Sunday, April 06, 2008


Sociologists will tell us that social movements (religious and otherwise) take their facts and ologies (ideologies, theologies, ontologies, ecologies, etc.), and turn them into nonnegotiables. These nonnegotiables serve as a powerful unifying force that gives strength to the movement. The nonnegotiables become a filter through which every thought is passed, or rejected.

We religious types are expert in reducing our faith down to facts and theologies.

“We have the truth.” End of story. Not only will we not respond to any questions about our nonnegotiables, or any urging to expand or modify our understanding of nonnegotiables, we will take offense at any questions. If you persist in your questions, you don’t get to be part of the club.

I need to remember that our faith is founded on One who says that truth isn’t merely facts and ideas. Jesus says that He is the Truth. Absolute Truth is a person. We don’t figure out Truth; we are invited to a relationship with Truth.

We need to somehow master ways to hold onto Truth without shutting people out. If we truly believe, we can both have Truth and seek Truth.

In my world, I find that academics, of course, are truth seekers. We can open up ways to better reach, and better mobilize, academics by all being truth seekers together. Nonnegotiables throw up red flags; the typical academic sees nonnegotiables as a sign of intellectual weakness.

Facts and ideas are exhaustible; they can be entirely mastered and contained. But a relationship grows infinitely. Our relationship with The Truth is inexhaustible and uncontainable. This concept of Truth will stand up with academics (and the postmodern mind as well).

There are two definitions of nonnegotiable:
  • Ideological – that which cannot be questioned
  • Financial – that which cannot be traded

So far I’ve been dwelling on that first definition, the ideological definition that fits this posture of reducing our ideas and facts into a list of nonnegotiables. But the financial definition is interesting to me too. Think in terms of trying to get a latte at your friendly neighborhood Starbucks with a pocket full of dinars. The Iraqi dinar won’t get you much, especially those older dinar notes with Saddam’s face all over them. They are nonnegotiable; they can’t be traded and they are worthless.

In the realm of ideas, our nonnegotiables are often nonnegotiable.

When we cheapen Truth to a list of nonnegotiables, we make our positions worthless in today’s market of ideas. Our faith is not only big enough to stand up to all questions; it is expanded, enhanced, and strengthened by questions.

For a bit more of my thoughts, check out today's talk at The Chapel at

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