02 July 2007

The Chicken or the Egg?

by Phil Johnson

n a January CT article titled "Five Streams of the Emerging Church," Scot Mcknight suggests that emerging Christians tend to be more praxis-oriented than the rest of us. According to McKnight, to most in the Emerging movement, "how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes."

In other words, Emerging Christians tend to think good works generally trump sound doctrine. If our Emerging friends sometimes seem to sweep aside more conservative Christians' concerns about the soundness of their doctrine, this is the main reason. McKnight writes, "Here is an emerging, provocative way of saying it: 'By their fruits [not their theology] you will know them.'"

But that presents a horribly misleading false dichotomy. Biblically, our theology is an important aspect of our fruit. "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9).

Moreover, the notion that what people do is ultimately more important than what they believe flies in the face of the very same proof-texts that are normally used to support it. McKnight, for example, quotes James 2:20: "Faith without works is dead" But that verse doesn't suggest that what we do is "more important" than what we believe; James's whole point is that the two things seen properly are perfectly symbiotic. Both are essential.

And in terms of causal priority, faith does take first place over works, because any truly good works we do are the fruit of our faith—and James expressly says so at the start of his argument: "I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18).

That's the same cause-effect relationship between faith and works that Scripture consistently stresses. Titus 2 describes good works as adornments for sound doctrine; not vice versa. According to 2 Peter 1:5-8, Christian virtues are the necessary accoutrements of authentic Christian faith.

McKnight anticipates that argument: "Many will immediately claim that we need both or that orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy. Most in the emerging movement agree we need both, but they contest the second claim: Experience does not prove that those who believe the right things live the right way."

In the first place, such an argument from "experience" is fallacious. It's precisely like the argument of the Arminian who insists true Christians can indeed fall away from Christ and be eternally lost "Because I knew a guy who I am certain was saved, and he became an atheist." First John 2:19 explains the "falling away" of such people: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." Similarly, 2 Peter 1:9 says someone who lacks the virtues that flow from faith "is blind"—not a true believer at all.

Likewise, James 2 is pointing out that someone whose life is devoid of good works is no true Christian. James is not suggesting that "how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes."

In the second place, whether McKnight is correct or not in claiming that "Most in the emerging movement agree we need both [right practice and sound belief]," that idea is hardly one of the driving convictions of the larger movement. In fact, I can certainly see how some readers of Emerging blogs and literature might get a totally different impression. The Emerging penchant for making orthopraxis primary over orthodoxy has produced all kinds of rhetoric and behavior which at times seem to imply that sound doctrine is almost wholly optional.

But that's not even the worst of it. The whole way of thinking is upside down. Take the notion that behavior always trumps belief to its logical conclusion and you will end up making a person's own works the ground of his or her hope for justification.

That's no trifling mistake. It's an absolute lie—a damnable lie; and it is the main falsehood that undergirds all false religion—to suggest that what you believe doesn't ultimately matter very much as long as you are good enough.


The final word on this one:
The comment thread attached to this post melted down into an unintelligible cacophony, so I closed it. But just before I closed it, commenter David Rudd asked a question designed to refocus the discussion. Here's my answer to his question, and I'm going to let this be the final word in this thread. I'm adding it to the bottom of the original post, to preserve the sanity of friends who won't want to wade through 80+ comments to get the point. But if anyone does want to slog through those comments, they are still there in all their glory. Enjoy.

David Rudd:

Thanks for the valiant attempt to refocus the comments with your last one. I think you're whistling in the wind if you expect the train wreck this thread has become to jump back on track so easily, but you have asked the right questions.

I really did invite Scot McKnight to post a detailed clarification here, and I was waiting to post any more comments until he has had that opportunity, but he hasn't answered my e-mail yet. Perhaps he's away for the 4th. I'm going to close this thread anyway now, and perhaps we'll reprise the theme in a future post, without the baggage of so many nasty and totally off-track comments.

Anyway, as I said, you have asked the right question: "Is the statement: 'how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes.' necessarily the same as: 'good works generally trump sound doctrine'"?

(Note: The former statement is what McKnight actually wrote. He suggested that one major idea that shapes the Emerging movement is the belief that "how a person lives is MORE IMPORTANT THAN what he or she believes."

He did not say, "How a person lives is more important than what he or she professes to believe"--which is in essence what his defenders now say he actually meant and what Scot himself seemed to indicate in his short note to me.)

My answer to your question is: Yes, I am expressly contending that if what a person does is really "more important than" what he or she actually believes, then good works must trump sound doctrine.

Furthermore, that's precisely what is happening on a wide-scale basis. What Scot actually wrote (as opposed to what we're now told he meant) does in fact appear to be a common feature in Emergent/Emerging rhetoric and practice. It should be perfectly obvious that most Emerging literature puts a lot of stress on lifestyle, behavior, attitudes, and whatnot—while minimizing the importance of sound doctrine. That perspective explains why an ostensibly "conservative" Emerging leader can insist on the one hand that he personally believes in sola fide and sola Scriptura (and even claim that he regards these doctrines as "essential" to authentic Christianity) while at the same time maintaining the pretense of Christian fellowship with people who openly and regularly disavow those "essentials," attack the atonement, deny the authority of Scripture, and wink at whatever new heresy is popular in the post-evangelical community this week.

As for the question of whether it's legitimate or not to critique the Emerging "conversation" as a movement, I'll reiterate what I wrote in a comment I addressed (to you, as I recall) once before:
I'll tell you what: when there are no more national gatherings with the words Emerging or Emergent in their titles and all the usual suspects stop coming together to lecture one another on adapting the biblical message for postmodern ears, then I for one will stop dealing with the whole jumble as a "movement."

I do recognize (and have said so many times) that it's a messy, muddy monstrosity, and its participants aren't always "moving" the same direction. But most participants do acknowledge some commonality with one another. That's why they keep giving endorsements to one another's books, and why Zondervan/YS formed a whole special line to publish and publicize those books, and why we all speak of "Emerging" in the first place.

And even though we critics sometimes grope for a better way to describe the muddled commonality that exists; and we occasionally fail to load every criticism with the requisite number of disclaimers; and we recognize that the contours of the movement itself are deliberately ambiguous and constantly in flux—well, if postmoderns and post-evangelicals themselves can keep using "Emerging" as a label to represent something they are convinced is positive, they really shouldn't keep complaining about the label per se every time a critic comes forward to object to this or that thing which some Emerging blogger or author says is the whole key to reaching postmoderns.


Phil's signature

84 comments:

H.C. Ross said...

Amen.

"Watch your life AND doctrine closely."
1 Tim. 4:16

If I had to really narrow it down, and simplify, and pinpoint just one thing that's bad, I'd say it's reductionism. :-)

jsb said...

1,2,3 John are ALL ABOUT walking in the truth. Not just walking. The warnings are many against the false teachers and their perversion of the true doctrine of Christ. To mess around with that is to mess around with Antichrist. That's John's conclusion, not mine. He certainly was not very tolerant.

Jeff Wright said...

"That's no trifling mistake. It's an absolute lie—a damnable lie; and the main falsehood that undergirds all false religion—to suggest that what you believe doesn't ultimately matter very much as long as you are good enough."

Well said. From what I can tell, the elevation of right practice over right doctrine is a reaction to what some have seen as an acute lack of good works or fruit. When there's a lot of talk about doctrine without the walk, this is seen as hypocrisy, which it is. But the problem is that the solution is no better than the cure because, like many reactionary moves, many people have jumped to the other extreme. In trying to elevate practice, they've neglected doctrine which leads to an even worse problem. As it was said in the post, the two are symbiotically connected.

SolaMeanie said...

Funnily enough, the EC will make points like this about the importance of how one lives, and then ignore lifestyle-like commandments when they happen to pop up inconveniently, such as Christians not swearing like sailors, or embracing homosexuality, premarital sex, or other behaviors proscribed by Scripture.

I guess the good works they're talking of are the Mother Teresa-type, and not necessarily holy living.

Pheh.

YnottonY said...

This post has implications for how people viewed the recent Beckwith situation. The same false either/or dilemma surfaced among those who are very confident that Beckwith is a genuine believer. Why? Because his beliefs about sola fide are not all that important. "We know he's a good guy and a scholar."

jbuck21 said...

"It's an absolute lie—a damnable lie; and the main falsehood that undergirds all false religion—to suggest that what you believe doesn't ultimately matter very much as long as you are good enough."

Strong.

It's the sweetest and most virtuous sounding lie ever, though. Not suprising given that the devil appears as an angel of light.

Ken Silva said...

Phil,

I really appreciate this post. Thank you for standing strong and helping people focus on the important issues here.

philness said...

Phil,

The dial pad graphic is killing me. The I and the K? I'm getting freighten of my befuttlement of the significance, if any, to the post. What I came up with is that Scot 'could have a change of heart'?

Joseph said...

In Hebrews 11, some of those named didn't have much of a "life" to speak of, like Isaac (blase if somewhat backslidden and carnal, looking forward to his next feed of venison) and Jephthah (he of notorious impetuousness), but they certainly had faith beneath it all, which sometimes barely emerged. And that faith was an orthodox faith, that had respect to the recompense of the reward, as an old translation would put it. Not much use, I'm sure for these EC folk.

Phil Johnson said...

Philness:

The button pad has no special significance. I think it's a European phone dial. The I probably is for information, and the symbol in the right bottom row seems to mean "flash" or perhaps "hang up." Who knows what the K means.

I used the image this morning because I had a dentist appt. at 8:30 and didn't have time to make a graphic to go with the chicken-egg theme, so I pulled one of our stock images. (We keep 50 or so fresh Pyro-cized and ready-to-use generic images in the bank all the time).

Look at it like a postmodern graphic. You can make it mean whatever you want.

Pastor Rod said...

OK, I’ll bite.

First, there is a jump in logic from “how a person lives is more important that what a person believes” to “good works generally trump good doctrine.” “Good works” is a technical term especially from the keyboard of a Reformed person. Scot is not really saying anything different from what James is saying, or Jesus is saying. The reality is that you can tell what a person really believes by what he or she does.

When you throw in the phrase “good works,” it confuses the issue. James did not say, “Show me your faith by your ‘good works.’” Jesus did not say, “By their ‘good works’ you will know them.” But he did say, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”

In Matthew 25, the “King” does not say to the goats, “Depart from me. You had bad theology. You failed to appreciate the importance of imputed righteousness.”

It seems to me that your problem is not with Scot.

Rod

David said...

You can have right action without right belief. While that action might be good for someone, it does nothing for your eternal salvation.

But I would question if you truly have right belief if you dont have right action in your life.

Pastor Rod said...

Second, your use of 2 John 9 is misleading. The NIV translates it and the following verse, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.”

The ESV has, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting.”

This could mean the teaching about Christ: that Jesus is the divine savior (1 John 2:22). Or it could be the teaching of Christ, which John seems to equate with love (here and in 1 John).

In any case, “teaching” (doctrine) is singular. This is clearly not talking about systematic theology or even a doctrinal statement.

In 1 John 2:3-6, John said that they way to know who is “in Christ” is by whether he keeps the commandments of Jesus and walks in the way he walked. Again, John equates this with love for the brother (1 John 2:10). The one who claims to know Christ but who doesn’t demonstrate love to his brother is a liar.

Sounds like the same point that Scot was trying to make.

Rod

Ken Silva said...

H.C. Ross already used 1 Tim. 4:16. And those of us who are pastors and/or teachers like Scot McKnight are also under this Biblical injunction in that we must be:

"holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." (Titus 1:9)

Phil's point stands.

Vicki said...

Thank you for this. Sound doctrine seems to be dismissed a lot these days---scary. Your insightful post is much appreciated.

philness said...

Phil,

Okay, I'm good now. And so the Steely Dan reference goes with the key pad...a European key pad. Its all good. But you know, that song is off the Pretzel Logic album, which kinda goes along with the whole pomo reasoning. Get it...twisted like a pretzel? See, I knew there was something there all along. Duuude.

Reformed Hero said...

None of this is new or "emerging" -- it's just tired old liberalism, with the exact same "arguments" that Machen went up against almost 100 years ago. When the "it doesn't matter what you believe" belief system rears its head, just know it's liberal theology and it is a completely different religion than Christianity.

Pastor Rod said...

Third, you say that an argument from experience is fallacious. Not so fast. If one is proving a geometry theorem, then yes. “Well, I’ve never seen an equilateral triangle transcribed by a regular hexagon, so it must not be possible.” In inductive proofs, arguing from experience is not reliable. But deductive logic depends entirely upon arguing from experience.

I’ve never seen a car in front of me on the road take off vertically because it was trapped in the traction beam of an alien spacecraft. Experience tells me that I don’t need to worry too much about that happening.

(I’ll save myself the aggravation of debating your eisegesis of 2 Peter 1:9 and 1 John 2:19. You may be able to provide some proof texts that support your view, but these verses are talking about something entirely different.)

Rod

Pastor Rod said...

Fourth, you said,
“That's no trifling mistake. It's an absolute lie—a damnable lie; and it is the main falsehood that undergirds all false religion—to suggest that what you believe doesn't ultimately matter very much as long as you are good enough.”

That’s not what Scot meant or what he said. And it is not “the logic conclusion” of what he was arguing. While suggesting that it was may not be a damnable lie, it is certainly not the truth.

Rod

david rudd said...

I believe, Phil, you are saying here that McKnight's statement:

"how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes."

really means:

"good works generally trump sound doctrine."

which is:

"a horribly misleading false dichotomy."

because works and doctrine cannot be separated out. it is, in the words of Carson @ Cedarville, a "false antithesis".

Therefore:

"Take the notion that behavior always trumps belief to its logical conclusion and you will end up making a person's own works the ground of his or her hope for justification."

i completely agree, that if someone is suggesting that good works trumps sound doctrine, that is a "damnable lie".

based on your knowledge of Scot and reading the rest of the article, do you think he would agree with your "in other words" interpretation of paragraph 2?

wordsmith said...

If it is an EC tenet (!) that "how a person lives is more important that what he or she believes," then it would appear that such a "generous orthodoxy" would allow Buddhist monks and pagan shamans inclusion in the EC camp, as long as they "orthopraxic." In other words, it's just a new twist on the old "all roads lead to heaven" saw of liberalism.

Makes me wonder why they bother with Jesus at all. Furthermore, under such a belief system there is certainly no need for a bloody cross. Who needs propitiation, if the most important thing is your good works?

farmboy said...

Mr. McKnight offers the following in his article: "A notable emphasis of the emerging movement is orthopraxy, that is, right living. The contention is that how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes. Many will immediately claim that we need both or that orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy. Most in the emerging movement agree we need both, but they contest the second claim: Experience does not prove that those who believe the right things live the right way."

In the above sentences Mr. McKnight fails to distinguish between necessary and sufficient conditions. Knowledge of right doctrine (orthodoxy) is necessary for right practice (orthopraxy). Without the standard of right doctrine how is one to measure whether a particular practice can in fact be considered right practice? This is part of the point that Mr. Johnson is making. Right doctrine, however, is not sufficient to guarantee right practice. The doctrine that Christians are not entirely sanctified this side of Heaven implies that knowledge of right doctrine is not sufficient to guarantee right practice.

Knowledge of right doctrine, however, does so much more than provide a necessary condition for right practice. Scripture tells us that we are all children of the first Adam, lovers of darkness rather than light, and suppressors of truth. Were it not for God’s sovereign intervention in the lives of His elect, there we would still be. But, in Christ we are new creations with our old, fallen way of seeing and understanding being replaced with a new way of seeing and understanding. We now see and understand life from God’s perspective. These objective truths and our knowledge of these objective truths qualitatively change the life we experience. This is eternal life.

Touchstone said...

Phil,

1. Again, another assessment of ECM thinking that is quitely to be flatly rejected as misreprentation by the author. It's argumentation by saying: "In other words..." followed by your putting a bunch of words in the mouths of your subject that they would dismiss. Exceedingly weak, Phil.

2. Saying that theology is an "important aspect" of our fruit does *not* make theology the fruit. One of the reasons this distinction is important is that there is an observed disjunction between theology and practice. It's easy to *claim* support for any theological proposition. *Living* it is another matter, which is a reason why works are valuable as a "checksum"; working backwards from one's actions is a good way to determine what someone *really* believes. Jesus said "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". Same idea here: where your actions are, there will your true beliefs be demonstrated.

3. You then go on to cite McKnight's use of James 2:20 "flies in the face" of his own argument. This should be a clue, Phil, that you are badly misreading McKnight. Do you suppose he is dense as to refute himself in the very next paragraph? Sadly, I think this *is* what you suppose, given your prejudices. But consider that perhaps McKnight has made the very point you are making: they are both symbiotic, essential. It's *because* of their interconnection that the perceived lopsidedness of evangelicalism (particularly Reformed evangelicalism, I think) toward theology at the *expense* of praxis that James 2:20 is powerful as part of McKnight's commentary.

4. Experience does not prove that those who believe the right things live the right way.

Your analogy (falling away) is a good one, but for reasons you apparently missed. If you *claim* to believe the right things, but don't *do* the right things, then just as the unbeliever was "not of us", neither was the one *claiming* right belief actually *believing* right belief. Again, it's easy to affirm one's support for a doctrine. Much harder to demonstrate that belief through one's actions. If your actions don't demonstrate your beliefs, it's worth considering that maybe you are just *claiming* to believe those things....

5. "a totally different impression". Lemme get this straight: here you are citing *yourself*, from a previous critical piece on the ECM, as your evidence of how "some readers" might get an impression that coincides with your representation. Heh. No more comment needed on this than to just point out.

6. I submit that you would find that Scot rejects (strongly) your representation of him with respect to works *trumping* belief. I suggest you send him an email to get his reaction on this and clarify, just for the sake of accuracy and transparency here. Plus, I'll gladly admit I was wrong to suggest this if Scot affirms the idea that works trump belief. As it is, I say you are being deliberately deceptive here.

-Touchstone

(seriously, you should send Scot a request for feedback on this post. I think it would be illuminating to see what his response is.)

Dave Marriott said...

"I guess the good works they're talking of are the Mother Teresa-type, and not necessarily holy living."

That was a great point by Pheh.

I think it's also very interesting that Scot McKnight is the author of two volumes of the NIV Application Commentary Seriers --- a series much used in Christian colleges, by laymen, and God-forbid, even some preachers.

It's also interesting to see that Dr. Darrell Bock of DTS also writes for NIV commentary series. If you read the last chapter of his Progressive Dispensationalism, you will find a strong connection between the "good works" orientation of the emerging/emergent movement and the "social work" emphasis of many Progressive Dispy's.

Just an interesting connection. I left a comment similar to that on Dr. Bock's blog and it wasn't published.

Dave
http://seeingclearly.wordpress.com

centuri0n said...

Let me take a momentary break from vacation without even reading the meta to this point and say this: I defy any EC advocate or defender to substantiate the claim the the American church does not do sufficient good works to speak of as a result of right belief.

That is: give us an example which makes it clear that somehow right beliefs have lead to wrong actions.

I know it's a trick question, but let's see if anyone can figure out how tricky it is.

Phil Johnson said...

Note:

Those who are keen to deconstruct the above post ought to note first of all that I made no criticism of Scot McKnight. Whether he personally agrees with the position he described as an Emerging tendency or not, I don't know, and didn't even speculate on. What I disagreed with was the position he ascribed to Emerging people in general. If he personally accepts that opinion, then I do disagree with him. But I certainly don't assume he would accept it. So whether he personally holds the view I decried or not is utterly beside the point.

In fact, I do I happen to agree strongly with this particular point in McKnight's assessment of significant Emerging tendencies: The notion that "how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes" is indeed one of the notable emphases of the Emerging movement.

And, yes, I do contend that if you push the logic of that opinion all the way, it results in the kind of thinking where "good works generally trump sound doctrine." That has been shown again and again in Emerging writings.

David Rudd asks: "based on your knowledge of Scot and reading the rest of the article, do you think he would agree with your 'in other words' interpretation of paragraph 2?"

I can't imagine why he wouldn't. The tendency to dismiss concerns about the soundness of someone's doctrinal position and cite instead evidence of "love" or good works as if this were irrefutable evidence that the person is a true brother or sister in Christ is in fact a pervasive problem in Emerging/Emergent writing. That very argument was used against Scot McKnight when he expressed grave concerns over Spencer Burke's self-styled "heresy."

In a lecture last May, Tony Jones listed ten characteristics of the Emerging Church. His number two was this: "In the emergent church, friendship trumps doctrine"—a slightly different thrust, perhaps, but that still expresses the spirit of the thing.

Now Touchstone, who wrongly suggests I was being critical of McKnight, says: "I say you are being deliberately deceptive here."

That's especially ironic, coming from someone who so utterly misrepresented what I actually wrote. I might suggest that Touchstone is deliberately playing dumb, but I'll be more charitable than he was here and assume the misunderstandings were unintentional on his part.

david rudd said...

phil,

perhaps scot will weigh in with his opinion. my interactions with him have really led me to respect him immensely.

i think you did a good job of trying to use scot's quotes in context, but i would point out scot's statement later in the article.

Rhetorical exaggerations aside, I know of no one in the emerging movement who believes that one's relationship with God is established by how one lives. Nor do I know anyone who thinks that it doesn't matter what one believes about Jesus Christ.

i think it might create good conversation to attempt to synthesize this statement with the one you led off with.

regarding tony jones, i've heard tony make several claims similar to that. i think you are making a fair assessment of his stance.

thanks for answering my question.

david rudd said...

frank,

not sure the "proof" you're asking for is of the same "point" being made by some? i could be wrong, but it seemed to me that all scot's article was saying was that

"right belief doesn't always lead to right practice."

i could site numerous examples in my own life of this truth, but that would get embarrassing...

Dan said...

Hi Phil,

I can say as someone who is normally labelled on this blog as "emerging", I can say that our church takes doctrine very seriously. It is the teachings of the Bible which shape our orthopraxy. Or else we can be making up whatever we want as to orthopraxy without orthodoxy.

So as one emerging church pastor, we take both orthodoxy and orthopraxy very seriously.


I think the feelings have been among some, is that there are Christians who have right orthodoxy in beliefs, but their hearts, attitudes, actions don't match their beliefs. The Pharisees knew the Scriptures better than anyone, but it didn't melt into their hearts and lives.

So, always remember that when someone is saying "EC" - there are plenty of "EC's" who believe orthodoxy is what shapes orthopraxy and it is a both as 1 Tim 4:16 states we should watch.

Have a happy 2nd of July....

Dan

Phil Johnson said...

Pastor Rod:

At the risk of encouraging you to drop by and comment more frequently, I'll answer your four-parter:

Rod: First, there is a jump in logic from "how a person lives is more important that what a person believes" to "good works generally trump good doctrine." "Good works" is a technical term especially from the keyboard of a Reformed person. Scot is not really saying anything different from what James is saying, or Jesus is saying. The reality is that you can tell what a person really believes by what he or she does.

Technical term or not, when you begin to suggest that "how a person lives is MORE IMPORTANT than what he or she believes," you are unwittingly setting works above faith. I understand that many Emerging folk don't get this, and I agree it's not necessarily always deliberate on their part, but it is nonetheless what regularly happens. Have you not read A Generous Orthodoxy?

Even you (unknowingly, it appears) contribute to the confusion. Let me illustrate:

Rod: When you throw in the phrase "good works," it confuses the issue. James did not say, "Show me your faith by your 'good works.'" Jesus did not say, "By their 'good works' you will know them." But he did say, "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."

See, if the Emerging position merely held that "how a person lives is more important than what that person professes in determining what he or she really believes," then you would have a point and I would have no complaint. But the Emerging tendency, as Scot McKnight (not merely I) described it, is not so benign. Their position is that one's behavior is (NOTE: not "the true gauge of"; and not "the necessary fruit of"; but) "more important than" one's belief.

Rod: In Matthew 25, the "King" does not say to the goats, "Depart from me. You had bad theology. You failed to appreciate the importance of imputed righteousness."

No, indeed. Nor does merely He say, "Depart from me. You behaved badly." He says, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" Both sides of the equation are there, just as I said they should be.

Rod: It seems to me that your problem is not with Scot.

See: I never said my problem is with Scot. My problem is with the Emerging tendency Scot correctly described.

Rod: Second, your use of 2 John 9 is misleading. . . . "teaching" (doctrine) is singular. This is clearly not talking about systematic theology or even a doctrinal statement.

This is not a complex point, Rod: it's about what teaching a person follows, which cannot rightfully be set in contrast to "how a person lives." That was my point. If you thought I was making an argument for one volume of systematic theology as opposed to another, perhaps you could explain how my words seemed to suggest that to you.

Rod: In 1 John 2:3-6, John said that they way to know who is "in Christ" is by whether he keeps the commandments of Jesus and walks in the way he walked. Again, John equates this with love for the brother (1 John 2:10). The one who claims to know Christ but who doesn't demonstrate love to his brother is a liar.

Actually, John gives multiple tests for the genuineness of true faith. One of them is doctrinal. Search and see.

Rod: Third, you say that an argument from experience is fallacious. Not so fast. . . .

An argument against the clear teaching of Scripture based on experience is always fallacious. (But let's not get into the Charismatic issue in this thread, OK?)

Rod: (I'll save myself the aggravation of debating your eisegesis of 2 Peter 1:9 and 1 John 2:19. You may be able to provide some proof texts that support your view, but these verses are talking about something entirely different.)

Readers confused about whether my interpretation is really as unconventional as you suggest are invited to consult a reputable commentary.

Rod: That's not what Scot meant or what he said.

My argument wasn't with Scot. It was with those who hold the view he described—especially those who do take it to the extreme I described.

Touchstone said...

Phil,

That's not a way out, dude. Ask Scot if that's the idea he was advancing as characteristic of the ECM: practice trumps doctrine. I say he will assert something along the lines of: practice validates doctrine, or practice proves actual belief.

Again, let's ask the man what he meant. I'm happy to admit I'm wrong if Scot says he actually was suggesting practice trumps doctrine or that practice even *opposes* one's real doctrines, rather than being just an expression of them. It'd be cool if you'd submit to being liable to some fact checking too. And I'm happy to restrict Scot's ideas to the ECM generally, or *whoever* he claims he was talking about.

Your dodge is just that, a dodge.

Why not get the subject on record here, Phil?

-Touchstone

Touchstone said...

centuri0n,

I defy you or anyone here to prove:

the non-trivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function have real part equal to 1/2


That seems equally attached to this subject. Are we at parity now? This is pretty tricky, too!

-Touchstone

(maybe try being a little less coy?)

KristineT said...

I'll have to go with Reformed Hero on this one--in just my elementary study of church history, there's nothing currently being promoted by the emergent church/conversation that's coming off as "new" or "revolutionary".

It seems as stale as last week's bread, if you ask me.

centuri0n said...

David Rudd:

If that is the extent of Dr. McKnight's writing here, let me ask something --

What exactly is the focus of EC on praxy vs. doctrine all about? That is, if their point is that sometimes right-thinking people don't do the right thing, isn't the easy refutation of that point that people who have -no- doctrinal/philosophical foundation have no way to know whether they have done the right thing or not?

WM said...

Reformed commentaries will show that Matt-7:25 and Matt-12:33 are speaking to what one says. Matt 12 directly refers to the fruit as what is being spoken....his doctrine. So, you shall know them by their spoken doctrine.

centuri0n said...

Touchstone:

Your counter-question has zero argumentative relevance to this subject.

The complaint, apparently, is that orthodox Christians usually -- in fact, today almost never -- act in a way which reflects the Gospel. They don't do good works -- or enough good works -- because we ("the church") have a bad rep among unbelievers.

Listen: if that complaint is going to stick, it has to be more than sassy lip. It has to be more meaningful than when my pre-teen niece, when arguing with my brother (her Dad), says, "I hate you."

In very clear language, put up or shut up. Don't point a finger at the grown-ups when you yourself can't identify any examples of them doing what you're so frowny-faced about.

Your indignation is only a tantrum, and this question proves it. Changing the subject only makes you look more adolescent than you did 5 minutes ago.

Dan Paden said...

Every time I read one of these comments threads, my po' pea-pickin' li'l head starts a-spinnin'.

For the life of me, I cannot quite get what it is that motivates people to so vigorously defend an Emerging Conversation that so clearly fails to manifest so much as a smidgen of actual behavioral improvement (let alone doctrinal improvement) over the Evangelicalism it continually (and frequently viciously) besmirches.

Touchstone said...

Cent,

What are you talking about? I don't see this allegation *anywhere* in the article. Maybe you can provide the quote I missed from McKnight's article that advances this claim. I read the article end to end again, and maybe I'm just being dense, but it looks like you are attached to this article with your "challenge" here as I am with my demand for a proof of the Riemann hypothesis.

Did you even *read* McKnight's article?

As it is, it just looks like a diversion from what Scot said, and what Phil's mangling of it by use his "In other words" maneuver.

Why you think I have anything to "put up or shut up" with respect to what you said escapes me. I might as well work on the Riemann thing.

-Touchstone

Touchstone said...

dan paden,

We're not even *close* to that level of discourse here. We're bogged down on basic semantics and meaning of the written word. There's a platoon of strawmen between us and that issue.

-TS

GeneMBridges said...

As to the original post, one need only observe:

If the root is bad, the fruit is bad.

There is no good fruit without a good root.


We're not even *close* to that level of discourse here. We're bogged down on basic semantics and meaning of the written word. There's a platoon of strawmen between us and that issue.


Is this as subjective or objective comment? One need only thumb through the threads at Triablogue to read what Touchstone believes about basic semantics and the written word. What he gives at this blog in his objections, he takes away at ours with his radical skepticism.

One surmises that Touchstone should be quite happy with McKnight's statements, since they fit in quite well with his belief that the ecumenical councils are the proper rule of faith for determining orthodoxy and that Scripture lacks perspicuity related to Sola Fide (which is, in his view, "uniquely Protestant) such that it may or may not be included for a credible profession of faith and that YEC discredits the gospel and dishonors Christ. Let's be clear here...when reading his comments, consider the latitudinarianism lying behind them.

practice validates doctrine, or practice proves actual belief.

Let's say he does that. The question is "Is either of these true?" and that requires a larger argument, not these rather simplistic statements.

One can be a good, ethical person and still believe in a false Christ, viz. Mormonism or Arianism. One can believe sound doctrine and still be under the noetic effects of sin. The biblical view is that works are an evidence of justification (James 2, Romans 7, etc.), not specifically an evidence of sound doctrine per se. The two go hand in hand. 1 John gives multiple tests for regeneracy, and theologians generally employ a 3fold definition of "apostasy" as a result.

So, supposing he answers either, those two options are necessarily valid. It depends on what he means by the response.

Phil Johnson said...

Touchstone:

Scot McKnight e-mailed me this evening to say he tried to post a comment here today but couldn't. He says you and Pastor Rod are correct about what he intended to communicate. He acknowledged that what he actually wrote "may have been taken to be stronger than warranted." He was also very kind and said he understood why what he wrote would get "jump[ed] on."

I invited him to post a detailed clarification here. It seems to me that his CT article makes good sense only if he meant what he actually did say: that the Emerging movement generally operates with the view that what people do is "more important" than what they believe. That would explain, for instance, why Tony Jones thinks no doctrine (including the Trinity) should be off the table for reconsideration. It would also explain why so many Emerging leaders maintain the pretense of Christian fellowship with people who openly deny core doctrines like that. If all Scot meant to say is that Emerging Christians like to stress that "practice validates doctrine, or practice proves actual belief," that wouldn't really even distinguish Emerging Christianity from old-style Wheaton-College evangelicalism. It's different from Zane Hodges' radical antinomian ideas, perhaps, but it's hardly a distinctive of Emerging opinion.

Therefore the "clarification" of that statement as suggested so far would have the unfortunate result of blunting the point of the whole article. So I'm eager to hear Scot's full explanation.

Meanwhile, let's do allow Scot to speak for himself. I don't think he is the sort of fellow who needs shills and rodeo clowns to help make his point of view seem more plausible.

And Touchstone: Although I have cautioned you repeatedly before, your comments continue to be overtly and unstintingly insulting, and you regularly impute the most sinister possible motives to me. Since you have never first bothered to e-mail me for "clarification" about anything I have said, and you haven't even acknowledged the inappropriateness of the accusation you made at the end of your first comment in this thread, you don't get to pretend to be morally outraged here. Moreover, since it's my blog, you don't get to use a taunting tone again unless you want to be consigned to the penalty box for a few months or possibly even permanently banned.

Touchstone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gary (aka fool4jesus) said...

One of the automatic assumptions that EVERY emerging person I have ever talked to makes is that the two must be mutually exclusive. How many times have I (probably most of us) been told that we don't care about the poor, that we need to walk the talk? Honestly, how do they know we don't? How do they know how many hours and dollars we spend walking the talk?

They have no idea: it's merely an assumption. And it shows me that the dichotomy between orthodoxy and orthopraxy has been elevated to a necessary truth in many of their minds.

david rudd said...

centurian,

"people who have -no- doctrinal/philosophical foundation have no way to know whether they have done the right thing or not?"

i think you are right that this is the easy refutation for many in the EM/EC. guys like brian mclaren and tony jones who overuse their prophetic rhetoric to question truth lose their leg to stand on if they want to make moral condemnations against evangelicals. I do think, in fairness, both of those guys have a very good outstanding of orthodox doctrine, i just don't completely i agree with what they've done with it.

however, i don't think that's the issue here.

i think scot's intent (along with MANY who apply the EC label) is to just point out that right doctrine doesn't always lead to right practice.

i think we all would agree with that.

i thought dan's post above was pretty good, pointing out that "emphasizing" orthopraxy doesn't have to mean repudiating orthodoxy.

the whole conversation gets messy, because not everyone considered emerging takes the same position on this issue as dan and scot. there are some who go "too far" and lose their ability to rightly reason.

i think i poor parrallel would be how luther, calvin, and zwingli were viewed by their contemporaries in the RCC vs. how they are viewed today.

then -- they were likely all lumped into the same categories (i realize they weren't really true contemporaries so the parrallel isn't great)

now -- we recognize the nuances of each man and can judge them according to their own writings.

i think we need to try to start doing that with the EC/EM guys. it's not fair to a dan kimball to critique him based on what brian mclaren says...

thanks for your question.

David said...

It is exceptionally difficult to know if orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy in someone elses life or church, without actually being in that community/with that person. My question is this.

Since loving your neighbor is given as much weight in the bible as is loving God, and Jesus taught much on social and economic issues, do you or other members spend as much time at one (loving God) as in the other (loving your neighbor)?

Church, Sunday School, Awana (well, no awana for Frank), Small Groups, prayer - what - 5, 6, 8 hours a week for your average congregational member?

Just how much of your typical right thinking fundamental church member is spending thier time each week in a prison visitation ministry? Volunteering at the PIC? Mowing the widow ladies yard? (snowblowing in my neck of the woods). Serving at the gospel mission? Being a Big Brother/Sister? Volunteering to build that church? Taking a meal to a sick nieghbor?

My perception is that there is little orthopraxy in most Christians lives. Which means they likely have little orthodoxy in thier lives.

So the arguement is really not one versus the other - Franks trick question is exactly right - one (orthodoxy) will lead to the other (orthoproxy)

But the trick to his question is this - If there is little orthopraxy in persons life, there is little orthodoxy in that same person.

Greg Gilbert has a good article over at nine marks. You could even say it is very "nuanced"

centuri0n said...

T-stone:

[QUOTE]
Orthopraxy: A notable emphasis of the emerging movement is orthopraxy, that is, right living. The contention is that how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes. Many will immediately claim that we need both or that orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy. Most in the emerging movement agree we need both, but they contest the second claim: Experience does not prove that those who believe the right things live the right way. No matter how much sense the traditional connection makes, it does not necessarily work itself out in practice. Public scandals in the church—along with those not made public—prove this point time and again.

Here is an emerging, provocative way of saying it: "By their fruits [not their theology] you will know them." As Jesus' brother James said, "Faith without works is dead." Rhetorical exaggerations aside, I know of no one in the emerging movement who believes that one's relationship with God is established by how one lives. Nor do I know anyone who thinks that it doesn't matter what one believes about Jesus Christ. But the focus is shifted. Gibbs and Bolger define emerging churches as those who practice "the way of Jesus" in the postmodern era.
[/QUOTE}

That's where Dr. McKnight says it explicitly.

Now, will you answer my question, or will you concede that the premise of the "way of Jesus" thinking is that somehow the church doesn't do enough good works?

Let's be clear about something: this is not an accusation of emerging/Emergent as pelagian or semi-pelagian: this is an accusation that they are dishonest in the way they characterize all other sociologically-Christian streams other than themselves.

Gary (aka fool4jesus) said...

David - since when are they considered equal? It seems to me that one of them is given by Christ as the "first and greatest commandment." It's true, the other is "like unto" it, but I take it that means the second is still subordinate to the first. While I agree that (as others have said) the second is a good indicator of the first, I hardly think that makes them equal.

You mentioned your "perception". Really, how do you know that? I personally volunteer at church (Spanish translation as well as other fellowship-related things), teach English as a Second Language to immigrants (as a volunteer), play music at my kids' school as well as at a local retirement home, volunteer at Salvation Army and a local crisis pregnancy center, and other things from time to time. Yet most people who know me don't know I do any of those things.

If it came down to it, I'd put my "loving my neighbor" up against any emergent's. But what I'm really saying is, don't be too quick to judge.

david rudd said...

If it came down to it, I'd put my "loving my neighbor" up against any emergent's. But what I'm really saying is, don't be too quick to judge.

Gary, there is a lot of truth in what you just wrote!

centuri0n said...

David Rudd:

If that's the -only- point they are trying to make, it is a meaningless point -- because Protestants (at least) will admit they are fallible and sinful.

My observation of EC leaders is not that they are saying, "hey: we are all human -- you guys are just like us." They are saying, "we are the reformers of a corrupt and adulterous generation -- and you can tell because we are nice to homosexuals and you're not." And that is frankly hogwash.

centuri0n said...

just to pile on F4J's comment, let me say this: the EC's perception of the church is the MSM perception of the church.

That is, they believe whatever is said about the church, view the church with skepticism, and give the unbeliever all the benefit of the doubt.

Is that what the NY says we should do?

Jim said...

The false dichotomies and neglect of truth/doctrine can be traced back to Schleiermacher the father of liberal theology. If you want to read about it, here's what I've researched concerning emergent and schleiermacher.

http://diacrino.blogspot.com/2007/06/schleiermacher-and-emerging.html

Gary (aka fool4jesus) said...

David, if you are implying that I am judging anybody, I am not. In fact, I never said anything in public about any of these things until I started getting accused by emergents of not loving my neighbor. As I said, most people who know me personally don't know any (or many) of these things.

And it's not just me: I wish I had time to put more energy into the many community projects my church does, coordinated by our outreach pastor. All I am saying that it's not fair to assume that us "fundamentalists" (ok, I'm not really one but many people would call me that: so if people must stick on labels, I accept it) don't care about other people, that they are so heavenly minded they're no earthly good. 'Tisn't true.

jsb said...

One of my major frustrations w/EC is that the moment you take something they actually WROTE seriously and point out the implications thereof (as Phil did here), there are howls of protest along the lines of "That's not what he really believes" or "That's not what he really meant" or "That's not how they really do things." Etc. Etc.

Please, at some point, will someone in EC just decide to defend what's being written? It's as if they (and yes, I'm speaking generally here, and I think it's a valid generalization) want a free pass: say anything provocative as if it had real meaning; but don't be put to the test of thinking it out further from there.

Richard Weaver wrote the seminal book, "Ideas Have Consequences." We know from the history of the church how dire those can be when the ideas are well-meaning but sloppy. This, I fear, is the EC hallmark.

And while I agree with much of the EC critique of cold orthodoxy (Tozer did it much better, of course) I thank Cent for standing up for the church. Too much wide swath slander going on on that score.

Benjamin Nitu said...

I noticed this logical fallacy in many things related to the emergent church:

Their argument goes something like this:
P1: Whatever is true works.
P2: It works.
C: Therefore, it is true.

It’s like saying:
1.If it’s raining then the streets are wet.
2.The streets are wet.
3.Therefore, it’s raining.

This is a deductive logical fallacy (Affirming the consequent).

To whatever criticism someone brings they will always answer you: But it works ... therefore it's true.

Of course, I could argue that it does not even work ... but that will be a different issue.

Someone once said: a pumpkin grows in 6 months, an oak its entire life. In other words, real fruit takes time. Maturity takes time.

david rudd said...

JSB,

point of clarification. the majority of this post is written based on Phil's "in other words" statement, not on Scot's original statement.

(there is a big difference between arguing against what someone says and arguing against what I say they said)

perhaps phil did appropriately interpret Scot. we'll have to wait to see if Scot weighs in.

david rudd said...

frank,

i agree. i get frustrated with those on the ends of the spectrum who tell me i'm unloving because i believe homosexuality is a sin.

are you hearing that [kind of argument] from the people who come here to discuss?

(i realize you were not speaking specifically of one instance)

or is that an implication/deduction (i never use those rightly) you've pulled together over time?

david rudd said...

gary,

i'm not implying anything about you. i just get a kick out of people on both sides of this discussion yelling loudly at the other side to "stop judging us, you don't know us".

maybe, it would be wise to ask more questions before we make statements...

something about quick to listen, slow to speak...

Gary (aka fool4jesus) said...

David, fair enough - although I have not heard any questions from you, just lots of statements. But let me ask you: on what basis is each side judging the other? From what I read, the judgments made from the conservative side tend to be made based on public statements of ECers. The response I always hear (I have heard it many, many times) is "you don't understand us, you need to spend more time reading our books, in our 'conversations,' etc." Frankly, I don't have the time: between maintaining orthodoxy and orthopraxy, I don't really have time for interminable "conversations."

However, the judgments I hear most often from ECers are in the class of yours - "perceptions" not based on anything concrete or documented, but on general feelings. About these I feel I must speak up occasionally, to correct at least one person's "perceptions" that are not linked to reality. Further, I seldom hear the conservative side saying anything about this subject - primarily only when challenged. So I don't think there's a real parallel at all.

Jim Crigler said...

Re: Touchstone's comment: "I defy you or anyone here to prove:

the non-trivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function have real part equal to 1/2"


And I defy you to write non-trivial troff macros.

Pheh. Give someone a little math knowledge and it goes to his (in the non-gender-specific way I learned, which I suppose dates me rather ruthlessly) head.

Jim Crigler said...

And I don't mean groff. I mean Ossanna's version.

jsb said...

But, David Rudd, that makes my point exactly. When anyone takes an EC written text and point out what it means "in other words," that's analysis. The howls come out, but not the defense of the actual written words. Getting to basic, core EC beliefs becomes, then, like tryng to catch trout with a spoon.

Speaking of the consequences of ideas, this is one of them. When the objective meaning of words as a conveyor of content is questioned at the very foundation (ironically, this is called anti-foundationalism) how can we ever get beyond howls?

AuthenticTruth said...

Amen. This is one of the key issues connected with the EC; the setting aside of sound doctrine. We just left a church largely due to the rabid influx of the influence of the emerging church. A few years ago, I used to meet with our senior pastor for lunch frequently. After awhile, he began displaying a drift from solid theology. In fact, he began saying things that were way out of line and I quite bluntly told him so. As is typical with people attracted to this movement, he seemed to have a grudge against fundamentalist churches, especially the church he grew up in. While I also abhor legalism and some of the error many legalistic churches embraced, the so-called solution of the EC crowd is certainly NOT the answer. He had a great deal of charisma and of course, he had a loyal following and nobody would believe me that we would likely begin veering off course theologically as a church. He even began using and promoting books by Leonard Sweet and the youth pastor once quoted to the youth group out of Brian McLaren's book, "A New Kind of Christian". Once I found out about it, I confronted the youth pastor and as usual, got the run-around with comments such as "well, we appreciate your concern and zeal for the truth, but...". I approached one of the deacons at our church and informed him about some of the teaching that was beginning to seep into the church. He had no idea what the emerging church was, but became very alarmed once I shared with him the teaching of men like McLaren and Sweet. He then began confronting the leadership as well.

Early last December, it was revealed that the senior pastor was involved in an extramarital affair with another woman in the church. While all details were not revealed to us, it seems apparent that he may have had two or three affairs over the course of two or three years. He was immediately dismissed and this proved to be quite a shake-up in the church. The only good thing about it is that some people were so shaken that they finally began questioning the direction of the church, and in particular, the shallow teaching. Unfortunately, the leadership still remained obstinate in remaining on the same course as before. The next to last sermon that I heard there before we left included an extended quote from Donald Miller's book "Blue Like Jazz". At this same time, sin within the congregation was beginning to surface quickly. My wife and I had enough and decided that we had better look for a new church home.

While no one is immune to falling into sin, I can't help but wonder how much the drift toward errant doctrine played a role in the moral demise of our senior pastor. And I am convinced the pervasive sin within the congregation is certainly the negative outcome of the prolonged effects of the shallow teaching. Shallow teaching cannot develop a true awe and respect for the grandeur of God and a deep rooted hunger and thirst for holiness. Truth when properly handled and taught does indeed lead to right practice.

The EC can talk all they want about orthopraxy, but without solid doctrine, the battle cry of "how you act is more important than what you believe" rings hollow. Eventually your errant theology will likely lead to some form of unholy living.

iggy said...

Phil,

Actually you have created a false dichotomy over the faith/works issue...

Both are important... but if one has a wrong view and understanding of WHOSE fruit we bear... as you are suggesting we bear good fruit... which is a bit out of whack from the bible teachings...

We are bad trees that cannot bear good fruit... only good trees can do that. In that God is the Good Tree and as we are the branch and He is the Vine... we bear HIS FRUIT and not our own. It is all about Jesus and none of us.

Now, Paul is the front of the bridge that teaches faith... as we cross over the bridge we enter God's grace by faith and not of works... at that point we walk in Gods grace doing His good works in and through us. Or as I like to say... He Who gave His Life for us, to give His Life to us, now Live His Life through us.


So, to teach these works are ours is also the false dichotomy you created as it means that you are contrasting the idea that we enter by grace and are sustained by our works and the proof is the fruit WE BEAR... that is a man based theology!

We enter by Grace and are sustained by that same grace as Galatians 5 teaches... in that the proof of our walk is in what God does as HE BEARS HIS FRUIT in and through us... that is a God based theology.

blessings,
iggy

Pastor Rod said...

Phil,

Thanks for the respectful response.

We could go back and forth over some of the issues we’ve already discussed, but that would accomplish very little. I think our positions are staked out well enough.

I’d like to go back to your statement that you are merely reacting to what Scot wrote and not addressing him personally. You said, “Those who are keen to deconstruct the above post ought to note first of all that I made no criticism of Scot McKnight. Whether he personally agrees with the position he described as an Emerging tendency or not, I don't know, and didn't even speculate on.”

First, Scot is talking about the emerging movement as an insider: “I happily consider myself part of this movement.” He is not speaking as a dispassionate academic.

He says, “Frankly, the emerging movement loves ideas and theology. It just doesn't have an airtight system or statement of faith. We believe the Great Tradition offers various ways for telling the truth about God's redemption in Christ, but we don't believe any one theology gets it absolutely right.” (Note his use of the first-person pronoun.)

It strikes me as disingenuous to say that you “have no idea” what Scot’s position is on this particular issue.

He seems to be quick to point out areas where he has significant disagreement with the emerging movement:
“The emerging movement is not known for [evangelism], but I wish it were. Unless you proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, there is no good news at all—and if there is no Good News, then there is no Christianity, emerging or evangelical. . . . So I offer here a warning to the emerging movement: Any movement that is not evangelistic is failing the Lord. We may be humble about what we believe, and we may be careful to make the gospel and its commitments clear, but we must always keep the proper goal in mind: summoning everyone to follow Jesus Christ and to discover the redemptive work of God in Christ through the Spirit of God.”

So it seems safe to conclude that Scot essentially holds the position he attempted to describe. But if there is any lingering doubt, this should clear it up: “I have publicly aligned myself with the emerging movement. What attracts me is its soft postmodernism (or critical realism) and its praxis/missional focus.”

Second, you have extracted a few statements and paraphrased them in your own words to accomplish the opposite of what Scot intended the article to accomplish.

He states his purpose for writing: “In this article, I want to undermine the urban legends and provide a more accurate description of the emerging movement.”

Then Scot criticizes D. A. Carson for “an overly narrow focus—on Brian McLaren and postmodern epistemology.” It seems to me that this same criticism would apply to most everything asserted about the emerging movement on this blog.

I would also suggest that not all human discourse is intended as a legal treatise (especially the words of Jesus in the Gospels). To parse them in that way is to miss the point.

Scot admits, “The emerging movement is consciously and deliberately provocative. Emerging Christians believe the church needs to change, and they are beginning to live as if that change had already occurred. Since I swim in the emerging lake, I can self-critically admit that we sometimes exaggerate.” (Again, notice that he identifies himself with the general emerging position.)

This next quote is a little difficult to cut in to. Scot is talking about three different categories of response to post-modern thought. He then says, “The vast majority of emerging Christians and churches fit these first two categories. They don't deny truth, they don't deny that Jesus Christ is truth, and they don't deny the Bible is truth.” In other words, the vast majority of emerging Christians acknowledge that there is absolute truth and that it is revealed in the Bible and especially in the person of Jesus Christ.

Finally, returning to the main point in contention, Scot says, “Rhetorical exaggerations aside, I know of no one in the emerging movement who believes that one's relationship with God is established by how one lives. Nor do I know anyone who thinks that it doesn't matter what one believes about Jesus Christ. But the focus is shifted [to orthopraxy].”

So, do you still wish to maintain that your analysis of Scot’s article is honest and accurate? We don’t need any more information from Scot to clarify what he meant. He makes that clear. His article, taken in its entirety, is without ambiguity. He not only means something different, but he also says something different. What’s more, he explicitly denies the truth of the claim you try to make about the emerging movement by twisting his words.

Rod

bloggernaut said...

Man, I hate when someone else tries to define my views for me, and then gets them wrong. I am dismayed at the criticisms and forced reductionism I've read on this blogroll. Phil, Frank, have you personally ever talked to a conservative member of the so-called EC? I hope the irony in my blog here is not lost on you, Frank.

So let me reduce it down in a more proper way than what I've read so far here. Like ALL church movements and denominations since the ascension, there is a liberal side and a conservative side. Witness the PC-USA/PCA split, the Lutheran/Lutheran-MO Synod split, and the recent Episcopal/Anglican split. Oh, pardon me: the CBF/SBC split and the conservative takeover of state conventions. Churches typically characterized as Emerging tend to be conservative (dare I say Calvinist too!). Churches labeled Emergent tend to be liberal, particularly of a postmodern flavor. So, as it was at one time inaccurate to describe Southern Baptists as conservative Bible-thumping
fundamentalists who advocate a total withdrawal from the evil culture of our times, so it is inaccurate to describe emerging churches simply as "liberal."

I read McNight's article, particularly the paragraphs in question. I must be the only one reading it differently. "Experience does not
prove that those who believe the right things live the right way." I agree with that statement. I know a whole host of people that
"believe the right things" but definitely live the wrong way. I have never seen so much acceptance of divorce in evangelical circles as I do now. I have never seen so much acceptance of abuse, family neglect, consumerism, shallow theology, and lack of personal
accountability of every member of the church, not just the leaders. So many EC don't speak out against homosexuality. How is that really any different?

Two BTWs (1): THIS is the kind of lack of good works that emerging churches are pushing back on. Other things include what's been said above: scant participation in crisis pregancy centers (just being against abortion is not enough); little/no encouragement for believers to do social work/ocunseling; scant volunteering in public schools; NO contact with anyone with HIV/AIDS, etc. I have no complaint against the positive things churches are doing, which are blessings definitely. I just wish that churches would get rid of some of the prejudices that prevent them from expanding into these areas.

(2) my church holds that homosexuality is unbiblical, and teaches it plainly, if you pay attention. I daresay there are a few who attend our church who are struggling with being gay. It's good that they come and get to know Christians. In contrast, how many gays would dare step into the average gay-bashing church?

Next, you need to read the statement "how a person lives is more important that what he or she believes" as orthodoxy is relative to orthopraxis. It does not say or mean that "what a person believes is UNIMPORTANT as long as he or she lives right." So Phil, don't go there. Orthodoxy is very important to the life of a Christian. The emphasis, however, is on making that a visible reality rather than a faith proposition about oneself.

Phil, in all, I reject your sweeping and inaccurate generalizations of EC. How about asking some honest questions instead?

centuri0n said...

Bloggernaut:

At what point does the EC have to admit it represents nothing at all? Seriously: Phil here clued in on a central tenet of any church which must call itself "emerging" -- given to us by a guy who is glad to be called "emerging" -- and when it'as done the problem (again) is that somehow "that doesn't go for everyone".

If the EC is so wide and long that those who stand on its ends are in fact opposed to each other, it's hardly a thing at all.

david rudd said...

If the EC is so wide and long that those who stand on its ends are in fact opposed to each other, it's hardly a thing at all.

THAT, is precisely the point!

the "emerging church" really only exists as a target, not as an entity.

iggy said...

david,

You miss the real point altogether... It is that we focus on Jesus and the important things and seek through respect unity.


"the "emerging church" really only exists as a target, not as an entity. "

You closing line was not only disturbing but revealing of your heart... It seems important to you that not only you have an enemy... but that you choose to hate them as well... That seems to compromise truth quite a bit for the sake of unity of those that agree only with you.

Be Blessed,
iggy

david rudd said...

iggy,

i think you misunderstand...

i'm not suggesting the EC/EM SHOULD be a target, but rather am lamenting the fact that many are attempting to "systemize" something (which is in truth quite amorphous) so that they can target it.

i apologize for my lack of clarity.

please feel free to email me if i need to clarify this further.

bishoprudd at gmail

John Haller said...

So, if Phil is "attacking" something that does not exist, then why does everyone bother responding?

Jeff Wright said...

"So, if Phil is "attacking" something that does not exist, then why does everyone bother responding?"

Right. And why even bother posting about in the first place? If it is not a thing at all, that is.

Sewing said...

I'm just waiting for the day that Phil writes on someone who's an emerging Catholic amillenialist.

iggy said...

David,


Sorry man, I think I got my wires crossed between you and the guy above you...

But, still if that is the view of someone... that they need to make another a "target" it still speaks volumes to the condition of their heart.

Blessings,
iggy

bloggernaut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bloggernaut said...

Frank,
I honestly don't understand what kind of answer you are trying to elicit from me.

"At what point does the EC have to admit it represents nothing at all? Seriously: Phil here clued in on a central tenet of any church which must call itself "emerging" -- given to us by a guy who is glad to be called "emerging" -- and when it'as done the problem (again) is that somehow "that doesn't go for everyone"."

"If the EC is so wide and long that those who stand on its ends are in fact opposed to each other, it's hardly a thing at all."

So it represents nothing at all! No one ever said that it did. The point of McNight's article was to deliver a characterization of emerging churches and how/why they are different than standard evangelical churches. Like any group, some churches are doctrinally concerned (the "vast majority," says McNight) and some are too loose for your comfort (apparently). Let's not forget that the SBC itself is a conglomeration of individual churches with a diversity among themselves. Try to nail one objectionable view (i.e. promotion of Arminian theology) and get smacked with the independent church thing. Or try the denial of inerrancy, which was, up until the conservative takeover, perfectly acceptable as far as the convention was concerned. What then, does the SBC represent, if not nothing likewise? Your question, I think, is flawed, and you did not understand the CT article.

As far as it is "hardly a thing at all," then why dig for heresy when, in most cases, there is none?

*Letitia*

David said...

Frank asked, just what does the EM Church Stand for? I think this is a good summation

"Essentially, McLaren believes that the church, considered as a whole, has misunderstood and misapplied the gospel of Jesus. It has traded Jesus’ "gospel of the kingdom" for a gospel of "getting into heaven after you die." Instead of being concerned with matters of justice and injustice, good and evil around the globe, the church has been hamstrung by the idea of "getting your butt into heaven," as one of McLaren’s characters puts it. McLaren wants to replace that gospel with a gospel that calls Christians to join Christ’s mission of working for "God’s dream" for the world. In other words, he wants Christians to be less concerned about heaven and hell, and more concerned about working in this life toward what God intends the world to be.

....

For all that, McLaren’s explanation of the kingdom of God is only half right—or at least he has paid miserably insufficient attention to the other half. If he has gotten the social and political aspect of the kingdom right, he has vastly understated its spiritual dimension. And if he has gotten right the here-and-now side of the kingdom, he has woefully understated its eschatological "there-and-then" element. "

....

The bottom line is that McLaren’s gospel is too focused on the here-and-now. He charges evangelical Christians with putting too little emphasis on the world, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he himself winds up putting too little emphasis on God. The fact is, McLaren does not sufficiently call human beings to grapple with and exult in what God did for us in Christ.

....

To be sure, McLaren’s gospel calls us to action, and that’s good. But it does not well enough call us to worship. The true gospel, on the other hand, does both. It calls us to action, but only after it has called us to adore the One who acted on our behalf.


Greg Gilbert, Nine Marks

http://www.9marks.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526%7CCHID598016%7CCIID2340066,00.html

You should read the whole article. While a review of one of BM's books, I think it really does trace out the major difference between the EM and Fundi World.

SolaMeanie said...

One thing I find frustrating in discussions like this (aside from the usual deconstruction, unpacking and obfuscation of EC adherents) is the way so much time gets spent trying to differentiate between "emerging" and "emergent"....and every other flavor of the month in between both banks in each stream. By the time everyone has expended a lot of steam sorting out all of that blather, we're distracted from what got the hootenanny going in the first place, namely the theological IDEAS being pushed.

In the end, I don't much care if Brian McLaren or any other person involved identifies themselves as "emergent," "emerging" or whatever other label they can invent. I DO care if they deny the substitutionary atonement and the authority of Scripture. I DO care if they maintain that truth is unknowable. THOSE things are the heart of the matter. In other words, what are the theological ideas/teachings/concepts being embraced by people within this movement that dislikes being called a movement?

If we approach it like that, then it doesn't really matter that there are as many flavors of EC as there are ice cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins. Perhaps I like chocolate ice cream, but if the chocolate ice cream has dioxin in it, it will kill me no matter how good it tastes. Focus on the doctrine itself and leave the labels behind as much as possible.

Okay, rant over.

Pastor Rod said...

Joel (SolaMeanie),

Try looking at this the other way 'round. When someone says, "Emerging Christians deny the substitutionary atonement, the authority of Scripture and the knowability of truth," he is guilty of a sweeping generalization.

What if someone said that people in the South are bigots? Are there bigots in the South? Probably. Are all Southerners bigots? Certainly not. Does everyone agree about what the boundaries of the South are? No, and this is a concept much easier to define.

So why do we need to characterize the people in the South in order to speak out against bigotry?

If Brian McLaren says something suspicious, call him out on it. Why do you need to include everyone who uses the emerging label?

As I reread the end of your post, I wonder if you are trying to make the same point. If so, I agree.

But I think it needs to be made more strongly. We need to careful while we are pulling up weeds that we do not pull up healthy plants. I think Jesus told a story about something like that.

Rod

centuri0n said...

Th EC "only exists as a target and not as an entity"?

Really?

If this is true, you guys must immediately stop being defensive. If you represent nothing and have no goals or theology, then there's no reason to fight or fight back.

And keep this is mind: the next time you -do- fight back, I'll be the first one to remind you that you are nothing at all.

You are beyond parody. You are beyond ridiculous. Phil: I officially put in the motion to clown anyone who claims to be "emerging" immediately and without any warning.

bloggernaut said...

David - Brian MacLaren this...and Brian MacLaren that...yes, he stands as a well-known figure in the emergent church movement. What's good about him is that he has expressed a resonating sentiment about how believers should think and act while alive on earth. The downside is that he has a considerable cloud of doctrinal ambiguity about him, to put it lightly.

That is why the Acts29 Network was founded, to plant churches that are biblical and espouse sound doctrine (even Calvinism! I think I've said that before already...)

solameanie -
I DO care if they deny the substitutionary atonement and the authority of Scripture. I DO care if they maintain that truth is unknowable. THOSE things are the heart of the matter. In other words, what are the theological ideas/teachings/concepts being embraced by people within this movement that dislikes being called a movement?

Then I suggest you do your homework before being so judgmental. Consider other pastors: Tim Keller, Marc Driscoll, oh hey Scot McNight. Browse through the acts29network.org website and THEN tell me that I'm wrong for being biblically conservative, doctrinally sound, reformed, and deeply concerned about how to live a thoughtful Christian life and going to a church that believes the same.

*Letitia*

david rudd said...

frank,

it's the difference between a tag and a folder.

i'm sorry you are not willing to dialogue on this...

you'll notice if you're willing to take the time that i've never claimed to be "emerging", only one who is seeking to understand what that label really means to those who claim it.

bloggernaut said...

Readers should note that the term "emerging/emergent" was not established by said churches. It is a label used by standard evangelical churches to describe a new church personality "emerging" in the late 1990s through the millenium.

One should also note that many of these older churches are still trying to understand what "purpose-driven" means...

david rudd said...

for those who desire to discuss the substance of the post, a good starting point would be to ask a simple question:

is the statement:
"how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes."

necessarily the same as:
"good works generally trump sound doctrine."

and do the two previous statements necessarily equal:
"behavior always trumps belief"

the rest of the post (as a critique of McKnight or the Emerging Church) is contingent on the answers to these questions.

Phil Johnson said...

Comments Closed. For my final comment on this post, see the addendum at the bottom of the original post.