Last week I was at a conference at which Brian McLaren was the keynote speaker. I had met Brian on a previous visit of his, and I was delighted to meet up with him again. Certainly, I will read his latest book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World. Reflection around that book was the focus of his talks.
I want to just highlight (and in my own words – so I hope I’m not putting words into his mouth) what I thought was central to his material, and echoes my own approach.
On the one hand there are those whose passionate convictions lead them to denigrate other perspectives. I am right – therefore you are wrong. It is an exclusivist position which in Brian’s talks focuses on the rightness of the Christian faith thereby giving little space to the perspective of those of other faiths. The model can also, of course, apply to any number of current hot topics.
The other, opposite approach, is to be so lukewarm about one’s own position, to water down one’s own beliefs – and, at the same time, those who appear to differ from you, that, it is hoped, the resulting ubiquitous greyness will have everyone getting along.
A third approach, more my approach, and, if I understand Brian correctly, more his approach, is to have the inclusivity and the openness result from a passionate commitment to one’s own beliefs. Because I believe in Jesus and the Bible and so forth THEREFORE we are open, inclusive, listening to differing perspectives, etc. Not in spite of…
Very often the open, listening, inclusive position is presented “over against” a solidly “biblical” approach. This different approach is saying the solidly biblical approach impels us to openness and inclusivity. There is regularly a contrast between solid biblical teaching and the complexity of pastoral situations that this “black and white” biblical teaching must be lived in, with some stressing the “biblical” and some the “pastoral”. This third approach does not fall into this dichotomy, this dualism, but sees the good pastoral response as intrinsic in a good understanding of the biblical.
What do you think?
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- I Might Be Wrong
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