Month: November 2007
Recently Scot McKnight posted a letter from a reader and asked how others might respond by doing so in the comment thread. For a variety of reasons I moved beyond the debates over Calvinism, Reformed Theology and who is “Truly Reformed.” It is not that I do not think we Southern Baptists have not been influenced by the Doctrines of Grace, it is simply that many inter-nicene squabbles do very little for the sake of the Gospel. This is especially so when it spills over into a wider culture who is not asking the question, “Are you TR?” (TR is blogospheric shorthand for Truly Reformed. It is generally a pejorative reference to those unwilling to have conversation outside the sphere of Reformed Theology. I guess it may be used from time to time in derision as if to say, “You are not Truly Reformed therefore we need not listen to you.”)
I cannot recall the referrer, to some this is rude in the world of blog, but I happened on to a post by Abraham Piper. He wrote a response to the letter McKnight posted. Abraham did a fine job of drawing out some stellar points for anyone bent on the kind of immovable certainty with regard to his or her theological position when engaging another person. Here is a section of the post with a minor edit, or major depending on your perspective:
In my marriage, it doesn’t matter whether I’m thankful if I don’t seem like it. And in the church, it doesn’t matter whether we have the fruits of the Spirit if no one can tell.
It won’t be easy to change the pejorative stereotype that clings to _______, but we can start by admitting that it is accurate far too often. Then we can make sure we are manifestly not self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, or argumentative. Also, you can count on us to buy dinner or coffee sometimes.
Paying attention to those who disagree with us and taking them seriously, even if we’re pretty sure we’ll still disagree, is part of what it means to be in the body of Christ. It’s humbling; it sanctifies. It will make us better husbands and wives. It will make us better Christians, and maybe even better ________.
The entire piece is worth a read. Kinder Christians to one another may move us to being Kinder Christians toward others. Now that would be a “setting to rights” worth shouting “Good News” over!
I enjoy teaching. One of the best times of my week comes in sharing some time with a group of adults thinking about follow Jesus as we engage the Scriptures in a small group. Generally these settings call for an “expert” to “dispense” truth. Long ago I considered that model passe. The reason? Learning comes best when everyone engages. My role then is to facilitate a conversation around the subject of following Jesus. Nearly every week those who gather end up putting together one really deep, challenging “lesson.”
Recently we have been loosely following some devotional thoughts derived from Dallas Willard & Jan Johnson’s, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice. This devotional book grew out of Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart. Our learning journey has taken us to consider how a community would look that practiced the expressions of genuine love the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 12. Working through this list resulted in a statement made by one from our group.
A personal story conveyed a matter with which we all wrestle. Generally we talk “to” people. We do things “toward” people. We leave those relational opportunities unchanged by the encounter because it has a “detached” feel to it. What really makes the difference is when we alter our “to” to “with.” Talking with people means we not only talk but we listen. Ministering with means connection beyond a “crop dusting” approach often prevalent in quick hitting “evangelistic” tactics. I realize this agrarian metaphor may not readily connect, but we in Oklahoma understand “affecting crops” from a distance.
Another chimed in suggesting a change in prepositions makes experiences less certain and can be quite messy. Beautiful observations that had us all considering how we may press to make the kind of community Paul described a reality not only in our “class,” but also in our church and community at large.
All of this with the turn of a preposition.
As we look toward Advent it is a healthy reminder that Jesus would be called Immanuel, “God with us.”
Lance Ford will interview my new friend Jim Palmer tomorrow evening at Shapevine online. The videocast is free. The interview begins at 8:00 p.m. (EST) I read Jim’s Divine Nobodies on the plane home from Soularize and am currently reading his new book, Wide Open Spaces. It would be worth your time.