They like Jesus, but not the church – Part 4

This is my final post discussing Kimball’s book.  It’s an easy read and I recommend it for anyone struggling with a church or town in transition culturally.  Unfortunately, I think that the majority of the people who will read this book already see the value in what he says. It’s those who need to make the necessary cultural adjustments to be effective in ministry that may not read it and thus miss its benefit. It’s not a book about compromise, it’s a book about approach and attitude. Of course, I don’t buy it hook, line, and sinker, but he offers some good thoughts.

5. The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong.

The key issue here is the adverb “arrogantly”.  It’s not simply that I claim that Jesus is the only way (John 14:6, etc.), but the way in which I make that claim.  To claim to have exhaustive knowledge about spiritual issues is arrogant indeed. The trend has moved from monologue to dialogue and we must adjust to it. Once making the exclusive claim, even in the right attitude, one also must be at least adequate in adjudicating between conflicting truth claims.  Why are pantheistic religions wrong and monotheistic religions right?  Why is Christianity the correct choice among the major monotheistic religions including Judaism and Islam? This issue is very divisive, so we must not allow our arrogance to create further divisiveness unrelated to the issues at hand. The best way to pursue the path of explaining this to a non-believer is to explain it in conversation born out of a loving and respectful relationship. Otherwise, even if you are trying not to be arrogant, you’ll probably appear to be.

6. The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally.

When we make interpretive decisions, we must be able to say “why” we make a decision in such a way.  People much smarter than I have a lot to say about hermeneutics.  Context aids in the determination of meaning, but context includes an unknowable amount of knowledge.  People who critique the church in this manner, do so because, often, we use the Bible to back up a point or theory rather than being changed by the Bible and letting it speak for itself.  That’s leads to the phrase “that’s just your interpretation”.   Once again, dealing with this issue outside of relationship results in an appearance of arrogance and ignorance.

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