Last night in our discussion about "religions" I realized that I can call myself an evangelical... yes, unbelievable, right?
Now I'm not the evangelical that you'd find at an Evangelical Free church (though, ironically, I go to one) or your run of the mill Baptist church, I'm suggesting something a bit different. In the common evangelical discussion, the goal, the end all of evangelism is salvation (the sort of "pie-in-the-sky" salvation). There is a line which everyone must cross. And every movement after the line is crossed is no longer an evangelistic movement but an outward movement. It looks something like this:
At the "line of faith," certain specific doctrinal issues are addressed. Once this small selection of "fundamental" doctrinal issues have been decided and agreed upon, the work of salvation is finished and everything else is trying to get others to do the same thing. We essentially wait around until we're dead to celebrate eschatological community.
One problem with viewing salvation as a line is deciding which Christian ethical practices are indicative of salvation, or whatever else. We know there's some line somewhere which people must cross in order to be "saved," but we can't agree on where to put it.
For me the conversation should be less soteriological and much more ecclesiological. It's not about "crossing the line of faith" as much as entering into a certain kind of community that begins formation at the very beginning of the conversation. Soteriology becomes secondary, at best, and is left up to God, while what remains important for us is to be always moving toward eschatological community. We take the salvation issue (in terms of being "saved"-a sort of existential or "spiritual" salvation) out of the conversation. We focus on what lies beyond the line of salvation where every doctrine is important, not just a few "fundamentals." Every doctrine shapes us toward community/Eucharist while, at the same time, transcending all the lines of "religious affiliation." Every person is part of this conversation, heading toward or away from eschatological community. We are free from trying to figure out where the line of faith is, but at the same time we never stop moving in the direction of community. Evangelism, in this line of thinking, goes on forever--never stopping. The diagram might instead look like this:By this I am, in some respects, even more evangelical than my "evangelical" brothers and sisters. Every doctrine i important and everyone must be "evangelized" (even Christians) until we are all shaped into harmonious koinonia (communion).
Rather than always moving in a direction that settles for being "tolerant" and just being o.k. with religious separation, we're not so arrogant as to think we are "in" and they are "out." It's a much bigger picture of evangelism than just getting people to agree and be "saved" into an ongoing process of community. We recognize distinctions in our different "religions" (and there definitely are distinctions) and those issues will come up as we are shaped toward something that lies way beyond our disagreements on doctrinal issues.
Any thoughts? Did I explain well? Am I a heretic?