A New Kind of Christianity

Brian asks ten questions that attempt to integrate our inner lives with our outward actions:

  • The Narrative Question: What Is the Overarching Storyline of the Bible?
  • The Authority Question: How Should the Bible Be Understood?
  • The God Question: Is God Violent?
  • The Jesus Question: Who is Jesus and Why is He Important?
  • The Gospel Question: What Is the Gospel?
  • The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?
  • The Sex Question: Can We Find a Way to Address Sexuality Without Fighting About It?
  • The Future Question: Can We Find a Better Way of View the Future?
  • The Pluralism Question: How Should Followers of Jesus Relate to People of Other Religions?
  • The What Do We Do Now Question: How Can We Translate Our Quest into Action?

from zoecarnate

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You Scored as Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

  • Emergent/Postmodern                         82%
  • Neo orthodox                                          61%
  • Modern Liberal                                       57%
  • Classical Liberal                                     54%
  • Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan        46%
  • Roman Catholic                                     39%
  • Reformed Evangelical                          32%
  • Charismatic/Pentecostal                     25%
  • Fundamentalist                                        4%

Interesting results from taking a short and completely anonymous quiz titled What’s your theological worldview?. I guess the big surprise for me is that I answered more for Roman Catholic then for Evangelical. The descriptive paragraph is completely accurate.

5. What school or stream of theology to you now feel most comfortable with?

I chose to answer this question first because I thought it would be the easiest. But as I sit down to write, I realize that it is not really that easy of a question to answer. Right off the top of my head I’d probably say the Emergent stream, but being a good emergent, I feel the need to deconstruct this.

First of all, let me say that I come from a charismatic, conservative evangelical background. I’ll also say that I do not feel as comfortable in this stream as I have in the past. Though we may now be post-using post, I would say that I am post-charismatic. Not non-charismatic and not anti- charismatic but beyond charismatic. I think that a lot of what passes for charismatic is self-indulgent. Focus tends to be on the gifted no matter how hard we try to say that we do not want it to be so. Those who seem to be more in tune with the ‘spirit’ tend to be more favored. This form of religion could be called Spiritanity.

Next I would almost say that I am ‘post’-Evangelical. But I know that this has more to do with the portrayal of a hijacked Evangelicalism than it has to do with the stream itself. I am not comfortable in a hyper-conservative, televangelistic, consumerist evangelical  stream. Though there is a more mainline, progressive evangelical stream that I would be comfortable in, I almost feel the need to drop the ‘evangelical’ term all together.

Finally, a term that comes out of the book, The Last Word and the  Word After That, that these questions arose is post-protestant. I have said elsewhere that I feel that though a lot of good came from the Protestant reformation, one of the greatest evils is the spirit of protesting. This spirit has lead us to 30000 + denominations. This is diversity with division. One of the reasons I still dwell in the conservative, charismatic stream even though I am not comfortable there is that I have an hope, maybe it could even be said that I have a dream, that we are entering into a post-protesting era where we can have diversity even as we navigate together in a unity.

The protestant movement has been a classic fulfillment of the 2 Tim 4:3, if our ears are not being itched properly, we leave and/or go start something new. I believe that this new era of globalization will be a catalyst of coming into a centering of faith. This is the stream I want to be apart of. Make no mistakes, as this new reformation continues, there will be a division.

“I think two opposite things are happening at once. Some people are  opening up, moving beyond old ways of thinking, asking new questions, They are restless, and they have hope that there are new and better answers out there. At the same time, a lot of people are tightening up, entrenching, backing into old corners where they feel safe.”
The Last Word and the  Word After That

Of these two streams, I want to be in the first. I want to reboot my faith beyond the confines of the neo-Platonism theologies of Augustine and wrestle out new theologies for the new era we find our-self in. Not that we take scripture lightly; as a matter of fact, I think we hold scripture in a higher regard then if we just took it literally. We no longer trust in the bible to be an instruction manual, rather we see in it a model of a wrestling with God in relationship, to make Him a reality for out generation.

So what stream am I in? Post-charismatic, post-evangelical, post-protestant? Am I emergent, missional, or simple/organic church? Am I a liberal conservative or a conservative liberal? The more I regard this question, the more that I realize that there are a lot of streams that I could say that I am comfortable in and there are some that I would be uncomfortable saying I in. And because Emergent is so vague, and includes so many steams that I would be comfortable in, I think that Emergent is as good a label or stream as I could ask for.

A New Kind 0f Christian

  1. Describe in detail your doctrine of hell.
  2. Briefly explain the gospel as you understand it.
  3. What is you doctrine of scripture?
  4. Where do you stand in relation to the “openness of God”.
  5. What school or stream of theology to you now feel most comfortable with?
  6. What is you view on the scope salvation?

What is you doctrine of scripture?

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16

You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.
John 5:39

Inerrant

Let me start by saying that every seminary, other than conservative ones, believe that the scriptures are fallible. There are errors, and inconsistencies  in them. Those seminaries that teach otherwise, have the doctrine of inerrancy at stake! The errors include dates, numbers, rulers as well as transcribing errors. For example, Matthew gives Jeremiah the credit for a prophecy by Zechariah. Also, Matthew 23:35  ” unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” gets the wrong Zacharias:   “unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah…” (Zechariah 1:1) instead of  “And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest” (II Chronicles 24:20-21).

Then there are inconsistencies. The birth narratives of Luke and Matthew as well as their genealogies; four gospels four different signs above Jesus on the cross; the day Jesus was crucified -day after passover in synoptic gospels and on passover in John; the account of Paul’s actions after being converted -Galatians 1:15-24 versus Acts 9:1-31. These are only a couple of the errors and inconsistencies that are found throughout the bible, in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

Does this mean that the scriptures weren’t inspired? Not at all! It just means that they were primarily human writings. The bible is a human book containing human errors, judgments and misunderstandings as these humans struggled to understand their God. It is also God’s book of his seeking out mankind. His message is found in the narrative of a people seeking after God, warts, errors and all.

Authoritative

The next fallacy is that the scriptures are authoritative. By this we really mean that our interpretation of those scriptures are authoritative. For an example we just need to look at the issue of slavery. Slavery is biblical. The only way we get around this fact is to re-interpret those writings in an interpretive context. This puts authority on the interpretation and the context more than the very scriptures themselves. A more modern example may be regarding women. Should they not have head coverings? Be silent, barefoot and pregnant (1Ti 5:14)? The scriptures themselves are very clear on such matters. The context and interpretation make our reading less clear.

Once we allow interpretation (and we all do), almost any position can be argued as biblical. And this is just within the conservative evangelical camp. What about Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anabaptist camps?

No, scripture is not authoritative. God alone is our authority. And it is as we come together as the whole body of Christ and interpret the scriptures that we can say that we are in agreement and thus have an authority in unity.

My View

So, where do I stand? Though I believe that scripture is both errant and unauthoritative, I believe that it is still inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness and that ultimately it points to Jesus – the ultimate revelation of God.

I have started reading the third book in the A New Kind of Christian Trilogy by Brian McLaren. This series follows the journey of Pastor Dan Poole in his quest to wrestle through the issues and questions that he once had pat answers for, but as he wades into the mire of post-modernity, he realizes that the answers that he once was so sure of, are no longer satisfying. This thing that is happening can be summed up in a quote from the third book, The Last Word and the Word After That:

“I think two opposite things are happening at once. Some people are opening up, moving beyond old ways of thinking, asking new questions. They are restless, and they have hope that there are new and better answers out there. At the same time, a lot of people are tightening up, entrenching, backing into old corners where they feel safe.”

In this last book, Dan is basically being tried for heresy by his board and in the process, he is asked to answer the following questions:

  1. Describe in detail your doctrine of hell.
  2. Briefly explain the gospel as you understand it.
  3. What is you doctrine of scripture?
  4. Where do you stand in relation to the “openness of God”.
  5. What school or stream of theology to you now feel most comfortable with?
  6. What is you view on the scope salvation?

I have decided to take on these questions and blog my answers in the coming days and weeks.

For unbelievers, I think the big questions of our time have to do with pain/evil and justice.

  1. Why wouldn’t god, if he were a good god, create a world, if it was in her power, that was good? Or even just better?
    • millions of people (including babies and children) slaughtered at the hands of the Nazis.
    • god ordered the genocide of the nations in the promised land (including babies and children).
  2. How could a good god create a system that will send the majority, half, some or even just one person to an eternity of suffering?
  3. If god cannot forgive us without first being appeased by the blood of Jesus, why/how does he expect us to forgive our enemies?

All too often the answer is either:

  • because of mankind’s sin, or
  • god’s ways are bigger than our ways

There are many more such questions that are being asked that are not answered by the typical rhetoric that flows out of the mouths of much Christendom’s theology. These answers have become unsatisfactory to me let alone to a non-believer.

As a believer, on top of these questions, my one question is:

  • How do we reconcile all the different and often opposing beliefs and theologies that are found in the different christian narratives? (Coptic, Orthodox[eastern and oriental], Catholic, Protestant, Anabaptist, emergent, evangelical, charismatic, conservative, liberal, …)

If I could be so bold as to say that I feel that god is leading me away from the pat answers and beliefs of the tribe I find myself among (conservative, charismatic evangelicals – I may even call my tribe fundamentalists). I hear from the throne of authority of my tribe, on any given Sunday, things that god is doing and saying in our midst; and more often than not these very things are the opposite of what she has been saying to me.

So, the question I feel that is worth asking is, how are we to deal with the seemingly incongruentcy of all our diverse beliefs and theologies?

Over and over, I hear people argue their case as though they have the true revelation from God. Understand, I do hold that there is the concept of absolute truth. I just think that its less absolute than most of us make it out to be. Also, I’m not sure that I can be absolutely sure what of my beliefs are true and what of what I believe to be truth is less than absolute.

I have heard sermons, speakers and teachers and I have read books, articles and blogs by people that truely believe that they are aligned with absolute truth and though they may claim humility, “I’m not here trying to persuade you, but …”, they follow up their arguments with “this is a God principle” or “this is between you and God”. Laced in their words are declarations that what is being said comes directly from God – through revelation, tradition or scriptural interpretation. The tone of the words is that of authority, with phrases like “God’s word says …” or “God has been laying on my heart …”

“God’s word says” should be: “My interpretation of scripture is”. And “God has been laying on my heart” should come with the caveat that God could be laying the opposite on anther’s heart. In the charismatic realm this becomes even more insidious and manipulative. Our arguments come laced with “God is speaking to us” or “God is leading me to speak this”.

I believe that we all have the ability to succumb to an arrogance that we are right. We need the humility to realize, that though we take a stand behind what we believe, we could still be wrong. It is when we lack humility that we start preaching or teaching with a spiritual arrogance that nullifies the very truth we may have right. “though I have all knowledge and truth, but have not love/ humility…”

Here is an example of the spiritual arrogance that I am referring to (emphasis added):

“If by any means you arrive at a different view of the atonement than that which God graciously allowed the Reformed tradition to argue for so eloquently, then you fail to take seriously certain motifs which are unequivocal and emphatic, and which exist throughout the scope of special revelation.”

So here is my question: How do we reconcile between two different and/or opposing sets of beliefs; two differing interpretations of scripture? If I come to a different interpretation on what the atonement is, how do we bring our differences together? If I believe God is speaking to me and leading me one way and some one else is feeling God is speaking and leading them another, opposite way, what do we do about it?

This to me is the ultimate summary of where we are at in our day. The Reformation brought with it diversity and division. We are entering into an era that lays beyond the Reformation era. We are sailing in uncharted waters. I believe we are entering a time of diversity with unity. As the printing press was a catalyst for diversity and individualism (the individual and the individual congregation), the world wide web and globalization is becoming a catalyst in diversity and unity. Our neighbor is now anyone and everyone on earth. I can hear, debate and dialogue with Coptic Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholicism, Protestant, Anabaptist, and Emergent forms of Christianity; and as I do, my attitude can be “which God graciously allowed [my] tradition” or it can be with the spirit of the above question.