06 June 2006

On keeping up with popular worldly ideas

Over at the Pulpit Live blog, I've been posting a serialized version of the transcript from my Shepherds' Conference seminar on the Emerging Church Conversation. It occurred to me that this one brief point would make a pretty good stand-alone blogpost:

Some actually believe the "emerging church movement" is the polar opposite of "modernism." So if you criticize the movement at all, you will automatically be accused of blithely and unthinkingly buying into the errors of "modern" thinking. A few loud voices in the Emerging conversation will always chant that mantra—as if they have been pre-programed to respond instantly and reflexively to every criticism by labeling the critic a "modernist."

(Specifically, they like to accuse their critics of parroting a brand of philosophical foundationalism that owes more to René Descartes than it owes to the Scriptures. Lots of naive people have been drawn into the movement by sophisticated-sounding philosophical arguments like those.)

That claim is based on the assumption that postmodernism itself represents a correction of the philosophical errors of modernism, rather than just a further step in a wrong direction.

How any Christian can uncritically adopt that view of carnal, worldly, humanistic philosophy is an utter mystery to me. It ought to be obvious to people in the church that postmodernism poses at least as much a threat to the truth and the clarity of the gospel as every other humanistic philosophy that has preceded it in the long parade of human foolishness that has brought us to the postmodern moment in which we are living.

Postmodernism is just the latest, and possibly the worst, in a relentless procession of bad ideas that ought to have conditioned the church to despise and distrust the folly of human wisdom (which, by the way, is what Scripture commands us to do).

Phil's signature

PS: Fair warning: Pecadillo's coming back.

30 comments:

Kim said...

That's a really great picture of your son, Phil. I'm sure you guys are really proud of him.

Phil Johnson said...

Oh, that's not our son. It's a toy monkey.

Don't worry. Lots of people make the same mistake.

This is our son.

Frank Martens said...

How true! And another problem is there are people who like to preach something similar to this statement...

"I don't believe that the Bible is the "definer of truth." Christ--the Logos and eternal Wisdom of God, he who is co-eternal and consubstantial in being with God--is the only definer of truth. To claim that the Scriptures are thus is to deify them and make them consubstantial in nature with deity, which is supreme error."

Naomi F. said...

I just listened to your sermon "A Beginner's Guide to Postmodernism" the other day. It was really helpful, and you really did a great job on it, Monsieur Johnson!

Oh, and the post was ok too, I guess...

Seth McBee said...

The Purpose Driven church and the emergent church is the logical next steps when you don't hold to a traditional sola scriptura view of thought. Same with those who promote psychology and psychotherapy; when you have to look outside of the Word for answers you admit that God is truly not sufficient and science is. Maybe those same pastors of these churches should read yesterday's post and the actual sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and see if they continue in their ways...which sadly they would probably come up with some philosophy of why Edwards was a heretic...

David said...

May I put forth the statement that the Bible is humanistic - there is such a thing as Christian humanism, and it is not bad - in fact, it's biblical.

Rostin said...

One of the interesting things D.A. Carson has said about the EC is that while there are some good things about it, he can point to reformed congregations that have the same good features, but lack the bad theology.

SolaMeanie said...

Phil,

I for one am tiring (almost to the point of unswallowing) of hearing the word "modernity" and other cute little philosophical ideas chewed over ad infinitum and ad nauseum by the EC. I would love them to rediscover that the Word of God is timeless and sits in judgment on all philosophies of men. Yes, that is rather modern and reasonable of me. I've tried to be irrational, vague and cryptic, but I just can't do it. My apologies to all who get hives when confronted by a clear, non-nebulous thought.

As an aside, if the EC-influenced churches in my fellowshop begin passing out peyote buttons in lieu of communion wafers, I may end up starting a house church. :))

Gavin Brown said...

Right on Phil!

The arch-enemy of postmodernism is not modernism...they are both in many ways the enemies of truth.

Even though many in the EC will claim that dissenters are simply stuck in modernity with our Cartesian formulas (which is not true at all), it cannot be denied that they (EC'ers) continually appeal to Derrida, Hume, Kierkagaard, etc. to make their 'philosophical' case.

Sola Scriptura.

Karen said...

Part of all this is the chain-yanking that occurs when schoolboy intellectuals talk down to Christians (Christians who usually, or ideally, have been through all the stages of learning man's wisdom and being disappointed in man's wisdom and have then been regenerated by the Word and the Spirit and can now see it all in perspective). I mean, the schoolboy intellectuals become the ultimate case of the person who doesn't get the joke and then thinks you're a moron rather than thinking they might be missing something. There is not much you can do with such people, other than present the Word of God to them. Of course, they think they have that covered too, so... Patience, while still presenting the Word of God to them.

Gavin Brown said...

Karen,

You said:

"There is not much you can do with such people, other than present the Word of God to them. Of course, they think they have that covered too, so... Patience, while still presenting the Word of God to them."

You only left out one thing in your rant...

The presentation of the Word that you seem so passionate about.

Pastor Rod said...

Phil,

There are many people who do not subscribe to post-modernism but who think that it has some legitimate criticisms to make of modernism.

To deny that modernism has influenced and shaped the thinking of the church is to be deluded as much as the relativists are.

Rod

Garet Pahl said...

Postmodernism is just a blanket term that encapsulates all neo-Marxism. Which really is what the EC is all about, especially as they have pushed the agendas for egalitarianism, pluralism, homosexuality, and liberation theology. There isn't a place in academia where neo-Marxism is as deeply entrenched as in university English departments, where Marx and Derrida are archetypical heroes. This is why McClaren is the leading face of the EC. He models the Derrida syle in the creation of paradoxical word construction and rambling sophistry that deconstructs itself along the way. McClaren's idea of liberation theology seems to be the liberation from Biblical doctrine and rational thinking, the oppressive tool of the bourgeoisie modernist. I see no viable threat posed by this side of the EC, as their philosophy appeals to the few and undermines itself.

On the other hand, I really like Mark Driscoll, who gets it right in the deconstruction of cultural norms that impede the presentation of Biblical truth to those untutored in the language and rituals of modernist evangelicalism. Rostin made the point that many other doctrinally sound churches are already doing this, and for that we can praise God for his gracious operation in bringing his own to himself.

Karen said...

For all of you who take offence at what I wrote and who may be reading Pyromaniacs:

Prov 9:1 Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:

2 She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.

3 She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city,

4 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,

5 Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.

6 Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Karen said...

Garet Pahl's post is extremely on-the-mark. (With a caveat that I may not quite understand his second paragraph about Driscoll deconstructing "[the] cultural norms that impede the presentation of Biblical truth to those untutored in the language and rituals of modernist evangelicalism." Probably it's just that I don't know much about Driscoll and what he does.)

The first paragraph, though, is extremely on-the-mark.

Kim said...

Phil:

Just for the record, the picture I was referring to is the one you have linked here. I popped over to Pecadillo's blog and then came back and commented.

I'm thinking you probably knew that are yanking my chain.

I'd think of something witty if I could; but you would just out wit me anyway.

Carla said...

"Oh, that's not our son. It's a toy monkey."

I laughed so hard at that, the subject of the post became completely unimportant...

;o)

Garet Pahl said...

Karen,
Sorry if I was being a little too pomo myself- sorry. Driscoll's idea is that we need to be missionaries to our own communities, which are largely composed of unique sub-cultures that aren't fluent in the language and traditions of modern evangelical Christianity. Much like a missionary to the Anglo-Saxons contextualized the Gospel into the Heliand, we must be willing to contextualize the gospel for those who have never darkened a church door. The Pauline idea of becoming all things to all men... such as how Paul engages the Epicureans and Stoics in terms of there own philosophy. Driscoll of course isn't presenting anything new, which is kind of the point. Where McClaren and his ilk redefine the truth to fit the context, Driscoll and others are successful in defining the authentic Gospel in a context relevant to the biblically illiterate. I wouldn't say that this is something that postmodernism has given us, but rather it is an absolutely biblical and rational concept that has always been a part of evangelizing the world.

Rev. Scott Welch said...

Great post! Thanks for pointing out the errors of postmodernism. Would that be considered joining the conversation?

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I would be interested to know if the Pomos would be willing to concede that any part of their thinking was "modern." In other words, do they rely on any type of "foundationalism" or "method"?

Frank Martens said...

Jonathan:

Most of it is based of "Methods", like the Bible allows room for any kind of "Method".

So then each church likes to define their own "Methods" that will reach a postmodern culture. Which will look pretty similar across the emergent churches.

I don't know if you could put a defining finger on what exactly what that "METHOD" is.

Karen said...

Very interesting, G. Pahl. It reminds me of my own entry into biblical knowledge and Christianity in general. I was envangelized, in so many words, by a southern Bible teacher who is very good at reaching people more mainstream evangelists and preachers can't reach. His approach is not orthodox doctrine by any means, yet there is enough orthodox there (and he presented the Bible itself so directly) that the Spirit could reach people. I'll just say it was Arnold Murray, who if you now do a google search you'll be immediately convinced is a nazi, but K-serah, serah (won't even try to spell that correctly). What happens with many of his 'students' though is we gravitate eventually to more and more biblical doctrine. So I gravitated to Calvinism and was honestly won over by the arguments of Reformed theologians vs. the unorthodox doctrines Murray was preaching, and I was very content to go with what the Bible said. Unfortunately when I bring this up I tend to get a very negative response from mainstream Christians who can't seem to grasp that a person can enter the faith via doctrine that is not 100% orthodox. '

For instance even though I'd posted almost 300 things at a certain Puritan-oriented Presbyterian forum and they all knew me as a solid Calvinist in my understanding and so on the moment I wrote what I just wrote above about Murray I was banned. It's unbelievable sometimes the behaviour of mainstream Christians.

I think not of few of them were angered by the fact that an unorthodox Murray type can have such a big effect in spreading the Gospel and 'hooking' people. They can't understand it. They have to realize if the Spirit is working with a person's efforts to evangelize then He just is. Murray though just does the initial work of contact, using different language for sure, but then once you connect you then gravitate towards more and more biblical doctrine.

Karen said...

Actually I should emphasize Murray is effective because he proclaims the actual Word of God, word for word, entire books, complete Bible, literally, over the air. I think that is what God is looking for, and rewards, in an evangelist.

Karen said...

But as I stated all the books Reformed theologians write to win people over to biblical doctrine have been my teacher for longer now than I ever spent with Murray. So, put the stones down please. Thank you.

(By the way: this is why I'm - and everybody should be - passionate about confronting people who would distort Reformed theology - whether so-called post-modernists or Reformed Catholics or whoever. The real thing was there for me to learn, and I want it to be there for others to learn.)

roomdog said...

I like you garet, I shall cheer for you.

Having interaction with many ECers, their theological momentum takes them towards soft angosticism. The movement really struggles with defining sin, evil and judgement (save in the context of liberation theology). They claim to follow the real Christ, but they get queasy when certain portions of scripture describe JC as fierce, holy, and judgemental. e.g. When our OT prof said that Christ will return in wrath and judgement, you could feel the air sucked out of the room. I do think they will eventually deconstruct themselves for the same reasons Garet described.

donsands said...

I was reading a book by Tozer. And he says this: "Evangelical Christianity, at least in the United States, is now tragically below the New Testament standard. Worldliness is an accepted part of our way of life. Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual. We have lost the art of worship. We are not producing saints. ... We carry on our religious activities after the Methods of the modern advertiser. ... Our literature is shallow and our hymnody borders on sacrilege. And scarcely anyone appears to care.
... We must have a reformation. From, The Warfare of the Spirit.

I have to believe the Lord will bring about a reformation in our country. The Lord is shaking things up. And when the shaking is done, the strong branches will remain, and fruit will come forth. I see a remnant, and through this remnant the Holy Spirit moves and causes great things to happen, even greater than what our Lord did (John 14:12-14), and it is always for the glory of Jesus Christ. I believe this is very possible, because God does the impossible.

chamblee54 said...

This may be off topic, but...
Happy 060606!!!!!!

Karen said...

I must make one more comment, this time in response to donsands:

You mention the remnant, and that is so central and crucial a fact to maintain perspective and understanding of how God works and how his people manifest.

One big problem, though, is you simply can't communicate to other Christians regarding this experience of the faith that is more than merely intellectual and is deeper and into the realm of spiritual warfare and practice and real development in the faith. There are so many police and bizarre attitudes that appear instantly the moment these things are brought up. It's to the point in the Reformed blogosphere that if one even mentions the Puritans themselves and their practical, experiential approach to the faith you get mocked by the 'Spockites' - and other, dare I say, shallow types - that dominate the discussions.

So the remnant tends to be scattered (scattered to begin with, but scattered as well due to the policing that keeps one from communicating with others).

It may not even be necessary. Personally though I'm in contact with two or three (sometimes more) which may be the way it's supposed to be in this particular era of the history of redemption.

Garet Pahl said...

Karen,
I don't know of the guy whom you speak, but I was lead to the Lord by my mom when I was five and believe me her doctrine isn't that good either. When I was in my late teens and very early twenties I thought Chuck Smith was the man, now I think he is largely a heretic. Look back in the archives here at Team Pyro for a James Spurgeon post on "Privy Pots". Most of us didn't come to faith by reading Owens or Edwards, but praise God we do now.

Michael Spencer said...

Karen?

I liked it when you were "C.T." better. It was more mysterious.