The faithmaps community has been discussing what more transpropositionally oriented term would be best selected to replace "Systematic Theology." Last evening while reading Brian Mclaren's Generous Orthodoxy, specifically, while working through chapter 9 entitled "Why I am Mystical/Poetic" (which is by far my favorite so far because it's so in tune with what we've been trying to say with the term faithmaps ), I stumbled upon Brian's suggested replacement term:
I think it's helpful because it doesn't completely trash the modern impulse to look at things from a system perspective and yet it also doesn't tout any triumphalism of the systemic approach.
Brian also quotes with approval a favorite passage of mine from Barth's Dogmatics in Outline (though Brian lists the passage as being from the foreward to Church Dogmatics. I don't own nor have I read that book, so perhaps they share the same forward? ):
My lectures at the University of Basel are on "Systematic Theology." In Basel and elsewhere the juxtaposition of this noun and this adjective is based on a tradition which is quite recent and highly problematic. Is not the term "Systematic Theology" as paradoxical as a "wooden iron" [sic]? One day this conception will disappear just as suddenly as it has come into being.
Brian also mentions coherent, contextual, conversational, and comprehensive as potential alternatives.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Monday, November 29, 2004
keeping baby while throwing out bathwater
jason clark on tradition:
1. So often we play with these traditions picking the ones that are immediate and most accessable. I am sure we are missing out on much of these traditions by just taking the easy bits we like.
2. We get people who have tried something once on a retreat to teach us how to use liturgy, when maybe we should be getting people whose life is this, and history to teach us (to avoid more of number 1!)
3. We must not make the same mistake an throw off all our traditions, just as the low church forms threw of everything. By this I mean I hear of churches abandoning their evangelical charistmatic worship experiences wholesale to embrace a completely new way of worshipping, seeing their old way as invalid. Sounds like the same mistake we made when we abandoned much of the church traditions in the first place.
4. If we don't take these cautions we are on a never ending cycle of re-inventions, superficiallity, and of being faddish, and missing out on the real value of tradition.
5. I suspect the real value of traditon is not to be 'cool', 'relevant', but to anchor us to something that confronts our consumerism (as much as I am refreshed by these traditions that are new to me).
jason gives us some helpful thoughts on tradition.
Posted by Stephen at 11/29/2004 09:47:00 AM
Sunday, November 28, 2004
How to Win Friends & Influence People
by Dale Carnegie
Warning: This post would not qualify as pomoChristian Emergent turbocool. But it would be distinctly uncool of me not to post it on that account.
My company is sending me to Walt Disney World in a few days to participate in some circulation meetings and some training in December and I was asked to read this book. I enjoyed it and found it helpful. Many of the principles in the book could be characterized as Christian and one of the delightful features of the book is the wealth of illustrations in the book. Very readable.
One theme I appreciated in the book was the importance of sincerity. Carnegie is careful to emphasize that what he is teaching should not be used merely to get what one wants.
Here's a brief summary.
o Part One: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
§ Principle 1: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
§ Principle 2: Give honest and sincere appreciation.
§ Principle 3: Arouse in the other person an eager want.
o Part Two: Six Ways to Make People Like You.
§ Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people.
§ Principle 2: Smile.
§ Principle 3: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
§ Principle 4: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
§ Principle 5: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
§ Principle 6: Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
o Part Three: How to Win People to your Way of Thinking
§ Principle 1: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
§ Principle 2: Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
§ Principle 3: If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
§ Principle 4: Begin in a friendly way.
§ Principle 5: Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
§ Principle 6: Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
§ Principle 7: Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
§ Principle 8: Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
§ Principle 9: Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
§ Principle 10: Appeal to the nobler motives.
§ Principle 11: Dramatize your ideas.
§ Principle 12: Throw down a challenge.
o Part Four: Be a Leader: How to Change People without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
§ Principle 1: Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
§ Principle 2: Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
§ Principle 3: Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
§ Principle 4: Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
§ Principle 5: Let the other person save face.
§ Principle 6: Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
§ Principle 7: Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
§ Principle 8: Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
§ Principle 9: Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
Posted by Stephen at 11/28/2004 09:03:00 AM
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, et. al
andrew zirschky tell us about
a great debate in November of 2003 at the Youth Specialties Convention in St. Louis. It was a late night forum featuring Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Duffy Robbins, and Chap Clark. And, frankly, the discussion got a little heated. But since it was a late night forum, YS neglected to record the event. So, if you dare download the 15+ megabyte file you'll be treated to the only known audio recording of the event. It's not of the highest quality, but it's okay. More importantly, it's interesting.
download the audiofile here.
Posted by Stephen at 11/27/2004 10:14:00 AM
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The Balance of Imagination and Reason
Technically, extremism manifests the sin of sloth, and it results in despair-not as a divine punishment, but as the inevitable consequence of taking a road that is literally a dead end. The tyranny of unconscious images is no improvement over the tyranny of abstract ideas. Neither the rampaging flood nor the elegantly engineered water channels are sufficient for enabling the desert to blossom like the rose, or to produce food. If only the deluge can be directed, controlled, disciplined, and if only the dry water courses can be filled . . . .
Mary McDermott Shideler
Jen Ould brought up Shideler's Philosophy and Fairy Tales in the faithmaps discussion group.
When I first read this article some time ago, it took my thinking into a few different directions including:
- how story/myth/experience balances reason and enables right reason
- the limitations of information transfer for spiritual formation
- the need for balance in considering postmodern critiques of a modernized evangelicalism (and I don't mean to absolutize the movement)
I expanded on those thoughts here.
Posted by Stephen at 11/23/2004 07:41:00 AM
Monday, November 22, 2004
Epistemology and Theology: Holistic Thinking
You don't hear a lot in emerging church circles about sin anymore.
Such a lack is somewhat understandable.
Part of it is vocab. The word has been used so many times about so many things for so long that ec wants to find alternative nomenclature.
Part of it is a move in a post-evangelical ec away from a focus on the individual - a desire to break out of a mere concern with personal salvation.
Part of it is a desire to shed unnecessary baggage. The word can connote a preoccupation with playing cards and dancing as sin.
As in many ec moves, we nevertheless have to take care that baby is not thrown out with bathwater. Baggage aside, "sin" is an efficient little word that denotes much legitimately. And while Evangelicalism is well-pushed away from narcissistically focusing only on the individual, it is an overreaction to remove the legitimacy of focusing on one's own individual relationship with God. This includes, of course, a focus on sin. One's own personal sins.
As we avoid thinking deeply about "sin" to our own peril, we similarly err - as we've suggested elsewhere - when we avoid listening carefully (though discerningly) to the lights that have preceeded us.
One of those lights was William Paley, the late 18th century philosopher and theologian.
Paley addresses two topic with which ec is vitally concerned: epistemology and theology. And they speak of an aspect of how we come to know what we know in a way that's not normally treated, especially in philosophical circles. Paley explores the transpropositional aspects of knowing, zeroing specifically in on how our sin - our moral choices - effects what we claim to know and believe.
In the third volume of his Dogmatic Theology, William GT Shedd ( the famous late 19th century theologian) quotes William Paley at length after a couple of remarks:
"[William] Paley (Sermon on John 7:17) shows the influence of the vicious bias of the will upon the judgment of the understanding concerning the truty of Christianity, in the following manner. His general position is, that "virtue produces belief, and vice unbelief." Remarking upon the latter part of the proposition, he says: "A great many persons before they proceed upon an act of known transgression expressly raise the question in their own mind whether religion be true or not, in order to get at the object of their desire; for the real matter to be determined is, whether they shall have their desire gratified or not. In order to get at the vicious pleasure in some cases, or in other cases the worldly gain upon which they have set their heards, they choose to decide, and do in fact decide with themselves, that the truths of religion are not so certain as to be a reason for them to give up the pleasure which lies before them, or the advantage which is now in their power to compass and may never be again,. This conclusion does actually take place, and must almost necessarily take place, in the minds of men of bad morals.
And now remark the effect which it has upon their thoughts and belief afterward. When they come at another time to reflect upon religion, they reflect upon it as something which they had before adjudged to be unfounded, and too uncertain to be acted upon, or to be depended upon; and reflections accompanied with this adverse and unfavorable impression naturally lead to infidelity.
But not only do vicious and sinful men expressly raise the question to themselves, when they desire to gratify their desires, whether religion be true or not, there is also a tacit and unconsious rejection of religion which has the same effect. Whenever a man deliberately ventures upon an action which he knows that religion prohibits, he tacitly rejects religion. There may not pass in his thoughts every step which we have described, not may he come consciously to the conclusion: but he acts upon the conclusion, he practically adopts it. And the doing so will alienate his mind from religion as surely, almost, as if he had formally argued himself into an opinion of its untruth. The effect of sin is necessarily, and highly, and in all cases, adverse to the production and existence of religious faith. Real difficulties are doubled and trebled when they fall in with vicious propensities, and imaginary difficulties are readily started. Vice is wonderfully acute in discovering reasons on its own side" (Dogmatic Theology, Vol. III, pp. 81,2).
And it would be interesting to hear what corrolary Paley might have to say on the topic of "virtue produces belief" (as above).
What is very helpful in these remarks is Paley's exploration of the nexus of moral choices with belief. Belief is presented not as that which is utterly two-dimensional, logical, and sequential. Rather, belief is subjective with the knower's prior actions influencing them toward or away from particular beliefs.
I believe we see Jesus hinting at the same thing.
"John said to him, 'Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.'"
Mark 9:37-39 (all quotes English Standard Version, emphasis mine)
Someone doing such works in Jesus' name is thusly hindering from later being able to speak pejoratively of Jesus.
Similarly, one might also see Jesus referring to a similar effect when after his resurrection but before his ascension the Lord conducts his famous interview with two of his followers on the Emmaus road. Jesus asks them what they're talking about. Cleopus responds:
"Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" 19And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
(Luke 24:18b-21a, emphasis mine)
Cleopus goes on to speak of reports of an empty tomb and Jesus says,
"'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! '"
These two disciples seem genuinely befuddled. Moreover, they explicitly indicate "we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel."
Jesus does not then simply tell them, "No, no, no, you're missing some of the steps. Let me set you straight." He does do this, but he also seems to hold them morally culpable for their lack of faith at this point. For Jesus characterizes the Emmaus disciples as being "slow of heart to believe."
This all indicates that there is no place for a putatively objective study of God or Christian theology apart from a very subjective submission to Jesus as Lord and Christian morality. The study of God must be intensely relational and flow out of obedience.
The intimate relationship between obedience and theological study can also be discerned in Jesus response to the scribe's question about the greatest commandment:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
And Jesus decided to add:
"On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
The very foundation of the Scriptures is horizontal and vertical love. So also our study of them.
We've elsewhere explored other transpropositional aspects of epistemology.
Posted by Stephen at 11/22/2004 09:59:00 AM
Sunday, November 21, 2004
I don't have anything to hide behind anymore. I don't have a band to hide behind anymore, and say, "We're not a Christian band." I was always afraid to speak about my faith publicly. I would always talk to God about it: "I'm not perfect. I don't want to be a stumbling block." What's helped me is that people are starting to realize that Christians don't have this holier-than-thou attitude, that we're not perfect.
Scott Stapp Interview in World Magazine
Posted by Stephen at 11/21/2004 09:26:00 AM
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.
Just as with Google Web Search, Google Scholar orders your search results by how relevant they are to your query, so the most useful references should appear at the top of the page. This relevance ranking takes into account the full text of each article as well as the article's author, the publication in which the article appeared and how often it has been cited in scholarly literature. Google Scholar also automatically analyzes and extracts citations and presents them as separate results, even if the documents they refer to are not online. This means your search results may include citations of older works and seminal articles that appear only in books or other offline publications.find out more here.
Posted by Stephen at 11/20/2004 05:12:00 PM
is back blogging again.
sometime after brian mclaren's book on evangelism, more ready than you realized, came out, april revealed that she was alice in the book. (see jim henderson's Brian McLaren Library Page for a video of a discussion between brian and alice.)
april is the harpist in harp46 and is Director of Worship Arts Enhancement at Cedar Ridge Community Church where Brian is Senior Pastor.
Posted by Stephen at 11/20/2004 05:01:00 PM
The Iconoclasm of the Resurrection
Came across this wonderful passage in the Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright:
"What if the moratorium on speaking of Jesus' bodily resurrection, which has been kept in place until recently more by the critics' tone of voice than by sustained historical argument ('surely,' they imply on the edge of every discussion of the subject, 'you cannot be so impossibly naive as to think that something actually happened?'), should itself turn out to be part of that intellectual and cultural hegemony against which much of the world is now doing its best to reach? What if the resurrection, instead of (as is often imagined) legitimating a cosy, comfortable, socially and culturally conservative form of Christianity, should turn out to be, in the twenty-first century as in the first, the most socially, culturally and politically explosive force imaginable, blasting its way through the sealed tombs and locked doors of modernist epistemology and the (now) deeply conservative social and political culture which it sustains? (p. 713, emphasis mine) "
Posted by Stephen at 11/20/2004 12:17:00 PM
Friday, November 19, 2004
"You know, am I the only person in the entire United States of America who likes both George Bush and John Kerry, who believes they're both good people, who believe they both love our country and they just see the world differently?"
Bill Clinton at the opening of his Presidential Library on Thursday 18 November 2004
At the gathering, the following former Presidents (and one current President) also spoke graciously of former President Clinton:
Former President Bush,
Former President Carter.
I think because I'm so into conflict resolution, I love stories like this. It reminded me of the gracious comments that President Bush made of Clinton when his official portrait was unveiled in the White House in June.
Bush spoke first, lavishly lauding the man who defeated his father for reelection in 1992 and inspired his own campaign promise eight years later to restore honor and dignity to the White House. Bush kept glancing toward Clinton in the front row and at one point made Clinton laugh so hard, his face and neck turned red.
May God give us wisdom for those times when we disagree.
Posted by Stephen at 11/19/2004 05:27:00 AM
Thursday, November 18, 2004
The Emerging Church and the Renaissance
Andrew Jones explores the nexus of emerging church stages and those of the Renaissance.
I'm not sure our conversation is yet at such a place to be compared to the Renaissance; Andrew labeled his own thoughts "thinking out loud" so I suspect he'd agree. Yet, his taxomony is interesting. It's a bit different from the one I've proffered (which I suggested wasn't definitive) but variant categorizations can be complimentary.
Posted by Stephen at 11/18/2004 01:21:00 PM
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
My Daily Blogs
Earlier I had asked folks to let me know what their favorite blogs were in a few categories.
I'm currently tracking 121 blogs through the wonders of bloglines (my favorite aggregator). I don't read them all every day, but there are a few, for various reasons, that I generally will check any time that I see they've posted something new. They are:
- andrew jones
- brian mclaren
- dj chuang
- doug pagitt
- jason clark
- jordon cooper
- rex miller
- steve knight
- todd hunter
- tony sheng
- will sampson
Posted by Stephen at 11/17/2004 09:51:00 PM
kudo's to catalyst
rick lets us know that the catalyst folks (which featured mcmanus, mclaren, maxwell and others) gave every participant an American Apparel t-shirt. rick says that's cool because they are
a LA based company which makes high quality shirts while treating workers as important members of the company (they are anti-sweatshop), paying a fair wage and refusing to go off-shore to save money.
Posted by Stephen at 11/17/2004 01:24:00 PM
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
And when they heard that she had been kidnapped, they came onto the streets of Baghdad in their wheelchairs to demand her release. Children from a school for the deaf came out holding placards demanding the release of "Mama Margaret".
"If it wasn't for her, we would probably have died," Ahmed Jubair, a small boy in a wheelchair said that day.
"She built us a hospital and took care of us. She made us feel happy again."
The British government believes that Margaret Hassan, the Director of CARE in Iraq, has been killed by a hooded militant after being kidnapped.
She had served Iraqis for over 25 years, was an Iraqi citizen, and married an Iraqi.
Click here for other coverage.
I can only hope that the insanity of this act will draw out the sanity of those in Iraq who might otherwise stand silent.
Posted by Stephen at 11/16/2004 08:31:00 PM
Toward a New Praxis of Leadership Development: Transpropositional Approaches
Tony Sheng lets us know about the Mosaic Alliance's International Mentoring Network with Alex and Erwin McManus of Mosaic in LA. It has a number of interesting features that inform a new and better paradigm of how leaders can be trained in a more holistic fashion. It suggests improvements to the current ascendant model of leadership transformation by information transfer:
- seven days together in Los Angeles
- the network emphasizes distance learning online, so it's helpful that this is added so that people can enjoy the wider bandwidth that comes from realtime/facetime interaction.
- web-based interactions and courses with major thoughtleaders
- this is a beautiful example of taking advantage of this new online medium for spiritual and leadership formation.
A couple of concerns:
- $2995 plus room, plus travel, plus board. I have all respect for the McManuses and for Mosaic, but one of the great barriers to learning in the institution and geography-based model of leadership development by information transfer has been financial. The Internet can serve to break this down by allowing non-geographically specific relational interaction and making necessary information transfer far easier. In days gone by, students traveled to where the books and the experts were to get information. Now with the internet, that's not necessary. (Just to be clear: We're not against information transfer. Rather, we believe it's a non-negotiable. What we're against is an exclusive reliance on information transfer as the omnicompentent modality of spiritual and leadership transformation). One would hope that a truly Internet-based (though not entirely Internet based) model would eradicate this barrier.
- a lack of an emphasis on peer-to-peer interaction. Now, it may be that the Network encourages and facilitates this quite well and it's just not covered in this promotional material. But peer-to-peer learning, interaction, accountability, etc is too valuable to leave out of such an experience. Folks should walk away from such an experience with one or two or three great spiritual friendships.
In my mind, the ideal model would allow for
- interactive and broadcast exposure to thoughtleaders online,
- interactive exposure to fellow travelers online,
- exposure to necessary and transformative biblically-based and other information online,
- realtime/facetime mentoring that's local to the protege,
- realtime/facetime friendships with local fellow travelers.
I suggest that's more of the sweetspot.
However, that being said, the Mosaic experience is definitely an improvement over the predominate model and a step in the right direction.
Posted by Stephen at 11/16/2004 06:52:00 AM
Monday, November 15, 2004
Someone asked me today about the origin of this term. I believe it was first suggested in the faithmaps discussion group here. Our dear friend, the late philosopher jon gold then commented here on the term.
A complete index to jon's faithmaps comments can be found here and the books he recommended here.
We've blogged a couple of times on the term here and here.
Posted by Stephen at 11/15/2004 04:02:00 PM
The Emergent Mystique Conversation: An Around the Room
The Emergent Mystique Article
The November 2004 Christianity Today had a cover story by Andy Crouch entitled The Emergent Mystique that lead to a good bit of emerging blogosphere comment.
Towards the beginning of his piece CT Columnist Andy Crouch wrote:
Gentlemen, start your hair dryers—not since the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s has a Christian phenomenon been so closely entangled with the self-conscious cutting edge of U.S. culture. Frequently urban, disproportionately young, overwhelmingly white, and very new—few have been in existence for more than five years—a growing number of churches are joining the ranks of the "emerging church."
Crouch emphasizes the degree to which emergers are in harmony with current culture. But he hastens to note that emerging church adventurers such as Rob and Kristen Bell of Mars Hill Church are not merely what some call stage one emergent - accomodating contemporaneous cultural notes to clarify communication. Rather the Bells, and many others with them, are on a journey out of the converting confines of a settled evangelicalism and are looking for "a faith that is colorful enough for their culturally savvy friends, deep enough for mystery, big enough for their own doubts. "
The Bells say that their lifeboat was Brian McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian.
Crouch goes on to sketch some of the thoughtthreads of McLaren's NKOC and the emergers who read it among which are an emphasis on mystery and wonder and a move away from a perceived exclusive focus on private salvation to a concern with the needs of the world.
Cory Glover was unhappy with the piece:
The author of the feature article completely misses the point, makes frequent generalizations, and even mocks those of us who identify with this "conversation".
And how does a writer for one of the most respected magazines in the Christian subculture get away with stereotyping and identifying emerging people by their hairstyle?
Glover finishes with
I think that the author is expressing a great deal of fear on behalf of his peers. Fear that power might be slipping away. But the truth is (even the author acknowledges this in the article) that the Emerging Church doesn't want the power...that is still a by-product of an outdated system and a place of long-passed cultural dominance. (Though such distinctions probably don't exist) As "they" continue to throw grenades over the fence, "we" will continue to ignore them...
Tony Jones commented on some of the controversy the article precipitated:
In writing, as he does in person, Andy came off as sly, with a twinkle in his eye. However, he did seem to capture, as a journalist, some of the ambivalence within emergent/emerging church (there's one ambivalence right there: which is it?). Is Rob Bell one of us or not? Does the Emergent Convention represent us well or not? Is it a movement or a conversation? Ask 10 people these questions and read 10 blogs, and you'll get 20 answers. So if a journalist walks around and interviews a bunch of us, he's going to hear a lot of dissensus. I think that was one of the major themes that came through in the article."Now I personally think that dissensus is a wonderful thing and we should emphasize it. That difference of opinions is what makes the conversation so fruitful, and the inner critique is only going to make the EC, our books, etc., a lot better. Let's be honest, the EC got a major overhaul for '05 based on some of that inner critique."However, bloggers like ***** **** are already using this article to (once again) say that emergent in the US is merely altered evengelicalism while in the UK it's really an orgasmically great thing. That's sick, and if anything needs to be blogged about by some of us, it's that this was a journalist's view about what we're up to, and as such, it is partly right and partly a misrepresentation. That's what happens in journalism."Some I've talked to on the phone think that Andy tried to marginalize us by making the hair jokes a running gag throughout the piece. I personally think that Andy is an important dialogue partner for us; if when he looks at us he sees more style than substance, then we'd better work harder at making substance our priority (I bet that even Andy knows that the hair jokes were a cheap shot). And CT may want to marginalize us, but I think a lot of organizations would kill for a cover article highlighting their impact.Some have a valid gripe that the piece only profiles one church (Mars Hill (the Grand Rapids variety)) and one author (Brian McLaren), and that neither of these does ministry in an urban context. Now I haven't talked with Andy yet, but I'm sure that he'll acknowledge that the emerging church is more complex than he could possibly report in a 3,000 word piece. Again, maybe the lesson is that we need to emphasize the small, urban church plant as we talk about emergent with others.If we can't all take a deep breath and learn something at a time like this, then we're really screwed.
Andy Crouch then took the time to respond to some of those commenting on the CT piece on Tony Jones' Blog:
Among other comments, Crouch writes:
First, the only thing that really bothers me about people's responses to this article are those who say I'm preoccupied with style over substance. True, that's where the article begins. But a good two-thirds of the article--and the last word--is completely about substance. I give a ton of space to letting Brian, Rob, and Kristen articulate some theological concepts that I take to be central to the emerging-church phenomenon.
The more substantive criticism, which I expected, is using Rob/Kristen (NOT just Rob--why does no one notice that some of the most trenchant comments were from Kristen?) and Brian as the sole stand-ins for an incredibly complex movement. Well, this was a tough decision. MHBC is not an "Emergent" church in many ways. But as I talked with the Bells, I realized that the fascinating story here was that this was a culturally-relevant megachurch plant whose founders--after planting the church--had read A New Kind of Christian and begun a theological journey that summarizes much of what seems core to the emergent conversation.
And Tony Jones follows with some further comments.
The entire conversation is an education in the diversity within the church emergent.
Posted by Stephen at 11/15/2004 06:30:00 AM
Sunday, November 14, 2004
NT Wright on the Resurrection and William Lane Craig
Tonight I was continuing to work through NT Wright's recent book The Resurrection of the Son of God and he favorably recommended Gary Habermas' work.
Does anyone have any thoughts as to why Wright doesn't reference even once the work of William Lane Craig? I thought he was a well-respected Resurrection apologist and am surprised at the omission.
Posted by Stephen at 11/14/2004 08:30:00 PM
Emerging Scholars Network
The Emerging Scholars Network apparently isn't associated with the emerging church conversation and looks very interesting. I took advantage of its free membership a couple of days ago.
Their mission statement is:
The Emerging Scholars Network is called to identify, encourage, and support the next generation of Christian scholars, at all stages of their academic careers, who will be a redeeming influence within higher education as they:
Love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength as they follow God's call in discipleship and spiritual formation;
Exhibit excellence in research, teaching, and service;
Influence the university, the church, and the world by practicing their disciplines from a profoundly Christian viewpoint;
Embody the gender, ethnic, and social diversity of the church within the academy.
I'm interested in this group because of my interest in transpropositional leadership development.
There are a number of good benefits for members:
- a lifetime 30% discount on InterVarsity Press books,
- a 40% discount on Eerdmans books,
- a 20% discount on Zondervan books,
- a discounted 5$ a year subscription to Books and Culture,
- a discounted $10 a year subscription to the Christian Scholar's Review, and
- a discounted a year subscription to Mars Hill Audio Journal ($27-cassette, $35-CD).
and they have a number of other interesting features as well.
Posted by Stephen at 11/14/2004 08:16:00 AM
Saturday, November 13, 2004
What an incredible movie. My favorite review site, Rotten Tomatoes, gives it a fresh rating of 96%, with 165 of 172 newspaper and other reviewers rating it "fresh".
I thought that Finding Nemo was the most beautifully animated movie I'd ever seen. But The Incredibles was the most interestingly animated movie I'd ever seen.
Posted by Stephen at 11/13/2004 07:40:00 PM
Walking Alongside Ourselves
The great Christian mystic Leanne Payne has a compelling phrase that she uses in one of her books: "walking along ourselves." She uses that term to describe when we live only in our own presence instead of living in the presence of God.
This morning as I was journalling I found myself telling God that I wanted to repent of walking alongside myself instead of Him. My thoughts were then drawn to the five instances in John's Gospel where he quotes Jesus saying that He comes, speaks or does nothing, as the New American Standard Bible phrases it, "on My own initiative."
English translators handle this phrase in a couple of ways. Looking just at John 5:30,
the New International Version says, "By myself I can do nothing," and
the English Standard Version, as well as the Holman Christian Standard Bible, renders the phrase, "I can do nothing on my own."
"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 14:10, NASB).
It's amazing and humbling to contemplate that the One in Whom "the whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily" (Colossians 2:9, ESV) would say such a thing; that even He lived in such absolute and constant dependence on God the Father for what He did and what He said.
Similarly, Jesus counsels us to abide in him.
Practising the presence of Jesus and of God.
Intentionally cultivating a moment-by-moment awareness of His loving participative presence in our everyday.
A continuous Dance of heart, mind, and life.
Posted by Stephen at 11/13/2004 08:48:00 AM
community as crucible
We see it as important to be up close and personal - to be dangerously open and close to one another. We see it as vital to our real spiritual development.
Some observations about this kind of community: - it's hard - it's uncomfortable - it's awesome - we love it - we hate it - it's not very fun - it's better than the alternative - we need it.
alan creech posts some great thoughts about real community.
Posted by Stephen at 11/13/2004 07:56:00 AM
Friday, November 12, 2004
The Joy of Bandwidth:
Not an Ode to Broadband
Last night I saw that I have 1339 emails to which I need to respond.
One of my very first posts on this blog sometime in 2002 was "giving up the day," where I talked about not liking to go to bed. There I suggested that antipathy was driven by a desire to live without limits. Or, one might say, a desire to be God.
Such an instinct, of course, is antithetical to the Creator-creature - even the Father-child - relationship we have with God. For me, the biblical theme that lately best captures this reality, as I've frequently expressed here, is remaining in Jesus - bringing oneself constantly into His presence in dependence and worship. Such an activity is an intrinsic acknowledgment of limitation, a necessary admission of dependence.
There are folks - dear folks - that I've met online with whom I haven't communicated in weeks if not months. There are realtime acquaintances in the same category. Last night I took a serious look at all the outstanding emails in my inbox awaiting my response. I am certain that there are individuals behind some of those emails wondering at my non-response. Occasionally, I will through sheer dent of effort begin to catch up. When I do so, sometimes I respond to emails that were sent to me a year ago or more. Utterly ridiculous.
It's easy to wax eloquent about the wonders of the online world. Yet irrespective of the speed of our laptops and width of our band, there are absolute limits. We all have 24 hours daily. Most of us have to work, eat, love our spouses and play with our kids. We all have to sleep.
I tend to resist this, fancying myself able to be have close personal friendships with all the literally 2500 or so folks I have in my Contacts. But that's a hopeful fiction.
The truth is I am only rich in Him when I embrace my limits, embrace my dependence, when I abide in Vine. When I joy in my limits - joy in my weakness - joy in his sufficiency - his power made perfect in weakness.
And until I find that place of perfect balance, I might, regrettably, have a few disappointed friends.
Posted by Stephen at 11/12/2004 07:15:00 AM
Thursday, November 11, 2004
the genius behind todd hunter
jen alt finally outs herself as the brains of the hunter operation
well, not exactly. jen does, however, lend her expertise to todd hunter inc. after toddhunter.org feel a bit behind, jen felt compelled to announce that 1) she's the technology maven that gives virtual voice to the expressed thoughts of todd hunter and 2) she just got married! (Congrats, jen!)
levi fuson and i spent some timewith jen during a thing we were doing with todd in dallas a few months ago and she's a wonderful person.
maybe she'll start her own blog!
Posted by Stephen at 11/11/2004 06:44:00 AM
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
forever people, kingdom people
When one reads Ralph C Wood's beautiful article about the life and recent untimely death of A J (Chip) Conyers called "The Groves of Academe: A Man Alive in the Midst of Death" it's quite easy to imagine Wood weeping as he wrote. It's obvious from his tribute that he respected and loved the former professor of theology professor at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
It wasn't that Chip wanted to avoid the morose subject. Exactly to the contrary: he had so fully come to terms with his death that he wanted to get on with his work, and thus to talk about the coming semester, the books we were reading, the theological ideas that we were percolating, the students who showed special promise. Thus did he embody—like none other I've ever known—the central Christian conviction that we are already living in the New Age, that the Kingdom of God is not an idealistic hope to be realized in some far off time but a present reality in our midst, that in Christ and his church we are made living witnesses of the glad tidings that by death he has done down death.
Wood's comments reminded me of one of my favorite Malcolm Muggeridge passages from his wonderful Chronicles of Wasted Time:
How can I ever explain to those who insist that we must believe in the world to love it that it is because I disbelieve in the world that I love every breath I take, look forward with ever-greater delight to the coming of each spring, rejoice ever more in the companionship of my fellow-humans, to no single one of whom – searching my heart – do I wish ill, and from no single one of whom do I wish to separate myself, in word or thought or deed, or in the prospect of some other existence beyond the ticking of the clocks, the vista of the hills, the bounds and dimensions of our earthly hopes and desires? To accept this world as a destination rather than a staging-post, and the experience of living in it as expressing life’s full significance, would seem to me to reduce life to something too banal and trivial to be taken seriously or held in esteem.
In other words, the Christian proposition that he that loves his life in this world shall lose it, and he that hates his life in this world shall see it projected and glorified into eternity, is for living, not for dying. After all, it was a St Francis who truly loved the world he so gaily abjured, as his enchanting prayers and canticles convey; not a Pere Goriot who so cherished its commodities. It is misers and Don Juans who moan; spendthrifts and saints are always laughing.
All I can claim to have learnt from the years I have spent in this world is that the only happiness is love, which is attained by giving, not receiving; and that the world itself only becomes the dear and habitable dwelling place it is when we who inhabit it know we are migrants, due when the time comes to fly away to other more commodious skies.
Conyers and Muggeridge seemed to understand what it means to be forever people.
A couple of years ago, Ginkworld's John O'Keefe asked me "what do you see as the most important issue facing this generation?" Part of my response was:
People of accomplishment are striving to accomplish too much or, in the alternative, throwing all of their resources at accomplishing one thing with a monomaniacal focus. Either too many goals or too much focus on one goal have the same result: a loss of stability in other areas of life, whether it be family, or work, or your body, or church. And I’m not talking about seasons of chosen imbalance; everyone has those - whether it’s the purchase of a house, the birth of new baby, or getting a start-up off the ground and into profitability. I’m talking about something that’s become “routinized.”
These factors and others rob us of our lives; they also rob us of one another. And they are perfectly natural to the extent that we believe that what we see is all we have and that everything around us is all there is. In other words, people of time must live differently because they must accumulate and then horde all the resources they will eventually lose. Christians are people of time and of eternity. They are right-now and forever people. They can afford to live at a more measured pace because they have a different agenda and a treasure elsewhere.
Unfortunately, forever people increasingly live as if they also are trapped by time. But not those who understand joy.
We often hear – as our Lord taught - that our two highest responsibilities are to love God will all that is within and to love those beside us as we love ourselves. What is not heard as often – but was understoodd by folk like Augustine and CS Lewis - is that the fulfilling of our highest responsibilities is the path to our highest joy.
This intoxicating joy in the One at whose right hand there are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11) helps us – to modify a Pauline phrase – to cast aside the light and momentary pleasures that would distract us. And the apostle reveals where else he found joy when we remarked, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?” (1 Thessalonians 3:9).
So I could superficially answer the question that what we need is a new sense of time. But that wouldn’t address the heart of the matter: What’s the most important issue facing this generation? a new vision of God. We need to drink deep drafts of who He is and lose ourselves in His wonder, enraptured by his love and magnificence. That will then drive our agenda because, like Paul, we’ll be able to say that the love of Christ constrains us. Our PIMs will submit to his passion.
One of the best exercises I learned from Stephen Covey was his funeral exercise:
Imagine you are at your own funeral.
Your significant other will speak.
A co-worker will speak.
Someone from your job will speak.
A best friend will speak.
And someone from your church will speak.
Write out what you wish for them to say.
Now plan your life.
God help us to keep our eye on the ball.
Wood lets us know that Conyer's last book The Listening Heart: Vocation and the Crisis of Modern Culture is about to be published. I can't think of a more wonderful gift from someone aware that they are about to join the ages.
Posted by Stephen at 11/10/2004 06:39:00 AM
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Evangelicals and the Election
Ted Olsen does quite the impressive around the room of various articles on evangelicals and the Presidential election from a significant number of sources. Scroll down to
"Bush: Vote doesn't suggest America divided on religion" and below.
Yesterday, the Washington Post also ran
Evangelicals Say They Led Charge For the GOP
By Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall
and we picked up an AP story:
Election reinforces USA's religious schism
Posted by Stephen at 11/09/2004 02:50:00 PM
there's the red and blue map and then there's the red and blue map
Many have by now seen the famous USA TODAY map that shows red counties for Bush and blue counties for Kerry.
This map, courtesy of The Geomblog adjusts the size of each county based on population and gives a truer picture of the populace's presidential preference (thanks to Conrad Gempf for the heads up) .
And while I seem to be in the minority as an emerging blogger who voted for Bush (is it just Rudy and me?), but I think it's important that those who voted for the Republican candidate avoid an unwarranted triumphalism. This map serves that belief.
Posted by Stephen at 11/09/2004 06:41:00 AM
Monday, November 08, 2004
Sunday, November 07, 2004
New Modalities of Spiritual Community
Every few decades, a new medium finds its niche in American politics. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was radio that gave candidates a way to talk directly to large audiences. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was television, which created sound bites and showed that a candidate's physical image matters. The 1980s and early 1990s were about cable TV and targeting audiences such as the MTV generation.
This year, the Internet came into its own as a political tool.
Tricia Bishop, who reports on the Baltimore Sun's Technology Beat, wrote a nice piece published today headlined Internet finds its niche in politics.
A number of us have found spiritual community online. I feel that I have been blessed with a wonderful community of about 270 folks who have been discussing "navigating theology, praxis, and leadership in the emerging church" since May of 2001 in the online faithmaps discussion group. (They call themselves the 'mappers.) This group arose out of faithmaps.org, which I had launched shortly before the birth of our group.
I had originally bought the domain name for Cedar Ridge Community Church when I was on staff there running small groups and their Learning for Life Adult Ed initiative. I had intended to use the site to support one theology workshop I had taught there. After I left staff, I bought the domain name from the church and started developing faithmaps.org in earnest (it desperately needs a redesign and I'm working on that now!) and the 'mapper discussion group.
It has become clear that a number of folks in our online community have found connections there that they were challenged to find in their geographically local communities. I've blogged a bit more detail ab this elsewhere, but there are a couple of features about online community that make it unique:
- the initial anonymity that's possible online leads some to be more intimate earlier in the arc of their relationships than they would in facetime relationship. This is fueled by the significant optionality of online relationships; if you don't like me, it's fairly easy for you to make me go away.
- another significant feature is the comparative ease of finding people of like mind because of the relative ubiquity (at least in the First World West) of the Internet. It's easier to find resonances with folks online than it was for folks in , say, 1920's southern Georgia.
A few of us have also explored ways in which blogging (see Do Blogs Democratise Knowledge, parts one and two) can be usefully explored as a way of developing a new praxis of theological development.
I think it's important that we avoid triumphalism when it comes to touting online community. Just as the advent of the radio, the television, and the telephone did not completely revolutionize spiritual community, the Internet will not solve all of our ills; it most certainly is not the answer to challenges of spiritual community. Nevertheless, at the same time, just as American politicos are exploring ways to use the web more effectively on behalf of their candidates, so also the church would do well to explore whether she is fully optimizing what new relational opportunities are afforded her via the web without viewing it as a panacea.
Posted by Stephen at 11/07/2004 11:29:00 AM
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Radical Orthodoxy and other Christian Interactions with Postmodern Thought
With the coming publication of James K. A. Smith's new book Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology, the 'mappers have begun discussing Radical Orthodoxy.
Chris Criminger made some comments there that I thought warranted wider distribution:
"Radical Orthodoxy proposes a postmodern project while not fully suscribing to it. Some of its leaders are John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward. They are a movement that critiques modernity rationalism and postmodern relativism. They have tried to go back to tradition recognizing the limits of knowledge; they have tried to reinterpret the Christian faith with postmodern assumptions while placing theology over philosophy and culture. Here are some of its strengths and weaknesses from my perspective.
1. There are some things I love about Radical Orthodoxy but I have come to grow leery of it from some of its weaknesses which I will list below. One great strength of RO is that it is postmodern friendly without buying into the whole postmodernism program. It rightly proposes a non-violent Christian ethic and holds up the masternarrative of the gospel story (despite some postmoderns fears of the metanarrative). Like other postmodern theologies, RO is very 'justice' oriented as it seeks justice and liberty for all.
2. Although I was as originally enamored with Radical Orthodoxy as I was with postmodern Christian theology, I have become skeptical of both for similar reasons. RO rightly returns to appropriating the early church tradition but it does it in its own pick and choose way that has a way of missing the mind of the fathers and some of the original teachings of the early Christians like atonement theology; creative imagination too often takes the place of historical retrieval of the tradition. RO has the same problem of some postmodern Christian approaches of obscuring the role of Scripture, creed, and the proper place of ecclesiology in the theological discussion. (Too often, academic discourse trumps ecclesial practices and discipline. Christian theology is best done within the cradle of the church and not the academy despite some good refinements the academy compliments and brings to the church at times). There is also an underlying assumption within postmodern thought and Radical Orthodoxy whereas both too easily allow personal autonomy to come into conflict with traditional patterns of ecclesial (church) practices of obedience. There are such divided loyalties at times, one wonders whether allegiances to postmodernity overshadows their commitment to God's church (or Christian faith) rather than the other way around? In other words, in the realm of many postmodern approaches and Radical Orthodoxies (I can hear the teeth gnashing on this one), intellectual virtuosity easily eclipses ecclesial obedience. Therefore theology becomes creative and inventive (and thus "radical") rather than receptive and reiterative. If one listens very long to many RO's and postmodern Christians, you will hear their alienation and separation from the church. You will hear ad nauseum their ”progressive," moral, intellectual, social and political thoughts and the constraints of classical Christianity and why they don't like conservative theology anymore (especially if they have been burned by conservative churches and/or conservative Christians).
Now I will say there can be some faithful Christians who are both RO and postmodern (sheesh, I was one of them!). But what I am learning from church history and from my own journey of faith is RO's and postmoderns too easily are tempted to go the *correlation* route (which some of the early church fathers did but without the checks and balances of apostolic tradition 9creeds and ancient liturgy] and the church [the incarnate Christ in his "body" of disciples]). What I mean by "correlation" - what I am learning from church history and the fathers - is the synthesizing of the language of the culture with Christian content for the mission of the church. For postmoderns who are faithfully doing this, I applaud them but so much of the emerging church movement I think has lost both substance and its historical rootedness of Christianity. RO and postmodern Christians too often have what I call a "canon within a canon” approach to the Scriptures and a very highly selective approach to the early church tradition (if they aren't simply ignoring it altogether!). The other missing piece of the puzzle from church history that brings history and faith, the literal and metaphoric, the ancient and the contemporary together as correlationism must be balanced with the "Orthodox model" of affirming apostolic teaching and tradition. Even though one pomo writer uses the term "generous orthodoxy," it does seem among many pomo writers that there is a complete break with and disdain for anything that is orthodox or classical in the Christian sense of the terms. As Evangelicals, whether they cheer or condemn postmodern thought, it seems that Evangelicalism falls into the same trap where intellectual respectability and pragmatism controls so much of the movement today. "
R R Reno, Associate Professor of Theology at Creighton University, sounds some similar notes in his First Things article "The Radical Orthodoxy Project."
Positively he comments,
"One of the tragedies of modern theology has been its systematic renunciation of this ambition. The deep end of "truth" has been ceded to science, while theology swims in the shallow end of "meaning." Aesthetic expression has been relinquished to the cult of original self–expression and "what–it–means–for–me." Morality becomes a subset of utility, or a creation of private conscience, and Christians are reduced to "sharing their values." An impoverished realm of "spirituality" or "transcendence" remains the rightful property of Christian reflection, and running on these slight fumes, theology drives toward relevance in a world over which it has renounced its authority. Radical Orthodoxy is nothing if not intensely opposed to this renunciation; for its adherents the whole world is fit for absorption into a theological framework. Christian theology should shape the way we talk about everything.
Scope, however, is not the only Augustinian ambition lost in modern theology. For every metaphysical, historical, and anthropological adventure of speculation, Augustine devoted even more energy to affirming and defending the irreducible particularity of divine redemption in Christ. The scope may be wide, but the center is focused, and the pull of the gravity of Christ is profoundly strong. The world is participatory, true enough, but its participatory framework is Christ–formed. The proponents of Radical Orthodoxy embrace the universal scope of Augustinian ambition—how Christ’s redemptive purpose structures the natural world, history, human desire, and truth itself."
But Professor Reno goes on to detail concerns similar to Criminger's beginning with the comment
"Like so many modern theologians, however, they often express a deep ambivalence about its concrete particularity and the authority it exerts over the Christian life."
For those interested in tracking some in the church's (particular some in the emerging church) efforts to correlate Christian theology and praxis with postmodern impulses, there are a number of interesting books coming down the pike:
- Of course, Smith's Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology mentioned above and
and a couple that will likely be more negatively critical,
- D A Carson's Becoming Conversant with Emergent, based on a series of talks Professor Carson gave to Cedarville College which are available for purchase now here. Some, such as Andrew Jones and Dr. David R Mills have already responded to Carson's talks.
Posted by Stephen at 11/06/2004 08:34:00 AM
Friday, November 05, 2004
kudos to andrew jones for his hopeful comments about Bush's second term. I sort of liked that I couldn't tell from reading his post if before the election he was pro-kerry or pro-bush. jason smith was also complimentary, nominating jones as the new voice of evangelicalism. and I don't sense it was just because jones could be interpreted as being pro-Republican; perhaps there was something deeper in what he said. be sure to read the comments to his blog (including his own elaborations); they are also an education.
i've seen some very virulent anti-Bush emerging bloggers out there. it's my suspicion that Kerry was not a saint and that Bush was not the devil and visa versa.
maybe our biggest mistake is when we absolutize others?
Posted by Stephen at 11/05/2004 05:44:00 AM
Thursday, November 04, 2004
A Participitative Spirituality: Renewal thru Blogging
Puff talk? Tim Bednar, of e-church.com, doesn't think so.
We are a generation of Internet users (not distinguished by age) who view themselves as participants, not consumers. It's important for pastors to note this transformation from a passive to a participatory congregation. Millions of us do not want pastors to be gatekeepers; but we need pastors who foster spiritual formation by co-creating the church with us. Bloggers represent the tip of this transformation. Internet users are experiencing the networked church and it is changing them. Soon, we will bring these themes into our local church. I believe this will be the beginning of a grassroots revival not unlike the Charismatic/Pentecostal renewal of the early twentieth century.
Rob Moll interviews Bednar in a recent Leadership Journal article.
Bednar's comments reminded of some inter-blog conversation a few of us had recently on the role of blogging and a new praxy of theologizing:
do blogs democratise knowledge?
Posted by Stephen at 11/04/2004 05:22:00 AM
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Christianity Today interviews Gordon Atkinson, the RealLivePreacher. Be sure to also read CT's review of Gordon's new book.
Posted by Stephen at 11/02/2004 06:19:00 AM
Monday, November 01, 2004
For Whom Do I Vote?
Vote-Smart is a great place to go to get non-partisan information for your candidates. Just put in your zip+4 (and they have a link to the US Post Office's site if you don't know). You might also check out the League of Women Voter's DemocracyNet.
If you're still undecided ab the Presidential Election, check out this great page NPR offers. MSNBC also has a similar page as does CNN.
Posted by Stephen at 11/01/2004 10:20:00 PM
The Nexus of Emerging Church and the Traditions of Calvinism
One of the most interesting phenomena within the emerging church movement has been the participation of individuals from the Calvinist traditions (this has occurred in roughly the same time as a similarly interesting confluence of Calvinist and Charismatic traditions seen in such groups as the Sovereign Grace Ministries). One of the the most well-known churches in the Calvinist/Emerging Church space has been Mars Hill Church in Seattle which is pastored by Mark Driscoll. Mark is also associated with the Acts 29 Network (which, according to Driscoll, has started over 100 churches in the last 5 years). Another significant collection of sites in this space has been those maintained by Rob Schlapfer including:
Discerning Reader (a bookstore) and
Antithesis, (though this site is now shut down with a single provocative quote by Rob: "antithesis is shut down - perhaps for good. I've just lost hope.")
Mars Hill Church's Mark Driscoll has recently written a book called Radical Reformission. The latest issue of Christian Counterculture has a Driscoll article based on the book. The article includes a fascinating early look at the beginning of Leadership Network's Young Leaders Network which can be considered the institutional predecessor of Emergent in the Emerging Church space.
Rob Schlapfer recently posted an interesting editorial piece on the Christian Counterculture site called Christians Before a Watching World: The Dangerous Pursuit of Reformed Theology.
He begins his piece with :
Why is it that, with all too many of us, the more familiar we are with sound Christian teaching the less Christ-like we become in our daily lives? Why are so many "Reformed" believers in particular, so lacking in love, kindness, patience, gentelness, meekness -- the fruti fo the Spirit's work with us? Why so cold -- abstrating truth from the real world of people with needs? Is there a danger pursuing theology -- especially, in our times, Reformed Theology?
Yes. There is a very real danger.
Schlapfer concludes his brief piece with
Don't misunderstand me. I am grateful that I was introduced to the riches of Reformed Theology some twenty years ago. But the study of such theology is not an end in and of itself. It is always to make us mroe like Jesus....
I suggest that Schlapfer hits some helpful notes that speak to how the Emerging Church and the Calvinist traditions can be helpfully synergistic.
One of the critiques some emergers have about evangelicalism is that it's addicted to the proposition - that it views information transfer as what we've called elsewhere the omnicompetent modality of spiritual transformation. Many of us in the emerging church conversation believe that a more holistic approach to spiritual change is necessary - one that does not exalts information transfer as the exclusive means of spiritual change. This is an emerging church thoughtthread that serves the Calvinist tradition and Schlapfer's concerns.
With such an emphasis, however, it might be understandable if the church emergent were to swing too far into the opposite direction. One might see the emerging church depreciating biblical information in the process of overreacting to a perceived imbalance. This is a common phenomenon in philosophical thought. In his Philosophy and the Christian Faith, Colin Brown, who at that time was Dean of Studies at Trinity College in Bristol, England, noted:
At almost regular intervals down the centuries someone will hit upon an idea which has some claim to truth. It is then blown up into a system which is thought to be capable of explaining everything. It is hailed as a key to unlock every door….In each case the thinkers concerned were so impressed with their particular insight that they built it into a more or less rigid system which virtually destroyed its original usefulness.…if anything is to be learnt form the history of philosophy, we should be cautious in embracing one set of philosophical ideas to the exclusion of all others, and critical in our evaluation of all of them. Just as no single human being has exhaustive knowledge of the whole of reality, but may have partial and valid insights into this or that field of experience, so no philosophy is all embracing. Its insights and methods are often tentative and provisional. It may have a valid apprehension of this or that. Its methods may be fruitful in exploring certain particular fields. But if we are wise, we shall be on our guard against definitive systems and allegedly omnipotent methods of approach.
Those of us in the emerging church do well not to quickly cast aside the theological spadework of those who've preceeded us, including the many sincere and brilliant theologians of the Calvinist traditions. While eschewing proposition addiction, we musn't overreact by avoiding the necessary proposition. Balance is the watchword.
Another way in which the Calvinist tradition might profit from the emerging church ethos is from the emphasis of some in the emerging church on the core essentials of the Christian faith while exercising tolerance in regards to non-essentials. This, of course, is an ancient sentiment - going back to Augustine:
"In essentials, unity;
in non-essentials, liberty;
in all things, love."
Such an emphasis is not without precedent in the Calvinist traditions.
“No, he will be so near the throne, and we at such a distance, that we shall hardly get a glimpse of him.”
More recently, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a denomination of about 190 churches that began in 1980, sees just such a sentiment as one of its core distinctives. On their official website, in answer to he question "What is unique about the EPC?" the denomination answers:
We are unique among American Presbyterians with our self-conscious attempt to balance essential and non-essential matters within a confessional heritage. We are unified in our commitment to the essentials of the historic Christian faith taught in the Bible, but allow liberty of conscience on those matters which are not so plain in or central to the Bible’s teaching.
And Warehouse242, an emerging church in the Charlotte area, is part of the EPC.
It will be interesting to see how these traditions interplay in days to come.
It would be a beautiful thing if the emerging church conversation becomes not a cause for division in broader evangelicalism, but rather a conversation that seasons the entire movement. We believe such a consequence is possible.
Posted by Stephen at 11/01/2004 06:52:00 AM