EMERGING VALUES ~ GENEROUS ORTHODOXY
If any of you have read Brian McLaren’s book, A Generous Orthodoxy, you will find at least the spirit of what Brian addresses here in this very brief overview of what I personally believe about “orthodoxy” and “praxis.”
We have heard them before, but they bear repeating:
- In essentials unity.
- In non-essentials liberty.
- In all things charity.
Words easily believed and ascribed to, but difficult to live out.
The following are my own distinctives, and at the root of them, lies the reality that as people, we are all in flux and change, and we continue to develop our beliefs and values through the crucible of faith wrapped up in life experience and inner heart/spirit knowledge, founded upon the veracity of what the Bible has to declare about God and about His will and purposes in the earth. Over the years my theology has developed and changed and what was once very important to me, has now become more centred. Every time I overly focus on something, God has a way of bringing me back to the centre of His will and purposes. It reminds me of the old adage: “For every mile of road, there are two miles of ditch.” I am trying to avoid the ditches on either side.
There will and there are those who will disagree with me, and that is OK. I stand on my understanding of the Bible, and what I have learned through thoughtful study and reflection. Like Luther, I can steadfastly declare with a clear conscience before God and man, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Such are my convictions. To those who will disagree, who are brothers and sisters in Christ, and who differ in their understanding, I consider them dear brothers and sisters of the faith. I know I do not have a theology that is 100% correct, no one does. Besides theology itself is man’s attempt to systematize beliefs about God and the universe. This is simply my own understanding at this time in my life. I will hold these truths until I am convinced by Scripture that I need to correct and change them. It will not be by the persuasive arguments of men, but by Scripture alone, that I will change. Like Luther, I stand here and cannot do otherwise.
I will not complicate things but state them plainly.
- In the doctrine of Scripture and truth, I am a historic Protestant, seeing the original texts of Scripture as without error in matters of faith and practice. I refuse to engage in the ongoing debates on inerrancy and take the Bible at face value to be true in all its contents.
- In the doctrine of God (Father, Son and Spirit) I lean to the historic Protestant belief, but with an emphasis that how man understands the Godhead and apprehends the truth of it, it is all a mystery, that the Spirit and Scripture, seal in the inner heart of man. It is a mystery and as such all the old formulations are at best, attempts to render God in meaningful language that can be apprehended and understandable. Our formulations are imperfect, but tell the story of how the Church has come to believe.
- In the doctrines of grace (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints) I am a Calvinist. I am an adherent to the “Five Solas” of the Reformed tradition.
- In the doctrines concerning the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit (second blessing “baptism in the Spirit”, spiritual gifts, including the five fold servant leadership gifts), I am a classic Pentecostal, influenced by the non-extremist views of Charismatics.
- In the doctrines of discipleship, Christian service, church governance, pacifism and non-violence, and the Kingdom of God, and our role with the state, I am a historical Anabaptist.
- In the doctrine of the Church, Christian community, body life and ministry, I am an advocate of the ecclesiology found in the New Testament, of relational community that gathered from house to house, forsaking sacred spaces and places and religious buildings. This is found today in the various streams of the house church movements found in the nations of the world.
- In the doctrines of stewardship, ministry and mission, caring for the environment, I am very much influenced by the early forms of Celtic Christianity.
- In the doctrine of the “end times” I am a fulfilled Preterist, and a believer in “fulfilled, rather than the accepted term of “replacement” theology, whereas all the promises made to Israel are fulfilled in Christ and the body of Christ.
I am not a follower of creeds as these are the mere formulations of men at various points and times in Christian history. They tell the story of believers and what they found to be of importance and value in their own day. The Bible alone has the weight and the authority to speak to and address all the issues of life. If creeds are in conflict with the Bible, then the Bible overrides the creed. If creeds support the Bible, then these lend weight to the testimony of Scripture and history. I have been blessed by the study of the Nicene Creed, The Book of Common Prayer, Book of Concord, The Westminister Confession, The Canons of Dort, as well as other faith formulations. But all these are simply human formulations, and do not carry the weight of the authority of Scripture.
I constantly have to remind myself and others, that we are not “saved” by our statements of belief, but upon Whom we believe. Doctrine has always divided believers and non-believers alike. I choose to believe upon the person of Jesus Christ, as He is the sole Mediator between God and man and the only hope of salvation for humankind. He is the rock upon Whom I stand, and like Luther, “here I stand, I can do no other!”
The essentials never change, but our understanding and application of them are constantly renewed as we walk with Christ and engage with the people and the culture in which we live. Doctrine without the living Christ is rigid and fossilized. Spirit inspired pursuit of Christ as the Truth, the Way and the Life incarnates the truth of God and renews character and transforms lives.
To be generous in our orthodoxy does not imply our own beliefs must be sacrificed to appease or engage with another person of different understanding. It means to trust God to defend His truth, as we engage in conversation with people different than ourselves. Honest conversation opens up dialog about all kinds of issues and all kinds of opportunities in which to see God advance His Kingdom as we exercise grace to one another, and actually listen and seek to understand. We may find that we have far more in common than we realize.
We cannot afford to be so rigid that we cease learning and deepening our roots in the person of Christ and the Scriptures. If we cease, we die.