Thursday, May 1, 2008

Theology Stupid: Humility and Relativism

This is a long, fun chapter (chapter 4) of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. And there's a lot we could talk about. After hitting a couple of the highlights, I'm going to focus on two charges leveled at emerging Christians and discussed by Tony in this chapter. The one charge is that emerging Christians lack conviction in their Christian beliefs, owing to their embrace of epistemic humility. The second charge is that emerging Christians are relativists. Both charges, Tony responds, are false.

But up first, a couple of bottom-of-the-ninth, two out, two men on, game-saving diving catches and last-second, buzzer-beating three-point shots with a hand in the face.

Theology, Tony tells us, is what Augustine did in City of God, Michelangelo sculpted in his Pieta, John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost, Peter Paul Rubens painted in The Allegory of Peace and War, Dostoyevsky wrote in the The Brothers karamazov and Bono sings in "Mysterious Ways" (p.105). Theology, in an important sense, is any human activity that reveals what it is we believe to be the case about God, who we think God is and what we think God is up to in the world.

In short, "human life is theology. Virtually everything we do is inherently theological. Almost every choice we make reflects what we think about God. There's no escaping it" (p.106). To which I say, Amen and amen.

And there's this:

the emergent church movement is a counterreaction, a retrieval of the deep theological tradition of wrestling with the intellectual and spiritual difficulties inherent in the Christian faith
(p. 109).

Yes, there are spiritual difficulties inherent in the Christian faith. Take something like the Nicene Creed or the Chalcedonian formulation of the two-natures of Christ, for example. It is tempting to think that these formulations of Christian belief were the last words on matters of Christian belief and doctrine. That would be a mistake, however. What the creeds do is to establish parameters or fences, inside of which is the Christian faith and outside of which is not Christian faith. But within those parameters spiritual difficulties remain. We believe that God is a Trinity. But just how to understand the Trinity is difficult business and open to exploration and a variety of acceptable interpretations. Jesus was both human and divine. But how to understand that is an open issue, and one as deeply mysterious as is the Trinity itself. Christian formulae such as the creeds circumscribe for sure, but they don't eliminate mystery and they most assuredly leave room for a variety of views and understandings of the various truths they seek to express. As one of Tony's friends says "to every answer there is a good question" (p.110). Indeed.

And to those emergent detractors who claim that folks like Tony are infatuated with novelty and disdain tradition, let me quote from the horse's mouth, where he says of theology that it is only:

done in the aftermath of the multifarious theologies that have gone before...in conversation with two thousand years of Christian theology and four thousand years of Jewish theology before that (113).

A couple of bloopers and then the main event: humility and relativism.
At the very beginning of the chapter, Tony suggests that both the methods and the message of Christianity "are bound to be reconceived over time" and he says that "if one changes the methods one will inevitably change the message (p.96).

Well, I dunno. The message of Christianity, as I understand it, is essentially this: that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. I know Tony won't like this, but that seems to me the Christian message in a nutshell. To human beings and a world broken and fragmented by sin, the Christian story comes as good news: God's response to sin and lovelessness is love and redemption. If that message should change, it would simply cease to be the Christian message. Now I agree with Tony that the gospel is always already enculturated. And I agree that to try and freeze any particular articulation of the gospel, actually does an injustice to the gospel. But there is a gospel. It has a particular content. And if the content should change in such a way as to entail that God was not in Christ reconciling the world to himself, or change in such a way as to entail that God did not become incarnate in Christ, and did not suffer, die and rise again to reverse the curse of sin and death, well, then, it is, in my view, no longer the Christian message.

Granted, how best to tell the story or show the story or live the story, all of that may change. But the story, should it change in its essentials, it doesn't become something else. It simply ceases to exist and gets replaced with a different story, a non-Christian story.

Tony also says that God is a being whose activity is, by definition, not contingent. And I'm not sure what he means by that. It is, of course, a long standing belief that God's existence is not contingent, that God exists a se or in himself. You and I and all created things, by conrast, are contingent beings. God, it has long been believed, is not a contingent being but a necessary and utterly independent being.

I bring this up because it seems to me that at least some of God's activity is, indeed, contingent on the activity of humans and Tony says that the bible suggests otherwise. I guess I don't see that. Suppose God does not have knowledge of the future free actions of human beings. It would seem to me that if that's the case, then what God does in the future (if God should act in response) is at least partly dependent on what free actions human beings perform in the future. God's getting angry at human beings before the flood, for example, was contingent or dependent on human beings having displeased him. Had those living on the earth not displeased him, he would not have been displeased and sent the flood in response. So, the biblical witness itself seems to point in the opposite direction than what Tony suggests, i.e., that at least some of the activity of God is contingent on the activity of humans.

Okay, from page 115, Dispatch 11:

Emergents believe that awareness of our relative position--to God, to one another and to history--breeds biblical humility, not relativistic apathy.

Conviction is one thing it seems to me emerging Christians have in spades. They believe, and believe strongly, lots of things. Apathy is not one of their trademarks. Yet I have heard it said that emerging Christians lack conviction. That seems false. And yet their convictions are tempered with humility. The humility comes in when one realizes that one's forebears also believed, and believed strongly, lots of things, things we now believe they were dead wrong about. For example, the moral permissibility of slavery and the moral impermissibility of inter-racial marriage. Emerging Christians, although they hold very strong convictions on lots of things, they realize that they are finite, frail and deeply situated creatures and, as a result, it might actually be them that has blindspots. So, they're more inclined to say, "look, this is how I see it and why. How do you see you see it, and why?"

To go along with that, emerging Christians are also aware that cultural realities such as marriage and family did not drop down out of the sky fully worked out and unalterable. They realize that such institutions even within the church have been thought of differently at different times. Even friendship--same-sex and cross-sex-- has been understood differently at different times in Christian history. In fact, to read Saint Augustine and other of our theological forebears on friendship many today would be certain they were gay, for the language they use in correspondence witht each other and the language they use to describe their same-sex friendships sound borderline romantic to our ears.

It is such talk as this that leads critics to charge emerging Christians with being relativists. And Tony's response is "well, we're all relativists" (p.117). And he goes on to offer examples of how all of us work with biases, and how every English translation of the the ancient Jewish and Christian sacred manuscripts is biased. And we, when we read the scriptures, we each of us employ what one might call a canon within the canon. In other words, some believe women cannot be pastors or teachers and believe that this is what the bible teaches. Others believe the bible teaches that in Christ there is no more slave or free, Jew or Greek, male or female. The first allows one set of passages to serve as his or her controlling texts (his or her canon within the canon) while the other allows other passages to serve as his or her controlling texts. Both are working with biases when it comes to their understanding of what the bible teaches about women pastors and teachers.

Now, my own view is that what Tony is talking about is not exactly what most people have in mind when they charge emergents with relativism. Usually relativism is thought to have something to do with truth or morality. The contrast to the relativist is usually thought to be the absolutist or objectivist. So when someone charges the emerging Christians with being relativists, I take them to be saying that emerging Christian believe (say) that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, but only relative to the Christian story. The critics want to know, however, is it true that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself? The charge is that the emerging Christian will say something like, "well, for the Christian it is, but not for the Hindu."

So when it comes to relativism, most people do not have in mind the problem of canons within the canon. They have in mind relativism. Are homosexual unions wrong? Full stop. The moral relativist is likely to say, well, they're wrong perhaps from a Christian perspective, but not from all perspectives.

Are emerging Christians relativists? Certainly not all. At least most (if not all) of the ones I know are not relativists. They think it's true that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Period. Now they might go on to say something like, "But of course, I sometimes wonder if I've been duped. I sometimes wonder if this story can really be true after all." But that's perfectly consistent with their believing it's true.

And as for homosexual unions being wrong, an emerging Christian might says something like: "Well, as I understand it homosexual unions are at cross-purposes with God's ultimate intentions for human sexuality and so they're morally wrong. But I also recognize that war is at cross-purposes with God's ultimately good intentions for human relations and so too divorce. Now, why are we willing to say when it comes to war and divorce--which we believe to be at cross-purposes with God's ultimately good intentions for the world--that it is sometimes morally permissible to engage in these activities? And why aren't we willing to say that about homosexual unions?"

Now let me add this: imagine that you find yourself in the following psychological predicament. You believe (say) war or divorce is at cross-purposes with God's ultimately good intentions for the world, but you also believe that you have exhausted every conceivable avenue that might avoid going to war or getting a divorce, and you decide to engage in the war or get the divorce, fully recognizing that it is not the best all things being equal decision, but is, to your lights, the best all things considered decision. And so you decide to embark on a path that is at cross-purposes with God's ultimately good intentions for the world. And you think it is morally permissible to do so. That would be a psychologically hellish place to live.

In any case, many of us believe that war is at cross-purposes with God's ultimately good intentions for human relations and yet we believe that it is sometimes morally permissible to engage in war. Why do we not think the same about homosexual unions? That's the sort of question emerging Christians might ask and worry about. And, so far as I can see, there's nothing relativistic about it.

I'll close this off with another quote from the book, p. 122:

Like myriad Christians through the ages, emergents are attempting to...figure out where God is in the world, what God is up to, and how the biblical narrative jibes with our own 21st century lives.

If I were to have written that sentence, I might have changed that last clause to this: "...and how to fit our 21st century lives into the biblical narrative." But Tony gets it.






19 comments:

jprapp said...

I saw the blog title and thought I’d meet a disciple of Ashley Montagu (Touching: The Human Significance of The Skin). Tied to incarnational.

Nice job no matter.

C’mon, Kevin. Anybody who loves Bruce Cockburn knows that rocket launchers (ecclesial “canons”) fly theologically in all directions. You can defend emergency sub species aeternitas and still see what Darwin saw – superfecundity of progeny that can’t all survive.

Emergency is a state induced under pressures. It's as ubiquitous in the religious world as are conditions for triple point physics in the natural - that weird state sharing boundary conditions for solid, liquid, and gas all at the same time. With emergencies at all borders A yet unworked analogy for theology.

I wish emergents well. But, I’m too modernist in my bias (despite substantial heritance from first generation radical weird Quakers) that I know emergent processes tend to equilibrium and rigidity, or, to complex systems beyond mensuration. I like your redux on fitting our 21st century lives into the biblical narrative.

But, you know the tropes.

And you know the drill.

These guys are not really rocket launching at each other because of some mushy “narrative.” What a sweet word. We all have one: a narrative, or two, or three .... and a side order of fries, please.

What this is about, and I think you know it, isn’t narrative. It's canon. That rocket launcher mother of all ecclesial mothers. And to say emergents have no canon is just to tumble the terminological container: even if that’s so for the moment - their canon is emerging. Or like any modernist complexity theorist (say Gell-Mann) would say: their canon is hidden in encryption via complexity. Which only means it’s more difficult to figure out because it’s not announced. But, it’s there.

This is not a defense of orthodoxy. I’m not de campe.

It’s pragmatic. Peircean.

In other words, if your contingent-awaiting God is awaiting ... then you just need to decide which rocket launcher (canon) you’ll fire. Unless you don’t have one, yet.

Yeah, yeah. Like emergents - you don’t believe in “guarded borders.” And you don’t believe in hate. And you don’t believe in generals (canons). Or their stinking torture states.

Just let the helicopters with canons come enough times.

Until, “if you had a rocket launcher .....”


Cheers,

Jim

Bob said...

Hi Kevin,
I enjoyed your posts on the Jesus Creed about a year and a half ago. I'm glad you have a blog now. My take on Emergent is there seems to be some good dna that being used by the HS like more emphasis on narrative and less on certainty. It's good that the anger of the movement is dying out that at first made them very hard to listen to. Sad that a lot of them have been abused in a legalistic rigid way. A church like Mars Hill will be a huge draw for those folks. I'm new to the West Michigan area 3 years now and was looking at going to an Emergent church. Most were Evangelical churches with candles and art on the walls and different music. It seems that the movement is limited to Protestants only. two sides of the same coin.

There seems to be an apathy with the 20-35 year olds that may have this view that "all we need is love" or a generous Orthodoxy like the Apostles creed only. I've tried to start a church about 12 years ago and pretty soon you have a whole list of conventions,values, beliefs. written or unwritten. Like should kids be in the main service, kind of music, kind of teaching, bible readings, how long the service. I realized at the time that we were turning into a regular church. It seems arrogant of Emergent to say that we can rise above the conflicts that have brought down institutions in the past. There is something admirabal to stay in the Episcopal church and try to work out the issues instead of jumping ship. If you have nothing to die for you also have nothing to live for. They seem to have a huge shame with our country and its policies. It's sometimes OK to be patriotic.

It seems like the Emergent issue is more cultural than philosophical. I don't think most people care about foundationalism or bounded and centered sets (imho).
I know I'm focused on the most strident part of the movement.

Still waiting for your book to come out!
Bob

Kevin Corcoran said...

Hey Bob,

Thanks for throwing in! My sense (and this is an empirical claim open to falsification) is that the majority who locate themselves within the emerging movement (distinguished from Emergent) have not/do not in fact leave their evangelical, mainline protestant or Episcopal churches. Most people I know, both here and over in the UK, remain in their respective traditions, and don't abandon them. They may supplement their "traditional" services with an "emerging" or "alternative" worship experience once per month (or something), but they haven't jumped ship.

As I say, I'm open to being wrong about that, but nearly everyone I know personally here in GR who resonates with and participates in emerging is a member of a more established church.

btw: I have a research fellowship this summer and hope to complete a draft of the book. So, it's comin', brother; it's comin'!

Kevin Corcoran said...

jprapp:

Burn baby burn; when am I gonna get my turn....Something dead under the bed. Local diplomats hang their heads. Never mind what the government said. They're either lying or they've been misled...And it's burn baby burn...

I cannot question your fine taste in music. (No need to mention LR or an old LP of his I bought just a couple of weeks ago.)

Couple of things. I think our rocket launching ways are very much due to "narratives," though I don't know how "mushy" they might be. (And why is the term "narrative" a "sweet" one?)

You say that what "this" is about is not narrative, but canon. I take it by "this" you mean the emerging movement vs. evangelical or ecumenical orthodoxy. I myself don't regard the former as an alternative to the latter. They're not mutually exclusive. Many in the former are as orthodox as any who confess with the one church in all places and at all times the Apostles Creed. Scot Mcknight is a fine example.

I wasn't sure what to make of this:

In other words, if your contingent-awaiting God is awaiting ... then you just need to decide which rocket launcher (canon) you’ll fire.

Maybe you could explain.

But you are right about at least two things. First, like Cockburn and the emergents, I don't believe in guarded borders. And I don't believe in hate. I don't believe in generals; or their stinking torture states. And second, you are correct to say that if the heliocopters (or crafty, blogging snipers) come enough times and drop enough of their nasty, uglified bombs, you can bet I'll feel the same sort of anger as the next guy and join Cockburn in singing if I had a rocket launcher; if I had a rocket launcher; if I had a rocket launcher some s.o.b. would die. Which just goes to show you that our feet are made of the same clay.

Of course it doesn't follow from the fact that anger is an equal opportunity employer that all anger and rocket launchings are justified. They're not. Was Hitler's extermination of six million Jews, gypsies and homosexuals justified? No. Was the resistance? Yes. There was anger and outrage on the part of both. Yet the actions of the one and not the other were justified.

I've gotta question for you, though: who put the bullet hole in Peggy's kitchen wall?

Pax vobiscum, brother.

Jack said...

"At the very beginning of the chapter, Tony suggests that both the methods and the message of Christianity "are bound to be reconceived over time" and he says that "if one changes the methods one will inevitably change the message (p.96)."

This bothers me very much. As far as I can tell this summarizes Emergent, and is antithetical to Christianity. The message of Christianity is eternal, it will never change.

As Thomas Jefferson said "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."

I understand the emergent's concern with changing style to meet the times, but I cannot tolerate wavering on principles.

Kevin Corcoran said...

Jack:

I'm hesitant to say that this summarizes Emergent. And even if it did, it certainly doesn't
define little-e emergent. As I suggested in the post titled Emergent or emergent the latter is a much larger umbrella than the former. Also, as I suggested in this post, if the Christian message should change substantially such that it has nothing to do with the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, then it's not accurate to say that the Christian message has changed. It's more accurate to say that the Christian message has been replaced with another, different message. What I hear you saying is that you agree.

Jack said...

I agree that it would not be the Christian message would be replaced by something else, yes.

But a problem that I see with Emergent goes deeper than that. I am concerned about any Christian movement where even the possibility that the message could change is even considered.

Kevin Corcoran said...

Jack:

Still, then, what I hear you saying is that you have a problem with Emergent, not with the emerging church movement. The latter is a much bigger phenomenon than Tony Jones. So, if Tony believes that the Christian message can change in ways that entail God did not become incarnate in Christ, did not suffer, die and rise again, etc., then your beef is with him, not with the emerging movement.

I don't know if Tony meant what he said when he said what he did about the methods changing the message. Sometimes we don't always say what we mean. I'll ask him if he thinks that the Christian message could change in the ways I suggested without ceasing to be the Christian message. If he says "yeah, I think the Christian message could change in such a way that it's not about the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus," then, as I've said, I've got a problem with that. I suspect he won't say that. It would be fair to ask him at that point to clarify just what he did mean.

You see, this is what we would call a "conversation". "Tony, you say....that seems wrong or problematic to me and here's why." And then Tony responds, "Well, Kevin, let me try to clarify." Or "Well, Kevin, you've got me right, that's what I think; I guess we have to agree to disagree." If he disagrees with me, I could just call him names and attribute various character flaws to him. Nah! I'll stick with "conversation."

Jack said...

I agree it is not clear what Tony Jones says here.

But I disagree that this is a problem that I have just with Tony Jones. I will limit this comment to Emergent alone, but my impression is that everything evangelical, doctrines, values, sacraments, etc. are fair game to the Emergents. And it is this questioning of substantial things, and not just of style that has me concerned.

The problem is that the Emergents, like Tony Jones, tend to use fuzzy language that gives them a lot of wiggle room, so you cant really pin them down on anything. I often dont know whether they are saying something profound or mundane, orthodox or heterodox. It is this fuzziness that makes me very skeptical of the movement.

Kevin Corcoran said...

Jack:

Well, again, emerging is bigger than Emergent. I want to be careful about giving the impression that "emergents" say this, that or the other thing since "emergents" don't speak with one voice on anything. In any case, it will do us well to keep in mind that the emerging movement is bigger than Emergent.

This much is true. The joy is in the journey for emergents. My point would be that to come down on the side of (say) the Nicene Creed does not, contrary to what some might think, end the journey and put an end to questioning, seeking and mystery. To some (perhaps TJ) I would emphasize this very point. And to those fixated on nailing everything down I would emphasize it too; there is plenty of room for difference and exploration on a whole host of issues, issues that are not at the center of ecumenical orthodoxy, and even also including issues that are, like how to understand the Trinity or the dual natures of Christ.

jprapp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack said...

Kevin said:
"I want to be careful about giving the impression that "emergents" say this, that or the other thing since "emergents" don't speak with one voice on anything."

This is the fuzzy language that I am talking about. If they dont speak with one voice on anything, then what are they? Do they say anything? Or is it a movement about nothing?

"This much is true. The joy is in the journey for emergents."

Hmm, that is an interesting philosophy, and it is probably good advice. I am not sure it is a Christian or biblical virtue though. I am interested in a discussion about this idea, is it biblical? What evidence is there that it is or isnt? Or is the bible not relevant here anymore?

"And to those fixated on nailing everything down I would emphasize it too; there is plenty of room for difference and exploration on a whole host of issues, issues that are not at the center of ecumenical orthodoxy, and even also including issues that are, like how to understand the Trinity or the dual natures of Christ."

I think this is getting at what Stanly Fish was talking about. We are probably limited in our discussion about God, and heavenly things by our language, as well as our finitude. But this does not mean that everything is up for grabs, and that there is no real truth out there, or that this truth cannot be found. I believe there is some joy in the journey, but there has to be an end in sight. In other words I think that the message is more important than the medium.

Kevin Corcoran said...

Jack:

You say:

This is the fuzzy language that I am talking about. If they dont speak with one voice on anything, then what are they? Do they say anything? Or is it a movement about nothing?

Little "e" emergent, as I think of it, is a Christian movement held together more by an ethos and cultural sensibility than by specific beliefs and theological positions. Insofar as it is a Christian movement, however, there is a shared belief in Jesus as a particular person in whom God was uniquely at work reconciling the world to himself. So, perhaps I overstated the case when I said they don't speak with one voice on anything. But in terms of the beliefs that unite them, I'd say their minimalists.

You say:

I am not sure it is a Christian or biblical virtue though. I am interested in a discussion about this idea, is it biblical? What evidence is there that it is or isnt? Or is the bible not relevant here anymore?

Is the emphasis on the journey Christian or biblical? I think it's very Christian, and depending on what you mean by "biblical", biblical too. The metaphor of a pilgrim people, wanderers, aliens, sojourners on the way, is a picture of the Christian life with a long and illustrious history, reflected in both theology and hymnody.

I get uncomfortable, though, when someone pulls out the "but is it taught in the bible? question. I think the important question here would be this: is the idea consistent with what is taught in the bible? Lots of true and imporant things aren't taught in the bible. Take worship, for example. How much does the NT speaks of the particularities of Christian worship? Precious little, especially when compared to the OT. And think about the earliest Christians for whom there was no bible. The question "is what you're doing/saing taught in the bible?" wouldn't even make sense to them. And yet are we to suppose they were paralyzed on matters such as worship, etc.?

I fear that what might be at work here is what in my opinion is a naive sort of "sola scriptura," which I don't find particularly compelling. The bible is always relevant, but there's always also the tradition of the church. But perhaps in the case of an emphasis on journeying, it is biblical in the most narrow understanding insofar as the metaphor is used throughout scripture.

You say:

I think this is getting at what Stanly Fish was talking about. We are probably limited in our discussion about God, and heavenly things by our language, as well as our finitude. But this does not mean that everything is up for grabs, and that there is no real truth out there, or that this truth cannot be found. I believe there is some joy in the journey, but there has to be an end in sight. In other words I think that the message is more important than the medium.

Well, on a charitable reading of Fish, perhaps that's what he was saying. But in any case, emerging Christians are especially interested in exploration. It's not that they don't have any concrete beliefs, but it's the idea that (as TJ's friend put it) "for every answer/belief there's a good question."

Is there an end in sight? Well, yes, on some levels. There's an end in sight in the sense that we human beings have an end, a nature, and that our growing in holiness or Christlikeness is moving toward that end. There is also an end, I suppose, in the sense that there are answers to various sorts of questions. For example, how are human beings redeemed and reconciled? Answer: Through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, from Nazareth. But, that answer raises lots more questions.

As I see it, it's the questions that are not at the center of ecumenical orthodoxy that emerging Christians feel there to be a lot of wide-open space to explore, to play, to think and to dream in. Assuming the Christian story, they want to know how to get on board with God's agenda in the world. Neither the Creeds nor the bible give us a blueprint or details on how to go about doing that.

Let me say this: Taking something (say)Tony has said and then dismissing the emerging movement on the basis of that is like taking something Jerry Falwell or John MacArthur has said and dismissing the Christian faith on the basis of it. I don't know that you've done that; but, I do think that that is a mistake it might be tempting to make.

Jack said...

Two things:

I keep telling you that it is not just Tony Jones that I am talking about. I am also talking about Brian McLaren and others.

Second, we are probably going to have to disagree on this point. While I agree with your statement that it shouldnt be about what the bible says, but it should be about things that are consistent with what the bible says, and while I agree with you that there is a virtue to exploring, I disagree with you that the bible, the creeds, and tradition do not give us a blueprint. If the emergents want to break with tradition, the burden of proof is on them, so to speak, to make the case that what they are doing is not inconsistent with Christianity as we know it.

My opinion is that you are approaching this without enough healthy skepticism.

Kevin Corcoran said...

Jack:

Fine, TJ and BM and x, y and z. Still don't dismiss a movement on the basis of what a handful (even a very large handful) of its advocates say. That would be like someone dismissing the Christian faith on the basis of what James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and their ilk say about this, that or the other thing.

Where do emergents break with the Christian faith? That's the question. They are breaking with history, with business as usual, and with a lot of historical practices, but where are they breaking with the Christian faith? What Christian traditions are they breaking with? And here I would be very careful. The protestant reformation and its off-spring have broken with quite a few traditions that were in place for 1500 years of church history. 1500 years!!!
I am not troubled by emergents breaking from Christianity as we know it. If they break with Christianity, however, then I'm going to get worried.

I have registered my worries and skepticism of the emerging movement in various places, including some posts on this very blog. You may think I haven't worried enough or registered worries in all the places you think worries should be registered. But I have been far from uncritical.

Bob said...

Jack,
My observations of Emergent(tm) is the confusing language and their relutance to define themselves and what they believe. One's actions determine ultimately what one believes regardless of what's written in their books. Their actions seem to be agianst conservative values and pro Democratic Party objectives. Brian McLaren is their most visable spokesperson. At the end of the day it seems Emergent are educated, younger folks that lean to the left.
Bob

Kevin Corcoran said...

Bob:

I think what recent conversations on this blog are beginning to convince me of is the value of distinguishing the emerging movement from Emergent(tm).

Scot McKnight sent me an article he hopes will appear in CT in which he raises very similar worries to worries I have with Brian McClaren. It's not so much what Brian says that bothers me as what he has so far failed to say about important matters.

Personally, I think the more people in the academy like me take Brian and the movement seriously, by entering into dialogue, the more Brian and Tony will be challenged and pressed to provide clear(er) answers to various sorts of questions. I'm pretty sure Tony welcomes the challenge and thinks the wider the conversation, the better.

stoned-camel said...

I've simply stumbled upon your blog, dredging the blogosphere for theological inspiration and this post really provided that inspiration for me. Your defence of 'emergent' christians really expressed exactly what my views are, and what I struggle with in a way that I wish I could myself, especially when I am at times persecuted for my lack of faith. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who regards his faith with this attitude. Thanks.

Kevin Corcoran said...

Stoned-Camel:

Happy to be of service!!! Welcome aboard the peace train. Come back again.