Bible Think Tank

This site is designed to help you interact with others about God's Word. I further some thoughts we developed during morning and evening gatherings at church. I have my NT translations from the original Greek to English. Also, I have book reviews and other current events.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Emerging Church Follow-Up

Seeing Value Even If We Disagree

Here’s the deal. I try to see both the good and bad in what someone is saying. I really am against the charismatic movement despite some of the positive things I have said of them recently in our examination of the spiritual gifts in Morning Worship. Despite all that could be said of them in a negative light, we must admit that they have done a service to God’s Church insofar as they have forced us all to reexamine the Scriptures on the subject of spiritual gifts. For this, they are valuable. If it is not a stretch (I do not think that it is), I would like to make the same observation here about the emerging church. Despite all the negative things that could be said of them, they are offering to all of us a conversation about the weaknesses of the modern, “scientific” Church. For this, they are valuable.

Where Am I in This Conversation?

Was it Keirkagard or Dick van Patten that once said If you label me, you negate me.Before I get into it, I think it would be appropriate to define myself and my biases before I begin. I am more comfortable with the emerging movement that most BFCers. But I am not part of the Emerging Church because of a lot of the more vocal voices that are unorthodox in the classic sense of the word. There are some great guys in there, Driscoll and Kimball are phenomenal writers, speakers, pastors among countless others in the movement. But there are a lot and the more vocal and center-stage that are out-right heretics. I don't use the word lightly and I won't name names because it isn't my intention to bulldoze someone without the fair trial that I don't have time for here. But, this is why, thus far, I don’t want to call myself part of the movement even though my heart resounds with a lot of what they are calling us into.

Enough, What IS It Already!?!?

Essentially, the Emerging Church is a philosophical movement reacting against the excesses of the Modern Church. And now you might be saying “blah, blah, blah.” Before you start throwing full wine bottles at your computer screen, indulge me. This movement loathes our use of scientific rationale to exegete the Scriptures. They view what the Church has done to God as putting Him in a box. If He is searchable, definable, reasonable, rational, and wholly knowable than He is no longer “worth it.” The intrigue and the seduction of Christian faith is that is faith, reasonable faith, but faith nonetheless. The example that I witnessed which drove me towards the postmodern (or maybe premodern) worldview was a series of events at my college. We had this same speaker, John Franke, come and speak at the Student Theological Society. Many professors attended and after the event, they had a pow-wow in which they denounced the Doctrine of Illumination (which teaches that the Spirit unpacks the Scriptures as the Christian reads, to “guide him into all truth” as Jesus promises in John 16:13). Rather, the professors came to the consensus that it is through the proper implementation of hermeneutics and exegesis (big words for scientific method) which gives the reader the correct interpretations and applications of God’s Word. This is why Tony Jones calls evangelicals “soft Gnostics.” Only those with proper training can induce the meaning of God’s Word. It’s poppycock and any rational Christian should know it.

Let's talk... topic... is our collective IQ lower than a box of rocks?This is the kind of thing that the Emerging Church is reacting against. Rather than the individual with their proper methods, the Emerging Church values corporate readings of Scripture with time for alternate interpretations within the “conversation.” As all hear and engage the conversation, the Spirit moves the group to conclude the things He wants for them. Can't we say this in the political election process: each person has their say, yet it is "Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes" (Daniel 4:32). Conversation sounds great, but at the same time, I’ve been in Bible studies where the average IQ (and EQ) was lower than a box of rocks. IQ isn’t everything and I don’t want to be guilty of the aforementioned poppycock, but sometimes conversation is good and sometimes it is bad.

Some of Franke's Thoughts

Is what my pencil writes equal to the words already printed in the Word?I like what Franke said about our system of doctrines “if we claim that our theology is absolutely concluded, then we par it with Scripture.” This new movement emphasizes suspicion based on finitude. In other words, no one can be certain unless they are God. In an industry that takes pride in certainties, it is uncomfortable to question commonly held beliefs. Yet all the famous men throughout Church history have questioned. That being said, all the villains in Church history have also questioned.

Big T's and Little t'sThe Foundation for the movement is the question of knowable Truth. So let’s engage in this concept: “the truth is: there is Truth, but only for God.” In other words, emerging church adherents believe that there is Truth with a capital-T, but that only God can possess it. We can and do hold truthes with a lowercase-t, but while they remain true, they do not measure the same intensity and totality as the Truth as God sees it. Franke said “Even the Scripture itself in our eyes is less full then the same Scripture in God’s eyes. The Church Father Iranaeus talked about this when he wrote “God is light, but like no light we have ever experienced.” John Calvin also said similar things when he wrote “humans cannot comprehend knowledge the way God can.” Tim B tells me this is the Reformed Doctrine of Analogy. From what I can tell from orthodoxy and from my own epistemological humility, it makes a lot of sense intellectually and practically. It explains for me why we’re right and everyone else is wrong. I jest… it explains why the men and women who all love Jesus just as much can come up with such wildly diverging views of faith and practice.

Franke says that in God’s sovereignty, He allowed divergent faith traditions within the Church. Tim B whispered to me “is that God’s permissive will or decreetive will?” Or in other words, did God want that or allow that? Franke says that the core of Christianity doesn’t change with differing cultures, but that just as different cultures need “it” in their language, they also need “it” in their heart expression too. That is my lingo for Franke’s thought. When we translate the Bible, we do it in a way that faithfully both expresses the message of the original language AND impresses the heart of the hearer. And similarly, in the way we “do Church” we need to express the counsel of God and impress the heart of the hearer. God is seeker sensitive. That is why there are four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), two chronicles of the kings (Kings and Chronicles). All express the same events as their competing authors but in a way that is sensitive to the hopes and aspirations of the author’s audience.

Franke asked a tough question in his closing lecture: “does theology change as we converse?” He said it as a statement of fact, not as a question, but professors do that all the time. It is some subset technique to the principle of cognitive dissonance or something, I don’t know. I heard it as a question in my mind. It is true that iron sharpens iron and a brother sharpens his brother, but it is also true that jello doesn’t sharpen jello and idiots likewise don’t sharpen each other. So I suppose the truth (lower case) of the statement depends, which I guess emergents would love to hear that! He referenced three Scriptures and then asked this question: “if the Spirit guides, how can we be so divergent from each other?” Ummm! Great question. Here are the Scriptures:

“We have the mind of Christ through the Spirit who searches all things” (1 Corinthians 2:13, 16)
“The Spirit will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13)
“You need no teacher but the Spirit” (1 John 2:27)
Either He lied, or He is bad at His job, or we are the way He wants us to be. Franke didn’t say as some extremists say “or some of us aren’t really saved.” Franke chalks it up to this phrase used twice in the NT “the manifold grace of God” (1 Pt 4:10, Eph 3:10).


So those are some real stumpers. Hopefully my overview got you thinking over the whole issue. Even if you don’t want to embrace the emerging culture, it is my hope that you want to engage the emerging culture. Whether we like it or not, more and more people are thinking this way. Maybe not the people in our churches, but people in the world are thinking this way. We need to know where they are so that we can rescue them.

Alrighty, you know the drill... commence commenting!

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Blogger Becky L said...

Wow. I can't believe its 1 AM and I actually just read that entire thing!

You had some good thoughts, brother. I've heard talk of this whole thing, but never quite grasped it. It was good to read all that you had to say/explain.

Say hi to Rachel and my neice/nephew.

10/18/2007 1:08 AM  

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