Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Church and Fundamentalism: Dialogue II (Mushy Liberalism or Better Story?)

Fundamentalism: My principles can show you just how far your morality is sinking. Don't you even remember the head coverings (I Corinthians 11:15) and the greeting of one another with a kiss (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14)? Oh, if the people would just truly take the Bible seriously how the world would be better off and will return to normal!
Church: Don't you know Fundamentalism how young you really are? You are not as old as you suppose yourself to be. Perhaps you are the one who needs to do some revisiting of history. Read again of the Enlightenment fathers and see how your roots lie there. In fact, you might even have the eyes to see what a strong trust, perhaps even a dangerously wrong - idolatrous even, foundation you have in your own reason!
Fundamentalism: Oh what gushy liberalism! Your people have this stubborn tendency to keep speaking about a story or narrative.  God of the Story or God of the Truth! Which will bring greater security? Truth is what you need. Come home I say, come home again and we will reason together (Isaiah 1:18). You need me so much more than you realize. You are forsaking the Truth!
Church: Reason, reason, reason. Who's reason? Can't reason be swayed, twisted, and selfish? Why once again we see where your true faith lies, reason! Stories are no weak vessel. Whose actions haven't been shaped by the lessons learned from stories such as The Boy who Cried Wolf? Jesus did not come as reason in flesh, but a person. So when we speak of Truth, we speak of Truth revealed in the form of a person. To understand a person you must understand their story! My people have an incredible story of being loved by God. God did not set down to give them mere rules to apply across all generations and all cultures. Rather it is a story that helps shape beliefs, actions, groups, cultures. Fundamentalism, I think I'll keep searching for a better story. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Church and Fundamentalism: Dialogue I (Survival of the Church?)

Fundamentalism: Oh, you've forgotten your real self Church. You need to come back home. Don't listen to any of these other tempters; they are no good for you. In fact, they are all dangerous!
Church: Dangerous, huh? Right now it feels as though it is dangerous not to listen. There is so much happening and changing, if I’m not listening then the message will fall on deaf ears and I will be out of touch with those I have a passion to connect to God.
Fundamentalism: Church, you need to listen to me. They really are getting to you. Flee them with all your might. I heard you question yourself because of their lies and deception. Come back home to me now if you want to survive! I am your only hope for survival.
Church: Survival is a trust found only in God. In fact, my survival is always tenuous. Just as my groom risked His life in sacrificially giving it to the Father because of their love for the world so too do I follow the same pattern of sacrificially giving of myself such that my survival is staked in trust of God.
Fundamentalism: Come back to me and I will teach you again of those absolutely essential beliefs that make you what you are. The list that began with the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is but a start. By the time the Reformation came I was really beginning to show my abilities. In the Scopes Monkey Trial I was really at my height. Oh and how I've led so many to get close to predicting the last day. My people can see clearly the evils of not taking the Bible seriously. They read the Bible just as they would a science text book. My people can prove beyond a shadow of doubt how evil entertainment, technology, experience, and politics really are.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Church and Experience: Dialogue II (Defining Love)

Experience: If you would just have more Love how your people (and the world!) could be cured of its insensitivity and self-centeredness. Too often your people look like a Social Club rather than a hospital for the sick. Your people so easily forget the Lord's Greatest Commandment: Love God, Neighbor, Self, (Matthew 22:36-39). Love embraces instead of excluding. Love that will be for all no matter what they look like, what they believe, what they do. Doesn't God love all? Why can't your people be more tolerant?
Church: Love is certainly important. Love is a part of God’s essence and should be of mine. You have named some very important Scripture passages that are at the heart of what I am. But, Experience, for all your lofty talk about love can you define it for me?
Experience: Unconditional, tolerant. Love, love, love.
Church: Those are characteristics of love I've heard a lot lately. I recall the story of how the prophet Hosea was called by God to merry Gomer, the whore. This shows God is faithful in spite of the people's unfaithfulness. God is committed to them even when their own commitment is shaky and tentative and even non-existent. But also in this story God doesn't change who He is for them. God is, in fact, free from them. God can be free because God is so stable in His ability to give love without changing.
Experience: I'm not sure I follow you Church. Aren't you proving my point? God is love therefore the experience of love and giving of love is enduring and eternal. See, Church, you need me. Enter into a contractual agreement with me. 
Church: Experience, you too have made me think. Though, love is more than a concept. Love is tangible. More than simply a feeling or tolerance of ideas and behaviors, God's love was tangibly expressed in giving of His Son and how the Son lived and died for the world. God's love is compassionate. God's love is sacrificial. Certainly you are right that experience of God's love should lead toward (and even be measured by our) love for our neighbors. But love is also free from having to bow at the altar of tolerance, because it is rooted and has as its foundation in the Holy God of Scripture. That's why, my dear friend Experience, I must pass.   

Monday, August 1, 2011

Church and Experience: Dialogue I (Shouting Methodist!)

Experience: Church don't you realize how much you need me? Can't you hear the truth proclaimed by your own Pentecostals, Charismatics, and even the early Methodists? Experience is at the heart of it all. What good is mere belief? Even the devil believes! (James 2:19) I'm not advocating we do away with the Creeds, Doctrines, or anything, but isn't what really matter the religion of the heart! You need me to help teach your people that they need to get out of their pews, out of their fortress style churches and display the exuberance of the Lord! Don’t you remember your own hymns? “I do believe, without a doubt/The Christian has a right to shout…They pray, they sing, they preach the best,/And do the Devil most molest./ I'm bound to march in endless bliss,/And die a shouting Methodist.” (By Winthrop Hudson) Together we could use Technology to help people really experience love through high impact worship services and other virtual means as well.
Church: Experience, haven't you heard, It's not how high you jump, but how far you love?
Experience: Love! Why that's exactly what I'm saying. Now you are finally starting to listen, Church. Your people need more love! Your people can get all caught up in Truth and Doctrines and even Theology. Again, those aren't unimportant, but too often they get in the way of Love. Don't you remember, "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13. Too often throughout your history your people exclude, even murder in the name of Truth.