The Future of Red Letter Religion 

I just reposted my review of Peter Enns’ The Sin of Certainty.  Like most of the revisionist preachers, theologians and biblical scholars in America, Enns discovered that turning loose of certainty can mean losing your job, your social network and, for a time, your emotional stability.

The champions of biblical inerrancy often accuse people like Enns, Brian Mclaren, Rachel Held Evan’s and Brian Zahnd of watering down the Bible.

Perhaps, but we’re all watering something down.  If your “high view of biblical authority” allows you to ignore what ajesus taught, you have watered down Jesus.

Forced to choose between watering down the Bible and watering down Jesus, I’ll water down the Bible.

Is the Word of God the Bible or is the Word Jesus?  Read the relevant passages of Scripture (starting with the prologue to John’s Gospel) and the answer is obvious.  Jesus is the Word of God.  The Bible is not.

Must we choose?   Aren’t Jesus and the Bible saying pretty much the same thing?

Not always.

If the new breed of Red Letter apologists is “weak on biblic al authority” it’s because they generally hold to a high Christology.  They generally affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus and embrace the “I and the Father are one” Christology of John.

These folks love the Bible passionately; but they love Jesus more.  And they read the Bible through a Jesus lens.

At the same time, they have made their peace with biblical scholarship, the scientific community and biblical archeology.

And, as Enns’ book suggests, the new breed of Red Letter apologists are on good terms with doubt and uncertainty.  They can’t prove the existence of God. They can’t prove the divinity of Christ.  But the Jesus narrative allows them to make sense of life and death, so they’re going with it.

The Sin of Certainty isn’t a critique of confident  faith.  But when you go through a period of spiritual struggle where everything you’ve  nailed down comes loose, you can’t just return to the old certainties as if nothing happened.  God is calling you to something different.

The word “Israel” suggests a struggle, or contention with God.  The pieces to the puzzle aren’t supposed to fall into place naturally.  Salvation must be worked out with fear and trembling.

Can Red Letter religion be preached from the pulpit?  The new breed of apologists won’t resonate with folks who like their old time religion. The target audience is the folks who are walking away from traditional expressions of Christianity, both liberal and evangelical.

A durable expression of red letter religion requires new churches.  New wineskins for new wine.  These may have to be house churches, at least at first, and there may never be a huge demand for red letter religion. “For the gate is narrow and the way us hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

But I suspect there are several hundred congregations in the United States and Canada that are ready for the emerging faith consensus the red letter apologists describe.

There is a strong need for books rooted in the life of living faith communities.  This transition won’t be easy and people need to know they’re not alone.

3 thoughts on “The Future of Red Letter Religion 

  1. “The champions of biblical inerrancy often accuse people like Enns, Brian Mclaren, Rachel Held Evan’s and Brian Zahnd of watering down the Bible.”

    Is that opposed to turning the Bible into concrete as inerrantists do?

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