Many churches today are formed by defining and maintaining boundaries. Boundaries are good as they provide security; but they can also produce rigid, rule-based expressions of faith where the boundary line ends up defining unity, belonging and participation. Centered focused communities are formed by defining the centre. When that centre is Jesus the defining point is whether you’re facing and moving towards the centre. We may be standing close to the center but if we are not facing the center or moving towards it we are not orientated in the right direction. In fact, we actually might be further away than someone turned towards the centre outside our boundaries.
We take seriously an incarnational model of scripture that recognizes that just as Jesus, the ‘God-man’ was divine and fully human and part of the culture in which he lived, so too is the bible and this matters. An incarnational model also recognizes that we do not read neutrally instead we often read through our own experiences and biases.
Therefore, when we read and interpret, we aim to take into account.
- Scripture is all about God: We often read scripture from the perspective of me. So, we ask the question, ‘what is this telling me about God first?’
- Context matters: We ask questions like? How does this text fit into the big story line?
- “In this particular context what did God want people to hear that we should take into account before deciding what it is saying to us in the 21st century.”
- Jesus is the final word: This is big because it means Jesus is the centre of all interpretation. So, we ask questions like, “how do we apply these text in light of Jesus life and work?”
- Community matters: The community of faith is needed to interpret wisely. So, we ask “How else has this passage been interpreted?”
- Prayer: Just as the Holy Spirit speaks to us through scripture, we need the Holy Spirit to help us to understand scripture.
Anyone who thinks he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not succeeded in understanding them. (Augustine One Christian Doctrine).
If the whole of the Christian life is to be governed by the “law of love”—the twofold love of God and one’s neighbour. Then it makes sense that this law affects everything we do from reading, to living. Jesus’ is our clearest lens into that love. In the words of ethicist David Gushee:
“Not a vague Jesus, not just a Jesus-who died-on-the-Cross-for-my-sins, but a Hebraic- prophetic-kingdom-of-God-love-mercy-justice-compassion Jesus. It seems hard to dispute that this is who he was. Shouldn’t it affect the way his putative followers read the Bible and discern their moral obligations… one of the ways this hermeneutic cashes out is that you are forced to ask question of human dignity, love, mercy and justice.” The law of love is crucial as we move on to our final theological distinctives.
DIVERSITY IN UNITY
After this I saw many people. No one could tell how many there were. They were from every nation and from every family and from every kind of people and from every language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Rev 7:9 NLV
Scripture gives us a compelling vision for diversity in the kingdom of God as we see the Creator from Genesis to Revelation constantly working to gather and include people from every tribe, tongue, nation and kind (Isaiah 56). Revelation’s vision is an incredible future panoramic view of diversity coming to fruition only through Jesus. Therefore, we pursue diversity because the pages of scripture are filled with it. We pursue diversity, as the early church did, understanding that a change of heart is often needed to overcome the prejudice that dominates so many believers and non-believers.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity
Religious controversies, like all controversies, tend to evoke high emotions, defensiveness, and potential divisions. We believe Paul’s counsel found in Romans 12-15 gives us a pathway to navigate differences and wrestle with questions of faith as best we can without excluding anyone from full participation in our communities of faith, whether they disagree with us or not. We acknowledg that diversity and the interdependence of people of faith is who the Body of Christ is (Rom 12). We aim to recognize that there are matters that can be called disputable (Rom 14) and matter that harm our neighbour (Rom13:10). Some disagreements between Christians need to be resolved by agreeing to disagree and giving up the effort to decide who is right or wrong (Rom 14). There are some disagreements that need to be resolved by laying aside what chap 13 calls, ‘works of darkness’ that do harm to one’s neighbour. We believe these works of darkness include condoning systemic injustice where we have become complacent and complicit in traumatizing or creating barriers to faith for people.
The People Church affirms the personhood, place, and participation of LGBTQ+ people into the life, faith and service of the community. We believe we are impoverished without the voices, giftings and life experience of LGBTQ+ people. We fully acknowledge the trauma caused by church teaching that excludes or vilifies LGBTQ+ people, their relationships and families. Therefore, we seek to end harm and help dismantle the barriers that stop people from flourishing. Read More
Work for the well-being of the city where I have sent you to and pray to the Lord for this. For if it is well with the city you live in, it will be well with you.’ Jeremiah 29:7 (NLV)
We evangelicals are experts at tying ourselves in knots over how to relate to culture. Culture is often viewed as only corrupting. It must be resisted and opposed. “Appeasing” it is often considered a great evil. The fact that Christians are called to maintain a faithful presence in a hostile world is a helpful insight. We are salt and light, called to carry out lives of ordinary obedience before God in the midst of a watching world. We believe God’s Spirit is already and always at work in our culture that often “gets there first” in terms of deep, godly insights, as has often been true not only in the arts, but in social issues. This is true because where there are people there is the image and love of God.