Some PC(USA) congregations are rushing to build a moat and walls around their theological belief system as fast as possible. To hear them talk there is a fast approaching attack from within the denomination, reasons to be afraid, and they must protect themselves, their faith, and the Church. Dismissal from the PC(USA) will dig the moat and a defined list of Essential Tenets will build the wall.
Walls are a natural response to fear but what if we don’t really need to be afraid and the walls we build only serve to close us in?
Peter Enns, a faculty member in the Christian Studies department at Eastern University, has written a column titled, “The Bible is the center of the Christian faith (and don’t assume you know what I mean by that)“. In this column he writes about a lecture given recently at Eastern University by John Franke of Yellowstone Theological Institute. John summed up his vision for a theological movement that is both evangelical and progressive by voicing a distinction between progressive (think center) and traditionalist evangelicalism (think walls).
Progressive evangelical theology is…
1) marked by holding to a “center” of theology rather than maintaining firm “boundaries”
2) views the theological task as more of a “dialogue” than arriving at firm conclusions defended at all costs
3) and encourages a deliberate engagement of voices outside of evangelicalism in order to learn from them, not simply to correct them
Peter writes, “Firm boundary marking, once and for all time, in our theological quest tends toward insulation and then isolation from any sort of criticism – which I think is not only self-defeating and intellectually hypocritical, but makes baby Jesus cry.”
Peter continues, “A theology that thinks in terms of holding to a center encourages theological exploration, with regular returns to the center for a gut check…It seems to me that one way (not the only way) of thinking about the Bible is as a ‘center’ of the Christian faith rather than a boundary. It is that to which followers of Jesus return – sort of like a tether – not the thick and high boarders through which we may not blast, under which we may not tunnel, or over which we may not climb.”
Essential tenets build walls outside of which illumination is never allowed. Building walls around our theological beliefs should be what scares us.
With whatever problems may exist in the PC(USA) I find it even more unconscionable to move to a denomination where the elders (ruling and teaching) cannot ever honestly pray a prayer for illumination without a wink and nod. See my blog entry “Essentially an Idol.”
It is up to your own conscience if you can.
Peter is not saying, and neither am I, that the Bible is “THE center” of the Christian faith but, he writes, “it helps provide a spacial metaphor for understanding how the Bible can and should function in the Christian life. The center of the Christian faith has been and always will be – wait for it – Jesus, not the Bible.”
Let’s #StayPCUSA together.