Christianity as an Institution
Here’s a snapshot of a conversation I had about Rob Bell and his expulsion from Evangelicalism. I think it provides a succinct view of my current take on Christianity, so it’s worth recording.
“To be fare, Bell has questioned important parts of the Gospel itself. Should questions be asked, sure. Should a person be allowed the freedom in church to discover the Gospel without legalism forced upon him, of course. Should the church expel those who disagree, absolutely not. Bell is not however just an "evangelical" or a "Christian". He was and is a Church leader which comes with higher standards and higher responsibilities when it comes to teaching and proclaiming the Gospel.”
Me: Saying a Christian leader has higher standards seems to me to imply that those who come to different conclusions have lower standards or are not as high quality. But your point is, I think, that to be a leader in a particular group, one must maintain most of the doctrines of said group. As true of political parties as it is of religious ones. The problem, if there is one, is not that Evangelicals are too quick to denounce those they disagree with. The problem that I find is that Christianity is like any other human organizational institution that has doctrines that define in and out groups.
“I'm not talking about higher quality of a person, rather the responsibility of a leader is greater than that of his or her followers. There is Biblical president to this is well, James 3:1 for example when speaking about teachers. Also, all those NT sections about the roles and standards of elders.
And as far as the "in" or "out" crowd issue, well, that has been human nature from the beginning of time hasn't it been? This is MY family, this is My tribe, this is MY team, this is MY race, this is MY political party, this is MY religion, and on and on. Christianity, aka, followers of Christ and believers of his salvation, are in essence the "in" crowd because they believe. This however is not a judgment made by man, but by the heart of man before the holy God. The Gospel of Jesus.”
Me: Well this is human nature when we create groups. But ideas or ways of life are above grouping. For instance, being an optimist or a conservative or a liberal or generous are all dispositions that some people have to a greater or lesser extent. I think that being "Christ-like" can and should be in that category. No one get's kicked out of the Generous Ones United for Generosity because they don't give enough. Rather, they are simply more or less generous based on how they live and behave. No human institution is required. However human institutions GROW OUT of this human disposition such as charities and doctors without borders, etc. That's healthy and does not impinge on the basic human impulse because it doesn't stigmatize those who are 'other'. I think when the Christ-like impulse is ratified, doctrinized, institutionalized and reified it turns into something far less then it can and should be.