I've been to a number of churches, but I haven't been to all of them, of course (there are about a dozen within two miles of my home, by road, so there are obviously way too many to visit them all). The number I've been to is probably about 12-15 over the years, which probably doesn't constitute a representative sample, but I'm not making a hard-line case here so much as just pointing out an observation I've had that seems to indicate what I was talking about yesterday. (I also checked with several friends who indicate that their experience with non-Universalist churches has matched mine in this regard, which may raise the total number of churches visited to nearly 50, though obviously this doesn't constitute good data.)
No church I have ever been to devotes any significant amount of time to teaching rival interpretations (and certainly doesn't call those "the truth"), asking the congregation present for spirited debate or to choose the one they think is the most truthy--hence the exclusion to the Universalists.
Indeed, every not-Universalist church I've attended for long enough, perhaps a dozen sermons will do it in many cases, eventually takes time to makes the point that one doesn't get to choose about "the truth." One shouldn't be a "cafeteria Christian," I've heard it called. "The truth," they say, "is the truth," and that doesn't leave open room for choice or discussion.
Of course, as I pointed out in the post yesterday (and, according to the comments, was apparently completely missed), jumping from interpretation to "the truth" is exactly where I think Christians are missing the fact about the interpretation. The point is that none of them can know that they are right, yet the vast majority of them speak and act as if they do know this. (I'd say that they do know it, as they esteem the situation, but I'll get the "evidence-free assertion!!1" card laid on me again for saying something like that.) To keep it relevant to things I talked about in other recent posts, I think that faith is exactly the mechanism that makes this jump for them.
I think if Christians were being honest about the observation that their understanding of the Bible is an interpretation, without jumping the gap (by use of faith) to "the truth," then we'd see churches more and more frequently teaching various interpretations--noting that they are all just interpretations of what might be the truth--and inviting their members to believe whatever they want from among those.
Interesting questions arise here:
- Other than Universalists, are there Christian churches or denominations that preach this way? Which ones?
- Is it a stable model outside of the small groups of people who want their religious experience to be Universalist to preach this way?
- Do the pastors of the churches that do not teach this way know that they're just teaching an interpretation, or do they think, via faith, that they are teaching the right interpretation? How do they know?
- If I'm right, does this reveal a primary way that faith is pretending to know what you don't know, or what?