About 6 months ago I was invited by a friend to attend a theology discussion group at a local Lutheran church. It isn’t the type of group or meeting that I would typically attend. In fact, I feel very much like a fish out of water. The positive thing about the group is that it is intellectually stimulating and the discussion is intense and vibrant.
I continue to attend because it has been challenging for me. It is challenging to be the outsider in an established group and to be reminded of what that feels like. It is challenging to be regularly exposed to a different perspective that I don’t intend to adopt. It is challenging to attempt to articulate my views and to determine when it is appropriate to present a different point of view in that context.
Theologically, the group is very Lutheran (not that there’s anything wrong with that), big on total depravity, election, and man’s inability to know or choose good or God. I know the basics of their doctrine, and while I don’t agree, I tend not to argue these points with them.
However, there are moments that I am in disbelief. For example, after the shooting of the abortion doctor, I was shocked to find that I was the only person in the room who didn’t believe that the shooting was the “christian” thing to do. We are currently discussing Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, so the discussions about pacifism have been interesting.
Last week, while discussing the meaning of church, the leader of the group explained that as a Lutheran, he could not fellowship with non-Lutherans, although he could associate with them. Whatever.
They are trying to decide the next book for discussion, and I recommended On the Incarnation by Athanasius. But now I am a little worried that they will pick it. I’m not sure that I want to watch it be picked apart and labeled unorthodox. I know that I’m probably not up to the task of defending it.
Anyway, last night there were only a few of us there, and I was questioned about my beliefs.
“So are you a universalist?”
“Well, I lean that way, but I think God is probably more of a universalist than I am.”
“And are you a pacifist?”
“Well, I lean that way too.”
“Where does your church stand on pacifism?”
“I don’t have a church.”
Dead silence. I think I’ll wear the t-shirt next week.
One of the guys did ask me to recommend a book about Christian pacifism though. I was thinking about The Politics of Jesus (Yoder) or maybe something by Greg Boyd.