I've been reading again...sometimes this seems like a bad thing.
I had been derailed by details for the new service, researching music and video licenses, trying to make sure that what we are using is legal, trying to develop a basic repertoire for the worship team (who still needs a name, so suggest away), and all that stuff, and I got a little distracted. So today I picked up some of the emergent church downloads I'd printed and started reading again. I really like what I've read of Brian McLaren, which is not much: the transcripts of a couple of PBS news spots from Religion and Ethics and some of his website and some of Generous Orthodoxy, but I can see why he scares people. I think there's a fine line between encouraging people to read, study, and understand scripture for themselves, rather than just parrotting what they've been taught, and sort of throwing the baby out with the bath water. It's important for us to be able to say that what seems to have been okay culturally in the Bible (slavery and inequitable treatment of women come to mind) is no longer acceptable. It's our belief in the Bible and our desire to make it a part of ourselves through study, prayer, and conversation with others and with the traditions that have gone before us that make such change possible...but it's only possible because it's consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I don't want to see orthodoxy as a value lost, nor do I want to see it become narrow dogmatism. But I think there's room in the middle, and maybe (radical thought) it's becoming time for another great ecumenical council...to redefine how we approach some ideas, and refocus on a concept of salvation that is corporate rather than merely individual.
The thing is, if we believe salvation is God's design and desire for us, and we have made a commitment to Christ in our lives, then we have a new beginning, not an end. We have a commission to share what we have received for the good of all creation (at least that's one way to read it). Our salvation isn't a single instant but is instead a lifelong journey of modelling ourselves after Christ--which means that we must consider others before ourselves. One thing I really appreciate about the emergent dialogue is that it pays some attention to this issue of justice: I would call it the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God into the present world. And the responsibility rests with Christians.
Brennan Manning (I think) once said, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Christ with their lips and then deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." I think we need to take seriously this notion that we are judged by our lives...our speech, our habits, our everyday selves. If someone were to look at me on any given day, I'd hope that something of Christ would show through. But if I'm only interested in myself and don't make time to grow in my faith (discipleship is a good word, too), then what do I have to say?
Words I think maybe we need to reclaim from acculturation: