Identifying with fellow humans (though not Christians) and the trouble that brings

Last week, my Twitter friend Morgan Guyton wrote a provocatively titled post, Is damnation of the other a cornerstone of evangelical belief?, with a provocative hypothesis in regards to Larycia Hawkins firing by the private Christian college in Illinois, Wheaton. I think he is right. I think there is also a bigger issue going on, centered set vs. bounded set theology, a concept I wrestled with a couple years ago here on the blog. Dave Schmelzer of Blue Ocean Faith has developed this concept very well for me. I think it influenced me deeply in my commitment to open handed faith. I was reminded of this and made the connection to Prof. Hawkins situation with Wheaton while listening to the podcast of the Unquiet Life.

Professor Hawkins wanted to identify with her fellow humans, Muslim women, by wearing a hijab during Advent and affirming their shared belief in God. She has also been in trouble for being at a party with gay humans. She has affirmed Wheaton's statement of faith, but for whatever reason, which I will speculate on, Wheaton's administration was not satisfied. Guyton suspects Wheaton's financial donors of influence have a definition of Christianity that necessarily condemns to hell those who don't believe. Condemnation is a line to cross over in a bounded set theology. One must be in or out. But the other issues Hawkins drew attention indicate other boundaries she crossed or blurred. Here is why I think the bigger issue is that Prof. Hawkins has a centered set theology but works at a bounded set school.

Her center, her example is Jesus himself. His religious opponents constantly criticized him for breaking and blurring boundaries. He did not maintain their Biblical purity laws. His rule boiled down to love. He was motivated by his love for the world. He kept company with the outcasts. He identified with them. He wooed them with love, not with threats. His warnings were for religious rule makers and self-appointed officials.

Boundaries make one feel safer, but Jesus led a wild life of reckless love, always looking for the lost, and whole-heartedly embracing the prodigal and welcoming all to the party. Prof. Hawkins paid a high price for living the Jesus lifestyle out as she did. To affirm their pursuit of God, was not an attempt to convert them by condemning them but to love them. Love is evangelism. It is spreading the good news in action. It opens lines of communication. It allows the beginning of shared life and community. It is a product of a deep faith which trusts in God to fill all the gaps in our inadequate understanding not just in the other but in herself as well. It no longer deals with "us" and "them" but just us. We are all children of God in various stages of a journey into understanding of that love for us...But I'm speaking as someone whose theology is centered set or open handed.


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