Center Set Faith

Blue Ocean Blog

My comment.

I suspect centered-set and bounded-set systems are actually two systems, both with strengths and weaknesses that converse with each other and in may cases critique one another.

Using a center-set model implies making an evaluation as to weather or not something is moving towards Jesus. On what basis do you make that evaluation? Usually because you have a group of bounded set (binary) ideas that inform your centered set evaluation.

Let’s look at the recent postings about John Howard Yoder’s sexual misconduct. Yoder believed he was exploring a new sexuality in Jesus. Nearly everyone else said “no this is abusive”. Why?

Victims were in a position of less power
There wasn’t consent.

Those criteria, which maybe can be traced back to Jesus in the most vague way are part of a bounded set universe. If you evaluate on what basis you are deciding if something is moving towards or away from Jesus you’ll find a binary choice, the heart of a bounded set theory.

Both systems have their place. In my experience most people who gravitate towards an overt center set soon will develop a group of implicit bounded set criteria. Likewise those how have what they imagine to be a rigid, non-interpreted “biblical” bounded set system in time find the boundary markers move usually by a center-set motivator. The Protestant Reformation is a great example.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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3 Responses to Center Set Faith

  1. pastorpete says:

    This one is really resonating with me. Thanks Paul. And I mean the approach of the blog, not your comments. ; ) As my own theology moves toward what I am calling “Practical Relational Theology” the starting point of which is “God is about relationship” I find what this writer is saying fits what I’ve been exploring. In North American Christianity we have made the main question “are you in or out?” “saved or not saved” and then you need to be able to speak the inside bounded set (I call it “bubble”) language to demonstrate it. I believe I am finding, more and more, that the Bible is asking “are you moving toward God or away?” which is what this author talks about too, though he forgets the step from Jesus to the Father.
    To your comments, this is a part that I haven’t clarified in my own thinking yet. I do think there are things (fruit) which become evident in your life if you are moving Godward. And vice versa. But they are not the point. The direction of your relationship is.
    Do you remember me sharing my 10 posts sermon outline on the 10 commandments in another context? It captures much of this.

    • PaulVK says:

      The “center set” approach is imagined to be a way of dispelling the kinds of conflicts that we’ve seen arise in a pluralistic context. It is imagined to transcend culture war issues and issues of religious pluralism.

      OK, let’s put it in the hands of a traditional complementarian with sabbatarian impulses. They look at Islamic treatment of women. In their estimation are they moving towards or away from Jesus?

      A center set approach has within it implicit bounded set assumptions, and visa versa. They are like the binary and analog ways of imagining sin.

      • pastorpete says:

        Methinks you are trapped in bounded set thinking lol. I’m going to email you an mp3 of a sermon rather than try explain further here.

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