Thursday, January 7, 2010

Theological Hospitality

With Christians moving from church to church for whatever reasons, and the decreasing emphasis on denominationalism, it is not unusual to find within a a single congregation, many different theological stands. How does the leadership maintain a unity within the church? Often these theological differences are potential time bombs and may lead to churches to split.

Dr David Dunbar from Biblical Seminary writing in the online Missional Journal issue January 2010 tells of theological hospitality.

The biblical exhortation to hospitality provides helpful imagery when thinking about the pursuit of unity. Christian hospitality is rooted in the character of God who welcomes us into his family through Christ. Various texts encourage believers to extend that same hospitality to one another and to the stranger in their midst (Romans 12:3; Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). This was a virtue already commended in the Old Testament.
Denver Seminary professor David Buschart uses this image as a guide for exploring eight different families or theological traditions within Protestantism. Theological hospitality is the practice of welcoming other Christians whose understanding of Scripture and theology may seem strange or challenging to us. This welcome is appropriate, says Buschart, in light of the ontological reality of the church's present unity in Christ and the assurance of complete unity at the return of Christ. Thus his examination of each tradition (Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, etc.) is an exercise in careful listening and friendly (but fair) evaluation...

We should understand, therefore, that commitment to a particular theological position or tradition is not in itself a hindrance to the faithful practice of hospitality. A crucial determinant is attitude. Do we see our tradition as a fortress (to be defended against the enemy!) or as a home (in which to welcome friends)? The latter requires us to practice humility, and this "entails admitting that one's theology is neither complete nor free of errors.... Such fallibility is often acknowledged, at least in principle, but theological hospitality requires acting upon this humility."

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