As a pragmatist I am finding it frustrating as we appear to have little common ground to debate on; for example we agree that there is no scientific data to base our thinking on, but that is all that is allowed as proof by our atheist friend. When it comes to circumstantial evidence, for example the behaviour of Christians, then it is responded that this could come from another source (which of course it could). The one argument that I don't think has been answered is that Christians behave in counter intuitive ways (see long quote below fold), but ways which when they are lived lead to life in all its fullness (John 10:10, GNB), but again subjective experience is not allowed.
Fowler's theory of Faith Development defines faith thus:
Think if you will, of faith as `universal’, as a feature of living, acting, and self-understanding of all human beings whether they claim to be `believers’ or religious or not (Fowler & Keen, 1985:17).As teachers of the faith one of the things that we have to deal with is that there are people at all faith stages in our congregations, and things which may be helpful to those at one stage might well be harmful to those at another. Somehow we have to find a way of speaking to all, of encouraging all, without frightening some away. That is why I believe that clergy will say things in private that they will not say in public or on a blog - in private one to one conversation it is much easier to work with where that person is!
Whilst taking on board Fowler's comment:
that the stages should never be used for the nefarious comparison or the devaluing of persons (Fowler, 1987:80)I do believe that those in the higher numbered stages are less likely to behave in ways which militant atheists object to.
The challenge to those of us of faith is perhaps how to move people through the faith journey, and perhaps as a real challenge how to evangelise directly into the later stages, for if the stages apply to whatever "faith" we have then it should in theory be possible to do this - although most programs, such as Alpha, appear to introduce people to the early stages.
"Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9)." Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently. "Love your enemies (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27)." If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead. "Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Mt 5:10)."
A peacemaker's paragraph, this one confronts us with the Gospel stripped and unadorned. Nonviolence, it says, is the center of the monastic life. It doesn't talk about conflict resolution; it says, don't begin the conflict. It doesn't talk about communication barriers; it says, stay gentle even with those who are not gentle with you. It doesn't talk about winning; it talks about loving.
Most of all, perhaps, it offers us no false hope that all these attempts will really change anything. No, it says instead that we must be prepared to bear whatever blows it takes for the sake of justice, quietly, gently, even lovingly with never a blow in return.
A story from the Far East recounts that a vicious general plundered the countryside and terrorized the villagers. He was, they said, particularly cruel to the monks of the place, whom he despised.
One day, at the end of his most recent assault, he was informed by one of his officers that, fearing him, all the people had already fled the town, with the exception of one monk who had remained in his monastery going about the order of the day.
The general was infuriated at the audacity of the monk and sent the soldiers to drag him to his tent.
"Do you not know who I am?" he roared at the monk, "I am he who can run you through with a sword and never bat an eyelash."
But the monk replied quietly, "And do you not know who I am? I am he who can let you run me through with a sword and never bat an eyelash."
http://www.eriebenedictines.org/benedict - changes daily. From Insights for the Ages