Still unpacking Sunday – Tacit Knowledge

Michael Polanyi

Budapest, Hungary

March 11, 1891 – February 22, 1976

Originator of the theory of knowledge.

Polanyi also developed the concept of tacit knowledge.

Tacit knowledge (as opposed to formal or explicit knowledge) is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it. It is based on the assertion that “we can know more than we can tell.” According to Polyani, not only is there knowledge that cannot be adequately articulated by verbal means, but that all knowledge is rooted in tacit knowledge in the strong sense of that term.

With tacit knowledge, people are not often aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact, regular interaction and trust.

Thanks for sharing, but what is the point?

What does this matter in relationships to creeds and orthodox statements of faith?

The point is that much of our orthodoxy or beliefs are tacit knowledge.

It is at our core. It is what we believe.
It is how we live our faith, but are not always able to articulate.
So how do we convey what we believe to others?

Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact, regular interaction and trust.

That would just be a fancy way of saying: how you live your faith matters!

And now you know …

Buzz Words: Orthodox

By simple definition orthodox means: following traditional doctrine: following the established or traditional rules of a political or religious belief
Synonyms include: conventional, accepted, traditional, conformist, approved, established, mainstream, standard

Now for most people orthodoxy means right thinking or right opinions, or in other words, “What we think” as opposed to “what they think.”

And that is one of our problems: Orthodoxy seems to have become a stick we use to beat people with rather than a standard by which we measure one another.

I believe that orthodoxy, creeds, and doctrine are foundational to who are as God’s children.

So how should orthodoxy come in to practice in our lives of faith and in our churches?
So, as Christians, where do orthodox beliefs come from?
What is the “right” thing to believe? Which church has it right?
Although the term orthodox or orthodoxy does not occur in the Scriptures, its meaning is repeatedly insisted on throughout scripture.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve,” 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 NASB.

This statement by Paul is considered by most Biblical scholars to be an early creed of the Christian church. As Methodists, we are not a creedal church. But remember that a creed is simply a statement of belief. A creed is simply a means to write down an orthodox set of beliefs. The difficulty we have with creeds is that too often creeds have been used to cram “right thinking” down our throats in a “it’s my way of thinking or no way” method of indoctrination. Creedal Orthodoxy has been viewed then by many as a way to have you “check your brain at the door” and we will tell you what you believe.

Paul’s statement of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ seems simple enough to us and yet it was not so simple an idea when Paul was writing it to the church in Corinth.

There was a controversy brewing in Corinth about the reality of a bodily resurrection. Paul was setting a standard so that the false teachings about resurrection and Christ might be recognized as false or unorthodox.

Orthodoxy and the creeds were developed so that we might recognize that which was false. We need an orthodoxy so that we might not be deceived into a following a false gospel. The standard doctrine of the church is discovered in most of Paul’s writings in the New Testament and most of Paul’s writings are addressing false doctrines that were circulating in the day.

Paul, the other Apostles and the early church leaders all wrote, studied, and refuted that which was unorthodox, false, or heresy. And by the year 400, there had developed what we would call “classic Christian orthodoxy.” This Orthodoxy represented mainstream Christianity in the world until to the Protestant Reformation. Orthodoxy not only defined its beliefs in terms of standard creeds, such as the “Apostles’ Creed” and the “Nicene Creed,” but it judged the conduct of its adherents in terms of certain prescribed rules and practices for worship and for private life.

Our classical Christian orthodoxy is being challenged by a movement within Christianity. This movement is coming from within our church walls. This movement pushes back against the idea of orthodoxy. This idea pushes back against the idea that there is any absolute truth.

How then do we live as orthodox Christians amidst all of this?

First a word of caution, when we choose to live like Christ we are not living orthodox. Truth is we would be living most unorthodox as compared to the world if we chose to live like Christ. I think that is part of the point that Christ makes in all of His teaching. When we live our faith we are not doing so in order to be doctrinally sound, if that were so we would seek to become the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. We become orthodox Christians when our beliefs are so a part of who we are that we act on them without having to think about them.

Orthodoxy is then all of the core beliefs and practices that allow us to live as God intended us to live – joyous and free! We need orthodoxy to guide our beliefs as a church, as a people, as individuals. But I propose to you today that our orthodoxy needs to be generous. We need an orthodoxy that upholds the early church creeds, but doesn’t use them to beat people into submission or elevates our orthodoxy by demonizing another. We need new creeds for our day that help us understand our faith. We need a generous orthodoxy guided by:

Humility that allows us to admit our past and current thoughts may have been limited or distorted;  Charity towards those of other traditions who may understand some things better than us; Courage to be faithful to the path we have been given; Diligence to seek again the path of faith especially in the areas we seem to have lost our way

(Brian D. McLaren, a Generous Or+thodoxy, Zondervan, 2004. P 37-38).

As we seek out our orthodoxy we need to remember the often quoted line by John Wesley, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

The United Methodist Church is not a creedal church and yet the United Methodist Hymnal contains nine creeds or affirmations. This include the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creed as well as affirmations of faith taken from Paul’s letters (Corinthians, Colossians, Romans and Timothy) and affirmations from the United Church of Canada and the Korean Methodist Church. As a United Methodist, you are not required to believe every word of the affirmations in order to become a member of the United Methodist Church. To that extent we are generous in a “y’all come” kind of way. But, we must hold on to these affirmations and creeds as they help us come to our own understanding of the Christian faith. They affirm our unity in Christ with those followers who first wrote them, the many generations who have recited them before us and those who will recite them after we have gone. Therefore while we do not use them to divide, we must remember to use them to unite.

Let us unite our voices in declaring our faith – our orthodoxy – remembering: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

A Modern Affirmation of Faith, United Methodist Hymnal #885 :

We Believe In God, the Father, infinite in wisdom, power and love,
whose mercy is over all his works,
and whose will is ever directed to his children’s good.

We Believe In Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man,
the gift of the Father’s unfailing grace,
the ground of our hope,
and the promise of our deliverance from sin and death.

We Believe In the Holy Spirit as the divine presence in our lives,
whereby we are kept in perpetual remembrance of the truth of Christ,
and find strength and help in time of need.

We Believe that this faith should manifest itself in the service of love,
as set forth in the example of our blessed Lord,
that the kingdom of God may come upon the earth.


On the way to Sunday . . . Keeping the Faith

Get your clothes clean by using Barf for that smells fresh every time kinda smell!

I think I’ll pass.

When the Iranian company Paxam began marketing the laundry detergent they translated the word Snow into Farsi and got Barf. Imagine this Barf is one of the tops selling detergents in the Middle East. You can actually wash your hair in Barf for that fresh as daisy smell.

It’s not uncommon to lose meaning when translating words into a different culture. Thanks to Stacey at The Translation Blog for these other great blunders in word translations and meanings:

A Different Kind of Milk

Years ago, the American Dairy Association ran a famous advertising campaign that included the slogan, ‘Got Milk’. When they attempted to expand this campaign into Mexico, the resulting translation became, ‘Are You Lactating?’ Now I don’t know about you, but I have to wonder if the Mexican’s who saw that ad were scratching their heads in disbelief at the American company who wanted them to line up and donate milk.

Lose A Finger

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s slogan of ‘finger lickin good’ is well known all over the world. However, in China apparently the majority of their patrons took it to mean that KFC was suggesting that they wanted to ‘eat their fingers off.’

Be Careful Of The Drinking Water

The Coors beer slogan ‘turn it loose’ was an instant hit in America. But in Spanish speaking countries, it inadvertently became ‘get loose bowels’. I wonder how many Hispanics recognized the irony that American’s are told not to drink the water in many Hispanic nations for just the same reason.

Unfortunately in the church we too often use words that just don’t translate to the same meaning when we use them in our cultural context.

Words like Faith, God, Grace, Mercy, Sin, Salvation just don’t have the same meaning in culture that they do within the walls of the church.

Do you know what the words mean that you use everyday as you talk about your faith?

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. I Peter 3:15 NIV

Are you prepared to give an answer?

The world is searching for answers and meaning.

Break open your words, let the light shine out, 
let ordinary people see the meaning. 
Psalm 119:130 The Message

If we continue to remain silent, who knows what meaning will be ascribed to the words you use.

See you Sunday …