I am going through “The Mosaic of Christian Belief” by Roger Olson with a small group. Last week in our first meeting we reviewed the introduction where Olson introduced the concept of folk religion. Folk religion focuses upon faith experience and rejects that there is necessity within Christians for an understanding of the basic beliefs or doctrines of the Christian faith. A common phrase of the folk religious is “doctrine divides, Jesus unites.” On the other side we have those who spend all their time and energy on developing their beliefs.
Regarding this dichotomy Olson explains that, “on the one hand, some evangelical ministers and teachers emphasize believing as if it were the be-all and the end-all of authentic Christianity. On the other hand, many more emphasize “experiencing God” or “doing what Jesus would do” as the be-all and end-all of authentic Christianity.” (P 20) Olson feels there is a middle ground that is both necessary and healthy for the today’s believing Christian because “folk religion is a poor substitute for historic Christianity” and “intellectual “head knowledge” is an equally poor substitute for personal transformation through a relationship with the triune God.” (P 20)
Olson’s primary agenda is to counter the present decline in awareness of basic Christian beliefs. I do think Olson’s points are very good and worth all of us pondering. Some of you are so busy “knowing God” that you take little time to enjoy a simple and intimate relationship with your Abba Father. Others of you are so focused on “just loving Jesus” that you are actually at risk of embracing an “odd eclecticism” of faith “in which completely incompatible notions are combined in a soup of experiential spirituality.” (P 19)