Amazon Packages of Theology

It’s that time of year again where the semi-frequent doorbell ring of neighborhood kids is intermittently interrupted by the clang of a FedEx employee abandoning Amazon packages on our door step. According their third quarter filings, Amazon.com had over 20.5 Billion in sales. Founded in 1994, they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the packaging process so much in fact the eCommerce giant has filed for a patent on guessing what you will order next before you order it.

So why my sudden interest in Amazon? It’s the packaging actually. Last week, we received 2 boxes and were baffled to discover the inconsistency between the two. Inside the first box was one item with a superfluous amount of wrapping. The second box was in a contrary state, stuffed to the brim with items with little wrapping. It made a perfect analogy for the way we approach theology.

I’ve noticed two distinct perspectives that fit into Amazon analogy:

  1. a tendency to compartmentalize our preconceptions about other denominations. The Church at large has segregated itself into thousands of denominations… between 30k-45k worldwide by some estimates.  This fragmented reality is staggering and it seems that the only way to fully understand  the situation is by making broad assumptions, such as “Oh, you’re Baptist…you don’t dance.” So we approach other Christians this one, only having a tiny sliver of understanding about their theological framework and we, in our minds, fill it with meaningless assumptions (wrappings if you will).  So rather than approaching a person about their relationship with God through the lens of denominations, why not just asking them their own thoughts?  Surely God has spoken to others outside of your denomination…right?
  2. a consistent “stuffing” of extra-biblical traditions.  In the second box is so much stuff that we have managed to pack in there that we have little room for progressive revelation otherwise.  We become tightly wound and cling to what we’ve always been taught, that the concept of a perspective different from our own lends itself to be being by our own definition, “unbiblical”.  I have ran into many, many, need I say many again, topics that were neither wholly condoned or condemned by the Scripture. Consuming alcohol is a great example, because the prohibition among conservative denominations has well rooted intentions. I’ve seen first hand its destruction having been raised among alcoholics.  Yet, there is simply not a scripture that prohibits drinking alcoholic beverages other than abstain from drunkenness. There’s a jump from having wine at dinner to getting slammed.
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