Michael Spencer kept looking over his shoulder. He was willing to express views that were not popular among others of his denomination and he expressed concern that there were individuals out there who were looking for opportunities to “report” him to the administrators at the school where he worked. I got a real sense of this when I started comparing this blog with his sermons. It was if I was reading the writings of two different people. Topics that he wouldn’t touch in his sermons he would raise on Internet Monk. Items like Inerrancy, Youth Earth Creationism, how the church responds to homosexuality, and a host of others.
When I was at seminary I was told a story by my Hebrew and Greek professor He was known to have some strong views that didn’t exactly define inerrancy in the way that many in the denomination would like. He was once at a denominational banquet about to enjoy his dinner, when a stranger sat down across from him. Without so much as introducing himself, the stranger asked in a belligerent way, “Do you believe in inerrancy?” My prof had a five second internal debate. “Do I want to spend the next hour trying to explain the finer points on my beliefs on inerrancy to someone who is not likely to want to listen, or do I enjoy my dinner?” He chose the latter, looked up at the man, answered “Yes”, and then continued eating.
Perhaps he was mindful of Clark Pinnock who learned his lesson the hard way when he was nearly thrown out of the Evangelical Theological Society for his views on inerrancy and open theism. Pinnock’s willingness to be open to new ideas has paralleled much of my own spiritual journey and I strongly identify with his comment that:
Not only am I often not listened to, I am also made to feel stranded theologically: being too much of a free thinker to be accepted by the evangelical establishment and too much of a conservative to be accepted by the liberal mainline.
While Clark Pinnock managed to keep his place in the E.T.S., Peter Enns was not so lucky when it came to his employment. His published views on inerrancy resulted in him losing his job. As a side note, I am thankful to Internet Monk for introducing me to the writings of Peter Enns. If you have ever wondered about the question of a historical Adam or the interpretation of Genesis, two more of those touchy topics, his book “Evolution of Adam” is a must read.
Like Michael Spencer, I find myself looking over my shoulder. I find myself at increasing odds with my church on both theological and philosophical matterd, some of which have been alluded to in this post. There have been many times when I have wanted to speak my mind on an issue, comment on facebook, or even like a post, but have not done so. Primarily because I know that doing so will create conflict and hurt feelings within the church, and probably lead to my removal from leadership of my small group. It is my love and care for those in my small group, and others in the church, that causes me to bite my tongue. To quote my lovely wife, “being right isn’t necessarily always the most important thing.” I wonder though if my convictions about various topics will reach the point where I will no longer be able keep quiet.
For now though, I soldier on, but it seems like I am marching on a finer and finer line. One foot in the church, and one foot in the wilderness.
P.S. A quick plug for small groups: I have noticed a strong correlation in my life between my own spiritual growth and small groups. If you find yourself disenchanted with church, or perhaps not attending, see if you can find a small group to be part of. You may find that it makes a world of difference in your spiritual life.