I got a letter from a young high school pastor in the southeast and he’s happy to share it with our blog community. This young pastor leans in some emerging directions but his pastor is now criticizing emergent. I’d like us to give him our wisdom today.
I have followed your blog for a long time now and I have commented in other places on your book Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us and I really like it. I am writing to you because I am concerned about something that is going on in my church and I was wondering, if you have the time, if you could respond or give your opinion on the matter. Recently my church has been having fun taking pot shots at the emergent movement. In particular, they are most worried about too much social justice, not enough penal substitution in explaining the gospel, too much postmodernity and one of the elders the other day said he had read your description of some emergents as having “ironic” faith and it bothered him deeply.
I have recently come into trouble at my church because I am teaching the book of Luke to our new junior-senior high mission group. (By the way, I have a degree from a Christian college.) One of my problems is this: I keep a blog that I didn’t think anyone from the church read (shows how much I know) and one of the parents came to me very upset. I had written on the blog that the Bible has tensions within itself and that there have been differing interpretations of the Bible over time (I was using Oden’s IVP series on early Christian interpretations) and that the students seem to have trouble thinking about the Bible historically (to avoid present-mindedness). Also, in light of RJS’s posts — I really like her stuff by the way — about science and faith, I have said a few things about how we read Genesis 1–3. I sat down with one elder and he understood what I was doing, and said it wasn’t a big deal, but that I have to be careful what I put on my blog. I met with our pastor, though, and he was concerned that I had too many links to emergent folks on the sidebar.
This would all be well and good, but after talking with him for about an hour about the emergment movement I am realizing that he really knows very little about it. He has never read Dallas Willard or N.T. Wright or Dan Kimball or any of your books, let alone anything by McLaren.
Here’s where I see the big issue: Sometimes I feel like the people in my church are living in a time vaccuum. They are fighting to “protect marriage” in the State and to ban abortions and I just think there are better ways than legislating morality. But more importantly, we differ on the nature of truth. I believe all truth to be contextual whereas my pastor believes all context, no matter what, will lead back to one truth. Teaching Luke’s understanding of God’s work in this world has a different focus than how Paul understands God’s work in this world. These are the ways I view things and my pastor might be beginning to think that I am “too liberal.” The problem is I am not liberal enough for him to ask me to stop teaching. I’m somewhere in the middle, but I am starting to feel seriously constricted by my home church after four years of college.
Is this something that you would suggest I stop teaching over? Is this something worth leaving a denomination over? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Please respond thoughtfully to this young pastor, and I will post my thoughts Wednesday.