(But what is truth?)
A good friend that I hadn’t seen in a few months walked into my office last week, and we sat down for a chat. “I hear rumours about you,” I say. “I’m here to confirm those rumours,” he responds.
As it happens, the rumour we heard two weeks ago is true. We heard we’d left the church we were in and were now meeting with a small group of folks in a house church. Interresting, how the rumour mill works this one preceded our formal notice to said now-previous church, but there you go, I confirmed it for them a couple of days later when I had lunch with one of the pastoral staff, with whom I hope to continue friendship. We discussed what the reasons were and were not… sometimes it’s important to say what the reasons are not in the interest of being clear.
So. Apparently I’m in a house church, which I didn’t know… I told my pastor-friend that we were meeting together informally, and that we weren’t calling it a church… but it sounded naieve and a little dumb, actually, as it rolled off my lips. “Of course, it doesn’t matter what we call it,” we both agreed. Seems a church by any other name would be as disfunctional… or some such Shakespearian thing like that.
In the interest of not only driving the final nail into the coffin, but making sure the lid is shut tight, there’s the post-final nail. The effect, of course, is to confirm our decision; this came in the form of a paper, or “Message of Concern” about “The Postmodern Theology of Brian McLaren” which was penned by the man from whom our now-former church receives pastoral/apostolic oversight. Don’t stop and analyze the heirarchichal nature of that, I don’t subscribe anymore… but maybe it’s just that I’ve been mesmerized by the Pied Piper of Cedar Ridge.
Anyhoo, this paper came into my hands late last week in hard copy, so I don’t have a document I can post without labourious retyping and after reviewing it, I don’t think it’s worth the bother. I surmise that the paper’s author (1) was predisposed against McLaren; (2) doesn’t understand Brian McLaren’s arguments or intentions; (3) doesn’t understand post-modernity; and (4) is not above taking a veiled cheap shot. The paper I read looks at ANKOC and TSWFOI (the first two of the Neo-Trilogy). It takes a number of quotes from the book, most with enough context to understand them, but not all. It criticizes most in point-by-point fashion, though some criticism is per category (8 in total). Some of it is presupposition-bound, and some is just off, like the assertion that McLaren is remapping history by dividing it into five epochs, because the five he lists don’t include such categories as Israel or the death of Christ. Uh, sure. As for the category on Evangelicals, the author seems to take it personally and reacts with indignation.
The paper I read is not a critique, or a dialogue, or an attempt to engage conversation or thought. It is written solely as a warning, and one which paints McLaren’s theology as basically a siren-call to the theologically untrained, of the sort to which Eve succumbed when asked, “Did God really say…?” It is not a thorough consideration of issues, and does not sound open to considering the questions McLaren is raising… indeed, this is a fundamental misunderstanding he assumes McLaren is attempting to offer answers in these two books rather than rais questions for consideration.
The author also takes issue with a comment about humans being hairless primates. Now, when I was in college and living in dorm, you could walk into the lounge and I swear this is true simply recite the caption (only) from any Far Side comic panel, and you’d get laughs from most of the people present at any given time. In that spirit (for Dilbert-lovers), I say simply, “The successful towel-boy knows that humans are primates too.”
Well. In an effort to pull something of value out of this ramble, I give you this: sometimes it doesn’t matter what you call yourself if everyone else is in agreement about what they call you. I still await a decent critique. We made the right decision in leaving our now-former church. And postmodern theology is not the same as theology for postmodern times.