Q & R: Two questions on current controversies.

Here are the real questions that “inspired” the April Fool’s replies. First, do I ever think “they” are right?

I appreciate your blog, your ministry and your writing so much! I have another question for you. I have grown and changed so much since reading “A new kind of Christianity”. While it has been a difficult journey “messing me up” at times – I am really starting to experience how beautiful this way of seeing and believing is. I love it – I don’t want to go back to my old way of thinking. I am part way through Rob Bell’s new book and also find the questions so fitting to the journey I am going through. Unfortunately – for some reason I keep getting pulled into reading what all the nay-sayers are saying about it. Anyways I feel this awful mixture of anger, an (un)holy? passion to share my thoughts in return, hurt over disunity in the body and worst off fear. I worry – what if they’re “right”? I don’t want to give up everything I’ve gained on this journey. I don’t want God to be wrathful and selective. I started crying today when I was thinking about these things because I was so sad and scared thinking if “they” are right then millions of people are going to hell. And even worse I realized that only now that I don’t believe that will happen have I finally cried over it possibly happening. I was so emotionally removed from it before I don’t know that I ever wept over that thought. Anyways, I guess my question really is – do you ever wonder if these ideas of ‘love wins’ are actually wrong? Do you ever question if we’re just making God in our own image? I sure hope we’re not – but I wonder if you ever struggle with that or what you do with it when you do. Brian – really thank you so much for everything.

Second, do I think unity is even possible?

My friend Rachel Held Evans just wrote a blog post about the future of evangelicalism: http://rachelheldevans.com/future-of-evangelicalism. She says that we need to have a better dialogue if evangelicalism wants to survive. I think she’s right on the money!
I’ve been reading Paul’s epistles lately, and even though a lot of my friends don’t like him, I like how he’s constantly preaching unity within the Church. Especially the way he uses the human body as a metaphor for the Church: each serves a different function, and yet each depend on one another. Compare that to what I see happening now and I think, “Ayiyi! What the heck is going on here?” Sometimes I feel like dropping the label “Christian” altogether like Anne Rice.
So what do you think? Do you think the Big Tent really is big enough for all Christians?

First, thanks for these questions. They’re both good ones, and important.
In response to the first question, I’m very aware of the weaknesses in my positions, so I’m always open to being shown better ways of seeing things. All my views are “corrigible,” meaning I’m open to correction at every turn. But my conservative critics haven’t made their positions more attractive by the tone or substance of their critiques. In fact, they lose credibility when they respond with hostility, inaccuracy, threats, fear, name-calling, and so on. In addition, I grew up with their views, so they are familiar to me: I wouldn’t have started searching if I had found their solutions adequate.
Your concern about “making God in our image” is a valid one. But I think, to be fair, it would have to cut both ways. Could it be that hostile people make a hostile God in their image? Or could it be that belief in a hostile, exclusive, vengeful God tends to produce hostile, exclusive, vengeful people? More could be said on this, but I certainly agree: we need to be concerned about creating God in our image … and we need to be concerned about reflecting the image of the God we believe in. That’s why, among many other reasons, I think it’s worth raising the questions I’ve raised, and it’s why I believe that faith in a God whose love wins is not only intellectually credible and biblically sensible, but also ethical preferable.
In response to the second question, like you, I’ve wondered if the term “Christian” is worth defending. But then I realize that the way of Christ is to incarnate into sinful humanity; his way is not to create an elite clique among the pure and right, but to eat with sinners. So the very failures of the religion called “Christianity” invite me, not to separate from it, but to identify with it and express solidarity with it. And in that way, I can also identify with every other religion that suffers from hypocrisy, division, fear, etc. We’re all a mess, and none of us are better than the others … we’re all in this together.
And I’m with you in two other ways too: first, I think the world of Rachel Held Evans. That was a great piece on her site – thanks for recommending it. And second, as with you, my respect for Paul grows and grows. I was originally taught to read Paul as if he were writing “2 Leviticus,” but now I realize he is a “Jesus and the kingdom of God” guy to the bone, and he’s the original guy with the “love wins” message. His words for it, in 1 Cor. 13, were “Love never fails.”
I don’t think there’s any human institution capable of creating the big tent we all need, but I do believe that a heart of love – Christ-like love – can create a tent as big as the universe, and in it, love never fails. The challenge isn’t to find that tent and enter it: the challenge is to be raise that tent from within our own Spirit-empowered hearts and welcome others into it, whoever they are. God helps us to do that very thing!