Via Media?

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

The controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s new book highlights the current division among professed evangelicals into the neo-reformed camp (Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Joshua Harris, John Piper, Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, etc.) and the progressive camp (Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Miroslav Volf, Donald Miller, N.T. Wright, etc.).  Dr. Scot McKnight over Jesus Creed recently wrote about this division (you can find it here: http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/03/18/a-tipping-point/).

While I fall more into the neo-reformed camp than the progressive tribe, I am disturbed by the increasing vitriol between the two camps.  I hope and pray that those who occupy “the slim middle” can serve as productive mediators.  My desire to see this happen is partially motivated by self-interest. 

You see, I pastor a church (therevolutiononline.org) whose membership is very, very young.  The average age is roughly 24.  On any given Sunday evening, we will have more than 50 college students from the local university sitting alongside 40 or so men and women from local rehab programs and another 50 or so young professionals.  They are largely de-churched (i.e., having been raised in church and even made a profession of faith at a young age but left as teens and have only reluctantly returned).  They are largely “postmodern” and a-political.  

The church is broadly evangelical and, with the occasional hiccup, has rolled along with few doctrinal divisions…but the Bell controversy has already raised a few (thanks Rob!).  I want the members of my young church plant to hold sound doctrine that they can defend with Scripture but I don’t want them to divide into tribes that refuse to do anything but battle with one another.  There is a strange tendency among Christians who begin to form theological positions to retreat into their own doctrinal ghettos often with disastrous results.

Fortunately, there are strong and compelling evangelical voices who occupy “the slim middle” that should be brought into this conversation in order to avoid hard divisions.  I am thinking of Dan Kimball, who I have always found to hold the best that bought camps have to offer.  Dan is always willing to converse with anyone about anything in a graceful way.  Moreover, he maintains friendships with leaders in both the progressive and neo-reformed wings.  For example, Dan recently penned a fine column on hell for Outreach magazine that is well worth reading (  http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/3582-Teaching-the-Truth-About-Hell.html)

I hope and pray that in this firestorm that threatens to further the divide between the two tribes that voices like Dan’s (and others associated with The Origins Project) will be granted a hearing, so that we can spend our time reaching out to the unchurched and de-churched rather than waste precious time yelling at each other to little or no effect.

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