Perhaps I’ve said my share already as I’ve seen the comments that others have been making about the shift — for some — away from using emerging/emergent terminology. Having had a couple of my posts picked up and linked around, I thought I’d be done, but it turns out I’m not — even if it turns out I’m saying more than my fair share. I’ve been pondering the bigger picture of it though, and late last week something clicked as I began to see the whole matter from a different angle, and I’ve decided there’s an alternate interpretation to be applied. This post, I think, is my most important observation of the discussion, and one which I hope time will prove to be accurate. And as I’ve said before, language is important to me, even if others tire of the talk of words. Eventually I do as well though, so hopefully this week will wrap up all that I feel I need to say about this battle of words. And anyway, I’ll point out that it’s not about words anyway, nor is it about people de-friend-ing one another.
My little Emerge-ed? piece really seemed to strike a cord with some people, and maybe hit a nerve with others. As I’ve thought about this over the last little bit, I decided that an addendum might be in order.
Even Brian McLaren is clarifying statements about him having “moved past” Emergent, (Tony Jones goes defensive over different issues with the article, getting a response from Marcia Ford) but I did like what Brian said:
For what it’s worth, I have no interest in arguing who is and who isn’t emergent, emerging church, missional church, postmodern, new monastic, etc., etc., etc. It’s just not the way I think, and in fact, drawing branding lines to define an in-group or out-group makes me itchy. Besides, for some people, having emergent sympathies might be like working for the CIA – the people who are deepest in could be the last to admit it for lots of good reasons.
Or is that an oxymoron? At first blush, one would think that a systematic theology is such a modern construct that it would never fly as a postmodern emerging concept. On the other hand, what is a systematic theology but a collection of positions on the full complement of theological subjects? With all the “conversation” flying left and right, all that’s left is to gather it up, cross-reference it, and call it systematic, right? Or is it only about ecclesiology anyway? This post is a resurrected draft from August 2007, and if anything I think there’s a trend that has become more solid in the year since I jotted down my first early thoughts. While the emerging church was initially taken up with ecclesiology and philosophical questions concerning post-modernism, these topics have branched out, rippling through other areas of theology. Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian and its two sequels began to delve into various areas of theology as we followed Dan and Neo through a conversational reconsideration of a variety of accepted conclusions to theological questions… not just ecclesiology. (And it still strikes me as strange that McLaren was maligned the worst when he got to the doctrine of hell, of all things… as though Christians would reconsider anything except the surety of the eternal torment of others. But anyway.)
Brian McLaren is one of many people interviewed in Becky Garrison’s Rising from the Ashes: Rethinking Church. An excerpt from one of these interviews stuck out for me (p.50-53) as he talks about empire-building and postcolonialism.
Speaking of contemporary situations, let’s talk about the challenges you see as the church moves from modernity to postmodernity.
Brian McLaren: There is so much argument about the word postmodern that the first thing I say is that people should be careful about reducing a very complex subject to a one dimensional kind of binary opposition where you throw everything into a blue modern bin or a green postmodern bin. I’ve always said that life is much more complex than that. Besides, in the last couple years, I have become more convinced that a better word than postmodern is postcolonial.
Recently in our simple church gathering, we were discussing creation and evolution — more about that in some other post, perhaps. Along the continuum between a literal 6-day creation and a young earth and evolution lies intelligent design and theistic evolution. Near the end of the discussion, an excellent word picture (metaphor, even) came up to illustrate how truth can be elusive even to those who claim to have it, and uncomfortably placed for those who earnestly seek it. I’ve diagrammed the analogy for ease of explanation. At the extremes, we have fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist atheism. We could perhaps replace that with paganism, Buddhism, pantheism, or just about any other -ism. At the top are those who fear the “slippery slope,” refusing to yield some point for fear that if they do, they’ll slip right down into some anathema worldview.
“Pagan Week” has been held over in view of the extended conversation I’ve had with Frank Viola, which turned out not to be a brief one-post interview after all. We got into some pretty big questions, which help frame a deeper understanding of his latest book on which he collaborated with George Barna. My review of Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices ran all of last week, during which I voiced a number of concerns with the book and pointed out some strong points. In the end, the biggest caveat with the book is that it’s overly prone to being misunderstood, but can be recommended as a good discussion-starter: just don’t mistake it for an attempt to provide comprehensive answers on each subject it addresses. In no small part, this conclusion fueled my desire to have a conversation with Frank around the book itself. As we did with my Interview with Paul Young (Author of The Shack), the conversation was conducted via email, and I’ve stitched it together in this format. As I said before, just imagine we’re all sitting around a table in your favorite independent local coffee shop. Frank and I converse for a bit, but you’ll get your comments in edgewise a little further on — for now, grab that latte you ordered, pull up an extra chair and pass the biscotti.
Another installment of my “random acts of linkage” means I get to mess with your heads again by pointing you in umpteen different and completely unrelated directions all at once. Again. Eeeeeexxelllent….
To kick off, I’m going to offer you something new, a “Top Ten List that Cuts to The Chase.” So, the number one sign that Sunday School isn’t having the impact you thought it would: you pick up your kid after the service and he hands you a picture he drew of “Joseph and the Goat of Many Colours.”
Truism of the week, a new observation of mine: if you find yourself choosing between serving God and serving your brother, you are doing neither.
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.