Q & R: About Christian Schwarz

Here’s the Q:

I am curious if you have any awareness of Christian Schwarz, and the Natural Church Development movement and materials: www. ncd-international.org.
My specific question arises in my trying to integrate your materials from your chapter on the church (from “New Kind of Christianity”) with ideas from Christian Schwarz. His trinitarian compass affords a kind of ecumenicity not unlike what you are describing, yet with some slight differences (or what I perceive to be differences, in terms of boundaries).
I get the impression from pp. 162ff. in “New Kind of Christianity” that you’re advocating an embrace of the current diversity, which would imply that it is all OK just as it is, and what needs to change is only our attitude toward the diversity (embrace it rather than see it as something to lament). How does your model, other than an attitudinal shift, bring the church into accountability, so that it becomes a purer, less wrinkled, bride of Christ as it moves through time toward the eschaton?

More after the jump…

Q (cont’d):

Both Christian Schwarz and Roger E. Olson (Baylor prof) have advocated “both/and” positions not unlike yours, yet I am not finding yours as palatable (the question you leave me asking myself is “are there no manifestations of christianity which are wrong and need to repent and change?” are esoteric, gnostic, cultic forms OK just as they are?). Schwarz would say that the boundaries from the Trinitarian compass would have us avoid syncretism, dogmatism, and spiritualism (from “The Threefold Art of Experiencing God” p. 17, see attached graphic). How would this cohere with your fine work?
If I have misunderstood your work, I humbly apologize. I am only asking for clarity’s sake.

R: I hadn’t seen Christian Schwarz’s “Trinitarian Compass” diagram before, so thanks for sending it. I see some real value in his diagram, in that a failure to take either the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit seriously enough will produce problems. Of course, this raises another question – what assumptions do we bring to our understanding of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Even if we try to “balance” our emphasis on the three Persons, if we bring misguided assumptions to the diagram, we’ll still have problems. I try to question some of those assumptions – for example, about God the Father being violent.
You asked how does my model bring the church into accountability, based on the assumption that I’m saying the church is “all OK just as it is,” only with some attitudinal tweaks needed. Three quick replies.
First, I’m not saying the church is “all OK just as it is” – otherwise, I think I would have entitled the book, “A Slightly Tweaked form of Christianity.” I would say we’re all wrong in many ways and we all need to change, even as we’re all graciously loved and accepted just as we are. In the last few pages of the book I try to emphasize this.
Second, I imagine that the church is already accountable – to God, obviously, and to its own leaders and members, and even to the world, who is evaluating the fruit produced by the church in its many forms.
Third, I don’t think I’m offering a model … more I’m raising questions seeking to stimulate conversation, leading, I hope and pray, to learning and growth.
I hope that helps!