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December 18, 2011



Greg, is "non-material" the right choice of words? I can't think of anything more non-material than the Cartesian dualism of thinking that a person's actions don't matter as long as that individual mentally assents to some statements about Jesus.

Greg Horton

Z, I'm not sure non-material is right yet either. Thinking on it.


It seems to me like this boils down to why someone would call himself a Christian. Is it a tribal or social identifier, or a practice? If it's a practice, is the goal to embody the best kind of community, or to manufacture more professing Christians? I don't think anyone for whom churchgoing is the equivalent of a bowling league, or for whom evangelism is an explicit priority, would be sympathetic to allowing ways of approaching God that aren't already sanctioned by his subculture. He might have to deal intimately with people outside his clique, or question the ultimate concern of convincing people to change the tickbox they mark on census forms, respectively. Are there some exceptions to this I'm not aware of? I have been blissfully outside church culture for a bit more than ten years, so I may be missing something obvious.

That said, I definitely agree that there's something important going on that people of all creeds or no creeds can participate in equally. I'm just not sure how people whose hands are tied by commitments to exclusivist dogma could rationalize the participation of nonbelievers (by which I mean in this context everyone from Muslims to Pagans to atheists, etc.) as peers in building the broader community. I.e., I don't see how "Let's agree to disagree that you're damned" could be anything more than amiably adversarial.

Greg Horton

Leighton, I'm thinking specifically here about the evangelical ability to incorporate Lewis into their pantheon of theologians, including his insistence on an inclusivist soteriology. I think most Christians, maybe the overwhelming majority, want to believe there is some loophole that allows their non-Christian friends in. Only the most annoying of fundamentalists (or Calvinists, and we all know they can't think straight) is adamant on damnation. The problem seems to be a hierarchical one inasmuch as the higher up the chain of responsibility you go, the more likely you are to find hellish dogma. The rank and file in my experience don't want to have to think on these things. I'm not saying they're all in with this idea, but they seem willing to consider inclusivism moreso than a couple generations ago. I remember reading The Last Battle as an undergrad, and even at the Pentecostal college, most of the students in class loved Lewis's solution. Signed, Cautiously Hopeful.


It seems like counting on people not to actually believe what they say they believe is a pretty safe bet most of the time. (I don't mean that unkindly - I've posted before that I tend to think of philosophical consistency as morally neutral, rather than a virtue.) This approach is at least worth a try.


If everyone but Hitler and Pol Pot get in, then the question to me becomes Why identify as a Christian? (Of course, I have the same question if the Calvinists are right about predestination.) Christianity only makes sense to me if it is an embodied economic practice. But I suppose that's a big part of the discussion here at the parish for years.

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