We Are All Over the Theological Map


This is an "off the top of my head post" stimulated by some of the immediate reading I am doing on the subject of justification and sanctification. So no editing, no refining, just an immediate response...

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Sometimes when I am reading books by Christians who come from places SIGNIFICANTLY different then where I am... it is both humbling and confusing. How can we come to such different positions on Scripture? But -- we do.

I just finished a book where the author would say to me - "Brian, you do not understand the Gospel."

To which I reply back - "I have filled your book with note after note indicating where you do poor exegesis, where a theological position severely biases how you read the Bible, where you create "Straw Man" arguments, constantly confuse issues, and even use some manipulation. You are the one who does not understand the Gospel."

That conversation would not go very far. I would say - he started it. He is on the attack against all positions that diverge from his own. And he is not willing to say, here is how I interpret these matters... I recognize there are legitimate differences of interpretation among evangelicals who love Jesus and the Scriptures... let's see what we can learn from one another. NO... his position on page after page is - if you disagree with him - YOU HAVE MISUNDERSTOOD THE GOSPEL.

When authors do that.. they just ratchet up the intensity of the issue and create scenarios where dialog is impossible. 

Yes, TRUTH MATTERS and it matters a VERY GREAT DEAL.
So does UNTRUTH - deception, error, false teaching...
Careful study and interpretation of the Bible is a VITAL NEED. I have deep concerns about many evangelicals or quasi-evangelicals who I believe are drifting away from truth (Hebrews 2:1). I have deep concerns about evangelicals who have very limited understanding of the Bible and who seem unconcerned about it. 

I can certainly be passionate and persuasive about my beliefs. I can certainly be concerned and critical about the (in my opinion) wrong beliefs of others. It is very easy to show this came attitude in Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, John and the writer of Hebrews.

With that said... there are certain groups within the spectrum of conservative Christianity who are just angry Christians, aggressive authors, offensive preachers - who think they are defending the Gospel. They have a very narrow orthodoxy... they load a lot of important but secondary beliefs into the Gospel Core... and woe to those who disagree.

No wonder the Protestant church has endless divisions and new churches emerging daily... Still, I will say, 

(1)  This author did cause me to revisit The Gospel of Jesus which I believe, trust, love and serve. The only greater love is Jesus himself, to which his Gospel constantly redirects me. 

(2) This author also helped me understand more fully where his "tribe" is coming from. 

(3) This author helped me understand why his tribal theology would like to exterminate my own tribe and its theology (no exaggeration on this).

 
How is that for a cheerful Advent Reflection? But, Christmas is all about the Good News/Gospel of Christ. So maybe this is very appropriate. Still, a joyful Christmas wish to all followers of Jesus everywhere, who hold a diversity of understandings about the Gospel, and who continue to pursue the Savior Jesus and serve his missional purposes in the world.
 
Brian Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

BrianRice@lcileaders.org