Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sometimes We Get Along, Sometimes Not

It doesn't take long in the #PCUSA to see what a diverse group we are. Much of the time, we manage to get along; some of the time, we don't.

Diversity pushes and pulls us, and sometimes pushes or pulls us beyond where we're comfortable ... and sometimes challenges us to rethink, to reconsider, review those things we deem "essentials."

We love to quote authorities, and, of course, THE Authority, Scripture, but even that seems to fail us finally, leaving us without resolve, and all those pesky Bible verses that refuse to fit into our otherwise neat and tidy systems.

If we take sin seriously (as Presbyterians, we have too!), then we're stuck with a curious kind of humility toward one another, and toward those views that either challenge us or strike us as even heretical.

We'd all like to claim that "our system, our version of things, our take on God and the Gospel, are bigger, brighter and better" than all the other competing versions.

But history refuses us such a claim.

All we can do, and humbly do, is put forth our view of things, and try to apply the best tools of scholarship and science, engaging in steady prayer and the practices of humility (often saying, "I don't know" or "I'm not sure"), bringing to bear upon our ideas the best of Christian scholarship, the vast and often contradictory traditions of the church, including hymnody, social justice practices over the centuries and the day-to-day learning from one another - in other words, all that God provides us in and through the church and the larger world.

In reality, we're mostly on target, and sometimes not.

Who can contain the whole counsel of God in any system of thought?

Who dares to say they comprehend the will and character and purpose of God throughout the ages?

If any of us muster the "telling Bible verse," someone else offers another verse.

So we serve one another best of all when we raise critical questions for one another, and provide ample room and time for one another to express his or her views.

If we come to the #PCUSA or to a particular congregation to have all of our a priori notions confirmed, we may well find a congregation that suits us perfectly, but not likely the entire denomination ... which is why some are so eager for schism - as if the balkanization of the church could lead to greater purity of thought. It never does, and never will. To seek purity at the expense of fellowship is to sacrifice the very purity so eagerly sought.

Anyway, much of the discussion here is thoughtful and kind ... God be praised.

Perhaps we might take Jesus at his word in John: "I am the way, the truth and the life" ... not Calvin or Knox or Kuyper, not the Book of Confessions or the Book of Order, neither Aquinas nor Barth, certainly not Jerry Falwell (God rest his soul) or James Dobson, nor Rob Bell or Max Lucado. But from all of them, we learn about Jesus, yet Jesus does us the favor of "walking through our midst," lest we crown him(John 6.15) or try to kill him (Luke 4.29).

Our systems are all approximations ... and we humbly bow down before the LORD of all ... honoring the Holy Spirit in each and every believer who utters the name of Jesus in faith, hope and love, fragmented as every heart is, with but a fragmentary grasp of Jesus, whose grasp upon us is sure and certain, unto the end of the age, and then some.

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