Discussion questions for Chapter 2 (From DJ Chuang):
- One pastor is quoted in this chapter, “There’s a danger especially in Asian American cultures’ emphasis on knowledge.… I’ve seen too many congregations that are solidly committed to right doctrine, doctrinal purity. They know all the doctrine, but it makes no difference in their lives.�?
This is a fascinating observation, and I’ve been noticing this particular aspect in my own walk with God. I love to read, think, plan, and dream, but there is something irrational about the Gospel; there is something nebulous to this thing called faith. And I’ve realized that in the midst of the many assurances that I have, I don’t want to go where I can’t see. A young friend of mine recently said to me, “I don’t want to let my circumstances dictate to my calling”; and while I found that statement particularly compelling, I didn’t know exactly how to process that. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I believe it, I’ve read the stories, seen the pictures, and had my prayers answered; and I know that faith in where God is leading us is not always rational, and even less safe, but there is a certain something that I’ve noticed in myself and in Asian-American churches that we don’t step out against our good sense.
The trouble is, of course, being able to discern exactly what, when, where, and suspending the question of why. Doctrine is not faith in as much as self-righteousness is not righteousness. Here again, I’ve heard the stories of what God is capable of doing with mustard seeds of faith, but there is that “wackiness” factor associated with those sort of “charismaniacs” that I just can’t seem to be able to do. But when circumstances require a church or an individual to step outside the realm of individual knowledge or collective knowledge, despite every circumstance being counter to that, how many of us would stand on the terms that God spoke to me that this is what we should do? Even more to some of our dilemmas, what do you do when God doesn’t say anything at all? How do you discern then, especially if they say, the problem with you is that you rely on your “knowledge of,” as opposed to your “faith in”.
The problem is that the collective nature of our culture is that if I do something that nobody else agrees with, I’m abandoned; I’m the idiot that went out by myself. In the case of irrationality, I’m also unable to defend what is compelling me to do whatever hypothetical situation that God is calling me to, further deepening that chasm between community and stepping out in faith. In other words, if I feel compelled to start a halfway-house in the inner-city and leave my job to commit to full-time social work, while people may acknowledge the ideal behind it, it’s cast as overzealousness at the expense of my wife, family, and career. It’s not so much that we don’t want doctrine to make a difference in our lives, it’s just that we can’t justify the changes that lead to applying that doctrine. It’s simply too risky and I can’t guarantee that we will all come out better for it.
We would rather be able to explain, rationalize, and know what to say and do for every action, lest we become one of those radicals on the fringes of the community. Case in point, how many communities follow the revolutionary pastor? That revolutionary pastor becomes a revolutionary free agent whose story doesn’t get very far in the community despite whatever cult following he may have drummed up while he was around.