Q & R: Incremental or ???

Here’s the Q:

I read your article on homophobic zones and was wondering your thoughts on extending that idea to other theological issues. I attend a chuch that believes (in no particular order):
-Penal Substitutionary atonement
-The six-line narrative soul-sort
-premillenial dispensationalism
-women should be excluded from serving as elders.
So if you were trying to order those from 1-4, how would you order them? In other words, if I say I think all of those are wrong-headed, folks like me get dismissed all at once, but if someone were to question say the six-line narrative in the context of PSA, (“Sure Jesus died to appease the angry father, but he paid the penalty for *everyone’s* sin.”) we could help folks move out of the six-line narrative zone, even if they stay in the PSA zone.
Do you see what I’m trying to ask here?

Here’s the R:
In many spheres of life, there is a debate between gradualism/incrementalism and more radical, sudden, decisive change. If you’re asking whether or not I’m for gradualism in general, I’d actually say no. I’m for all the positive, constructive change toward justice, peace, and compassion that anyone or any group can handle, as fast as they can sustainably handle it.
But the truth is that few people seem to be ready to handle a lot of change fast … even when they need to. “People only change when the pain of not changing surpasses the pain of changing,” the old saying goes, and sadly, it usually seems to be the case.
As with many things, when the choice is between gradualism and radical change, I think the answer is both/and. Here’s why.
Most if not all of our ideas are held in systems or paradigms. People seldom abandon a paradigm quickly or easily. What most often happens is that they accept minor tweaks or adjustments to the paradigm, trying to save it as long as possible.
Eventually, they end up with so many amendments that they decide the whole constitution needs to be rewritten, so to speak. They stop trying to patch the old leaky boat and try to construct a new one. (The “Ship of Theseus” parable comes to mind.) At that point, more radical new alternatives come into view.
So … people may question literal 6-day creation without questioning the 6-line narrative I’ve written about. Or they may revise their view on women in ministry (or homosexuality) without rethinking the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. I’m for gradual or incremental rethinking that leads people into more just, compassionate, or peaceful ways of life.
But ultimately, I think the changes we need in the Christian community (and many Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, Capitalists, Communists, and others would say something similar about their various communities) are ultimately on the paradigmatic level. That’s the “new wineskin” that is demanded, ultimately, by “new wine.”
It’s interesting to think of the four gospels as proposing a radical new paradigm, and then to read the Epistles as various attempts to grapple with what that will mean in relation to any number of individual issues.
Of the issues you mentioned, the narrative question is the most paradigmatic one. If people rethink that issue (as I tried to explain in A New Kind of Christianity), all the other issues will necessarily be reconsidered.
My new book, We Make the Road by Walking, proposes a whole new paradigm, rooted in the Bible and flowing out into a fresh vision of just about everything.