David Fitch’s book, The Great Giveaway, as been featured and discussed in many ways on this blog for two weeks, and David has been a “good guy” in listening. Now he responds, and I think you can say this is the way to have a conversation. I thank David for this and for his fine book, which is already clear to all who read this blog. And I would say this in light of his response: I could have emphasized more of his insightful critique of the modernistic character of evangelicalism, and the need for it to respond to the postmodernist critique. Well, here is David’s fine response, and I put his most incisive critique first but left his “lastly”.
What I learned from Scot McKnight and His Review of the Great Giveaway by David Fitch
Lastly, my only remaining discontent about Scot’s review is this. If I was disappointed with anything, it was that I felt Scot’s review missed the central driving point of the book: the application of the critique of modernity to the current day manifestation of the evangelical church. The driving force of the book is to apply the work of McIntyre, Hauerwas and Duke school, Yoder, Lindbeck, Frei and Yale school, the findings of John Milbank and RO and a host of Continental postmodern philosophers, to the ecclesiology (or lack of one) of the evangelical church. The Great Giveaway is a trade book, so its academic edge is taken off, nonetheless I felt a response to this thesis would have been appropriate: Has the evangelical church “given away” being the church, the Body of Christ in North America? To me, this is the over riding question of our day as evangelical pastors, leaders, thinkers. For me, I could have used some focused dialogue on this question.
I remain convinced the massive and still growing critique of modernity is so powerful, so convincing that it cannot be ignored. That even as there is plenty of folk comfortable in modernity, there is massive shift in parts of our continent away from anything resembling the old Enlightenment consensus. And so this book will make most sense for people dealing with the question of “church,” evangelicalism and postmodernity” and asking … how do we as evangelicals go on from here.” I don’t know that the issues of postmodernity got enough of a play in Scot’s review.
First, I learned how to spell Scot with one “t,” Just figured it out. Also learned that I misspelled Doug Pagitt’s last name in the book (Evangelical Giveaway 6), It should have been two ”t”’s and just one “g.” And I already knew to call J.D.G. Dunn “Jimmy” (Evangelical Giveaway 7) because I was close to my old professor Bob Guelich (who passed away too young) who always called him “Jimmy.” But I only put “-y” at the end of names of guys I play hockey with (that’s a comment only my Canadian friends will understand).
Second, I learned the importance of interpersonal dialogue. Scot (with one “t”) e-mailed me a few weeks before he started to review the book. He wanted to meet with me. We made an effort to get together that didn’t yet work out. But the fact that he went to this effort, busy man that he is, speaks volumes to me. And his continual pushing for personal engagment with people as diverse as James McDonald and Ron Sider, as well as the way he continues to dialogue with people on his blog blows my mind! In light of the now infamous exchange between Andrew Jones and Don Carson, and the accusations towards prof. Carson on the lack of interpersonal dialogue on the emergent church question, I am so impressed with the need for dialogue between evangelicals, between emergent people and “non-convinced of emergent” people and between all Christians in these times. Let us talk together to further the church. When I wrote the Great Giveaway I was aware I was saying things that could be antagonistic to my “mega church brethren.” I tried to open dialogue with mega church folk in the Introduction. I also sent a copy of a particular chapter that particularly pointed a finger at some mega church practices to a prominent mega church pastor. I said, “please read and give me feedback where I have been unfair.” “And if you have time to talk, please let’s do it.” I am paraphrasing the letter I wrote. Of course, I did not get a reply and I in no way am chastising this pastor for not replying. These pastors are so busy and so overloaded with correspondence, that I respect the pressures they have to deal with. But looking back, I wish I had done more of that. In the future I hope to follow more of the example of Scot McKnight in keeping dialogue flowing, especially between myself and the mega-churches whom I know are seeking the way to go on from here.
Third, I learned that the issues of modernity/postmodernity are not at all obvious or valid to a large group of evangelical Christians. In fact I heard more than once that my over-riding critique of evangelicalism for its modernism might have been over done and simplistic. I hear that, receive it from my friend Scot McKnight and others of this blog. I realize even more from the work of Scot in his blog on my book, that there are whole sectors of evangelicalism that are quiet happy and content within modernity. More than ever I have no wish to disturb these folk. And of course I want to say that the work of historical evangelicalism in the past to make sense of our Christian faith in the last “emerging” world of modernity, democracy and capitalism, is legitimate and good (contrary to what my mentors in Hauerwas-land might say). I want to avoid at all costs the single brush stroke that denies any validity to all things modern. Thanks Scot, whether you meant to or not, I learned this once again here at your blog.
So having said all this, thanks to Scott, ooops I mean Scot, and I hope to sit down and have a coffee with you real soon!