Sunday, February 7, 2010

picking who to listen to

The new Christian leader is a host, not an authority who dispenses true teaching, wise words, and the sole path to salvation. I first really got the host idea in a conversation with Spencer, and it has turned my understanding of Christian leadership upside down. Today, the leaders who influence our faith and action are those who convene (or moderate or enable) the conversations that change our life — or the activities that transform our understanding of ourselves, our world, and our God. It could be an older Christian who convenes discussions at a church, a house, or a pub. It could be Shane Claiborne leading an activity at The Simple Way on Potter Street in Philadelphia, say a time of gardening in the communal garden that gives you a sense of community that you’ve rarely had but always longed for. It could be a website or a blogger that you frequently go to, where you read others’ responses and add your own thoughts. Christian leadership is about enabling significant community around the name of Jesus, wherever two or more are gathered in His name.

Be very careful when people start talking about the end of authority, because very likely all their really saying is that they don't like the current authority figures, and merely want to set up their own (themselves, if possible, but if not that, then their own approved ones).

I would dare say there is no one who is really anti-authority or anti-establisment. They may be anti-the-current-authority-or-establishment, but they are not against ALL authority or establisment. So when this man says that "The new Christian leader is...not an authority...", I think we can say that he is wrong. It may not be intentional, but it is so.

In fact, a previous point rather goes counter to some aspects of this one. About a list of emergents, he says that they "say things that ring true to us", which seems to me to be saying that he thinks they are "dispensing true teaching" and "wise words". And why else would he have listed them favorably, or recommend them to others favorably? It could be doubted he would do so if he thought they were dispensing false teaching and stupid words.

So it's not so much a case of his "new Christian leader" not being an authority, but of him or her being an authority whose teachings and words are to him true and wise. With the assumption that most of those teachings would be different from what was considered true and wise by people before.

Which seems to bring us to one of the real cruxes of the matter, the issue of "the sole path of salvation". One may, I think safely, think that this writer's approved "new Christian leader" will be one who does not say Jesus is " the sole path of salvation", but is either one of many paths or that there are many paths to Jesus. Considering that that is the teaching of Burke, and seems to be the teaching of McLaren (maybe Jones, though I'm less certain of that), then it is no wonder that a man who thinks that they "say things that ring true to us" would say that the "new Christian leader" would agree with them, too.

The comment "Christian leadership is about enabling significant community around the name of Jesus" has a nice ring to it, and maybe have a point or two, but one still should be leary of it. I've been around far too many Charismatics who use phrases like "in JESUS' name" as a kind of mantra or magic cure-all for whatever the issue is. I know of cults that have incorporated a construct named Jesus into their beliefs, though their Jesus may be very different for the Jesus of the Bible. I know a man who claims to have been healed (and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity that he was healed) through a belief in the Christian Science Jesus, a Jesus who taught that this world is merely an illusion and that if you have enough faith you will never be ill. A Jesus, btw, very different from anything emergents and progressives believe, so far as I can tell, so how much fellowship they could have with CS followers is rather unclear.

So I doubt that merely inserting the name Jesus into something really means what was on Jesus' own mind when He said "where two or three are gathered together in my name". Not having lived under a monarchy, I can mostly only imagine this, but if I were the servant of a king, and were sent to do something in the king's name, then I think in doing that I am doing something that the king sanctions and approves of, and wants me to do. If I were to do something that the king didn't want me to do, it would not really be done in the king's name even if I were to say it was.

A while ago, I read one of David Weber's Honor Harrington books, a series of sci-fi futuristic military books in case you're not familiar with them--think Star Trek meets Tom Clancy. Two star-nations had been at war, but have reached a tentative peace and are trying to negotiate a real truce. The leader of one of those nations sends missives to the other about those meetings, but one of the people involved in sending those missives makes changes in the wording of a few of them, unknown to his leader, designed to offend and anger the other leader. A resumption of the conflict was the result.

The point is this, that while that person was appointed to office to act in the name of that nation and it's leader, his actions were not approved by that nation or leader, and were in fact detrimental to both.

And the point of that point is this, that we should be wary of those who claim to be acting in Jesus' name. And while emergents may claim to do so, much of what they say and do and support is rather plainly contrary to what Jesus said and taught in the Bible.


Anonymous said...

You are an idiot aren't you? If this God thinks like you, He would have wiped out the whole of mankind by now.
Whether emergent or not, you guys are asking for bloody wars which only affirms the fact that you are a bunch of idiots.
Hey idiots and a disgrace to your God, the woman who bore you and your humanity, you don't have the monopoly of wisdom( too shocking to hear that?).
In a medium like this, learn to accept and respect voices. Let those with wisdom and GRACES response which you truly lack.
Now go dig a big hole for yourself and stop disgracing your God.

jazzact13 said...


Understand this--I have let your latest comment be shown, only so I can respond to it. Until you reach a level of maturity fitting for this discussion, I will not post any more of your tirades.

I can appreciate calling someone an 'idiot' if you are willing to back it up, but you are not doing so, so I consider it merely a gratuitous insult without thought on your part.

And insulting peoples' mothers is rather grade-school-ish.

Plus, do attend an English grammar class or two. I can accept that misspellings and such will happen, I've done it quite a bit, but you really need to learn how to structure a sentence if you expect to be taken seriously.

Finally, if you want people to respond with wisdom and grace, then you must begin to do so yourself.