Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Westminster Paper on Emerging

posted by xscot mcknight

Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday we were at Westminster Theological Seminary where, at the initiative of the student body, a conference was hosted about the emerging movement. First of all, Kris and I want to express publicly our gratitude to WTS and especially to our hosts, Anthony (Tony) and Jessica Stiff.
Tony is a promising leader in the church; his perception was remarkable to me, and he and Jessica looked after Kris and me so well we just want to say thanks on this blog.
I haven’t been in an environment like WTS for a long time, so (admittedly) I was a bit nervous when I began my first paper on the emerging movement (my paper is posted here at The Foolish Sage in pdf format). Thanks to Mark for posting this; I have no clue on how to turn something into pdf and then posting such a thing on the blog. The paper reads a little less passionately than I delivered it. A funny experience for me: I thought the second paragraph of my paper was pretty funny; no one laughed. Everything I feared about WTS’s attitude toward emerging entered my mind and I hunkered down for a while and it took me half the paper to come back to reality.
The paper I wrote some time ago, called “Future or Fad?,” has proved helpful for some who are inquiring into the emerging movement. This new paper extends, modifies, and develops that paper more than a year later.
I welcome your comments and observations on the paper.
Friday morning Michael Horton gave a paper about the emerging movement, and I was a bit uncomfortable (but I got over it quickly) when he was disagreeing with John Franke, who was sitting in the 3rd row — but they are friends and this kind of conversation has been going on between them for decades. If you want to see how Christians can respond to one another, get ahold of John’s paper — because he said, “Yes, Mike, I screwed up in not doing my homework as carefully as I might have.” Then John gave a great paper on the theology of mission and the mission of theology.
We had a break — a lunch — and then I gave a paper on atonement (which I won’t publish on the blog because it is from my book coming out from Abingdon next summer called A Community called Atonement). After that, I didn’t get to hear Dan McCartney’s paper on atonement because I did a radio interview with Michael Horton — and we had a very good conversation.
Friday night we had a time with students from both Biblical Theological Seminary and WTS, and they had questions and comments about emerging.
I think it is only honest to say that a few faculty, who have written against emerging/emergent, protested the event by not attending the sessions — at least so I was told (by a half dozen students). Sadly, I think — why? Because they are the ones with whom I would have most especially enjoyed conversation, and the ones who perhaps could have learned from the discussions.
Saturday morning I gave another interview, this one on The Real Mary to Publisher’s Weekly Online, and then we had a nice coffee at Chestnut Hill Coffee Company. Jessica then picked us up, we went back to WTS. Two more papers — one by John Leonard (a missiologist) and the other by Walter Henegar. Both of these papers were very good.
I’ve been asked if the papers will be published, and I doubt it. Why? Emerging is changing fast enough that if it took a year for these papers to appear, they would be out of date.
Personal reflections of this experience will begin tomorrow.



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Martin Downes

posted October 30, 2006 at 3:49 am


Hi Scot,
Will they be available in audio format instead?



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andrew (tall skinny kiwi)

posted October 30, 2006 at 3:58 am


Scot, we are proud of you for doing such a good job. And thanks for your honest reflections here.



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David Johnson

posted October 30, 2006 at 4:09 am


I appreciate a lot of what you said here. I find myself very much in the company you describe. By the way, I thought the second paragraph was great….but there were unexpected moments of humor throughout.



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Don Bryant

posted October 30, 2006 at 4:24 am


I am a graduate of WTS and share some or your dis-ease about presenting such a topic there. WTS was a wonderful theological journey for me. I have never regretted the level of education received there. It thoroughly prepared me for a lifetime of loving God with my mind. But when it came to ministry there could be a deep suspicion of evangelicalism that was unnerving. Dialogue was not something I found was done well there. Insulated Dutch calvinism and Reformed theology rooted in various other ethnicities kept WTS far removed from the fluid and rapidly changing demographics of the American experience. This was my most disappointing experience there.



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Tim Gombis

posted October 30, 2006 at 5:38 am


Thanks, Scot, for the link to your paper–it’s a great resource to pass around to those wondering what on earth this thing is.
Re: Grossman and the Bears, good to see a resounding response to the (near)Debacle in the Desert of two weeks ago.



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John Frye

posted October 30, 2006 at 8:10 am


Scot,
The way you write and present material (on any topic) invites friendly dialogue. You are a tremendous influence in the evangelical community in helping demythologize “the emergent movement.” It is sad when mature thinkers boycott sessions because they disagree.



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kent

posted October 30, 2006 at 8:15 am


Why does North Park Seminary do a seminar like this? How does the emerging movement impact the Covenant, Free Church and Baptist General Conference?



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Sivin

posted October 30, 2006 at 10:51 am


I listened to your talk and read through your paper. I think it was very well done. :-)



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Christian Cryder

posted October 30, 2006 at 11:38 am


Hey Scott, we talked about a year ago while I was still at WTS when I did a paper on the the emerging movement (I’m the guy who was getting ready to plant a church in Missoula, MT – the whole concept of mission is extremely important to me).
I just want to offer a huge public “thank you” to both you and Franke for your willingness to actually go and participate in this – we reformed folk definitely need to be involved in the emerging conversation, and so I really appreciate your willingness to “take some arrows” for the sake of jumpstarting a dialogue w/ folks at WTS.
I know both Tony and Mark T. personally, and they are great guys – kudos to them for making this thing happen, and then blogging about it. I’m more than a little dissappointed to hear that there were some profs who weren’t there (but I’m encouraged by those who were). And I’m looking forward to getting the whole thing on tape and listening to it carefully.
One final comment – I’d really love to hear your perspective on how the thing went, etc. Hopefully you’ll be talking about this in the coming days.
Thanks again for participating in this thing…



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Art

posted October 30, 2006 at 11:39 am


Scot,
Thanks so much for your presence this weekend, especially at the interseminary dialogue on Friday night. Your lectures were stimulating and gave me much food for thought. I too wish that more of my professors were there and am somewhat embarassed at their absence. I do hope you realize that your presence was appreciated and many people learned much from your work. Thanks again.



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Andy Tooley

posted October 30, 2006 at 11:48 am


Scot,
Second paragraph _was_ funny; I listend to the audio and it sounded like you might have said it a wee bit quickly (or maybe graduates of TEDS are, gasp, a bit more discerning than students at WTS!) All in all, very well done.
Andy



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Craig Higgins

posted October 30, 2006 at 12:27 pm


Thanks, Scot, for doing this event. I’m an alum (1989) of WTS and a member of the board, and I so wish I could have been there in person. Patient, winsome dialogue is needed on this issue–and so many others–not least in the conservative Reformed world.
It’s often been said at WTS that we Reformed types hold these beliefs “in trust” for the whole church; they are not ours alone, but belong to the whole Body. Of course, that also means–since our theology teaches us that the Risen Christ has given gifts to the WHOLE church–that there are gifts which others hold in trust for us. We all have so much to learn.
So thank you for participating in this conference at WTS–and for this great blog, which I read almost every day.
Craig Higgins



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garver

posted October 30, 2006 at 12:28 pm


I was sorry to have missed that talk on Thursday (alas, I had a Funding Board meeting on my campus), but thanks for providing the text via Mark T. I thought the talk on atonement was great and, in many respects, very close to the heart of the traditions of Vos and Ribberbos that inform much of how WTS thinks about such things, though with a greater — and to my mind, welcome — emphasis on ecclesiology. At any rate, it was good to meet you and thanks for your contributions to an edifying conversation.



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Xavier Pickett of RBA

posted October 30, 2006 at 1:53 pm


Scot,
Thanks for your contribution and wit. I had a great time dialoging with the speakers and my WTS crew.
By the way, I appreciate our brief convo about African-American readings of Scripture after your first talk. I believe there is much more needed conversation to be had within broadly evangelicalism about some of this. But meanwhile, I’ll be hanging out at Chestnut Hill Coffee Company for you, if the Lord wills and hopefully, He’s willing.



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Andrew Arndt

posted October 30, 2006 at 2:16 pm


Tooley — way to give TEDS some props!
Scot, I loved your paper … I only wish I could have heard it in person. BTW, thanks for the admonishment on evangelism. It is unfortunate that in the reaction to hardline, reductionist proselytizing we who may identify with the emerging movement often forget that the rule of God must be proclaimed, that persons must be “summoned” to obedience … that we by the Spirit are, to a measure, prophets proclaiming the great need for humanity’s teshuvah to the one true God. Failing this, as you say, is really to fail the Lord. Timely reminder… All the best to you.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 30, 2006 at 2:41 pm


Thanks to the many who have offered positive encouraging words about this paper today. I know it is a bit of a read for a blog, but I hope you can take the time to work through it.
Xavier — keep on praying, because if I get close, I’ll be there for a coffee.



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Mark Farmer

posted October 30, 2006 at 5:20 pm


Regarding the comment (on p. 15) about Plymouth Brethren worship in the round, the museum of Protestant history in Poet-Laval in southeastern France is housed in an early Calvinist church that is also in the round. One is told there that this layout was typical of early Calvinist worship. The Bible was in the center.
Thank you, Scot, for a thoughtful and helpful article.



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Diana

posted October 30, 2006 at 7:32 pm


Scot:
Thank you for coming to Westminster and engaging with us. A number of us did get it — and laugh — when you made your remaks, however, you were going at a rapid pace, so it was hard to let things register and respond before you were off to the next point. In any case, the audio and pdf are now available so I’m sure there will be more chuckling now.



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Rick

posted October 30, 2006 at 8:05 pm


side note: To publish a file to PDF with a Mac, from the print box, on the bottom there is a button that says ‘PDF’. Hit that and there is an option that says ‘save as PDF’. Save it to your HD and thats it.



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the Foolish Sage

posted October 30, 2006 at 9:24 pm


It’s been a real joy, and revelation, to cruise the blogosphere these last few days and witness the budding of true conversation between “Reformed” and “emergents” stimulated by this conference. It was such a treat to see a huge turnout from our student body, and especially to see them listening to and interacting with scholars outside our narrow confines. Such dialog can only be good for Christ’s church.
Scot, as I’ve said elsewhere, getting to finally meet you in the flesh was also a great delight. You and my friend John Franke have great potential to act as much-needed bridges in the fractured world of American Christianity. Godspeed!



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Tony Sitff

posted October 30, 2006 at 10:19 pm


Scot,
Jess and I are so thankful for the kind words, and for the time we had getting to know Kris and you. I look forward to more and more thoughts from the ‘JesusCreed’, and your students have my admirations for having such a Christlike professor and friend.
I look forward to more wisdom and wit from my favorite Mark Twain fan.
Tony Stiff



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David Barbee

posted October 31, 2006 at 9:43 am


Clearly, Hans Urs von Balthasar is “the finest name ever for a theologian”, and who can argue with Dick Butkus for a football player? But Cesar Geronimo for baseball? Not even close to great names like Mookie Wilson, Boog Powell, Cookie Rojas, Joaquin Andujar, Coco Crisp, Candy Maldonaldo, Heathcliff Slocumb, Pee Wee Reese, Bombo Rivera, Delino DeShields! :)



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Matt Wiebe

posted October 31, 2006 at 10:30 am


Just finished reading this. I had to do in bits around my homework, but it was worth the read. Thanks for leveling a fair and accurate critique of the EC and its critics. I’m going to have to read some Rauschenbusch.



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Nick Mackison

posted October 31, 2006 at 2:26 pm


Scot,
That was a great article. I don’t think I grasped what emerging was until I read it. It was good to get beyond unhelpful stereotypes and to realise that many emerging Christians do hold to truth.
Regarding systematic theology, in general (and I know there are varieties of positions) do emerging christians generally believe that there is a synthesis running through the words of scripture? If so, and it is unfathomable, how do we do theology? If there is no synthesis, how can Scripture be a reliable guide? These are questions I’ve wrestled with personally, and I was fascinated to read your comments on systematic theology.



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the Foolish Sage

posted October 31, 2006 at 2:37 pm


Nick,
I would direct you to John Franke’s The Character of Theology to answer that question….and I suspect that Scot would send you there as well, in addition to other sources he may know of. John is a scholar who is honestly working through the issues you bring up.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 31, 2006 at 2:46 pm


Nick,
I can’t speak for all, but I can say that many would say the “unity” of Scripture is the unfolding story rather than the systemic thinking behind, around, and in the Bible.
Yes, Franke’s book is important for the discussion; as are the various studies of Tom Wright.



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Nick Mackison

posted October 31, 2006 at 4:44 pm


Thanks to Scot and the Sage for the feedback. I’ll check out Franke.
Has anyone read Thielman’s Theology of the New Testament?



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Daniel

posted October 31, 2006 at 10:26 pm


I am new to this conversation and I’m having trouble distinguishing between false dichotomy and via negativa. Are there some criteria that can be helpful in learning how to make this distinction? I am fearful that if I don’t learn this I will argue a point making false dichotomies when I thought I was using via negativa.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 31, 2006 at 10:30 pm


Same form; but the key is that via negativa is really a ranking. What is important is orthopraxy not orthodoxy does not mean the latter is not important; it is that the former is more important.



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Daniel

posted October 31, 2006 at 11:02 pm


Thank you for the quick response. I think it is probably helpful.
May I follow up with another question? Which is more important, an orthodox orthopraxy or an unorthodox orthopraxy — or is unorthodox orthopraxy an oxymoron? I guess I’m trying to figure out why I have to choose between an orthodoxy and orthopraxy when maybe I could have both and that having both is better. Also, how would I judge my praxis to be correct without orthodoxy? I’m really not trying to be difficult. I’m merely trying to get a handle on how to think about all this.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 31, 2006 at 11:31 pm


Daniel,
If we treat this as via negativa, we are not being forced to decide — we’d have both an orthodox orthopraxy and an orthopractic orthodoxy. That’s the whole point: both are expressed if the strong language is via negativa.
The issue, however, is which is more important — or if they are both needed in absolute balance (however impossible to achieve). The via negativa, then, doesn’t apply: it only applies in ranking.



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Daniel

posted November 1, 2006 at 12:12 am


Scott,
I deeply appreciate your responses and I don’t think I disagree with you.
For years I have heard people discuss which was more important, the Spirit or the Word. I never could choose one over the other. How could I know the Spirit without the Word (and believe me, I’ve seen claims to having the Spirit that were clearly contrary to the Word)? On the other hand, how could I know the Word without the Spirit? To me the question of orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy has been a parallel question. Would it be wrong to say that true orthodoxy and true orthopraxy are interwoven and dependent upon one another? I have tended to think (perhaps wrongly so) that it was unnecessary and inappropriate to make a division between these things.
I truly believe that the emphasis in the Church for a long time has wrongly been orthodoxy over orthopraxy. I heartily welcome an emphasis on orthopraxy. I would agree that “absolute balance” is “impossible to achieve.” However, shouldn’t balance between the two be our aim? Perhaps a corollary question would be this: Is it possible to focus on orthopraxy to the extent that it merely becomes pragmatism because we have lost sight of the orthodoxy that validates our orthopraxy?
Thank you for the conversation!



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Denny Burk

posted November 8, 2006 at 6:28 am


Rick Phillips at the Reformation 21 blog responds to your address on the emerging church: http://www.reformation21.org/Reformation_21_Blog/Reformation_21_Blog/58/vobId__4585/.



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