I posted the following thoughts on my Facebook wall yesterday. The reaction to my post was so strong that I thought I’d share it with my blog readers, along with some additional thoughts.
There is a movement within Christianity for which I do not have a name.
We have many differences, despite our shared convictions. Some of us are conservatives, some liberals, and some progressives. You’ll find us among Evangelicals, Anabaptists, Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, and pretty much any other Christian denomination or tradition.
But a single truth forms the core of everything we believe. I’ll quote here the poetic words of Brian Zahnd, though many others have expressed the same truth in different ways:
God is like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus. We have not always known what God is like—but now we do.
This core truth has led us to reject a number of beliefs that have crept into (especially Western) Christianity but that we see as distortions of Jesus’ gospel. While we are in general agreement that such beliefs must be replaced, we have no consensus on which specific alternatives best describe the God revealed in Jesus.
Based on the truth that God is like Jesus, we reject the beliefs:
- that God had to punish Jesus for our sins (penal substitutionary atonement);
- that God will punish sinners forever in hell (eternal conscious torment);
- that God meticulously plans all events (theological determinism);
- that God has ever sanctioned or participated in violence (just war theory);
- that God’s inspiration of scripture entails a text that is free from human mistakes (inerrancy).
There may be a few more we could add to this list, but these are probably the main ones.
So here’s my question: What is this movement? Does it have any defining characteristics apart from what I’ve here described? Has anyone given a name to this movement? Or, as a movement of the Spirit, would it even be wise to do so?
And discuss we did. I enjoyed seeing the names folks suggested. Here are a few:
- “a modern day Reformation”
- “the Emergent Village movement”
- “Evangelical Christian Universalism”
- “the Death of Christendom”
- “People of the Way”
- “a Kingdom Revolution”
- “Christological humanism”
- “Christian Transhumanism”
- “Simply Jesus”
- “The Restoration”
- “following Jesus”
- “a continuation of the Radical Reformation”
- “the original good news”
- “Kingdom of Papa movement”
- “The Third Testament”
- “a generous orthodoxy”
- “progressive Christianity”
- “The Journey”
And then of course there were a few folks with less-than-positive suggestions:
What I find fascinating about the (serious) suggestions is that many of them represent different existing (and named) segments of Christianity that all share these tenets about the beautiful God revealed in Jesus. But none of them are the movement itself. This goes so far beyond anything that we humans could have organized.
This movement has the marks of Holy Spirit all over it. She has been hard at work, planting her seeds of truth all throughout Christianity. Those seeds have taken root, and we are privileged to witness as the seedlings push their way up through the ground.
It is an exciting time to be alive as a follower of Jesus!