Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ravi Zacharias and the Emerging Church

As we talked I asked him what issues were of the greatest concern to him and what he was preparing to focus on in the coming year. Much to my surprise, he said that the Emerging church was a great concern to him because it held a low view of truth and was gaining momentum as a gathering point for all kinds of aberrant Christian doctrinal agendas.

Mark Driscoll, an early leader in the emerging church in North America, relates Zacharias concerns with some thoughtthreads within ec. Driscoll reports that Zacharias anticipates it will be his top concern in 2006.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

emerging jews

AP runs a story on the recent confab of jews and representatives from emergent.

ht to ted olsen.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Should Ideas be Discussed on Blogs?

Doug Pagitt:

After three years of keeping a blog and reading many I have come to a conclusion: In my experience personal Blogs are useful for allowing people to stay in touch and know what people are up to, but are not a suitable place for the exchange of ideas - ultimately they do more harm than good - in my opinion at least.

I have decided to stop using this blog for the sharing of ideas....


I was saddened to hear of Doug's decision. I feel that my life has been enriched by the new ideas, books, connections, thoughts and adventures that I've heard about on blogs. We've posted in the past ways in which blogs and other online mediums in fact allow for better theological and ecclesiastical conversation. I recently witnessed an international controversy between two organizations that began and resolved within about 72 hours. The fact that it all happened in the open online contributed to the speed of resolution. This is all due to the lowering cost of information. As information declines in cost, more folks are potentially empowered to know and participate in decision making.

The challenge of the medium is the same as the challenges for email, online discussion groups, phone calls and face-to-face meetings: The challenge is my spiritual maturity and yours. How well do we approach disagreement? The quality of our approach to disagreement is medium agnostic.

Now I don't mean to imply that medium shouldn't be given careful consideration. email can be awful as a forum for certain disagreements when someone can't hear voice inflection and view facial expressions. But for extremely emotional discussions, emails can be excellent because they enforce listening and allow for editable communication. blogs tend to privilege the blog owner's opinion as compared to online discussion groups. But blog aggregators allow the surfer to keep up with an enormous amount of information and discussion in a brief amount of time. And so forth. But I'm not comfortable with a carte blanche dismissal of any of these media for the discussion of ideas.

Doug has indicated that he does not wish to be contacted to discuss his decision so I will respect that. But I do hope he changes his mind! I wish to hear his voice!

Friday, January 06, 2006

the state of emergent - 2006

The past year saw increased attention coming our way from national and local media, and it saw the first “third-person” books written on the movement from the breathtakingly bad (D.A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church) to the even-handedly critical (R. Scott Smith’s Truth and the New Kind of Christian) to the openly supportive (Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs’s Emerging Churches). And for those of us who frequent the blogosphere, the online chatter about Emergent and the emerging church is louder than my three preschoolers.

A couple of more notable trends in 2005 are: 1) We witnessed a significant uptick in interest and involvement from traditionally “mainline” Christians, especially those in Methodist and Presbyterian circles. And 2) We have begun to clarify the difference between “Emergent” and the “emerging church.” My favorite metaphor of late is that the emerging church movement is like the Internet, and Emergent is one of the servers.

In the new issue of Next-Wave, Emergent National Coordinator Tony Jones updates us on all things emergent.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

looking beyond the facade of modernity, part 2

part 1

In June of 2002 I posted a note on how we must be careful not to truncate individuals down to our broadbrush conclusions about the age to which they belong or the theological system from which they write. Last night, I came across another reminder of this.

A few days ago, I realized that I had a spiritual formation need to get a better vista of who God is. I decided that as a devotional exercise I would read John M. Frame's book The Doctrine of God, the second book published in his Theology of Lordship series.

In the introduction to the book, Frame writes about Sola Scriptura and referenced his article In Defense of Something Close to Biblicism: Reflections on Sola Scriptura and History in Theological Method. I had never studied Sola Scriptura as a separate belief, so I decided to find the article and read it. While waiting for 2006 (and the only adult in the house who was awake!), I read it last night.

I'm not a thoroughgoing Calvinist in terms of soteriological or eschatological belief, but I have long appreciated the Calvinist thinkers. I have suggested that theological system is one of the finest and fullest expression of a modern theology with the implicit critique that the modern approach is not a complete approach. I would have said that Calvinism has a tendency to dot every theological i and to cross every theological t.

My own journey through the pomoChristian conversation and then thru the current emerging church movement has influenced me in a couple of ways. One way is that while I have felt that the largely Calvinist education I received in seminary was of a theology with every i and t dotted and crossed, my own personal theology has segued from encyclopedia to outline (I've elaborated on this in my brief article What is a Faithmap?).

But last night, I read comments by a prominent Calvinist teacher that made me realize that there is a similar theological openness expressed within that tradition that I had not previously noticed.

These comments came from none other than the highly regarded theologian and exegete John Murray, who taught at Westminster Theological Seminary from 1930 until 1966.

My realization came from reading this passage from Frame's article, where he quotes Murray:

In his article, "Systematic Theology," Murray reviews the history of dogmatics, mentioning names such as Athanasius, Augustine, and Calvin. He then comments,

However epochal have been the advances made at certain periods and however great the contributions of particular men we may not suppose that theological construction ever reaches definitive finality. There is the danger of a stagnant traditionalism and we must be alert to this danger, on the one hand, as to that of discarding our historical moorings, on the other [emphasis mine],

He cites Calvin's own encounter with "stagnant traditionalism," when the Reformer dared to take issue with the view of Athanasius and others that the Son of God "derived his deity from the Father .... He continues,

When any generation is content to rely upon its theological heritage and refuses to explore for itself the riches of divine revelation, then declension is already under way and heterodoxy will be the lot of the succeeding generation.... A theology that does not build on the past ignores our debt to history and naively overlooks the fact that the present is conditioned by history. A theology that relies on the past evades the demands of the present.

Murray here recognizes the importance of church history in the work of systematic theology, but he cautions us not to remain content with even the best formulations of past theologians.

I was heartened to read these comments coming from deep within a theological system that many in the emerging church would regard as utterly modern.