Without doubt, people are doing some deep examination of what they assumed is the truth regarding the Christian faith.
Many have started the journey of exploration because they have discovered that what they have been led to believe about some matters have been nothing more than the status quo accepted by the leadership they have followed.
Those who will do the necessary research into the history and practice of the church have found that their study has raised more and more questions rather than giving clear cut answers. As a consequence, many have found their faith is severely challenged, simply because of the traditions which have accompanied it. Others are finding the security and rest, which had once eluded them.
Both groups are finding, sometimes to their personal cost, that Voltaire was correct when he said in his 'The Age of Louis xiv', “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”
It seems that quite a few Christians are experiencing the truth of what Voltaire said because they dare to express the idea that Jesus reveals what God is really like, that He is God deliberately, and personally invading His creation to ultimately die on a cross for the purpose of redeeming spiritually condemned humans.
It's certainly true that much of what resides under the pseudonym “the church” has caused this magnificently majestic, yet very basic, simple message, to be watered down by religiosity, denominational politics, the theological presumptions which are palatable in the situation where they are chosen to be presented, and certainly not least, the personal ambitions of many who find themselves thrust into leadership.
One of the radical truths (emanating from or going to the root or source) which finds itself sacrificed on the altar of humanistic wisdom and expediency is that self-sacrificial love is not only who God is, but is the very aspect of God from which the true Church of Jesus Christ issues forth.
Expressions of these radical truths, either spoken or practiced, are commonly frowned upon, with uncomplimentary labels given to those who do so.
Historically, I suppose, such people would be joining those who were negatively labelled “The Dissenters”. The problem the label givers had, and still have with dissent, has nothing to do with seeking truth, but mostly to do with the fact that they don't want their long held traditions, or practices challenged by those who find reason to disagree, and, least of all, they don't want to prove from Scripture, the truth of their traditions. After all,”We have always believed this”.
The word “dissenter” comes from the Latin dissentire, which means to disagree. Those who “dissent”, have a difference of opinion, sometimes from that of the status quo, or from those who see themselves as “experts” on a matter. In other words they disagree!
This is what brought about the term being applied to a group of believers in the 17the century who broke away from the established church, and the existing state of affairs to which it was wed. Both Catholics and Protestants produced dissenters.
In my lifetime, as a follower of Jesus Christ , I have mainly witnessed two kinds of dissent, with one group of dissenters being deeply concerned about the damage done to the cause of Christ by , “religiosity, denominational politics, the theological presumptions which are palatable in the situation where they are chosen to be presented, and certainly not least, the personal ambitions of many who find themselves thrust into leadership.”
Usually I have found that these dissenters are sound thinking, studious people distinguished by the ability forming opinions by distinguishing and evaluating information. They often have very clear insight into what is happening, and where it is leading. They don't exhibit great giftedness but appear to be exceedingly wise, and, often described negatively as "radicals". They know that to dissent is often extremely costly to them, and theirs, and as a result are very circumspect about the matter.
To put a negative twist onto the word radical is completely unjust because the thinking of such “a radical person” is formed by soberly and sensibly, going to the root or source.
Of course, there are those who dissent with the dissenters. More often than not they are often those with little self knowledge, unhealthily proud of position and intellectual acumen. They are often those who have their own personal agendas, which cause them to be bitter and resentful towards those with whom they disagree, sometimes as the result of personality disorders.
Without doubt, they, and NOT the dissenters, are often the cause of fragmentation of churches, and groups within, because they live their whole lives barely touching the congregation in an honest, open, personal manner, not because of their wisdom or prophetic insight, but because they have personality problems. They are often church leaders and subscribe to the idea that was consistently taught by the principal of a college in this country, that it was necessary for pastors, etc., to remain personally aloof from the people they lead.
Honorable dissenters are very necessary for growth, whether in the public forums or the church! I applaud their courage and the work they expend in forming their opinion, even if I have to dissent!
At least three days after writing the above I read the perfect example of Honorable Dissent in a booklet written by Paul Burleson and his son Wade.
You ought to read it. It's FREE and may be downloaded from within Wades blog post .