Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Baptist Freedom

The more I think about it, I wonder whether it doesn't have something to do with the Baptist idea of freedom. As much as it may not be the way that Baptists are perceived now, there is still the notion of the Four Fragile Freedoms: Bible freedom, soul freedom, church freedom and religious freedom. At the heart of this is the idea that one has to make up there own mind about the meaning of the Bible and about the religious path. Because of this assumed freedom, even controversial issues can be discussed without the assumption that everyone has to agree. I am told that issues such as homosexuality and abortion have in fact been addressed from the pulpit in the past, with the pastor putting forth a Biblical argument (that tends to lead toward progressivism) but without expressly stating a personal opinion, rather leaving the final decision up to the individual. I've seen a similar approach be effective at my home church as well (I'm thinking of Pastor Steve). This method seems to allow people to think critically (and change their mind) about divisive issues without making them over divisive. Does it go far enough in creating change? I don't know. Is it in fact more effective in creating change because it keeps people in the fold and listening and thinking critically without alienating them? I don't know. I do know that my ears turn off as soon as someone tells me that I'm completely wrong and assumes that there is nothing right in what I believe. I can much better listen to someone who gives a good argument (even if I don't agree with where it's heading) without bringing down judgement. Is it reasonable to assume that this same aversion to judgement but receptiveness to honest sharing and discussion holds true with others, even those who don't agree with me on an issue? Is it better to have a church full of people who all agree with each and who will leave as soon as they don't agree or to have a church that doesn't agree and is still struggling with all of the issues and yet still stays together?


Blogger Brian said...

This is good stuff. One of the things I've been thinking about in all of the conversations with Allison's boyfriend is that he's very concerned with defending orthodoxy. But I wonder - who is he defending it for? I think it is mostly for the institutional church, and that rigid defense is an obstacle to actually sharing the good news.

And then think of some ideas that were very unorthodox at the time (like letting women be ministers, allowing people of color to be members of the church, etc) and imagine a church where those ideas were stifled. That's not a church I'd want to be part of.

I really like the notion of the four fragile freedoms. Anyway, got to run to talk about federal grants.

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