Humility: A key to postmodern faith?

I never expected to land on humility as an emphasis of study in postgraduate work, but it makes sense. Ever since God called me to vocational ministry, I’ve been interested in the intersection of faith, academics and postmodern culture.

Reflecting on the more than 10 years that I have been on this vocational journey, I’ve realized that it has been a process of learning, of growing, of diverse experiences with diverse people.

I’ve walked alongside folks at a summer retreat center in the rural Ozarks and at an urban elementary school. I’ve had the privilege of wrestling questions of faith with third graders and senior adults. My local church has been an important part of this journey.

A few questions have guided my searching:

— Can two people with seemingly contradictory opinions both follow God? Can both be right? Why does everything have to be either right or wrong? Is that truly what God intends?

I have a theory-in-process that all people, because we are limited to our own experiences and outlooks, tend to emphasize one aspect of God or some parts of the Bible more than others. It is almost impossible to be impartial, because we are finite and fallible beings. My own questions formed:

— Which parts of the Bible, and which characteristics of God do I emphasize?

— What are my favorite passages of the Bible? What parts of the Bible do I overlook?

— How can I learn from others who might think differently than I do?

One way to be people of faith in a postmodern world is to admit our biases and be humble with regard to God’s character, Scripture and one another. A posture of humility when approaching our faith and our world can help us see people, situations and God in a different light. God’s being, and the world overall, is much more vast than any of us can imagine.

There aren’t a lot of studies in academic or church work that emphasize humility as a worldview. While we recognize humility as a positive virtue, it’s rarely encouraged or practiced. One can look at our politics to quickly realize that.

It’s an interesting dichotomy: People who are humble are admired, but values of success in life discourage humility as a practice and outlook.

At my local church, I’ve learned to realize that people can disagree about theology yet still share life together. I’ve also realized that I can learn from people from all walks of life — they have something meaningful to say about how God works in the world. I’ve learned from our children that we should always be asking questions about faith such as “Is God matter?”

I’m glad we can ask hard questions of one another, and that this can help us along our faith journey. Asking questions is an important part of humility.

My goal in academic studies is to do something that hopefully is meaningful to the church and to the world. I hope to help people live out their faith in a postmodern context. Perhaps the key to this is through humility.

This article originally ran on the ABPnews site on August 21, 2012.

Kate Hanch

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Kate Hanch is children’s minister and ministry associate at Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.

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