Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Knee-Jerk Christians

One of the big things I try to do when it comes to a situation is contact people when I am unsure as to their stance on an issue or when an action has been taken that confuses or confounds.

Time and time again I find myself in what is supposed to be Christian company and a topic crops up. For instance there was a conflict a few years ago over something David Jenkins said and all those (I was a Pente' then) I lived, worked and worshipped with were slagging the bloke off for being the Antichrist. Unlike some of the recent issues which have been well documented, reported and even filmed, this was an issue that had lots of people hearing what had been said and yet none that I knew (who were quoting him) had ever heard him speak.

I wrote the man a letter outlining what I had heard and what had been reported and what my concerns were. About a week later I received a charming letter from the man telling me what he had actually said and where and even why! It was perhaps nothing out of the ordinary for chat in a common room of a theological college but had surely been placed in the wrong domain. I wrote back with some questions and received a reply and some book references to keep me amused.

A few weeks later I was in a conference and the talk of my fellow pastors turned to the CofE and the pit of vipers that it was. Gleefully the demise of the church was talked over as surely it was apostate and 'true believers' would soon be leaving in droves for our denomination! I put forward some of the points made by the much maligned bloke and pointed out that much of what had been laid at his feet was not only out of context but not even said by him. I was branded some awful things that night and I was advised by a senior member of the denomination (a member of the executive no less) that even though what I said was probably very true it was always better to 'keep it to myself rather than cause conflict!'

Oddly, a few weeks further on DJ came and lectured and preached at my college at Oxford and sadly many of the students voted with their feet. The content was thoughtful, measured and challenging and the man was godly and charming.

So often we can see a man for his theology and thus miss the man. This episode taught me that to be a true Christian I should be sure of my fact and always be ready to give an explanation for the hope that I have and be willing to listed to the other person's view. We are indeed called to be ellenctic and if we are to speak the truth in love we also need to listen in the same way.

If we seek to speak the truth we need to do so with respect and love uppermost. If we are not sure of our facts, then we should ask (never did get a reply from DT!). If that which other says is taken as the only truth then we are in danger of being led astray (inadvertently and not with malice or sinister plots) by the perception of others.

Keep an open mind, try not to listen to others and become a 'knee-jerk' Christian. Proverbs 18:17 helps me do this (when I remember to apply it ):

"The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him."


"One man's story sounds convincing until you listen to the other side!"

As we say in aviation circles, "I learned a lot from that."

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