MSC: An Introduction

As evening dimmed the glowing sky and lights shown out of houses, I drove to the University area. My pencilled note read "1883, a block or two from Mac Court." Cars lined the curbs, but one pulled away just as I found the correct brick building. Good thing, since I was late.

Inside, to the left of bookshelves bearing academic tomes, double glass doors stood open. People filled most of the folding chairs in three rows, and a bearded man leaned over a podium speaking. Sheepishly I side-stepped to an empty spot near the front.

I recognized Ron Julian, whose talk tonight would cover a few of Jesus's parables. I'd heard him speak at a church service recently. "I want to start with a story Jesus told that sounds confusing at first," he began. "But we'll consider what makes the most sense in context."

He went on to explain the parable of the "unrighteous steward" (Luke 16:1-13) from an exceedingly reasonable perspective. Afterward, he took questions and comments, as he had Sunday morning in church.

You got that right: questions in church.

It was October, 1999. At the non-denomination evangelical church I'd been attending with my family, a conflict between board members had resulted in two of the pastors' abrupt resignations, along with the sudden severance of fellowship by several families.

My attempt to put on an optomistic countenance failed immediately, as the hurtful episode brought to life long-buried childhood anguish. My minister dad resigned from a couple different churches during my youth for reasons never explained. All I knew was painful abandonment by communities I'd thought held together by Christ's love.

During our recent church troubles, a friend had handed me pages printed from the website of McKenzie Study Center. The paper, authored by someone named Jack Crabtree, was titled Appeal for Radical Biblicism. After reading it, I gave it to my husband. He read it. We wanted to meet this guy, these radical biblicists. We'd be careful, wary of a group that might be gathering around someone's erroneous scriptural interpretations. But we were ready to take a look at a different Christian community, one where topics of conversation followed these sorts of lines:

For radical biblicists, the fundamental task is to use reason and commonsense to grasp the meaning of the biblical text that its author intended.

Many lively discussions ensued. And the fruit of the reasonings have been juicier than I ever imagined possible.

At the risk of sounding salespersonish, I recommend perusal of MSC's website to any Christian needing a dose of the radical. Along with articles by the staff (and one I authored six years ago), you'll find a PDF newsletter and a few books for sale. Ron Julian's Righteous Sinners, available here and here, is awesome.

Nearly seven years after my first MSC encounter, I still rejoice with great joy over God's gifts to me through these people (none of whom, by the way, has yet left in a huff or forced others to leave their fellowship). As human as the next group, they strive to remind themselves of just that fact. Creatureliness. Fallenness. Aspects of reality the gospel was made to speak into, if I've come anywhere close to getting my bible principles right.

What's important to me is I'm focusing with others, many who are fellow refugees from church traditions and chicaneries, on doing business daily with what's likely happening in the biblical text. Learning to think about God and know him for myself cannot be surpassed as a lifelong activistic activity. Please do take a look-see for yourself.


Erin Julian said…
Hey, that's my dad you're talking about! ;)

... also, great post. I too recommend reading through the articles on MSC's site. And not just because my dad is involved.