Wednesday, February 10, 2010

mclaren leading the ec fall

Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity continues to clarify what has gone wrong with the Emergent Conversation and the fallenness of some that embrace it. Michael Wittmer posts part 3 of his excellent analysis of the book. In this post Wittmer deals with McLaren's How Should The Bible Be Understood? It seems that while McLaren rightly identifies historic problems with Biblical interpretation, his solution is to "stop reading the Bible as our constitution." This seems relatively innocuous but for a few issues.

1) Why not propose a more careful reading of Scripture as opposed to rewriting the basics for reading?
2) He caricatures the other side by saying the Bible is read as a constitution without regard to genre. This is obviously not true. Including genre is good hermeneutics and if that wasn't happening to at least some degree then as Wittmer points out, we would "consider the speeches of Job’s misguided friends to be as much the Word of God as what God himself says in the book. If the Bible is a legal document, then every word in it—even the speeches of Satan—is equally what God wants us to believe. Brian says that “there isn’t an easy way out of this problem.” Actually there is. It’s called hermeneutics, and every seminary teaches it."
3) McLaren says we read the Bible as our constitution when we stand under it as our authority. In this he tangles a constitution-like reading method (which anyone would reject) with the authoritative nature of the Bible; reinforcing the liberal love affair with killing Sola Scriptura.

Wittmer reminds us that it is "easy to stand under the Bible as our authority and still read biblical poetry differently than Paul’s epistles." We simply do not need to resort to the extreme suggested by McLaren in order to deal with our historic shortcomings.

On a related note, Bill Kinnon confronts McLaren's presumptuous set-up for how we are allowed to interact with his book. Basically, the conversation is beginning to see that not all of the thought leaders are really interested in conversation. Sarah, of Emerging Mummy, has begun to realize that the conversation is becoming just that, conversation only ... and worse, "the tone has gotten a little self-righteous, a bit holier-than-thou. Only we're not so holy about things like swearing and sex; it's more about social justice and who is posting more buttons on their blog for the One campaign."

Jeremy Bouma notes that he has "grown downright tired of the theology that has bubbled-up out of the emerging church." He writes:

I’m not exactly sure when my saucy love affair with emergent and liberal Christianity ended. My “I don’t” isn’t as crystalized as my “I do.”

Maybe it was when I read Pelagius‘ writings and realized much of Emergent theology really does mirror his 5th century theology.

Maybe it was after the former head of Emergent Village, Tony Jones, rejected original sin, a historic part of the Rule of Faith, claiming that it is “neither biblically, philosophically, nor scientifically tenable. “.

Maybe it was when I read Fredrick Schleiermacher and realized his and modern liberalism’s vapid, gospel-less faith are being repackaged and popularized to an unsuspecting, ignorant Christian community as a wholesome alternative to what has been.

Maybe it was after I read Karl Barth and realized the natural theology pushed by popular emergent theologians is not revitalizing Christian faith, but killing it; it is the same kind of faith Barth so vociferously fought against in order to preserve the historic Rule of Faith.

Maybe it was after reading a leading emerging church voice suggest that God and grace and the Kingdom of God are not tied directly and exclusively to Jesus Christ; ultimately its not really about Jesus, but about a vanilla, generalized World-Spirit god (lower-case “g”).

His conclusion is spot on, "in reality the emerging church simply believes otherly; the form of Christianity that this version of Christianity pushes is neither innovative nor different: it is a form of Christianity other-than the versions that currently exist but mirror those that have already existed."

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