Thursday, April 05, 2007

Emergents and Romans

Yes, yes, I know... I can't paint the Emergent side of the Emerging/Emergent Church with a broad brush, it's much broader-er than Brian "the theological John Kerry" MacLaren, what right do I have to comment, I haven't dialoged with every single ECMmer several times over so how can I possibly comment on the non-movement Movement which is really just a conversation, my socks don't match, let's group hug and fingerpaint our feelings about these things while performing an interpretive dance, I'm a big meanie, etc., etc., etc.


But you've got to admit - the bulk of the ECM kind of sticks it to themselves. All anybody really has to do to comment on it is... just quote 'em.

And so, I give you Reading Romans in the Emerging Church by the appropriately named "Open Source Theology" blog.

The first paragraph sets the tone and requires no rebuttal - it's self-scuttling:

It seems fair to say that Paul's letter to the Romans has so far failed to capture the imagination of the emerging church. There are a number of likely reasons for this: the emerging church prefers Jesus and the Gospels; the emerging church does not feel comfortable with Paul's strong stance against homosexuality; the emerging church does not at all like the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement; the emerging church does not want to get into futile and politically fraught debates about the place of modern Israel in the purposes of God; and the emerging church probably finds squeezing the tough and indigestible fruit of Romans far too much like hard work for the little theological benefit that can be obtained from it. much for that "all Scripture" thing there in II Timmy.

To quote the great philosopher, "D'oh!"


Shane McGrath said...

That darn Book of Romans. Many a man has stumbled on it. It's like a big oak tree in the middle of the yard. It just can't be ignored.

I find myself quoting from the Book of Romans in almost every debate. Whether it be a JW, Mormon, Emergent...I always come back to Romans. What a great book!

Andrew Perriman said...

Mike, I think you may have missed the point slightly. Self-scuttling? I certainly would argue that the emerging church has so far not made any serious attempt to get to grips with Romans, indeed seems to have shied away from it. But I believe that there is already within an emerging theology the potential for at least a renewed reading of Romans, if not a reading that actually gets us much closer to the heart of what Paul was talking about. That is the reason for starting on the commentary.

The current emerging movement may or may not be at times as frivolous as you seem to think, but there are some very substantial changes a-foot which you barely seem to have grasped. And why do people so often resort to that supercilious and sarcastic tone of voice when they criticize the emerging movement?

mike macon said...

Andrew - the sarcasm isn't meant to be biting, but tongue-in-cheek.

And non-ECMmers are hardly alone in tongue-in-cheekiness. A quick read of OST will almost immediately yield a lot of what can easily be misinterpreted as disdain towards those of us iggnit' nukkle-draggin' dispies and our "bad theee-ologee" Rapture-fever stuff. Yadda yadda yadda.

The irony in the earlier discussion of the Left Behind game - what with ECMmers waxing grandiloquent over the "bad theology" of pretribbers was positively delightful. I recommended that article here on this blog; very instructive.

And the Towering Underfed New Zealander's blog yields some very (and some not so very - but actually quite good) sarcasm in speaking about my own Calvary Chapel Movement.

All that aside, the OST article - and the quoted paragraph - is self-scuttling.

Shane McGrath said...


I'm a little concerned (confused) about your comment:

"But I believe that there is already within an emerging theology the potential for at least a renewed reading of Romans, if not a reading that actually gets us much closer to the heart of what Paul was talking about."

Do you mean by that: That the Emergents will finally come to honest conclusions about what it has said for the last 2000 years, or---are you saying that they will cleverly try to read into it whatever they think fits their post-modern mindset?

Will McLaren and the boys finally declare homosexuality sinful? Are we really Justified by Faith? Did God really kill His own Son for the Atonement of sin? Etc, etc..

Or will we get much of the same confusion that we have gotten so far?

This hits close to home for our church. We just had some folks join us from another church. Their old church is jumping on the McLaren thing. Their pastor didn't seem to care that they left and came to us, since they are just the "old-fashioned Bible believing types." We typically don't want folks coming from other churches like that--but in this case, the church is becoming more and more liberal. It's sad.

We are running out of patience with the Emergent thing. So far, it has only sown confusion. I don't know where you are coming from with this--so please excuse me if I'm not understanding you correctly.

I'm actually starting more research on this issue as an Elder at my church. It's become something that we can't ignore.

By the way, Mike is right on the sarcasm thing. If there's one thing that I have learned--the Emerging folks love to use sarcasm. Which is fine with me.

Andrew Perriman said...

Mike, I probably have to accept that we are not beyond reproach on OST. Fair enough.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that the whole left behind thing is very bad theology and there has been extensive discussion on OST about why it is bad theology. There has not been unanimity, we may have reached some wrong conclusions, but the discussion has been intelligent, thoroughly biblical, and has not proceeded by mockery. There have been some excellent contributions from people outside the emerging movement – in fact, many of those who participate would not regard themselves as part of the emerging church. But the juvenile name-calling gets us nowhere.

I hate to say it, but I actually thought Andrew Jones’ piece rather fair and rather respectful of Calvary Chapel’s position. There is a slight undercurrent of irony but nothing approaching the tone of your own posts. My question is: Did you offer a constructive response to what he wrote – that point about the flag, for example? Or did you simply hold it up to ridicule?

Shane, I appreciate the fact that the emerging movement has generated a lot of confusion. It has also helped a lot of people stay within the faith. My view is that we are going through a necessary transition. I live in Western Europe and things look very different from here. We are having seriously to rethink what it means to be in continuity with the agenda of Jesus, but no one’s pretending that that will be an easy process or that we’ve got very far down the road. I would much rather see the more traditional churches trying harder to understand the emerging movement, gain some trust, offer support and correction where necessary to people who for the most part are very serious about following Jesus.

As for Romans, yes, I do believe that we have not finished growing in our understanding of Paul’s letter. I think this is an excellent time to re-read it in the light of, say, a new sensitivity to history and narrative. Why not? The church in the West and perhaps globally is going through a massive crisis, a massive paradigm shift, as Christendom comes to an end. If the emerging church has run too far ahead of itself and fallen over a few times in its enthusiasm to get to the future, then the challenge is to help it to think more clearly about what is involved. But I am quite sure that we have to move forward; we can’t stay entrenched in the Christendom mindset waving our flags.

That is why I don’t see my post about Romans as self-scuttling. What is wrong with recognizing deficiencies and attempting to address them?

Bryon Mondok said...

you may find these two blog posts featuring Brian McLaren and Mark Driscoll handling McLaren's position interesting. And then another response by Driscoll. Were you guys already aware of these articles? Thoughts?

mike macon said...

Andrew - first off, pointing out that the paragraph previously cited in my blogpost was self-scuttling isn't juvenile name-calling - any more than the OST guys calling the Pre-Trib position "bad theology" is. They're entitled to their opinions. They're wrong, but still entitled to their opinions.

Why aren't we?

And we disagree as to whether TSK's post was respectful of Calvary Chapel, Inc. - right down to the subtle insistence on tacking on the "Inc." to the name. I took it as it was meant - sarcasm, but not the biting sort. TSK disagrees with us - especially disagreeing with our disagreement RE: the ECM. That's fine; he's entitled. I enjoyed the post and got a good chortle out of it. It was a very good, very well-written piece of humor which served as a somewhat gentle rebuke to my own movement (I disagree with the conclusions or even premise, but I appreciated his point and heart, nonetheless).

But I didn't call him "juvenile" and and go all "you shouldn't be talking about us, why is evaboddy always pikkin' on us" on him.

My actual post had the tone of irony - not ridicule. The bare fact is that for the most part, the only rebuttal I ever have needed to this point to give for the ECM and many ECM luminaries is to just simply let them speak for themselves - I maintain that at least the EmergENT side of the Emerging/Emergent Church Movement is self-defeating.

I have read and listened to COUNTLESS pages worth of stuff from ECM-types either straight our or (more often) back-handedly ridiculing their critics.

There's a anecdote in our country: What's good for the Goose is good for the Gander.

mike macon said...

AND if you're going to say that the Left Behind thing is bad theology (which, incidentally, I agree with you, see my post on the issue - but I disagree from a very different perspective) simply because you say it is (and yes, I've read some of the theological commentary on OST - it's one of the blogfeeds I keep up on in my Bloglines account - and that's really the bottom-line final-answer answer from my perspective that y'all have been able to come up with) then don't be shocked when those of us who think "re-imagining" and "fresh-perspective-ating" and "re-reading" the faith once for all delivered to the saints is REALLY bad theology.

Again: Goose... Gander.
And: Pot... Kettle... black...

mike macon said...

Bryon - I had read the exchange betwixt Driscoll and MacLaren, yes. That's right about when my respect for Driscoll began soaring through the roof.

If Ken Graves ever got into fingerpainting and artsy-type floofy stuff, he'd be Mark Driscoll.

(insert man-grunt here)

mike macon said...

Now, to answer the "we are respectful and don't ridicule people who disagree with us" thing there, here are some quotes from the Open Source Theology page:

"It’s been said that evolutionary atheists and evangelical creationists alike read the Bible with a crude literal-mindedness that fails to acknowledge the literary riches embedded in the text." [From:] --> Note that those of us who are evangelical creationists read the Bible with "a crude literal-mindedness" and we "fail to acknowledge the literary riches embedded in the text". ...but at least that's not being condescending and ridiculing or anything...

"Andrew, as we all well know the methodology of the game is really based in the Dispensational ideas that a time will come when a large portion of Jewish people will be destroyed, and war will rule in the Middle East. Much of what is being proclaimed in the name of Dispensationalism is a veiled wish for those terrible tings to come true. The question therefore is: are we protesting bad theology or simply violent tendencies? The petition seems to be focusing on the latter which in my opinion ignores the root problem, i.e. bad theology. Christians lose either way; we can only make headway by promoting quality eschatology, be it in the form of your book, and other material that keeps the Apocalypse in its proper historical/cultural context." [From the comments section of] --> Note that Dispensationalism is "bad theology" and not "quality eschatology." Again, y'all are entitled to your opinion - but DO NOT get hurt and offended when those of us who disagree with your conclusions say so, and sometimes even use humor so to do.

Also from the comments section of the above-cited post: "The best way to get fundamentalists to wake up is just hold up a mirror in their face. If they realize thier theology is made of the same literalistic approach to reading ancient scriptures as fundamentalist Islamic theology then they will wake up (eventually). We have to just keep holding up the mirror. That seems to be how Jesus got people to wake up." --> Note that those of us who identify more with the Fundamentals than with A Generous Orthodoxy are the theological/moral equivalents of Islamists, and that it's really the ECMmers who are walking like Jesus - not those ignorant fundamentalist Pre-Tribbers.

Oh! And here's part of that very same discussion that you say doesn't contain mockery: "well the books were bad enough - i cant imagine a violent video game about how christians reign supreme. but i also cant imagine glorfying it by signing a petition against it. i prefer to ignore stupidity. however, a great SNL sketch is bound to come of it and i promise i will laugh." --> ...buuuuuut, at least that's not mockery, there, eh?

One more, I promise - also from the comments section of the whole Left Behind thing: "Shouldn’t this be Left Behind: Eternal Farce video game? it is bad enough that the books were not biblical and in fact often cut across the grain that the bible holds for believers at the Resurrection… but this game makes me sick to even think about… In the world of crass consumerism this has to be the worst at its best! blessed?"

Andrew - I didn't even have to look hard to find these. And I remembered them anyway quite vividly the first time I'd read it - which was almost as soon as it had been posted.

You are either being very disingenuous when you're protesting our own critiques of OST, even to the point of using tongue-in-cheek humor, by claiming that OSTers and other ECMmers (I haven't even touched on what I've read on other ECM blogs) - or you don't read your (and I use that in the plural, "all-y'all" sense) own stuff too closely.

Again: You (same thing: that's the plural "you") are entitled to your opinions, entitled to critique those outside your movement, entitled to using humor to illustrate what you see as absurdity in the rest of us, and that's fine; but so are we