In responding to “Why Big Tent Christianity?” a few days ago, Ian Carmichael worried about my use of the phrase, “To those on the other side…” Ian writes,
I’d have thought that transformation is a key concept in any and every strand of Christianity. Classical evangelicalism, for exam[le would be serious about sanctification – even if struggling with its social consequences – which is transformation. I can’t imagine any Christianity – indeed any religion – which would make a call to us to remain as we are.
Beautifully put. It would have been better for me to say “But to those who oppose ‘big tent Christianity’ and all moves in that direction…” The day I responded to Ian, the internet was filled with hostile attacks on me and on the Raleigh conference that opens in ten days. There are certainly those who think that emphasizing Christian unity as Brian McLaren and I and the other speakers are doing betrays Christ. They say that we must emphasize the differences in order to judge the many, many people who hold false theologies.
It’s not for me, for anyone, to define the boundaries of the tent. In Raleigh some will join us for whom it’s very uncomfortable to do so, since their colleagues will condemn them for having sold out merely because they are sharing a stage with some of us. I admire their courage and Christian vision.
And let it be said that there are some on the liberal end who will condemn us for meeting together with more conservative Christians rather than challenging their views.
For some of us, the task is to make the invitation nonetheless. No one owns the “big tent” of the church. All who wish may come. Some will stand outside, in their own smaller tents, so that they can condemn the big tent project and many of those who enter in. They focus attention on the boundaries and on who should be excluded. We focus attention on the One whose life and teaching and salvific actions draws us together in the first place. We leave judgement about who is “really” in or out to God.
Ian Carmichael also writes,
The point of my faith needs to be transformation – which needs to be the point of the activity in my ‘small tent’ as well as that of the activity in the ‘big tent’.
This is a great take-home point. It’s what we do in our own home communities that counts in the end. Once in awhile, however, it’s great for us to join together to show the world what a rich community it is that seeks to live in the Way of Jesus.