Monday, April 7, 2008

Books and Beliefs

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.


Dale Harris said...

Right on. Again. I really enjoy reading your posts.

The comments about missing the more important matters to focus upon defining the limits were sheer brilliance.

I hope your church appreciates the gems of truth that God the Spirit speaks through you.

Warriorofprayer said...

Very true sir. forgiveness is a key goal in life and is very very hard 2 keep. Justice, mercy, and faithfulness are also key things that r needed in life but there are many others. knowing that i am about 2 get offtrack since everything in my mind connects to another which then connects 2 another and so on do not read on if u do not wish 2 read babbling of stuff that may or may not match the blog. Justice, mercy, faithfulness, forgiveness. they can all be defined different ways. many different ways. the minds of people create their own definitions 4 things. forgiveness can be forgiving others 4 their wrongs 2 one person or forgiving others that wrong the word of god 2 another, or so on and so forth. but knowing that these are not the only things needed in life i will continue. the definitions of things have been changed over the yrs so now there are many. some in the right, some in the wrong, some there in the middle. not only have we defined words n' found different meanings for them, we also associate them w/ other things. like when some1 says flesh i think sin. or if some1 says pastor i think a person who stands in front of some wooden podium n' tells a story or teaches a lesson of their religion. so w/ or w/o knowing it we label things w/ something. now back to qualities that are needed, we all have our strengths or weaknesses. like my sister's strength is mercy but her weakness is listening. we cannot be perfect in all qualities n' even then we aren't perfect in them. the qualities that 1 holds may b different from another's. qualities are also affected by what a person has seen or done either strengthening or weakening. only we can still strengthen our own attributes. but i assume u already know this. w/ god anything is possible.