In this episode John and Gregg discuss listener feedback from Evan in Virginia. Evan appreciated the recent podcast on Love and Biblical Illiteracy while posing several questions.
First, can one’s love of biblical doctrine impact how we love others, whether positively or negatively? Next, Evan wonders how valuable the church’s tradition are and whether we lose something when ignore them or put them aside? Finally, he wonders if it’s possible we become so preoccupied with whether something is right or wrong that, as a consequence, we lose something of the relational aspect that should mark a Christian’s engagement with others?
On the first question, John offers a resounding ‘Yes’! For John this is linked to an excessive emphasis in North American churches on judgement (deciding the rightness and wrongness of things). For Gregg this point raises the relationship between practice and theory. Gregg agrees with John’s emphasis on judgement, noting the distinction between boundary-focused churches and centre-focused churches.
The former are those that are very careful to be clear on who is inside the boundary and who is outside (or close enough to the boundary that we need to be wary of them). Gregg instead touts the centre-focused church: being focused on Jesus and seeking to promote a centripetal movement: movement toward the centre.
Yet as John notes, even where the centre is Christ the outworking of such a focus will depend on how people interpret the Bible and apply such interpretations in a way that is in keeping with the original context. So John underscores the importance of “doing one’s homework” when it comes to the third question, so that we can be more confident that acting a way that would seem to diminish the relational aspect of Christian practice is really what is called for by the Bible!
In the same regard Gregg notes a dialogue between two biblical scholars, Philip Payne and Richard J. Mouw, on the subject of women teaching in the church. For Gregg this exchange demonstrates the results of rigor and a rigorous approach to understanding the Bible, where the goal is the best possible resources and the best approach in order to get the best understanding of a given biblical text.
For John, ultimately being critical or, as one listener stated, being “nit picky” is a by-product of needing to clear a space amongst the existing presentations of Christianity in order to be able offer something that is different–both more true and more livable. Gregg agrees: credibility and humanity are both essential to any presentation of Christianity.