Sunday, March 27, 2005

Are the Primary Evangelical Critics of the Emerging Church Conversation Calvinists?

Tony Jones says yes.

I have a couple of responses:

  • While Tony's point might have merit, there are also a number of folks from Calvinist traditions at various stages of emerging.

  • Before I make my second point, I perhaps should reveal that I consider myself a Calvinist but not a five-pointer. And I perhaps should also say that I don't find the 5 points of Calvinism a terribly big deal. As I've said before, my personal response to the emerging conversation is that my personal theology has morphed from encyclopedia to outline. That being said, while I have respect for those writing out from other evangelical and Christian traditions, after 26 years of theological reading, I tend to turn to the Calvinists when I want to read theology. And I dare say that if you were to look at the percentages by religion tradition of serious orthodox theological books being written, you might find that the lion's share of them are being written by Calvinists of various flavors. So I'm not sure how very interesting it is that most of the critiques are coming from Calvinist corners.

  • That being said, and I wish to speak carefully here, in my experience there has been some truth to the critique that as modernity might precipitate some believing every theological i can be dotted and every doctrinal t can be crossed, so also some Calvinists have felt their system of thought was the system of thought. And it has seemed to me that some believe that their system of thought was too important, rather than the One it seeks to explain and celebrate. But my critique here is primarily one of trust. Let me say very clearly that I'm very, very certain that there are those who completely by in to all the primary Calvinist tenets who cause God every day to break out in huge smiles. Holiness, in my opinion, does not turn on the criterion of Calvinist belief.

  • I'd suggest that of more importance than all of this would be that we would take a stance of humility in responding to our critics. They may have something to teach us.

3 comments:

Rick said...

"And I dare say that if you were to look at the percentages by religion tradition of serious orthodox theological books being written, you might find that the lion's share of them are being written by Calvinists of various flavors."

Serious ORTHODOX theologians writing the lion share are Calvinists? Man, that seems like semi-bold statement. :)

Stephen, don't you think that only one who prescibes to Calvinist theology would call it "orthodox"? I don't know, but don't you think that many theologians would consider Calvinist theologians heretical?

Do you think that you could get many RC, Anglican, of Orthodox theologians to agree with you?

tony said...

Stephen:

You may want to read my post a little more carefully. I proposed that the bulk of emergent criticism is coming from a certain camp within Calvinism. That argument is in no way reversible, that many Calvinists aren't emerging. In fact, many are.

And to claim that the vast majority of orthodox Christian theology is being written by Calvinists may say more about your reading list than it does about reality.

I appreciate your honesty about your own theological disposition. I, too, find a lot of Reformed theology to be of great merit, particular the neo-orthodox variety. But none of that negates the fact that the criticism is coming from within a certain strain of Calvinism; nor did I imply that we shouldn't take their criticism seriously. To the contrary, I think we should. In fact, I spent much of Friday and Saturday reading a manuscript by a critic from this camp (E Free and Biola).

Happy Easter,

Tony

John Dekker said...

I think there's a serious problem in your definition of "Calvinist". You said that you weren't a five-pointer, but the page to which you linked for a description of the term was, in fact, an analysis of the five points.

So it begs the question, what is a Calvinist? And - just perhaps - some would define the term so as to virtually exclude emergent ideas.

What would Calvin think about the ec? ;)