Banner of Truth has always been a good place for reformed theology…. whether you’re looking for the works of Jonathan Edwards or his biography (Iain Murray’s) or if you’re looking for an excellent history of the Great Awakening or just want to pick up some D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Banner of Truth is where you want to go. Lloyd-Jones may have been just a tinge too charismatic (it wouldn’t take much) for today’s Banner of Truth, so I always figured that however much I may appreciate some of the books they publish, they never would have seen eye-to-eye with my charismatic tendencies. I suppose it should come as no surprise that the nice people at Banner of Truth don’t appreciate my EC tendencies either.
This article by Geoff Thomas on the BofT website offers a critique of EC. Unlike certain other critiques, he finds four nice things to say before levying four charges against EC…. and the whole thing is prefaced with a bit of a rant. Oddly, the material offered in support of each of the criticisms gets thinner and thinner as he goes until the last one is a charge plus a sentence, and that’s it. Kinda hard to respond to that.
All the same, Si Johnston does respond quite nicely. Overall, this critique won’t likely get a lot of attention, and some of it is left-field enough not to bother (read Si’s comments on it), but there’s a theme in here worth pausing to consider somewhat.
“Lesson” one from EC:
They are people seeking to understand the times.
The men of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do. We all have something to bring to the table. We need men who know the times and live in creative accountability to one another. In the ministry of Jesus we overhear one conversation with Nicodemus; he speaks to the woman of Samaria in a different way. He engages with both of them….
This is followed later by “weakness” one with EC:
It connects but does not critique.
The Christian view of culture is that there is no wholly sanctified culture and no wholly depraved culture. There are elements of goodness in all, and also elements that are wrong. But the emerging church hardly critiques the culture; it only criticises us! Its atmosphere is overwhelmingly laid back and acceptant….
Hmmm. EC understands the times and connect well with the culture of those times. So far so good… but the criticism is that EC is critical of the church instead of being critical of the culture. Hmmm.
Well, there’s something I’ve noticed about criticism. I don’t think this is perhaps the deepest insight one might garner, but bear with me just in case it turns out to be exceptionally radical…. but I’ve noticed that criticising people doesn’t endear you to them. Jesus came understanding the times and connecting with people in the culture, while criticising the church. The people loved and received him while the church was, uh, somewhat less receptive.
So, should we be criticising culture more than criticising church? I would submit that unless you connect, you haven’t really earned the right to criticise (certainly not credibly), so perhaps EC is in a position to speak to the culture around it. But if we stand up and shout, what will it accomplish? Or is EC’s form of criticism of culture perhaps more what you’d expect from a mission-shaped church &$151; less verbal and more action? No, EC doesn’t criticise culture with a sandwich-board that says “Repent!” No, maybe it’s just the type of subversive criticism that just digs in and gets its hands dirty, and waits for someone to notice and join in. You do change the world that way: it’s simple basin-and-towel stuff.
So there’s a question, is EC silent in criticising culture, or is its language of criticism just not understood by those outside EC?