I charged the publishers' tables. There were books, books, and more books. Mass market and price reductions might be the greatest contribution to the annual (regional) meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). That and papers which discuss the "Socratic murmurings of socio-economic collectivism in the sixth chapter of Saint Luke." Who can pass on that?
My visit to Moody's campus came on the invitation of a former professor. We hadn't caught up recently, and he was attending the Midwest meeting to present a paper. Flattered, I quickly secured my associate membership in the Society and packed a bag.
The conference theme was "The Church Divergent, Convergent, and Emergent: a 21st Century Ecclesiology." One speaker argued that God is a Pluralist, citing the Trinity as his proof. Another argued that the doctrine of Justification must be recaptured in preaching and practice. The final speaker acknowledged the brokenness of the church and encouraged the bookends of evangelical thinking to stop pointing fingers.
The conclusion sounds simple enough: be more forgiving. The following day, I preached through Mark 9:38-41, where Jesus rebuffs John for stopping an "in-Your-name" exorcist from casting out demons. Jesus says, "If he's not against Me, he's for me." The attitude Jesus is trying to cultivate in his disciples, I phrased as "Gracious Inclusion." (I purposely avoided the term generous, so as not to make an allusions to Brian McLaren's protracted Generous Orthodoxy.)
Of course, the concept of Grace inevitably raises the question: "Does Anything Go?" The question is as old as Cole Porter and Paul (Romans 6:1ff), but it was never the first question Grace led us to ask. The first questions Grace ever elicited were: "Who can save me? What should I do? Why me?" (Acts 9:3-6; Romans 7:24; 1 Tim 1:12-17)
I fear that too many of us forget the primary question and run emboldened to the secondary question of limits. In fact, if convergence, divergence, and emergence characterize our churches, I have a hard-time believing otherwise. We've become experts of the limits, neglecting the more important matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (viz. Matthew 23).
Only one group of people at the conference had this last part right: the publishers. Justice, mercy, and faithfulness are embodied in the phrase 50% off.