For years now, Christian writers and thinkers like Brian McLaren, Eric Elnes, and Phylis Tickle have been talking about a New Convergence (NC) in Christianity--a coalition (some know it as the emergent church and expressed in such movements as The Wild Goose Festival) of liberal mainliners, restless evangelicals, and progressive Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, all converging over a progressive, social-justice-focused theology, closer to the original message and movement of Jesus. My contention is, in order for this modern recapturing of Jesus' love-ethic-over-religious-dogma to stick, there needs to be a clear demarkation between the old world view that all these streams held at one point to a large degree and new spiritual, well-defined paradigms based on solid scriptural and historical evidence. Othewise, the conservative roots and branch of each stream will continue to hold it back and deem it suspect. So, here's my take on 6 essential paradigm shifts the NC needs to embrace and express.
1 - An Historical Approach to the Bible - By historical, I don't mean one must accept everything in the Bible as exactly historically accurate, but that the "biblical" way (true to what the Bible actually teaches and how it was compiled) of viewing the Bible is as an historian reading a human document (parts of which, each individual 'historian reader' deems inspired by God). Without an historical approach, the Bible is abused and used to oppress others, e.g. the anti-gay error (both of these I expound in my book). This historical view is opposed to the traditional, literalist view, which claims the the Bible is wholly God's Word and inerrant, self-sufficient, self-evident, internally consistent, and universally applicable. Christian Smith, Garry Wills, and many others have shown the fallacy of this literalistic view, while maintaining respect for the Bible as containing a message from God. The NC must be able to articulate this historical approach. For example, perhaps, stating the following, not as a litmus-test creed, but as an alternate paradigm:
- The Bible is not the Word of God but contains the Word of God.
- The Word of God is the Logos, the rational wisdom of God, as best expressed in Christ.
- We discern God's Logos and how to apply it by reading the Bible with an understanding of its historical, cultural, and literary context, how it was compiled and translated (biblical/historical scholarship), with the help of the Spirit, and a dose of common sense.
- We learn to apply the Logos of God in the Bible to our lives by focusing on its grand conclusive themes--trust (faith), grace over law, hope, and love--not specific admonitions that don't claim to be universally applicable.