Stepping Outside Our Perspective

Saturday, February 15, 2020

We are living in the most persecuted times. Ever.

I think even our grandparents would be able to testify that is not the case. And before them, even more so.

This age is so smart because of the technology we have.

Well, take a look at ten or twenty year old articles that rave about a new technology. Try not to laugh at how (by today’s standards) that technology was limited. “Oh my, that computer has a forty megabyte hard drive!”

America is the greatest country. Ever.

Um, sure. Let me know if you think so after traveling abroad.

Each generation and culture falls into the habit of thinking they know more than all the others. But the truth is, our opinions and thinking are influenced by our surroundings. And we tend to forget more than we remember. A sense of perspective usually helps.

Growing in Richness

As part of my effort to deepen my Ancient Greek fluency, I have expanded my reading literature. In my Greek class, we read a fictional narrative about a man by the name of Dicaopolis, a Greek farmer. Each chapter’s prose became increasingly difficult, growing in richness and using grammar learned from that chapter.

Despite being so new to the language, I am able to read certain books of the Greek New Testament without needing to refer a dictionary more than once or twice a paragraph (I’m reading through John’s gospel the original Greek right now, for example).

Reading in the original Greek has given me a greater theological perspective, albeit in small increments, how the writers thought, by following the grammar directly instead of through translation.

But while expanding my surrounding by learning to read in the original Greek, I was still reading a text that was familiar. The New Testament.

Much of my thinking is biased by reasoning and exegesis from today’s great thinkers.

Blinded by Nearness, Seeing Through Distance

But how are today’s theologians compared to those of the early church? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take a time machine back to the first or second century and listen to some of their conversations?

This weekend I had the chance to do just that!

I had ordered a copy “The Apostolic Fathers.” This is a collection of writings from various writers who had very close contact with the original apostles.

So on one hand, their writings are not considered to be scripture, but on the other hand, they offer a direct window into the conversations that were taking place during the first generation of the church.

One example that came up was in regards to taking communion. In today’s day, open communion is all the rage. Churches want everyone to feel included and fear offending anyone by turning them away.

As a result, everyone is invited to take part in the Lord’s Supper.

In the past, I had read a few verses in the New Testament about some early Christians not being serious about the Lord’s Supper, or getting drunk off the wine. But I never thought too much of who was allowed to take part.

Turns out the early fathers took this very seriously. Directly written about by the early church fathers, one had to be a baptized Christian in order to be allowed to partake in communion.

Somehow, many today have watered down (no pun intended) communion to just a symbolic ritual that no longer involve the body and blood of Jesus Christ. They have made it just a symbolic thing that is done, if it is even done at all. I’m learning of more churches that do not even offer communion, despite Jesus telling us to observe it.

The Lord’s Supper has become neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm. Something we are warned of in Revelation.

Just a Step Back to See the Big Picture

Are all the apostolic fathers right in all their thinking? Not at all. The fact that their writings are not canonical (scripture), means they are not the inerrant, infallible words of God.

But by taking a step back, a step away from our current worldview, and looking at thinking from someone else’s point of view, we often challenge our own views.

My own views have already been challenged during the reading the apostolic writings of 1 and 2 Clement as well as the Didache.

I can’t wait to hear what the other apostolic fathers have to teach me.

I challenge you to take a step outside your cultural comfort zone this week.

For example, have you ever read a foreign newspaper (most have English versions)? In today’s digital age, reading from the Times in England or listening to the BBC. Maybe even watch Al Jazeera. I am still very basic with my vocabulary, but I have begun reading Italian news stories to gain a perspective into Italian culture.

Instead of complaining of Trump, watch news from South America to understand what is happening in Venezuela right now with their democracy.

But no matter how you do it, step outside your comfort zone and expose yourself to a wider thinking.

Jesus taught this often. The Samaritan was someone a Jewish person would never want to help. There was hatred for Samaritans. Yet, Jesus goes out of His way to help.

Go out of your way so you can better understand our global neighbors and be a light to the world.

Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ, author, AI programmer, and animator. I spend my time split between the countryside of Lancaster, Pa, and Northern Italy, near Cinque Terre and La Spezia.

In addition to improving lives through data analytics with my BS in Computer Science, I also published, Searching For Me, my first memoir, about my adoption, search for my biological family, and how it affected my faith.