Q & R: constitutional reading?

Here’s the Q:

First let me say thank you for writing what you do. While I may not agree with everything you write, you do it in a way that challenges my faith and puts me in a humble position before God like no other author or speaker does, except maybe for Rob Bell.
I want to ask you a question, or make a comment I am not sure where my thoughts are going on this.
Ok, I have read through “A New Kind of Christian” and am in the process of re-reading it again. My question has to do with the conflict between reading the Bible as a constitution influenced by the Greco-Roman six line graph, and reading it as a narrative unfolding, expanding, ever changing and growing. My basic question is this: You seem to indicate that if I give up my constitutional reading and approach the Bible in the unfolding narrative way that there are still set in stone doctrinal ideas that I will have to accept? In other words, you seem to be assuming that if I read it in the manner in which you propose that I will no doubt end up philosophically and theologically where you are. Isn’t that the same thing as constitutional reading? I mean, it seems like its just a dressed up dogma.
For example…you assume that if I read the Bible in the manner that you propose that I will naturally fall in line with vegetarianism because your reading of the Bible supports that ideal based on global food source and environmental sustainability.
I don’t have the book in front of me, but there are other examples of this that trouble me. Having said all that, I don’t want you to think for a minute that I don’t still value your words and wisdom. I can say in all honesty that you have me wrestling with my faith right now in good way and that is something that I would not change for the world.

Here’s the R:

I’m so glad my books have been helpful, and your question is really worthwhile, so thanks for asking it!
First, you’ll recall that my proposed alternative to the six-line narrative is not another narrative line, but rather, a narrative space, expanding within the parameters of creation, liberation, and reconciliation. In that space, there is a balance of form and freedom, direction and difference. The form and direction give some stability – it’s not an “anything-goes” space, so that might suggest something “set in stone” – but I’d characterize what is solid as direction, values, mission, an ethical summons … not as “doctrinal ideas” or “dogma.”
The freedom and difference mean that in this new space, plurality and diversity of voices are valued and celebrated, not just tolerated. So no, I would consider it a failure if my book pushed people into a rigid conformity to my thinking. It would be a tragic reversal of my intentions for my set of ideas to just become another set of doctrinal formulations to which others are expected to submit or conform, by threat of exclusion, etc. My real belief – and I think that 3-D vision I try to convey in the book reflects this – is that absolute truth requires a plurality of voices to protect it from by reduced by any absolutism. In other words, one of the greatest enemies of absolute truth (along with relativism) is absolutism … something I wish some of my critics could ponder before reacting against. Believing in the plurality of truth is an act of love for truth, not an act of defection from it. And at the same time, it is a rejection of both absolutism and relativism. (My friend John Franke very powerfully makes the case for this need for plurality in his book Manifold Witness. I can’t recommend it highly enough.)
By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever said or written anything about vegetarianism being a moral requirement of the new paradigm … I have said that I personally try to keep my meat-eating to a minimum and that I do so for a number of (to me) ethical/ecological reasons. I was a vegetarian for a while in the 90’s, and may become one again in the future, but now whatever I eat, I cherish the freedom to follow my own conscience without imposing my personal priorities on others. I don’t feel, or want to convey, any sense of superiority or inferiority – just a sense of freedom and desire to do what I believe is right for me at this point in my life, and I’m glad when others feel and follow that same freedom and desire, and I’m even gladder when we can share what we’re learning with each other, and even gladder still when we can differ without judging each other, celebrating the difference.
So, I hope that removes a little pressure and adds a little clarity as you continue in your own wrestling and growth as a person of deep and honest faith. God bless you!