Emerging/Emergent


Brian “Orthodoxy, Schmorthodoxy!” McLaren recently posted on his blog about “Religious Right Insanity, Evangelical Cowardice: Enough is Enough” in which he wrote:

I’m disgusted by the latest absurdity from the religious right covered in the clip below. I’m also depressed by the lack of courage among Evangelical leaders to speak out strongly against it (also covered in the clip below). How about it, Evangelicals? How many of you will join Frank Schaeffer and say, "Enough is enough?"

Now that really piqued my interest; if McLaren is against it, it must be incredibly commendable, in my view – he only seems to be against things which even vaguely smack of Biblical fidelity.

What’s Brian got his underbritches all in a bunch about? Some Christians, in praying for Obama, have chosen an imprecatory Psalm – namely, Psalm 109:8:

Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.

E-gads!!!  The unmitigated horror!  Where is the outrage?  Where is the handwringing and such-like?

…oy.

I’d received the same thing via e-mail earlier in the week, and quite honestly thought it clever; and I happen to agree with the intended sentiments.  Indeed, may his days (in office) be few, and let another (even Clinton was less liberal, and sadly enough would be an improvement) take his office in 2012.  Amen, and amen, and amen.

Why is McLaren overwrought?  Because to him, any opposition to Obama is impermissible.  Free thought is only tolerated when that thought is in line with accepted Party doctrine.

Brian: take a deep breath.  Most of us oppose Obama’s policies because we believe they are fundamentally flawed.  You really need to learn how to deal with it when people don’t believe the same way that you do.

And, by the way – Frank Schaeffer, an Evangelical?  If he’s an “evangelical,” then the term has truly lost all its original meaning.

So not only will I not be joining Frank, I’ll instead grin and repeat my new prayer for our current administration:

Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.

Ministry Today’s article, Is Our Gospel Becoming Too Social.

Mark “Blankety-blank” Driscoll comments on Time Magazine’s having named New Calvinism the third biggest idea that is changing the world at this particular time.

He then names four ways in which “New Calvinism” differs from “Old Calvinism.”

I couldn’t help but to comment on his fourth point:

Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.

Yeah.

Like calling non-Calvinists “Semi-Pelagian.”  That builds lots of bridges, to say nothing of goodwill.  I feel incredibly loved.

:mrgreen:

Seriously, I’ve said it before, I dig Driscoll.

But he’s got something a bit stronger than “intentional cultural relevance” in his pipe if he thinks he’s building bridges with us poor, unwashed Semi-Pelagian peasants…

In an effort to continue to be hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money relevant like the Emerging/Emergents say I should be, I think it’s time that I roll out my very first über-pretentious “look at me, I’m culturalMusic Monday.

This band combines subtle undertones which weave a delightful genash of plethoboronic supertensions inundated with just a hint of thyme and blah blah blah blah insert pointless relevant cultural commentary on the music here yadda yadda yadda –

– er, ah…sorry.

Ahem.

I saw this over on Dr. James White’s Pros Apologian blog, and thought it was rip-roariously hilarious.

Enjoy…

 

If you don’t already subscribe to the RSS feed for the Theological Word Of The Day, correct that oversight immediately.  TWOTD is a stupendous resource, giving very helpful summaries of important theological words and terms.  It’s one of the blog feeds I read on a very regular basis, operating as I do under the twin assumptions that (1) you can’t know too much about God, and (2) theology, being the study of God, is an indispensable resource for it.

September 26th’s word was analogia entis – the “analogy of being,” a very, very important concept, especially in light of so much of the ECM’s love-affair with “chastised epistemology” which in essence states that we can’t really know anything for certain about God except that we can’t really know anything for certain.

Tony Jones summarized this sort of thinking well in his published dialog with Collin Hansen over the differences between the newbreed “Young Calvinists” and the Emergents:

Where we probably differ is not so much on theology, but on epistemology. That is, it seems the difference between the people you profile in Young, Restless, Reformed seem pretty darn sure that they’ve got the gospel right, whereas the Emergents that I hang out with are less sure of their right-ness. In fact, they’re less sure that we, as finite human beings, can get anything all that right.

The Emergent party line is that, as result of the noetic effects of sin (that is, that among other things the Fall corrupted the mental faculties of man – which I agree with, BTW, and why I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for the Presuppositional Apologetic) we as humans ultimately can’t know anything with an absolute degree of certainty save that we can’t know anything else than that with an absolute degree of certainty.

In other words, since we are finite, fallen beings, it is impossible to fully know an infinite, holy God; and by extension (they say), we cannot know Him directly at all, but only obliquely, and imperfectly at that.

The argument, however, presupposes what it tries to prove – it begs the question, in other words.  It presumes that an incapacity for absolute knowledge precludes a capacity for moral certitude.

In other words, though I as a finite, fallen human cannot know God with absolute clarity, I can know what I know of God and what He has revealed of Himself with absolute certainty.

I can know, for instance, that God is good, holy, loving, and just, and that He took upon Himself human flesh, suffered and died, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead. I can know that His Word is true, and that any problems I have with that Word derive from myself and not the Word itself.

Anyway.

Back to the point of this blogpost…TWOTD posted a brief article on analogia entis which answers the ECM’s “chastised epistemology” party line very well; turns out this isn’t a new idea at all, and that the faithful in the church have dealt with this already in ages past and come up with a very sound position:

The belief that there exists an analogy or correspondence between the creation and God that makes theological conversation about God possible. While many would say that finite beings with finite language cannot describe an infinite God, theologians of the medieval era discussed this problem, seeking to resolve it by developing a theory which alloted the communication of words into three separate categories. Some words are univocal (always used with the same sense), some were equivocal (used with very different senses), and some were analogical (used with related senses). It is this third sense that the analogia entis finds meaning. While finite man cannot describe and infinite God perfectly (univocally), he can do so truly being that God has created man in his image and, through this, has provided and analogical way of communicating himself. To deny the analogia entis is thought, by some, to be a self defeating proposition since it would present the situation where an all-powerful God is not powerful enough to communicate himself to his creation.

Amen.

So – if you haven’t already subscribed to TWOTD’s feed – do it, now. Tons of good, solid stuff.

You’ll thank me later.

…not really.

But I was browsing the Vineyard’s website the other day, and ran across their audios for their recent national pastors’ conference, and found the session that Jeff Heidkamp gave on the Emerging Church.  It’s an interesting counterpoint to Tim Chaddick’s workshop on the ECM at the recent Calvary Chapel senior pastors’ conference.

I still think Tim’s session was better (vastly better), but Heidkamp’s session was still quite balanced – a bit more on the “pro” side than Chaddicks, but that surprises precisely no-one – and an interesting perspective, nonetheless.

Pragmatism is defined as:

A philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth, or value.

Pragmatism happens to be the dominant philosophical assumption in much of the modern church – even among many who consider themselves to be evangelicals.  The hallmark of pragmatism is the focus on the question, “does it work.”  Results are, at the end of the day, the criteria for assessing the relative rightness of any system, endeavor, or question.  Whether a thing is right winds up being a secondary concern; the “rightness” of a thing is more a function of how well it “works” than it is of how it corresponds with what is objectively right and true.  Therefore, something may be in a “grey area” but still be considered copasetic simply because it “works,” and that “at least we’re doing something.”

Notice that: the emphasis is on action, and only then – and at least somewhat peripherally – on the essential rightness of that action.

Translation: the most crucial consideration of all is results.

As I’d already said: pragmatism is the dominant philosophical assumption in much of the modern church. Even many of my brothers-in-arms, while vociferously and vigorously denying that they have taken the pragmatist blue pill, effectively operate under pragmatistic premises.

I have heard from these guys things like:

Hey, that church has the most number of converts ever, and they’re in the least churched area in the universe, man!

It’s all about Sunday {{usually defended because either (a) “that’s our culture, man!” or (b) that’s when you get the most “bang for your buck” – both of which are quintessentially pragmatistic answers}}

Hey, man…doesn’t the Bible say, “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, for him it is sin…?” {{…without defining what “good” is, and who it is who gets to define what “good” is, and how it is He defines it; “good” in this case is defined pretty much solely in terms of results}}

At least we’re reaching people {{with what doesn’t factor in as much as how – does the method of “reaching” mitigate the Gospel? Be honest, now…}}

And again, the classical pragmatistic answer when confronted about supporting something that is at the very least morally questionable, like providing condoms to teenagers “so that at least they don’t spread AIDS and get pregnant”…:

Hey – at least we’re doing something…!  What are you doing?  What do you suggest?

…as if in order to militate against doing something morally questionable, we have to present another alternative which produces at least comparable results. The rightness of the action is a secondary consideration; it’s the results of the action which are all-important.

Look – actions are important.  The Gospel is an active thing; our God is an active God. You can believe all day long, but if you don’t do, your belief is worthless – James tells us that.  I can sit and pontificate all day long on what the Bible objectively teaches, but if I don’t put that into practice, then I have become worse than an infidel and have denied the faith.

Absolutely.  Amen.

But, those actions that I take are and must be predicated firmly upon what God has revealed as being right and good.

In other words, my first consideration is, “is this right?” Results, at this point, do not even begin to factor into the equation. Completely aside from results, the question needs to be squarely faced, is what I’m considering true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy, as God defines it?  If not – no matter what “results” may or may not devolve from that conclusion – then I cannot take that action as a faithful, obedient Christian.

There is an anecdote that I live by:

The obedience is mine; the results are His.

I am not called to be overly concerned about results; I am called to be very concerned about faithfulness and obedience.

The Bible says,

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

Interesting, that…no?  It is required in stewards that one be found faithful – not:

  • that one be found fruitful
  • that one be found with super-duper results
  • that one be found doing the most things

Fruitfulness, results, and action are all very important in the equation of faithful Christian obedience.  But they are subordinal to the issue of right action, right results, and the right sort of fruit.

Johnny Mac, in his blog, just posted an absolutely brilliant article on this very subject of pragmatism, and how this really isn’t anything new; the modern focus on “yeah, but does it work…?” which in turn leads to accommodation is something that the church has encountered before – numerous times.  Namely, in this article he compares the modern pragmatistic climate with the Down-Grade Controversy of a century ago – and examines the effects of pragmatism.

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