Hear, Hear, Mr. Mclaren!

I often wander.  In the cyber sense.

I have done my share of wondering in the physical sense as well, but those are different stories for different times.  Back to my recent cyber-wandering.

I was recently discussing the relevance of the need to have an understanding of the Old Testament Hebrew world in order to frame the stories and accounts of the New Testament world.  During this discussion I wanted badly to quote Rob Bell, who I incorrectly remembered as having written a book about Old Testament exodus experiences and why they are so important to framing the intent behind the words we read in the New Testament.

I first searched my bookshelves at home for the book which in my creative imagination was called Exodus.  I had a picture of a green cover with a pattern of multiple shades of green checks across one quarter of the cover.  Either the top left or top right.  Under that pattern was the word “Exodus” in all caps with the leading letter in a larger typeface.  Under that and left justified it said “Rob Bell”.

I’m telling you – I saw that book in my minds eye.

Weeks went by.  Months.  I never did find it on my bookshelf despite looking at every book.  I look through my ebooks on every device I’ve used in the last year.  Even those I was certain I’d never read an ebook on.  I Googled it and found no reference.  I checked Wikipedia, and Rob Bells own web site which seemed to have an exhaustive listing of his publications.  I couldn’t find it.

Then… I decided to give it one more try and bingo!  I found it!  In 2006 Rob did a study series at Mars Hill called Exodus.  It was in four parts.  When I saw the post I realized that was it.  I’d stumbled across it on the Mars Hill site at some point, downloaded, and listened to the series. There was very little chance I’d find those downloads again so I coughed up a few bucks and downloaded them again.  Whew!  Found at last.

But that’s not what this story is about.

This story is about an article I came across while doing that Internet search.  It was written by Brian Mclaren as a rebuttal to an article entitled “We’ve All Seen this Before”.  A criticism of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, published by prominent Southern Baptist leader, Dr. Albert Mohler.  In Mr. Mclaren’s rebuttal was the following paragraph which I quote here.  In an attempt to provide some context – Mr. Mclaren was addressing the motivations that compel those of us who sometimes question the things we’ve been taught we need to believe…

We’re seeking – imperfectly at every turn, no doubt – an incarnational theology, a theology that brings radical good news of great joy for all the people, good news that God loves the world and didn’t send Jesus to condemn it but to save it, good news that God’s wrath is not merely punitive but restorative, good news that the fire of God’s holiness is not bent on eternal torment but always works to purify and refine, good news that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

— Brian Mclaren

Hear, hear, Mr. Mclaren!

Fear and Free Thought

I recently read a blog post by Brain Mclaren in which he responds to criticism about many of his views.  It is not my intent to delve into the details of the debate that is being hashed out in the blogosphere and elsewhere regarding the writings of Mr. Mclaren and others with similar thoughts and/or ideas.  Rather, I’d like to follow my train of thought that was brought about as I pondered the state of discussion today.

Interesting enough, my thoughts were clarified while attending a small group Bible Study that his hosted at the home of some fellow parishioners  every Monday night.  During this most recent study cycle we’ve been reading and discussing Mark Batterson’s book Circle Maker.  

By way of background I should probably mention that I’m a member of a Lutheran congregation.  Of course, I can’t just though that out there.  It’s become important that I mention that my congregation is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  One of several major synodical divisions of the Lutheran faith.

As the evening wore on we found ourselves discussing Mr. Batterson’s ideas regarding prayer, and circling our promises in prayer.  These ideas and concepts are not controversial within the ELCA at all.  There is really nothing in what Mr. Batterson presented that was or is contrary to the doctrine of the ELCA.  However, they are not concepts that have been widely discussed.

At one point near the end of our discussion one of our members said something to the effect of;

“I feel I can choose to not buy into all this stuff and just be a good Lutheran.”

I thought about this and realized that his statement was in a very small way illustrative of the broader discussion going on regarding the ideas presented by Mr. Mclaren, Rob Bell, Don Miller, and others.  The individual in our group had become defensive regarding the nature of our discussion.

It occurred to me then that I need to take responsibility for what I say when in the company of other people who may not have the same views.  When I learn that there are people in the world that have been asking the same questions I have been I get excited!  I can’t wait to explore what they thought; how they puzzled out the question; what conclusion they arrived at.  All while usually staying within the broader Christian context.  Although, I have to admit that I’m not afraid to venture outside that context from time to time either.

What I learned was that there are others who are not prepared to be confronted by thinking within their religious community that is not lock step in line with what they were taught to believe all their lives.  I’ve also come to understand that this isn’t their problem.  It’s mine!

I need to learn how to explore the questions I have and think freely while being sensitive and respectful of those who don’t share my desire and/or ability to follow the train of those thoughts.

Perhaps that’s what has brought about the reaction to what Mr. Mclaren, Mr. Bell, and others have written.  For some, their ideas are so different that they bring about a fear response.  And that fear causes people to entrench.  To dig in.  To prepare for battle.

As followers of Christ we should not be battling each other under any circumstances, regardless of the issue.  We should be willing to evaluate everything that we’ve been taught in new light.  Lutherans should be in the front of the line when it comes to free thinking; radical conceptualizing; and challenging the status quo.  We are members of a religious denomination that takes it’s name from a man who challenged the status quo at a time when it was dug in deeply into all facets of the society of western culture.

I’m going to continue sharing my less common thoughts and beliefs during our small group study sessions.  However, I am going to be more sensitive to the simple fact that some may find my ideas threatening to their status quo.  I’ll work to introduce them while still supporting the foundations of belief that prevail.