Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hearing God

I've been contemplating reading the Old and New Testaments completely thru 2007, something I've never done intentionally through one year.

I've been looking at the various plans that the folks at highlighted some days ago. I like and plan to use Back to the Bible's Chronological One Year Bible Plan.

I've decided to do this in the Today's New International Version using Zondervan's TNIV Study Bible, which Barnes and Nobel tells me is ready to pick up when we come back to Baltimore (we're still in Danville, VA). (I had gotten the TNIV Study Bible, Personal Edition, but returned it because the print was just too small to read comfortably.)

I plan to continue my "Fresh View of Jesus" project in 2007, and have been working through Luke using Joel Green's fine commentary at Scot McKnight's suggestion. I've modified my planned approach for this, though. I'm reading and re-reading Luke, Acts, and Romans and plan to continue doing so until I've finished treading straight thru the last commentary on Romans. I've gotten Ben Witherington's Socio-Rhetorical commentary on Acts to help me through that book and then plan to attack Romans with Douglas Moo's work on that book. I plan to do most of this reading in the English Standard Version though I've also begun listening to these books in The Bible Experience, which has been just delightful.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

more on michael polanyi

mars hill audio review announces:

"Listeners who want a good basic introduction to the ideas of Michael Polanyi (which have been discussed in a number of MARS HILL AUDIO features as well as our documentary, "Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing") will want to take note of a recent book by Mark T. Mitchell called Michael Polanyi: the Art of Knowing (ISI Press). In addition to brief surveys of the key concepts in Polanyi's thought, Mitchell's book includes a chapter comparing Polanyi's ideas with those of Michael Oakeshott, Eric Voegelin, and Alasdair MacIntyre. (And just in case you missed the announcement earlier, "Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing" is now available in MP3 download form; see here for details.)" [some links mine]

We had earlier blogged ab polanyi and his significance for the emerging church.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

the contexts for emerging church conversation

somewhere I had written:

"i think that one of the things that this kind of question brings out is the extent to which the ec really is a conversation that occurs to a large extent online. (i'm not depreciating the potential significance of online relationships)."

Bradley Grinnen

"i've been asking myself this same question for a little while now. [could] you take the lead and help us unpack this? could we start a new conversation about this? [i'm] not sure of the protocol, but i think this is a conversation that deserves length and many views."

There are four primary contexts for the emerging church conversation in North America (though some of below applies to the worldwide movement) and, generally, each context has its own unique flavor.

I'll suggest these broad observations with notable exceptions:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Conversation with Brian McLaren on Epistemology

Post Note: Below was originally available in the public archives of the now defunct faithmaps discussion group. I've just discovered that those archives are no longer publicly available. Accordingly, i've reposted it below here.

Here is the conversation between Brian and myself ab epistemology. For those
of you who don't know, Brian McLaren was my pastor for 13 years.

Interaction on Epistemology and Christian Faith

[I had sent Brian McLaren a copy of a note I had written to Rodney Clapp
prompted by his

How Firm a Foundation: Can Evangelicals be NonFoundationalists?


Thursday 31 May 2001 Note from Brian McLaren

Stephen -- isn't that a great article? I first read it in "The Nature of
Confession." I don't have another email address for Rodney Clapp. I wish I
did.... maybe I can find one. I think he still works for IVP.

I am intrigued by your question to him, though. I wonder if you are
confusing "absolute truth" with "absolute certainty" in your thinking? Do
you really mean that you are holding on to the concept of absolute

I don't think you possibly could mean that ... the Bible itself says "we
know in part" (I Cor. 13), right?.... Maybe I'm misreading you? (Gosh ...
maybe you follow [a well-known pastor], that "that which is perfect" in I
Cor 13 is the Bible, so having the Bible means that we no longer know in
part??? No, I don't think so.... Otherwise, why would we be asking these
questions if we already know as we are known?)

So, as soon as you admit that all certainty is relative for us creatures
(i.e. there is more or less of it), then in a way, you have greater freedom
to say, "Yes, there is absolute truth, i.e. truth as God knows it, but for
all us finite creatures, our understanding and confidence about that truth
is in part, limited, relative to our finite perspectives," etc. It almost
feels (in what you write Rodney) that you are assuming that receiving divine
revelation makes one divine. Do you see what I'm saying? (Of course, a lot
of us preachers maybe believe this, unconsciously!!!) In other words, maybe
you're assuming that when God gives revelation, he also gives proper
interpretation of it, plus complete psychological certainty regarding that
interpretation to know it is correct. That would be nice (maybe ...
although it would also mean that God turns us into robots by
mind-control) -- but it doesn't seem to match with either real-life
experience, or Biblical history!

By the way, Kurt Erhardt's [Kurt is a pastor and mutual friend of mine and
Brian's who is working on his Ph.D. in epistemology] mentor, Susan Haack,
has a great term for less-than-certain knowledge in this "chastened
epistemology": she says our best knowledge is "truth-indicative" -- i.e. it
indicates a high likelihood of substantial truth ... She has a great quote
from Wm James' "The Will to Believe," -- "When we give up the doctrine of
objective certitude, we do not thereby give up the quest or hope of truth
itself." (p.203) I like the way she thus avoids the Scylla of postmodern
despair regarding truth, and the Charybis of modern over-confidence. (By
the way, in the Odyssey, as I recall, even Odysseus couldn't get between
them without casualties....)

Anyway, Stephen, it's great to see how active your thinking is! You are a
constant encouragement to me in this regard. You illustrate "the quest and
hope of truth," as Wm. James says. I am as certain as I am of anything that
God is pleased by that quest and hope!!! -- Brian

On Friday 1 June 2001 I responded with

A very good distinction you're making, very helpful to me, and I largely
concur with two caveats.

1 - My certainty that "God so loved the world that he gave His only Son...."
is as close to absolute as I can get. Can I say my certainty asymptotically
reaches certainty?

(If you're not familar with asymptotes, from Websters:
a straight line associated with a curve such that as a point moves along an
infinite branch of the curve the distance from the point to the line
approaches zero and the slope of the curve at the point approaches the slope
of the line. See for a picture of

I am much, much more certain of that than I am of, say, the Calvinistic
doctrine of Perseverance or my belief in believers baptism. So this
category is not a very large one compared to the set of things I believe

2 - But my certainty of God's love is - as I said - pretty nearly complete.
Here's why: it's based on a radical trust in someone else. Now, this kind
of trust is not exactly foundationalist (and please help me along this line
of thought with your response if you think I'm on the right track). And in
this way:

Because of my knowledge of you as a person - more than the sum of
information that I have of you - but because of my *trust* in you - I am
similarly asymptotically certain that you will not stand up on Sunday and
say, "People, you aren't going to believe this: Stephen Shields in an
e-mail this week showed a lack of clarity between the existence of absolute
truth and the perception of absolute truth. He simply shows himself *not*
to be the epistemologist that you might have thought he was. Please take
all his philosophical comments with a grain of salt, and I'd encourage you
over your meals today to discuss this critical distinction." My certainty
of this is not based entirely on empirical evidence. That is there, but the
bridge to asymptotic certainty is my *trust* of your character. I'm
thinking of one of Clapp's subtitles (or maybe Rob put it in)...something
like "The False Choice between Objective and Subjective Knowledge." In
other words, maybe our certainty of God can only be achieved when we trust
Him. This makes our knowledge transcend the anthropocentric foundationalism
that began with Descartes as it now achieves personal knowledge (I haven't
read Polanyi's book yet of that same title, but I wonder if that is what
he's talking about too).

Maybe that is why we are spinning so much in the sand on this
epistemological thing. We are trying to discuss it outside of the context
of a personal relationship with the Divine which is a crucial component.

What do you think?

On Friday 1 June Brian responded with:

YES! YES! Exactly ... I agree 100%.

But Stephen, when you say the whole thing is based on personal trust or (to
use less foundationalist terms) revolves around trust or flows from trust
...then you are OUT of the Enlightenment certainty game altogether.

The absolute certainty "they" are talking about can NEVER involve trust. It
must involve rationality working in a closed system. So, for you to say
that you're trying to defend or preserve certainty, and you are doing so by
resorting to trust in God ... then you (in the rationalists' definition --
and they're the ones framing the argument) aren't even in the ballpark

Now, for you, rational certainty isn't even the foundation any more ... the
foundation (if we want to use this language) has shifted to a personal faith
relationship. That's Christian ... and when you go there, why even talk
about "objective truth" or "absolute certainty" or "foundationalism" or
anything of the sort, because within our story, in our framework, built on
our foundation (if you will) of personal relationship, that language is
foreign. Our story works just fine (did for thousands of years!) without
their language and categories. And our language is foreign to their system
too. It's like bringing in terms like melody and harmony and tone to a
discussion of mathematics.

I think your inability to separate the two languages shows how you (like all
of us) have been thoroughly trained as if the two were one. Same with me.
I remember when I first began to realize that enlightenment rationalism and
the gospel were not only not the same thing, but where two different stories
and here's what hit me at that point (I don't know if this will help you at
all, but it really helped me):

There IS no epistemological solution to the problem of nontheistic
rationalism. There is no "neutral ground" where you can try to achieve
certainty APART FROM A NARRATIVE. And that's when I realized that to try to
prove certainty apart from our narrative is actually a kind of betrayal of
our narrative, as if our narrative needed to be buttressed by "their"
language to be credible. The fact is, without our narrative, their whole
system starts to disintegrate. (Francis Schaeffer used to talk about this.
He called it "cheating" -- that naturalists/rationalists "steal" meaning and
morality from our gospel to try to keep their system functional.)

Anyway, I don't know if this is making any sense. For me, this line of
thought pushes me to realize that narratives are far more profound than
propositions, because without the narrative to give context, the
propositions are just kind of floating and up for grabs and up for anyone's

But here's the rub ... narratives can only be grasped by a rational process
that includes faith.

So, faith (which is wrapped up with personal trust and a sense of a story,
narrative) is more "fundamental" than knowledge (i.e. propositions which can
be rationally debated). This is what Polanyi and others have been saying.
And, of course, so has the Bible HTH -- Brian

End of EMail Exchange

Where I am today:

This exchange was helpful to me. I still talk about objective truth and
certainty and believe that they are valid categories when defined
theocentrically. I would say that Brian's emphasis on narrative would be
subsumed under what we've discussed here as transpropositionality.

Anyway, perhaps this will be helpful to some.

Stephen Shields
"tools for navigating theology,
leadership, discipleship and
church life in postmodernity"
over 500 links and articles

Regarding "Why Don't More in the Emerging Church Respond?"

We are getting into some great discussion in the comments to this post.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Your Top 3 Posts in 2006

Of all the posts that you've done in 2006, what are the three that you believe serve Christ's church the best? If you will point me to them in comments, I'll update this post with the results.

A Christmas Day Surprise - A Christmas Eve Reminder

At 5:15 AM EST on Christmas Day a loud alarm started sounding in our room in the Marriott where Beth, Michaela, Skye, Alia and I have been staying since we came to Charlotte on Saturday. Beth's first waking thought was that I must have had a wonderful dream and was making loud whoops to celebrate! Then a voice came over the PA saying that there was an emergency in the hotel and that we all had to evacuate. We quickly got the girls up, threw on some shoes; I grabbed my laptop and we flew toward the stairwell.

As we were going down the stairwell, an older woman looked shocked, upset, and disoriented. I put my hand on her shoulder and told her, "It'll be ok; it'll be ok" as we all continued our exit. A little instant community formed outside as we waited to hear what was going on.

A fire had broken out in the hotel's main kitchen, but fire trucks descended on our location and within 15 minutes we were given the all clear to come back up to our rooms. It was a good thing too 'cause we had forgotten to grab coats and it was cold and raining. (Yes, I realize grabbing the laptop and not everyone's coats is evidence of a serious deficiency of proper priorities.) The girls opened their stocking gifts and we went back to bed until almost 9. And then we re-began our day in normal fashion.

On Christmas Eve, we visited Warehouse 242 here and Bruce Marcey gave a great message on the prophetess Anna. Bruce's main point was that it can be intoxicating to inordinately focus on our brokenness and pain, but at some point we have to avert our gaze and let ourselves be lost in the beauty of Jesus, as Anna had done.

And so we are thankful to God that our little ones were protected, thankful to God that He is there at the bottom of our brokenness, and thankful to Jesus Christ for His beauty and for the new life that He gives us when we have faith in Him.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

on the road again

beth, kids, and I are traveling for the holidays. Today we came down to Charlotte, NC where we plan to visit Warehouse 242 for their Christmas Eve service tomorrow and meet up with Steve Knight and Anthony Smith. Christmas will be with Beth's sister Bonnie and her husband Phil. Then on the 27th we're off to Danville, VA to be with my folks and back to Baltimore on the 1st. So my blogging might be erratic!

Rebuild of Section: God's Purposes in History...


can be found here.

We had a site problem which caused the previously built-out section to be lost. However, I believe the section is now stronger.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why Don't More in the Emerging Church Respond?

Michael Touhey posts wondering why more in the emerging church aren't responding to the recent criticisms appearing in Pulpit Magazine (edited by John MacArthur and Phil Johnson).

Two helpful features of Touhey's post is that he links to all of the Pulpit articles so far treating the emerging church as well as linking to a number of emerging church bloggers and leaders.

Michael does this to invite dialogue.

(I just put my $.02 in comments, but Michael moderates comments and, at this writing, probably hasn't seen it yet. Michael does mention Dan Kimball's response in his post and I mention Andrew Jones' in comments.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One Year Bible Reading Plans - Our Choices

The English Standard Bible folks provide links to graphic visualizations of various Read thru the Bible in One Year Plans.

McKnight on the After Jesus Special Last Night on CNN

Scot McKnight has begun discussion on last night's CNN special on the development of the church after Jesus.

Scot's is one of a very few emerging church blogs I know that has a readership extremely active in his comments section.

The Reformed in Conversation with Other Traditions

Anthony Stiff announces:

"‘Conn’-versation is a group blog made up of people who are largely graduates or current students at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. The Conn part is there paying their tribute to Harvie Conn’s missional influence at Westminster and his warm hartedness [sic] toward other theological traditions than just straightlined Reformed ones. Their ‘Conn’-versation doesn’t appear to be directed at one area alone but that is not to say there is nothing holding their dialogue together, for one there’s the general Westminster impression that many of the bloggers have been influenced by and relate to in different levels of embrace, and there is of course Harvie Conn’s tone of theological discourse" (some links mine).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

looks like is...

...back up. down. is working on the problem.

Gender-Inclusive Translations

Our recent enjoyment of The Bible Experience in Today's New International Version prompted me to do a bit of digging into the controversy that's surrounded this translation. This led to my building out a page on Gender-Inclusive Language in Translations with articles pro and con.

At some point I may build out another page on literal versus dynamic equivalent translations.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

on "The Bible Experience"

Found a nice LA Times article that interviews a number of the professionals who participated in The Bible Experience(TBE).

Beth and I both have been thoroughly enjoying our copies and it's going to be very interesting what this is going to do for sales of Today's New International Version (TNIV). I went into a Christian Bookstore today and they had shelves and shelves of New International Versions and a very few TNIVs. I have to frankly admit that listening to TBE motivated me to take a second look at some of the issues behind the TNIV. I also just ordered a copy of the TNIV Study Bible.

I only wish I had gotten the MP3 version of TBE instead of the 19 CDs in the Audio CD version! It's taken some doing to get it into iTunes, with the books properly numbered and divided into albums. I suspect this is far easier with the MP3 version (and it's less expensive).

And I still love my English Standard Version Bibles, will keep reading my Reformation Study Bible, and am looking forward to Crossway's forthcoming Study Bible (while still hoping that the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible will come out one day in ESV).

But - at least for now - the TBE is the Bible I'm getting exposed to the most.

If you'd like to hear the Christmas Story in TBE, just click here.

I recommend it as a great Christmas gift for under $50.

a great quote from "jesus outside the box"

a helpful insight for the Season:

"Yes, more money would mean more toys, a bigger house, a newer car but, no matter how much I love my stuff, that stuff is never going to love me back. "

- the full post

And I don't know if this was intentional or not, but the verse of the day on Jesus Outside of the Box (supplied by Today's New International Version) was this passage.

Monday, December 18, 2006

emergers in non-emerging church contexts

scot mcknight (technorati's #1 emerging church blogger) recently posted about his churching in a non-emerging church context - Willow Creek Community Church. In fact, many define the emerging church as reacting against the seeker sensitive movement.

I find myself in the same situation. Though for 18 years I went to what could arguably be called one of the first emerging churches (even back when it was definitely a seeker sensitive church), since 2001 Beth and I have attended a neotraditional church closer to our home near Baltimore. I have not been uncomfortable in that context. In many ways, I find it to be merely a cross-cultural situation.

I'm curious:

how many emergesque readers would consider themselves emergers in emerging churches and how many would consider themselves emergers in non-emerging contexts?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Breaking News: Two Large and Influential Congregations Break from the US Episcopal Church

"Two large and historic Episcopal congregations in Northern Virginia have voted overwhelmingly to break away from the U.S. church and to seek to keep their property, setting up a conflict with their diocese that will be watched closely by other dissident Episcopalians around the country.

Officials at The Falls Church in Falls Church and Truro Church in Fairfax City announced the results of the week-long vote following their worship services this morning. Their leadership has been at the forefront of a national conservative movement that has been alienated from the Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion, since the installation of a gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003.

At both congregations, more than 90 percent of the members voted to split from the U.S. church and to retain their church property" (links mine)

- Today's Full Washington Post Story

are blogs toxic? or how I won Time's "Person of the Year"

hamo comments:

"I rarely have people say this to my face, but I seem to hear it around the place a little more often than I’d like.

It seems that in some folk’s estimation it isn‘t ok to ask questions of current church practices or to express an opinion that is non-conformist. The phrase that I seem to hear most often is ‘blogs are toxic’, as if to suggest the expression of an alternative point of view is somehow dangerous… or poisonous…"

I remember reading several years ago a Fortune article while flying on a business trip that talked about how Lotus Notes has transformed this particular consulting company. This must have been in the early days of email because whenever a consultant would have a question about some area in which they did not have expertise, they would just email all their other fellow consultants to get answers. Suddenly every consultant was instantly smarter. email had worked to de-hierarchalize this particular company so that employees were no longer just valued based on their particular ranking in the company's food chain; they were valued according to their knowledge and wisdom.

This is the upside of the declining cost of information.

Another potential benefit of information's cost decline is the lowered cost of platform. It's a positive result when illegitimately marginalized groups or individuals are empowered to advocate their point of view.

This can, understandably, be threatening to the status quo and to institutions who are used to having more control over their information. After the printed page lowered the cost of info, the Roman Catholic church was rocked. And so we read of Westminster Theological Seminary feeling the need to monitor its students' blogs, the Church of England's concern with staffer's blogging, etc. And I have had conversations with highly placed church leaders where they complained about how anyone with a computer can hold forth on blogs and criticize.

This radical shake-up in the status quo led to Time Magazine to select "You" as "Person of the Year" Reuters reports:

"You were named Time magazine "Person of the Year" on Saturday for the explosive growth and influence of user-generated Internet content such as blogs, video-file sharing site YouTube and social network MySpace.

"For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you," the magazine's Lev Grossman wrote."

Surely the declining cost of information is good or bad depending on the quality of the one speaking. Dehierarchalization works best when the members of a particular community are mature. That being said, I find myself in general agreement with Andrew that we are in a position of a net sum gain when it comes to new media and communication.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the bible experience

The Shields Family is doing Christmas in three phases this season:

Phase I was in Ellicott City, MD (our home) today.

Phase II will be in Charlotte, NC with Beth's sister Bonnie and her husband Phil. We'll also be visiting Warehouse 242 on Christmas Eve where we hope to catch up with Steve Knight, Anthony Smith and Rod Garvin. We'll go down there on Sat 23 Dec and then leave for...

Phase III in Danville, VA where my folks live, until the 31st or the 1st.

Today Beth received the Nano that I bought her. I was going to wait until we got to Charlotte before I gave her The Bible Experience, but decided to let her open that present just after she gave me exactly the same thing!

My first reaction was, "Cool! I'll get credit at Borders when I return it!" but then we listened to the Christmas story as a family today (which you can hear for free here). Now I've decided to keep it and am importing it into iTunes as I type.

I'm not sure there has ever been a more elaborately produced Bible. I use my English Standard Version Audio Bible quite a bit but haven't really been thrilled with dramatic readings of most audio Bible's I've ever heard. This was is different. Most of the readers are professional actors or speakers and they include sound effects and music. It's very well done - very compelling.

I'm not thrilled with the translation - it's Today's New International Version (TNIV) which I find to be a bit too paraphrastic though I used to read the New International Version (NIV) a lot. Before the English Standard Version (ESV) came out, I used to read the New American Standard Bible (NASB) in the New Testament and the New International Version in the Old Testament. For me, the ESV hits that sweet spot between a wooden literalism and a more free dynamic equivalent translations.

But - setting that aside - The Bible Experience really does seem to do a fine job at making the Bible come alive. We were all pretty amazed when we listened to it.

I mentioned to Beth that to listen to it is to want to buy one. I foresee that I'll be listening more to the historical sections of the NT with it. The NIV is the number one best-selling English audio Bible. I recently read that since The Bible Experience has come out in September that it has sold more copies than the NIV Audio Bible!

The full Bible is slated to come out in the Fall of 2007.

I can see why.

the mp3 on cd edition is available here from barnes & noble.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

If you are looking for great places from which to buy Christmas gifts...

...then rush right over to Catherine Claire's post where she lets us know about a number of online stores where money from your purchase will go to some fantastic causes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

steve mckoy posts the real truth about scot mcknight

- link

an around-the-room on emerging church criticism

jr woodward serves us by linking to a number of emerging church critiques - within and without the conversation - in this post.

Toward Creative Theology in Reformed Circles

David Wayne posted a fascinating reflection in response to my post yesterday wondering if there should be some emerging church theological boundaries:

"While Stephen is right that the emerging church needs to work on establishing the boundaries of orthodoxy, the reformed church needs to work on releasing the creativity of its members. Although I love the Westminster Confession and quote it all the time, it is not enough to remain fixated solely on the historic creeds and confessions. We're often like an army that is so concerned with protecting its base that it can never move out to engage and conquer new territory.

So, while Stephen is working toward establishing the boundaries of orthodoxy for emerging churches, maybe those of us who are members of reformed and otherwise confessional churches need to explore how we can release the creativity of our members. And how do we do this while remaining faithful to our standards, and using those standards as tools to build with, and not merely fortresses to protect" (links supplied, emphasis mine).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

what do emerging churches in the us believe?

I'm not sure how deep I'm going to get into this, but tonight I started poking around the statements of faith of emerging churches. I started with

I'm limiting myself to churches in the United States (sorry andrew, jordon, jason, steve, sivin, jamie, and others)

We'll see where this goes!

toward establishing the boundaries of orthodoxy for the emerging church

Dan Kimball writes:

"the "stereotype" which emphatically stated that emerging churches are rejecting historical doctrines and that most don't teach doctrines isn't a valid belief"

and he links to several churches that have doctrinal statements on their website in his post.

Dan's post makes me think that to gain a fuller understanding of actual on-the-ground emerging church theology, it would be helpful to do an around-the-room of as many specific emerging churches as possible to see what they have in their belief statements.

I thought it was an interesting coincidence that Dan posted this today as just last night I decided to start building out a faithmaps section on Creeds and Doctrinal Statements. Maybe I'll build out a section on emerging church statements of faith.

While recognizing the limits of doctrinal statements in transpropositional terms, it seems to me that it would be helpful to establish some doctrinal parameters beyond which we emergers cannot definitively go and still be called Christian. This boundary would extend beyond mere theism but would not extend as far as a thoroughgoing relativism. These boundaries would encompass non-negotiables, but would leave some theological space open for continued learning.

I'll just cut and paste a section from Are there Emerging Church Shibboleths?:


While surely agreeing that there are theological non-negotiables (see, for example, 2 Timothy 1:13,14 and 2 Thessalonians 2:15), even so Reformed and conservative a leading light as the great exegete John Murray once commented,

"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."

Murray 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"

(emphasis mine, from his article "Systematic Theology" - see Looking Beyond the Facade of Modernity, Part 2).


And to balance things out, perhaps we also need to develop minimal standards for orthopraxy, incorporating social justice concerns and personal spiritual formation practices (broad categories).

I fully realize that this is a controversial proposal and that there is no emerging church body representing all emergers that could make such a decision! I also realize that for some even talking this way is counter-cultural to their emerging church ethos.

But perhaps there is some statement to which interested emergers could subscribe that would provide them protection from being lumped in with theological excesses sometimes associated with some emerging church folks.

What do you think?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Andrew Jones: Best Emerging Church Blog*post* of 2006

I and about a thousand other folks enjoy reading what Andrew Jones posts every day. Today he's asking:

"What was the best single blog post in 2006 regarding the emerging church?

Not the best blog - that is soooo early millenium. But the best blog POST - lets find it . . . it should be recognized because the new blogosphere is more about individual posts and how they perform [their google-ranking, long tail, reach, artistic quality, etc] than it is about how many permanent links or daily visitors or how cool your blog looks. "

Make your nominations here!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

that which is primary

i am appreciating afresh the lausanne covenant and affirm that it provides for us an anchor in an ever shifting and variegated theological landscape.

i am tired of any impulse to push the theological edges and of any inordinate focus on the fringes.

i reject the new which is nouveau for its own sake.

i am tired of controversy.

i am tired of words crashing against words. ego in strife against ego.

i long for the simplicity of love and gratitude for jesus christ and for what God has done for us and in us through his beautiful Son.

Psalm 131

1O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
2Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
3O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.


Jesus is the answer. if we are not lost in Him, we are lost in that which is secondary.

even so, come Lord Jesus.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lunch with Reformed Blogger David Wayne

Had a delightful lunch today at the Olive Garden in Laurel, MD with Reformed Blogger David Wayne, pastor of Glen Burnie Evangelical Presbyterian Church. We met to discuss a project we're working on to facilitate discussion between the Reformed Community and the Emerging Church but ended up spending most of our time discussing John Frame, John Calvin, Zwingli, The Greatness of the Kingdom, Van Til, S Lewis Johnson, Zane Hodges, Stephen Covey, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Consubstantiation, Transubstantiation, Greg Bahnsen, the Reformed Tradition,, the Emerging Church, RC Sproul, Capital Bible Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, Type II Diabetes, the South Beach Diet, Presuppositional Apologetics, Scot McKnight, Brett Kunkle, Dan Kimball, John MacArthur, Dallas Theological Seminary, Silver Spring, MD, Jacksonville, FL, the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory, Gibbs and Bolger's Emerging Churches, Larry Crabb, John Whitcomb, Grace College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Premillennialism, Grace Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL, Richard Pratt, Classical Apologetics, Alva J. McClain, and transpropositionality. It was fun and I've noticed that when I meet with fellow bloggers f2f for the first time, this kind of all over the place conversation is common. I remember this happened when I met with Will Samson for the first time in addition to kenny sheppard.

Richard Mouw...

...launches a blog.

Dr. Mouw is the President and Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary.

ht: jr woodward

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dan Kimball Responds to John MacArthur on The Emerging Church

Dan Kimball, in a post entitled "Please Don't Stereotype the Emerging Church," responds to a letter sent out by John MacArthur's Grace to You Ministry promoting John's upcoming book The Truth War and a CD called "What's So Dangerous About the Emerging Church?"

Dan writes:

"Unfortunately, what I read in the letter was, in my opinion, hyper-exaggerations with nothing listed or a specific emerging church cited to back up his claims (at least in this letter, maybe he will in the book). If I was a radio listener and didn't know what the emerging church was about, after reading the letter I certainly would have my fear raised to buy his book to find out how to avoid them as the letter says they are a "threat" and "the danger is real". So the letter worked in terms of feeding off the ignorance of those who will only will be basing their understanding of the emerging church from this description. Let me show some examples of what he wrote in this letter..."

- the full post

The Fall 2006 issue of the Master Seminary's Journal is devoted to the Emerging Church.

MSNBC on Mark Driscoll and...

...his meeting with his critics.

ht: tim challies

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Nurtured Culture of Christian Disagreement

There's an interesting conversation in comments going on over at Steve McCoy's site about blogging and Christian disagreement. The first comment was by Tim Keller:

"After several years of reading blogs I conclude that these sharp exchanges between people with different points of view almost always generate far, far more heat than light. Blogs seem to best [sic] for helping like-minded people to share information and to mildly revise one another's thinking. Alan Jacobs (in an article on weblogs in May/June 2006 Books and Culture) said that blogs are 'the friend of information, but the enemy of thought.' I absolutely love blogs for getting news and opinion of all kinds, but the 'dialogues' are generally unhelpful. I'm sure everyone can point to one or two exceptions. But most of these interactions toward the pro- and anti-emergent caucuses usually just polarize people."

I think that this is generally true, especially concerning "sharp exchanges." I also think that these types of exchanges also don't generally work in face-to-face, in print, and other contexts. But there's no question that Christian disagreement is different in different forums. Witness, for example, the recent blogospheric explosion over Mark Driscoll's comments about the Ted Haggard situation but then its face-to-face resolution.

However, at times, we were able to have good discussions around topics on which we disagreed on the faithmaps discussion group before it disbanded a few months back after 5 years.

It has been my experience that mutually beneficial discussion around matters of disagreement are possible under two circumstances (and - ideally - both):

  • when both participants have a substantial amount of spiritual maturity, and/or

  • when the environment is well-moderated with a nurtured culture of Christian disagreement.
We've blogged and written extensively about such a culture here, and in the articles and posts linked to at the end of that post.

David Wayne just announced that he and I are working on an upcoming project to serve both the reformed and emerging communities. On that project, it is our intention to provide a context for just such a nurtured culture of Christian disagreement.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

John Owen on Overcoming Sin and Temptation

"I owe more to John Owen than to any other theologian, ancient or modern...."

JI Packer

I just started reading Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a combination of three of John Owen's works edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic, a couple of days ago.

I've briefly complained before that we in the emerging church don't tend to talk very much about sin, so my wading into John Owen is an attempt to rectify any accompanying imbalance in my own life. And I was also struck by a comment made not too long ago that indicated that we emergers might tend to gravitate toward more contemporaneous theological treatments and tend to avoid more time-tested texts such as those provided by Owen. (On the other hand, perhaps I should say that Tony Jones, as he recently mentioned, has edited texts of John Bunyan and Augustine.)

I've already found the book helpfully challenging; it's a substantial treatment of the soul. I'll post more later on my journey as I get deeper into Owens' thinking.

If you'd like to taste and see, Crossway has the entire book available to preview online.

I've also added God's Statesman: Life and Work of John Owen by Peter Toon to my Christmas Wish list. Kapic suggests it's the best Owen biography available.

In full disclosure, I probably should mention that Crossway sends me their new releases on request for review.

Toward Mutual Understanding: Mark Driscoll Meets with His Critics

UPDATE on Sat 2 Dec 2006 @ 10:53 AM ET

After a meeting between Mark Driscoll and his critics, the protest against Mark Driscoll by People Against Fundamentalism scheduled for tomorrow has been called off.

Paul writes

"People Against Fundamentalism is hereby calling off the protest of Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church’s Ballard campus on Sunday, Dec. 3. We will be issuing a press release as soon as possible on Saturday morning and contacting the media with this important information.

However, it is likely that not everyone will hear that the protest has been cancelled.

So, I will reach a hand of reconciliation across the plate to Mark on Sunday in order to get the word out to the city and protesters that Mark has repented of his inflammatory rhetoric. I will be there on Sunday—not in protest, but as a witness of Mark’s repentence—holding a sign saying, “Thank You Mark For Apologizing."

- Paul's full post

After the meeting, Mark Driscoll posted,

"...I also learned that as my platform has grown, so has my responsibility to speak about my convictions in a way that invites other people to experience charity from me, which means inflammatory language and such need to be scaled back. I was also sad and sorry to hear that various things I have said over the years have been received very personally by some people who felt personally attacked. A female pastor had a very good insight: as my platform has grown, so has my audience, and that in some sense I need to consider myself the pastor of two churches. In Mars Hill where I labor as a pastor who deeply loves his people, they are gracious with my faults and flaws because they know me and they know of my love for them. But outside of Mars Hill, for those who do not know me or my pastoral affection for people, the perception of me can be very different. Therefore, I need to learn how to function most effectively in a new role as someone given a broader voice to speak for Jesus. There is much to learn. To be honest, this is all new to me and comes quicker than I would have hoped for; I wish I was at this place in my fifties or sixties, following a longer period of maturing. However, Jesus obviously has something different planned for me."

- Mark's full post

Rose Madrid-Swetman, who was also at the meeting and had written an open letter to Mark Driscoll, said:

"Here are a few things I have learned:

Words on a blog or on a paper are one thing—people in a room who those words touch are quite another

Truth and mercy – a powerful combination

We are all life long learners on this journey where confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation is one of our highest callings.

That Mark and I may have serious theological differences but at the end of the day we have both given our lives for the sake of the gospel

I am hopeful that reconciliation has begun and will continue – time will tell.

I want to thank Mark for coming to the conversation as a peacemaker and not a street fighter. I pray God’s best for him and for Mars Hill Church."

- Rose's full post

Friday, December 01, 2006

Congratulations to DJ Chuang and Leadership Network

My friend DJ Chuang has just accepted a position at Leadership Network as their Director of Digital Initiatives.

I've been working with Leadership Network for some months now on a couple of special projects and have found them to be a Christ-focused, forward-thinking, and professional organization. I'm happy to hear that DJ will be partnering with Leadership Network as she seeks to resource innovative churches!

in what online forums do you talk about emerging church matters?

Someone reached out to me about joining the faithmaps discussion group, which we shut down some months ago.

Most of the discussion I see and track nowadays occurs in the comments of blogs; andrew and scot seem to have the most interactive readership base. But I'm wondering if there are any other yahoogroups or web-based discussion groups that emergers frequent. Would you let me know in comments if you have any recommendations?


Al Mohler on The Nativity Story

"...the movie faithfully presents the main thrust of the Christmas story. That is no small achievement.

The movie, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, takes some liberties with the biblical accounts found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Nevertheless, the invented scenes and dialogue do not distract from the biblical storyline. The screenplay by Mike Rich presents key truths such as the virgin conception and deity of Jesus with unambiguous clarity and artistic force."

- Al Mohler's full review of Hardwicke's The Nativity Story.

ht: Justin Taylor

Sadly, most critics are not as enthusiastic (26% today on the Tomatometer).