09 December 2005

Really good theology for the not-already-committed

Elizabeth M., a reader of my blog and writer of (among other things) truly excellent comments/questions on the same, just finished reading Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy. She thought it might be a good try at convincing folks who were already committed evangelical Christians to consider allowing a bit more generosity into their faith, but asks,

So, I'm still wondering -- is there anyone out there who isn't only preaching to the choir?

That, my dear, is a really, really, really fine question. I think we're probably all in agreement here that the choir can use some preachin' to, but for all the emphasis in the Missional Church and Emerging Church conversations on evangelism, is there anybody out there writing postmodern, generously orthodox theology for the not-already-committed? Stuff that's not tying to do "the continuing conversion of the church" (like most Emerging stuff seems to be doing) and is also not (completely) beholden to the left/right dualism of modern theology? I know McLaren's got Finding Faith, but I haven't read it and don't know whether Elizabeth would like his approach in that any more than she did his approach in aGO.

I'm tempted to recommend folks like Tom (N.T.) Wright, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Marcus Borg, though the truth is that they're generally writing for the church too. But they do write stuff that's just good theology, not completely beholden to modern right-wing evangelical assumptions nor modern left-wing "mainline" assumptions (though their roots and theology will tend one way or the other--Willard right, Borg left, etc.). Also, they don't necessarily have an explicit agenda of trying to reform the church, like the Missional and Emerging authors tend to--an agenda, I might add, that's pretty much irrelevant to folks who aren't already part of the church. Maybe Tom Wright's "For Everyone" Bible study series?

I'm dismayed that I don't have a better answer to this question. Help?

4 comments:

Gallycat said...

I got roped back by Spong. His essays, which I finagled permission to reprint on my weblog, have caught the attention of folks who are, as he puts it, in exile. I know that's more liberal than emergent, but it really spoke to me, as did Bruce Bauer's "Stealing Jesus," which made me aware that it was a particular kind of Christianity I'd been avoiding my entire adult life, and de facto roping the rest of Christianity out with it. So Spong's mainline and some say apostate, and yet... attractive to postmodern sensibilities, providing a vocabulary and context which allows one to approach scripture and perhaps discover a new relationship with God.

Granted, my calling is more about bringing Gen X back and reaching out to their sensibilities as they have children,and in turn their children.. but... totally NOT directed at the choir. I am an advocate for Christianity, evangelical in that i encourage those outside the church to look at it again, through new eyes, reborn, as they become aware of Christ's true nature. It's wild to watch the light come on, and it's usually associated with "I don't have a problem with Christians who actually follow the teachings of Christ." That opens the dialogue. It's amazing. Even my best friend who's an avowed atheist is rethinking her feelings on the church, and I've gotten my lovely deist fiance to church twice in the past three weeks!!! They see the transformational power at work in me and.. open their minds a little more. Then it pours in one day.

Witness, my friend, witness. I think that is the simplest answer.

Rey Battenfield said...

Whatever...

Mike Croghan said...

Gallycat said...

I got roped back by Spong....

Actually, Spong's A New Christianity for a New World helped me a lot when I was rediscovering Christianity, and some of his other books that I've read (some of them many years ago) have remained influential in my personal theology. I admit I'm a little uncomfortable with the extent to which he seems to feel he must disassociate himself from parts of the faith tradition that I would prefer to claim and transform or hold in tension. He's a modern guy who (I think) needs to fit everything into a rational framework, while I'm a postmodern guy who says "Don't reject it--just hold it lightly! Embrace paradox and don't set up needless divisions with your siblings in Christ!" But despite all that, I'v found his witness valuable, and maybe others would too. So Elizabeth (and others), this "Spong" is the Right Reverend John Shelby Spong, former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, and he has many works on Amazon. It should be noted that, like the Missional and Emergent folks, he also has an explicit agenda of remorming the church, and is thus in that sense still "preaching to the choir". I'm not familiar with Bruce Bauer's work, but I trust Gallycat's recommendation.

Granted, my calling is more about bringing Gen X back and reaching out to their sensibilities as they have children,and in turn their children.. but... totally NOT directed at the choir. I am an advocate for Christianity, evangelical in that i encourage those outside the church to look at it again, through new eyes, reborn, as they become aware of Christ's true nature...Witness, my friend, witness. I think that is the simplest answer.

Wow, the similarity between your view of your calling and my view of mine is remarkable. And regarding witness, I'm with you 140% (or more). :-) But witness can happen (probably most fruitfully) through direct contact but also through media like web sites and books, so I much appreciate your recommendations!

Elizabeth M. said...

Thanks for the recommendations. We have a little Borg in the house but no Spong. I've heard of him but I don't think I've read anything by him. I've printed this out to read this evening:

http://www.dioceseofnewark.org/vox21096.html

I'll admit I'm intrigued by someone who is willing to even consider the question of whether one must be a theist to be a Christian...