Mathspeak for Christians: Bounded-sets


[I’m going to start posting bits of what I’ve been learning in my classes, in case you’re interested. If my language starts sounding pretentious and annoyingly academic, please stop me.]

Here is something I’m chewing on from a book by Paul Hiebert:

What are the consequences of defining Christianity as a bounded-set?

In the West, we tend to define our realities in terms of boundaries, in terms of either/or, rather than the both/and of fuzzy-sets. Bounded-sets is a view of reality based on the Greek worldview that we have inherited.

Hiebert warns that when Christianity takes on the form of bounded-sets, we first begin classifying people as Christians “on the basis of what she or he is,” according to our own tests of orthodoxy and orthopraxy (Hiebert 1994: 115). Secondly, bounded-set Christianity sharply delineates between those who are “in” as Christians, and those who are “out,” and that, as consequence, we tend to work hard to maintain this delineation. Thirdly, this sort of Christianity views all believers as essentially the same, discrediting any sense of spiritual maturity or immaturity, and the need to learn from one another. Fourth, a heavy emphasis is placed on conversion as the defining “boundary line,” while sanctification has no place in the set. Lastly, there is an over-emphasis on the ontological reality of righteousness: the intrinsic nature of the person is of the highest importance.

(Maths photo by Akirsa)

Comments
4 Responses to “Mathspeak for Christians: Bounded-sets”
  1. 10,000 white doves says:

    I want to curl up in your music blanket and listen.

  2. lisa says:

    uh oh, you’re turning into a seminary geek 😉

    we believe in bounded-sets only for the purpose of determining who drinks tea and who does not. if you are outside of the set of tea drinkers it is highly unlikely that we will invite you over to our house.

    all kidding aside, i think it’s great that you’re reading hiebert. it’s funny (maybe sad actually) that once we determine a boundary we put our energy into maintaining it. as you know, we lived among the maasai people for ten years and it was weird the way first generation believers would get excited if they found a boundary they could focus on. used to really make us crazy.

  3. Jenelle says:

    Dove,
    thank you for your sweet songs to me.

  4. Jenelle says:

    Lisa,
    You are a crack-up! Tea + bounded-sets = wonderful. Except that I really much prefer coffee. I’m awfully glad you still invite me over.

    I need you to write more about your experience with the Maasai, please. Blog and print, please.

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