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Ironic Faith

posted by xscot mcknight

I’d like to have a conversation here about this piece in CT on what I am calling “ironic faith.” [Added: Originally, this ironic faith article was a part of the McLaren piece; it was lifted out and became a separate article in CT. So, there was no ending because it led to the article on McLaren.]



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Daryl

posted September 30, 2008 at 12:56 am


Interesting discussion, though does anyone else think it seemed to end suddenly? It definitely outlines some of the elements of my own journey.



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Matt Glock

posted September 30, 2008 at 1:09 am


I too was waiting for a conclusion. I was also wondering how the subtitle got there. Because there is a brief mention of Brian McLaren at the beginning and then… I’m guessing it wasn’t Scot’s idea.
I’m sure once the USA wakes up the collective wisdom of the Jesus Creed community will show the way.



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Kyle

posted September 30, 2008 at 1:44 am


Daryl,
I completely agree, I clicked “next page” expecting Scot to sum things up and explain how he walked the path and came out a moderate evangelical who walks with and alongside many emergents…instead it ended extremely abruptly and seemed more of a checklist than an article.



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Richard W. Wilson

posted September 30, 2008 at 1:49 am


Hi Scot,
I was wanting to comment on your “McLaren Emerging” in christianitytoday.com, posted 9/26/2008 11:09AM
Could we have a little conversation on aspects of that? I could (and may) post to CT, but the 52nd comment might not get you engaged.
Perhaps you could start us up on JesusCreed.
All the best in Christ,
Richard W. Wilson; body of Christ, St. Louis, MO, USA



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Cobus

posted September 30, 2008 at 2:57 am


but what about the rest of us? Tony Jones 2 years ago told some of us that to understand Mclaren you need to understand the fact that he is emerging from evangelicalism. But what about the rest of us, not all of us are emerging from American evangelicalism.



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mariam

posted September 30, 2008 at 3:24 am


Good summation Scot, except now I’m really not sure of the difference between emergent and the much-maligned and feared “liberals”. Although being one of those liberals, I’m OK with that.



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rodney neill

posted September 30, 2008 at 3:47 am


I have recently read and been inspired by reading Marcus Borg and I guess would classify myself as a progressive/liberal Christian. I agree with Mariam in her comments at 4* – emergent and liberals share many similar convictions etc.
Rodney



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mariam

posted September 30, 2008 at 4:13 am


Except I’m not sure that liberals are ironic about it – perhaps that is the difference. For emergers there is this ironic tension between how they were raised, what they “used to believe”, what their family and friends and in some case faith community believe – and what they privately or perhaps publicly believe. Liberals don’t have the tension.



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John C

posted September 30, 2008 at 4:38 am


I think one difference between old-fashioned liberal Protestants and emergents may be that the liberals were often ultra-modernists, whereas the emergents (at their best) are rediscovering the great tradition of Christian orthodoxy rooted in the Fathers and the daily office etc. In fact, I was surprised that this wasn’t one of Scot’s 8 points. It seems to me that the two youthful movements at odds with mainstream/popular US evangelicalism these days are both going back to tradition – the Young Reformed types to the 16th/17thC, the emergents to the Fathers/mystics/Celtic Christianity etc.



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RJS

posted September 30, 2008 at 4:49 am


Well, I guess on this thread that I will make no effort to hold to the rule that comments should be no longer than the original post…
Kyle,
It is more of a check list than an exposition or memoir. But is does lead one wishing for more on how to emerge without losing faith or drifting into a less than Christian spirituality… and personal stories help.
I cannot speak for Scot – but I would say that I also have worked through this process and ?emerged? into a modest, moderate, and chastened form of evangelicalism. More accurately I would say that I am working through this process and emerging into such a faith as it is an ongoing process. Some, but not all, of the issues Scot raises in the article played/play a large role.
Why did this result in chastened evangelicalism rather than ?conversion? to something else?
Read Scot?s post on Gospel 6 ? Because reading the Bible, imbibing the story, leads to a wholistic view of God?s action in the world, the reasons for it, and the consequences it should have in the lives of those who sit at the feet of Jesus, who trust in/believes in, who love, and who follow Jesus.
It seems to me that much of liberalism sees the catalysts and responds by throwing out God?s story, God?s action in the world, while trying to retain the ethic (they keep the flower, perhaps part of the stem and a few of the leaves, but discard the root system). The theological drift in the emerging conversation suffers from the same tendency, although in a postmodern rather than modern milieu.
On the other hand much of evangelicalism, esp. the more fundamentalist or neo-fundamentalist strains, ignores the consequences that the gospel should have (they guard the roots and stem, but discard the flower and leaves as a distraction) and misinterprets the story.
Scot is right – evangelical thinkers or preachers such as Carson, MacArthur, DeYoung … and we could go on, can warn and draw lines all they want – it has no impact. We need to move forward, not retrench and defend.



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RJS

posted September 30, 2008 at 4:50 am


At least I did stay shorter than the CT article.



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Anonymous

posted September 30, 2008 at 4:57 am


#6 I agree with your statement, but the result is the same Theology – Liberal with may be some rest of Evangelicalism.
They will sing the songtext of M.Jackson more than recite the creed of the old church or any fixed creed, because it is not about believing dogmas, it is about to heal the world.
_______________________________________________
“And the dream we were conceived in will riveal
a joyful face and the world we once believe in
will shine again in grace then why do we keep
strangling life wound this earth crucify its soul
Though it’s plane to see this world in eavenly in god’s glow
We could fly so high let our spririts never die
In my heart I feel you are all my brothers
Create a world with no fear togheter we’ll cry happy tears
see the nations turn their swords into plowshares
We could really get there if you cared enough
for the living make a little space to make a better place . . .
Heal the world make it a better place for you and for me
and the entire human race there are people dying
if you care enough for the living
make a better place for you and for me”
_____________________________________________
So I think we need dogmatic more than ever – dogmatic who helps christians to overcome ironic faith without changing everything. May be we have to translate some phrases, or even to rethink some of them, but we have to look more valuable for example at Luhters Dogmatic. There are so many true statements for today.
I am exciting to read “the blue parakeet” about hermeneutics.
May be this is a beginning.
young people have to be carefull. They have to chose if they follow their hearts or if they lead it. My heart for example would say to McLarens Kingdom vison or Jacksons Songtext: great, yes we can, let’s heal the world – but my theology mind correct my feelings in a good way.
Do not throw away the old easily. The emerging church should focus the ancient teachings in the same way they do with the ancient spirituality.
A lot of emerging teachers are in there theology knowledge to Martin Luther like I am in my physic knowledge to Einstein.
Maybe there are new discoveries about physiscs but that does not mean that Einstein was wrong with all and is irrelevant for today.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 30, 2008 at 5:24 am


The first few comments ask about the sudden ending or the lack of resolution — I added a brief note to the post above to help clarify that. This article on ironic faith was originally a part of the larger article in CT, which runs alongside this ironic faith piece, on Brian McLaren’s two recent books.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 30, 2008 at 5:31 am


Richard #4, I don’t plan to post McLaren’s piece here so we could have that discussion here too.



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RJS

posted September 30, 2008 at 5:33 am


I think that ironic faith is the initial stage. One finds that one does not really believe what one was supposed to believe ? it just doesn’t fit. Now the question is where to go from there. Ironic faith is remaining in the church (or job for those who work in evangelical institutions) with fingers crossed and brain numbed. Ironic faith will emerge given enough time.
It will emerge out of evangelicalism to some other form of Christianity
It will emerge out of Christianity into apostasy and atheism or agnosticism
It will emerge out of faith in God into faith in the more nebulous spiritual
It will emerge out of faith in God alone into a pluralistic theism
It may emerge out of conservative evangelicalism into a postconservative evangelicalism.
The last is the stream I find myself in and the stream that I think holds our future. We need good theology and good thinking to get there. We also need church leaders to stop defending the lines in the sand and to start teaching, leading, thinking, conversing (see other posts on doubting; finding faith, losing faith, …).



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Michelle Van Loon

posted September 30, 2008 at 5:44 am


This line captures my own experience as well: “For what it is worth, I, too, have been through the experience of ironic faith, for some of the reasons I’m about to mention, but I have come out of that experience with a modest, moderate, and chastened form of evangelicalism.” It is entirely possible to question, struggle, yearn and yes, emerge from modernist evagelicalism with gratitude for its gifts, but without an insistence that it is the only living, viable expression of biblical Christianity.



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Anonymous

posted September 30, 2008 at 5:52 am


One Comment on #10 RJS
qoute: “Scot is right – evangelical thinkers or preachers such as Carson, MacArthur, DeYoung ? and we could go on, can warn and draw lines all they want – it has no impact. We need to move forward, not retrench and defend.”
I disagree with you, when you say “not retrench and defend”.
Yes we have to move forward AND to defend our teachings, but may be with new words and pictures as I mentioned- this is apologetic. This is what Paul did in some epistels, when some christians are tempted to follow other teachings.
Ohterwise we are tempted to create a kind of syncretism only to hold them in “our” churches.
Without apologetic, they say: “Look, you are not able to teach it to me that I can understand this dogma.”
Without apologetic we say: “Yes you are right – what we are teaching is wrong.” or “we are right, but we are not interested to explain it to you in a way you get it”
But is it all wrong what the “old” Evangelicals teach? I don’t think so.



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nitika

posted September 30, 2008 at 6:19 am


I think your article describes people who are most highly committed to a God who is real. They are “fundamentally” committed to God/Christ as ultimate reality. That allows and even compels them to undergo ongoing deconstruction of all other constructs including their notions of the “text of the Bible” and “the facts of Science”. It HAS TO work, b/c God is real, everything else can be refined, tweaked, discarded, etc… but it MUST work, not just for me, but all of humanity.



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dopderbeck

posted September 30, 2008 at 6:29 am


I identify with all of the points in that article except perhaps #6 — that just never really struck me as an issue. But, I’d really resist the lable “ironic.” I don’t think it’s good for faith to be “ironic” — it’s very hard to live in community with others whom you regard with irony. One of the aspects of the Chrysalis book that was very helpful to me was the notion that one who emerges from a Chrysalis experience is free to participate in communities where people might be predominantly in other stages of faith. A person with a mature post-critical faith hopefully can be in community, sincerely and without irony, with people of mostly pre-critical faith.
Yet — it is a deep shame that there are so few authentically and deeply Christian local communities in which people with post-critical faith can gather. This is why, IMHO, any movement towards a “middle way” in evangelical faith is so important.



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RJS

posted September 30, 2008 at 6:36 am


dopderbeck,
I agree – it is not healthy for faith to be ironic, which gets to my point in #15. Emerging into irony in the worst sense of the word is an unfortunate characteristic of the educated elite.



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dopderbeck

posted September 30, 2008 at 6:37 am


Sorry for double post — but wanted to add this — I also think it’s crucial that there be pastors who are trained and able to minister to people of post-critical faith. This for me is one of the most difficult things — some of my pastors in the past have regarded me with open suspicion; some now, I feel, don’t understand where I’m coming from and perhaps see the post-critical viewpoint as a problem. More than anything, I’d love to be in community with a local pastoral leader who really understands my journey, who can help me stay theologically grounded and evangelistically vital, and who can help me live in warm and open fellowship with others whose journey might never need to go through a “critical” stage.



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D C Cramer

posted September 30, 2008 at 6:46 am


Thought of an interesting quote that might be relevant:
“The tension comes . . . at the level of the emotion and the imagination. For the idea of the absoluteness and the unique superiority of Christ, the Christian gospel and the Christian church is deeply embedded in our liturgies and cultural history as well as in the assumptions of so many of our fellow Christians. One participates in the liturgy, joins in singing the hymns, is part of the community and its prevailing absolutist and exclusivist assumptions. Hence the tension; and all what we can do, I think, is to continue to live in this tension, accepting the moments of pain and turmoil that it can involve.”
– John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, 2nd ed., 379



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Richard W. Wilson

posted September 30, 2008 at 7:41 am


This is in response to “McLaren Emerging” in christianitytoday.com; 9/26/2008
Scot, I was rather surprised by this comment in “McLaren Emerging” in christianitytoday.com; 9/26/2008:
“The most stable location for the earliest understandings of the Cross, from Jesus all the way through the New Testament writings, is the Last Supper?and not a word is said there about violence and systemic injustice. Other words are given to explain the event: covenant, forgiveness of sins, and blood ‘poured out for many.’ Insight into the Cross must start here.”
Perhaps if one is looking for words or phrases that encapsulate traditional evangelical “explanations” of the Cross this may be true, but I think there is more. You concluded your review of recent works from McLaren by expressing commitment to the Lukan form of the Gospel, and Mary’s Magnificat in particular. In criticizing McClaren for social-justicizing the Gospel without connecting it with the Atonement of Christ, you say that in the texts dealing with “the Last Supper. . . not a word is said there about violence and systemic injustice.” I found it surprising that, as an Anabaptist according to Wikipedia, you were not apparently aware of the emphasis Jesus is seen to have given to just these concerns precisely in the context of the Last Supper in Luke. In Luke 22:25 “Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” Matthew 20:26-28 even associates this servanthood with the disciples’ willingness to be sacrificed as Jesus was soon to be: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, , ,just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If this doesn’t speak rather directly to questions of “violence and systemic injustice” what would? “Lording it over” people is a virtual catch phrase for all relationships involving social injustice. In the Atonement context of Luke Jesus then goes on to rather enigmatically call the Apostles to buy swords if they don’t have them, not as he is so often perversely claimed to be be doing in support of self-defense, since two swords are hardly enough for twelve or thirteen to defend themselves, but in order to fulfill a prophecy by making them appear to be insurrectionists, so that he would be ” numbered with the transgressors,” or in other words just another false messiah and sinful opponent of God’s will. Not far from the atonement texts would also be Peter’s assault on the servant of the high priest and Jesus’ saying “No more of this!” Beyond these atonement related textual references however, I think it not inappropriate to appeal also as Atonement related to the three Synoptics’ record, whenever the Apostles first affirm Jesus as the Christ, of Jesus calling for his disciples to follow his example in taking up their own crosses in willing self-sacrifice or be rejected as disciples of his. This challenging command is issued in each of the Synoptics immediately following the Apostles affirmation of Jesus as the Christ. In other words, according to Jesus, belief in Him as the messianic savior required a non-violent response commitment just like his by his followers. I think there is good reason to see these messianic affirmation texts as essentially atonement texts since this is how Jesus conceived his role as the saving messiah, and hence how he expected his followers to emulate and embody his saving sacrifice in non-violent response to evil in the world.



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Scott Eaton

posted September 30, 2008 at 7:47 am


Scot,
I appreciated the article, but it left me asking, “Now what?” Ok, so there is this strident neo-fundamentalism on one end of the scale and this “ironic faith” of the emergers on the other end of the scale. You did a nice job of deconstructing that “ironic faith.” But what I was missing was your exploration of the “third way.” I want to hear more about this “modest, moderate, and chastened form of evangelicalism.”
From my vantage point the neo-fundamentalist seems stuck while the “emerging crowd” seems to have jumped the track. It seems that this “third way” is going to be the way of genuine evangelicalism in the fututre. I wish your article would have talked more about that. That’s what I was expecting and hoping for on the third page of the article.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 30, 2008 at 7:52 am


Richard,
Thanks for this. Yes, your point is well made: in the Passion narrative there is plenty of evidence for seeing a cross-shaped discipleship that both dethrones powermongering and sets a new pattern for living as a disciple of Jesus. That kind of cross, however is “atoning” only insofar as it extends the full message of the cross in the NT.
I have to say, though, that my focus was on the Last Supper narrative itself when Jesus is speaking about his death — and I give the words used in the Gospels for how he understood his death at the last supper.
Let me put this differently: while I do see the cross as a paradigm for an alternative life and community and while I think the Girardian notion of unmasking powers, God identifying with the victim, and injustice exposed has merit within the texts of the NT, that theory of the cross does not adequately cover the way the NT authors speak more directly of the saving power of the cross (to use Schmiechen’s terms for the cross).
In my book A Community called Atonement I attempt to work out a fuller sense of atonement, one that includes our participation by way of extending atonement into all of life, but one cannot be satisfied with a paradigmatic/exemplary or even Girardian theory of the cross in the NT. There is more to it than that. And when the death is seen as saving, the focus is more on a death “for us” (I call this identification for incorporation) than a death “as an example.”



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Scot McKnight

posted September 30, 2008 at 7:54 am


Scott (#24),
Again, the article was a sketch of McLaren and I think “ironic faith” is important for understanding both McLaren and the emergent crowd. My intent was to sketch what is going on rather than to point to a 3d Way.
Sounds like I need to do that, though.



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WJY

posted September 30, 2008 at 8:06 am


Scot,
Well-stated and helpful summary of “ironic faith.”
On Thursday (25th) I attended the World View forum series – Being Christian; Being Citizen – at Malone College (Canton, OH). This particular meeting was a great example of your 8 points. Three input persons: Evangelical David Gushee (Mercer Univ), Catholic Michael Baxter (Notre Dame Univ), Mennonite John Roth (Goshen College). Response from students was lively. I felt I was in the midst of an event that had qualities of the emerging movement. Things are happening but, I think, not many Christians are aware what’s sprouting.
On ironic insight, #20, Sunday’s lectionary Gospel reading – Matt 21:28-32 – seems to be another example of how Jesus frequently joults us: things are often not what they appear to be. Exactly, irony.
Thanks



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josenmiami

posted September 30, 2008 at 8:16 am


#15 – RJS.
You said…
“We need good theology and good thinking to get there. We also need church leaders to stop defending the lines in the sand and to start teaching, leading, thinking, conversing (see other posts on doubting; finding faith, losing faith, ?).”
I so agree with you. A friend of mine calls this drawing of lines in the sand ‘positionality’ and says that it has very little value for spiritual formation or global transformation. I think St. Paul might have said something very similar about controversy. Why do feel that we need to be the guardians of orthodoxy rather than followers of Jesus?



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Travis Greene

posted September 30, 2008 at 8:39 am


Scot,
I thought your article on McLaren was thoughtful, generous, and well-written. But you seemed to fall into the trap of thinking that just because someone hasn’t said something recently, they don’t believe it. McLaren’s most recent books don’t have much ecclesiology, but I think his earlier ones do. Since he was one of the main authors who awakened me to the communal nature of the gospel and the church, I think this criticism is off-base.



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ChrisB

posted September 30, 2008 at 8:42 am


I think Scot’s done a wonderful job of laying out the problems of the emerging camp.
1. They give up inerrancy and so have no defense against people who want to throw out unpopular Bible passages. If Genesis 3 or Judges aren’t inspired, there’s no reason to think John 3 or Romans is.
2. They believe the snapshots of Jesus given in the gospels interpret the Spirit-inspired teachings of the apostles who spent years with Christ rather than the other way around.
3. If the Bible’s not inerrant, of course science wins any contest — even if it calls into question fundamental Christian doctrines like the Fall or sin nature.
4. They see sinful humans and decide they should leave more conventional churches to follow … sinful humans.
5. Related to #1, since we can throw out passages of the Bible, and since we like people of other religions, we can ignore the claims of exclusivity by Christ and the apostles and prophets.
6. Also related to #1, they throw out large chunks of the OT without realizing it is fundamental to the NT or that they have no excuse for not throwing out large chunks of the NT besides personal preference.
7. They end up making everything involving sex “private” so that condemning illicit sexual practices and, ultimately, abortion is off-limits.
8. Since human language has limits, they assume God’s power, and therefore word, is limited by the weaknesses of his creatures — supporting #1-7.
Ok, I know this is a bit of an overstatement. Well, maybe more accurately, it’s taking each of these points to the extreme. But all of these things can be found — even in the extreme — among some members of the emerging community and even among the leaders.
So my question is, given that the postmodern assumptions produce “irony” where none was intended or desired and will occasionally (maybe often) drive people far off the theological reservation, is it not time to stop and reconsider the foundations of this movement?
Postmodern Christianity takes personal/cultural preferences and teachings of human philosphers and scientists and asks the Bible and Christian tradition to change. Doesn’t that seem somewhat backward?



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Julie Clawson

posted September 30, 2008 at 9:22 am


I agree with RJS – ironic faith is a typical first step for most emergents. We all come from somewhere, we can’t deny that we are defined by our roots. Some never leave this ironic phase – they emerge enough to find a comfortable stop within the systems and structures as they know it and that works for them. But some push beyond that into a whole new conversation – which is why (as I posted about today) emerging theology cannot be reduced to “just” post-evangelical or classic liberal categories. Trying to fit us into those old categories (either to understand or critique) is messy and doesn’t do justice to the nuances of the conversation. But as I said before there are many different varieties and emergence.



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John W

posted September 30, 2008 at 9:36 am


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_Authoritarianism
As I read the article about Ironic Faith, I found myself seeing the validity of each of the 8 points discussed. Indeed, I don?t see how anyone could take issue with them and be intellectually honest.
I would add another point, the rejection of right wing authoritarian thinking exhibited by the majority of evangelicals. This sort of thinking is exhibited by evangelicals overwhelming support of the Iraq war and the re-election of George Bush in 2004. Right-wing authoritarian followers blindly support the opinions of the authorities and are harsh in their treatment of people who speak out against the status quo and belong to the ?outgroup?. Equating conservative religious views with right wing authoritarian thinking is not some sort of smear by liberal secular progressive, but a well documented sociological phenomena demonstrated by numerous studies. It?s not so much the conservative viewpoints, but the lack of critical independent thinking, blind acceptance of what our leaders tell us, and the demonization of those who don?t follow the status quo. Yes, I know there are a few progressive/liberal evangelicals out there, but they are definitely not the majority.
If I reject right wing authoritarian thinking as lazy, wrong, and believe Christ would not embrace it, how can I continue to be an American style evangelical Christian? Why would I want to do so?



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Rebeccat

posted September 30, 2008 at 9:37 am


Scot, I would love to see something about a 3rd way. My sense is that there are a lot of people with deep, post-critical faith out there who find themselves fighting off the irony, but not able to find a spiritual home. It seems to me that many Emergents have come out of the chrysalis stage, if you will, and said, “we don’t want to be limited by those plant-bound caterpillars, so let’s go make out own thing.” A more mature approach would probably be to gladly live in community with the caterpillars. However, often it seems like the only way to co-exist with the caterpillars is to pretend to be a caterpillar yourself. This is, of course, intolerable.
I agree that leadership is a HUGE problem/barrier in this whole thing. I have long thought that it is a terrible thing to have young, untested people head off to seminary, enter the ministry and then spend the rest of their lives fighting off the urge to wander off the path in order to protect their reputation and livelihood. (A young, tested, mature person is, of course, another thing.)
Anyhow, I would love to hear about a 3rd way and how we can begin pushing a third way in the church as desirable, if not essential, to a well functioning body. Because right now, it sometimes feels like the deepest, wisest parts of the church have been sent into forcible exile. And that cannot be a good thing.



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dopderbeck

posted September 30, 2008 at 10:33 am


DC #22 — I don’t like that quote from Hick. Christ is absolutely unique — he alone is the incarnate Lord — and he also is “superior” in that he is the fullness of God’s revelation of Himself to us. Lose that, and IMHO we lose “Christ”-ianity. But that in itself isn’t a full theology of how God works throughout the world or of how we as missional “Christ”-ians ought to relate to others.
ChrisB #30 — I hear some of your criticisms here, but I think the alternative you’re offering is to keep chanting the word “inerrant” while sticking your head in the sand. Again, it seems to me there must be a third way that avoids the extremes rationalistic inerrancy dogma and boundless existentialism. And there is, BTW — it’s called “theological hermeneutics” and there are incredibly rich resources out there already by folks like Anthony Thistleton, Richard Hays, Richard Bauckham, Telford Work, Joel Green, and others.



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D C Cramer

posted September 30, 2008 at 11:07 am


Dopderbeck (#34),
I should have qualified the quote (in #22), but I didn’t in order to allow the effect to sink in (assuming people would have a general understanding of Hick’s radical pluralism). I don’t endorse Hick’s quote here; rather, I cited it as an example of one of the potential pitfalls of “ironic faith” or what Hick refers to as “tension”, namely, what happens when theology is bifurcated from doxology. I think the results can be devastating for both.



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Sally

posted September 30, 2008 at 11:21 am


I’m not sure why I’m jumping in here. I feel woefully inadequate with all of these great posts and comments. But I just wanted to throw in that I, too would love to hear more about ‘the third way’. I had the same reaction as #24. I don’t consider myself emergent for most of the reasons already listed in many places. But at the same time, the emergent ‘philosophy’, whatever that is, does have some good qualities that resonate with me, and it seems like they resonate with a lot of people, that the ‘rigid fundamentalists’ could learn from.
I’m fortunate in that I have a great small church that does seem to be along the lines of the third way, but even that is still caught up a lot in some things I’d like to see it break free from. I keep reading blogs and following links around trying to find someplace that seems like ‘home’ with my beliefs. I keep getting frustrated reading a lot of emergent blogs. This one feels like a good fit, but it’s only one blog. I’d love to find a whole ‘third way’ type of blogging community. Not that I have one to add, haha.
I love the focus of the Bible as a story that seems to come from the emergents, as opposed to the piecemeal verse picking by the traditional church. I love the focus on the ancient aspects of church tradition and the spiritual disciplines. I love the focus on a holistic Jesus who has come to redeem the whole world and really bring Shalom and that it’s not just an individualistic say-this-prayer that traditional churches use. I love love love the fact that they want it to be an active belief. Following Jesus actually means getting up and following. It is not a passive belief system in a set of facts, like most of the American church does it. I hate that about the traditional church.
But I love the fact that the traditional church has a set of beliefs that are true and knowable. That we can know certain things about God, and there are things that are right and wrong. Shades of grey in some things is helpful, but you can’t have grey without black and white. I think the aspect of personal holiness is also very important, and it’s one that I think even the traditional church has dropped the ball on, even though they will still verbally affirm it.
I think there is a great opportunity for a blending of the best of both worlds. The activism and story and whole world salvation of the emergents, combined with the a set of some beliefs (maybe not as many, or quite as rigid as the traditional church)….that is where I am at, and what I would love to find a larger community of.
Not to throw yet another controversial name into the mix :) but the one big name person that I have really learned a lot from and who I think is close to where I see a good balance, is Rob Bell. I know there’s all this controversy around him and is he emergent or isn’t he, and I disagree with some of his stuff, but on the whole, I think he has a really good grasp of a holistic Jesus and a holistic salvation message, and wanting to see the social activism aspect of it, but also understanding that there is sin and we are all trapped in sin and that we do all have to go through Jesus to find God and to be made whole. How we all go about finding Jesus might look a little different for each of us b/c we are all different people, but the only path to God is through Jesus, and we have to admit our sin and let Jesus make us whole and healed. And their church does it, they don’t just talk about it. I love that.
I don’t want to go to a 10,000 member church, but I would love it if my church, and all churches, fully embraced the priesthood of all believers and really became active in a daily living it out, not just getting through life, hoping heaven is better than this.
Hopefully some of that made sense without being too rambly :) All that to say that it would be nice if I’m not the only one in this middle-of-the-road trying to balance the best of both worlds, and if there really are more people trying to live ‘the third way’.
And if I am the only one, I’ll just slink away and hide, LOL.



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ADHunt

posted September 30, 2008 at 11:43 am


I am living right now in that tension. It seems that some of your posts Scot have been continuing to lead in a direction that says
“I have been involved in the Emerging Conversation and it has some good things to say. Not all Emergents are alike, but some are continuing in a ‘post-modern’ or ironic direction. Because I have come around to a chastened Evangelicalism and because for me the journey is no longer continuing in such a direction, I am going to stop using the term “Emergent” and form a new alliance.”
I feel sort of like you are beginning to give up on that branch of Emergent that continues in integrity to ask the hard questions. It would be wrong of me to judge what you are feeling in your heart, and I may be misreading the general tone of your recent posts, but I feel as if you are done actively engaging that branch of the EC that continues in a post-evangelical direction except in critique. Which is of course valuable, but it does not always foster a ‘I’m there with you’ type attitude which I have always felt that you have.
I feel that to turn to a merely ‘chastened’ Evangelicalism would be (for me) to turn on integrity and to resort to nothing more than a more humble Conservativism to save face with my Evangelical heritage. I want so badly to do this, but I am right now living in that ironic world, and I do not see myself going back.



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Rob

posted September 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm


#30 – I don’t subscribe to inerrancy because I’m just looking for a way to do what I want, make the bible say what I want, or because I think the Bible is full of errors and contradictions (again, playing by the terms of scientific method and higher criticism). That is unfair. I would argue that for those of us who challenge the term, it has more to do with not wanting to use an unhelpful term that arose in a period of scientific method to justify why I believe in the truth of the Story of God in the Scriptures. I believe by faith (in God and in the community that wrote and preserved the Scriptures and developed the canon), not because I need to prove that it is free of error, however that is defined in the current debates.



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Rob

posted September 30, 2008 at 12:04 pm


that first sentence should say “I don’t subscribe to inerrancy, BUT not because I’m looking…”



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mariam

posted September 30, 2008 at 12:16 pm


Chris #30
Yes, you have overstated things. It would be like me saying that all evangelicals are like Dobson or MacArthur or Mark Driscoll. (well, lots are are but others cringe). I think that things are more subtle than you suggest. Emergents (or Liberals) still hold the Scriptures as authoritative in matters of faith, they do not hold to the authority of traditional interpretations of Scripture or necessarily a particular notion of how Scripture should be read. Nor do they worship scripture (I am always surprised at the number of churches who describes themselves first and foremost as Biblical, rather than Christian). It is not that they say we can throw out the Bible, but, in light of what we know now (about the age of the earth, for example) is it possible we didn’t get what God is telling us or that we are focussed on the wrong thing. So they are not asking the BIble to change to change. They are saying “Maybe we are wrong about what we thought the BIble was saying. ” And as for Christian tradition, it is ever evolving, however slowly. Sometimes the paradigm shifts and the tradition needs to make big changes – it is the nature of human thought in all of the disciplines. I think we are in the middle of one of those paradigm shifts now and the Emerging movement is the response. It is a shift which has been going on for some time and it involves a lot more that just Christian theology. I believe that there are huge societal changes happening, certainly not all of them good. The Church could be a powerful force for moderating that change in positive ways, but they need to engage the change, not cover their eyes and ears and hope it goes away or that they can somehow influence the change while refusing to see or hear what it is about – and I mean really hear, not glimpse at it and quickly draw a caricature. They need to, at the same time, hold onto to some fundamentals (this is where Liberals can be weak and where I feel a bit of personal irony being on that side of the fence) but they need to decide what those fundamentals are. Is Biblical inerrancy a fundamental? It has been for Evangelicals, but necessarily not for the rest of the Church.



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tscott

posted September 30, 2008 at 12:27 pm


to Rebeccat and ADHunt:
as to a third way or “I do not see myself going back”… Webber’s “the Divine Embrace” is helpful. The concern of his writing is to go back to the earliest convictions of Christian spirituality. He believes that
an embodied spirituality has been lost and that it can
be recovered and again take root in this culture.



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Matthew

posted September 30, 2008 at 2:18 pm


I agree, “The Divine Embrace” is a masterful work on spirituality. It will be eye opening.
http://www.matthewsblog.waynesborochurchofchrist.org



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ADHunt

posted September 30, 2008 at 2:30 pm


tscott, #41
I have not read the book, and it may be good, but having been raised a Pentecostal I know all about trying to “get back to the earliest Christian ___________…” As it is, the vast majority of voices attempting to point a way forward are drawing from the past. But there are far too many voices for my taste saying that the way they are prescribing is “THE” way it was ‘back then,’ and that because that was how it was then this is how it can be now.
In other words, “The way forward is the way backwards as I have interpreted it” I am not convinced any of these types of ideas are helpful by themselves. For all I know the book is spectacular, but I tend to drift away from spirituality books.
If I might be so bold as to put my two pence in on a “3rd way”(how ‘ironic’ as I am an Anglican); for me the most solid historical, exegetical, yes even ‘biblical’ way forward is something like Andrew Perriman suggests in his “Re:Mission” That is, we are living in the age of the Spirit, we are connected to the biblical narrative of redemption for ourselves and the whole world, but we do not reproduce the past. Being soaked in the past we work our way forward by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and this sometimes means discerning ‘new’ ways forward, not reproducing old.



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Larry

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:00 pm


It seems to me that it is not texts, like the Bible, that are, or can be, “inerrant”. Only interpretations can, or can’t, be “inerrant”. After all to say that a text is inerrant is to suppose that first of all that there is only one legitimate way to read it, and that it is possible to get behind the text and into the mind of the author. Which leads to my biggest issue with the idea of inerrancy: it is often simply a power-play that really means “my interpretation is inerrant”. Most of us have heard people say “You don’t have an argue with me, you have an argument with the Bible”, which exemplifies this kind of use of the doctrine. Of course once you realize that texts can’t be inerrant, that only interpretations can be, it leaves the question how can you determine what an inerrant interpretation is? From there you quickly realize that you can’t tell, there are no trumpets that sound when one arrives at the “inerrant” interpretation, no writing in the sky to tell us which one is “the” right one.
In short, asking whether the Bible is “inerrant” doesn’t even make sense as a question.



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tscott

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:26 pm


AD Hunt
Sorry about being a day late to talk with you.
There are very few I care to talk with or read
about spirituality in this culture. As for 3rd way
“..being…past…..foward…Holy Spirit…
‘new’ ways…”….sounds like Jesus to me.
I enter the emerging world seeking traditional
ways of worship and less tendency to have
a traditional worship service. Sounds pardoxical
but it works. Notice Jesus Creed doesn’t even have
an ecclessiological blog category.



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Richard W. Wilson

posted October 6, 2008 at 12:55 am


Scott,
I realize this comment line has run its course, but perhaps you’ll at least see this.
Thank you for your response, and I take your point: there is no literal reference to systemic injustice or non-violence in the literal words of institution of the Lord’s Supper. I’d love to read your book on _A Community called Atonement_ as it seems you more or less fully explored the cosmic implications of the reconciling work of Christ. No doubt there is more to the “Atonement” of the Cross in the NT than captured in Girardian thought, and more the “Emergent” can say about forgiveness through the cross of Christ. Nevertheless, I still think “the more” that God truly intends for all of creation is included in Jesus’ and the Apostles’ words regarding “covenant,” “new covenant,” and the fullness of the meaning even Jesus intended when referring to “ransom,” specifically in the texts of The Lord’s Supper. You have, no doubt, argued for a broad if not universal conception of the significance and meaning of “God’s Kingdom.” Surely Jesus intended more than just a community of forgiven people when he spoke of The New Covenant in His blood. Surely he understood more fully than Paul all that he would eventually “ransom” from captivity to sin and the bondage of death. I realize that your intention is probably more or less parallel to mine in this, but perhaps even those particular “constitutional” words bear greater freight than commonly supposed, or that your comments about them suggested.
All the best to those in Christ,
Richard W. Wilson



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