Hmmm… Its not a word that comes together easily – either as a combo-word or as an idea. It sounds a little angry… But then ‘pro-mentalist’ sounds equally disturbing!
However it may be a word I’d use to describe the kind of church community I’d hope to lead – one that allows fundamentalists and progressives to co-exist, learn from one another, enrich one another and help one another become more like Christ as they have to deal with one another’s quirks (theological and otherwise).
My observation is that many churches are formed around fairly clear theological boundary markers – often the non-essentials. Some even put them on their signs out the front of the building to ensure others don’t accidentally slip in… I’m sure you have seen the ‘non-charismatic’ statements, which are nicer than ‘anti-charismatic’ although the intent is the same…
Its not just the fundamentalist end of the spectrum that create hard edges though. King James loving, dispensationalists who ‘take the Bible at its word’, may make it clear where they stand, but ‘progressives’ (for want of a better word) can be equally exclusionary.
While the talk may be ‘centred set’, and inclusivity, there would be some crowds where you would figure out pretty quickly that you didn’t belong and in fact were an embarrassing annoyance if you held even middle of the road views. There can be a disparaging scoffing that goes with this crowd that does not allow for what may be perceived as narrow mindedness or unevolved thinking.
Both groups can bring an arrogance either because of their fidelity to the once and forever revealed truth, or in their new gnosticism, so that there is little room left to question or explore or learn.
As I was reflecting on our own church community I realised its one of the things I like about who we are. We’d have a few King James only folks in our midst who aren’t just ‘hangers on’, but are valued members of our church, as well as some progressives or deconstructionists who would hold non-conformist views on some contentious issues. My hope is that we can keep this as a mark of who we are because I believe it enriches our identity rather than detracts from it.
When we simply gather with people very similar to us we risk limiting our learning – or only learning in one theological trajectory and that can never be healthy.
It was as we met last night and I was asked for my view on Revelation, that I began to see the diversity we have just on this one subject. While Tim Lahaye has captured the popular imagination with his ‘Left Behind’ series, I wanted to suggest we need to consider the variety of perspectives on offer, before allowing ‘easy reading’ to sway the vote.
I imagine it may get hard to hold people at extreme ends of the spectrum but that is often because they feel so passionately about their non-essential distinctives that they feel the need to advocate for the cause and get frustrated if others will not side with them.
If we could simply be passionate about the core matters of the gospel and not 6 day creation or gay marriage then perhaps we would be in a better place to hear one another on these issues when they do arise, because at the centre is our shared identity in Christ rather than our need to bat for our point of view.