I want to summarize the dialectics and suggest one for the church, especially for adult Sunday School classes.
The first one is the Aristotelian Logic Dialectic. You probably recognize the name Aristotle. He developed a system of logic that is still used today, and was especially a foundation of the Rationalist Modern thinking in the period that we are now leaving. This is how it looks:
A = Truth
B = the opposite of the Truth
If A is true, then B isn't.
So, it looks like this in it's logic form:
If A, then not B
In most churches and adult Sunday Schools, this is the most common method used. And where some of it is useful and perhaps necessary at times, it can be very restricting, boring, and at times offer a wrong interpretation of Scripture.
The postmodern way of thinking is more in the Hegelian Dialectic after the 18th-19th century philosopher. Georg Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). While Hegel taught this as how historic eras form, other disciplines have adopted the idea. In this form of thinking, A and B are sort of merged together to make a C. Here is how it looks:
Let's say we think A is the Truth and B is the opposite of that Truth. A and B will be meshed together to form a new Truth - C.
Hegel called A Thesis and B AntiThesis. The new Truth, C is called Synthesis. In other words, two truths (opposites of each other) are synthesized together. This is why I have written lately in previous posts about this synthesizing inclination of our younger adults, because it is the main way of thinking in these new postmodern times.
Here is how the Hegelian Dialectic looks:
The Synthesis then becomes the new Thesis.
Synthesis (New Thesis)<------------->AntiThesis (the opposite of the Synthesis [new Thesis]
The reason I think this is so appealing to people, and especially today to our younger adults, is the freedom it offers to pick your Thesis. However, once it leaves the first Thesis, you really don't have much control over it. Since the new Synthesis always becomes the new Thesis (the new truth), you cannot control that much where the Truth is leading. In other words, it keeps leading you, instead of you deciding and researching the Truth for yourself. So, this can, and often does, take us away from the Scriptures, the cross and Christianity in general. That is one reason I think why the emergents are straying, because many of them tend to use this dialectic.
There is another dialectic that I really recommend for Adult Sunday School teachers to try. I would also suggest it for pastors, but at this point, most churches don't have a dialog in the church service, so you couldn't do it. I am in a SS class that uses this and it certainly is more interesting than any other I’ve been in. In fact, out class just keeps growing while sadly, the other classes keep shrinking. This type of dialectic is the one Socrates used. You are allowed to ask all sorts of questions to arrive at the Truth. You can think within the box, or outside of it. In Christianity, this dialectic must of course always lead back to the truth of Scripture. But the students find the Truth themselves, instead of being lectured to or at.
OK - here are three SS class examples where I will show you how each of the three dialecticd works:
Sunday School class #1-The Aristotelian Dialectic
Teacher: "What does [a certain verse] say?"
Class: (whoever answers puts it in his/own own words. In other words, the verse is just rehashed/rephrased.)
Teacher: "What do you think this verse means?"
Class: It means this, not that.
Sunday School class #2-The Hegelian Dialectic
Teacher: "Have any of you ever studied Buddhism?"
Class member: "I have."
Teacher: "Are there any elements you find in Buddhism that you also find in Christianity?"
Class Member: "Yes I have." [The class member then enumerates the similarities]
Teacher: "Well, when we tell Buddhists about Christ, we can tell them the similarities and leave out the offensive points of Christianity so they will be more comfortable with us and more responsive to getting into dialogue with us."
This sounds good, but eventually the synthesis begins to take us too far a field until we have a mishmashed religion that really no one recognizes anymore because we've invented out own through constant synthesis.
Sunday School class #3-The Socratic Dialectic
Teacher: "When reading this verse, what comes to your mind?"
Various class members respond, including Bob who had serious questions about the verse.
Teacher: "Bob said that this verse presented problems to him and told us what those problems are. Let's go with that and explore this some more. Can anyone think of other parts of Scripture that would answer Bob's dilemma with this verse? Or, does anyone else have this same dilemma?"
The teacher needs to always bring this dialectic back to Scripture but not necessarily the same day. The discussion could go on for weeks without any Scripture being mentioned. Also, discussions of concepts and topics could be done, not only Scriptural passages. For example,
Teacher: Why was Job sacrificing? Should we sacrifice? Why did God give Job twice as much as he lost. Will God do that for us?
This forces the class to really think these through deeply while helping them to tie Scripture together and also to learn difficult theological concepts more easily and have a more interesting time doing it. The teacher needs to help the class understand that they can offer various answers, not just the "Right" ones they've learned as children or even adults in Sunday School or church. Then later, hopefully, the teacher along with the class will find the Truth out of this process. If they don't, then at least the thinking and asking of God has begun to find the Truth at a later date.
I also believe that as churches start more nad more intergenerational Sunday School classes and groups, this is the dialectic they must use or they will lose the younger adults.
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