In wake of the recent discussion, Jeremy Hegi and I have also been in a running dialog, which I think adds a slightly different, and very useful perspective. With his permission, I am posting an email I received from him in response to the original ten questions. I’ve put paragraph breaks in, as well as a minor edit here and there without affecting content. I’ll post my reply Monday.
Thanks for forwarding me that email. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last couple days and I think this argument isn’t anything new – but something that goes all the way back to the early church.
I think the heart of what goes on in these conflicts is the Christology (how people view Christ) of the people involved in them. Some people like traditional songs, pious/”rigid” lifestyles and approaches to scripture – all of which really kind of take emphasis off of the humanity of Jesus (what he has most in common with us) and make Jesus more distant and divine. These of course are many of the old people who grew up in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s who are often times labeled as “conservative.” At the same time there are others who like casual, emotional, experiential meetings where the presence of Christ is felt in the room with them – a rather emotional experience – where the divine Christ is exchanged for the present human Jesus whom we can all experience and relate to. I guess we would tend to call these people “progressives.” DISCLAIMER: I always hate assigning people to categories – but for the purposes of this argument – it’s helpful.
Anyway – so then the question that many ask (especially the people in both groups) is “which is correct.” And the answer is they both are correct and they both are lame … or rather limited. Neither side fully encompasses who Jesus is or what it means to be Christian – but what happens when we let those live in tension with each other? Perhaps, if this is done in a healthy way, the best of both worlds can be seen.
I think this idea of living with “tensions” is so important in churches today – we tend to think in terms of right in wrong – but if we paid closer attention to scripture we could see that many times it’s not a question of right and wrong – but of how do we let these tensions exist and how do we manage those polarities.
To bring scripture into this – we should study the Book of John more. Many times we tend to read selected stories from John and focus more on the synoptic (Matt, Mark, and Luke) Gospels. Or, if we read John we force what we see to correspond with Pauline thought. I think we should take John as it is and see how he introduced tensions about who Jesus is, what salvation is, etc. Of course a great example is John 1 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” That is tension right there – God becoming flesh — how is that possible, how can those two things coexist? There is something there that we have to learn to live with – and obviously Christ lived out that tension and is a great example for us to look to in order to see how we should deal with tension in our communities. He also introduced them – i.e. Salvation is now and also in the future (again in John). A lot of this stuff isn’t easily explained away – but I think in recognizing that the Bible doesn’t have a unified theology of …. whatever – we should see that there is a conversation going on about who God and Jesus are. And I think it would really help us out quite a bit – to introduce that to the churches around us.