Frank Tupper’s view of providence is unflinchingly honest. We survive our personal Gethsemanes, not because we experience miraculous rescue, but because we are not alone: “Jesus has already gone through Gethsemane, a Gethsemane that we will never comprehend, and he stands with us in ours.”
My work on the case of Curtis Flowers over more than a decade exposed me to three kinds of Christians: Kingdom Christians, Culture Christians and Conflicted Christians. I have learned that Kingdom Christians are almost always driven to the margins by the clarity of their convictions.
Pastors like SBC President J.D. Greear, academics like Sarah Sumner and Bible teachers like Beth Moore gladly sign off on biblical inerrancy, but they are quietly transposing the scriptures into the key of Jesus. “For the times they are a-changin.’”
Maybe God doesn’t expect people of faith to agree on everything. Maybe God wants us to feel cross-pressured, uncertain and confused. If we are to grow in love we must listen to people who see through other windows because they live in other rooms.
How can post-evangelical Christians talk about a loving God when the God described in many biblical texts appears to be otherwise? We must explain why, evaluated by the standards of Jesus, God comes off so badly in much of the Bible.
We want our children to come of age hearing the same message of civil religion in church, at their “Christian school” and on Fox News. For those who live in this kind of environment, reparations talk sounds like heresy.
In the Southern Baptist Convention no one has the power to tell local Baptist congregations who they can and cannot ordain to ministry. When abuse comes to light, the church sends the offending pastor on his way with a glowing letter of recommendation because congregational morale would suffer if the truth came out.
Jerry Falwell Jr. is fine with Jesus setting up his Sermon on the Mount kingdom when he returns on the clouds of glory. In the meantime, however, Jerry Jr. has a different kind of savior in mind. Somebody big, mean, nasty and profane, the kind of guy the baddies can’t push around. Donald Trump looks like that man.
The coming generation will have no morality apart from a stout belief in God. Progressive Christians can’t afford to trash the Apostles’ Creed unless we’ve come up with a fitting substitute.