On Tuesday, at the National Conference on Preaching with Pete and Scott, We went to eat with Doug Pagitt, a leading voice in the movement and the pastor of Solomon's Porch, kindof. As it happens, he and Pete played basketball together in undergrad and I am so very thankful to have been included. Three hours later, we finally re-entered the conference.
Doug is fascinating, both in his sincerity of pursuit and in his courage of conviction. While we differ in our views on the early expressions of Christianity and the roles of scripture and authority, it was a wonderfully stimulating discussion and at times convicting. I have held a silent belief that those on the edges would take us back to discussions of myth and would fade from the scene, but Doug changed my view. We cannot merely form our positions and step away. We must engage.
He forced me beyond my categories and it stirred things up both in my home and in my early morning Greek class. Some of the emerging leaders are challenging the ideas of orthodoxy and the expression of a single form of Christianity. Doug would be more comfortable to speak of various Christian expressions appearing in differing regions during the first few centuries. I would have been more comfortable to speak of
It seems we have all been wanting to ignore the gospel of Judas--some have even ridiculed it. But our emerging friends are paying close attention and even embracing the questions. To those on the outside, confused by the Da Vinci code, they look like heroes. This is a discussion we must enter. An arena that cannot be ignored. As Dieter Zander echoed on Tuesday, I don't think postmodernism is the destination; it is the change to a new culture we can not yet see. If we're not careful, we will lose the ability to help frame the discussion as we move into this new place. I asked Doug about ideas of separation and judgment. He quickly went to my real question--"Do you believe in Hell?" He replied, "Which Hell--the place of the dead in the Old Testament, the chasm of Abraham's bosom or the lake of fire in Revelation?"
I fear in Doug an absence of any source of authority outside his community. He fears in me a reliance on boundaries set for a different age and a blind trust in the authorities of the past. This is a conversation that must be had. And it must be had with brothers and sisters who are sincere in their pursuit of Christ, even if we wouldn't always agree on exactly what that means. I've know for a long time that we came to seminary to prepare for the postmoderns. It seems I'm too late. Doug, if you see this, then thank you. I would love to follow up with another lunch someday--on me.