Thursday, February 12, 2004

I’ve read a bunch of books about the evil “P” word. The best ones I’ve read are, A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, Postmodern Youth Ministry by Tony Jones, and The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball. Additionally, I’ve attended many seminars, read many articles, and given a fair amount of thought to the topic at hand. Recently, ok Tuesday, I hung out at the forum Len Evans hosted with Tony Jones. It got me thinking…again.

The contention of many of these guys who write these books is simple; if our current version and understanding of Christianity has been understood and communicated in primarily modern ways with modern presuppositions, then we who are Christ followers will need to understand anew and re-communicate what it means to follow Christ in a post-modern world. Brian McLaren said in a recent letter that we need “postmodern theologies” because we only have modern theologies now.

Our modern sensibilities have colored the way we understand scripture and practice our faith. In an age of absolutes and either/or propositions, Paul’s statement “if you believe in your heart and confess with you mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ you will be saved,” is understand as it is written, but with the addendum, “and if you don’t (believe and confess) you won’t (be saved).” And so we endevored to get people to confess with their mouths, and hopefully, believe in their hearts as well.

Problem is, I know a bunch of folks who believe, and it doesn’t seem to make them very Christ-like. Perhaps that’s judgemental of me, but that’s the way I see it. In fact, let’s face it, many evangelicals bear a closer resemblance to the Pharisees than we do to Jesus.

Now I’m all for believing and confessing, that’s fine, but is it right and biblical to limit salvation only to those who “confess with their mouths”? Is the “either you confess and are in, or don’t and are out” a biblical understanding, or simply a modern one? Could it be that God’s grace is bigger than we Christians understand? (Kinda like our Jewish friends that Paul wrote to who were shocked that the Messiah could be for the gentiles too?)

I’m not advocating for salvation by works, not by a long shot because I think we’d all be screwed if that were the case. But why does Paul say, “When those who do not have the law do the things of the law…”? And why did Jesus tell that little parable about the sheep and the goats? Is it just me or does, “you’re going to hell unless you pray this prayer” not only sound like bad news, but also seems to take grace out of the picture and make salvation and act of human will and not the act of a loving savior?

I know I’m not alone. Robert Capon, if I understand him correctly holds that in Christ we are all saved, unless we flat out refuse and reject Him. His view is more biblical than you’d expect if you’re a good evangelical and you’re surprised by that last statement. (See my “good books” sidebar, especially KGJ.) He articulates how an acceptance or rejection of Christ may transcend our articulated theological beliefs and reside more in the way we live our lives. Granted, I’m putting words in his mouth here, but I think that’s a fair reading of His work.

Maybe we can get a bigger picture of God’s grace and activity in the world. Activity that isn’t limited to “Christian” stuff, but may show up in unexpected places.

That's enough for today...feel free to comment.



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