How far outside the box can we go and still be considered Christian? I'm revisiting this question after hearing a pastor and professor who also happens to be a pluralist, syncretist, universalist, and evolutionist,who is also affirming of homosexual practice. The lectures I heard were delivered by Bruce Epperly at the Oreon Scott Lectures on the campus of Bethany University. This was my second year in attendance at this institution of the Disciples of Christ denomination.
Epperly had some very good insights which I found to be profound and I enjoyed visiting with him at a reception. My faith was strengthened in a Jesus who is very much alive and in a God who is responsive to our prayers. I also agreed, to an extent, with Epperly's views regarding theological openness. Not being a fan of Reformed theology, I don't think God micromanages all the details. I think he is as greived by tragic loss as we are and that he may have a limited omniscience, albeit self-imposed, IMO.
But I am not a pluralist, syncretist, evolutionist, or "affirming" individual because I feel that most of these stances are incompatible with a Christ who claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Then there are the clear Old Testament statements, and additional statements by Paul, that are in opposition to homosexual practice. While not a total biblical literalist, I reject evolution as unscientific.
The Disciples of Christ denomination (but not every individual in it) seems to have accepted evolution as how the universe works and this has extended to a view of God who likewise evolves as a shape-shifting Being. The evolution of theology is likewise detected in Scripture and the evolution has continued up until now.
The Disciples, like other groups, are lamenting their shrinking numbers. Epperly sees the promise of postmodernism as a potential key to mainline Protestantism's success in "evangelism." Unlike evangelicalism, it's suggested that perhaps the world will find more affinity with a "progressive" version of Christianity. Why not incorporate Yoga classes or Buddhist meditation into our church life? Why not draw from all the major world religions? Why not embrace practicing homosexuals into our ranks? This seems to be the course that "Disciples" are charting, although not all of them.
The lectures helped me to understand why so many conservatives are circling the wagons, fearful of where any slight innovation might lead. The Disciples have truly come a long way since Campbell's Bible-only plea. I am not empathetic with the conservatives, but I understand them better.
We in more conservative circles might argue that the real key to progress is to reject "progressivism" in favor of a more fundamental approach. We might argue that a church that looks identitical to the world is no real alternative and not real attractive to someone seeking a different way. The church has historically been counter-cultural. Is it possible to be progressive in the sense that we are culturally sensitive and culturally savvy without being cultural chameleons?