Mike has an excellent question and I believe qualified responses. He gives two things which he would impress upon his congregation, if he had a pulpit:
- The social and political implications of the kingdom of God (or the Johannine equivalent “eternal life”), of Christ as the Lord (kyrios) and Savior (soter) in the context of the Roman Empire or “Babylon” as John of Patmos describes it, of sharing in the cross and resurrection and to incarnate a life of servanthood, of mixed table fellowship and neither Jew/Greek or male/female in Christ (I do not see this as a call to obliterate human difference but rather to embrace it, though Paul does not live up to the full egalitarian implications).
- A greater appreciation for the diverse Jesus groups of just a selection could include the Jerusalem church, Stephen and the Hellenists, the Sayings Gospel Q, the Pauline epistles, the Gospels of Mark, the Johannine corpus, early catholicism (the Pastorals, Luke-Acts, Clement, Ignatius, etc) and so on. The canon itself legitimates a unity in diversity that is thoroughly Christocentric, as no one group had the complete picture of all that Jesus was and is and yet strived to remain faithful to their vision of Jesus in their own social contexts.
And then asks:
What do you consider to be the possible theological or social implications of your scholarship?
So, here is mine:
- The ability to accept and embrace modern scholarship and come to terms with it – whether as a response or as an acceptance. Being ignorant of what is going on in the world, simply because it does not line up with our own understanding, is intolerable. There is a need to move past the idea that we believe because God said it – while that answer is the safest, I want my congregation to understand how and when and to whom and what it meant when He said it. Further, in embracing it, I want the congregation to be able to come to terms with the fact that their application, not just interpretation, may be faulty.
- To realize the great foundation upon which we stand. The Apostles didn’t suddenly get restored to us in our parent’s generation. If we cannot find our doctrine and our theology close to the Apostles, then we should abandon it. Like the first, if there comes a time in which we examine something modernly that simply does not line up historically or critically, then we must come to a point in which we say that xyz has shown us that our believe of abc is not accurate. Would we be willing to change our doctrine without believing that somehow we have condemned all those who have gone before us? I want my congregation to be able to examine themselves in light of the earliest communities, not just the previous pastor, leader or generation.
- In both of the examples, I want them to embrace Church History and modern Scholarship, whether in the end we agree with it or not, and learn that while the bible is key, the central figure in our faith is Christ. No amount of Scholarship will destroy that, if indeed it is personally true.