I believe God is a very big, very knowable, yet very unknowable God all at the same time. As I’ve explored the Christian faith, I’ve come to see that single denominations or branches have a hard time capturing the whole picture of the Christian spiritual experience; it’s hard to condense all of God’s traits and character into one denominational thread. This might be why we have so many branches and denominations because every few years someone comes along and says, “Hey, what about this aspect of God and the Christian experience,” as they have their Bibles open in front of them.
Now, I’ll say it’s unfortunate that we’ve had the splits. I believe it would be far better for us to be a unified whole. That said, I don’t see why we cannot be even with all the denominational nuances. I believe at the core of our split is a disability to listen to one another and validate the opinion of the one in front of us. A simple validation like this is not an agreement, it’s an openness to explore life with God together, neither one of us dominating the other, neither one us feeling like we need to be on the defensive or offensive because the rule of the day is Love. I do not think that relationships like this will end, as some propose, with people shaking heads in agreement as they go home at night, but in reality not really agreeing but feeling the impulse of the day to tolerate for the sake of toleration. No, toleration does not win the day. Toleration is still an abrasive phrase; it’s saying, “I’ll put up with you…” I think the greater good is seen in walking together, shaping one another through listening, and then not tolerating but loving one another. This becomes a hard thing for us because we need a ground, a rule, of what love is. This is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, who is the very subject of all of our Scriptures. So, love, then, seeks not to manipulate or coerce, but embrace. Toleration is not a true embrace, but a thorny one.
Here’s what made me think of all that:
- The Contemplative Tradition: The Prayer Filled life
- The Holiness Tradition: The Virtuous Life
- The Charismatic Tradition: The Spirit-Empowered Life
- The Social Justice Tradition: The Compassionate Life
- The Evangelical Tradition: The Word-Centered Life
- The Incarnational Tradition: The Sacramental Life
The book takes us on an adventure, seeing and sensing the beauties of who God is and how he has been with his people throughout Christian history. A very helpful part of each chapter is when Foster writes about the strengths that each of these six categories bring to the table, as well as the pitfalls. He masterfully helps us see that while we benefit from all of these traditions, abiding in one or two of them alone, without thought to the others, is a shortchanging of the fullness of life that God desires for us.
I recommend this read for anyone interested in Christian History but wanting to read about threads of God in operation instead of a linear day-by-day take.