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Despite contradictions and moral challenges in the Bible, many hold on to an inspired Bible for fear the Bible will be discarded for “whatever goes” in understanding God.  But it seems obvious, even without a Bible, a Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others (aka common moral sense). I don’t know any reasonable human being who doesn’t respect the universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated. The Bible can be viewed as God’s love story beginning with Israel and culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other document. God didn’t necessarily inspire or approve of everything written about God. Reading the Bible encourages questioning and contemplating what a loving God is really like.

The Bible’s infallibility is a non-starter.

  • II Sam 24: 1 says God incited David to sin; I Chr 21:1 blames it on Satan
  • II Sam 24:24 has David paying fifty pieces of silver for Orman’s threshing floor; I Chr 21:25 says six hundred was paid
  • 2 Kgs 24:6 says Jehoiakim had a son; Jer 36:30 says Jehoiakim had no son to reign after him
  • Matthew 27:9-10 says Jeremiah mention thirty pieces of silver; it was Zechariah (Zech 11: 12)
  • Jesus said the rooster would crow once after Peter’s three denials (Mt 26.34, Lk 22:34, John 13:38), Mark says the rooster crowed twice (Mk 14:30)

The list of contradictions may be trivial but are sizable (Gregory Boyd, Inspired Imperfection, Chapter 1). It seems obvious God didn’t at least control the writers from being wrong in their factual information. Moral challenges are not so trivial. Did God really inspire acts or language of genocide? I Samuel 15:3 claims God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Hundreds of passages in the Old Testament advocate violence in God’s name. Did God really approve of laws that burned alive sexual offenders (Lev 20:14 21:9)?

One can only guess not prove every word in the Bible is inspired.    

Biblical writers rarely claimed audible God-speak. “God said” recorded hundreds of times in the Bible may be a figure of speech expressing inner impressions about God – right or wrong. Writers/editors of the Bible didn’t lie but were honest in their understandings of God. Exodus 20: 1-17 starts by saying “all these words” when the 10 commandments were given to Moses from God. The 10 commandments are repeated again in Deuteronomy 5:6-18 but with some slight word variation. Shouldn’t both passages be the same verbatim? Anyway, the Bible is suggested to be inspired or God-breathe because the biblical writers claim so. Such logic is circular.   

An inspired view of the Bible can be dangerous.

It would seem if God inspired an action attributed to God, that God approves such actions. Not questioning if writers always portrayed God accurately has led to justifying killing infidels in the name of God. God’s supposed warlike attitudes in the Old Testament have been used to justify wars throughout history. Imagine if terrorists admitted that God possibly didn’t approve of actions they interpret as denying freedom of beliefs! An inspired Bible has led to assuming God put men in leadership positions over women which has encouraged historical dominance on the man’s part. People condemn gays, despite their moral intuitions, because God supposedly rejects same gender loving relationships according to a Book. A fallible Book may actually lead to knowing God better.

An inspired Bible leads down the slippery slope of inspired interpretations.

It is common to hear one argue “The Bible says” without one adding “according to my understanding.” The Bible can be used to defend opposite views regarding gays, women’s roles, the traditional understanding of Hell, etc. Literature requires interpretation! Some scholars hold on to inspiration views by claiming God accommodates less than perfect views written about God because humans can’t handle the truth. So, we still have to interpret which passages reveal the real God. We can avoid the slippery slope toward supposed inspired interpretations by acknowledging the Bible may be fallible.    

Questioning what is inspired by God can explain animal sacrifice.   

Many ancient near eastern groups or nations before Israel had a sacrificial system like the Israelites. An uncontrolling God isn’t coercive but influential. It is doubtful God ever approved or desired to accommodate animal cruelty. This may explain why later OT writers wrote that God preferred contrite hearts over animal sacrifices (Ps 51:16-17, Jer 7:22, Micah 6:6). This understanding also leads to different interpretations of the Cross and views of God for many – did Jesus die to appease God’s wrath and need for sacrifice or did Jesus better convey God’s radical love and ways by submitting to wrongdoing? Using power to overcome often doesn’t accomplished the greater good.

What about the Bible claiming to be God-breathe though?

2 Tim 3:16-17 is the only time Scriptures used the Greek word “theopneustos” which literally means God-breathe: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

  • Keep in mind this could only refer to OT writings for the final NT canon didn’t exist and in fact many NT books had not even been written
  • God-breathe can also be interpreted literally as God-spirited. This could mean God uses writings (the Greek word for Scripture is “graphis” or writings) to touch our hearts without necessarily declaring such writings are infallible or perfect views of God. It is possible biblical writers perceived God wrongly but God still used that for correcting in righteousness.
  • God could even teach you something in this writing (post) 😊

Didn’t Jesus claim or imply the Old Testament was inspired by God?

Does John 5:45-46 claim that Jesus said believing in Jesus is believing what Moses wrote? No doubt Jesus revered and referred frequently to OT writings. This doesn’t confirm that Moses or any OT writer always wrote perfectly about God. Moses said to take an oath (Deut 6:13); Jesus said to take no oaths (Mt. 5:37). Jesus seemed to correct OT laws that didn’t fully or correctly convey God’s ways (Mt 5). Some scholars suggest Jesus was simply expanding or interpreting correctly OT laws. Regardless, we must use common moral sense because ancient literature requires interpretation. Finally, Jesus’ words can’t be the end all. Some interpret Jesus to justify violence in certain circumstances while others suggest Jesus argued for no violence.  

Which understanding of God should we lean toward?  

Choose the interpretation about God that doesn’t contradict your intuitive sense of a loving God. Many recognize as bigotry if we chose business leaders based on gender than gifts. Putting men in spiritual leadership positions over women can be conducive for abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men. It doesn’t make moral sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more chose who they love than straight can. Ask them! Which interpretation? We don’t always know what perfect love is, but it is better to question than be wrong.

 

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

Philippians 2:3-7 – Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

In today’s world, it seems everyone has the ‘I am number one’ attitude. We are all interested in what is best for us, what makes us happy, how to be more comfortable and satisfied in our lives. Seems like we will do anything we can to get ahead in life, and to get all the comforts and ‘things’ that make it easier for us.

These above verses state that as followers of Christ, we should be doing just the opposite. Our thoughts and attitudes should be how we can show the love of God to others. It should be what can we do to encourage and build up those in need, how can we use the money God has blessed us with to help the less fortunate.

God says that as his followers, we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love others as ourselves. While the jobs and ‘things’ we have been given and blessed with by God are not wrong, we need to keep in mind that they are not the important part of our lives. We are to be thinking of others and their need for love, acceptance and help. We should focus on how we can encourage and build up someone else, and how can we help meet a need in their life.

There is nothing wrong with taking thought of our wants, needs and interests. The verse states ‘do not merely look out for your own interests’. Unfortunately, many times our own interests are all that concern us. May we daily ask that God helps us to think of others and be ready to care for them in any way possible that will show them the love of God.

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by Jordan Hathcock

I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am. – John Newton

Here we are folks! We made it through the insane, sorrowful, confusing, defeating—and whatever other negative shit you can think of—year of 2020! Look, it has been a historic year and it’ll go down in history, no doubt. A lot of loss from all social aspects. Some experts are saying we might not see the end of the tunnel until 2024 (please god, I hope not). Alas, if you are alive and kicking, it’s something positive to take into the new year of 2021. Let’s breathe for f-sakes! I like to share with you my own “spiritual roll call” for this upcoming year. I think it’s healthy to step into a state of mindfulness when it comes to our wellbeing. So, let’s bring the awareness, baby!

Here is my “list” of where I am at with my spiritual (everything is spiritual, right Rob Bell?) life. Just going to lay out some “big” concepts with my inerrant (haha j/k) two cents. I hope it’s of substance and a possible help to whomever is reading this “blog”. Contemplation can definitely bring us into a more calming presence which hopefully brings about a more peaceful way of life (fingers cross for 2021). Enjoy my Spiritual Roll Call!

God

*Who* (or what?) is God really? Father? Mother? Being? Universe? Alien? Trump (seems to be for some but I regress hehe)? The who and the what don’t really tickle my fancy as much as the how? I definitely have come to a place where I see the Divine as more of an experience than a exact substance. How is God moving and breaking through my life seems more relative than the ontological details. At the same time, I love swimming in the Jesus tradition. The story of Jesus still captures my imagination. Yes, that stems from a lot of culture and family upbringing–we are all products of our environment. Yet, there is something still so new and relevant with the Jesus story that resonates with me more now than ever. The Spirit of Abba seems to be forever guiding me—with her wings of love, grace, mercy, peace and justice…oh my! 2021 needs some of that…

Church

Being raised in a pretty dogmatic tradition, it‘s pretty amusing to see myself back participating in a brick and mortar church. I don’t think it’ll never not find this to be hilarious (in a good way). As a person who is pretty anti-authority, it’s ironic to see myself being part of a Christian church. I am even part of the members board?! Elder Hathcock anyone?? Being raised L.D.S., the title of elder is pretty cringing (no offense). But that’s the paradox of it all! I get that some people are just not going to step foot in a church ever again (for good reasons). Those who find themselves in the physical church have their reasons too (don’t ask me what those are hehe). It’s easy to point fingers and bring our judgments to the nones, dones and the active. All I trust in is that community matters. We are all connected and I think it’s super healthy to help each other out. And I guess I like how the Jesus commonwealth feels best (shoot me).

Scripture

Can we really trust in ancient stories? Can we experience them in a way to better enrich our lives and those around us? Well, I don’t know for sure—but it seems like in the Christian tradition—we see more harm being done with the Bible than good. But this can be done with anything really, right? I mean look at the smart phones we use everyday? Technology is an amazing gift (especially through this pandemic). But we see the other side as well. Social media is just one click a way to a world of division and hostility. But it also can be used for just the opposite. Kind of what the Bible does, right? We can either take this book and use it to seek and destroy each other or we can let it help us point to divine healing and liberation. I will take the later. Quote me on this: I will never use scripture to judge or condemn anyone…woooweee!

***

There you have it. Some of my perspectives that will hopefully bring about some healthy change in my little bubble and beyond. It’s good to name and claim it once in awhile when you are looking to be transparent, I think? Maybe your spiritual roll call will lead you into a presence which will produce new heights for this 2021 year. Let’s do this!

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by Mike Edwards

Freedom by God is necessary for perhaps the highest good in relationships – authenticity. Not even God can force true love. Freedom has possible consequences such as suffering, but if God didn’t create freedom we could accuse God of not creating the “most loving” world. So, freedom must exist here or earth and freedom surely exist in heaven.

Freedom requires that God can’t know the future.

The future must be open if we are truly free and God is truly loving. There really isn’t freedom if the future is already known thus determined. The good news about God not knowing the future is that we can feel God truly want us to feel free without strings attached. Is that what we desire to feel from our human parents when making decisions?

Why it matters that God doesn’t know the future.

A young woman may ask God for wisdom in marrying their partner. It seems a match made in heaven, but their partner becomes abusive. If God supposedly knows the future, why didn’t God warn the young woman? A human parent would warn their child if they knew ahead of time. God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. A controlling God can lead to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?”

We don’t have to live in fear of making “right decisions” or missing out on God’s will. We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God supports us in making best decisions at the time that make our lives and the lives of others better. There isn’t one correct decision. Joy and good is achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths.

Even the Bible suggest an all-powerful God can’t know the future.

Hundreds of biblical passages could be cited to defend either God does or doesn’t know the future. For example, in the beginning the writers suggested that an all-powerful Being doesn’t know much less control the future. Genesis 6:5-6 speaks of God regretting decisions: “God saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth…God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.” If God knew the outcome of decisions, why did God make regrettable decisions? Many biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

What About Freedom In Heaven Then?

It would not be loving for God to force others to accept God’s ways even in heaven. Perhaps character developed on earth may eventually lead to seeing no good reasons for doing bad in heaven, which surely is the highest form of freedom. If one wishes to entertain the possibility of sin in heaven because of the presence of freedom, we can at least hope God’s presence will have a greater impact than earthly, human authority to dissuade selfishness. We thrive more under certain types of parental love and leadership because of their qualities such as integrity and understanding. Also, we can hope heaven will not have certain negative temptations.

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by Jim Gordon

Kindness is something we do not find much in our world today.

The Bible speaks about kindness many times. Kindness is one of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22.

The dictionary says kindness is being considerate or helpful. I think the world would be a better place if everyone treated each other with kindness.

It usually does not take a lot to be kind. Sometimes I think we make it to hard, when something so simple and easy as a genuine smile can brighten someone’s day. Being polite and kind to others can sometimes be just what they need to make their day. Holding the door for someone, letting them go ahead of you in line, smiling and saying hello, being respectful, you never know how that may effect them for the better. The little everyday acts of kindness can be a seed planted in their lives that will grow and help them to be encouraged and to pass it on to others.

These days it seems we even have a hard time with Christians treating each other with kindness. We want to fight and argue over our views and interpretations and forget that as Christians, we all have the common ground of faith in Christ.

Let’s see if we can make a point to do one act of kindness each day. You never know where it may lead.

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by Shannon Glenn, Guest Blogger
https://lifeofaprodigal.wordpress.com/

In the Christian faith much is written about the power of words. In fact, the Bible mentions the power of life and death lies in the power of the tongue:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

Proverbs 18:21

For those who are not keeping up with American politics, we have just come through one of the most divisive and damaging Presidential campaigns in my lifetime, and perhaps in the history of our Country. I have watched, feeling helpless as my friends took sides. Both sides fancy themselves smarter and sure of the ignorance and short-sided vision of the other.  Both sides shout with proud sarcasm statements which uttered at other times would be considered libelous and slanderous. 

In this age of quick tweets shared with little thought before posting, statements intended to prove and disarm opposing arguments are falling on increasingly deaf and uncaring ears. Accusations of liar, thief, traitor, ignorant, and fool are thrown around as casually as comments about the ever-changing Tennessee weather.  These words are wielded like a sword to slice at the integrity and credibility of those in opposition.  While the intended victim may be wrapped in a cloak of self-righteousness and not feel the sting of rebuke, onlookers and bystanders certainly feel the sharp barbs.

Never have I seen people more marginalized and individual humanity being stripped away as people are lumped into groups of “those people.” Trump supporters and Biden supporters alike have wielded their swords of “truth”, not realizing they are for the most part only speaking into the echo chambers of like-minded friends.  Those who think differently are simply not listening as they too are locked in their own echo chambers of those who share their beliefs.

I did not realize how different the type of information we receive daily is until I spoke to a friend recently. During a conversation, I realized the information, rhetoric, and “truth” I had been spoon-fed is not the same information, rhetoric and “truth” in his feeds. It seems based on our past interests, upbringing and grouping of friends, his social media and internet feeds were vastly different. While I had been fed fear and distrust of everyone, his information was not the same. It became obvious he did not understand where my anxiety was coming from. In that moment it became all too clear that I, too, was in an echo chamber . . . one of the past.

Even though I try to find balanced reporting, and to stay away from the damaging half-truths and fear wielding statements, I may still be trapped in misinformation. It is clear my social media and internet feeds have been shaped around current and past interests. They are not varied enough to reach the whole story. It was an alarming and upsetting moment. I can only hypothesize the predictive algorithms are trying to decide for me exactly what I would like to see. However, these algorithms cannot predict the changes of the human heart and enlightenment as we learn and grow.  (While much has been and could be said about the dangers of social media, that is not the purpose of this discourse.) I am increasingly alarmed at how I have been unable to find the truth even as I search for it.

 We have all heard that the pen is mightier than the sword. I had always heard the second part of the quote, but in searching for a reference, I found the full quote:

“Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword.”

– Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Although I appreciate the sentiment behind the words, I do not believe it is necessarily true, as the pen is also mighty when under the rule of men not entirely great. This is not a political commentary; I am not educated enough to speak with authority on that score. However, I can speak from my heart, which I know very well. I live in Tennessee, a state known for our Volunteer spirit. However more recently Tennessee is known for something else, a Christmas Morning bombing.  As “facts” come out about the accused bomber, it is clear the current climate of hate and fear fed his paranoia and contributed to his need to act. I am heartbroken to realize that his trigger for making a bomb, possibly taking his life, and causing damage to both people and the communications infrastructure of our state was fear of technology, and the current toxic climate and likely an echo chamber of his own making.

Careless words thrown around by those who have their own agendas, which we do not fully know, cause real damage to those who hear them. Whether fueled by the anger of being so sure the other person is wrong, convinced with pride their leader is speaking “truth,” or tormented by fear stemming from this uncertain climate in our country, each word takes a toll. In this case it took at least one life and greatly affected so many.

While people are cocooned in their smug assurance of their righteous agendas, others are trembling and heartbroken in the state of our country and the potential for further violence. This man with great technical knowledge who is so overcome by his emotions and closely held beliefs felt he had to act. While he provided a warning to clear the area in an assumed effort to save lives, the next person compelled to act may not take such a precaution. I wholeheartedly believe the careless words of others are partially responsible for causing reactions in people that cannot be easily controlled. We know based on history how much blood can be shed in the name of faith or truth. We see evidence of this in the comment section of almost any news story on the internet.

I do not know how all this will play out, but I do know words have the power to heal or hurt and once spoken they cannot be taken back. Remember what you say affects not only your own life, but also the lives of those you hold dear, and, unfortunately in this time, of those you despise.

Have a care before you say it, type it or share it.

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by Mike Edwards

I’m convinced belief in a benevolent God makes you kinder. We often treat others the way we think God treats us. How has God’s threats of punishment helped you break away from bad habits or behaviors you long to change? Grace or authoritativeness doesn’t guarantee change, but I believe we best change because of God’s or friends’ love and acceptance. Below is John Sander’s article on the topic in a book recently published Open and Relational Leadership: Leading with Love.  I also included a link below *** of my article in the book.

The Leadership of a Nurturant God

By John Sanders

Christian leaders should imitate the leadership style of the God who nurtures.

The pastor plopped his Bible down on the table, pointed to it, and said, “I want to know why you put a question mark where God put a period?”

He was upset about my book that surveyed a range of views that Christians hold on the topic of the destiny of those who never heard of Christ. He believed that biblical teaching on the topic was clear, simple, and singular. He did not like it that I rejected his position and, instead, endorsed a range of different views that in one way or another gave hope for the salvation of those who have never heard of Jesus.

The values underlying the different approaches taken by the pastor and me arise from what social scientists call Nurturant and Authoritative values. Nurturants believe it is best to empower people by affirming and loving them. Nurturants prize values such as listening to others, perspective taking, and humility. Authoritatives believe that followers must first obey the leaders before the leaders show acceptance to them. Authoritative leaders need not listen to others because they are the ones in charge and questioning the leader means challenging their authority. They think that perspective taking and humility are signs of weakness. Leaders should simply say, “Because I said so.”

Open theism is a variety of Nurturant morality while much of evangelicalism and conservative Catholicism are versions of Authoritative morality. The Apostle Paul implored Christians to “be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). Richard Kearney says, “Tyrannical Gods breed tyrannical humans.” We imitate the deity we believe in and there are those who believe in an Authoritative God and those who affirm a Nurturant God. Both Gods seek to create humans in their image. I claim that the overall biblical portrait is that of a nurturing God and that Christian leaders should emulate these characteristics. Some examples will show how this works.

Many biblical texts show that God is both responsive to our input and open to our prayers. For example, when God announced his intended judgment on Sodom, Abraham questioned and negotiated with God (Gen. 18). An Authoritative God would have told Abraham: “I am God so shut your mouth.” Instead, God patiently listened and considered Abraham’s concerns. In another story God and Jacob have an encounter and God wants to leave but Jacob (whose name means “grabber”) grabs onto God and wrestles all night long with God. In response, God blesses Jacob and gives him a new name—Israel, which means, “wrestles with God.” God approved of what Jacob did. In Exodus, God asked Moses to return to Egypt and liberate the Jewish people. However, Moses does not do what God says. Instead, he raises five problems with God’s plan. An Authoritative God would have said, “Go now, because I said so. Do not question my plan or authority!” But the Nurturant God was open to Moses’s questions and to each of them God reiterates that “I will be with you.” Even when Moses tells God to go “find somebody else,” God adjusted the divine plan by allowing Aaron to do the public speaking. Thus, God was flexible and adaptive in working with people.

The way God relates in these stories fits with Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, and not arrogant. It does not insist on its own way. Rather, love puts up with us, has faith in us, and places hope in us. God does not say, “It’s my way or the highway” nor does God display a “take it or leave it” attitude. Rather, God engages us with a give-and-take in which both parties contribute and God practices innovation and employs flexible plans. God works with us like a jazz band which requires improvisation from all the players. At various times, each player takes the lead and the other players have to respond to what the other is doing. Love, says Paul, is not boastful so God does not say, “My music is the only music that matters.” Rather, God delights in sharing the stage and seeing what music others produce. Of course, this involves some risk on God’s part because we may do things that harm others. Love trusts others but we can, at times, disappoint the beloved.

The Nurturant God listens to our input and is flexible in adjusting plans. God empowers us to participate in the vocation of redemption and delegates responsibility to us for many things. Sometimes we bring God success but we can also let God down. This is how a strong leader operates. Inflexible people who demand their own way are weak leaders. If God is a nurturing leader, then leaders who imitate God will treat others the way God treats us. They will love others by empowering them. They will put faith in others to accomplish a mission. They will hope for a better future.

Philosophers like to speak about God’s “great-making” properties by which they mean power and knowledge. God certainly has these but if Jesus is our best example of what God is like, then God’s great-making properties include love, empathy, humility, and perspective taking. As God incarnate, Jesus “walked a mile in our shoes.” God experienced what it is like to be human.

Genuine leaders are those who learn what other people in the organization are experiencing. In church and in business, leaders should find ways to understand the perspective of others and practice humility by being willing to learn from others. God does not micromanage the church. Rather, God puts divine trust in us. How is that for confidence? It is what church leaders should do as well. One thing that often prevents leaders from doing this is the fear that lack of control may result in others doing things that bring embarrassment on the congregation or organization. But God takes risks with us and we should do the same.

Another implication of the way God works with us is that churches should reject autocratic rulers. If God listens to us and considers our concerns, then leaders should foster democratic structures in order to hear the voices of others. In much of church history, leaders have been authoritarian, and pastors have been little potentates ruling over their piece of the kingdom. They are in charge and seek to control what others believe and do. Making sure that everyone has a voice and providing for some diversity should be a high priority for Nurturant leaders. In the Bible, the metaphor of God as a king is common. But God is quite an unusual king. A king who values what others have to say, exercises flexible strategies, and comes to us humbly in Jesus. This is true kingship and leadership.

One last area of leadership that I want to mention returns us to the story of the pastor criticizing my work for presenting different Christian views on a topic. If God trusts in us and is open to going in directions we want to pursue (as with Moses), then leaders should expect some diversity of viewpoints and practices. We should make room for a “constrained pluralism” of views and practices. We should be able to agree on some general Christian beliefs and practices. Yet, because we do not know everything and do not possess a foolproof understanding of what God wants, we should have humility in our claims to truth.

Throughout history, many church leaders affirmed the Authoritative God and sought to impose monopoly religion on everyone. They established all the correct beliefs and practices, such as those surrounding the Lord’s Supper, and anyone who thought differently was exiled, tortured, or burned at the stake. The Nurturant approach affirms a few general Christian truths and allows for a range of views. This is not an “anything goes” approach. Rather, it acknowledges that Christians, from the first century on, have always had some diversity. One can favor a particular understanding of say, baptism, while recognizing that other Christians think differently. In short, one can affirm a specific doctrine or practice as the best and tolerate other Christian views. A Nurturant approach expects some diversity while Authoritative religion fosters monopolies, uniformity, and punishes those who do not conform.

Christian leaders should imitate the Nurturant God. God is love and love is patient, kind, and does not insist on its own way. God values our input and invites us to join the divine band and create some music. God does not micromanage and control us. Instead, God empowers us and takes the risk that we may mess up along the way. In addition, God allows for a range of beliefs and practices—a constrained pluralism. Leaders should emulate these important values.

John Sanders is Professor of Religious Studies at Hendrix College. He is the co-author of The Openness of God, and author of The God Who Risks and Embracing Prodigals. He enjoys basketball and kayaking.

*** Does Godly Leadership Require Certainty About God? By Mike Edwards

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