If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. –1 John 2:10-11
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting the Internet Monk, a blogger from Kentucky. I gathered more good ideas from this man in an hour of seminar and conversation than I can work through in a short period of time. One of his observation that I really appreciated was a shared frustration with Evangelicals who dismiss all contributions from other religious traditions. In other words, he and I both cringe when someone says, “Oh, Dante says things about heaven and hell, but he’s Catholic, so we don’t need to pay attention to his words.”
In conversation with Mr. Monk–okay, his real name is Michael Spencer–I brought up Ralph Waldo Emerson and the other Transcendentalists. He mistook (I think) my reason for mentioning them, perhaps assuming that I found them to be theologically useful, which they’re really not. After saying a nice word or two about Emerson, he went on to say “There are boundaries I just won’t cross,” identifying those boundaries with the ancient creeds (Nicene, as I recall).
I like that brand of openness. Mr. Monk–the blogger, not the neurotic detective–attempts to be as intellectually and theologically and practically expansive as he can be, but he sets boundaries across which he will not step. If I read him correctly, he’s saying, “If I can at all reconcile a teaching or practice to the broad teachings of creedal Christianity, I will consider that teaching or practice.” He contrasts this with those who say, “I have a little hole shaped like my particular brand of Baptist (or Methodist or Nazarene or whatever) piety. If what you have fits in there, then I’ll consider it.”
As we read John’s epistles, we can get the sense of somebody espousing a rather fuzzy, New Agey gospel of love, something like the Transcendentalists trafficked in. In today’s verse, John lays down a boundary, across which he will not step, a boundary that looks back to 2 John 1:7 for its substance. Just as Mr. Monk won’t deal with those who reject creedal Christianity, John won’t deal with those who reject Christ’s coming in the flesh.
Let us be expansive and inclusive as we can be, but let us never forget to maintain important boundaries.