Up till now, all my inter action with Doug Pagett has been third party: interviews, articles, reviews and critiques of his writings, etc… Wednesday night, I got a chance to sit down with a few other Evergreeners, and hear him read from his up new book A Christianity Worth Believing.
The two chapters he read (one and two… in that order) sparked a lot of conversation about what Doug’s intentions and hopes for this book are. We also talked about and around ideas that his readings brought up.
The night was a very good, and I do look forward to carefully reading the entire book when it is released. Here though, I do want to talk out some of the thoughts and concerns that were raised for me last night.
The family metaphor
Pretty heavy handed throughout the first two chapters (and from what I understand, the rest of the book) is the metaphor of Christianity as a family, and people come in as adopted kids. In biological adoption, it is much more than just the assimilation of new bodies into a pre-existent family; what actually occurs is the creation of a new familial unit. In this belief/faith/spiritual adoption, Doug advocates that this is what should occur as well. The rules of what is and isn’t talked about must be broken, challenged, and left behind. Everything should be on the table and up for grabs (more on this in a moment) because we are not who we once were. We have a new make up, some new ingredient, new people that share our last name. In Doug’s mind, this should mean that we change with them as we all (old and new) look for a harmony and discover this new family.
I like this image… as far as it goes.
There is a lot of truth in this metaphor, and there is a very real sense in which the communion of saints through all time and space is growing, evolving, continually becoming. That movement is continued and powered by the influx of people into this family.
However, there is also an identity that we take on as we are adopted into this family, a last name we take so to speak. This identity is wrapped up in Jesus of Nazareth, and with out some sort of conformity to this identity, can you still rightfully be part of the family tree?
In other words, while it is true that we are all being changed and that the family of God is constantly changing and becoming to some degree, there is still a historical identity and story that we are becoming a part of. We cannot expect (or tell others) that this family can become any and everything imaginable while still being grafted to the tree.
Doug understands himself to be a contrarian, someone who naturally sees the “other side”, and is pulled, compelled, and feels a responsibility to say, “right by who’s standards?”
It is a difficult task to be the pusher, the one who can not just go with what they are told, but must see and study every side, and often come to conclusions that other’s are uncomfortable with. I know, because I find my self doing these same things.
Doug mentioned the idea that there are conservationists within the family of God. People who are trying to conserve some “old guard” way of “family life” (to dip back into that metaphor). The contrarian pushes up against these folks, and as I said, this is a good thing… to a point.
At some level though, the conservationist in best form is someone who is preserving what is good and true and the core of belief. To push to hard against some of the ideas and beliefs being preserved is like turning a state park into a ATV park: what was conserved because it was right and good ceases to be good.
I do agree with Doug: there should never be any sort of “no talk rule”. People need the freedom to think, doubt, wrestle, and flesh out what they see scripture saying and what they hear the community of God saying. I am whole heartedly behind the idea of putting all the cards on the table and conversing around them.
I just don’t believe that we can throw whatever we choose off the table or choose to rethink the three of clubs to the point that is ceases to be the three of clubs.
Now, to be far Doug did express his belief that the Spirit of God gives us the same sort of protection that was given to the first century Christians, meaning there is no where we can go or anything we can do or rethink to the point that it is broken and no longer Christian… at least in his mind. While I like the sentiment I hear behind this thought, I just don’t know if I can get behind it.
In the second chapter, Doug shares his “conversion experience”. He believes that God was already known in His life before he knew about Jesus. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about this past year, and I don’t know how to interact with this thought just yet. Plus, I want to read the book and hear Doug flesh it out a bit more.
The entire night was a very good time or reading and conversation. If you get the chance to hear Doug read his book, take it. Hearing the inflection and expression really gives some depth and clarity to some statements.
Bob Hyatt is going to be interacting with A Christianity Worth Believing over at his blog, and it would be worth your time to check it out. Also, check out His summery of his big day with big Doug.