Clashing Paradigms

I had a shocking moment this morning when I was listening to an interview my friend Drew Marshall did on his show this past weekend. He brought Tim Challies and Spencer Burke into the same conversation.

Now, to be honest, I’d never heard of Tim Challies – but he and I will both be doing presentations at next fall’s “8th Letter Conference”. Apparently, he is one of the top bloggers in the arena of faith and lives just down the road from me in Oakvile, ON. He is described as conservative/Calvinist/Reformed.

Spencer Burke I had heard of. He’s connected with and linked in with us for our synchroblog last year. Spencer was described by Drew as liberal/emergent/non-orthodox.

As the interview progressed the two different paradigms became clear. Challies put knowing and then defending the truth revealed in Scripture front and centre. For him, this meant the necessary separation at times from those who were not adhering to that revealed truth. For Burke, fellowship and creating a space in which to hear one another and learn from one another across diversity in interpretation, doctrine etc. was an essential outworking of being in the Body of Christ.

Now some of you will laugh at this, but it became very clear to me as I listened to this interview that people would align me with Spencer Burke – and therefore potentially with a liberal/emergent/non-orthodox label. And that means other people, perhaps people like Tim Challies, would describe me as dangerous.

I guess it was so shocking for me because I grew up and my faith was formed in communities that would describe themselves as Calvinist and Reformed. For most of my life I would have fairly easily fit the conservative label – at least when it came to my positions on particular issues.

Truth is, I don’t want to be seen as dangerous and I don’t want to be pigeon-holed by labels. I love the church. I love the people around me – people Christ came, died and was raised to restore to full, intimate relationship with himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit. And for me, that includes all people. It includes people in the Body of Christ with whom I may have very different ideas and priorities. It includes people outside of the church – in whom I fully expect to experience the presence of God. It includes people who like me and people who don’t.

Andy Crouch tweeted this morning “if you cannot tolerate unpopularity, you’re probably not a leader”. Though I can’t say I relish being disliked, I hope that isn’t the feeling in the pit of my stomach right now. I hope that this feeling – having just posted “the Witness of Hospitality” – has everything to do with the cost of loving God and loving people and having it potentially labeled dangerous by fellow Christians who love the same Jesus I do.

In these moments, when my stomach does flip-flops and I have to face my own fears, I tell myself to look at Jesus, the lover of my soul, who was perceived to be so dangerous to systems of religious truth – that they killed him.

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