What it means to be an Evangelical is under debate. Some want to draw narrow boundaries, others want to draw broader boundaries. Consensus is a pipe dream. Unfortunately, when conversations do occur many speak past each other, as opposed to each other. When folks with differing views do engage each other, it can seem more like a cage-match fight to the death than a respectful dialogue or conversation.
The goal of Respectful Conversations is to have an evangelical dialogue on some of the most divisive issues in Evangelicalism today. One of those issues, the exclusivity of Christianity, has always intrigued me. I’ve always wondered what happens to the infant who dies not long after birth, or the guy stuck on an island who never hears the Gospel, or the native who hears the “Gospel” from a missionary only to reject it, but not because of the Gospel, but because it was so wrapped in culture and nationality that the real Gospel couldn’t be found! One of the blogs written by Kyle Roberts mirrored my own thoughts.
When it comes to the scope of salvation, it’s fair to say that I’m an inclusivist. There are just to many logical hoops to jump through for me to be otherwise. I cannot say who will spend eternity with God and who will not. I wouldn’t be surprised if I got “up there” and I was a bit shocked to see who else was around (they might be shocked to see me as well!). I think the position I hold is biblical, theologically and reasonably sound, and can be found within historical orthodox Christianity.
When I talk about this issue, I’ve found that many folks don’t really listen to my reasoning but jump to a poor caricature of my thoughts and proclaim me a pluralist or universalist, despite my theological objections and pleading otherwise. I do not believe that all roads go do Heaven. I do not believe that all religions are the same. I do believe that it is only through the work of Christ that salvation is possible. If I get to heaven, and through Christ EVERYONE and EVERYTHING has been redeemed, I wouldn’t’ be the least bit surprised. Nor would I be surprised if, for whatever reason, there were people consigned to hell (however one wants to define it). I do believe that a cognitive knowledge of Christ is important and thus we should be open to sharing our understanding of who Christ is. I don’t know what the minimal amount of commitment one needs to spend eternity with God, but I do believe committing ones life to following Christ far surpasses the minimum ‘requirement.’
I’ll soon be leading my own ‘Respectful Conversations’ with my very diverse young adult group at church. They want to spend time working thought some of the hot button issues in the church today: homosexuality, prayer, the scope of salvation, moral issues, science etc. After reading through these Respectful Conversation posts, here are a few things that I hope will guide us:
1.) Humility – we must realize that we’re all looking ‘dimly as in a mirror’ and nobody has it all figured it out.
2.) Integrity – we shouldn’t characterize someone else’s thoughts in a way that they themselves wouldn’t. Look at their thoughts and beliefs in the best way possible.
3.) Bravery– People are sometimes afraid to really speak their mind because of fear of what others may think. Having a conversation on these difficult topics requires a range of thoughts. Everyone needs to participate.
4.) Listening – We shouldn’t listen to respond, but listen to learn!
What else would you add to this list so we can have a respectful conversation?