( Art work, " Inclusion / Exclusion " woodcut print by Michael Hager )
An interesting post by C. Michael Patton titled, " Orthodoxy: Should we define who's "in" and who's "out", is well worth reading in the midst of the emerging / missional conversation.
In the post C Michael Patton poses these questions around orthodoxy...
The answer to these questions will divide us from others. Wrong answers to these questions will place one outside of the Christian creedal confession.
Who do you say that Christ is?
What is the Gospel?
What did Christ do?
What is our need?
What are we to do?
What happens if we don’t believe?
What happens if we do believe?
What is our authority?
What defines right behavior?
And, later says this...
We don’t define the right answers any more than Peter did. ( Jesus questions to the disciples, " who do you say I am "). God does. We discover them. There are difficulties, yes. We need to be humble in our approach to such issues. But we need to understand that there is a right answer and a wrong answer. The right answers have been a major part of what defines Christian orthodoxy from the very beginning, the wrong answer is outside of Christian orthodoxy.
I encourage all of us who empathize with postmodern skepticism, doubt, and suspicion to understand that our tendencies toward these attitudes does not define or redefine orthodoxy. Orthodoxy has been established from the very beginning. If we deny orthodoxy a place—a definite and important place—we are outside of orthodoxy.
Once orthodoxy is defined, recognized, and acknowledged the inevitable outcome will be separation. There will be those who are within the bounds of orthodoxy and those that are outside its bounds. There will be those with right answers, like Peter, and those with wrong answers, like the others. We will have to make judgment calls if we are going to “contend” for the faith.
I guess what I struggle with within this recognized and defined boundaries of orthodoxy is the implication of separation...inclusion and exclusion. Jesus and his friends come to the cross roads, "Caesarea Philippi", this would be the cultural intersection of their day. A cross roads plurality...language, cultures, religions. Really not much different from the intersection we find ourselves today. It's here, Jesus poses the questions, " who do the people say I am?", and, " who do you say I am?"
I really have a problem discerning whether this was a mid-term exam in the midst of their journey. And if it was a one question exam, " all or nothing "...there was nothing that acknowledged the inevitable outcome of separation.
Peter did do the class well making the right answer, with Jesus saying, " You didn't get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. "
Important to note, there was no comment by Jesus that the other 11 had failed, that they should pack up their school supplies and head home. They were still invited to continue the journey.
Interesting, the disciples had all been attending the same lectures, teaching, all seen the same miracles, but one out of 12 gets the right answer. Put this on a Bell Curve, and it wouldn't be hard to draw the conclusion the teacher is not getting the desired point across...or he's got the top dozen from the Darwin Awards.
It's obvious the Holy Spirit had a huge part to play in Peter's answer...my Father in heaven, God himself let you in on the answer. Peter's orthodox statement was a process, something he grew into...and something which grew into him.
No doubt, it had to be a bit of a let down for Jesus...teaching and wisdom that left people with there mouths open speechless, feeding the 5,000, walking on water while the boys sailed across the lake, giving site to the blind...and they couldn't see who he was.
Orthodoxy, yes we need it, we need anchor points into which to tie our faith into...but to the point of separation, exclusion...those in and those out. I'm not so sure.
I really believe once the disciples decided to follow, dropping their nets, tax account books, medical bag...they were " in ". It's a journey...of wrong answers sometimes; sometimes correct answers; of falling down and getting up; sometimes on the narrow path; sometimes on the highway; sometimes a saint; sometimes a sinner; sometimes like Peter, Jesus is my Lord ; and sometimes like Peter, I deny Jesus...but it's a journey in which I continue stumble on.
I believe in the context of a faith community, a group of followers...we can grow into far more orthodoxy...and an orthodoxy beyond mere doctrinal statements. But an orthodoxy that comes from relentlessly following of Jesus despite your failures...when your Father in heaven, God speaks to you, gives you the answer to who Jesus really is.
It's there when it's written on your heart...when belief becomes faith...that's the orthodoxy I'm talkin' about.