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.)

28 comments:

fr'nklin said...

stephen, I can't help but wonder if the general feeling is that nothing "good" would really come of a 'dialogue' w/ those in MacArthur's group...or any other anti-emerging group. My feeling is that I'm not interested in defending any of my beliefs/non-beliefs, but I'm very interested in moving forward with what God is leading me to do in my little corner of the world. It would be nice if JM would do the same.

Stephen said...

Hi Frank,

I hear you and if either party is in the discussion just to be proven right, then it's a waste of time. But if both enter discussion with an attitude of balancing advocacy with inquiry motivated by love, then I believe that each side has much to learn from the other.

andrew jones said...

i would probably comment if i found more relevance in the criticisms. but so far it seems very removed from my own belief systems and those i have encountered in the Ec.

maybe if he hits a nerve then more in the EC will respond. But at this point it is just some more shots directed at Brian McLaren.

Anonymous said...

I left this response on Michael's blog:

It seems I see the same thing over and over... and that is the phrase, "Who are they talking about?"

As a voice in this conversation, I can only conclude that John and his crew have no real clue who we are... if we can't recognize ourselves by his sweeping generalities and misinformation.

This is not new... John did this with the Charismatic movement... and Vineyard Church did a great response that still holds up well to John's newest folly... errr I mean volley of assaults against his brothers in Christ...

Many have said already, John may be great at expository teaching of the Bible, but as far as research and his books seems to thrive on conflict and divisiveness... which really runs contrary and hurtful to the title of his radio show "Grace to You". In fact as i have stated as a former listener, I realized it is Grace to you as long as you agree with John, otherwise it is hell to you...

The last thing is this… How are we to argue with someone who has placed themselves so high that they are themselves above correction? I find this is he case with many of the McArthurites out there. And the bottom line is how do you argue against someone who is basically slandering everyone with lie and innuendos? I think we should refer to scripture on John and call for his repentance…

Titus 3: 9-11 “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (NIV)

It seems that we of the “conversation” seek unity “in Christ” and like the Pharisees of old John and his crew, seek perfect doctrine.

Blessings,
iggy

Pastor Astor said...

OK, I have commented on introducing the ECM 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, so I believe I have filled my quota! :)
I find this kind of critisism very problematic. In Sweden the publishing of the first EC kind of books has been simultanious to the publishing of Carsons book. Many take a defensive stance from start, even more loose interest in the thing before even reading any of it. Those are the peopl I meet who have no idea of what I am talkin about, apart from the obvious: I am dead wrong! That can be a tad frustrating.

postmodernegro said...

Like I said in Michael Touhey's blog. Folks in a the MacArthur camp raise concerns within a conservative white theological ghetto that do not interest me. I don't see them sharing the same concerns as I do. They seem to be in another cultural orbit. I read through some of the articles posted on Pulpit magazine. I understand their concern. However, I do not see the possibility of them moving beyond their Euro-centric version of the gospel. They are so mired in Eurocentrism I don't know if I can engage them as an African-american emergent person...deeply wedded to the black prophetic church tradition.

postmodernegro said...

Another thing. It would seem that those in the emerging church movement that would respond to MacArthur are those Christians in close proximity, tradition wise, to him. I don't see what stake a mainline emergent person or a person like myself would get out of an engagement with him. He doesn't believe in ecumenity nor catholicity. His concerns seem to be for those in his theological orbit. Many of the Christians I know have never heard of this guy. What stake do they have in his concerns of the emerging church? Those of us who live in a different cultural and theological tradition?

When I read this stuff I cannot help but have the thought in my mind that this debate is mainly for those enamored of a very foundationalist euro-centric reading of the gospel. I don't know if I have a dog in this particular fight.

Stephen said...

anthony,

i found your comments very interesting. i would be interested in your thoughts on how MacArthur's critiques are specifically ethnocentric. How would you respond to their response that their concerns transcend ethnicity?

I would also have issues with MacArthur's concerns along lines I've indicated earlier, but not along ethnocentric lines. Nevertheless, my mind is open to be educated on this.

postmodernegro said...

His ethnocentricity comes out in that he assumes a foundationalist view of knowledge and a correspondence view of truth...which if we look at things socio-historically emerged out of European thought.

Holding to these prior philosophical assumptions in articulating what he holds to be a 'biblical' view of truth is a very euro-centric practice. To say, rhetorically, that one possesses a biblical (universal objective view of truth) makes one immune to being conscious of how his socio-political location informs his hermenuetic.

There is a Cartesianism lurking in the background of much of MacArthur's critique that needs to be called out. It's not like we are just postmodern relativist while he holds the unvarnished Truth. That's the way he comes off. And the way he comes off is that of a foundationalist...which is to be Eurocentric in his reading of Christianity and the emerging church. Foundationalism is a very Eurocentric way of reading texts.

So, does MacArthur's concern transcend ethnic realities? As long as he assumes foundationalism in his theologizing then I am afraid not.

Stephen said...

Hi Anthony,

Interesting. What is your understanding of foundationalism and can you supply examples of MacArthur's foundationalist bent? Also, what is your epistemological concern with foundationalism? Again, I'm not striving to defend MacArthur here, but I'm not sure sure going after his his eurocentrism is the path to take. (I'm not even denying he is eurocentrism - or that I am - but I am seeking to see how that specifically makes his assertions problematic).

Regarding

"To say, rhetorically, that one possesses a biblical (universal objective view of truth) makes one immune to being conscious of how his socio-political location informs his hermenuetic."

is there any trans-cultural truth?

And, if so, by what criteria do we legitmate transcultural truth?

Thanks Anthony! I respect your learning and perspective in this - just seeking specifics.





What is the epistemological basis for more African centric theology?

postmodernegro said...

"What is your understanding of foundationalism and can you supply examples of MacArthur's foundationalist bent?"

On his section on the clarity of scripture (and the apparent lack of it by the ecm) McArthur talks about certainty and the clarity that 'all' people can have if they simply read the text. This sounds reminiscent of Descartes' 'clear and distinct ideas'. There seems to be the suggestion that any 'rational' person can come to the same conclusion if they just read the text. The bible, MacArthur seems to be saying, has an universal epistemic access to it. We can somehow come to the 'clear truth' of scripture if we just 'read' it like rational people. Two problems arise there. Epistemologically there is the assumption that we can read scripture from 'nowhere'. That we can achieve an epistemological purity and nakedness of the truths of scripture. That we can read scripture outside of our racial, gendered, social, economic context. There seems to be a denial that our knowledge of the truth can be both partial and fragmented. There is also a hint of a betrayal of the Reformed tradition's insistence that humans are depraved and that there are noetic effects on the whole human person. That whatever good and truth we come to is not on our own powers, be they morally or epistemologically, but by the grace of God. It seems that the Reformed perspective on human or total depravity would have a hard time admitting that humans can epistemologically possess the 'clear truth' scripture by their own rational powers. Like MacArthur says, 'anyone'. Anyone can come to the truth if they just read it rationally. He seems to betray his own tradition's stance on human depravity. That's one issue. So, firstly, the question is does MacArthur betray key doctrinal positions within his own Tradition. Does he? By saying that human rational powers can self-sufficiently possess the truth unvarnished is he not capitulating to some kind of epistemological Arianism?

The second is that when he speaks of biblical Christianity he is really talking about his own tribal version of Christianity, some form of conservative Evangelicalism? He doesn't speak from the heavens. He is speaking from within the particular Christian tribe he stays warm in. But he presumes to speak for Christianity in a 'universal' sense by invoking the infamous 'the bible says this.' So his concerns regarding the ECM are really concerns to his particular tribe of Christians...not necessarily the concerns of some universal Christian belief-system that exists in MacArthur's imagination. There are Christian traditions that admit that our knowledge of truth that is given witness to through scripture is partial and provisional...but never is our 'knowledge' universal and objective...a naked possession of the truth.

"Again, I'm not striving to defend MacArthur here, but I'm not sure sure going after his his eurocentrism is the path to take."

To be foundationalist is to be Euro-centric. For it is within the context of European culture that modern foundationalism (the belief in the universal, ahistorical, asocial, acultural, apolitical 'i') arose. By going after his foundationalism I'd have to go after his eurocentrism. For eurocentrism would have us believe that these 'deeper' theological issues escape issues of how we are raced and located socially and economically. It is usually the voice of privilege and those most closest to a eurocentric reading of 'truth' that have a hard time with this. I tend to be suspicious of anyone wielding something called 'biblical' Christianity like an ideological sword. It was once biblical to consider my ancestors as having no soul, lacking the capacity for intelligence, and so forth. All believed under the guise of 'biblical' Christianity. To claim up front that one possesses a universal, neutral, dis-interested version of Christianity, historically, has been a guise for the worsest of human evils.

To say that McLaren takes a more Reformed Augustinian/postmodern view of scripture (a call for proper confidence) as opposed to MacArthur's modernist Rousseauean position that we can obtain naked truth apart from the fuzziness of tradition and one's social location is a call, on MacArthur's part, to possess a foundationalist version of Christianity. Not necessarily, as he suggests, a more 'biblical' form of Christianity. He wants us to join his particular tribes epistemological account of the Christian tradition. Some of us are wary of that call.

"To say, rhetorically, that one possesses a biblical (universal objective view of truth) makes one immune to being conscious of how his socio-political location informs his hermenuetic."

is there any trans-cultural truth?

Yes. That God 'is'. But our possession of the full meaning of God's existence will forever escape us...for we are not God.

"And, if so, by what criteria do we legitmate transcultural truth?"

Each tribe has its own way of 'legitimating' truth. This does not commit us to a raw relativism but it does commit us to the practice of epistemological humility regarding our truth-claims. There has to be discussion, debate, and a constant reflection and argument with the whole of Christian tradition, there has to be worship, and the basic practices of Christian community. There has to be a communal wrestling with the text and the Holy Spirit. The truth should come forth after much wrestling and acknowledgment of our racialized, social, finite, and sinful selves. If we cannot go this route to seek and discuss the truth then we take the historical option of whipping out our epistemological swords and yell out, "turn or die."

And ever after we have communal wrestling with the text and God's Spirit we still won't be in possession of the truth as God does.

postmodernegro said...

"What is the epistemological basis for more African centric theology?"

I'd say African theology does not have an epistemological basis but an ontological one. I'd say that prophetic black theology is based on 'God'.

To even ask the question as to what epistemological basis is assumed in African theology is to ask a foundationalist question. As if to say all valid forms of knowledge have to have a 'basis'.

In African theology God is assumed to exist. There is no need for one to 'legitimate' or 'justify' one's belief in God. To submit God to such a scrutiny is to put God in the dock and have some prior epistemological basis prior to God's own being and existence.

So...we start there. God is there. But we see that God does things. God seems to side with the oppressed and vulnerable (ala Exodus and Jesus). That would be the starting point of prophetic black theology...as I understand it. Of course African theology is no monolith either. You have folks who presume to indigenous African theology but are really re-hasing imperial forms of Christianity.

Stephen said...

Hi Anthony,

Thank you for your detailed response.

Regarding your comment:

"On his section on the clarity of scripture (and the apparent lack of it by the ecm) McArthur talks about certainty and the clarity that 'all' people can have if they simply read the text."

In your comments on the understandability of Scripture, are you referring to this passage in MacArthur's Brian McLaren and the Clarity of Scripture (part 1)?

"The doctrine of the clarity (or perspicuity) of Scripture (that the central message of the Bible is clear and understandable, and that the Bible itself can be properly interpreted in a normal, literal sense) has been a cornerstone of evangelical belief ever since the Reformation."

Regarding your comment:

"The bible, MacArthur seems to be saying, has an universal epistemic access to it. "

By "universal" do you mean "exhaustive" or do you mean "all individuals?"

Regarding

"Epistemologically there is the assumption that we can read scripture from 'nowhere'. That we can achieve an epistemological purity and nakedness of the truths of scripture. That we can read scripture outside of our racial, gendered, social, economic context. There seems to be a denial that our knowledge of the truth can be both partial and fragmented."

Anthony, I would say here (speaking for myself and not for MacArthur) that the fact of subjective knowing and the fact of limited knowing does not vitiate the reliability of knowing. Put another way, I suggest with respect that the fact that you and I know subjectively and only know partly does not deny that we know reliably and in a way that can be communicated. Otherwise, this very conversation is an utter waste of both of our time.

Let me just "show my hand" and jump ahead a bit in this conversation and suggest that in my opinion a key problem in the larger epistemological conversation into which you and I are dipping is the difference between an anthropological epistemology and that of a theocentric epistemology. The former is - you will probably recognize - very modern and postmodern at the same time. Modern in that it also begins at Descartes irreducable starting point and then postmodern as the hopelessness of that starting point is realized. A theocentric epistemology assumes that the finite cannot commprehend the infinite unless the infinite reveals. It is utterly humbling because the epistemic starting point is elsewhere than man. Yet a theocentric epistemology is - prima facie - arrogant because of the consistent claim of reliability. See this conversation between Brian and I for me on this.

Regarding

"There is also a hint of a betrayal of the Reformed tradition's insistence that humans are depraved and that there are noetic effects on the whole human person. That whatever good and truth we come to is not on our own powers, be they morally or epistemologically, but by the grace of God. It seems that the Reformed perspective on human or total depravity would have a hard time admitting that humans can epistemologically possess the 'clear truth' scripture by their own rational powers. Like MacArthur says, 'anyone'. Anyone can come to the truth if they just read it rationally. He seems to betray his own tradition's stance on human depravity. That's one issue."

Not sure exactly where he says that but if he does, I think you have a fair point.

Regarding

"The second is that when he speaks of biblical Christianity he is really talking about his own tribal version of Christianity, some form of conservative Evangelicalism? He doesn't speak from the heavens. He is speaking from within the particular Christian tribe he stays warm in. But he presumes to speak for Christianity in a 'universal' sense by invoking the infamous 'the bible says this.' So his concerns regarding the ECM are really concerns to his particular tribe of Christians...not necessarily the concerns of some universal Christian belief-system that exists in MacArthur's imagination."

But is there some irreducible complexity of Christianity without which there is no Christianity?

Regarding

"There are Christian traditions that admit that our knowledge of truth that is given witness to through scripture is partial and provisional...but never is our 'knowledge' universal and objective...a naked possession of the truth."

If by "universal" here you mean "exhaustive" then I deny with you that is accessible to us. Is that what you mean?

Regarding

"To be foundationalist is to be Euro-centric. For it is within the context of European culture that modern foundationalism (the belief in the universal, ahistorical, asocial, acultural, apolitical 'i') arose. By going after his foundationalism I'd have to go after his eurocentrism. For eurocentrism would have us believe that these 'deeper' theological issues escape issues of how we are raced and located socially and economically. It is usually the voice of privilege and those most closest to a eurocentric reading of 'truth' that have a hard time with this. I tend to be suspicious of anyone wielding something called 'biblical' Christianity like an ideological sword. It was once biblical to consider my ancestors as having no soul, lacking the capacity for intelligence, and so forth. All believed under the guise of 'biblical' Christianity. To claim up front that one possesses a universal, neutral, dis-interested version of Christianity, historically, has been a guise for the worsest of human evils."

I hear you here and I resonate with you here (though I'm not naive enough to claim I know to the degree that you know). But I would suggest that there is a difference between the affirmation of ethno-agnostic truth which cares nothing of the charge of ethnocentric privilege and the affirmation of transcendent truth that applies to all races that is deeply concerned with justice and humble to correction to its own subjective perspective.

Regarding

"To say that McLaren takes a more Reformed Augustinian/postmodern view of scripture (a call for proper confidence) as opposed to MacArthur's modernist Rousseauean position that we can obtain naked truth apart from the fuzziness of tradition and one's social location is a call, on MacArthur's part, to possess a foundationalist version of Christianity."

But, Anthony, does MacArthur really say this or does he open himself up to the possibility of believing this because he doesn't deny it?

Regarding

""To say, rhetorically, that one possesses a biblical (universal objective view of truth) makes one immune to being conscious of how his socio-political location informs his hermenuetic.""

(who's being quoted?)

I would respectfully suggest that a both-and approach is possible with a theocentric epistemology.

I had asked,

"Is there any trans-cultural truth?"

You responded,

"Yes. That God 'is'. But our possession of the full meaning of God's existence will forever escape us...for we are not God. "

Anthony, if by "full" you mean "exhaustive" then I fully agree. But I would affirm that reliable access to transcultural truth (that both doesn't forget racial injustice and doesn't forget it's own racial and social situation and the attend potentiality of error) is possible.

I had asked,

""And, if so, by what criteria do we legitmate transcultural truth?""

(oops, that sd be "legitimate")

You had responded:

"Each tribe has its own way of 'legitimating' truth. This does not commit us to a raw relativism but it does commit us to the practice of epistemological humility regarding our truth-claims. There has to be discussion, debate, and a constant reflection and argument with the whole of Christian tradition, there has to be worship, and the basic practices of Christian community. There has to be a communal wrestling with the text and the Holy Spirit. The truth should come forth after much wrestling and acknowledgment of our racialized, social, finite, and sinful selves. If we cannot go this route to seek and discuss the truth then we take the historical option of whipping out our epistemological swords and yell out, "turn or die."

And ever after we have communal wrestling with the text and God's Spirit we still won't be in possession of the truth as God does."

I wholly affirm the last sentence.

Regarding the rest, I would still wish to explore with you the degree to which all this conversation would be continually moving toward the truth revealed by the One who created our minds and the One who created our language and who knew how to speak to us in such a way as to provide us with reliable knowledge.

blessings and thank you for the conversation!

Stephen said...

Hi Anthony,

Regarding

"I'd say African theology does not have an epistemological basis but an ontological one. I'd say that prophetic black theology is based on 'God'.

To even ask the question as to what epistemological basis is assumed in African theology is to ask a foundationalist question. As if to say all valid forms of knowledge have to have a 'basis'.

In African theology God is assumed to exist. There is no need for one to 'legitimate' or 'justify' one's belief in God. To submit God to such a scrutiny is to put God in the dock and have some prior epistemological basis prior to God's own being and existence.

So...we start there. God is there."

That sounds pretty Van Tillian!

Not sure "basis" condemns me to foundationalism but perhaps. I'll need to study this.

Anonymous said...

hi anthony and stephen,

i don't have anything to add to the conversation at this time. admittedly, i need to do a lot more reading and studying to truly appreciate the conversation. however, i just wanted to encourage you both by letting you know how helpful this conversation is to me.

thank you for it.

brad

postmodernegro said...

Stephen,

You got me! I am very VanTillian. But of course VanTil's presuppositionalism comes from his Augustinianism in the Reformed tradition. And we both know that Augustine was African. Aha! LOL!

A couple of things. When you ask about there being 'irreducible' Christian beliefs I assume you mean an essential core of Christian beliefs that are non-negotiables. Am I right? I believe there can be such a thing but I do not believe they escape interpretation. All our claims to knowledge and truth are theory-laden and arise from within a particular Christian tradition and community. That MacArthur is raising the banner of the clarity of scripture sounds like he is saying we have a pre-linguistic access to the 'truth' of scripture. Admittedly, he invokes elements of the Reformation tradition in doing this. He seems to be suggesting that we can possess an un-interpreted reading of the scripture. I disagree with that based upon my own assumptions regarding theological anthropology. I believe that human knowledge of the truth is both partial and provisional. Our 'interpretations' never bring us to the essence of reality nor the butt-naked truth. A couple of reasons:

1. The noetic effects of sin.
2. We are finite creatures.
3. Eschatological. We live in the present age with the inbreaking of the age to come in Jesus Christ. Our knowledge displays this eschatological tension between this fallen present age and the age to come. Our knowledge, truth-claims, and interpretations of texts will be partly influenced by particular socio-political formations of either the present age (eurocentrism, imperialism, American individualism, etc.) AND the age to come (which point more to the truth, beauty and goodness of God).

To claim that we have uninterpreted, disinterested, pure possessions of the truth seems to suggest that the Eschaton has come and Christ has finally defeated sin and death in toto...even its socio-political formations that influence our reading of texts. MacArthur seems to claim an eschatological reading of the biblical text that assumes Christ has returned and all crooked places have been made straight.

postmodernegro said...

By 'universal' I mean the belief that 'all' rational minds can come to mental agreement of the truth of scripture. I was pointing out his comment that smacks of Descartes belief that the rational mind can possess clear and distinct ideas. He conflates this Cartesian belief with his own appropriation of the clarity of scripture espoused by Reformation thinkers. 'All' rational minds cannot come to the 'truth' of scripture as a possession that turns a life around apart from the grace of God, Holy Spirit, and the community of the faithful.

Again. I hear a smathering of Arianism when he says we can 'all' come to the truth of the text with our human powers of reason...unaided reason. He doesn't like the idea that our readings of the Bible are theory-laden and profoundly influenced by the socio-political context we inhabit.

Oh and yes. I am referring to his Part 1 on McLaren. I cannot move beyond part 1. Part 1 seems to be the assumption of the majority of his posts on the ECM. He assumes, in his particular reading of the clarity of scripture, that we can approach and read scripture with unaided reason...that we can read the text 'outside' some linguistic-social-political context. I think the insights of pre-modern Christianity, Reformed throught, and echoes of postmodern thought have shown us that we don't possess an ahistorical, apolitical, asocial, aeconomical, aracial existence. We are social selves profoundly shaped by the lingquistic-social-political formations we inhabit.

MacArthur's Arianism is very troubling. He uses an ancient heresy to point out heresy. Ironic.

postmodernegro said...

Sorry...wrong heresy. I meant to say MacArthur's Pelagianism...not Arianism. That goes for the rest of my post on his belief that humans are untainted by the noetic effects of sin in our reasoning abilities.

He has a very Pelagian view of human rationality and reception of truth.

Stephen said...

anthony,

Thoroughly enjoying the conversation and learning from it. Keep it comin'.

You wrote:

"You got me! I am very VanTillian. "

I love that guy though I also resonate with Schaeffer's modification of presuppositionalism that assumes man's inconsistency. I've been working through Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis by Bahnsen, but haven't finished it yet.

You asked,

"A couple of things. When you ask about there being 'irreducible' Christian beliefs I assume you mean an essential core of Christian beliefs that are non-negotiables. Am I right?"

Yes, that's what I mean.

Regarding

"That MacArthur is raising the banner of the clarity of scripture sounds like he is saying we have a pre-linguistic access to the 'truth' of scripture."

by "pre-linguistic" I assume you are imbuing "linguistic" with socio-ethnic weight.

Regarding

"3. Eschatological. We live in the present age with the inbreaking of the age to come in Jesus Christ. Our knowledge displays this eschatological tension between this fallen present age and the age to come. Our knowledge, truth-claims, and interpretations of texts will be partly influenced by particular socio-political formations of either the present age (eurocentrism, imperialism, American individualism, etc.) AND the age to come (which point more to the truth, beauty and goodness of God)."

I thought this was very pregnant and would love to hear you expand. I haven't really heard or read anyone teasing out the nexus of eschatology and epistemology. It would be interesting to apply such an analysis to the epistemological and eschatological situation of all the different kinds of folks running around in the 1st century - folks having faith in the OT God, in John the Baptist only, in the living Jesus only, in the Resurrected Jesus, etc.

re:

"To claim that we have uninterpreted, disinterested, pure possessions of the truth seems to suggest that the Eschaton has come and Christ has finally defeated sin and death in toto...even its socio-political formations that influence our reading of texts. MacArthur seems to claim an eschatological reading of the biblical text that assumes Christ has returned and all crooked places have been made straight."

Anthony, I still hear back of your comments - and tell me if I'm wrong - .... maybe we sd drop the MacArthur aspect of this conversation which is becoming less interesting to me as we dive down into our epistemological situation. I digress because my sense of MacArthur - to show my hand again - is that he is somewhat modern (every theological i dotted and every theological t crossed) and perhaps doesn't appreciate the transpropositional aspects of truth...

Anyway, I still want to maintain that there is a difference between our not knowing fully (which I see affirmed in Scripture (e.g. Dt. 29:29, etc) and our knowing the partial (which God has revealed) reliably. And - on this last note - I do wish to admit that there are portions of Scripture that are more straightforward (note the basis of Jesus' rebuke in Luke 24:25) and portions that are more difficult (2 Peter 3:16).

But I think that we must eschew, Anthony, any notion that folks have to be freakin' brilliant before they can understand Scripture (though - admittedly - the brilliant will always find depths they have not yet explored sufficiently), while not at the same time collapsing the perspecuity of Scripture to the idea that understanding all Scripture is drop dead easy.

Stephen said...

Hi Anthony,

regarding

"By 'universal' I mean the belief that 'all' rational minds can come to mental agreement of the truth of scripture. I was pointing out his comment that smacks of Descartes belief that the rational mind can possess clear and distinct ideas. He conflates this Cartesian belief with his own appropriation of the clarity of scripture espoused by Reformation thinkers. 'All' rational minds cannot come to the 'truth' of scripture as a possession that turns a life around apart from the grace of God, Holy Spirit, and the community of the faithful."

I'm not sure he's saying all this!

re

"He doesn't like the idea that our readings of the Bible are theory-laden and profoundly influenced by the socio-political context we inhabit."

My comments above being said, I doubt seriously he's thought as deeply as you on this subject.

Anthony, regarding the general perspicuity of Scripture, I still wish to affirm it and I don't think that it necessarily denies either your concerns about justice or that there are difficult portions of Scripture. Witness Dt. 30:11-1, Ps 19:7-9, Ps 119:130, 2 Tim 3:14-17, 2 Peter 1:3-4

postmodernegro said...

Stephen,

I agree that one does not have to be brilliant to understand scripture. My grandma used to tell me that the bible is best read while on one's knees.

I agree that using MacArthur as my straw man for foundationalist epistemology is not very helpful. I am giving him way too much credit in these posts.

I am working through the nexus of eschatology, epistemology, and interpretation within particular socio-political formations. I think there is alot of promise there as we continue to navigate this postmodern world.

While I agree that postmodern skepticism can lead to a profound subjecitivism I also believe that postmodernity illumines (at least the more Continental versions) for us the various ways we are disciplined, discipled, and formed by the socio-political matrices we inhabit. For instance living in America many North American Christians privilege a white aesthetic when presenting a 'biblical' version of Christianity. I think this speaks to the Eschatological tension in just one of many areas. The 'powers' bring havoc in our socio-political formations influencing us to be more wedded to the present age. Specific Christian counter-cultural practices and habits can give us the ability to hold on to the age to come while we wrestle our lives away from the present age.

Anonymous said...

ephen,

i tried to follow your link to your email conversation with brian mclaren concerning the larger epistemological conversation in regards to an anthropological epistemology and a theocentric epistemology. however i wasn't able to read it as im not a part of the yahoo group of faith mappers. could you repost it somewhere i might be able to read it? i would greatly appreciate it as i think it would help me in following this conversation with you and anthony.

admittedly, i believe that it (the conversation about epistemology) is one that i need to be involved with so that i may learn more and grow more.

thanks for your help.

Anonymous said...

sorry, that last post was supposed to start with...

'hi stephen'

not sure why it came out 'ephen'.

Stephen said...

hi brad, i guess the archives were no longer publicly avail after I shut down the discussion group. i've reposted the conversation on this blog.

Anonymous said...

stephen,

much appreciated. i've got a lot of catching up to do. thanks for the help.

Stephen said...

Hi Anthony,

You wrote:

"I agree that one does not have to be brilliant to understand scripture. My grandma used to tell me that the bible is best read while on one's knees."

:)

Great quote.

as:

"For instance living in America many North American Christians privilege a white aesthetic when presenting a 'biblical' version of Christianity. "

I think this is true.

Anonymous said...

Anthony, I loved reading all of your thoughts, it really provoked a lot of head nodding as well as additional thought on my part. Well done.

As for the topic of the original post - I really only find productive criticism that is specific and fair worthy of my attention. If it doesn't apply to me or if it's vague and general then there's no point.

Michael seems to be suggesting that we aren't responding because we don't want to accept the possibility of being proved wrong - maybe it's because we're peacemakers and too busy advancing God's kingdom to indulge in vain and foolish arguments.

Sivin Kit said...

"maybe it's because we're peacemakers and too busy advancing God's kingdom to indulge in vain and foolish arguments."

I will second to the above statement as representing where I am right now. Partly because I'm a little preoccupied with other pressing matters in my context and I don't want to be dragged into other people's debate.