Pilgrims in Enmity?
I had breakfast yesterday with a couple of friends, one of whom happens to be the interim editor of our denominational magazine, the Mennonite Brethren Herald. Not surprisingly, the conversation eventually touched on the January issue of the Herald which was devoted to the doctrine of creation. Perhaps less surprisingly, given the nature of the issue’s content, my editor friend has been getting a bit of heat—both directly, via email, and indirectly via the blogosphere—from those on the “young earth” end of the spectrum. Even less surprisingly, the rhetoric can (and does) quickly turn fairly nasty when it comes to topics like these (I’ve reflected on this before here). Apparently, we still have much work to do when it comes to learning how to disagree Christianly.
A good place for us to start might be an essay from Regent College professor Ross Hastings called “The How of Creation: Parameters and Nodes for Gracious and Fruitful Dialogue—The Foundations and the Forward Motion of Pilgrims in Unity” (h/t: Cosmos). It is a plea for Christians—wherever we come down on the issue of creation—to understand and treat one another as “pilgrims in unity” as one way of living lives “worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1). Here’s an excerpt:
Whilst we may be convinced we have the best theory of origins at present, and whilst we may be convinced that we are the most intellectually honest or scientifically rigorous, or that we understand the genre and history and authorial intent of Genesis 1 most appropriately—important as these factors are—I venture that the level of certainty due to the nature of the science and the hermeneutics and the theology in this field, is a level of magnitude below that of the creedal assertion that God created and that he in his providence is sovereign over and at work creatively and redemptively in creation. We Protestants have enough divisions and schisms as it is—we don’t need another one based on the speculative matter of how God created.
Rather we must unite on the basis of the fact that the triune God is the Creator. There isn’t a viewpoint represented in the dialogue on origins that doesn’t have some problems associated with it, problems that need to be worked through. Acute curiosity, robust research and careful scholarship in these areas are consonant with the creational or cultural mandate and the command to love God with our minds.
Dialogue between persons of different persuasions is healthy and good—in fact necessary for advancement in the field. But it requires an irenic and peaceful spirit along with an inquiring mind.
I wonder what our conversations—whether face to face or online—around the question of how/when God created would look like if we consistently ran them through an Ephesians 4 grid?