Thursday, September 25, 2008

Always Emerging

Fascinating post here from Scot McKnight following on from the anonymous jerk who posted on Out Of Ur (what really was his intent?) All about the Emerging Church continuing to define itself midst the great diversity of this 'movement'. Sounds interesting and if it helps focus EC evangelism then all good. EC is well positioned for evangelism it seems to me.

19 comments:

Rhett said...

Haha, "Anonymous jerk", eh?

How do you know it wasn't me!?

BJ said...

You wouldn't have been so peurile! Its annoyingly speculative and inaccurate. I'm all for Out of Ur being provocative, but they have the habit of being insulting to just about everyone's intelligence by trying to hype things that aren't there to be hyped. Its happened before.

Interestingly, they censored my comment taking issue with the sensationalist tone and the anonymous correspondent.

BJ said...

...and I think the fear that the report would be seen as divisive is why both Dan Kimball and Scot McKnight commented - slightly unusual you'd think.

Rhett said...

True. You know, I look at all of this in a more positive light, I think.

I think a movement that isn't in the same category with Emergent Village or anything Pagitt and Jones say is a good thing. Jono Mac posted about this too, and linked to a video (I claim all responsibility for putting him on to it), of Jones and Pagitt, and to use a phrase I heard recently, it was chilling to watch.

If Kimball (a guy I respect) et al have recognised a similar thing (referring to Kimball's blog post on the theology within the EC which we couldn't affirm - again, see Jono's blog) then I think that can only be a good thing.

Just imagine the positive impact some of these ideas could have, in areas they NEED to have impact, if they weren't somehow connected to the McLarens and Pagitts of this world, however tenuously. I find all of this exciting.

BJ said...

I don't have a problem with the developments - I think they will be positive. I just have a problem without Out of Ur. I think they are beating up a story which is quite different to what I read on Scot McKnight's blog.

BJ said...

See also Andrew Jones, the Tall Skinny Kiwi's observations:

http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2008/09/now-that-we-hav.html

Perhaps the semantic argument is parly that the term 'emerging' described a phenomenon more than an outcome? So words like 'missional' and 'incarnational' are more helpfully descriptive?

This will get as much airplay as the widely popularised myth that Bill Hybel's repented of being seeker sensitive! I wish I had shares in those buttons that people press to use the internet...there must be a way to get rich off it?

Rhett said...

Yeah, people do exagerate things online, for sure.

But I don't think it's worthwhile getting bent out of shape over. These things come and go. Paul Windsor talked of "waves" within Christianity on his blog.

Some are crap (Left Behind, Prayer of Jabez) and some add something and then dissapate (Purpose Driven *****).

Rachel said...

I'm getting the feeling that people might not love Brian McLaren... Forgive my ignorance (and I have no opinion on him having read next to nothing of his), but what is it people don't like?

BJ said...

Well he's interesting. He's a very good reader of cultural shifts from what I've read of him. I have probably found that to be the most helpful part of his writings.

Some suspect that he's heading off towards liberal Christianity. I've never read anything of his that has ever backed that up. But nor I have read everything he has put out. He is very much in the "salvation isn't just about a ticket to heaven but about the Kingdom of God" mould. A while ago I read a letter he wrote to Chuck Colson who was taking some shots at him and he said:

"...we both believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God to salvation – for the modern and the postmodern alike. Like you, I think, I am at heart an evangelist. Just as you and your good colleagues in Prison Fellowship have spent decades now entering the tough world of prisons for the sake of the gospel, many of us are entering the challenging arena of postmodern culture. Many people think of prisoners as worthless good-for-nothings, but your evangelistic heart and personal experience won’t let you reach that dismissive conclusion. I believe you can understand when I tell you I feel the same way about my friends and neighbors in postmodern culture as you feel about prisoners. I love them. I seek to treat them with gentleness and respect when they ask me the reasons for the hope I have in Christ."

I thought that was revealing.

I generally find him less compelling on the prescription for the future and more helpful on analysing whats going on in the culture. He's definitely trying to shake up American evangelicalism and maybe he's hyperbolic sometimes when he does this? A lot of the negative soundbites come from this stuff.

He released this Jesus Creed in 2004 which is perhaps the best, short 'read' on where he's coming from - but there are thousands of McLaren soundbites out there that will have him going straight to hell (if he believes in it that is):

The Jesus Creed
This creed was originally shared at the Emergent Convention, Nashville, May 2004.

By Brian McLaren

We have confidence in Jesus
Who healed the sick, the blind, and the paralyzed.
And even raised the dead.

He cast out evil powers and
Confronted corrupt leaders.
He cleansed the temple.
He favored the poor.
He turned water into wine,
Walked on water, calmed storms.

He died for the sins of the world,
Rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father,
Sent the Holy Spirit.

We have confidence in Jesus
Who taught in word and example,
Sign and wonder.
He preached parables of the kingdom of God
On hillsides, from boats, in the temple, in homes,
At banquets and parties, along the road, on beaches, in towns,
By day and by night.

He taught the way of love for God and neighbor,
For stranger and enemy, for outcast and alien.

We have confidence in Jesus,
Who called disciples, led them,
Gave them new names and new purpose
And sent them out to preach good news.
He washed their feet as a servant.
He walked with them, ate with them,
Called them friends,
Rebuked them, encouraged them,
Promised to leave and then return,
And promised to be with them always.

He taught them to pray.
He rose early to pray, stole away to desolate places,
Fasted and faced agonizing temptations,
Wept in a garden,
And prayed, �Not my will but your will be done.�
He rejoiced, he sang, he feasted, he wept.

We have confidence in Jesus,
So we follow him, learn his ways,
Seek to obey his teaching and live by his example.
We walk with him, walk in him, abide in him,
As a branch in a vine.

We have not seen him, but we love him.
His words are to us words of life eternal,
And to know him is to know the true and living God.
We do not see him now, but we have confidence in Jesus.

Amen.

Rhett said...

Rachael, I don't know that all this stuff is really worth the time and effort, especially if you haven't read McLaren's stuff.

I would say that I would recommend D.A. Carson's "Becoming Conversant With the Emerging Church" to anyone who had read McLaren and found him compelling. It should really be called "Becoming Conversant with Brian McLaren" but I thought it did a good job of highlighting what I would say were some areas of concern. Carson is a conservative theologian but he is fairly respected by a lot of people.

Rhett said...

Oh, I've also just seen this, and it's very good. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/september/38.59.html

It's an article where Scot McKnight talks about the positives and negatives of McLaren. It's good because McKnight is a scholar who considers himself part of the emerging church, so it's not a hatchet job.

McKnight sums up what is the biggest issue with BMac, I think.

"But I feel obliged to ask, "Can we have more?" Emergents believe that penal substitution theories have not led (as they should have) to a kingdom vision. What I have been pondering and writing about for a decade now is how to construct an "emerging" gospel that remains faithful to the fullness of the biblical texts about the Atonement, and lands squarely on the word kingdom. Girard said something important about the Cross; so does McLaren. But they aren't enough. The most stable location for the earliest understandings of the Cross, from Jesus all the way through the New Testament writings, is the Last Supper—and not a word is said there about violence and systemic injustice. Other words are given to explain the event: covenant, forgiveness of sins, and blood "poured out for many." Insight into the Cross must start here. In fact, I question whether a cross that only undoes violence is enough to create liberation, peace, and a kingdom vision. Can McLaren's view of the Cross create the emergent understanding of kingdom?"

... that's pretty fair, I think. For me, I believe the Gospel needs to be firmly grounded in 1 Corinthians 15, with a strong dose of Galatians 1 to warn us against messing with that (go ahead, read them!) :-). I'm happy to accept there were other messages being sent in Jesus work on the Cross, and other dimensions. But I agree with what St Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15: forgiveness from sin is the core. It just gives me the heeby-jeebees when I percieve Christians giving that away. And I get that vibe from BMac.

BJ said...

Good call Rhett - McKnight is a pretty balanced source, who seems to be well worth listening to on many topics. Actually McKnight and Witherington would be my go-to guys on most issues to get a sensible "read".

servant said...

Finally read the post from SMc that you linked to BJons and liked it very much.

Like him, ever since I discovered the terms, I have considered myself part of the very broad 'emerging'... thing. I flirted with Emergent Village for a while and still think there is some value there.... I'm not ready to mock them and say they make me want to vomit into my own mouth... but I haven't read as much from those guys as Rhett has, so it could well be a valid response. I'm not qualified to say either way and am in no position to create any sort of decent argument about it.

I'm happy that there is movement towards establishing something with a strong core within the conversation, but I'm not happy about that because the liberals frustrate me - I'm happy about it because critics continually did a poor job of acting as if some of the more liberal end that they disagreed with, represented the whole 'emerging' church... it was just poor form and showed an extreme lack of a working understanding of the terms. SMc does a good job of the same frustratingly poor use of terms playing out with the terms "fundamentalism" and "evangelical".

Jono Mac does a good job of displaying this weakness with this poorly thought out comment on his blog:

Kimball seems to want to go off and establish another movement based on the Lausanne Covenant. Which removes one more moderate voice from the whole conversation.

That voice is still in the conversation, as is McKnight's and McManus', because the 'emerging' conversation is much much bigger than Emergent Village. Emergent Village is one part of the conversation, not the definer of the wider shift... except in the eyes of the critics - which is where the problem lies.

McKnight demonstrates this well in his closing paragraph:

But we don’t think the worldwide emerging movement is dead; it is alive and well. We are happy to be part of it — as missional-evangelistic evangelicals who want to reach and speak and write for a postmodern generation as well as to the evangelical church at large.

The post at Out of Ur was extremely poor and predictably, those who have bayed for liberal blood as long as Emergent Village has been part of the conversation have leaped on it like hyenas on a bleeding antelope as if it somehow gives weight to their already poor assumptions - assumptions that lump every single broad nuance within the wider conversation into a very small pot defined by a minor part of that conversation.

The emerging church will go on existing... just with different terms... which will please the publishers and marketers no end, because they'll seemingly have a new 'product' to sell... and critics will have something new to put their sights on.

Rachel, the strength of Brian McLaren is in his questions - he asks great questions, and as Brett said, he has a great ability to assess culture. His weakness can be in the answers he gives to some of those questions. But I'm not one of the people he is trying to talk to, none of us at Cession are, so I don't expect what he has to say to draw me in... in much the same way that I expect what I do on the radio to frustrate and annoy people outside of our "target". If a 50 year old male thinks I'm being inappropriate if I discuss the question about whether or not it matters if Jesus was married for instance, it doesn't bother me... I'm not trying to talk to them.

I also expect it to frustrate people when I voice a deliberate stance to not give my opinion either way on homosexuality in public forums... the people it frustrates are not the people I'm trying to connect with by doing that... in much the same way it irked people when McLaren suggested a 5 year moratorium on the issue. I'm guessing that by doing that he was sending a message, and it wasn't to the people who were most vocal in their opposition.

Now there could be some bigger issues with McLaren... but I think much of it simply boils down to the fact that most of his critics aren't his target market and would rather he talked in a way that pleased them.

servant said...

This comment from Andrew Jones on his blog... quoted from one of his posts in 2004, sums it up nicely"

"I am as happy as anyone not to have a title or tag for what we are seeing, and instead just call it "church". None of us really need a name, nor do we care if it is the lastest thang or not - i am quite sure is isnt."

Language is interesting because it is always changing - I am a Protestant, but I'm not protesting against the Catholic Church like the first reformers were. I am a Wesleyan, but there will be stuff that I disagree with Wesley on. I am an evangelical - but so were the people in Jesus Camp, and I'm not much like them at all according to the use of the term in that doco. I am a Christian, but I do more than follow a set of values that could be described as judeo-christian. I am "born-again" but I hate that being used as a subset of Christians in Barna studies, because I think it actually refers to a group I don't identify with very much. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church - but I am neither Catholic, nor Apostolic (anymore). I am part of the emerging church, but am not part of Emergent. I am a witness for Christ, but don't go door-knocking with fellow believers to hand out free mags. I am conservative, but libertarian. I am right wing, but pragmatically left.

Terms and labels are problematic and too often it is antagonistic voices that give definitions to terms.

servant said...

...and to carry it on... should this now be called "commenting diarrhea"?... the fact that a group would wish to adopt the term "missional" highlights a problem.

The very DNA of the Church is missional - we are to engage in mission, no questions asked. It's modeled to us in the incarnation, it's instructed to us on the great commission, it's presented to us in the structure of the nation of Israel - it's highlighted in the work of the early disciples - it's who we are. For a group to think they need to focus there and highlight that this is who they are, shows that we're lacking this somewhere - that we've dropped the ball. People wanting to define themselves as 'missional' rather than simply 'church' demonstrates a problem in the wider institution. That problem in the wider institution is why there is something 'emerging'. the problem that this group emerging out of what was emerging has identified, is that in some, that DNA of mission has not truly played out... but the conversation continues.

As long as there are branches of the institution not engaging in mission, then there will always be people true to that DNA (call) emerging out of it - an examination will find that at the heart of many many movements within the Church from its inception.

BJ said...

Just managed to read the McKnight article R-SNE linked to - he's a smart one, for sure. A particularly interesting question indeed at the end of the quote you cited: does McLaren's foundation get him to his goal? Thats a fascinating question.

F-RIT - appreciate your thoughts. The language issue is a particularly interesting one. I hadn't thought of that problem with use of the word "missional" - its perhaps even more arrogant than emerging? I was once challenged (by an opinionated radio host!) about the way cession|community doesn't use the word "church" in its name as if we were saying something against the church by leaving it out. It was an interesting assumption. My point (I think) is that sometimes we make language choices for all different reasons - sometimes as corrective/protests against things, sometimes to draw attention to things we choose to emphasise, other times to neutralise connotations, other times to ask questions etc etc.

servant said...

I don't think the use of the word "missional" is a problem, or arrogant - though I think it highlights a problem.

The guys forming around the term are pretty switched on, for them to feel a need to indentify themselves around the term and mission focus, highlights a lack of focus on mission in the wider Christian institution. If that focus was there, would they feel a need to form a movement around mission?

Mission is intrinsic to Christianity itself - in an ideal world, there shouldn't be a need for people to gather around the term because it's something we should just be doing as part of who we are.

I like your explanation of language choices.

BJ said...

Also I found this article in the links at the end of the article R-SNE cited - on The Ironic Faith of Emergents - some great insights:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/september/39.62.html?start=1

servant said...

:) That article described me.