Monday, July 21, 2008

talking amongst themselves

The paragraphs about "conversational" are if anything even more vague then the ones about "local". While we do get what seems to be Jones' pat ridicule of Descartes (he sat in a bread oven, so what?), the notion of the "conversational" side of Emergent theology seems an awful lot like...what people have been doing for years. Which would be, learning from what people have said and written both in the past and in more recent times.

For example, on page 113, we have this statement...

They (Emergents) are in conversation with two thousand years of Christians theology and four thousand years of Jewish theology before that).

Now, how does that differ from any other Christian education? After all, learning from the Bible, from history, from the early church, from the writings of Christians through history, what about that is necessarily all that new?

But then comes the next sentence...

Some are in conversation with Islamic and Buddhist and Hindu and various other theologies (and a/theologies).

And right about now, we can start getting an idea of where this is heading.

Thesis-antithesis-synthesis. The idea that we start out with an idea (thesis), run into an idea against it (antithesis), and when the conflict is over we come away with some kind of a melding of the two, or a middle ground, or a compromise (synthesis).

So, Christianity is an idea, a thesis. In our world today, we are knocking heads with Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, athiesm, and other religions (antitheses). If a claim to absolute truth on the part of Chrisitanity is by definition rejected by postmodernism, then what we have left is finding some way of compromising and blending together these various religious ideas (synthesis).

(Btw how is our situation any different then what the Apostle had to deal with, going from city to city knocking heads with the followers of Greek and Roman false gods? Did they compromise with the idol-worshippers? Can we find anything in the New Testament tell us to synthesize with the followers of idols?)

Which brings us back to things Emergents are saying and doing. Faith House, for example, where the attempt is being made to synthesize Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (and since last I checked they now have a Hindu on staff, we may well think that Hinduism and even Buddhism are being brought into the mix there). And statements by people like McLaren that people do not have to leave their religions and gods to be a follower of Christ.

Emergent Christians hope to avoid the danger of solo theology by intentionally placing themselves in theological communities, and the more diverse the better.

But is this really so? Look at this statement, from page 48...

Sitting on panel at a Seattle event in 1999, he (Mark Driscoll) vehemently stated that women should not be pastors. Everyone else in the room was dumbfounded, since he was breaking an assumed consensus in the group.

And a bit further down the page.

This resulted in a couple of meetings and conference calls, an attempt to quell his vituperations. Driscoll's increasingly conservative theology and his unrepentant attitude led to an eventual distancing from the rest of the group.

So, what's going on here? What was Driscoll's sin that he was unrepentant for? Cussing? Or going conservative?

I'm not defending any bad language Driscoll may have used (though if you want a repentence about it, check out what he says at one point in his 2007 Convergent Conference speech), but given that Emergent seems to have no problem with churches having gay members and their people using some forms of bad language, I suspect a bit of bad language on Driscoll's part would not have been that big a deal. Rather, it's his "increasingly conservative theology" that he remained unrepentent of and that led him away from them.

And I, for one, am glad of it. I've listened to audio files of many of his sermons, and recommend them. I don't agree with him on all things, especially in some end-times things, but he preaches the Gospel in a place that sorely needs it, and does it with boldness, and I have nothing but respect for him. And in all of the sermons I've listened to, I don't recall once having heard him cuss.

At any rate, one can see that Driscoll's views were rather less then welcomed by Jones and those on his side--they had already made up their minds (isn't that un-postmodern of them?), and Driscoll's going conservative and expressing it was again their trajectory.

Or, to point to another example, check out this, from page 207. Things in brackets are added by me for clarification.

Those who hold degrees from Moody Bible Institute (fundamentalist) and Seattle Pacific University (evangelical) are allowed to hold their final verdict on homosexuality in abeyance because the church's [Church of the Apostles in Seattle, WA] position on sexuality is not central to their identity, nor is Karen [Ward, pastor of the church] going to let either of her denominations thrust that issue to the forefront of her congregation (For the matter, the gay members of her church are allowed to hold their opinions of the Moody and SPU grads in abeyance as well!)

So, by that statement, Church of the Apostles already has gay members. Thus, the issue has already been decided, and homosexual activity is fine with them (really, do you think they would let people be members who openly did things they thought were wrong, like, let's say, kill baby seals for their fur?). One can suspect that it's not so much that the people from Moody and Seattle Pacific can "hold their final abeyance" as that they are politely or not-so-politely, whatever the case may be, allowed to shut up about it. It's already a done deal, so live with it.

One could wonder what would would happen if one of those people, or a group of them, were to stop holding their verdicts in abeyance, and try to force the issue. I have little doubt they would soon find themselves not part of the conversation.

Which is the point. The Emergent conversation is, in the end, a conversation among Emergents. They have their own people, their own language, their own codewords, their own concepts of right and wrong, their own agendas and propagandas. Jones and McLaren have both come out hard against Dispensationalists, so we can pretty safely figure people with those views are not welcomed to express those views in the "conversation", and do so at the risk of being ridiculed and shot down with simplistic and emotional arguments. McLaren has come out in favor of almost every liberal social idea one can imagine, so we may well think that social and religious conservatives and people who can, for example, point out that that global warming is tripe will not get a hearing among them.

In other words, Emergent theology is "conversational" only insofar as anyone in the conversation already agrees with certain Emergent ideas. Don't rock the boat, as Driscoll did.

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