What Lessons Can Progressives Learn from Evangelicals?

AlterNet has a very interesting article posted that hits on how some young evangelical leaders like Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, and Greg Boyd are beginning to call some attention to the “revolutionary” nature of being a Jesus follower. It goes pretty in-depth on the subject of Rob Bell and his church Mars Hill. It’s nice to see some Christian leaders actually get some good pub in the progressive arena.

The Ever-Changing Message

I recently went back to re-read some portions of Shane Hipps fantastic book “The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture”. As I’ve said before, this book has been immensely valuable for me and I echo Doug Pagitt’s comment that I’m actually fearful of what it would have meant for me NOT to have read it.

I was re-reading chapter five and I stumbled upon these excerpts of the book that highlight the idea of “the ever-changing message of God”:

Throughout Scripture the message changes. God’s message of promise to Abraham was not the same as God’s message of judgment and exile for the disobedient Isreal. Jesus’ local, covert, and exclusive mission to the Jews as described in the Gospels was not the same as Paul’s overt and universal message to the Gentiles. These messages are not inconsistent or irreconcilable. On the contrary, they are integral parts of an unfolding divine drama. Ours is the dynamic story of God and God’s people at work in the world, not a set of static propositions. The gospel message is not an abstract, fixed idea but rather an unfolding, incarnational drama in which God is working to bring the world back into a reconciled relationship with himself.

When we claim the gospel message is unchanging, we risk boasting of a kind of omniscience in which we presume to know the total of God’s inexhaustible mysteries. We presume to have discovered the one simple and unchanging message for all times and places. In this view, the Holy Spirit, who was sent to teach us truth, becomes little more than a dashboard ornament, for we already know all the truth we need. In this view, the gospel story (if there is one) is of no consequence; all that matters is a static proposition.

Instead of presuming to know the unchanging, universal gospel message, our posture toward the gospel should be one of humility and discovery. Throughout Scripture God invites us to remain open to the dynamic and unpredictable breath of the Holy Spirit as we seek to be God’s people. Remaining faithful to Scripture does not mean holding on to some fixed and permanent idea of right doctrine until our knuckles turn white. Faithfulness means developing a communal sense of patience to discover the gospel, courage to name it, and humility to hold it with an open hand in order to allow it to be touched by God’s voice in Scripture and the Spirit’s movement in our midst.