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Teaching the Gospel¶
The main activity of the Synodal Church will be to publish and maintain reliable teachings about the Gospel.
The mission of the Church is to “announce” the Gospel to all peoples.
You cannot announce something without having reliable knowledge about it. But what is knowledge?
Individual knowledge, also called faith, is the sum of beliefs you rely on, the result of what you have learned during your personal history.
Community knowledge is similar, but with a fundamental difference: it isn’t stored in your heart. It is stored somewhere else. It needs a medium. This medium is the collection of texts we call teachings. Every community is defined by its teachings. Teachings are the heart of every community.
The Church has developed a rich treasure of teachings about the Gospel during her long history.
Meanwhile humanity has entered the digital era. If already the advent of book printing 500 years ago caused revolutionary changes to the way of teaching the Gospel, how could we assume that the digital era will be less revolutionary for our work?
Every teaching includes answers to moral questions. No teaching can be ethically neutral. Even a teaching about how to cook an egg assumes certain choices regarding moral questions (e.g. “Is it good to eat eggs?” or “If it’s okay to eat them, isn’t it better to eat them uncooked?”). The Gospel does not say “everything is okay”. There are things in this world that are not good. The Gospel is a moral message and gives answers to ethical questions. It tells us what is good and what isn’t.
Every teaching is meant to be reliable. That’s why teachings exist. A teaching makes no sense when nobody relies on it. But what can we teach reliably about the Gospel if we assume that God is beyond human knowledge? Or more shortly: how to explain the unexplainable?
The Bible is a first answer to this question. It is recognized as a historic text by all scholars of all religions, and as such a milestone in human history.
But the Bible is a very fundamental document. It can give contradicting answers to certain concrete questions. It can get interpreted in different ways, leading to different sets of teachings. Each church institution has its own set of teachings. While big parts of these different teachings are in harmony with each other, some of them differ considerably among different church institutions. Which shows that there must be some problem somewhere.
The Synodal Church will make clear that teachings are neither eternal nor immutable. The Gospel is eternal, the Bible is immutable, but teachings aren’t. Teachings are dynamic and need constant maintenance.
This is because teachings are “only” human-made responses to the Gospel. Ideally they are in harmony with God’s plan. But it would be an illusion to claim that they are perfect.
Publishing a teaching and then discovering that it need to be reviewed is an integral part of our learning process. We are on a journey, we do not stand still.
Human hearts are not very flexible. Teachings are more flexible than human hearts. Teachings must change first, human hearts will follow.
The ultimate goal of every teaching is to be true, i.e. that it reflects reality without distorting it.
We may trust that our teachings are the most true teachings in the visible world, but must keep in mind, at least in some corner of our mind, that no teaching about God can be perfect.
The teachings that have been developed by other church institutions cannot be ignored. We must learn from them. Loving our neighbour means to give their teachings the same careful consideration as our own teachings. In case of conflict we cannot apply lynch justice. We need a superior authority.
Rule of thumb: As long as one heart of a faithful disagrees with a teaching, this teaching can’t be the full truth. (Okay, if there is really only one single human in the world who disagrees with a teaching, we can assume that this human is not a faithful. This rule is just a rule of thumb.)
“the tree is known by its fruit” (Mt 12:33)
When some new discovery brings scientific evidence that a given teaching is suboptimal or even wrong, the the teaching needs to get updated.
An important feature of every teaching is to be clear. I dare to say that the current teachings of the Roman Catholic church are not very clear. You need years of education before you can claim to understood them more or less. As a software developer and businessman I have certain visions about what means “clear” in the digital era.
The teachings of the Synodal Church must be accessible. Every human must be able to access them without paying a license fee and without being distracted by commercial advertisements.
The Synodal Church will learn from the Free Software and Free Knowledge movements (Wikimedia Foundation, Free Software Foundation, …). These movements don’t call themselves “religious”, but they work for a better world. Their language is different from the Church, but their mission is fundamentally the same. They are a visible fruit of the Holy Spirit and they operate using synodal principles. The Synodal Church will embrace these movements use and even optimize the technologies developed by them. See Non-religious movements.
The Synodal Church will use concepts and technologies developed by the Free Software community for publishing and maintaining documentation about complex systems. An example of such a technology is the one used by Wikipedia (but note that Wikipedia is an Encyclopedia, not a teaching). Another example is my Human World website, which uses free software products like Python, docutils, Sphinx, Git and others.
Since the Synodal Church won’t be a kingdom of this world, it won’t have its own executive. It will rather develop teachings that can be used by the concrete synodal institutions when formulating their rules.
The Synodal Church itself, as an institution, will of course have her own rules for regulating her own activities. And these rules will ideally be in harmony with her own teachings. But the activities of the Synodal Church a very limited compared to those of the concrete institutions. The Synodal Church will not regulate the activities of the concrete institutions, it deliberately leaves this job to them.
Rules are different from teachings in that they are more concrete. Rules are often defined in documents that legally bind two business partners. Unlike rules, teachings never force us to follow them. They invite us.