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How Big is the Christian Tent?

August 12, 2014

There is an article on Christianity Today‘s website, recently posted, summarizing a panel discussion among some Christian leaders, including the author, Ed Stetzer.  I found it encouraging on one level and frustrating on another.

The article explains that the discussion (the audio of which they link to) focused a lot on issues of salvation.  It asks, as did the participants in the panel, under what circumstances Christians can cooperate on missions given their differences, among other similar questions.  I’m encouraged with this example of somewhat greater concern merely TO cooperate and to be mutually accepting than often in the past within traditional Christianity.  

At the same time, I’m frustrated that leaders like these remain largely bound within restrictive doctrinal (theological) systems.  They perhaps do not even recognize as “Christian” the versions of Christian theology and church practices that differ more significantly from them than do the conversation partners of this panel.  And this kind of thing is multiplied many times over…. Evangelicalism is actually (contrary to the popular media picture) getting more diverse, theologically open and generally more tolerant of differences. Yet its core and most key leaders still keep attempts at inclusion and cooperation largely “in-house”.

So I’ve set the context for what follows…. With the above situation in mind, here is the response I posted in the comment section of this article:

I’m glad to see this kind of discussion, as a former Evangelical.  My tradition and main alliances (schools and churches attended and ministered in and such), like the author’s, generally worked within the Calvinist-Arminian differences. This I was grateful for.

However, now with much deeper biblical and other study behind me, I see an even greater need to expand the conversation partners.  For example, why not include Process theologians and pastors much more often… or Evangelicals reach out to them and vice-versa? I realize a mild version of this happened mostly a couple or more decades ago when Open theology (still within Evangelicalism, so not as far along the same lines as Process goes) was being discussed more.

Yes, the entire paradigm of interpretation is different within Process and not able to be fully harmonized with a more traditional supernaturalist view of God and the Bible.  But at the least, more such conversations and attempts to cooperate on compassionate missions of helping neighbors (anyone, and in today’s world, anywhere) in need, would help both groups grow and live out more of the “gospel” (defined almost any way one will).

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