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Emergent Strikes Back
As a pastor, I say Amen to Brian here …
I was deeply impacted a few years ago by Alan Roxburgh at one of our events (you may have been there?) when he said, the church is like a person who gets invited to a party and only talks about himself. I’ve been thinking that we get into a syndrome of trying to save our lives denominationally, etc, which makes us lose them … when instead, our churches need to lose our lives, pour ourselves out for the sake of the world, become more interested in joining God in caring for the world than in getting God to join us in caring for ourselves, that sort of thing. But of course, at heart I’ll always be a pastor, and in the end, none of this matters unless it’s embedded in local churches of whatever form.
I can relate to some of this … don’t you?
Dan Kimball was recently peppered with questions about Brian, Doug, and me when he spoke at the Crystal Cathedral. I often get asked to defend Doug’s views on soteriology or the Trinity. And just last week, a caller to a conservative Christian radio talk show I was on asked me how I could be friends with Brian since he practices Buddhism.
Of course, I was shocked to learn that one of my closest friends is a closet Buddhist. Brian, I feel so betrayed. I barely knew ye!
But this demand to denounce and renounce friends has come into high relief in the presidential campaign. And, honestly, I think that most of us can see how insane it all is. In another prescient column, Stanley Fish argues that, of course, we can only be responsible for what we say, not for what those close to us say.
Good turn by my friend Steve Knight …
The ‘third way’ isn’t a point on a spectrum between ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’ The ‘third way’ is another parallel spectrum altogether, that I would say is above (and transcends) the liberal/conservative spectrum. The ‘third way’ is relationship/friendship, and the spectrum is simply how close/tight-knit or far/separate we are relationally. …
“To put it one way: The question isn’t so much ‘how are we different in what we believe/think?’ as it is ‘how are we connected? what can I appreciate and learn from that other person’s perspective/tradition/tribe/camp?’”
A mouthful here from an excellent survey …
We rejected an over-rigid or over-important theology to show that a God-breathed lifestyle demanded a Christian perspective and imaginative re-construal of every area of life, in light of God’s Word, not just in doctrinal matters. Systematic theology, for better or worse, became less vital as we embrace narrative, Biblical theology. To argue over theological arcana when we didn’t equally argue about aesthetics or politics or psychological theory seemed to be suggesting that doctrinal fine-tuning was more important than being faithful to the Lord in every field of life, as if the specialty of theologians and pastors somehow mattered to God more than the work of potters or farmers or businesspeople. And we knew that that was to make theology itself an idol—-all of life was to be redeemed, so doctrinal disputes and denominational matters took a back seat to the big issues of the day, the concerns of lay folk in their particular callings, and the vision of a multi-dimensional, uniquely Christian world and life view. We thought this, as I recall, not because we didn’t think theology mattered—it does—but because the Bible doesn’t itself over-indulge in rationalistic doctrinal formulations; most of the Bible is story, history, poems and laments, after all. Scripture itself is a storied telling of God’s redemptive work in history, forming a people who live differently, filled, finally, with the love of a Risen Redeemer, a gracious King who is reclaiming his hurting world. I heard 35 years ago from conservative scholars that even Paul was to be read narratively (an important insight of most emergent Bible readers nowadays, and a matter for which they are considered controversial.) So we thought about a Christian view of life, including theology, but didn’t make theological precision the only important concern. Our dogma and creedal life was seen as part of our whole worldview and way of life, an all-encompassing, whole-life opening up of life in the Spirit in God’s good but fallen creation. We really didn’t care how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
Always good to return to the Gospel … I’m glad Tim Keel’s voice is emerging more! A big amen to the following statement!
The gospel must become incarnate. It’s something that must be lived. We cannot approach God or the gospel a-contextually.