The fear (and rewards) of questioning everything.
The more I learn about emergent or progressive forms of faith (for better or for worse), the more I love. I really do. Its so incredibly refreshing to be at the brink of leaving the building permanently, and then discovering that your exit is not only premature, but unnecessary. In the immortal words of Phyllis Tickle (who originally picked up the following idea from Rev. Mark Dyer), the Church as we know it is undergoing a excitingly rapid shift that is often noted as simply the next chapter in the regular 500 year “rummage sale” we undergo as a faith. This present series of changes can be looked at in a positive sense (see:Phyllis Tickle) or through a positively cantankerous lens. Additionally, there are those who see the movement growing stronger, and those who are of the opinion that the whole ordeal is simply a fad and is fizzling out. Either way, there’s certainly no denying that the theological winds are blowing, and they’re moving us into an unknown future, whether we like it or not, and it would certainly behoove us to understand as much as we can about the new direction that many church leaders seem to be pointing us in.
I was reflecting today upon a number of blog posts I’d recently stumbled across in my digital journeying, a couple of which are listed above, and I began to notice a particular pattern emerging (pun absolutely intended) from these pieces. One of the most common critiques leveled against (or hurled at, depending on the writer) this new form of thinking about faith and Christianity is that the emergent and emerging platforms (yes, there is a difference) often seek to churn out more questions and inquiries and find themselves on an infinite series of “journeys” into a metaphysical realm where truth is relative and there are no absolutes. From my own vantage point, nothing could be further from the truth. A product of the postmodern era, I hunger constantly for truth, the light to guide my path, and many of my contemporaries feel the same way. There are two options going forward: we dive deeper into scriptural truths and humbly begin to admit where we may have perhaps committed error, or we leave the building, often never to return.
In response to this critique that is commonly leveled against “progressive” Christianity, I can only offer my own perspective. If there is anything to be learned by studying church history across the millennia, its that we have committed a wide variety of errors against our fellow brothers and sisters on this planet under the banner of our faith, and its high time that we take a step back, admit wrongdoing, and seek to understand the Bible in a more redemptive sense, healing, Christ-glorifying sense. Are we asking a great number of questions, many of which seem to have difficult answers, or no answers at all? Perhaps. But as someone once pointed out to me, there is grace to be found in the struggle. We’re not attempting to appropriate the Gospel for the culture; we’re examining to see if/where/when we’ve made a mistake in our interpretation and understanding. It’s not about redefining anything; we’re concerned with reflecting on deeper truths.
Ultimately, when we differ with those who are more “Christian” in the traditional sense of orthodoxy, we so often gravely miss out on seeing where we find common ground, in asking: How do we, as brothers in sisters on this sacred ground, become hands and feet to serve, and love, and heal this world that is so desperately broken? The answer will only be found in our togetherness, not our divisiveness.