The first professor Wesley Seminary had was Bob Whitesel, author of numerous books in the areas of church growth and missional leadership. His most recent book is Spiritual Waypoints and I'm reading it this month as part of the faculty integration of foundation and praxis. I'll return to Oden at some point in the future.
My two chapters today are the Introduction and chapter 16. He cleverly has numbered the chapters to go down to where chapter 0 is the goal. He is trying to think about our walk with God not as one moment in time, conversion, but as a process and a journey. Not everyone will cover this entire journey, and I don't think he means to say that all the waypoints along the way have to be visited. He is suggesting that the expectation that a person will jump from one end of the journey to the other can be problematic.
He's doing several things in this book at the same time. For example, he interviews key individuals on the missional scene throughout the book. In chapter 16 (the first chapter), he interviews Richard Peace of Fuller.
He is also trying to hold the balance between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment without leaving one or the other out. He sees the "evangelistic mandate" (souls) as primary if you have to choose--but you don't. It has to be both/and, both souls and the "cultural mandate" to help people in their material, earthly needs.
Chapter 16 is about a person who has no awareness of a Supreme Being at all. Bob--following Peace--strongly suggests that it is not problematic to think of movement to agnosticism as a good thing because it is progress on the journey. Looking at it from a particular Christian perspective, Bob thinks of agnosticism as having some awareness of a Supreme Being even though they have not committed to such belief. Of course some agnostics might define themselves as someone who does not believe we can know if there is a God, while not denying the possibility of God's existence.
Bob suggests three types of atheist who may demonstrate a ripeness for movement: 1) the unselfish activist, 2) the confrontational activist, 3) the self-absorbed artist.
He suggests two things to do to mobilize toward such individuals: 1) release your "organic intellectuals," by which he means Christian intellectuals who engage various spheres of public life; and 2) make sure whatever Christian community to which you belong models things like: a) truth telling, b) fair dealing, c) an "ask-assertive" environment that invites questions and discussion rather than shoving the answers down your throat and d) imagery of hope, that says we have something to offer in an often hopeless world.