Big Tent and Boundaries

As I mentioned previously, I’m not all that into conferences. This stems in part from an experience I had as an undergrad studying music, in which I attended the annual music educators conference put on by the state organization. Other than some cool performances, I found the thing to be exceedingly lame. I know some people feel they learn a lot, but I missed that part. Maybe I was in the bathroom.

I did, however, attend a panel discussion regarding standards in music education, at the suggestion of one of my professors. The main speaker was arguing that real music teachers didn’t need the standards, they were already doing that stuff anyway. The other two speakers didn’t make any sense at all. I’m not sure THEY knew what they were trying to say. During the comments time, my prof chimed in, dropped a few important names to lend himself credibility, and basically said “While we should be willing to constantly knock down, re-evaluate, and re-consider the standards, it’s important to the profession to have SOMETHING that articulates exactly what it is we’re trying to do. Let’s tear apart the standards and put them back together again, but in the end we ought to have something rather than nothing.” It was the kind of comment that silenced the room.

At the Big Tent Christianity conference back in September, there was a bit of talk about boundaries. Some speakers questioned the metaphor of the Big Tent, because even though it suggests broad boundaries, they weren’t sure they liked the idea of boundaries at all. Keith Ward gave a talk about cosmic, universal salvation that drew applause (you can listen to it here). I was definitely feeling it.

But there’s something to be said for boundaries. I don’t want to get into bounded set vs. center set, since it’s been articulated very well in lots of places (“The Shaping of Things to Come” by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, or do a Google search and you’ll get it pretty quickly). I think what my music professor pointed out could be helpful in furthering Big Tent Christianity conversations.

The typical argument culture approach is to define your boundaries and then fight to defend them. But I think it’s safe to say that the life of Jesus is characterized by breaking boundaries. He broke the boundary of divinity/humanity, he broke gender barriers, he broke economic boundaries…you get the idea. At the same time, I think it could be argued that Jesus established NEW boundaries, in terms of the costs and requirements of following his teachings.

Jesus wasn’t about having NO boundaries, but he brought about the Kingdom precisely in his boundary breaking actions.

More on this to come. In the meantime, check out Lauren Winner’s recent article, “Apostasy Now” and in particular, what do you think of this last line?

“For one might say that a group that lacks the necessary preconditions for making apostates can’t make disciples either.”



~ by Joe Paparone on February 18, 2011.

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