The Drama of Embrace

Loretta Rivers is a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Since Hurricane Katrina she has been attending our church. Loretta moved back to the crescent city last week and we were all sad to see her go. She gave me a small stack of books as a parting gift. One of the books was Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Perils of Postmodernism by Millard J. Erickson. I was struck by a section in the book titled "Reducing One's Own Conditionedness." His guidance is very helpful. He says that we should "practice the ancient philosopher's dictum, 'know thyself.'" Erickson also says, "The other major effort that will help narrow the circle of subjectivity is genuine interaction with others..." Both of these efforts create the enviroment nessary for genuine cooperation and understanding. When I read Erickson's words I was reminded of a passage written by Miroslav Volf that paints a vivid picture of this type of healthy interaction. He speaks of the drama of embrace. Volf asserts that this drama has four functional elements or acts.

1. Opening the Arms - " arms are a sign that I have created space in myself for the other to come in and that I have made a movement out of myself so as to enter the space created by the other.

2. Waiting - this movement respects the other. One is not forced into relationship.

3. Closing the arms - this is the powerful sign of reciprocity.

4. Opening the arms again - the other is not absorbed. "I" is honored as "We" is created.

I think that both Erickson and Volf should guide our interaction as bloggers. This medium holds out great hope for healthy community building and action planning. For it not to decay we must be careful to know ourselves, create the space necessary to welcome others, and honor each other's unique contributions. I have been blessed by the blogging community and want to see it remain a place of healthy interaction. In short, I want it to be a drama of embrace. God bless you and your ministry.


Perry McCall said...

I am not familiar with volf'swork but I am with Erickson's. I am rushed for time so I'll have comment more fully later. I like the point but here is a question. How do we properly embrace without violating biblical admonitions concerning confronting false teaching within the Church? I ask this without any specific doctrine or circumstance in mind. Also, without any reference to any current SBC debates. It is a general question.

Matt Snowden said...


As I have come to expect, you have raised a very helpful question.

I think that the biblical admonitions concerning the confronting of false teachings and I would add false behaviors/attitudes are servants to the notion of embrace. I am not advocating something sentimental, but redemptive. If someone affirms, "Jesus Christ is Lord," then dealing with their "falsehoods" is a family issue. If someone does not affirm that confession then dealing with their "falsehoods" is a matter of evangelism. In both situations the goal of confrontation is redemption/embrace.

I would hasten to add, in my case the first step to confrontation is extracting the often present lumber from my sockets. I also think we sometimes "confront" the wrong stuff. Whitfield and Wesley parted company on a host of theological issues but partnered for the gospel. They disagreed on important matters but did not charge each other with heresy. I think we should be theologically passionate and irenic at the same time. We should be stubborn about the core and fraternal about all.

Thanks for your interaction. I have prayed for conversation partners like you and the Kettering Fellowship.

God Bless!

Perry McCall said...

I am back in town from the Bible conference that Bo preached at. We had great fellowship. I like your response to that question. I have always had a hard time deraling with this issue outside of the local church setting. I want to be able to genuinely associate and fellowship with as many people as possible. However, I don't want to be silient if I need to speak. It is easier for me to deal with behavior issues than it is a doctrinal issue. For me, it just seems easier to draw those behavior lines.

Matt Snowden said...

I'm glad you had a good time in Louisiana. It looked like an interesting conference. We have been at a children's retreat (complete with a small lice outbreak) since thursday and then Promise Keepers. I am glad to be home and looking forward to Sunday. Thanks for sharing your helpful questions - I really appreciate them.

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