Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Coming Out

Not that kind of coming out--it seems there is a sort of theological coming out. Mike Wittmer is blog through Brian McLaren's new book. I commented in another post the other day. Mike has come back and left the following comment over on his blog.
The issue is that Brian is now openly saying what he used to only ask–even he says that “the cat is now out of the bag” so he feels free to say what he really thinks.
Just a comment on the emerging movement. There are some within who have had better theology than others--witness men like Dan Kimball and Scot McKnight. While we may have disagreements--they do not deny the basics of orthodoxy and the Rule of Faith. In other words, while they are trying to reach a new generation, even adapting and applying 1 Cor 9:19-23 to a young culture. They've done this, as near as I can tell, without changing the gospel.

What is sad and disheartening is that for a number of years a number for respected people have cautioned about the directions some within the movement were heading. Responses were often "we don't like the tone of your critiques," others have assured us "this is just a conversation." So we were told there was just a healthy questioning--asking "what ifs". Throughout this period, people have said these are more than just honest questions--they stated the tactics of some (not all) were designed to push Christianity away from historic orthodoxy. "No, no, you just don't understand us; you're not listening;" etc. etc. Those watching were assured there were no duplicitous motives--that orthodoxy was not being revised--and it never would be.

Consider this article, where we are told 'we affirm orthodoxy.'
no, we are not moral or epistemological relativists any more than anyone or any community is who takes hermeneutical positions – we believe that radical relativism is absurd and dangerous, as is arrogant absolutism; yes, we affirm the historic Trinitarian Christian faith and the ancient creeds, and seek to learn from all of church history – and we honor the church’s great teachers and leaders from East and West, North and South; yes, we believe that Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior of the cosmos and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus;
If indeed "the cat is now out of the bag"--what does this say about the methods and motives of those who have over and over called for patience, gentleness, and offered assurance that they were not opposed to orthodoxy and the Rule of Faith. What is saddening is that the resorted to such underhanded message. They may have spoken in parables to hide what they believed from the masses--but they were hardly Christ-like.

This reminds me of a parable that I once read in a different context. It went something like this:
There were some Bedouins out in the cold desert at night. Their camel camp to the tent and said "please let me in". The Bedouins responded, "You cannot come in, you will not fit." The camel asked "please just let me get my nose in so I will not be so cold--that's all I want." So the Bedouins let the camel get his in. A little later: "But my ears are still so cold, just let me have my head in--just my head, no more". Reluctantly, the Bedouins agreed because after all they could make room for the head. In the early hours of the morning when the winds picked up, the camel ask: "Oh please, it is so cold out here, can I just get my neck in--it is just my head and neck." Again the Bedouins agreed. Now camels have very strong necks. Upon bringing his neck into the tent, the camel through his neck around pushing the Bedouins out into the cold night. The camel pulled his whole body into the tent, leaving the Bedouins out in the cold.
I cannot help but think that this was the method of some of the emergent leaders who knew the whole time where they have wanted to go with theology--all the while assuring us they were just exploring within the big tent of Christianity.

Finally, here's a post from Jeremy Bouma a guy within emerging camps who is going to be taking the emergint theology to task. He seems to have had a more positive sort of 'coming out'. He questions the legitimacy of the new theology being produced. For example, he is going to be comparing Pagitt to Pelagius' writing. I would just add that these new theologies has been the concern of many of the critics from the beginning a number of whom were immediately dismissed as rapid heresy hunters. Those who knew a little history had said in effect 'we've seen this before'--this path will lead to nothing good. Interestingly Bouma writes:

I’m not exactly sure when my saucy love affair with emergent and liberal Christianity ended. My “I don’t” isn’t as crystalized as my “I do.”

Maybe it was when I read Pelagius‘ writings and realized much of Emergent theology really does mirror his 5th century theology.

Maybe it was after the former head of Emergent Village, Tony Jones, rejected original sin, a historic part of the Rule of Faith, claiming that it is “neither biblically, philosophically, nor scientifically tenable. “.

Maybe it was when I read Fredrick Schleiermacher and realized his and modern liberalism’s vapid, gospel-less faith are being repackaged and popularized to an unsuspecting, ignorant Christian community as a wholesome alternative to what has been.

Maybe it was after I read Karl Barth and realized the natural theology pushed by popular emergent theologians is not revitalizing Christian faith, but killing it; it is the same kind of faith Barth so vociferously fought against in order to preserve the historic Rule of Faith.

Maybe it was after reading a leading emerging church voice suggest that God and grace and the Kingdom of God are not tied directly and exclusively to Jesus Christ; ultimately its not really about Jesus, but about a vanilla, generalized World-Spirit god (lower-case “g”).

Regardless, what I’ve come to realize is that while Emergent may believe it is believing differently—and consequently believe it is offering the world a different Christianity that is more believable than the current form—in reality the emerging church simply believes otherly; the form of Christianity that this version of Christianity pushes is neither innovative nor different: it is a form of Christianity other-than the versions that currently exist but mirror those that have already existed.

Amen for the honesty. Those of us who are conservative still, this isn't the time for theological beat down as if we are rabid fundamentalists. We still need a humble orthodoxy. This is about what God's Word says--and seeking to following Christ and His teaching. For those who are becoming disenfranchised with emerging--this is not the time for "I told you so"--we win no one to the cause of Christ by puffing out our chests in triumphalism. We thank God for small gospel victories--we welcome those to through the Holy Spirit are seeing the gospel and the lack there of in some Emergent circles. We pray for deeper repentance and speak the truth in love. We rejoice where the truth of God's gospel is spreading.

UPDATE: Here is another post over at Novus Lumen, recounting more of the personal story of Jeremy Bouma whose post I quoted above. Here's an interesting line:

As I explained a few days ago, I’ve been part of the emerging church conversation for half a decade but have grown increasingly uncomfortable and saddened by the theological trajectory of the project. Deeply saddened, actually. This isn’t disillusionment. This is a deep sadness and heartache over what is happening from the top ranks. And what is that? A departure (perhaps deliberate?) among the leaders of Emerging Church Inc. from the historic Rule of Faith and a fashioning together of a new, fresh version of Christianity built on “other forms” of Christianity that have been deemed foreign to that Rule.

That version questions God’s “clear and certain” self-disclosure/revelation;1 minimizes actual individual culpability in rebellion;2 ignores the deity of Christ; downright denies the exclusivity of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ;3 reduces the cross to simply an example of love;4 denies real judgment and universalizes salvation,5 among others....

Over the past year or so, however, it seems like the later (missiology) has faded and the former (theology) has shifted. I have been struck in recent months by this realization: now that we’ve gotten the missional response to postmodern culture down, many believe the time for theological construction has begun; we “get” postmodern ministry, now we need an alternative Christian faith built on an alternative Christian theology. (emphasis original)

So began this new era of theological construction.

Again the more serious critiques of emergent have been questioning it's theology--not from some stodgy ivory tower doctrinaire--but from a living, life giving, gospel of Jesus. It is precisely this critique that has driven some of have responded to the emerging/emergent church: that they were proffering a new alternative Christian theology as opposed to the faith handed over the saints once for all time.

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