Jesus Creed

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Christianity for the Rest of Us

posted by xscot mcknight

I’m reading Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity for the Rest of Us (HarperSF, 2006), and want to devote a few posts to her ideas. Essentially, the point of this book is to show that mainline, liberal, progressive churches are showing signs of life.
That is, this is a study of renewal among mainline churches. Diana examined a variety of churches across the USA and tells the story of “real people in real churches” (6). In my assessment, this book — so far as I have read it — taps into some major themes for progressive dimension of the emerging movement. Do you see in what follows the themes of the emerging movement? what is similar and what different? Is her proposal of the new village church realistic and practicable and common? The title of the book generates another question: Do the evangelical churches garner so much of the attention that mainline, progressive churches are simply eclipsed? Is there another story to be told?
Part one is about what happened to the neighborhood church, and Diana proposes the renewal of the “village church.” How does she get there? Four steps.
1. The village of yesteryear has vanished. She tells the story of her Methodist church in Baltimore as a kid — that world, that neighborhood, no longer exists. The Christian faith changes along with these villages changing.
2. Christianity itself needs a different memory: far too many think of the history of the Church in the USA as a monolithic, evangelical story. The Church’s story is America’s story — that sort of thing. She pushes back against a David Barton especially but takes a shot at Mark Noll’s version of American church history. Her contention is that American church history has always been diverse, and America’s religious history is also diverse — what we need is to tap into the root of the middle ground. Between the secular skepticism of mainline liberals and American fundamentalism. She longs to see the church as a comprehensive space that is a hospital for sinners — between exclusivism and secularized inclusivism.
Once upon a time, she claims, the American churches were “village churches that offered weary immigrants a new home in a new world” (38).
3. We need to renew churches as the new village church. But, it can’t capitulate to the charity and social concerns of secularism: they need to be both religious and spiritual. “The primary job of a church is to be a spiritual community that forms people in faith” (42). These new village churches are noted by three things:
Tradition, not traditionalism: remembering in preaching, teaching, and sacraments.
Practice, not purity: some of her churches saw themselves as more faithful to Jesus than the conservative churches. They are to live the way of Jesus.
Wisdom, not certainty: they are comfortable with ambiguity. Community that leads us to God together. Wisdom is found through a life of knowing God.
4. More and more Americans are finding their way home in these new village churches. This chp tells the story of discovering faith and conversion in those who are in the churches Diana studied. Some are exiles, others immigrants, yet others converts, and some simply villagers — who have been on a journey while staying put.



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Mike Bird

posted April 17, 2007 at 6:19 am


Scot,
I saw a similar book at SBL that gave case studies of Liberal-Progressive churches that are dying. I cannot remember the name of the book or the authors. At the same time a good counter-point to Bass’s book is Thomas C. Oden’s “Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements” and Thomas C. Reeves, “The Empty Church”.



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mike

posted April 17, 2007 at 6:22 am


It’s funny, I just moved from a small town to a city where the pastor of my church is just getting into emerging ideas. I go along to staff meetings to discuss church and ‘new ways’ of doing church. It generally strikes me that most of the ideas are what small little congregations have been doing all along.



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Anonymous

posted April 17, 2007 at 7:12 am


Words – » Blogs in Review – 4/17/07

[...] Scot McKnight (http://www.jesuscreed.org) writes about a book entitled, Christianity for the Rest of Us which “[e]ssentially, the point of this book is to show that mainline, liberal, progressive churches are showing signs of life.” He continues his series on Love in the Key of Delight with part twelve, a look at Song of Songs 2:10-14. [...]



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T

posted April 17, 2007 at 8:37 am


I thought these lines hit a theme that most emerging folk I know would definitely resonate with:
“Practice, not purity: some of her churches saw themselves as more faithful to Jesus than the conservative churches. They are to live the way of Jesus. Wisdom, not certainty: they are comfortable with ambiguity. Community that leads us to God together. Wisdom is found through a life of knowing God.”



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Tim

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:12 am


T -
Why is orthopraxy now considered better than orthodoxy? That is my one big beef when a lot of emergents I talk to. What really matters is orthopraxy, not orthodoxy, but we need both. 1 John is such a great example of that. If we don’t have love, we don’t have God. Yet at the same time 1 John argues for the importance of orthodoxy as well. We need both. Ms. Butler-Bass may have great orthopraxy, but what about orthodoxy?
I recently pulled my support from Sojourners because she posted a blog that denied the centrality of the resurrection of Christ. She basically argues that it does not matter if Jesus was physically raised from the dead, but what truly matters is whether or not the dead are still raised, by changed lives, the homeless finding homes, the poor coming out of poverty…etc.
It seems to be even a 3rd grade reading of 1 Corinthias 15 would say Ms. Butler-Bass is at best creating a version of Christianity the apostle Paul and the rest of the NT writers would adamantly reject.
So…my lament continues. Will the church ever embrace orthodoxy and orthopraxy as important. It seems we are back at the argument that led to Carl Henry’s classic book, written decades ago…
What do you think Scot?



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John W Frye

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:12 am


Scot,
The fundamentalist/evangelical penchant for bounded-set communities exiled the mainline churches. I applaud a study that teases out the presence and operations of God and his salvation in “those” churches. I agree with “T” (#4): those descriptions resonated with me as well.



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Dan

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:43 am


My view is perhaps a little more cynical having just left a church that viewed itself as mainline, but what you describe her describing would appeal to the church I just left because it would allow them to continue doing exactly what they have been doing, but describing it with different language. So there is appeal to disenfranchised evangelical and spiritual people with the same discipleship failure that plagues most of the church in the west.
Dan



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Gallagher

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:46 am


My opinion is the “village church” brought people into a closer fellowship because they did not have the luxuries we have today. We are the most transient people of the world. We can fly around in metal tubes all day and travel whereever we want.
We need closeness/fellowship!



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Matt R

posted April 17, 2007 at 10:01 am


This looks like an interesting study, and book.
As a part of an emerging church within a mainline maybe I’m a little biased, but in some ways there is more room in our denomination for the things you mentioned in point 3 than in more ‘evangelical’ networks I’ve been a part of.
Tradition (not traditionalism), Practice (in the way of Jesus), Wisdom (in community) are ways of describing an open, or ‘centered’ set. John (#5) is right, evangelicalism in America has often been read through a ‘bounded set’ lense… but there is much more to Christianity. Many people, Christians and pre-Christians alike, are yearning for a faith that follows Jesus, is more ‘progressive’ in theology, but leaves the extremes of both fundamentalism and liberalism behind.



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Josh

posted April 17, 2007 at 10:27 am


This post has really hit home with me today. Me and my wife are considering returning to the Methodist tradition I grew up in. My Grandmother died two weeks ago while we were home on spring break (God’s providence). The funeral was held at my home church (United Methodist) and my wife was really touched by the funeral service (liturgical). She grew up in charismatic,evangelical churches and had never experienced the beauty,dignity, and theological richness of such a service.
We have recently decided to find another church home while I attend college (I am a biblical studies major who is called to pastor). We have spent a year with our former church and still feel like strangers;no fellowship. I have recently considered going back to the United Methodist Church. However, I have big problems with many of the positions of those in power in the UM and also with some larger ecclesiolical practices (i.e. bishop appointments of pastors to congregations). But I really love my home denominations, its heritage, and its theology. I am currently at a Southern Baptist university and I love some of the directions that the leadership is going. The problem is that these directions have not gotten into the grassroots (i.e. local church leadership).
Is there any UM’s out there? What do you think? Should I continue contemplating and praying about returning or should I just take the good things from my tradition and integrate into where I am at?



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paul

posted April 17, 2007 at 11:02 am


is this “village church” idea similar to what is driving the new monastic communities like the Simple Way and others? Seems like a similar idea



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brad brisco

posted April 17, 2007 at 11:09 am


I find the author’s points interesting. Like the idea of the “village church.” I have recently heard several people talking about the desire/need for a return to the neighborhood/community church. I understand the author’s issues with Barton but don’t really understand the issue with Noll. I have read his Christianity in America book and I believe he discusses great diversity in American Christianity.



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Rich/Luthsem

posted April 17, 2007 at 11:09 am


I was raised Southern Baptist and went through all the Evangelical, mega-church, charismatic and even Calvinist movements until finally making my home in the Lutheran Church. Why? Because the focus was on God’s grace and the liturgy was the common lectionary that focuses on the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Our readings including the Psalms, Old Testament reading and an Epistle. The services are focused on the scriptures and the sacraments. We also say the Apostles or Nicene Creeds that connects us to Christians of all ages.
This is why I am at a liturgical church.



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Diana Butler Bass

posted April 17, 2007 at 11:18 am


Scot,
Thank you for doing such a close reading of my book, Christianity for the Rest of Us. I like your books very much, and I look forward to seeing your insights on the rest of the chapters. I imagine we’ll have some differences in the details, but I suspect that we will share a generative passion for congregational renewal through Christian practices.
To Paul, the answer is yes. The “new village church” idea is to recreate a mainline congregation as an “intentional community,” but to have such a community linked with a larger institutional structure and tradition as found with a denomination. It is very similar to Simple Way and Rutba House in the New Monastic communities–and the leaders of those groups are friends of mine. The interesting thing is that these impulses–for both new monasticism and the churches I studies–have arisen independently of each other, despite their spiritual and organizational similarities. The most widely influential book read by the pastors in my study was Bonhoeffer’s Life Together–and many stated that they were trying to borrow Bonhoeffer’s essential vision to renew their churches.
FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN MY BOOK, especially mainline pastors and churchgoers: The Washington National Cathedral is hosting a major conference based on the themes of Christianity for the Rest of Us on May 10-12. The other speakers include (among others) Barbara Brown Taylor, Tony Jones, Phyllis Tickle, and Jonathan Hartgrove-Wilson. The conference website is http://www.cathedralcollege.org/events/0705.shtml.



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Susan

posted April 17, 2007 at 11:24 am


… this is on of those “new” old ways I hope catches on. Sounds like a good book.



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Adam

posted April 17, 2007 at 11:30 am


This is the best book I’ve read this year so far – I’m glad you’re working through it. I found it very encouraging. I think it works remarkably well in combination with Gibbs and Bolger’s “Emerging Churches.” Both books encouraged me very much about the future of the church – so many similarities but yet very different.



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paul

posted April 17, 2007 at 12:45 pm


Diana,
Thanks for your comments. I too have noticed that many of these ideas found in new monasticism, emerging church, and apparently now in mainline churches are coming about independently of one another. a new desire to be inentional about community with one another as a part of our role in God’s kingdom vision.
it is also encouraging to hear that you are friends with those from the new monasticism, as i am traveling to Philadelphia in May to spend a few days to learn about what is happening at the Simple Way and Camden House. i am glad to hear that they are conversing with others about the role of the church.
What other books, besides Bonhoeffer’s came up in your study as a common source amongst pastors?



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B-W

posted April 17, 2007 at 1:42 pm


Tim in #5,
Although I find myself wanting to affirm many of the intentions of the “Emerging Church”, and appreciate that Diana Butler Bass herself has taken time to come by and respond to some of our comments, I don’t want your comment to get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps Bass would disagree with your assessment of her faith. Perhaps you’ve described her accurately, but feels that we’re focusing on the wrong things. Perhaps these areas of “orthodoxy” that are still important that we talk about are the areas in which she and Scot would differ (as she’s already suggested will be the case in some areas).
While I want to take care not to be closed to the ideas, even the radical ones, that “orthopraxy” vs. “orthodoxy” raises, I think that this is a very important topic, and we need to continue to discuss it.
For me, the bodily resurrection of Christ is crucial. Without that, we have nothing.



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T

posted April 17, 2007 at 2:35 pm


Tim,
I agree with you about having both, about pursuing both. I lament with you for folks who follow Jesus’ teachings and example, yet don’t embrace his resurrection. I also lament for those who can pass a written examination of their orthodoxy and give no one around them an experience of the new creation. Some liberals’ actual trust of Jesus’ genius and teachings produces marvelous fruit in my opinion, even as they struggle with a physical resurrection. And some conservatives’ ‘faith’ in the resurrection produces none of the risky love that it is designed to release. I agree we must seek to know and trust what’s real so that we can live what’s real.
For my part, growing up in a conservative evangelical environment, I know much more of orthodoxy than I’ve seen of orthopraxy. If the kingdom of God is not a kingdom of talk, but of power, we’re missing something. My own take is that to the extent that the RC church needed to hear Romans (a little ironic) at the time of the Reformation, the American Evangelical Church needs the reality of its “faith” called into question by 1 John and James. We don’t live the resurrection nearly as often as we ‘defend’ it. We need the words of Jesus where he discusses what lordship means, and what the cares of this life tend to do to gospel seed. I don’t think I elevate practice over doctrine, except that I believe that practice is the goal, the end, of doctrine, and the ultimate proof of whatever we really believe. My main concerns for doctrine now are motivated by a desire for right practice, for God’s will to actually be done on earth (and all the healing that will bring). I say to myself and the Evangelical Church, “Show me your orthodoxy by your orthopraxy.” And I agree that clearly Paul and the other apostles (including James) would have been opposed to any teaching that Christ didn’t physically rise from the dead. That should give anyone who wants to claim loyalty to the faith they handed down serious pause.
On a side note, shouldn’t the people who say they believe in the resurrection be leading the most ‘risky’ lives of love? Love that gives tangible things to anyone that asks, even to one’s enemies? But I don’t see a profession of faith in the resurrection producing the kind of risk-embracing love that Jesus teaches, generally speaking–and the resurrection is absolutely intended to give us the confidence to follow Jesus in this way, the way of overcoming the evil within others with good. I’ve heard a lot more about resurrection than I’ve seen of it in people. That’s why I, at least, tend to resonate with calls to orthopraxy. It’s actually out of love of orthodoxy–I really want to see it put to its intended use.



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DerekMc

posted April 17, 2007 at 2:40 pm


#10 Josh
I am an ordained S. Baptist and UM Elder who is appointed to a UM church. The Bishops power of appointment was a concern of mine when I joined the UMC. It has its strengths and weeknesses, as does a congregational system. I have great respect for the Bishops that I have served under.
Your last sentence shows that you are asking the right questions. If God is calling you back to the UMC, go for it! I am sure that God will use you and your UM tradition wherever you end up.
Derek



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Michael

posted April 17, 2007 at 2:46 pm


While I admire the intentional community and more importantly the embracing of humanity whatever their current state, I, as Rob Bell might say, have a brick in my faith, and that would be the physical resurrection of Christ.
I am not sure if I have missed Diana’s point and got wrapped in the symbolism of a personal resurrection but Christ’s literal resurrection is a requirement for my faith to not just be a way of life but something that promises eternal life.
Has this become a data point between the Evangelical and Emerging movements?



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Diana Butler Bass

posted April 17, 2007 at 3:21 pm


I’m happy to correct any mis-impressions about my writing. For the record, I believe in the resurrection and said so in the Sojourners column. I wrote that piece toward an audience of progressive Christians, who may, or may not, have a hard time understanding the resurrection.
In seminary–I graduated from Gordon-Conwell–I took a class with Richard Lovelace (who was also one of my mentors) on the topic of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. I have long hoped that the two may dance together (as Lovelace and Robert Webber both wrote back in 1980s). In my study (the project upon which “Christianity for the Rest of Us” is based), I discovered 50 mainline Protestant congregations doing just that. They are theological communities–however, they express their theology more often in terms of practice rather than statements of faith–echoing Paul’s dream of God’s way not being written in ink, “but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” To be with those congregations, as I have been privileged to be, is to experience lived theology and transformative faith. They are, indeed, communities where intelligent faith and meaningful practice are joined.
To Paul: I love that question about books. In addition to Bonhoeffer, many mentioned various writings by Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Richard Foster, and Stanley Hauerwas. But–and this was really interesting–most did not appeal to modern theologians. With the exception of those mentioned above, the pastors referenced John Henry Newman, Kieregaard, John Calvin, Martin Luther, the Book of Common Prayer, Hildegaard of Bingen, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Benedict, the Celtic tradition, Gregory of Nyssa, and the desert fathers and mothers. In other words, their theological sources for congregational renewal were ancient and traditional, drawing from the stream of spiritual theology.
Good news, I think!



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Bob Cornwall

posted April 17, 2007 at 3:38 pm


As one who greatly enjoyed Diana’s book and who found it encouraging — as a mainline pastor — I want to say that she has staked out territory that needs to be explored. Oden and others repeat the old canard that conservative churches grow because they teach the foundational truths of the faith. But look at the megachurches, why do they grow? Isn’t it because of the “practical Bible Teaching” and the support programs? Think of Joel Osteen. He’s become the preacher of the hour, drawing thousands, but his theology is as “lite” as they come.
By the way, as a member of the Academy of Parish Clergy (www.apclergy.org) and editor of the APC Journal — Sharing the Practice — I’m pleased to say that Diana’s book was named “Book of the Year”! It is well deserved.



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Richard

posted April 17, 2007 at 3:41 pm


Before we get too far off on what Diana may or may not have said about the resurrection, here’s a link to the “God’s Politics” post she wrote shortly before Easter:
http://www.beliefnet.com/blogs/godspolitics/2007/04/diana-butler-bass-believing.html
Draw your own conclusions, but I don’t see much denying going on there.



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Diane

posted April 17, 2007 at 4:03 pm


I’m very interested in data to support the contention that more and more Americans are coming back to “village churches.” I see village churches in my area closing. I may misunderstand how the term is being used in the book, but the village churches I see closing are small, traditional main/old stream churches whose congregations are dying out. These are what many would call “Christmas tree churches:” the small, steepled, stain-glassed churches of the 19th century. Diana, is this what you are talking about?
Tim, I agree with you that too many people talk about believing in the Resurrection and too few follow through in their actions as if they believed in it. We need both.



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Josh

posted April 17, 2007 at 4:48 pm


Derek, thanks for your input! I am really struggling with what to do. I love my Methodist tradition and the atmosphere I find (except the battles over homosexuality and other things; I will not give in to culture). I would really like to know more of your experience and why you moved to the UM tradition. Again, thanks!



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Tim

posted April 17, 2007 at 5:08 pm


T -
It sounds like we grew up with the same background. I grew up in an evangelical megachurch that taught me Scripture beautifully, but materialism and greed abounded. It was extremely disappointing.
B-W
I think you’ve nailed it. The resurrection is important.
Ms. Butler Bass -
I did not say you denied the resurrection. I said you denied the centrality of the resurrection. In other words, according to your article, you do not have to believe in the resurrection to be a Christian. And my response is that a 3rd grader reading 1 Corinthians 15 could say that argument has no foundation in Scripture. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then we are ‘still in our sins’ and we are people ‘most to be pitied.’ In other words, there is no such thing as a Christian who denies Jesus rose. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that the cross is a stumbling block to both Jews and Gentiles. To remove that stumbling block by changing the resurrection to it an allegory and myth may help people who cannot believe in a such thing, but it is not the Gospel. And secondly, nowhere in your article did I see that you affirmed the bodily, physical resurrection of Christ.
Orthopraxy is vitally important. But so is orthodoxy. To deny that belief in the resurrection is a central, absolute Christian belief changes Christianity. Jesus’ resurrection is proof of the good news that Jesus has conquered death, that he will call us out of our graves because the grave could not hold him, and above all…the He is both God and Lord. The resurrection is not just proof that the homeless can find homes, but that the dead can rise, and that above all…death does not have the last word. Jesus has the last word.



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DerekMc

posted April 17, 2007 at 5:10 pm


Josh,
Rather than take up space on this blog, feel free to email me at derekmcguckinataol.com and we can chat.
As for the mainline and emergent ideas, I have found the UM leaders in my conference are open and interested. Our bishop had the cabinet read one of McClaren’s books and my Distict Superintendent, (they make up the cabinet)asked me and a couple other pastors what we found attractive in McClaren’s work.
Derek



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Mike Mangold

posted April 17, 2007 at 5:31 pm


What does this mean: “takes a shot at Mark Noll’s version of American church history?”



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Dan

posted April 17, 2007 at 7:04 pm


Scot, or anyone else, and I don’t mean to stray too far off topic, but the quote “…Wisdom, not certainty: they are comfortable with ambiguity” is the one that threw red flags for me. Why are so many of these conversations couched in these polar opposite terms? Isn’t this why emerging folk get in trouble with traditionalists?
Example: I am not “certain” the sun will come up tomorrow, but I feel no “ambiguity” about it. Likewise, I am not certain about the Resurrection, but I am pretty confident in its historicity. I am not certain about ecclesiology, but the last thing I want is ambiguity.
Emergents may be right in questioning bomb proof certainty a la enlightenment modernism, but why must the alternative be ambiguity? Cannot a “reasonable doubt” confidence be a fair stake in the ground? Seems to me that if emerging folk and what I guess are called post-conservatives would be more precise about what they are critiquing and what their proposed alternative is, there would be a lot more discussion and a lot less acrimony. Ambiguity says nothing to provide safety and comfort to anyone. Just a thought.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 17, 2007 at 7:11 pm


Dan,
My summary is clipped, of course. I think she shows a fair nuance, but with the clear acceptance of mystery and ambiguity. She uses the opposites in her language, but the section is nuanced.



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nathan

posted April 17, 2007 at 8:20 pm


I loved this book. It, along with Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor, were significant aids in reflection and evaluation of my own journey this past year.
I think that the book mounts the argument that there is possibility of ecclesial vitality in the main line and that that possibility is not just potential, but being actualized.
I also appreciated Bass’s acknowledgement of the failures of the mainline. The book was honest while still confronting the alternate mythology of the stream that proclaims the problems of mainline arise because they do not share the same hermeneutic. Barna’s recent work, collided with Bass, gently chastens the evangelical stream’s myth of success due to doctrinal purity. It’s more complex than that and I think Bass pulls back the curtain for us to see it.



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Peggy

posted April 17, 2007 at 8:25 pm


I really resonate with the fact that these “village” communities are popping up independently all over. This certainly is my experience, although I’m leaning more toward the term “clusters” and a melding of the “village” with the “abbey.” It is all about doing what we know.
I am weary of those who seem to want to see problems everywhere…forgive me for my momentary lapse in patience while I heave a great sigh…okay, thanks. Back to it…
Ambiguity seems to be as troublesome to folks as is chaos. For me, the important thing about these terms is that they help us remember that our faith is full of mystery and our God is beyond out ability to comprehend fully. This leaves space for humility and mutuality and interdependence within a fully diverse group of Christ followers. Gloriously ambiguous chaos…love it!
At least, that’s the vision God has given me and asked me to begin to live out…it’s a both/and spectrum of colors, not either/or black and white.
While Scot and Diana and many commenters do a more than admirable job of setting context and giving examples, this medium of communication just falls short when talking about nuanced language and concepts.
Thanks, all, for your efforts. I choose to be encouraged.



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Matt R

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:05 pm


Dan #30, I can’t speak for Bass, but I can say this…
As one who came from a conservative evangelical background where ‘certainty’ was almost worshiped, I’ve encountered more of Jesus by embracing mystery/a ceratin amount of uncertainty. The point for me is to be certain about the relative uncertainty of OUR knowledge… our faith is in Christ, not faith in our own faith.



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Dan

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:25 pm


Matt. I doubt that most evangelicals deny that there is “mystery” in faith or that our human apprehension of knowledge is certain. I think where this emerging/traditional discussion gets heated is that place where the terms are so undefined that one cannot even make a guess as to where mystery ends and reasonable confidence begins. Lots of traditional evangelicals like the idea of a neighborhood church, like the emphasis on embodied apologetics, like the return to the sacramental, but the nebulous, fuzzy language and elevation of experience over doctrine scares the daylights out of them.
My question is, do contrasts like “certainty vs ambiguity” really communicate anything that helps that tension. Seems like for emergents “certainty” equals “arrogance”, and both emergents and traditionalists would agree that such an attitude is wrong. They would agree that we can’t know all there is to know, but traditionalists would describe that as humility, not ambiguity. Is the terminology setting up a false dichotomy?



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Tim

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:35 pm


Ms. Butler Bass and to anyone else -
I in no way meant to imply that Ms. Butler Bass was not as intelligent as a third grader. I was trying to say that 1 Corinthians 15 was a simple passage to interpret. That a 3rd grader could see Paul is arguing for the centrality and incredible importance of Jesus’ historical, physical resurrection. My word choice was very poor and insulting.
My apologies. My comment strays from the intensity and importance of the line I am trying to argue, which I consider to be very important.



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Diana Butler Bass

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:41 pm


Dan,
I actually contrast wisdom vs. certainty–a contrast that draws from the medieval mystical tradition and Roman Catholic spiritual theology. Contrasts are pedagogical devices, a device I sometimes employ as a writer (and teacher) to communicate difficult concepts. A number of the above comments rightly point out that “wisdom” involves mystery and a knowledge of God that goes beyond the head and absolutes, a knowledge that resides in the whole self and the complexities of both human experience and divine wonder.
For the book, I interviewed almost 400 people and a large number of them drew this contrast for me–a tension that they had experienced as churchgoers. The idea, although it has ancient roots, emerged from the interview data and the testimonies of participants.



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Matt R

posted April 18, 2007 at 12:31 pm


Diana Butler Bass,
Thanks for posting here, your comments bring clarity to the conversation… I look forward to reading your book!
Have you found that your participants desire to find “whole self” knowledge relates to a desire to integrate… in other words to find spirituality in ever part of life… to bring to together what modern Christianity has often compartimentalized?
Dan (#35), Where some emergents struggle is with the traditionalists(modern evangelicals) emphasis on right doctrine as mental assent… we want a lived doctrine. What you describe as “fuzzy language” we often see as describing things in language people outside the modern evangelical subculture(Christian and pre) can identify with. We notice that many come to faith in Christ in different ways, not just a mental assent to a doctrinal statement of Christ as Lord, but sometimes experienceing Christ before knowing everything about him… I even have a friend that has recently come to Christ through serving the poor… through her experiences and our conversations she discovered the heart of Jesus there. Call it humility/ambiguity/whatever you want, we need more open spaces in our communities and relationships where people can encounter the beauty, mystery, AND truth of God instead of putting up our own modern grid of mental assent to doctrine as the main door to entering into a relationship with Christ.



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Diana Butler Bass

posted April 18, 2007 at 1:09 pm


Matt R.,
My husband is a regular reader of Scot’s blog–so I knew rather quickly that he is reviewing my book and sensed a fun chance to participate. I’m pleased to jump in and clarify.
The answer to your question is “yes.” People specifically told us that they were seeking greater wholeness–both as individuals and in relationship to their life in the world. The churches I studied helped folks experience an integrated life.



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Lyle Mook

posted April 18, 2007 at 9:09 pm


Scott,
I bought this book after hearing the author on a tremendous podcast from the forum at Grace Cathedral – I highly recommend it. http://www.gracecathedral.org/forum/for_20070304.shtml
She was asked on to the board of Emergent – at first felt out of place – but had her fears removed by the warm welcome and honest dialog of people like Brian McLaren and others.
She is saying some of the same things we are learning in segments of the evangelical church, as you have detailed.



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More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




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