12 April 2007

A Brief Update on the Kimball conundrum

by Phil Johnson



    haven't forgotten that I promised to revisit the issue of Dan Kimball's movement toward "becom[ing] more of a Nicene Creed doctrinal statement believer." I'm eager to explain my position on that issue. I still think there's a crucial point to be made about the folly of giving up certainty and conviction in the name of reaching a postmodern culture.

Here's the thing: As many readers know, Kimball asked for a private conversation before I post my final comments on the matter. Actually, he asked me to phone him. I said I would.

I did do that, as promised, on Tuesday. He was out of the office. I left my cell phone number for him. He later e-mailed me to say I need to call him again; evidently he left my phone number behind when he went out of town. But he doesn't want me to call him tonight, and tomorrow and Friday are impossible for me. (I'm out of the office this week, too, and our men's conference is this weekend.)

Evidently, this is not going to be easy. We'll talk eventually, I presume. I'm not in any kind of hurry.

Meanwhile, I still have every intention of posting on the issue again, and I promise I won't forget or evade the issue. In fact, if this drags on for many days, it could be a very long post (or maybe two or three), because I've been jotting down my thoughts already, and the list of things I want to say keeps getting longer.

But out of respect for Dan Kimball's wishes, I'm waiting to have that personal conversation with him before I say anything else.

So that's really all I'm going to be able to say about it this week. On to other topics.

Phil's signature

62 comments:

Dan Paden said...

Oh, good gravy. I get so tired of this sort of thing; seems like every other time something negative is said about Emergent epistemology, theology, accommodationism, etc., someone decides that it is a "Matthew 18" situation and that one is obligated to have a chat with everyone and their dog before responding publicly to publicly disseminated opinions.

Or, in some cases, people seem to think that their published material just isn't getting the point across (in which case, I have to wonder, why the mess keep publishing?), and that a personal conversation will really, truly reveal how biblical their position really is.

Personally, I'm about half-convinced that this sort of thing is little more than a device to slow down public criticism of anything Emergent.

I've read a purported excerpt of some material Mr. Kimball wrote in response to your post; it sounded good at first glance, but close reading revealed the usual problem: yes, we take the Bible very seriously, truth is very important, yada yada yada, and yet nowhere in that material was any indication that truth can be objectively known.

Dan said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your interest in this.

I am not sure how you concluded:

"nowhere in that material was any indication that truth can be objectively known."

If you read the chapter that started this, you will actually read repeated times I make very clear that truth can be objectively known and give examples of what I believe specifically. I even say on page 94:

"we can have an anchor of belief and foundation of essential core doctrines God has revealed in Scripture that we can firmly hold onto. I believe doctrine is important (1 Timothy 4:16), so let me explain a few of the doctrines I believe."


I then list several very specific examples such as when I said I believe in core doctrines like those included in the Nicene Creed, as ones you can say with confidence "This I Know" such as:

- the Trinity
- the resurrection of Jesus
- the future return of Jesus
- the virgin birth
- there will be a judgment - heaven/hell

But I didn't end it with the Nicene Creed as what we can know. In the chapter on page 94, I also clearly stated:

"..I don't believe you can't you can't come to solid conclusions about many things in addition to the Nicene Creed. There are many things not mentioned in the Nicene Creed that I believe are clear, such as Jesus' teaching about marriage, the authority of the Bible itself, the role of the Spirit in personal sanctification."

I then listed other doctrines in the chapter I see as truth such as:

- substitionary atonement (page 100)

- sinful nature, obviously if I believe in the atonement, then it only follows as I talked about the reality of sin (on page 100)

- salvation through Jesus alone (page 101)

- the inspiration and authority of the Bible (page 94-99).

And I also talked about my belief in heaven/hell, that in our pluralistic religious culture that salvation is not found in other religions but in Jesus alone - these were clearly written in the chapter.

I even wrote on page 99:

"..we can have bold confidence about core essential doctrines. In fact, I believe emerging generations are looking for something to believe in. I believe
they are looking for truth, and when we do have something we know is true, we should clearly and
boldly say it."


Hope this clears some of what you feel "tires you".

In regards to talking off-line, I asked Phil to talk on the phone as brother to brother, as I did feel misrepresented (Phil asked on the blog if I felt that, and I said I did) and that is something I want to talk on the phone about, not in a comment section on a blog. Also, some of the questions I have been asked, I have felt i answered, but Phil would like more clarification so talking in person in a dialog is better than back and forth in emails or on blog comments.

Thank you for posting your honest feeling and hope this helps you understand more.

Peace in Jesus,

Dan Kimball

Bryon Mondok said...

I'm also eager to read your reasons why believing the Nicene Creed and the Bible are (1)"folly" and (2)"giving up certainty and conviction."

donsands said...

"..we can have bold confidence about core essential doctrines"

Amen to that.

Throughout the history of God's people, there have been those who would rather have their tongues sliced in half, then deny the essential truths of the faith.

Appreciate your tone brother Dan Kimball.
God bless you and your family, and your church.

Martin Downes said...

Dan Kimball,

Having read your chapter (and the rest of the book) it left me wondering whether the bigger influence on your position was moving away from a church background that was overly prescriptive in doctrinal conclusions and undernourished when it came to giving substantial reasons and answers for those positions. And that maybe some of those proof-text doctrines were too heavy for their alleged biblical support.

It makes me wonder whether accusing you of taking a postmodern approach to doctrine is just off track. And it makes me wonder whether the antidote to the kind of church background that you describe can actually be found in the vast riches of Reformation theology.

I also wonder, given your explanation here (which I already knew from the chapter), whether you will move toward Mark Driscoll's position. It seems to me that you share his assumptions about the Bible and doctrine much more than, in the book, the assumptions of Doug Pagitt. Is that a fair comment on the three of you?

DJP said...

1. Conversations are good things, but not a moral requirement when dealing with public statements. It's a goodness-of-Phil's heart thing.

2. Dan K, those are all wonderful personal beliefs. Here's the question: is salvation by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of the penal, substitutionary atonement of Christ alone (A) true, and (B) a definitional essential truth of Christianity? Is it a to-fight-for, to-die-for truth? Can you be Christian and deny this? Must you affirm it to be a Christian?

3. Six posts, three Dans. How cool is that?

Dan Paden said...

Haven't read that opening chapter; the material I was referring to was a very brief snippet on Mr. Mondok's blog, and there, as I said, I found nothing helpful.

The quotes you have here are interesting and appear good at first glance, though I haven't got the time to look at them in any detail just now, as I just arrived at the jobsite. I always bear in mind that the first person to make his case sounds right, until someone comes along and cross-examines him. In this case, I'll wait 'til I see Phil's published comments, though I suspect I know along what lines he will be working.

Jeff Wright said...

In this case, I'll wait 'til I see Phil's published comments, though I suspect I know along what lines he will be working.

Hey, in the meantime, I'd be happy to tell you how to think if that's what you're looking for. Just let me know.

You popped off, Kimball made your statement look pretty ridiculous, and you reply with 'sounds good but I'll wait to hear from Phil.' Why? You made your judgment based on what somebody said on a blog and now you've heard straight from the source. Isn't Kimball's "published" comment getting the point across? Why wait for Phil's personal response to "really, truly reveal how biblical their position really is"? lol

Caleb Kolstad said...

Fair enough- Have a great retreat!

Caleb

JSB said...

I do think we need to separate the personal from the philosophical here. Phil and Dan talking is a good, brotherly thing. They both seem like guys it would be good to sit down with.

Both know how to write, too. So it shouldn't be too hard to communicate some basics in written form here.

My biggest concern is the overall effect pomo thinking (e.g., anti-foundationalism) has on people down the line; how it affects confidence in or obedience to the Word, etc.

It's possible to say "I believe in X doctrine or creed" while holding to a philosophy that cannot support such belief, or tends to undermine it, if not in oneself, then in others.

That's the major issue for me, and hope to see some discussion on it.

SolaMeanie said...

I would agree with Dan Paden on this, having had a brief email exchange with Dan Kimball in the past. It was congenial, but he also pressed me to take things up with him privately and not post his "private" email.

When published authors publish theological positions, that is NOT subject to Matthew 18. Period. Publically disseminated error must be corrected publically. With the Emergent authors/pastors/teachers, they have had a plethora of people who have confronted them over their errors ad nauseum. Contacting them privately before commenting on anything they say would be pointless. Been there, done that. Over and over again.

In this particular instance, I would certainly try to honor your commitment to Kimball and talk to him, but if he's going to play dodgeball and make himself impossible to reach, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

SolaMeanie said...

Just for clarification on the above..I certainly would not publically post communication that was intended to be private. I did not and will not post Dan Kimball's email to me.

I am talking about publically disseminated material i.e. books, tracts, posts online, statements made on radio and television broadcasts, etc.

Tom Chantry said...

One of my favorite things about this blog is that whenever I read a post that basically says, "Here's why I'm not going to say anything about this issue right now; tune in next week when we can address it properly and thoroughly," I can count on it that there will be double digit comments by noon!

DJP said...

LOL.

Over at FreeRepublic, one of the funniest (and longest) threads ever was one titled "Ignore this post."

Ken Silva said...

Hello Dan,

Would you please publicly let us know where you stand on the following? You have written: "In the book Soul Shaper, Tony Jones explains a lot of ancient spiritual disciplines and shows how they can be attractive ways of worship for emerging generations. Lectio Divina, which is the practice of repeatedly meditating and praying through a passage of Scripture, and many other spiritual exercises are being reintroduced in emerging worship gatherings." (Emerging Worship, 93, emphasis mine)

As a former Roman Catholic myself, and being good friends with former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett, this kind of thing really concerns me because these "ancient spiritual disciplines/exercises" are undoubtedly things that were developed through the anti-biblical monastic traditions of the apostate Church of Rome.

Then in my article "Emergent Church: Soul Shaper Tony Jones" I point out that your friend Tony Jones "advocates some sixteen 'ancient-future' spiritual tools such as The Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, Silence and Solitude, Stations of the Cross, Centering Prayer, and the Labyrinth."

Dan, you told me that you didn't know what Centering Prayer was. So are you recommending books with things within them that you don't actually know about? Those of us the Lord has called to study the Emergent Church know that Contemplative Spirituality (aka Spiritual Formation) as taught by Richard Foster and Dallas Willard - both called "key mentors" in Emergent Church by Bran McLaren - is a core doctrine of this whole emerging church movement, and I just clearly showed that you personally recommend this Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism.

So am I really to believe that you don't know what these "ancient spiritual disciplines/exercises" are which you are now recommending to our youth? And further that you don't know the origins of said practices? I think that this would be a really good place to clear this up for us.

Glenn said...

I would really like to see someone address Ken's comment and if possible go a little deeper on the topic. I'm being a little selfish, our church has started introducing some of this. In fact, they are teaching our junior high kids Lectio Divina.

I've already made the first move and asked to have an informal conversation about things with an assistant pastor. I've also done some of my own research, but if the big brains here can provide any input, it would be greatly appreciated.

How about this for a topic...how to keep your church from adopting the newest trends....

Glenn

wfseube said...

>>>3. Six posts, three Dans. How cool is that?<<<

I think Phil and Frank should change their names to Dan. Pecadillo already has a cool name...

david rudd said...

glenn,

maybe a better idea would "how to be discerning about the new trends"...

if you are truly interested in researching this, i would start by reading Tony Jones' book (referenced by Ken). Tony is good communicator and has a lot of youth ministry experience. I disagree with him doctrinally on many fronts.

While I was doing youth ministry, I read his book and found some helpful ideas for equipping students to obey the Scriptural command to "meditate" on Scripture.

Some of the things in the book are fishy. Some don't feel right. But the whole point of reading is to discern the true from the false, and as long as we are reading human authors (anything apart from Scripture) we ought to read it that way, whether it be Brian McLaren or John MacArthur.

--smarmy finishing comment deleted by Holy Spirit's prompting--

Phil Johnson said...

Glenn: "I would really like to see someone address Ken's comment and if possible go a little deeper on the topic."

It is, however, off topic for this thread. So please don't try to get that discussion going here. This is not about "contemplative prayer" or lectio divina. Those who want a definition of the latter will find it at Wikipedia. If someone wants to discuss it, Ken Silva's blog offers ample opportunities for that.

The one and only point I've tried to make with Dan Kimball has to do with the issue of how we define the essence of Christian belief. If we can agree that the Nicene Creed is not a sufficient summary of everything essential to Christianity (and Dan Kimball says he agrees with that), then what is the best starting point for understanding the essentials?

I've suggested the gospel itself is a better starting point than a 4th-century creed, and I have also suggested that if that's true, then we cannot blithely toss aside the distinctions between Roman Catholic and Protestant belief. The one and only point of clarity I'm trying to get from Mr. Kimball is on that matter. Getting the point across is hard enough without commenters bringing up side issues.

While someone might argue that the mysticism reflected in lectio divina and similar "disciplines" is directly related to Catholic-Protestant differences on the gospel, that's a molehill compared to the mountain I'm willing to die on.

So let's keep this on topic, OK? I've been frustrated enough trying to make the point clear to Dan Kimball. Let's not really de-rail the point before he even has a chance to get what the point is.

Phil Johnson said...

Bryon Mondok: "I'm also eager to read your reasons why believing the Nicene Creed and the Bible are (1)'folly' and (2)'giving up certainty and conviction.'"

Actually, my point has to do with the idea of retreating from historic Protestant doctrinal standards in order to "become more of a Nicene Creed doctrinal statement believer"—especially if the main motive is the contextualization of the gospel for a generation that already has a pathological distaste for clarity and conviction. That's what I think is folly.

Just so we're clear here, it might help you to re-read some of the posts that preceded this one. Notice that one of my original complaints about the stance Dan Kimball has staked out was that it seems to entail a renunciation of certain vital Protestant distinctives. Specifically, I've been trying to get him to clarify his position on sola fide, and so far it has been like pulling hen's teeth to get a straight answer.

philness said...

Concerning the Matthew 18 situation one would have to be a brother and then this brother would have to had sinned against another brother all the while both being part of a local church. And so seeing neither apply to DanK (except the brother part of which I hope and trust he is a brother) it is a non-issue from a Matthew 18 perspective.

But I am reminded of the passage in Acts 26 where Paul is being given the chance to be let off the hook before King Agrippa and Festus (not from Gun Smoke) being there too hears Paul out and Paul makes a great statement at the end in verse 26. He appeals that he has done nothing in closed quarters. Everything that Paul had to say was said in public for all to hear. I find it suspect now more than ever that someone feels it necessary to conceal their theological position.

philness said...

Ruu Row, I just saw Phils comment. [Walking off with tail between legs now]

Phil Johnson said...

We need to keep the record straight, here:

As far as I know, Dan Kimball hasn't suggested to anyone that I'm obligated by the principles of Matthew 18 to talk to him personally. He simply invited me to do so, and I have every reason to think he intended it only as a courtesy. I take it that way.

He hasn't implied that his published material should be considered off-limits for criticism, nor do I think he's suggesting anyone victimized him merely by criticising him.

He is saying he thinks I don't correctly understand his position, and he wants an opportunity to explain his position personally. That's fair enough, and I appreciate his willingness to spend time to clarify something I acknowledge is extremely confusing to me.

He has only asked me to keep his private e-mails private, and I personally think that's a reasonable request. He hasn't tried to get me to move the entire discussion to a private venue; he hasn't challenged my right to critique what he has published; and (to give him full credit), I think he has made a good-faith effort to reply to what I have written, instead of questioning my right to say it or complaining about my "tone." I respect him for the way he has stood up to the barrage of criticism and questions I have posted. I don't think he should be criticized simply for wanting to discuss it even more directly.

People do use various ploys about Matthew 18 and spurious complaints about "tone" and whatnot to try to silence criticism all the time, but neither Dan Kimball nor any of his supporters in the blogosphere has done that in this instance. Let's extend them the courtesy of acknowledging and respecting that.

david rudd said...

phil,

since i've disagreed with you when i feel you've misrepresented things, i'll heartily agree with you on this.

thank you for stating what i thought was obvious, and for being very fair regarding dan's statements and lack thereof.

Jacob said...

"Those who want a definition of the latter will find it at Wikipedia."

Thanks for the direct link, saving me the time surfing over to Wikipedia the long way and typing it into their search. :D

Matt said...

Honest question for Dan Kimball:

First of all, let me clearly state that I am NOT sympathetic to postmodern philosophy or theology, and that I have serious concerns about the Scriptural fidelity of the ECM. However, Dan, so far you have struck me as one who sits at the grown-ups table of the Emerging Church. Your tone here has confirmed this for me. Thank you for your irenic posts. (Thank you also, Phil, for curbing your frustration and keeping everything on a civil tone).

Dan, I appreciate and agree with your doctrinal positions. I would like to hear a clear answer to Phil's question, but would ask a similar question. Are your *orthodox* doctrines justifiable based on your view of Scripture and access to truth? Or are they memories of an orthodox past which you are not *yet* willing to jettison?

This is an important distinction, as history has repeatedly shown that the practical consequences of an idealogy are rarely seen in the first generation. Usually it is the second or third generation who are forced to take their parents and grandparents thinking to its logical conclusion.

My fear is that those who are *currently* orthodox within the ECM are only *arbitrarily* so, because the memory of biblical orthodoxy is still strong in the first generation, and because post-modernising the faith does not allow for universal, objective truth. Dan, will your theological framework allow your children and grandchildren to remain orthodox, or will the logical conclusion of the post-modern framework look drastically different than your own seemingly orthodox faith in Jesus?

On the Matthew 18 topic, I heartily agree with Dan (whichever one first comes to mind - okay, Dan Paden in post #1). The argument against D.A. Carson's book is empty. He critiques publicly accessible material. How many of the Emergents who criticize him had a private dialogue before stating their concerns?

Matthew Henry said...

Thank you Phil for mentioning that this is not a Matthew-18-kind-a-thing. I noticed the comments to that effect and was puzzled, not seeing any of it in your post itself. And for us all, who are in a public ministry of any type, there are times when it is easier to discuss things in person so that subtleties that the written word doesn't convey can be expressed. And if this doesn't make sense, call me.

Sled Dog said...

Regarding Phil's quest for an answer on Sola Fide:

Dan wrote in this comment thread (second post of the thread): "salvation through Jesus alone" (page 101)

Is there more you are looking for?

Matt said...

Sled Dog,

some inclusivists such as Dallas Willard would affirm that Jesus is the sole source of salvation, but that people do not necesarrily need to know Him or have faith in Him to be covered by His atoning work. "Salvation through Jessus alone" neither demands nor precludes "sola fide".

david rudd said...

matt,

who is the "jessus" you claim salvation comes through? sounds like one of them emergent gods...

seriously, though.

i wonder how many people would be accepting of dan's statement if they weren't

a) looking to grind an axe with anything "emerging"

b) unwilling to allow someone the label of "orthodox" unless that person jumps through the exact same hoops they do

c) looking to take Phil's side no matter what.

i'm not accusing you of these things, matt. i'm just suggesting that if phil made that statement; no one here would call him on it.

Sled Dog said...

Following up David Rudd's comment...

I kinda thought the same thing. How many questions does Dan Kimball have to answer correctly until he's okay?

So far he's offered in his comment:

The resurrection
Trinity
Virgin birth
Salvation through Christ alone
Future judgement
Reality of heaven/hell
Subst. atonement
Inspiration/authority of scripture
sin nature

I recently read Dan's book "They like Jesus..." He never speaks badly of conservative doctrine, he just understands that in a post-modern world many of these truths are more difficult for people to swallow...There was nothing that made me thing he was tossing orthodox Christianity.

wordsmith said...

The fact that "sola fide" and "salvation through Jesus alone" are neither identical nor equivalent illustrates the need for precision (if not thoroughness) in articulating one's beliefs. Ambiguity and hand-waving may appeal to the lowest common denominator, but there's no virtue in talking without saying anything.

Carla Rolfe said...

"i'm just suggesting that if phil made that statement; no one here would call him on it."

A man's reputation tends to afford him the opportunity to make such a statement and not be questioned. Folks (in general) know where Phil stands.

By the same token, asking someone affiliated with the ECM to clarify or expound on a statement certainly isn't out of line, considering the very "fluid" nature of the ECM.

Phil Johnson said...

wordsmith: "The fact that "sola fide" and "salvation through Jesus alone" are neither identical nor equivalent illustrates the need for precision (if not thoroughness) in articulating one's beliefs. Ambiguity and hand-waving may appeal to the lowest common denominator, but there's no virtue in talking without saying anything."

Thank you. At least someone gets it.

Matt said...

David Rudd, Sled Dog,

I'm sorry that my statement obviously rubbed you both the wrong way. My spelling of "Jesus" left something to be desired, I will admit.

I hope you both notice that I am not trying to be antagonistic towards Dan K. I am simply asking for precision, as I believe Phil is. BTW, I am not trying to "take Phil's side no matter what". In fact, I do not share his views on all things. Calvinism would be a significant one. Additionally, I have no "axe to grind" with Dan Kimball. In fact, his comments so far have been encouraging to me. If he can show (with adequate clarity and precision) that he holds basic orthodox Christian beliefs, and that these beliefs are indeed justified by his epistimological framework, then I will be both interested to hear how this is possible, and thankful that Brian McLaren and Rob Bell are unorthodox even by Emerging standards. I am actually *hoping* that Dan can clearly articulate his points further, as he has no doubt tried already. BTW, Dan Kimball, I don't blame you if you are frustrated by now with your repeated attempts to clarify yourself. To a conservative orthodox evangelical like myself, you appear to be somewhat of an enigma that I would like to know more about.

Rest assured that my questions are based on wanting further clarity for the sake of understanding, not on axe-grinding.

Sled Dog said...

Hey Matt,

I make so many typos I would never be rubbed the wrong way about anyone else's typos!

No abrasion on my part.

I'm not against questions and answers. Ask away!

Phil Johnson said...

Matt: "Rest assured that my questions are based on wanting further clarity for the sake of understanding, not on axe-grinding."

Frankly, I thought that was crystal-clear from the beginning. Your request for clarity steps on the pomo air hose, however.

This entire dialogue perfectly illustrates the point I was making at the start anyway: It would be hard to imagine a more wrong-headed and counterproductive methodology to adopt in a postmodern climate than the Emerging tendency to make ambiguous the very things that most need to be made clear.

I'm tempted to declare the matter closed and rest my case.

david rudd said...

matt,

thanks for your response. i did not read your comments "that way" (that's why i tried to make clear i wasn't accusing you of this).

to you and others i would suggest that a blog/comment section is not the place to expect "precision".

precision (particularly in this context) is not achieved easily. most of us spend our entire lives continually shaping and reshaping our theological understanding. often we cannot even find the precise words to fully explain what exactly is within us.

so we fall back on creeds, and statements, and catechisms, and Scripture...

i understand that sled dog's quote of dan's comment regarding phil's post and the ensuing comments does not give a parrallel answer to the question raised in phil's comment regarding dan's response to phil's original post and the ensuing comments.

however, it seems (if i may step away from the minutia for a moment and observe a "meta-narrative" [if that's even possible ;)] in this whole dialogue) that the direction of this has been:

- big question raised about certainty and whether or not dan kimball believes anything post-nicea

- lots of debate

- dan kimball attempts to clarify

- smaller question raised about whether dan kimball really believes what he says

- lots of debate

- dan kimball attempts to clarify

- smaller questions regarding specific doctrines that dan kimball may or may not believe

- lots of debate

- dan kimball attempts to clarify

- one lingering question regarding precise language that dan kimball may or may not use

- lots of debate

... i'm just glad i'm not dan kimball...

and i wonder what happens after dan clarifies on this one?

Phil Johnson said...

david rudd:

Cute, but that's not an accurate sketch of how this thread has gone.

farmboy said...

sled dog offers the following regarding Mr. Kimball: "he just understands that in a post-modern world many of these truths are more difficult for people to swallow".

This difficulty in swallowing did not come about with the postmodern worldview. Scripture tells us that the gospel - Mr. Johnson's suggested starting point for essential Christian doctrine - is foolishness to the wise and a stumbling block to the proud. Christians have understood this since, well, the first century. However, just because the gospel is difficult to swallow, it does not follow that Christians should equivocate or soft sell when it comes to this starting point for essential Christian doctrine.

Sled Dog said...

I'm not suggesting uncertainty or endorsing it in anyway. The Gospel is a hard message anyway, one that won't penetrate unless God does some heart-softening.

My point on earlier comment threads is the idea behind missional church ministry...the realization that we don't live in a Christian culture anymore, at least a culture that at one time understood the language of Christianity, and held a fairly absolute view of truth. Just like a missionary, there has to be some adapting to the culture. I know a few missionaries who came home because they didn't take the time to learn the culture of the countries they were serving in.

No axes to grind here. I just like to ask questions!

I'm gonna put my money that Dan K. endorses salvation through faith alone in Christ, and that he doesn't hold to a more universal or partial universal view of salvation.

Martin Downes said...

Hey Sled Dog,

When the "adapt to culture" card gets played it is a sign that the gospel is about to get changed.

Dan Paden said...

Mr. Wright, I appreciate your enthusiasm for a lively discussion. I'll just address a couple of your points briefly:

I'd be happy to tell you how to think if that's what you're looking for.

Thanks, but no thanks.

You popped off...

Granted. Seems endemic to the blogosphere.

...Kimball made your statement look pretty ridiculous...

No doubt I am very dense, but I fail to see how, as I made it clear I was a) reacting to what appeared to be another instance of behavior I've previously seen from Emergents, and b)evaluating only the excerpt that I had read, and Mr. Kimball--kindly, I think--quoted material from something else in an attempt to clarify his position. Nothing wrong with that; I appreciate it, as a matter of fact. However, as my original statement addressed only the material I had seen, and that material doesn't address the question of truth's objective knowability, I'm not sure how "ridiculous" it has been made to sound. For Mr. Kimball to say

I am not sure how you concluded:

"nowhere in that material was any indication that truth can be objectively known."


is merely a reflection of the likely fact that he did not know for sure what "that material" was. If he thought that I was referring to the chapter he mentions, he was mistaken. I certainly did not say so.

...and you reply with 'sounds good but I'll wait to hear from Phil.' Why?

I believe I said why. The answer is not the one you provided for me. I had just arrived at work and I had to cover about 140 miles in the next 105 minutes and had no time to take a closer look at the fresh material, which did sound good as far as it went. As far as waiting on Phil's material before saying anything else--if I say anything else--that is less a matter of waiting for Phil to tell me what to think than of wanting to see what someone who has read the whole chapter (I gather that Phil has done so) had to say in response so that the two positions might be compared. You may not have recognized it as I rendered it, but the line about cross-examining the first person to make a case is hardly my own thinking; it is out of Proverbs. I suppose, were you sitting in the jury box during a criminal case, that you might regard waiting for the cross-examination of a witness as the same thing as having someone else tell you what to think, but I can't say that I think similarly.

You made your judgment based on what somebody said on a blog...

I'm not entirely sure that I've communicated clearly what that "judgment" was, looking at your comment. To reiterate, shorter and more clearly, it was two-fold: the constant "talk to me privately before commenting publicly about what I've written and published" stuff I've heard from Emergents (starting with darn near the first word I ever wrote on the subject)has come to absolutely stick in my craw, and the quote to which I referred lacked the material I indicated. Even now, I fail to see what is inaccurate about any of that. Perhaps it is my natural bent toward ignorance.

I am sure you meant no harm, Mr. Wright. If this too-long response doesn't satisfy you, I don't know that I can say much else.

Phil Johnson said...

Sled Dog: "Dan wrote in this comment thread (second post of the thread): 'salvation through Jesus alone' (page 101)

"Is there more you are looking for?"


Well, yeah. See: that kind of reply illustrates what frustrates me most about the gross deficiencies of the postmodern "conversation"—wherein accuracy, clarity, and precision are too often scorned as worthless and counterproductive "modern" values.

Note:

1. To say we believe in "salvation through Jesus alone" is not an affirmation of sola fide. Sola fide refers to the fact that faith is the sole instrument of our justification.

2. The truth that Jesus is the only Savior (an aspect of what we mean by solus Christus) is likewise vitally important, but that wasn't the question I keep asking for a clear answer to.

3. Nor did I raise the question of whether Dan Kimball personally affirms "faith alone" or "Christ alone." I asked him to tell me whether he regards the historic Protestant principle of sola fide as essential to authentic Christianity.

4. For the umpteenth time, my position (and I'm prepared to argue that this is the pith of the historic Protestant idea) is that the gospel, not a 4th-century creed, is the best starting place for understanding what's essential to authentic Christian faith. In other words, the more specific (yet still perfectly simple) post-Reformation formulae which highlight justification by faith alone (sola fide) constitute a better understanding of the gospel than the Nicene Creed, which includes no clear statement about the gospel.

So I'm suggesting that it's a serious mistake to abandon gospel clarity in favor of ancient consensus on issues other than the question of how a sinner is made right with God—especially if the motive for making such a shift is to accommodate postmodern preferences and "contextualize" the Christian message for a culture that already hates clarity and specificity.

It's not about catching Dan Kimball in a game of words. I'm seriously trying to get clarity about the real nature of the viewpoint he is advocating. I'm still not sure if he considers sola fide as essential to the gospel message. But saying he believes in "salvation through Jesus alone" is no answer to that very specific question, which I have repeatedly asked. When I keep asking the question and every time a "reply" is offered the terminology is changed to something else, it begins to look like deliberate evasion and obfuscation.

I honestly don't think this is all that obscure or difficult.

But let me put it a different way: Is Dan Kimball advocating a kind of "Reformed Catholicism," or would he still affirm a classically Protestant doctrinal position? If it's the latter, why did he not simply say so in a book devoted to describing Emerging doctrine—especially when not saying so put him in a position of seeming to disagree with the very clear position Mark Driscoll had laid out?

And if someone else wants to answer those questions on Dan Kimball's behalf, please at least address the actual question I am asking instead of perpetually shifting the terminology and acting as if I ought to be satisfied with an answer to a question I never even asked.

Sled Dog: "How many questions does Dan Kimball have to answer correctly until he's okay?"

I'd be happy with an answer to one of the two questions I have actually asked again and again, instead of being spammed over and over with a list of "answers" to questions no one has even asked.

Wow. I just hope people are really following this "conversation" and not merely scanning it. Its a textbook lesson in the deficiencies of the postmodern approach to "dialogue."

David said...

Phil

From the almighty wiki

Sola Fide
Protestants have historically summarized their view with the formula: "Justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone [that is, not by a supposed faith that has no accompanying works]."

solo christo

Christ is the only mediator between God and man, and there is salvation through no other

Are these your definitions of the two?

Jeff Wright said...

"I am sure you meant no harm, Mr. Wright. If this too-long response doesn't satisfy you, I don't know that I can say much else."

Please, call me Jeff.

Dan Paden said...

Okay, Jeff it is. I'm sure we'll get along in most respects. To judge by the reading material listed in your profile, we probably have far more commonalities than differences.

Phil Johnson said...

David:

You read the Wiki on sola fide, and that's what you took as the "definition"?

This is just a riff on a thought that occurred to me while reading David's comment; it's not a comment directed at him in particular. But I have to say this:

It's interesting that reader after reader seems to be groping to find a quick 'n' dirty formulation that can be easily affirmed by all sides without really answering my question. I deliberately made the question specific, and I'm not going to accept a deliberate evasion in place of a real answer. Moreover, the question itself is neither so complex nor so difficult that any ordained minister in a Protestant church should stumble over it or require further explanation.

Notice: Even the Wiki entry says exactly what I said about the significance of sola fide: it "distinguishes most Protestant denominations from Catholicism, Eastern Christianity, and Restorationism in Christianity." It is the key doctrinal distinctive of Protestantism, the material principle of the Reformation! Surely we ought to be able to either affirm or deny it without so much waffling.

It's not something arcane or mysterious. It's not an obscure point I pulled out of nowhere. The question is not one that should have to be dumbed down in order to get a straight answer.

But here we see the exact problem with imposing postmodern scruples about language and clarity on our theology.

I do indeed rest my case.

JoeMartino said...

Phil,
David Rudd is wrong about a lot of things:
1. Who is the best team in the NFL
2. The Tigers could win the World Series
...to name a few, but his picture of how this whole thing with Dan has gone is pretty accurate. I'm not trying to step on the Calvinist air hose here but the only thing he left out was how Ken Silva was trying to make this whole thread about himself.

Phil Johnson said...

JoeMartino:

Wow.

Well, hang on, because I'm actually keeping score, and when the whole thing is over, I'll do a post-mortem with documentation on how the thread has really gone.

I've been asking the very same question since the original post in this thread, and anyone who wants to verify that can do a search in the comments there.

I frankly don't think I'll ever get a clear and unequivocal answer, but nice try on diverting the issue with some revisionist history.

JoeMartino said...

***takes a bow*** thank you Phil. I do what I can. Not sure what I was revising. I just liked your airhose comment so much I borrowed it. I certainly agree that you have continued to ask the same question, I also firmly blieve that Dan has answered it. By the way, I would also agree with you 100% that Jesus is the only way into heaven.

david rudd said...

Doctrinal Issues Raised in Initial Post about Dan Kimball:

- arian controversy/person of Christ/Trinity

- Pelagianism

Phil Said:
Cute, but that's not an accurate sketch of how this thread has gone.

I've been asking the very same question since the original post in this thread

- authority of Scripture

Doctrinal Issues NOT Raised in Initial Post about Dan Kimball:

- sola fide

(unless of course you want to draw an implied connection to Pelagianism, but that would not be a very precise expression of either)

ears to hear...

Phil Johnson said...

David Rudd:

From that original post:

"Consider the implications of that: If that's really Dan Kimball's position, then he has in effect repudiated the Protestant Reformation..."

If you seriously don't understand that's the very point I am making about sola fide, then you prolly need to do a lot less commenting on blogs, and a lot more careful reading—not only of the blogs you hit with your comments, but (more important) of Reformation history and systematic theology, too.

As you say: "ears to hear."

David said...

Phil
1. It is how Wiki summarizes it. I could of cut n paste the whole thing, but chose not to.

2. The reason I ask is I would like a definitive statement on what you define as sola fide - just what exactly does Dan have to agree to? You asked several questions, got answers, then you asked for more detail. Just what detail is enough?

thats all - I just want a definitive answer so we do not have moving goal posts, i.e. Dan answers, but its just really not quite enough.

So - what constitutes a touchdown? What elements in what version of sola fide does he have to agree to? How many details? Which rabbit trail is ok, and which is out of bounds?

Personally, I can definitievely agree with the wiki summary. Just how much more do I have to include in order to be in your good graces?

So, what is your definitive answer - this is sola fide - you agree with this much, this exact definition, and you get to join the club?

david rudd said...

there you go again.

only this time, phil, you are taking yourself out of context to make a convenient argument.

you quote yourself as saying:

"Consider the implications of that: If that's really Dan Kimball's position, then he has in effect repudiated the Protestant Reformation..."

"implication of THAT" is key here. implications of what?

in this thread you are suggesting that Kimball's "repudiation of the Protestant Reformation" is his lack of precise language regarding the Reformation credo, "sola fide".

that's not what you meant back then. back when you first said it, you were speaking in much more general terms. you were questioning dan's commitment to anything beyond Nicea, and you were wondering about his willingness to "fight" for the core doctrines. here's your exact words from the immediately preceding paragraphs.

In short, Kimball gives the distinct impression that he thinks any doctrine not settled by the time of the first ecumenical council is not really worth fighting over.

Everything beyond that, he suggests, is negotiable—or at least he dismisses all differences on such matters as consequences of a person's genetic predisposition, personality quirks, or whatever.


dan has already resonded to both of these issues. regarding his convinction on post-nicea issues, he said:

I also stated in the chapter that in addition to those from the Nicene Creed (as listed above) other doctrines I believe the Scriptures teach are:

- substitionary atonement (page 100)

- sinful nature, obviously if I believe in the atonement, then it only follows as I talked about the reality of sin (on page 100)

- salvation through Jesus alone (page 101)

- the inspiration and authority of the Bible (page 94-99).

And I also talked about my belief in heaven/hell, that in our plurailstic religious culture that salvation is not found in other religions but in Jesus alone - these were clearly written in the chapter.


regarding his willingness to fight for key issues, dan said:

"..if anyone I know was questioning the resurrection of Jesus, I would go into a pretty strong defend mode. This is the cornerstone of our faith. There are times when I think we may need to take very strong stands about what we believe on critical issues such as the resurrection, salvation through Jesus alone, the atonement and the inspiration and authority of Scripture."

which brings us full circle, and back to my post which you attempted to side-step by calling it "cute".

this whole thread began with very general accusations. dan responded with general statements. it seems that every time dan responds, the criticism becomes more focused. that's fine, but if what you wanted from the get-go was a precise theological statement from dan regarding his ideas about what lies at the heart of orthodox/reformed theology, you should have asked for that first.

that way dan would not continue to take needless attacks from people who really don't know what he believes...

thanks for this forum. i hope i've communicated my ideas in a fair manner.

Phil Johnson said...

David Rudd: "you are taking yourself out of context to make a convenient argument"

What an utterly ridiculous argument: You as reader get to decide what I as author meant.

There you see how postmodernism has made a perfect hash of the very concept of truth.

I've already rested my case. You guys don't have to keep providing evidence of how dead-on correct the point was in the first place.

David said...

Even Wiki, not the best theological reference, offers eleven seperate statements of faith which support Sola Fide. There must be at least a dozen more from other denominations which all would state that they support the historical interpretation of Sola Fide, but phrase it differently than the eleven listed in wiki

So I think considering how this whole thing has gone - which version is yours?

farmboy said...

"So, what is your definitive answer - this is sola fide - you agree with this much, this exact definition, and you get to join the club?"


Standing here on the windswept plains of west Texas - God's country, if you prefer - the above comment, offered by david, captures the essence of those who are defending Mr. Kimball: We want to be considered orthodox, evangelical Christians, but we don't want to take any more definitive a stand on Christian doctrine than necessary to gain that classification. We prefer to remain as vague as possible as to what we believe and what we consider essential, for if we take a definitive position on an article of doctrine, someone might actually expect us to defend our position, and we wouldn't want to do that.

Contrast the above, with those who willingly and confidently embrace the doctrinal truths revealed in Scripture. Regarding the doctrine of faith alone as a key component of the doctrine of justification, take James Buchanan and his "The Doctrine of Justification" as an example. Mr. Buchanan's volume still serves us well 140 years after it was first published.

david rudd said...

phil,

i'm sorry if i misinterpreted your words. i thought i was simply trying to read them in context. perhaps you could clarify what my mistake was.

my only point is this. this thread did not become about "precise" language until the "general" answers dan gave removed the opportunity to continue questioning his orthodoxy.

if i'm mistaken on this, i'm sure all reasonable readers will recognize that and ignore me.

Sled Dog said...

Another comment thread crashes and burns...

Sled Dog said...

"I've already rested my case. You guys don't have to keep providing evidence of how dead-on correct the point was in the first place."

What was the point, anyway?

Phil Johnson said...

Sled Dog: "What was the point, anyway?"

From the conclusion of that contested post:

"Once you embrace postmodern qualms about the perspicuity, truthfulness, and authority of Scripture, you have already rendered any vigorous, biblical defense of the faith impossible."

To wit:

1. A precise understanding and careful definition of the historic principle of sola fide has been repeatedly pushed aside in this thread in favor of many oversimplifications that mean very little. Frankly, it appears some of the most outspoken participants in this thread don't really have a clue what is distinctive about the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith.

2. Two specific questions that I have asked repeatedly have been ignored in some cases and misrepresented in others—while answers to different questions have repeatedly been offered instead.

3. Several participants have shown increasingly angry impatience when I have reiterated those two specific questions and pressed for actual answers to those actual questions.

4. david rudd finally resorted to deconstructing the logic of the thread in caricature fashion, and when I protested about being misrepresented, he insisted I was taking myself out of context. (Imagine the uproar if I said such a ridiculous and uncharitable thing to DK.)

5. Flatly contradictory arguments have been set forth against my right to keep pressing for answers, with JoeMartino complaining that I keep asking the same question over and over (he insists DK has already answered the question). mr. rudd, however, (though he likewise pretends DK has already answered my question) insists I have shifted the ground of my original argument.

etc.

So that's really more than enough foolishness already. Thread closed.