Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Emergent and emerging 3 - One Last Time

Ok...I started this blog on Sept 19th and saved it as a draft. I have just finished it on today, September 26th.
I have read the Relevant article on pages 70-74 of the July/August '06 issue several times. It's title is "Missing the Point? The absolute truth behind postmodernism, emergent and the Emerging Church." Frankly, for such a short article there is a lot to ponder and digest. But here we go. I have numbered different parts so they are easier to refer to. Here we go:

1. It begins with Mclaren defining Emergent as a "new kind of Christian." That alone is not the reason some critics believe they are "off base at best and heretical at worst." It also introduces the fact that many who used to be closely affiliated to Emergent are wondering if Emergent is losing control and "being steered in a very dangerous direction."

However, McLaren insists that Emergent has no true identity and that that is part of its ethos.

Just for the record I remind you that Emergent and emerging are two different things. Emergent is a group of friends and "nonprofit organization." The emerging church is a mentality. Most Emergent people may share the emerging mentality, but certainly not all emerging people fall into the Emergent group by any means.

2. The good, once again, is Emergent's "constructive conversation" philosophy. However, the strength is ultimately the weakness. Emergent has no statement of belief or doctrine. Tony Jones, Nat'l Coordinator of Emergent, thinks "statements of faith are about drawing borders...and that is simply not the ministry of Jesus."

Excuse me, but what??? Does that imply Jesus had no statements of faith, made no statements based on conviction? Yeah, He showed love, but he certainly stood for many things and let people know that.

To me, saying statements of faith are bad is like saying:
a)there is no truth
b)if there is truth we shouldn't share it with someone else
-Either way, it gets pretty messy to justify-
To me statements of faith increase unity because it brings people together. Others think statements of faith are divisive because it brings out differences. But isn't the point to ultimately find the point....the point where we have truth, absolute truth that no one should waiver on?

3. Emergent, Inc. has begun. Some would say they are seeking donations much like the 700 Club. Len Sweet, an early influence on Emergent, is worried. He states "what happens when a movement starts fundraising....it stops being a movement and starts being a bureaucracy."

The article states Emergent has "prided itself on its informality and inability to be defined seems bound for change." Not much to say about this...just thought I'd include it.

Jones states the reason for this is to help those who sought help from the group: journalists, burned out pastors, and pastors who had been fired for reading the wrong book.

It is very sad when pastors get fired for "reading the wrong book," even if it is just to make themself aware of the culture or to help find themself and any good out of such a stance. For some of us, we know real life examples from peers.

4. Len Sweet is also worried with what he sees as an "increasing obsession with politics in Emergent. It really bothers me when Jesus is portrayed as having a political agenda. Politics aren't even the real power paradigm anymore." Sweet is saddened at how Emergent is losing it's edge because of point 3 and 4. Sweet wishes Emergent was "more sophisticated" and would break ground into something new, as opposed to something that has been done before and failed. He had hoped it would "move us beyond postmodernity's deconstructive critique and into a post-postmodern construction." I think I know what he means, but I could not restate it concisely.

5. Correlating with point 2, R. Scott Smith, Ph.D, prof. at Biola University also believes "if we embrace the philosophical, theoretical ideas behind the postmodern thinkers (McLaren) and others appeal to, I think we will undermine core doctrines of Christianity." Emergent claims to be trying to disassociate themselves with the word "postmodern" so as to not take the heat in regards to critics aim at there lack of absolute truth, but it doesn't change the fact that it still exists in their group.

Emergent leaders would counter with saying they have no official statements on absolute truth and that some within Emergent do believe in absolute truth (granted most leaders in Emergent do not fall into this camp).

Nat'l Coordinator Jones then insults the being of absolute truth, calling it a "modernistic fallacy...a nonsensical way to talk, and Christian theologians shouldn't talk in that way...it doesn't make any sense." He justly acknowledges that people will jump on this statement as him no believing in absolute truth, which is true. He believes in truth, but not absolute (where's the sense in that in my humble opinion). If it is truth and yet not absolute then it is the word every conservative cringes at: Relativism!!!

6. Sweet further worries that "the overemphasis of how to do church...has taken the focus off Christ himself," and this is the main reason he feels Emergent is "losing its way."

He adds that "there's confusion between keeping relevant and keeping up...some of the most relevant things are not the most recent, but the most ancient...there's confusion between keeping relevant just keeping up. We have to be in touch with the culture but in tune with the Spirit." Most should agree with that.

Sweet insists all his words are out of accountability and not critique.

7. Sorry if this is not as organized as you'd like. I simply don't want to put anymore time into this subject except for one last thing.

Jones and McLaren wish to be given the benefit of the doubt, to be seen as brother's in Christ, and not as heretics. I think the brother's in Christ is no problem at all to accept. I have trouble with their assumption that they should be given the benefit of the doubt. If I made a statement that contradicted beliefs and truths that have been set up for thousands of years would you give me the benefit of the doubt? Certainly not. Is it not our job to uphold truth when others seek to alter it? Anything that contradicts what is widely regarded as truth should not be given the benefit of the doubt, no matter which mortal human said it.

8. Whatever direction we as believers are moving, I hope it is the right one. I hope it is with unity. I hope Jesus is the center of it. I hope the minority that believe can become the movers, shakers, and united (not Hillsong...sorry Micah) people that, with the guidance of Christ, can become the majority.

Ok ok....this may not be the last post on this topic. But it will be until I read D.A. Carson's "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church." This book is supposedly a very tough critique of it, and I will take that into account as I read it sometime down the road.

Blessings to you all!


J Fry said...

hey phil...i was able to read the RELEVANT magazine artile as well and you're right...it's pretty stuffy in the space it was given (it was a lot to digest). anywho...I think we think along the same lines with this stuff. i'm still in the learning stage as well...keep it up! peace.

Micah Dormann said...

I agree there is a lot there, and i agree with you on most...which is usual...if there was anything I took from Dr. Bounds it is to stick with the Tradition of the church...While reading that article i found myself at time a little defensive but caught myself feeling a little nervous. I will claim to be an advocate of the emerging church (not Emergent) I will not hide my books, there is truth in them and I hope to use that truth with the truth of the past to advance the kingdom of God...Glad we're on the same team!!!