While some of the worst fires burn in Australia, a strange fire burned in California. We should pray for both. Estimates put the number of homes burned in Austrialia at some 200. No one knows what the internecine fires will consume stemming from that strange fire on the US West Coast.
Many have weighed in with their interpretation of the conference bearing the name, Strange Fire. Tim Challies seemed to offer a reasonable roundup even if one might disagree with his personal opinions on the matter. He provided no incendiary sentences. Dave Miller made Phil Johnson’s presentation. Evidently Phil had smoke in his eyes while reading SBC Voices. He got Dave wrong. It could have been Dave’s notorious lime green jacket that influenced Phil’s hermeneutics.
I only heard about the conference after the fact. To push the fire metaphor too far, reading about it was like seeing the aftermath of the Colorado fires this summer. Once beautiful land forever changed by the consuming fire.
Christian groups, and certain personalities, seem to make the news more about their participation in intramural squabbles than the healing brought to a broken world in Jesus’ name. Even a couple of adult teenagers attempted to crash the fiery party. Who would be surprised at these usual suspects?
The hubbub exposes the oft vied for place of authority to speak for a fractured Evangelicalism. If there are excesses among charismatics, they are equaled by different excesses in their critics. Who gets the final word? Bloggers?
Absent an Evangelical magisterium, we witness those with larger churches, more money, greater access to media, and able to generate a fandom stepping up to set the rest straight on any number of contested matters. The Charismata is but one hot topic that gets bobbled. Protecting Evangelicalism from everyone else in Christendom certainly compares to battling runaway fires.
Vying for power and influence seems counter intuitive to the Way of Jesus but certainly consistent with how our host culture functions. Have we been lulled into thinking that the way of power actually comports to the vision of Jesus sending his disciples into the world to do what he did?
Those in my tribe think deconstruction, the postmodern version, the cause of many a fire. Look carefully. Evangelicals need no external help to get a fire going.
Maybe there is a need to take this thing apart. There is a strand of deconstruction that looks to make affirmations, not negations. Were we to take this episode in Evangelicalism apart we would be looking to affirm the impossible. That is, it seems unlikely that the large body of people whom self-describe as Evangelical could ever be mobilized beyond defending his or her sacred ground. Such a vision surely passes for an object in which to hope because its history, statistics, and present condition make the prospect impossible. So, perhaps it just might happen. But, it won’t come from the cavalry coming over the hill spreading from west to east, choose a highly visible pastor/ministry, or from south to north, think of the largest Evangelical denomination in the United States.
We have had plenty of time to see if Christian celebrity will help the situation.
What if we returned to viewing the Church as counter testimony to power? In this series of posts, who knows maybe just one but could be more, I would like to consider some ways in which the impossible might become possible, perhaps.
Consider this quote from C.S. Lewis a means to stir your thoughts,
As Christians, we can’t love the whole world. But we should remember that God has placed us in a specific community at a particular time. We’re called to love those around us. Loving them means serving them – and in doing so, we become the best of citizens.