By Tom Ehrich

I’ve joined several LinkedIn groups in order to broaden my exposure to what others are thinking. One conversation has been jarring.

Writer was a Nigerian Anglican priest, who was arguing that the Church has lost its way. Not an unusual topic, of course, but his way of making his point was confusing to me.

He quoted a lot of Scripture. He suggested that God’s original intent could be found in Paul. Most disconcertingly, he spoke with absolute certainty, as if only his viewpoint had any value.

I don’t question his faith or sincerity. I just realized how differently I approach such matters. I look to what Jesus said and did, as related in the four gospels, not to the church-founder Paul. I don’t quote Scripture passages as if they could answer all questions. I venture into the gray of ambiguity and seeking, not the black-and-white of certainty.

I wondered if this is a Third World / First World matter. Or Fundamentalist / Progressive. Or African / Western. Or does he speak from the front lines of a confrontation with Islam, whereas I live in pluralism?

I debated answering one of his posts, but decided we didn’t share a common language. I make no suggestion that either of us is right. I’m just newly aware of how differently two people of different backgrounds can approach the same issues.

Backgrounds shape faith more than I had realized.