Just to round out this unholy trinity it was reading John Shelby Spong that prompted me to finally read the copy of Robinson's classic that I've owned for some time. Spong names Robinson as a mentor, and that was enough for me to read on.
All that to say that this quote from Spong's latest email seemed timely:
To accuse a person of heresy assumes that the truth is actually known and that the one who makes the heresy charge actually possesses it. I think participants on both sides of that equation dangle between being ignorant and being idolatrous. They are ignorant because they think they know what ultimately cannot be known, namely the nature of God. They are idolatrous because they have identified God with a definition of God produced by the limited human mind. In effect these people have bound God inside human words and concepts. They have created God and think that their creation is God. That is the meaning of idolatry.
This is in no way directed at those friends who commented on Facebook. None of them used the H-word, and I'm actually grateful for the cautions and correctives that come my way. This is how we learn. But in a more general sense I'm often surprised and a little disappointed when those who are the first to admit that the status quo is no longer working are often also the first to object when someone offers alternatives to that same status quo. To me, this is a conflict that must be addressed if we are to move forward.
I have a short but growing list of principles and values that I try to live my life by. In real terms that means I think about these a lot, and practice them occasionally, but I'm working on that shortcoming.
Here's one that I think I would do well to apply in situations like this. I throw it out there for your consideration:
When confronted with an opinion that I reflexively seem to disagree with, I must first try to prove it correct before I critique it.
UPDATE: Now that I'm trying to look at the world through an evolutionary lens using an Integral worldview, things in the rearview mirror look very different to me.
I wonder if these earlier thinkers that I have identified as somehow being "before their time" were simply early in trying to move on to what comes next. And if so, then I wonder if some/much of theology between then and now has been a reaction to and against these heretical outliers. A defence then; lost time in the movement forward.
Then again, perhaps this "lost time" was absolutely necessary as a way to play out and eventually discard these defensive moves, and allow the rest of us to catch up with these early advancers.