The New Christians

The New Christians


The Irony of the Young, Restless Reformers

posted by Tony Jones

So, I wrote a couple of posts over the weekend — “Why Jesus Died” and “Why Jesus Rose” — that affirmed a traditional and orthodox understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But because I don’t afford the penal substitutionary theory the status of crushing all other atonement theories, I’ve become the scourge of the Reformed blogosphere. 

But first, remind yourself that the Reformation started because Martin Luther questioned the powers-that-be, and his movement really got traction when he was excommunicated and declared a heretic by the Diet of Worms and the resultant Edict of Worms in 1521.

Here’s a sampling of the Edict’s pronouncements about Martin Luther:

To put an end to the numberless and endless errors of the said
Martin, let us say that it seems that this man, Martin, is not a man but
a demon in the appearance of a man, clothed in religious habit to be
better able to deceive mankind, and wanting to gather the heresies of
several heretics who have already been condemned, excommunicated, and
buried in hell for a long time. Let us add to this all the heresies
recently brought in by him to be the source of all iniquity and rubbish
and to destroy the Catholic faith. As an evangelical preacher he labors
to trouble and demolish all religious peace and charity and all order
and direction in the things of this world. And finally, he brings
dishonor upon all the beauty of our Holy Mother Church.

Now, before you read some of these blog snippets, hear me well: I am not comparing myself to Martin Luther. Instead, I’m trying to absorb the irony that some of those who consider themselves theological heirs of Luther, Calvin, et al, use the same language against their opponents that was used against their theological heroes.


1517 blog: Even though I have come to expect these
kinds of statements from Jones, MacLaren [sic], Pagett [sic], etc. I still am
stunned by their bold heresy.

Justin Taylor: Let me just offer one encouragement: pray.
Pray that God would open Tony’s eyes. He does not know the good news of
Christ bearing the curse and drinking the cup… Second, pray
that God would thwart this false teaching and that others would not be
drawn to this non-gospel.

The Voyages…: Well if that’s not throwing the apostle Paul under the bus, I don’t know what is.

Echoes in Eternity: If it sounds like a heretic…

Keep Thou My Feet: Tony Jones, of emergent-fame, flatly denies the Gospel.

Pyromaniacs: Be sure to add Tony Jones to your list o’ heretics.

Can you smell the irony?!?



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Joe

posted April 13, 2009 at 10:56 am


Tony,
I REALLY enjoyed your posts regarding the atonement. I also liked the bit from the Edict of Worms you included here.
I have to suggest though, that this post does little to help the conversation. You’ve got a ton of great ideas, and lots of people dislike them, and that’s fine. But what if the real issue we’ve been blinded to is not our opinions regarding any aspect of theology, but instead how Christians who follow Jesus handle any sort of division within the body?
I’m not suggesting a naive inclusivity, but I pray that there’s a better way to navigate the issues and opinions than by throwing more explosives on a toxic argument bonfire.
If your ideas and thoughts have merit, you don’t need to defend yourself by taking shots at your detractors.
Grace and peace,
Joe



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jhimm

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:32 am


James 2: 1 My brethren, hold not, in respect of persons, the faith of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ
James 2:8-10 If, indeed, royal law ye complete, according to the Writing, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,’ — ye do well; and if ye accept persons, sin ye do work, being convicted by the law as transgressors; for whoever the whole law shall keep, and shall stumble in one [point], he hath become guilty of all
James 2:18-20 But say may some one, Thou hast faith, and I have works, shew me thy faith out of thy works, and I will shew thee out of my works my faith: thou — thou dost believe that God is one; thou dost well, and the demons believe, and they shudder! And dost thou wish to know, O vain man, that the faith apart from the works is dead?
The only heresy is empty faith. The only heresy is gardening bad fruit.



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Zach Lind

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:42 am


I particularly liked the photo image Justin Taylor employed. Very funny. I hope you are well, Tony.



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Thom

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:42 am


“I’m not suggesting a naive inclusivity, but I pray that there’s a better way to navigate the issues and opinions than by throwing more explosives on a toxic argument bonfire.”
And *that* is the issue – over what do we divide? Tony said in an interview recently (I don’t remember where, it was some sort of “a decade of emergence” feature) that he considers it to be SIN for a Christian to break fellowship with him over doctrinal issues. But where’s the center? Perhaps “what is a Christian” then becomes the question, and then we get stuck in a sort of neverending loop of questions like “which Jesus” and “how do you mean “a follower of Jesus””, and so on.
If I can offer two pieces of advice: Tony, you have a tendency to say something provocative and then not interact with any of the scripture or historical information *even when you say you will*. The Original Sin series was an interesting example of this – when it finally came to an exposition of Romans 5, you just sort of went “that’s an interesting text and it turns on how you see the early chapters of Genesis. What do you think?” You did the same thing on the homosexuality dialogue, though I know that was cut off early.
Secondly, you have a habit of saying things in a way that comes off as *purely* provocative. I don’t doubt the genuinely good motives behind your posts on atonement/homosexuality/original sin/whatever, it’s just that I have no idea what they are. A bit of “here’s why I care about this” would help a lot to make your case, I think, because very often it comes across as a lot of “let’s beat up conservative evangelicals!”
In Christ
T



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Your Name

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:44 am


I do not think our salvation depends on our agreement on any particular theory of atonement, or on any other theological thought. That we have our minds on Jesus is a good thing whenever we use that focus to invite others to his kingdom. Arguing and debate can be fun and entertaining, or it can be mean and injurious. Believein something to be true does not make it true. But we see in the mirror dimly, and only when we see face to face will we know for certain. Our disagreements should not cause disunity, though because we are human, they do, and we can only be united by Christ. That is why he came. Blessings to all.



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Sara

posted April 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm


Tony:
How do you define “traditional”? Who has the authority to claim that title for themselves? What does it mean/say if someone claims that title for themselves?
How do you define “orthodox”? Who has the authority to claim that title for themselves? What does it mean/say if someone claims that title for themselves?
How do you define “heretic”? Who has the authority to claim others as heretics? What does it mean/say if someone claims that title for someone else?
Who are the “powers-that-be” in your context? Who has the authority to be called “the powers”? How are you challenging them?
Can a few comments on your blog be considered a “scourge”? Can a few comments on your blog be compared to the Diet of Worms?
Are you comparing yourself to Luther, all-the-while arguing that you’re not comparing yourself to Luther?
Are you suggesting that Edit 2.0 (i.e. comments on your blog) are condemning you? Who has the authority to condemn you? Who has authorized them with those powers?
Sure, Edit 2.0 would read: “To put an end to the numberless and endless errors of the said Tony Jones, let us say that it seems that this man, Tony Jones, is not a man but a demon in the appearance of a man, clothed in religious habit to be better able to deceive mankind, and wanting to gather the heresies of several heretics who have already been condemned, excommunicated, and buried in hell for a long time. Let us add to this all the heresies recently brought in by him to be the source of all iniquity and rubbish and to destroy the Reformed faith. As a leader in the Emergent Church, he labors to trouble and demolish all religious peace and charity and all order and direction in the things of this world. And finally, he brings dishonor upon all the beauty of our Reformed doctrines.” But I have to wonder, why you would concern yourself with that.
Why do you allow yourself to be so concerned with the thoughts of a few bloggers who cast stones so freely? Who authorizes them to cast stones? Why react to the drama?
Why not respond only to/with theological and biblical content? Why not ignore the simple soundbites (supportive and critical) more concretely? Why not engage the thoughtful content (supportive and critical) more concretely?



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Sara

posted April 13, 2009 at 12:31 pm


When I challenged you to respond to some the questions and comments on your blog, you said you only get paid $5 a day from Beliefnet so you couldn’t justify spending your time responding. That seemed like a cheesy way to excuse yourself from the responsibility of responding to the thoughtful comments on your blog. We’re all in ministry. We’re all short on money. We’re all squeezed for time. Yet many of us still want to engage in thoughtful dialogue. It’s your blog, after all. You’re the one who chooses what you want to post. You shouldn’t be shocked that people want to engage you, and one another, in conversation about the content you post. Discussing Romans 5 more deeply would be one good example. A generative dialogue is only possible if people interact with one another. You chose to blog. You chose to start these conversations. So, let’s have a more nuanced, interactive dialogue.



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Dan

posted April 13, 2009 at 1:26 pm


Tony. Perfect example of what gets you in trouble, “But because I don’t afford the penal substitutionary theory the status of crushing all other atonement theories, I’ve become the scourge of the Reformed blogosphere.”
This is the kind of provocative straw man that you seem to toss out for public digestion, then complain about getting grilled over. Do you really mean to say that those who believe in penal substitution DENY other ways of understanding the atonement, such as being adopted as sons, being freed from slavery, etc., or that we do not also believe we are a new creation in Christ?
On the other hand, have you articulated in any clear way in your post why “bruised for our transgressions” or “justified by his blood…saved from God’s wrath” or “crushed for our iniquities” can be interpreted to mean something other than Christ was, well, “CRUSHED”, and that it was “for our iniquities”. Just how is it that penal substitution advocates are misreading this and countless other texts? Instead you just assert that penal substitution was a recent invention of Anselm and don’t deal with the pertinent Biblical passages in any explicit way.
Stop being provocative and deal directly with the issues if you really feel you are being so misunderstood. I really don’t have much sympathy because you don’t seem interested in dealing honestly with language – and that is my main beef with the post-modern aspects of the emergent movement.



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David

posted April 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm


“But because I don’t afford the penal substitutionary theory the status of crushing all other atonement theories, I’ve become the scourge of the Reformed blogosphere.”
With all due respect, that’s a totally misleading introductory paragraph, Tony. This isn’t about the priority of the various atonement theories, but about your *denial* of one of them. In your post on your post on Jesus’s death you said you find penal substitution neither spiritually nor intellectually compelling, nor consistent with the biblical narrative. Then, in an ironically reductionist move, you brought in your “identification” theory of the cross to crush penal substitution (note the word you use to introduce your own exposition of the cross, following your dismissal of substitution: “Instead”).
In short, it appears your first paragraph is crafted to make your interlocutors look as absurd as possible, not to own what you actually wrote about substitution and then either defend, qualify, or repent of it.



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Gideon

posted April 13, 2009 at 1:29 pm


Well, it’s not too surprising, Tony. That’s how it always is. The revolutionaries become the status quo, and new revolutionaries must arise to knock over the idols the old revolutionaries have created in place of the ones they destroyed.
Of course, penal substitution (and I agree that there are better ways to look at it all), is one of those dearly held doctrines – more so than institutional problems with homosexuality, etc. It doesn’t matter that the strong idea of this (as opposed to a weaker articulation offered by others) only really existed for the last half of the Church’s life – we are so wrapped up in penal substitution that most people can only see the bible that way, they read Paul or some other text and are so placed in the mode to see it they cannot see anything else.
What I think is interesting (and great) is that the cracks are beginning to show. And I’m personally glad that you spoke out – others are, too. Personally, I think a Christus Victor viewpoint works MUCH better in explaining both the texts and our experience of God as a loving father.
Criticism may be offered in the form of a particular passage but I feel that is disingenuous – one can find a particular passage or two to support anything, and often have and do. I think if you look at the texts as a whole it certainly can support many interpretations, and one can look at those specific texts to support others as well.
And it does so at LEAST so well as that we should be comfortable with other ideas about atonement besides variations of penal substitution.



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Gideon

posted April 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm


Though I do agree with the commenters that you really need to do a bit more with your statements. You’re tossing a grenade into the room and walking away… You have the ability to discuss it in more length, perhaps you should.



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Sara

posted April 13, 2009 at 2:42 pm


Dan, I really like your quote: “This is the kind of provocative straw man that you seem to toss out for public digestion, then complain about getting grilled over.” That says it well. He also did this in his book, “The New Christians.” In the book he attacked the Southern Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ. He argues that they represent irrelevant conventional Christianity. In the book, the Emergent Church comes out on top as the “new” Christians who are hip and trendy with their “postmodern” flavor. I respectfully challenged some of the arguments in the book, but he responded by being defensive and dismissive. In the end he said he didn’t want to take the time to respond because my e-mail was too “aggressive.” There’s always a reason of some sort! Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees this pattern in Tony’s responses – or lack thereof. Tony says something provocative then runs away. If he’s challenged, he claims that it’s unfair in some way.
Gideon is right, too. It feels like he tosses in a grenade then runs away – and then is surprised when people question him about the damage. It’s only natural.
It would be helpful if Tony would start to respond more thoughtfully to some of the comments and questions. I think it’s time for Tony to engage in the “generative conversation” with his blog readers. Obviously, he shouldn’t respond to the rude and vile comments, but I think he should respond to some of the thoughtful comments and questions that he gets. Otherwise, it seems like he’s more interested in pontificating his views than having a nuanced conversation.



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Ryan K.

posted April 13, 2009 at 2:45 pm


Uhhh to point out the big “E” on the eye chart to you Tony; all of Luther’s protests were deeply grounded in the Bible. He was never afraid to interact with certain passages of scripture that contradicted his personal preferences or cultural values.
In your previous posts many listed a plethora of scriptures that blatently ran in the face of your comments on the atonement and they were met with….silence. So I am more than willing to see the irony if you want to interact with scripture. How about we just start with 1 Cor. 5:21 and what does the word propitiation mean.



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adam lehman

posted April 13, 2009 at 2:53 pm


@ Gideon you wrote: “Though I do agree with the commenters that you really need to do a bit more with your statements. You’re tossing a grenade into the room and walking away… You have the ability to discuss it in more length, perhaps you should.”
think about any story of jesus engaging people. then think about if Jesus ever tossed a grenade in the room and walked away.



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Rob

posted April 13, 2009 at 3:21 pm


Tony, as one of your strongest supporters, I have to agree with Thom here: Tony, you have a tendency to say something provocative and then not interact with any of the scripture or historical information *even when you say you will*. The Original Sin series was an interesting example of this – when it finally came to an exposition of Romans 5, you just sort of went “that’s an interesting text and it turns on how you see the early chapters of Genesis. What do you think?” You did the same thing on the homosexuality dialogue, though I know that was cut off early.
I visit this blog because I love the way you think. Unfortunately, I don’t get to see you interact with your thoughts based on other’s comments (and I’m not talking about the haters, I’m talking about those with legitimate questions). I understand the theology/philosophy behind much of what you say, but it would be helpful to see you work that out in dialog with others. I realize it’s tough sometimes because we can feel like we’re arguing across paradigms. But, it’s worth a try, no?
You throw out an interesting topic, and then allow it to turn into a one-sided argument from the opposing viewpoint. We want to see what you have to say. Interact with us. I would rather see you have less new postings if it meant more time interacting with existing posts.



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Larry

posted April 13, 2009 at 3:26 pm


He was never afraid to interact with certain passages of scripture that contradicted his personal preferences or cultural values.
Oh, come on! He dismissed a whole book in the New Testament as an “epistle of straw” precisely because it contradicted his personal preferences. This is hardly interacting with scripture.



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Rob

posted April 13, 2009 at 3:36 pm


Oh, come on! He dismissed a whole book in the New Testament as an “epistle of straw” precisely because it contradicted his personal preferences. This is hardly interacting with scripture.
Yep! How soon we forget our history.



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Tim B

posted April 13, 2009 at 3:50 pm


Larry,
Luther’s comments were published in 1522 in his preface to the New Testament. In subsequent traditions this was retracted. In his preface to James he does commend the book, although like Jerome, Eusebius and Erasmus he expressed doubts about its canonicity. He expressed doubts that the apostle James wrote the book.
Even though he expressed concerns about the canonicity, he did say “though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him.” In fact, his own interpretation worked to show that as Scripture James and Paul were not in contradiction.
He hardly dismissed it on the ground of contradicting his personal preferences. The issues Luther had with James are far different from what you portray them to be.



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Michael Stephan

posted April 13, 2009 at 3:54 pm


And yet, he kept it (the epistle of James). Even though it bothered him, he treated it as Scripture because that is what it is.
Kind of like what some are doing here. Rejecting certain things because it bothers them personally.



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Sara

posted April 13, 2009 at 4:16 pm


Preach it, Rob!



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Jules

posted April 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm


Does it help that I don’t see you as my leader, but as a voice in the conversation???? Um, maybe not. ;)
There has always been those who can’t see beyond the black and white. They have gone here, there and every where to show their message of how far astray the “conversation” has gone. Sorry I don’t care for the “EC” label. Still hold the point of the this was a conversation and for change. ;) Anyway, it seems such a waste of energy to go on a witch on certain “louder voices” then others. I think the best part about this all is the movement in itself is something far beyond who has been pointed to as “leaders”.
Keep up the good work!



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Greg

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:09 pm


In Tony’s defense, I’m quite certain he gets not only dozens of blog comments a day, but hundreds of e-mails from other inquiring minds. It likely would be humanely impossible for Tony to respond to everyone and fulfill every request without ignoring his own family or time with God. Also, I’m not sure why “Tony’s” input is so critical. Is Tony’s opinion more weighty than yours or mine? Does he possess and inside track into the mind of God the rest of us mere mortals lack. I’m sure we have readers more than able to provide a scriptural analysis of Romans 5 and original sin. Why not listen to them?



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Larry

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:27 pm


He expressed doubts that the apostle James wrote the book.
Would he have had any doubts, or voiced them, if James read like a clone of Paul? And if you are going insist on apostolic authorship, then according to a good deal of modern scholarship, we can ignore all of the gospels, Acts, 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter, Jude, some or all of the Johanine epistles, Jude and Revelation.



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Mr. T!

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:34 pm


I like the provocative grenades that TJ throws and from which he merely walks away. At the very least, they provoke a reexamination of why I do or don’t agree with Mr. Jones. And the more comments posted.. then even better! The more I have to gage how my potential response fits into the scale of, both, vehemence and polemic.
But what I find irritating is how much Sara and a number of others keep goading for more comment section interaction. Are you guys serious? Do you not visit the blogs of tallskinnykiwi, iMonk, Scot McKnight, or Pagitt? Or Karen Sloan, Nannette Sawyer, Sally Morganthaler, Heather Kirk-Davidoff, Rudy Carassco, or Samir Selmanovic? How about Karen Ward, Jen Lemen, Eugene Cho, Danielle Grubb Shroyer, Anthony Smith, Bonita Aleaz, Sivin Kit, Jose & Mayra Humphreys, DJ Chuang, Margaret Feinberg, Phil Sinitiere, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Phyllis Tickle, or Julie Clawson? The ratio of author interaction in the comment sections is about the same.
If you want generative conversation, well, that happens in person. Not in the comments section of a blog. C’mon, get real and be fair. Go to a conference or a workshop or a roundtable or something.



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Dan Hauge

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:38 pm


Tony,
I do appreciate the vast majority of what you have written these recent posts, although I must agree with those who have pointed out that in your initial post on Jesus’ death, you were not merely trying to ‘dethrone’ a substitutionary account of death, unless I am completely out of tune with your communication style (which may well be the case). It sounded very much like you were insisting that any substitutionary understanding of Jesus death was not valid, and could only possibly appeal to those with “legalistic minds” (which is not exactly a fair way to categorize everyone who disagrees with you). Then, when the (admittedly often shrill) onslaught of comments came along accusing you of ‘heresy’, you backtrack and say ‘hold on folks, I’m just trying to ‘dethrone’ psm and “I’m just not affording it the status of crushing other theories.” I would venture to suggest that if your language actually sounded like that in the initial post, you would not have received quite the level of objection that you got (of course you still would have received a fair amount of opposition, just perhaps not at the same level).
But at the end of the day this your blog, and you can play it however you want to. You’ve made it perfectly clear that you have a limited amount of time and energy to commit to this low-paying gig, and just because we choose to comment here doesn’t make us entitled to more. And I suppose that Luther himself was not always given to a lot of nuance, (neither Paul himself, for that matter), so we bicker, and we back-and-forth, and we get by :).



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Dan Hauge

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm


yeesh–in the first sentence above I meant to say ‘substitutionary account of Jesus’ death’.
Also, after reading my last paragraph it sounded more caustic than I meant it. I’m mostly just affirming that we can’t really demand more participation from Tony, and yes, part of the point is to get us thinking and posting and debating ourselves.



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Sara

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:55 pm


Mr. T,
Not everyone can afford $200 for airfare, $200 for a hotel room, and $200 for a conference. I know I can’t afford to pay $600 in order to have an in-person conversation with Tony. That’s ridiculous. I’d rather spend that money on my family or my church.



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Sara

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:56 pm


OK, it’s time for a rant. I’m tired of Tony Jones parading around as if he’s doing new things with new theologies. In the past, I have heard comments such as:
“The Emergent Church is trying to do something new, but we aren’t like all the other Christians trying new things.”
“The Emergent church is trying to continually emerge, but we’re nothing like the rest of the Church that has been emerging for 2,000 years.”
“We’re trying to marry liturgical tradition to evangelical impulse, but we’re nothing like the Episcopalians.”
“We’re anti-institutional, but we’re nothing like the Baptists.”
“We’re starting churches that are independent, but we’re nothing like the Congregationalists.”
“We do conversational preaching, but we’re nothing like St. Gregory of Nyssa and the other thousands of churches that do conversational preaching.”
We’re reading Barth and Bonhoeffer, but we’re nothing like the Neo-Orthodoxy of the Mainline Church in the 1960s.”
“We’re reading Moltmann, but we’re nothing like the liberation theologians who came to similar conclusions 40 years ago.”
“We’re committed to the radical implications of the Gospel, but we’re nothing like the United Church of Christ.”
“We’re missional, but we’re nothing like Back Bay Mission and thousands of other Mainline missional organizations.”
“We minister to liberals and conservatives, but we’re nothing like the majority of Mainline and Evangelical churches.”
No, no, no, no, no!
The Emergent Church is trying to do new, relevant, and faithful ministry just like most Mainline and Evangelical Churches. We are not trying to get back to what the the Church Fathers or Reformers were doing. We are not attempting to recover primitivist or fundamentalist views of scripture. We are not trying to plant churches that appeal to the hip and trendy 20-somethings. We’re trying to be relevant and faithful in our time, place, and context.
Why are we all committed to doing something new?
Because we’re all influenced by postmodernity, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, feminism, womanism, etc. All of these theologies and philosophies change the way we do mission, liturgy, hymnity, communion, sermons, etc. We need a more collaborative, organic spirit in all that we do as the Church. Everything needs to be transformed to some degree. Change is needed.
Because we’re all dedicated to being the unified Body of Christ in the world despite our diverse members. In Christ’s Church there is no longer liberal nor conservative, Lutheran nor Calvinist, queer nor straight, for all are one in Christ. We need unity in our diversity. But we need to remember that unity does not require uniformity. It’s messy, but it’s reality. Paul called it one Body with many members.
Because the tenure process at our theological seminaries are beholden to German models of academia instead of committed to the practical ministries of the church. John B. Cobb has written a trilogy of books to help us all re-think the way we do theology so we can transform the Church.
Most of us are now convinced that something new cannot happen within the traditional theologies, polities, practices, and structures. We need to continue to emerge into new ways of being the Church in ways that facilitate our participation in the radical, liberating message of the Gospel. We must always seek first the Kin-dom of God.
Many of us are becoming more convinced that the Mainline, Evangelical, and Emerging Church has much in common with the Reformers who sought to change the Church in their time, place, and context. That is, we are on a quest to unmask how the gospel has been used to serve the (often imperial) interests of those who are in charge (mostly straight European men).
Criticism from those in positions of power should be expected. Nay-saying from those who operate comfortably in those structures of power should also be expected. But we must always remember that Jesus was killed by the structures of power in his day. God will not allow the modern structures of power to do the one thing to Christ that a Roman cross could not: stop the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. Thus, we must walk forward with the assurance that God will help us make a way out of no way.
We must now work on building a web of support for all those women and men who are courageous enough to speak up carefully and prayerfully for the change that God is bringing to the Church.



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Todd Pruitt

posted April 13, 2009 at 7:20 pm


Toni (sic),
What seems odd to many of us is that you trash such essential Christian doctrines as the atonement of Christ with the wave of your postmodern hand and then act surprised and persecuted when those who believe the Bible challenge you.



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Scott M

posted April 13, 2009 at 7:20 pm


Penal substitution != substitution
Two very different ideas. Penal substitution is the idea that juridical offenses (really offenses against some sort of natural or divine law) cannot be forgiven – even by God – and so must be paid by someone. Our debt of sin (which under original sin or total depravity we are born with) binds God to punish us, so God arranges for one person of God to receive the punishment from at least one other person of God on our behalf so our debt is paid. Note, the debt is not actually forgiven because it cannot be simply forgiven. Instead, Jesus paid it on our behalf. It’s a very narrow and specific forensic perspective of God, man, and the atonement and really bears very little relationship to the broader themes of substitution.



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Your Name

posted April 13, 2009 at 8:08 pm


Dear Martin, err Tony,
I bet none of your critics ever ask “what about the chickens?”
You are upsetting applecarts that people are invested it, particularly financially. So you must be an enemy, because you are inconvenient to their agendas/personal economies.
“Love of money is (still) the root of all evil,” including wishing harm (i.e. calling someone “fool”). The Christian religious profession is, to many participants, a “zero sum” game – if you get a following, that is detrimental to the personal economies of other Christian religious professionals.
Well, everyone loves to see a fight/auto accident/crime scene (as long as they are not personnally effected), and the worst thing that could happen to you professionally would be to be ignored.
So, deal with it, no one is going after your life or liberty, it’s just part of the game of being a public Christian religious professional.
Joe



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Larry

posted April 13, 2009 at 8:53 pm


What seems odd to many of us is that you trash such essential Christian doctrines as the atonement of Christ with the wave of your postmodern hand and then act surprised and persecuted when those who believe the Bible challenge you.
Nobody hear denying the atonement of Christ. You, evidently, can only conceive of atonement in terms of penal substitution, but that is far from the only way of looking at it. There are many other way, way that many find more compelling, whether looked at intellectually, spiritually, Biblically or traditionally.



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Larry

posted April 13, 2009 at 8:57 pm


Must.proofread.better…
“hear” (above) = “here is”
“way” = “ways” 2x



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Annie

posted April 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm


I am perpetually frustrated by the straw men on this blog, so I appreciate many of the comments here. It seems to me the more intellectually honest route in this instance would be to admit that the original post did *sound* like a total rejection of psa, even if that wasn’t intended. It troubles me a bit that you weren’t willing to say that. Missed moments like that collect in my mind over time and lead me to the conclusion that the emergent movement is about provocation and novelty and hubris. I am not impressed. And, for the record, I come to this conversation a confirmed Foucauldian. If anybody was inclined to be persuaded, it was me.



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Your Name

posted April 13, 2009 at 10:08 pm


I am curious as to why some are dismayed by the fact that many of us take humbrage with the theological flights of fancy so characteristic within the Emergent Church. What do you expect? When biblical orthodoxy is attacked by those within the church then they ought to expect a response.
Any comparison of Emergent silliness with the Protestant Reformation is ridiculous.
I’d love to know how that church basement tour is going.



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josh

posted April 13, 2009 at 10:08 pm


sorry i’m not more hostile these days tony or i’d help you stir the pot. its quite odd that despite all of the advancements going on in the world today that there are still people yelling at the top of their lungs that the world is indeed flat. oh the glorious numbing of having one’s head stuck in the sand, i.e. refusing to see common plain sense.
there is this thing in engineering called plasticity. it also rears its head in countless other fields (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasticity) thus the common sense part of this whole thing. where engineers have to take into account a certain amount of “give & take” from external factors so that their structures don’t crumple in on themselves when a brick is removed or it is hit with its first external challenge. this is why if you’re ever in a top floor of a skyscraper you feel the building move back and forth. its bending (not breaking) and moving back and forth as the external elements challenge its shape.
this is why many have fruitful and faithful lives. they have a certain element of plasticity to their faith. it gives and bends and is able to withstand the elements because it has plasticity built into it’s dna. the alternative, are those who, for whatever reason, refuse to not build solid, brick and mortar structures with absolutely no leeway built into the structure at all. and like a big ass game of jenga, you move one piece, and the whole thing comes crumbling down.
for whatever it’s worth, glad to see you guys still holding feverishly onto your plasticity. it makes me remember the good old days.
cheers mate.



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Scott

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:05 pm


Let those who boast boast in their plasticity…



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Ben Hammond

posted April 14, 2009 at 12:05 am


I think that other post looked anti-PSA because those who hold very very tightly to it are often looking at the people they suspect don’t hold to it with a magnifying glass… almost waiting for the two or three words that seem out of place.
I appreciate that Tony said he wasn’t trying to compare himself with Luther, but the irony does ring very loud.
“Any comparison of Emergent silliness with the Protestant Reformation is ridiculous.”
I think that phrase is simply not true. One only thinks this when they hold that event way up on a pedestal. Granted, it was a great great event, but it also is a progression that happens to belong to a series of great events throughout all of church history… which means their will be more. The reformation was not the decisive final point in the development of the church (all of the changes since the reformation certainly must point to that). If someone feels that it is, I would plead with them to read a introductory book on church history if they have not already.
We are at a pretty big injunction. The cultural shift right now is bigger than has happened in a couple/few centuries… which is exactly what was going on in the time of the reformation.
Anyway… I’m working on a research paper for something totally unrelated that is due tomorrow, so I must go.



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Todd Pruitt

posted April 14, 2009 at 10:15 am


“Plasticity”
Finally, a metaphor for Christianity that I can use!
To be honest there are some portions of the Bible that I do not find spiritually or intellectually compelling. It’s good to know that I can take out the bits I don’t like and still call it Christianity. Now that’s what I call a reformation!
* The most recent “your name” comment belongs to me. I meant to attach my name but something didn’t happen. Anyway, I don’t like anonymous comments. And I stand by my statement that it is silly, foolish, goofy, etc to compare the Emergent movement with the Reformation. And I have actually read a book or two on church history.



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Your Name

posted April 14, 2009 at 11:49 am


I’m stunned by your arrogance against the truth. You like to describe your writings using adjectives like “traditional”, “orthodox”, and “more historically robust” but surely know that you are far from it.
By misunderstanding the nature of the human problem, you offer a cross crafted in your own existential image – devoid of the power or promise of God – tossing in a few novel and untenable notions of Christ, His sense of deity, and the nature of His temptations.
You have the audacity the accuse biblical Christians with having “really no reason for the resurrection” other than a big “Ta-Da!” Yet it is your position which seems to be distinctly vague as to the import of the resurrection.
Biblically, the resurrection is the declaration of God that Jesus is who He said He is (the Son of God) and that He did fully what He said He would do (pay our sin debt): “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1.4). He was not raised in order to more deeply identify with the human pathos, he “was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4.25).
The resurrection demonstrates the end of his vicarious suffering and the veracity of His own pronouncement, “It is finished.” It shows that his propitiatory sacrifice was fully accepted and that the recapitulation of the Fall of Adam was complete.
Reject Christ if you must, but do not dishonor yourself by hiding behind false words.



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Bryan C. McWhite

posted April 14, 2009 at 1:16 pm


Tony, I really just wish you would come out and say that you think the Apostle Paul was wrong. How you can deny that part (I’m not saying ALL!) of the significance of the atonement is that God’s wrath burned against sinners but was absorbed by Christ (which is the meaning of propitiation) in light of Romans 3:21-26 is beyond me. You’re either an idiot and you haven’t given tried to understand Romans 3:21-26 (and other key texts) on Paul’s terms, OR you just want to believe that Paul (and other biblical authors) were wrong, but you don’t want to come out and say it.
You’re not an idiot. I know you know what Paul means. So just come out and say you disagree with him, man. Stop hiding behind double-talk. It will bring some clarity to the “conversation.”



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Mr. T!

posted April 14, 2009 at 3:26 pm


Sara!
airfare- $200
hotel room- $200
conference- $200
a little netiquette- priceless



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John Mulholland

posted April 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

John

posted April 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm


Wow, first time I’ve ever posted here, and it got deleted!
“welcome to the conversation!”
In Tony’s most recent blog post, “The Irony of the Young, Restless Reformers” he mentions that in his aforementioned blogs, that while he “affirmed a traditional and orthodox understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”, he is against penal substitutionary atonement, which he refers to as “PSA.” What is “PSA”? It’s the old, and apparently incorrect old chestnut that that Jesus, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished (penalised) in the place of sinners (substitution), so that God can forgive sins. Historically, criticism of PSA has come in several ways, from the anti-trinitarian Socinus who denied the deity of Jesus (which, tony does not), to the differing ideas of justice between the Hebrews (Old Testament) and the Roman (New Testament-Paul especially) to the post-modern idea that Christ on the cross is “cosmic child abuse.”
Tony’s understanding is that the real purpose of the cross and resurrection is that so God can really understand humanity. The only REAL way to do so would be to experience death.
Final comments:
Tony affirms “a traditional and orthodox understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Does he want a cookie? Are we supposed to applaud? He is, after all, a Christian. (Well, he claims to be). Should we expect less?
In the latest blog post, “The Irony…” he posted a quote from the Edict of Worms from 1521 that blasted Martin Luther for straying from orthodoxy. In his next breath, Jones has the audacity to write, “Now, before you read some of these blog snippets, hear me well: I am not comparing myself to Martin Luther.”
Good, because you’re not Martin Luther. And the church of today is not the Roman Catholic Church of 1521. Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not even in the same ball park as ANY of Lutherr’s 95 Theses. It’s not even the same sport.



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Postmodern "A-Team" Fan

posted April 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm


Mr T –
There’s not one single, imperial understanding of “netiquette.” Everyone has a different understanding of that word from their own context, culture, upbringing, etc. Let’s not colonize one another with false universal definitions. One person’s netiquette, is another person’s silliness. One person’s silliness is another person’s netiquette. And on and on we go. Language is symbolic.
Meaning is in the eye of the beholder. For example, when I see the name “Mr. T,” I think of Laurence Tureaud who appeared in the show A-Team. I can’t say for sure, but I bet you’re a different person than the “Mr. T” I’m thinking about. Language is symbolic.
Ah, the paradox of postmodernity!



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Mr. T!

posted April 17, 2009 at 8:52 pm


Hey Postmodern “A-Team” Fan!
Quit’cho Jibba Jabba.



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Aaron R.

posted April 18, 2009 at 11:31 am


Hi Tony,
Thank you for defending a Kuyperian Calvinism to Doug Pagitt on the audio/video recorded program recently. It’s sad that my Reformed tradition of Kuyper and Bavinck has been hijacked by these others using the title “Reformed.” Rather than being the “Neo-Reformed,” I think this group should more rightly be called the “Paleo-Reformed,” because theirs is a stream that tries to live in the 16th century in the modern day.
As far as human beings being “cracked icons,” etc., this actually goes all the way back to Augustine. Augustine said that all creation is inherently good, and is meant to point toward God. When used correctly, it glorifies God. Humans are made in the imago dei–image of God–but have been cracked by the Fall. This is his sharp distinction in his “City of God” between the words “use” and “enjoy,” in the Latin.
Not surprisingly, the Kuyperian tradition (Jesus as lord of all spheres) similarly affirms very strongly the inherent goodness of creation and even humanity, as “cracked icons,” of sorts.
Every metaphor/parable can be broken if pressed too hard, but it’s a suitable metaphor.



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Danilo Hehl

posted July 25, 2014 at 1:46 pm


I really enjoy studying on this site, it holds superb posts . “Do what you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” by Anthony Robbins.



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