2. By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
…umm, yah. So this has to be one of the toughest questions. What about those who aren’t "Christians" – what is going to happen to them? I’m guessing that many people would be okay with being "progressive" Christians, but when it comes to this question, this is where the lines are drawn, this is where the sides are chosen, this is where we see who "really" are the "true" believers…
If you’ve been a youth pastor before, or involved in any ministry, this IS the question. "What about those tribes out in the middle of nowhere who have never heard the name of Jesus before…what’s going to happen to them? Are they going to Hell???" I hate these questions. For a variety of reasons:
- We’re speaking on issues that we have no say in – these are God-issues. These are not decisions we make, nor do we even have the slightest say in the matter…
- God tells us in Deuteronomy that "the secret things belong to the Lord" (Deut 29.29) and I think we have to take God at God’s word with this. There are things we are not going to know…and we need to leave it at that.
- These are not questions that are going to help us live as faithful followers of Christ in this world. These questions don’t allow us to be present to new waves of the Spirit…and to see and be open to where the Spirit is moving…These questions don’t call us to Kingdom-living.
You may accuse me of simply avoiding the issue-at-hand. And perhaps I am. Purposefully. Because of the aforementioned reasons. I wrote a sermon a few weeks back called "Your God is Too Small." I closed the sermon with this paragraph:
Truth be known, I really don’t want a small God. When it all comes down to it, when I’m standing in line at the pearly Gates, I want to be condemned for having a God that was too big. I want to be “that guy” who believed in a God that was TOO gracious, and a God that was TOO loving, and a God that was TOO HUGE. I want to believe in a God who brings those into relationship with God that we would never guess; a God full of surprises. That is the God I believe in. A wild God who faithfully pursues all, not just a select (or an “Elect”) group.
We need to trust God enough and believe in a God who is big enough to work in other faith traditions. We need to believe that there is truth in other religions, and also realize that Christianity does not hold the market on truth. Jesus is truth – and Jesus is not bound by or to our man-made religion.
All of that said – there is still part of me (having been raised fairly theologically conservative and going go a very conservative evangelical Christian college) that still feels a bit uncomfortable with saying "Everyone’s in – we’re all good." I love hearing Anne Lamott say it, but when the words come out of my mouth, they feel a little bit odd. Am I willing to say that everyone’s faith expression is as true for them as mine is for me. Am I willing to see that Jesus is simply the path I’ve chosen, but that there are other paths to God that stand outside the tradition of Jesus. Or is just about Jesus – or is it about the Spirit as well – should we be listening more to the Spirit and watching when and where She moves…?
I don’t really know where to go with this one — I do know that I’m not God, and that, in the end, these questions are not up to me to be decided. I know that for me, I need to simply love God and love others – and let God take care of God’s stuff. Is it progressive to say that everyone’s in? Sure, I’d say so. Is it progressive to acknowledge that we really can’t have any idea about this question, and just avoid the question to begin with? Sure…that’ll work too I think. I really don’t know where to go from here…any suggestions?