[In this post I am pulling together, editing and expanding on some comments I made to a recent post on another blog. ]
"Right now, Christianity is seen as a set of beliefs. Believe the right stuff, and you are Christian. Step in this box with its bounded sides, and you are “in.” Step out of line, and you may be outside of the realm of what we consider ‘orthodox’ or right belief. We live and work out of a bounded set constraint.
But there is another way.
A centered set paradigm places Jesus at the center and asks that we move toward him."
When someone distinguishes between "moving towards Jesus" and "Christianity as a set of beliefs" they are presupposing a false dichotomy.
I don’t have to choose between a belief set and “moving towards Jesus”. How do I know the Jesus I must move towards? Yes we must indeed move toward Him, in becoming more like Him. But the Jesus we must move towards is not a Jesus we imagine in our consciousness, but Jesus as He is objectively presented in the Gospel accounts. (I know I just used a “trigger” word post- modernity takes issue with.)
My question for our Emergent friends is who is the “Jesus” you are moving towards? How do you put content and context to who this “Jesus” is? How do you know the “Jesus” your are moving towards is the Jesus you should be moving towards? For that matter, how do you even know you should be moving towards “Jesus” at all? You can’t even speak of these things at all without context and content, and as soon as you have context and content, guess what? You have a belief set box!
It’s not “either/or”. It is “both/and”. I need a belief set to know who the Jesus is that I desperately need to be moving towards. And that box is not one of my making. God has spoken in time and history and He has spoken objectively about what reality is. We did not draw the box. He did. We can only recognize what He has already drawn. That is what something as basic as the Apostle’s Creed is all about; recognizing the box God Himself drew.
“As Pete Rollins suggests, we know about God and we know much of God, but we don’t know all of God. ”
My Emergent friend, I can accept and agree with this statement taking it at face value. The question that remains is are there things we do know of God that we can know with an unchanging, unwavering certainty that such “God facts” remain true in all times and in all cultures? Is there a box of “God facts” that God Himself has drawn that all, in all times and in all cultures, must believe and accept in order to know God rightly and savingly? If Jesus is in that box, then what are the facts about Jesus we need to know in order to really know Him?
Yes, to know someone involves more then just knowing facts about that person, but at the same time without some basic facts about that person, I can’t really start knowing him or her.
I am freely willing to confess that even after several thousand years in glory, we will still have to say we don’t know all of God and as finite beings never will know all of God. What I resist is a notion that what I do know of God I can not know with unwavering certainty. There are many lesser points of theology I am willing to hold with a loose hand. But I also see some core fundamental issues that I need to hold with a tight fist if I am to truly be in the faith.
Is it asking to much to ask of our Emergent friends that they clearly define those things they would hold to with a tight fist? Is it so wicked a sin to insist on and ask for clear and precise definitions? After all, what is truth?
"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)