For the last two thousand years the Christian church has been growing, developing, changing, splitting, growing some more, splitting some more…on and on. Today, we are left with a plethora of traditions and innumerable denominations.
Now, the branches of the mighty tree of Christian history reach out to provide shelter to the world under their care.
Most of us had no say in what tradition we would embrace. We were simply born into it.
As a result, many (including myself) remain ignorant of other traditions. Unfortunately, ignorance can lead to misconceptions…to misrepresentations…to demonization of others. Wedges become fixed between this tradition and that. “Unity” is no longer defined by our common Source—our “trunk,” if you will. It is defined by our commitment to a tradition.
We blindly hack away at other branches in a battle of us against them.
Us on the side of truth. Them on the side of falsehood and deceit.
The only way we can begin to mend the broken branches is to find our unity in Christ rather than ourselves (it is, after all, his body).
We must take the time to understand each tradition’s place and purpose. To understand why these different traditions exist. To respect them for what they contribute to the work of the Kingdom. To be quick to listen and slow to speak. To recognize that we are all attempting to make sense of an incomprehensible God.
In the coming weeks I will be sharing interviews I’ve conducted with scholars, pastors, and bloggers from various traditions. I’ve asked each person six or seven simple questions about how each particular tradition began and what doctrines make them unique.
Recognizing that such short interviews will not settle any issues once and for all, I would be thrilled simply to be a catalyst for dialogue between all of our traditions. In doing so, perhaps we can begin to purge the pervasive fear of the other that clouds our minds and restrains our love. My hope and prayer is that this series will give us all deeper love for one another and a greater sense of unity as we all work to accomplish God’s will on Earth.
We will explore the following traditions*:
- Catholic — Fr. Dwight Longenecker
- Lutheran — Dr. Caryn Riswold
- Reformed — Nate Pyle
- Anabaptist — Kurt Willems
- Anglican — TBA
- Baptist — Dr. Roger Olson
- Wesleyan – TBA
- Pentecostal – Dr. Estrelda Y. Alexander
Take this opportunity to understand those traditions you never understood and to respect those traditions you never respected.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” –Jesus (Jn 13:35)
*Obviously this isn’t a comprehensive list. I won’t make any promises, but if you have a recommendation for another tradition and/or person to interview for it, then leave a comment and I’ll check it out!