Guilt by Association? Inquisition by Proxy? Or magnanimous friendship in the way of Christ?

In contrast to Mark Galli’s generousview of Evangelicalism … there are quite a few folks who continually try to constrict the boundaries … first by attacking those with whom they disagree, and then by critiquing anyone who associates with those with whom they disagree. For example, someone recently went after author Frank Viola simply for calling me a friend …

“It’s amazing that Frank Viola would write Pagan Christianity and then assert that men like Brian McLaren are his friends. McLaren promotes more pagan practice and doctrine then [sic] the whole of the Church has since Constantine.”

Quite a claim! I’ve never asked Frank how much or little he agrees with me, nor has he asked me how much I agree with him. Instead, we have developed a mutually respectful friendship based on our common humanity within God’s beautiful creation, and based on our common desire to love God and neighbor in the way of Jesus Christ. One can imagine a similar blog-comment back in Jesus’ day:

It’s amazing that Jesus would speak of the kingdom of God and then assert that he is a friend of people like that Syrophonecian woman, that Samaritan woman, that Roman centurion with the sick-but-now-healed servant, that loud-mouthed scoundrel Peter, or any other of the notorious sinners with whom he has eaten meals and shared time.

So, Frank – and others who have been criticized for associating with sinners like myself — I’m terribly sorry this happens. I hope you know you’re in good company.
By the way, Frank’s new book From Eternity to Here is an edifying read (and a bargain at … Here are two relevant quotes (after the jump):

I recommend that you study church history. It will make you cry. Our forefathers drew their swords against one another, spilling their blood over doctrines. Peripheral doctrines at that. They crossed swords over their private interpretations of Scripture, and it often ended in bloodshed. Again, majoring in doctrine can make a Christian vicious. History bears this out. (298)
In the first eight years of my Christian experience, I learned to major in a slew of “Christian” things. And that is my point – they were things. All of the churches and movements I was involved in had effectively preached to me an it. Evangelism is an it. The power of God is an it. Eschatology is an it. Christian theology is an it. Christian doctrine is an it. Faith is an it. Apologetics is an it. I made the striking discovery that I don’t need an it…. Christian its, no matter how good or true, eventually wear out, run dry, and become tiresome. I don’t need an it. I need a Him! (299)

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