The Exclusive Nature of an Inclusive Faith

One of the oddest events of early American history (while we were still English colonies) was that of Solomon Stoddard. For those who don’t know, Stoddard was a pastor in New England of a Puritan church, the problem is the church was facing decline. The reason is the younger generation just didn’t find Christianity all that interesting (even back then it happened). In order to be relevant and look successful, Stoddard relaxed the rules for church membership, saying that as long as someone said they believed in the most basic tenets of the Christian faith and lived a moral life, they could be considered a member of the church.

Such a relaxation of standards meant that a person did not have to volunteer to help with the church, attend church, etc. One person stood up, Stoddard’s grandson, and said that the church had to require more from church members. The church, not liking Stoddard’s grandson’s views, decided to fire his grandson from the church. That man, Jonathan Edwards, went on to become one of America’s greatest evangelists.

Go back over one thousand years ago from this incident and we see Christians persecuted in ancient Rome. The reason for their persecution isn’t because they’re out engaging multiple faiths and having inter-faith dialogues. In fact, they’re not even being killed for helping the poor (they are ridiculed for such actions, but it is not something the Roman government persecutes them over). Instead, they face persecution because they will not acknowledge Caesar as a god. The Roman Empire – which was a religiously pluralistic empire – didn’t care at all that the Christians viewed Jesus as God. In fact, they didn’t even care that the Christians only believed in one God (the Jews were allowed such a belief). The problem is that the Christians were going into the communities and teaching people that believing in multiple gods was wrong and that there was only one way to Heaven (something the Jews did not do).

Continue reading

A response by Mark Scandrette

In my last post I wrote about a conversation I had with Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt and also alluded to the conversation my friend had with Mark Scandrette. Mark decided to respond on my friend’s blog and it was a very illuminating and helpful reply.

Even though it helps illuminate Mark’s viewpoint – and I think he was a bit too quick to say that we’re trying to fulfill a theological agenda – I’m still bothered by some things. For those interested, you can read his reply here (in fact, it’d make more sense to read his reply before reading my concerns). Continue reading

My Conversation with the Emergent Church

Imagine jumping in a time machine and going back to 1908  – you find yourself in a revival almost a decade after the turn of the century. It’s a time of change, a time of questioning, and a time of theological challenges. This is what Tony Jones (The New Christians), Doug Pagitt (A Christianity Worth Believing), and Mark Scandrette (Soul Graffiti) attempt to do in The Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival. Taking on characters of the time period, they do an excellent job of acting the part of turn-of-the-century revivalists. What I want to talk about, however, is the parts where they break character and read and explain portions of their books.

The first one to break character is Doug Pagitt – he sits there and reads from his book, explaining his conversion experience. Not having grown up hearing about Jesus, he is introduced to Jesus through a recently converted friend. Shortly after accepting Christ, he is sat down by two men who are supposed to disciple him and they explain deep, complex methods of theology to this new Christian with no background in Christianity. They then gave him a train illustration about how there are three ‘cars’ to Christianity: facts (driving the train), faith (behind the facts), and feelings…separated from the rest of the train. They told him that no matter what he’s feeling, he needed to trust in facts and faith. Doug went onto say that he has never struggled when it was left up to his feelings and faith; the struggle begins when we are introduced to belief systems.

Continue reading