Monday, July 31, 2006

Inclusion or Exclusion?

More and more (at least in the circles I move in) people seem to be intent onmaking the faith EXclusive: "unles you believe/practise X,Y,Z you are probably a heretic, or at best a very weak christian who hasn't fully submitted themselves to what the scriptures say" Who exalted us to set the boundary markers according to the limits of our own understanding? Yes, there are absolutes: truth is truth, right is right and sin is sin -- but within the boundaries which God has set up (which we all step across every day and need to come back inside them again-- it's called repentance) there is plenty of room to move. there is room for you to dance in that corner and you to kneel silently silently in that one, there is room for many different kinds of music which genuinely inspire different people to worship in spirit and in truth, there is room for the evangelist and the social worker and the preacher and the contemplative, there is room for many different perspectives and approaches to key doctrinal issues (eg justification, baptism, theology of the church etc etc). On some of those things I will have strong views, on some of them you will have strong views, and we must each do what we believe is right according to the grace given us, for "whatever is not of faith is sin". But even where our understandings divide us, surely we can see that it is Jesus Himself who unites us, that just because hands do things one way, and livers another and eyes a third etc etc does not stop us from all being parts of one body. Unity was never meant to be based on uniformity; unity is based on love, and the absolute wonder that the Holy Spirit is at work in someone so different from myself, turning dross into gold and making beauty from ashes, just as He is doing in my life! We pilgrims come from many different directions, but as we continue to move towards Jesus, inevitably we are brought closer to one another. but some people, tragically, prefer intellectual arrogance to inclusive love.

He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!"

Outwitted" by Edwin Markham


The Rev said...

good post

I copied that little poem and am going to post it elsewhere, thanks


Terry, Toronto Canada said...

Hello again,
After leaving a comment on your previous posting, I found an excellent article which is relevant to the discussion.

My reading of the Author's argument is that our old doctrinal methods of evangelization automatically exclude postmoderns, who by definition distrust "Truth" claims. If we are to widen the circle to include postmoderns, we must allow the infinite creativity of the Holy Spirit to teach us new ways of inviting people to the reality of Christ.
He sees an example of such a turning point when the Messianic expectations of the disciples appeared to be defeated by the crucifixion. Some even tried to return to fishing for fish, instead of men. But in the midst of this confusion, the encounter with the risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus led the disciples to see things afresh - to see the way forward.

An extract from the article and the web address for the original are given below
Blessings, Terry

The Resurrection and the Postmodern Dilemma by N.T. Wright
(Originally published in Sewanee Theological Review 41.2, 1998. Reproduced by permission of the author.)

. . . . What does all this have to say about Christian mission in a postmodern world? Let me recapitulate what I said at the beginning. We have had our noses rubbed in the fact that reality is not all it was cracked up to be. What we thought were hard facts have turned out to be somebody’s propaganda. We have been startled to discover that the autonomous self, so highly prized from eighteenth to the twentieth centuries within the Western world, not least in some versions of Christianity, has been deconstructed into a puzzling turmoil of various forces and drives. We have watched as the postmodern world has torn down the controlling stories by which modernity, including Christian modernity, ordered its world. All we are left with is the great postmodern virtual smorgasbord, where you can pick or choose what you want.
How are you to address this world with the gospel of Jesus? You cannot just hurl true doctrine at it. You will either crush people or drive them away. That’s actually no bad thing, because mission and evangelism were never actually a matter of throwing doctrine at people’s heads. They work in far more holistic ways by praxis, symbol, and story, as well as by what we in a somewhat modernist way think of as “straightforward” exposition of “truth.” I am reminded of Saint Francis’s instructions to his followers as he sent them out: “Preach the gospel by all means possible,” he said, “and if it’s really necessary, you could even use words.” . . . .

Lynne said...

Feel free Rev, I came across it somewhere else and got inspired ...

Lynne said...

Ah, you're talking to a confirmed N T Wright fan :) I love this -- thankyou! I actually was asked to preach a sermon on evangelism a few months ago .. I warned the pastor that i would be taking it from a very different angle. My somewhat bemused congregation, after being told they had permission to drop the guilt trips and all the shoulds and oughts that have been hammered into them, were treated to an explanation of the differences between modernism and post modernism and a suggestion that the pauline model of rational argument which worked well in the (modernist?) Greek culture was no longer best fit (if it ever was) and we would do better to draw our evangelistic models from the gospels and Jesus" style of ministry.... i suspect it takes more than one sermon to move some people's thinking ..