I recently read you newest book “A New Kind of Christianity” and found it very interesting. The questions you asked are ones that need to be asked in this changing culture and times.
Specifically, I really liked your focus on challenging the Gnostic thought patterns within modern Christianity. It is sad to think that Christians have become trapped by this heresy, claiming that the ‘material world’ is bad and the ‘spiritual/immaterial world’ is good. Unfortunately, this mindset has caused many believers to consider environmentalism as ungodly. By the grace of God, I have had the blessings to be a part of a movement of Christians that seek to be good stewards of the environment – both for the glory of God and to help our fellow humans.
I also enjoyed reading your response to the question “How Should the Bible Be Understood.” This is a hugely personal issue for me as I face criticism about how we are to read the Bible on a weekly basis. Every time I try to explain the cultural and historical background of a Bible passage, the men in my Bible study shoot me down. To them, each word in the Bible was written in such a way that they should mean the same thing forever – forgetting that the Bible is a collection of letters written to different people at different times among different cultures using multiple genres. Hopefully, the Lord will show them one day that the Bible is not a database of statements to be grabbed and shoved together in order to ‘prove’ whatever action/thought/idea/doctrine they want.
I must admit, however, that I struggle with some of your conclusions. You quote Isaiah, Micah, Joel and Hosea at length, yet only the parts where they are talking about the blessings of God. Nowhere in your book did you discuss the consequences of not following Jesus. It sounds as if you assume that everyone will want to jump on board and follow this new way. Yet, there are those who enjoy getting rich off the sufferings of others. What will happen to these people?
This may sound like a theoretical question, but it is actually quite practical. I have seen first hand the sufferings of the poor at the hands of the rich and powerful. What am I supposed to tell these people – that God is going to welcome these evil doers into His house without repentance? What about the justice of God? To me, if there is no justice, then grace is nothing more than a cheap word. As hard as it may be, I believe that we must re-frame the biblical narrative in such a way that it remains true to all of Scripture, retaining the fullness of both God’s grace and justice.
I also noticed that when you talk about God redeeming this world it is always in conjunction with humanity without a personal touch or action from God Himself. When I read the Bible, I see a personal God who is actively involved in the lives of each of His followers. Sometimes this personal activity comes in the form of signs and wonders, as in the miraculous healing of the body. Do you see God still doing this? Or do you see Him mainly working through the hearts of humanity?
In wrapping up, I must thank you again for starting the conversation. The questions you ask are valid questions, ones that we, as followers of Jesus, will need to answer as we make our way into the next phase of history. I look forward to the dialog generated by your book and this letter.
May the grace and peace of God be upon you,
Note: I wrote this letter as part of an assignment for my Fuller Seminary Class “MC535: The Emerging Church.”