknowledge their limited perspective regarding many things that they assume so confidently they clearly know. What I call “epistemic humility” is always appropriate. We know what we know, especially when it comes to the revelation of Christ by the Holy Spirit, but even what we know is never so certain that we cannot understand more than what we know. Why is this so difficult to grasp?
Paul says “knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b). Serving within the Reformed sector of the kingdom of God has shown me far too many times than I can recall that this principle is experientially true. Rather than being humbled by the doctrine of divine sovereignty many become the proud teachers of a human system that has all the answers. This certainty about the human system gives proponents a strong disdain for those who do not “get it.” Other expressions of the faith offer their own platform for such human arrogance but this is the one I know best.
The point is clear. If we are to re-form and re-new the church we need to re-understand the past and the present. The best place to begin is by facing our current misunderstanding(s).