Yesterday I sat back and didn’t comment — I was busy with other things, including some writing, but it seems to me that something needs to be said about this whole Mark Driscoll flap. And right off, this isn’t about Driscoll, or Pagitt, or Bell, or even Don Carson or the matchstick boys. It’s about criticism. And I hardly know where to begin… but challenges have been issued, and though most of them aren’t directed at me personally, I think I’ve got something to say (alright, I always have something to say, whether or not I should say it). There are times when criticism deserves a response, as do certain kinds of responses to criticism. I said yesterday that I probably had things to say that could get everyone upset with me… and while that’s not my intent, there are things that need saying. And I’m just dumb enough to be the one to say them.
First, there were the heresy-hunters on the outside… or to use a less dualistic phrase, non-participants in the conversation. Places with names that have “—No” in them, or names of some of the less-favoured of the “Seven Churches.” Second, there was a more scholarly approach from heavyweight Don Carson… which was a bust, really. There were a few others like him, but again, non-conversationalists. Now we have the Reformed critique, apparently. As I recall, the first round was mostly online mudslinging with no dialogue. The second was a good critique of positions most of us don’t hold, with dialogue that occurred in private only, and after the fact with no public followup. The third, now that we’re caught up to the present, is off to a horrific start… and it includes both conversationalists and non-conversationalists. To my mind, it may be the ugliest, and it’s on a bad footing with misunderstanding already. And still, the ground rules or courtesy guidelines are, let’s say, lacking. I may not have a bone to pick, but just have a quibble with almost everyone who’s rendered comment on this so far — to say nothing of those in the center of the controversy.
Mark this, though: in the matter of critiquing the emerging church, we’re finally getting somewhere. Let’s back up a week or two.
There was a lot of virtual ink spilled with the Pyromaniacs, particularly Frank Turk. Maybe Phil started it with the posters and it just escalated, but really, it’s been going on for some time with Ximénez, Biggles, and Fang over there. You were expecting, maybe… ? Never mind. It came to a head with Bill’s Scornucopia Post which labeled some of the attacks as scornful. Now for all its monosyllabic subtlety, “scorn” is a big word (defined in Bill’s post) because it speaks to the attitude of one person toward another. Scornful critique is filled with derision, and reflects belief that the other person is less than you are in all the ways that might count for something. I agree with Bill, and in the comments on his post, I mixed it up fairly directly with
Fang Frank, using some of the harshest or most direct language I ever have online. Frank asserted that they had valid criticisms of the emerging church to which we had not responded, hence the mockery was at least on solid footing and not in isolation of other dialogue (I’m paraphrasing heavily, and may not be representing his position very well). I challenged him to point to their substantive critique of the emerging church, but the posts he came up with rather lacking as being something to which a response could properly be made (see the comments on Bill’s post for my analysis). To my mind this puts the Pyro boys and their criticism of the emerging/missional church out of the third category and squarely bridging the first two categories. (I wonder, do they love to burn because they can’t wait to see some of us in hell? Oh, that was uncalled for.) That is to say, they aren’t part of the conversation and don’t want to be, their “dialogue” is more about mudslinging than understanding, and their criticism is not well-sourced or explained with enough substance to form a response to it. This is important, we’ll come back to it.
I concluded my lengthy comment on Bill’s post by considering the effect of scorn on a conversation that is labeled as critique… it can leave people not knowing what hit them.
[T]here is a clear distinction between scorn and critique. The former is to deride and demote, elevating oneself and the views one holds. It creates distance. The latter is to correct what is seen as an errant viewpoint — it is offered with respect and an openness to dialogue about the matter being critiqued in the hope of finding agreement. It closes distance. One is anti-relational, the other is pro-relational. Unfortunately, when the former masquerades as the latter, those being critiqued begin to try and have a discussion but get shut down or shouted down pretty quickly… because the openness isn’t there. This is a misinterpretation of the aim of the critique, and it leads to just the kind of situation we’re seeing, where people feel personally attacked and hurt by it.
I’m all for critique aimed at closing distance, bringing understanding, and yes, correction as needed. But when it’s offered in scorn, I really want no part of the discussion because it’s at cross purposes… we’re trying to close distance that the other party is attempting to create.
So the question is how we’re going to respond to a challenge… and here’s where the rattling of swords grows loud in my ears, or threatens to. I believe I learned something through the experience with the Scornucopia post, and what I observe in the comment I’ve just quoted are not things I’ve known for ages, but I think they’re accurate. It seems some people are itchy for a fight, and the first sign of disagreement is cause to rise to the challenge and call the other down. Oh, people.
This time it’s Mark Driscoll. Again. Calling Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Rob Bell heretics. Oh, Mark.
Emerging Grace says The Emerging Streams Just Got Muddier, and she’s right. Not just because she quotes me favorably, either. Some people want to describe the emerging church as three streams, relevant, revisionist, and relevant reformed. Mark Driscoll is one of these, and clearly fits himself into the third stream. The emerging church has been described before as having two, three, four, or five streams… and some of those other descriptions have been better categorizations, if we feel we must categorize. To me it sounds a bit like a schoolyard method of determining who your friends are, the kind that grows into unhealthy alliances. (“Which colours are you wearing? Hey, that’s not our patch! Get ‘im, boys!”) Membership card, Masonic handshake, or Shibboleth, we’ve all got our ways of determining whether “yer fer us or agin’ us.” I thought we were moving away from dualistic thinking… and Grace wonders “Whatever happened to the idea that we are for each other?”
Mike Clawson remembers when Doug Pagitt prescribed battle positions of “A Smile, A Wink, A Prayer, A friendly Email, Offers of hospitality, [and] Invitation to Friendships” …which is why I so loved Tony Jones’ response to Mark Driscoll today. I was happy to see that one, as I generally think of Tony as a bit of a scrapper… but he remembers Doug’s words, and he “gets it.” Well done. I fully agree with Mike that a soft posture is best, and that it’d be great if they gave a war and nobody came… but Mike’s post also draws battle lines — ones which I sharply disagree with — and caricaturizes those on the other side of it. We’ll come back to this.
First, another historical interlude: we’ve been getting our tails steamed for quite some time already.
Long ago I pointed out that it’s important how we deal with criticism… I talked about John Wimber and the Vineyard and how he/they responded to criticism, and made some comparisons with how the emerging church responded to criticism at that time (late 2004). The seminal post at the time (preceding Doug Pagitt’s previously referenced post) was Stephen Shields’ The Emerging Storm. Remember, this was Pre-Carson. (Don Carson, not Johnny Carson.) If you want to know what went on before that, and before my summary above, you’d want to read Andrew Jones’ Skinny on Emergent Criticism which covers seven years of it up to late 2004. But at that time, we were preparing for criticism, or critique. We actually (perhaps naively) looked forward to Don Carson’s critique, thinking perhaps it would offer some helpful words of adjustment and things for us to consider. After that, I think we stopped welcoming critique… once bitten, twice shy as they say.
It’s time to open ourselves up to critique again. Yes, it’s going to hurt. Yes, some of the critique may simply be scornful grandstanding for the “benefit” of like-minded critics. But we need this in order to best press on to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of us. Sometimes we’ll be challenged by critique and will need to adjust our ideas or our practices. Sometimes we’ll be challenged by critique and will search out the matter only to offer a response with an even more reasoned evaluation of our ideas and practices… and maybe an increased resolve in them. This is what critique is supposed to accomplish. But we need a certain kind of critique. Partly. Even when the critique is mean-spirited or scornful it is not to simply be dismissed, but should be considered… though I suggest that we not respond, for reasons I’ve already given. Thoughtful critique that is not intended to create distance deserves a response, whether or not we change our ideas or practice. And such responses should be equally thoughtful, generous, and humble… and if not equally, then we should seek to outdo our critics in these manners.
So now we’ve got some critique from Mark Driscoll. I say “we” even though he didn’t mention my name… because I identify with some of the things he said — on both sides of the issues. And people are taking sides. I know where Bob Hyatt stands, which is helpful, actually. As a pastor, his opinion on these things is relevant to those in his church, and I didn’t get the impression his statements were designed to create distance with either side, merely to offer his opinion on the matters of fact.
Summarizing some of Grace’s summary (see also J.D. Grear and (Jonathan Herron on this), the issues Mark raises are:
Brian McClaren: Guilt by Reading and Footnoting — concerned with Brian’s influence by authors such as Borg, Crossan, Chalke, and Wilbur; based on this, it is implied that Brian’s belief in atonement is questionable. Secondly, Brian’s stance on homosexuality is “increasingly obscure,” based on quotes in Time Magazine and Christianity Today.
Doug Pagitt: Paganism and Idolatry — in Listening to the Beliefs…, Doug said, “we should reconsider the idea that there is a necessary distinction between creator and creation.” When asked if homosexual practice is incompatible with Christianity, Doug said “no.”
Rob Bell: Association and Method — Rob has Brian McClaren in is pulpit sometimes, he uses rabbinical sources, has employed a trajectory hermeneutic to arrive at egalitarianism, and based on a remark about the virgin birth in Velvet Elvis, his theological method is “frightening.”
Emergents Generally: Departing from Church Tradition — general unsubstantiated statements that Emergents love Jesus the man, not the God-man, they are guilty of syncretism, have a low view of Scripture, and don’t have converts, just the disgruntled children of evangelicalism.
Just so you know where I stand, no, no, yes, maybe, no, maybe, and who? Sorry, but it feels a bit like tallying up the bad-list so you know who’s been blasted and who’s coming next. Who’s keeping score again?
My problem with Mark’s statements (and I haven’t listened to the podcast) essentially boils down to the fact that while all the issues raised are matters of one theological position over another, there’s only one issue on this list over which disagreement could support a charge of heresy, and it’s based on an ambiguous statement: the term should not have been used.
I don’t know if he contacted the men he’s criticizing previously with these concerns or not, but let’s say it this way. If critique is meant to close distance, it ought to be voiced in smaller settings which are more conducive to dialogue. This does not however mean it can’t or won’t be public. If critique is meant to create distance, it will not invite a response directly from those being critiqued, and will be issued as statements of fact that major on statements about differences of fact and opinion and minor on or omit statements about relationship. I will, however, invoke a rule that answers, for me, the question of whether Mark is trying to create or close distance.
I once asked Scot McKnight to comment on heresy and heretics and the proper usage of the term. His views came pretty much as mine did, meaning I though the term was getting too much use. Here, with one possible exception among the concerns he raises, Mark’s use of the term is what Scot calls the “slipshod” use. To be clear, it is Doug’s statement about God and creation which may be open to the charge. I haven’t read the book, but if the quoted statement is the clearest one he makes, there isn’t enough there to determine what Doug actually is and isn’t saying. Seek clarification from the source before making the accusation. I also haven’t read Bell’s book, but what I understand of the comment is that he doesn’t deny the virgin birth, which is part of the earliest creeds. For McLaren and atonement, he’d have to quote McLaren and not the guys that McLaren has quoted on other matters. As to all the rest, the matters are not central to the early creeds or the basis of the Christian faith. Yes you can still get to Heaven even if you’ve read Borg and Crossan or if you hold an egalitarian viewpoint. You can also get there if you haven’t read Borg and Crossan and if you hold a complimentarian viewpoint or don’t share a particular methodology.
And here I need to create a new maxim based on Godwin’s Law, which states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” That is, it’s an eventuality. A popular tradition appended to Godwin’s Law is that whoever takes the step of making the comparison automatically loses the argument, which is then deemed over and done. “Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.” I want to now propose “Maynard’s Law”, which is based on these same ideas but is specifically applicable to theological debate. Eventually, someone’s going to be labeled a heretic, and the longer the debate rages… well, you get the picture. In order to preserve the meaning and impact of the term, we must avoid its use except in cases of genuine breaches of the early creeds (Apostles’, Nicean) and where the doctrine in question directly affects what is central to the question of salvation. In such cases, it is preferable to refer to a heretical view rather than a heretic, or a heretical person. One closes distance, the other creates it. Think of it this way: what has been done with heretics, historically? That’s right. we burn them, just like we burn witches, and consider ourselves overly righteous in the act. Listen, if you don’t think people will or should be burned for their belief, either by God or by you, don’t call them a heretic. Is that so hard?
Mark is wrong in his use of the term; when called a heretic, there’s no point in responding. When accused of holding a heretical view, it’s a good time for further discussion. You don’t call someone a heretic in hopes that their views will change, you do so to push them as far away from yourself as you can so you won’t get burned by a fireball from heaven when they get consumed. There’s no love, and no concern to correct; it’s anti-relational.
Now, as to the battle lines. We need to be more careful about what we fling at ourselves. People are wanting to divvy up the emerging church, either to get the distances created and closed with the right people, or in hopes that we’ll fight each other to the death, or at least to ineffectiveness. It may just work. Here’s my beef: this whole thing has nothing to do with reformed theology. If there’s one single view or people group that the emerging church has an irrational issue with, it is reformed theology. Mark Driscoll may speak as a reformed theologian or pastor… but that doesn’t mean everything from is lips is an inherently reformed position, as though he (or any other reformed voice) is speaking ex cathedra on behalf of all the Reformed. The equation is demeaning, ill-made, naieve, dismissive, and quite frankly, one that I’m thoroughly tired of. It is as wrong as the criticisms from some of those people. Mark Driscoll’s general criticisms are not substantiated and are caricaturizations of “emergents,” and for that, the statements are not ones to which a proper response can be made. We can criticize reformed (or any other) critics for sweeping generalizations about the emerging church, but this blade cuts both ways… don’t return the “favour” by equally sweeping generalizations that set up an “emerging vs. reformed” death match. (And I feel I need to say I’m not trying to come down on Mike here; there are others who have made the equation, and more pointedly.) The two “camps” are not incompatible, and the emerging church has many people among its number who hold to reformed theological positions but don’t make provocative statements like Mark Driscoll does. Maybe we (yes, “we”) are simply afraid of just this kind of response… which I’ve seen again and again from the non-reformed emerging church. “Driscoll says egalitarianism isn’t Biblical! Piper says God allowed the bridge to collapse! Turk says my theology deserves scorn! Those reformed guys are critical argumentative misogynistic bigots with a patriarchal God that abuses his children! They just make my blood boil!” See what I mean? The leap from A to B is pretty tenuous here.
There are a few things people evidently realize about Reformed theology… complimentarianism is not one of the 5 points in “TULIP.” People are not stubbornly argumentative because they’re reformed, they’re argumentative because their mothers didn’t teach them any better. Mark Driscoll and Frank Turk and John Piper may hold viewpoints or say things you don’t like. In most cases, that’s not because they’re reformed, it’s because they’re saying something you don’t like, and they may very well be wrong about it. But it doesn’t mean that the next theologically-reformed person you meet is the devil.
I’m not immune to this. We’re sometimes more inclined to devour one another as if we don’t know what’s coming. What’s coming is that Jesus is fairly passionate about unity within his body, and those who continually want to reject the parts it doesn’t like are in for a rude awakening. There’s something about that stunned look on our faces when we finally realize that we’re supposed to be on the same team, to work together, to let the smaller stuff go. And by now, I hope you don’t have to ask what constitutes “smaller stuff” — but I warn you, the “smaller stuff” pile is filled with the odd pulpit, platform, and podium and with a whole lot of hobby horses and soapboxes.
Let’s discern the nature of the critique, and call to mind the proverb about not mud-wrestling with a pig… don’t, because you get all muddy and the pig enjoys it. Let’s look for and engage any and all critique that seeks to close distance. And maybe, just maybe… if we can’t find critique like that in our direction, we should change the nature of some of our critique so it takes on that tone toward others (okay, that’s going to be as hard for me as for anyone)… but let’s be about closing distance, not creating it. Put those swords back in their sheaths a while longer, okay?
P.S. — I know you want it: Bully for Bugs. Chill with it.
Very nice thoughts. I’m one of those who occasionally makes a point of noting Reformed opposition. For me this has little to do with the uniquely emerging conversation, and it is one I think that is also present in the broader Evangelical movement. Arminians (a faulty counter-category but useful) are often dismissed as being heretical. Take the NAE’s arguments over Pinnock’s work. Emerging has given arminians who follow in Wesley’s tradition, rather than Calvin, a place to talk amongst themselves without constantly going over the same tiresome arguments that seem to have marked Calvinistic fury for a good while.
This isn’t a mark against Reformed theology, but rather an argument against the old line standard bearers of Reformed theology who define their ecclesiology according to Modernity. They also tend to be the most vocal about asserting the intellectual marks of orthodoxy as rules. So they attack in word and speech, as heresy hunters. Sadly, these people don’t get the fact the emerging conversation is about entirely different questions. To regain the authority, however, old style Reformed pastors/theologians along with any old power structures have to bring the debate back to their own places of authority.
The emerging conversation is just another battleground for a war that’s been happening in Evangelicalism for the last 50 years.
The sad fact is the emerging conversation does need Reformed input. It needs that voice, and the voices of those who happen to fall into those theological categories. I’ve been TAing for a class that dealt with emerging/missional issues and was extremely delighted to read the thoughts of a number of folks from Reformed backgrounds and ministries. They did have very good critiques mixed in with a very strong awareness of how missional/emerging thought could provoke needed change.
One side is asking new questions. The other side is trying to assert the old questions and demand everyone fall into line with those questions. This latter group is often represented by Reformed leaders.
And the only thing I know to do is just do my own part, and see what happens. Defend those who I think are worth defending, but not attack those who assault. Turning the other cheek would be a great gesture indeed by all involved.
Thanks for that … *all* of that, including the treat at the end!
That’s an excellent commentary — you’ve left me nothing to add or adjust, so I just went and added your blog to my RSS reader instead. Great observations.
It’s my all-time favorite ;^)
Excellent post, well said.
Hey Bro’, good post. I wanted to respond to the “Reformed” issues for a sec.
First off, I hope you did notice that in my post I specifically stated that I think there is common ground between the emerging church and Reformed theology, and that in fact my own emerging journey got started with the help of some Reformed insights. I’ve long held that Reformed theology is compatible with the EC, and I hope to see more Reformed types joining the conversation.
What I was responding to in my post was not Reformed theology as a whole, but to this new sub-movement within the Reformed tradition – i.e. the “Reformed Radicals” or “confessional contextual Calvinists” or whatever you want to call them. While issues like complementarianism, combativeness, and a penchant for critiquing emergents might not be Reformed distinctives, they are distinctives of the Reformed Radicals movement.
So I agree that we shouldn’t paint all Reformed folk with this same brush. In fact, that’s what I’m worried about, that more moderate Reformed folk will hear the rhetoric of these Radicals and thereby stay away from the emerging church conversation, thinking that it’s out of bounds for Reformed folks. That’s why I explicitly said in my post that I wasn’t trying to draw battle lines and pit us vs. them. The Reformed Radicals are a real movement that are out there and are trying to start a theological war with us, and I’m just saying let’s not show up for the fight. Let’s just keep on inviting them to dialogue and welcome the ones who come.
Honestly, I think I read some of what you said differently than the way you’ve said it here… my apologies if some overreaction seemed to result. I think at the core we’re both saying, “chill” so that’s good by me ;^) I don’t have my head around the breadth of the “Reformed Radicals” group enough to say if these characteristics are representative of the whole, but I do want to avoid the converse error to thinking Brian McLaren speaks for all of us. Again, sorry if I seemed to come down too hard on you — you just touched a nerve that’s been irritated at many other sites and get stirred up every time Mark Driscoll says something he probably shouldn’t. Not that I’m counting…
One more thing — Mike, thanks for weighing in: I value your voice.
Okay, two things. I’m presently wondering if perhaps every argument could use a dose of Bugs Bunny and a dash of Monty Python. You know, anything but the Argument Sketch.
Say, wait… what if I put up a PayPal button for anybody that wanted to argue?
“I’m presently wondering if perhaps every argument could use a dose of Bugs Bunny and a dash of Monty Python. You know, anything but the Argument Sketch.”
No, it couldn’t. :-)
Okay, so this so doesn’t really add anything meaningful to the conversation, but on the whole “correct usage of heretic” thing… A few years ago at The Ooze a few of us decided to redefine IMHO to mean “in my heretical opinion.” Basically if we call ourselves a heretic first, then it loses its impact when others do it. Let’s just say, I got called it a lot. I still generally use that definition when I write IMHO.
In my heretical opinion, it’s a great post. And not just because you refer to Scornucopia. I read this on my phone today whilst at a 4C’s conference. (I’m too tired to remember what the four C’s are for.) Chatted briefly with Brian McLaren. Asked how he was doing and he said “great.” He looked well-rested and not remotely troubled by the nonsense swirling. I’ll be shooting an interview with he and Al Rox on Thursday morning and will ask him about our Seattle brother. My expectation is that he will be as gracious as usual.
No apologies needed Bro’. Honestly, this is why I hesitated to write my post for so long. I just wasn’t sure how to do it without coming across as divisive. Apparently I wasn’t entirely successful. But I’m glad you get where I’m coming from now.
I’m no expert on the Reformed Radicals myself either, but since I had a few toes dangling into that pond myself back in the day, I feel like I have a little bit of a perspective on what motivates them. In many ways I feel like that movement is a “road not taken” for me. About 8 years ago I really could have gone either way, either down the Piper-ite path (as many of my fellow Wheaties did) or towards this postmodern/emerging thing. I often wonder where’d I’d be now if I had chosen the former.
Patrick, yes it could ;^)
Julie, I like it. Now that I think of it, I listed “heretic” as my religious association on Facebook — it’s been that way since I first signed up.
Bill, say hello for me — and watch to see if he winks. I’m comforted to know the heretics like you and Julie approve of my post! ;^)
Kay, I hadn’t seen that — but I’ve joined the club now.
Mike, other people might read better than I do ;^) I continue to maintain Desiring God as one of the best books I’ve ever read — and I’m still emerging/missional. You could have done worse… but then you might be a post-charismatic now!
Oh, I still like the basic premise of Desiring God and find it very helpful. I’m all about “Christian Hedonism” and “glorifying God by enjoying him forever” and all that.
So yeah, I definitely don’t think what those guys are saying is all bad. But Piper lost me when he launched his vendetta against Boyd (I was a BGC pastor at the time and it got really messy in our denomination for a while – the guy’s a pit bull), and also when he started getting more and more into the CBMW crap. And now that he’s one of these champions of penal substitutionary atonement as THE atonement theory, I’m totally not down with him much at all anymore.
Yeah, there are a number of things that I wouldn’t agree with, even if I once did or might have. That’s true of any author though, no matter how good or bright or “like me” they are otherwise. This is actually one of the more serious issues with Mark Driscoll’s latest comments… quote or read the wrong author and suddenly you’re branded with everything the other guy thinks that’s bad. Huh? That’s not how I recall college/seminary operating. Not at all. Same with Piper, his coauthor Grudem, and of course, many of us in the emerging conversation. No matter how much I like, there will be stuff I won’t, and vice-versa. As someone said, “eat the meat, spit out the bones.” I wasn’t following Piper and DGM very closely during that bruhaha… I understand it got a little, er, ugly. Anyway.
You have a lot to say for somebody who didn’t listen to the podcast.
The problem that I see is that Driscoll made very specific arguments about ideas that these men placed into the marketplace of ideas to be conversed about. The emerging Church folks keep responding with “He is Arrogant” or “He is Mean” or “He is devisive” All adhominum attacks, not addressing any of the specific points that Driscoll made. For a movement that values “conversation”, hypocrisy is showing with all of those winks.
Why yes, Josh, I do — thanks for noticing! I’ve got a lot to say on many things, in fact. As you read my post, I’m sure you took note that I was forthright with the fact I hadn’t listened to the podcast (and I wasn’t there and I didn’t telephone Mark personally — though I’ll be in Seattle next month if he’d like to have coffee), but you’ll have seen too that I provided links to the summaries I’d read (which agreed with one another as to the substance of Mark’s address). I’m sure you noticed as well that the major substance of what I’m saying here is about the practice of critique and how we go about it (or should). I did say Mark was wrong to making sweeping generalizations and a few other things, but I’m sure you noticed that I also took a swipe at some of the emergents who are wont to make sweeping generalizations about adherents to reformed theology.
Perhaps you missed my subsequent post this week where I considered Matthew 18 and argued that it didn’t actually apply to doctrinal correction… it’s a bit of a preemptive observation since that’s the text people spout whenever public statements are made. All this to point out that although I say a few things about Mark’s criticism (not intended to be an exhaustive address), I’m more concerned with making some general observations about how we engage in critique of one another — and it’s intended to go both ways.
I gather you saw my “wink post,” but maybe you missed the comment where I explained the meaning of the wink. Or perhaps you did see it and feel that you know me and my motivations quite well enough to pronounce me (and others) a hypocrite…. which, by the way, is an ad hominem attack, but I’m not too uptight about it. ;^) Let’s move on to your assertion that Mark “made very specific arguments about ideas that these men placed into the marketplace of ideas to be conversed about.” There’s some truth in this: it’s distinctly a public conversation on theological matters. So when we look at the “specific arguments”….
Mark’s comments about the “f” in “shift” and Emergent hanging itself are ad hominem… there’s no other way to put that, but as such I tend to ignore it, you can’t really respond to it. In making a comment like that, one is essentially grandstanding for their audience. To be clear, I’m not faulting Mark for that aspect — the truth is, we all do it to one degree or another. When preaching to the choir, one makes statements that distance oneself from those one disagrees with. They’re meant to create distance. If they were meant to close distance, I think they’d have come across differently. Fine, so we move on to something substantive where fruitful discussion can be had. Ad hominem attacks poison the discussion early, and a wink and a smile are genuinely intended to help change that atmosphere to make a productive conversation possible… if it’s desired. I know some don’t want it (on both sides) and I can’t change that.
I think I actually just went through this whole argument-discussion-thing with Frank Turk (as I mentioned above)… as I told him, nobody’s saying “too mean to be true,” but some of the criticisms are unsourced generalizations or caricaturizations, and those can’t really be responded to properly. I am more than happy to consider criticism that is issue-based, clear, and sourced. I think Mark’s criticism on some of these points is valid if he’s reading some of the statements correctly. Perhaps Pagitt was saying something heretical about creation/creator, but the referenced statement was a question and too vague to draw a conclusion. Can’t render a verdict, and I can’t defend either one of them in the issue other than to observe that the criticism is not well-supported. Similarly, Mark was leveling charges of heresy against people who read theologians he disagrees with, or rabbinical sources. Uhhmmm, I read the Apostle Paul. Wasn’t Jesus something of a Rabbi himself? In any event, this is merely guilt by association and the criticism — whether there’s something valid about it or not — is not well-formed: the argument is fallacious even if there’s a valid concern at its heart.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road… if Mark or anyone else is issuing criticism out of a concern to correct and call people back to orthodoxy, then I for one would welcome it into the discussion so it can be considered properly. If that’s why it’s being offered, please make it a thoughtful and well-formed critique and drop the pejorative descriptors to allow the message itself to be heard. In basic communication theory, it is incumbent upon the speaker to ensure that the message is heard and understood… so if the critique is intended to bring life, drop the language that makes it hard to hear. On the other hand, if it has not love…
“he is devisive” is not an ad hominem attack. It’s a very sophisticated theological comment, one which comes out of a very strong concern with a good deal of Scripture. Unity is a key theme in the letters of Paul, and so it is as strong a theological issue as any that Mark raised. If he is willing to attack theology he should be ready to defend his points in which he diverges from NT theology. The Reformers did so by directly addressing the authorities involved, making point by point detailed study of very egregious abuses of power.
Concerning Pagitt’s view on creaton/creator I think it worth noting that from what I can tell it’s not pantheism or paganism at all. Rather, I believe Pagitt has at times quoted Moltmman, who holds to a view that the Creator is intimately involved in Creation. Indeed, it would be hard to read Scripture and avoid this conclusion. The early references to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Genesis passages are very bold about this as are many of the Psalms. Moltmann might be a creative theologian but he is no heretic at all. Though, I’ve also found that in the Evangelical church tarring someone with paganism and emphasizing their emphasis on creation is a great way to score points. Really, a holistic pneumatology almost insists on understanding God’s very strong participation with all he made, so much so that while we can’t identify God as his creation, we must also be wary about dismissing his creation or trying to see his work solely in terms of human salvation.
Because the Bible tells us so.
I think it needs to be pointed out that there is a vast difference between “being divisive” and “thinking/speaking of different ideas.”
Being divisive means that you are calling people to choose sides and pick teams. It calls for seeking distance as Bro M might say.
Talking about different ideas, tossing those ideas around, looking at them from different perspectives … none of those are “being divisive.” Until it is done in such a manner as to call people to choose one or the other …
I’ve never heard heard people being forced to make a choice in the musings of those within the emerging stream. Those from the more traditional, fundamental, institutional streams seem to ask for those choices and assume that those from the emerging stream are also asking for them. In that way I think we might be speaking past each other.
Good thoughts, again… thanks for the wider explanation of the relationship between creator and creation that is not pantheistic. It perfectly illustrates how Doug’s comment is not clear enough to interpret one way or another. Like Mark, I think it might have been helpful if he’d been more clear about what he did and didn’t mean by the question as it relates to orthodoxy. Unlike Mark, I don’t jump to the conclusion that the idea is heretical because there’s an easy context in which it isn’t. If God is active in the turning colours of every leaf… hey, that’s good reformed theology.
“There are two kinds of people — those who are dualistic, and those who aren’t.” No, wait… ;^) I like the observation on taking sides and missing one another… I’ll think more on that one.