The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


My dialogue to understanding

In retirement I found a ready and interested community of aging people who want to talk in-depth about the big issues: How do I understand my changing identity? What can we really know after all? What is the meaning of my life? How do I connect to the bigger picture (cosmic puzzle)? And how do I deal with my own death?

I talk with strangers whom I meet by chance, a regular coffee-drinking buddy (an atheist) and a four year-old group called the Socrates’ Cafe. We are a dozen individuals comprised of burnt-out Roman Catholics, earnest but searching humanists, three Jewish people (one Orthodox and two nonpracticing), one hard-core atheist and two semi-churched Trinitarians.

Hardly a day passes that I don’t think about a difficult topic: the relationship between science and religion, the problems of classical theism (the creeds) and postmodern thought, the nature of dialogue or civil conversation about distinct worldviews, and the contributions of literature (classics and contemporary) and philosophy to my own faith community and self-understanding.

Most people I meet have just given up too soon on their quest for God. But the most important matter is the tone of the dialogue. We are all works in progress and, whether we see ourselves as spiritual or secular, we can learn from one another. Attitude is 80 percent of the dialogue. And the second most important matter is the content—the other 20 percent (a mere thimbleful in an ocean of knowledge). It needs to be focused, and we need to be:

• Chaste in language or claims to “absolute truth.”

• Modest in our generalizations beyond our own experience of life meanings.

• Clear about how we are making up our own mind and growing in Christ.

There can be no knockout punches from either side of the argument in the religious or secular debate. Therefore, we can relax and enjoy our God-journey and share our lessons about the comforts and challenges of our faith walk (Micah 6:8).

The end result has been a strengthening of my faith. Surely that is a testimony to the power of the Spirit and the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Check out this week's articles:

Bless The FleetBless this fish... and those who caught it: (right) Washington congregation pauses each year to Bless the Fleet.

Energy issues: How much is enough?

Women come to the waters: Women of the ELCA triennial participants hear calls for bold action.

The Resurrection: Exploring right relationship.

Also: Lutheran men gather in Nebraska.

Also: Women of the ELCA lead the way.

Also: All generations gather for GME.

Read these articles at our front page ...

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February issue


Embracing diversity