A radical church or a mixed one? (Am I being inconsistent?)

Thinking further about the need for radical Christianity to offer a church to believers, I’m struck by an inconsistency in my thinking.  I have been calling for diversity to be a key commitment of the church; surely that diversity should include radicals and conservatives and liberals too?  

Our Anabaptists Anonymous group did a simulation of a Roman house church last Thursday, as per Reta Finger’s book, and it struck me how she has some of us play Gentile radicals who think the law shouldn’t apply and others Jewish conservatives who think the law still applies. We are forced to hold these opposite views while fellowshipping in the same church. This is a much bigger and wider reaching tension than many of the theological issues that divide us today. It would have caused constant conflict, and yet Paul would not have heard of them dividing over it.

I think it would take a certain kind of radical and a certain kind of conservative to co-exist peacefully in the same church. You would need to have a strong commitment to the kingdom, to Jesus above all else, and a desire to listen and love the others. A friend of mine tells me of a Uniting church he goes to where this happened effectively – an evangelical minister and a liberal elder co-operating beautifully.

I need to think some more.

5 thoughts on “A radical church or a mixed one? (Am I being inconsistent?)

  1. Welcome to my world 🙂

    A further question might be ‘who gets to define ‘radical’?’

    A further (further) question might even be ‘should there be such a thing as a radical believer?’

    I see a tendency in radicalism towards self righteousness and pride (and I guess I sit within that zone to some degree) but then I see a tendency to apathy in other zones.

    Grace in all things hey?!

  2. Revolution starts with the middle classes. I heard an interview with Alexander Downer recently where he was saying that radicals protesting made no difference to government policy what so ever. What did make a difference were things like a a group of farming mums who did a very small protest. I think Xn radicals have an important function in challenging and inspiring other Xns, I’m thinking mixed is both the most painful and best option.

  3. Chris – we have to infiltrate them for maximum effectiveness perhaps? I know you’re having an impact in your context.

    Hamo – good questions! For good or bad, I need to feel in touch with a radical impulse, because I feel so disappointed and frustrated by what the church is. But I also have to watch the self righteousness and pride that comes with that. And realise how much I hate it when someone else defines radical in a way that excludes me.

  4. Hey Nathan. Thanks for your thoughts on Priscilla and Aquila (posted last year, I know, but I found it on the Internet.) I am writing a book, fiction actually but based on the life of Prisca. There’s so little that portrays them as real people, and you did a good job!

    Come and visit on my website, if you’d like. There’s a Mormon from Australia who is carrying on a dialogue with me. Perhaps you might have some gentle thoughts — he seems to be a nice guy who could possibly listen to the truth.

    Your sister,
    Latayne C Scott

  5. Hi Nathan,
    Most churches find theological diversity hard to stomach, especially if those theological views are expressed openly.

    However, I am of the view that theological diversity is there in the NT itself. For example, John’s Gospel is considerably different from the synoptics and Paul’s letters differ from James and so on but I do think that the differences are ones of complementarity rather than contradiction.

    And the OT has considerable differences within itself and with the NT. However, as I see it, there is an underlying unity to the bible amidst all its diversity.

    The unity of the bible is given largely by its narrative framework and it coheres around its central story, the story of Jesus.

    So then, if this is true why do so many churches want to stifle different theological views? Why can’t many liberals and evangelicals listen to one another and appreciate what we have in common as well as our differences?

    Should not we cohere in our church life around the central story of Jesus? I am glad to hear that some of this is occurring in some churches but, sadly, it does not occur often enough.

    John Arthur

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