07 December 2007

A Certain Uncertainty


by Phil Johnson
One trademark of theological liberalism for the past seventy years is a reduction of faith to 'courageous ignorance.'"—Ronald Nash, Life's Ultimate Questions

omething that drives me crazy about the Emerging Conversation is the way endless disclaimers and qualifications are supposed to be piled onto every profession of belief. Even the most "conservative" Emerging types do this almost pathologically:
"I know some wonderful, sensitive people probably won't agree with me; and I certainly don't claim to understand everything about this doctrine perfectly; and I know a lot of people have gone overboard with it; and good people who are smarter than me see things differently than I do; and I admit that my opinion may be shaped too much by Western culture and Greek philosophy; but it seems to me that the Bible really does teach that God will punish evildoers if they won't repent."

Any assertion not so qualified risks being labeled "excessive confidence," which according to Brian McLaren is a "cancer" responsible for practically everything that's wrong in the world.



Except for one thing. When you start seeing what a noxious malignancy certainty is, then it's OK to be really, really confident about uncertainty itself. In McLaren's words, "Thinking along these lines, I became convinced that, yes, many of our world's worst atrocities were indeed the result of overconfidence" (Everything Must Change, p. 39).

You won't hear postmodernists or their Emerging-church cousins saying many things with that kind of settled conviction! But their doubts about certainty per se are unwaveringly emphatic.

No one nowadays can make biblical or evangelical assertions with such confident boldness without having every truth-claim subjected to deconstruction, slow torture, or strangulation at the hands of some post-evangelical critic.

What's worse, more and more of the loudest critics are pastors, seminary professors, Christian authors, and others who have teaching or leadership roles in the church. Most of them would never overtly "deny" biblical truth-claims, of course. (Such a denial would require more certainty than some of these guys are comfortable with.) But they seem to have a pathological need to smother every article of faith under a million and one qualifications.
"Hey, I'm not saying I don't believe in the virgin birth of Christ; I'm just saying if it turned out not to be true, it wouldn't really matter. So it seems like we just shouldn't make it an essential point of our doctrine. But who am I to say, anyway? And who are you to make such a big deal out of it? Instead of arguing about the relative importance of this or that doctrine, shouldn't we do something more profitable—like ministry?"

Uncertainty is the sole remaining cardinal virtue of postmodernism. The right to question anything and everything is likewise the only dogma postmodern orthodoxy accepts uncritically. And (as we see all the time in the meta here) it's one of a small handful of ideas Emergents and their admirers can always be counted on to defend militantly.

In other words, Emerging religion has canonized doubt. And—let's be candid here—many who say they prefer the label "missional" are making the very same mistake. In fact, even in supposedly conservative and fundamentalist venues where "Truth and Certainty" are formally affirmed, you'll find no shortage of Christian leaders willing to palliate their supposed "convictions" almost to death in order to sound more "relevant" to postmoderns. The result has been a dearth of vigorous theological conviction which makes the whole drift instantly irrelevant—because it's nothing but a thoughtless echo of what most of the world already believes (or disbelieves) about the knowability of objective truth anyway.



Ironically, the canonization of doubt as a virtue is also a clear echo of the very worst tendency of modernism (see the Ronald Nash quote above)—which means, really, that the "postmodern" skepticism of our Emerging friends isn't technically postmodern at all. Their modernist ancestors were fine with so-called scientific certainties; but they despised spiritual certainties—especially certainties grounded in the conviction that the Bible is truly God's Word. Emergent Christianity has expanded (not rejected) the modernist mindset by insisting on uncertainty about everything—except, of course, the infallible dogma of uncertainty.

Which is why Brian McLaren—who is certain about virtually nothing else—is so cocksure in his conviction that everything must change.

It's also why the convergence of postmodern, post-evangelical and Emergent trends is just a big, noisy ride to nowhere.

Phil's signature

165 comments:

Dr Fin said...

I'm beginning to feel uncertain about my uncertainty.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"Emerging religion has canonized doubt."

What a great phrase, Phil. No wonder the true canon is nuanced out of all power in so many places.

Gilbert said...

Question:

How do you defend your faith...when the person claims to be a Christian...says a lot of things in the Bible aren't certain...and then goes crazy on you because you speak in absolutes?

You treat them not as a believer, or a badly deceived brother in Christ (I say the former)? And when you say "No one comes to Father except through Me",
and they hem and haw after you show them the verse and others which reveal the absolute certainty and authority of Scripture...

At that point, all you can do is keep pointing to Christ if they'll listen. When I read the New Testament for the first time, there was nothing to me that suggested that Christ was uncertain about ANYTHING. And of course, that stands today and is of course true. I would like to know how Brian Mclaren and others have come to this "revelation" that the Bible is like a weather forecast...sometimes right, sometimes...

art said...

In other words, Emerging religion has canonized doubt. And—let's be candid here—many who say they prefer the label "missional" are making the very same mistake.

Who does this apply to? Men like Piper, Keller, Driscoll, and Stetzer who are on the forefront of the conservative missional movement?

I do not think it is invalid, unbiblical, or unchristian to have doubts. I think it is pretty arrogant not to have any doubts, as if one can actually know the entire mind of God.

WIth that said, I think doubting can be extreme in many circles and within those circles there needs to be facts stated firmly on Biblical authority.

But is there really no room for doubts in the Christian life?

Phil Johnson said...

Art: "But is there really no room for doubts in the Christian life?"

That pretty much depends on what you are "doubting," doesn't it? For example, I doubt you really thought I was suggesting there is no room for any qualms whatsoever in a discerning Christian's mind. I have, after all, been pretty outspoken about the dangers of certain kinds of gullibility.

But in case you somehow really missed it, the actual point of the post is that doubt per se shouldn't be celebrated as a cardinal virtue--especially the kind of doubt that tones down the certainty of God's revealed Word.

If you're still not clear on the concept, see Hebrews 11:1-6.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Outstanding Post!!!

"In other words, Emerging religion has canonized doubt."

Heh, heh. The only thing that you can be certain of as an Emergent is of your uncertainty. How stupid is that?

"I am certain that I am uncertain."

Laughable. Continuing on: "And because I'm uncertain, I must impose my uncertainty upon you and your beliefs which means that you must be uncertain too. And that you hold your beliefs with the same uncertainty that I do. And if you're not uncertain about the assertions that you make, then I must judge you with certainty and name-call you as being arrogant, a dogmatic absolutist, a divisive fundamentalist. Which is unlike me, a true, humble follower of Christ."

Get with the Emergent program TeamPyro.

;-)

BReformed said...

This is mastering the obvious, but the pathological behavior to disclaim certain truth is precisely why men "wander off into myths". (2 Tim 4:4.)

Once again, we see that these are the men, in our lifetime, who are always "learning" but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

art said...

Thanks for your kind response Phil.

the postmortem said...

Phil,

When you cited the passage from Hebrews, it led me back to something I've pondered but never really crystallized in my mind: the ECM seems to be an attack on faith at its core.

In that passage, the writer of Hebrews reminds us to place confidence in certain truths which may only be imagined today (but will be visible tomorrow), and it is through being confident of these divinely inspired promises about the future that we are sanctified as we live on this earth.

But the emerging church tells us to only focus contemporary earthly realities, namely, on making the world "heaven on earth" now.

I suspect that they are such proponents of doubting God & his word because once you open yourself up to doubting all the promises of God (especially what he will do in the future) the apparent virtue of becoming completely absorbed in making this world some sort of utopia is all you have left.

I think that does a lot to explain why there's such a problem with sanctification in the ECM, too.

I know ECM comes across as a sort of loose-knit collection of theologians, pastors, and laypeople...but even if that's true, I think ECM has a very consistent world-view with a very consistent way of misapplying scripture to back it up.

They aren't harmless, this mentality of the "here and now" have thrown a wrench in the faith of a lot of true-blue believers I know and consequently tripped them up on the road of sanctification as well.

Additionally, this all leads me to side more and more with MacArthur on the importance of getting Revelation right. As Emergers are tearing away more and more at the value of a strong eschatology, I believe evangelicals, in order to preserve the sanctification of their congregations, must stand strong on eschatological doctrines, especially emphasizing their importance as a motivator for actions today.

So, thanks for the post Phil. It got me thinkin'!

GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME said...

There is a pun that says that Apologists are a sorry lot. Maybe it's starting to lose its pun status?

Regards,

Brad Leber said...

I remember the old chant "Question Authority!" from my youth.

This seems to smack of that kind of mindset. Cast doubt on everything established and accepted by the status quo and in so doing you can be thought of as "open minded" and an "independent thinker"...

And this sort of posturing is always so attractive to the youth (witness the early '60's rockers and their followers, i.e. The Stones, the Who et al).

The only difference is that then it was a political rebellion, now this same thinking is brought in to divide the Body of Christ.

DJP said...

So, he's confident that overconfidence is a problem.

But only overconfidence by Bible-believers.

Got it.

dac said...

An interesting post, contrasted to (compared? read together with?) C.M. Patton's post at Parchment and Pen today.

donsands said...

Nice post. More good thoughts on the EC. Posts like these help keep us sharp and thinking. Contending for the faith is not an easy thing to do.

The truth does not matter to many teachers in the Church.
They say, "The Church used to believe the world was flat!"
And they use this to show that maybe in 50 years from now we will have learned so much more that the Church is wrong about.
Brian McLaren said we need to revisit what homosexuality is all about in a few years from now.

They no longer "rejoice in the truth", (which "rejoicing" is an evidence of biblical love, the genuine Christain love which is fruit from the Holy Spirit).

They have forsaken this love for their own humanistic love, and with a 'certain' amount of Christianity either blended in, or thinly applied as a covering.

If you're greatest joy is not the truth of Christ and Him crucified and risen, then repentance is in order. I have needed to repent many times, and yet when I do, then I see the Cross afresh, and I once again experience the "unspeakable joy" that Christ longs for us to know. (John 15:11;16:22,24;17:13)

We need to survey the wondrous Cross continually. It's the truth, and our greatest joy, that Christ gave Himself for us. And this is what makes life precious.

Drew said...

This is nothing but a charicature. McLaren is confident about many things. Reading his books shows as much. Even this post grants that he is certain in his own doubts, and certain that everything must change.

Painting him as wishy-washy is a dodge. The truth is, McLaren refuses to take a side in the battles that have been of prime importance to evangelicals for the longest time, because he wants to push deeper, to more important questions--and answers!

The problem is, many don't like either the questions or the answers. Many of us only know how to fight the old battles. So we try to throw McLaren back into one of the old boxes, like, "he's a liberal!" "He doesn't have scripture as authority!" or "He doesn't believe in truth!"

It would be more honest to just say that you don't like his conclusions, than to call him uncertain.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"McLaren refuses to take a side in the battles that have been of prime importance to evangelicals for the longest time, because he wants to push deeper, to more important questions--and answers!"

I completely disagree with this, having read several McLaren tomes, blog posts, etc. He does not want to "push deeper." He wants to destroy. He does not want to solidify doctrine. He wants to toss it out and start from scratch and reach any place that is NOT traditional.

I mean, what can you do with someone who claims to have found the "secret message" of Jesus after 2000 years of some of the greatest minds in history missing it?

Phil is absoutely right. While doubts and questions will arise, one's foundation can either be there IS an answer (even if I don't find it personally) or there is NO answer because we're stuck in unqualified relativism. This latter base is where the pomo/EC comes from. It is "canonization" of doubt indeed, not a confrontation of it.

DJP said...

DrewIt would be more honest to just say that you don't like his conclusions, than to call him uncertain.

Again and again, when Phil interacts with the actual words of these false teachers, you come in and invent a line of defense.

I think it would be more honest if you said you just like these guys and the feeling that numbering yourself with their movement gives you, no matter what they actually say or stand for.

Drew said...

I like these guys because they interpret scripture faithfully, because they love God with their whole lives, and love their neighbors, too.

And I'm not "inventing" a defense. I'm calling a foul on a criticism that is not only uncharitable, but also untrue.

DJP said...

Yes, they do a great job, except for the dozens of streaming examples Phil keeps bringing up and you keep "la-la-la"ing.

How is the weather in Dreamland these days, anyway? Cloudy?

Daryl said...

Have you ever read McClaren's stuff Drew? Or the Bible?

Do you seriously think they jive with each other?

...I was afraid of that...

Remember, McClaren is not saying that we need to remember to take care of the world as well, he's said we need to do that INSTEAD...

(As has been pointed out numerous times before)

Drew said...

That's what I am talking about.

As I see it, this post is saying, "McLaren should be dismissed, because he just doubts, and never says anything."

But on other posts, you rail against him because he says things like we should heal the world instead of convert individuals or whatever comes after the INSTEAD.

So, as I see it, your problem isn't that he doesn't say anything. You know he's saying something (and something much more than just "question authority", and you don't like it.

Daryl said...

Well Drew, when the sum of his work is "Doubt what God said" and "Being a godd environmentalist is more important than converting sinners" what else is there to say about him?

Johnny Dialectic said...

"You know he's saying something (and something much more than just "question authority", and you don't like it."

Seriously, dude, take a breath and re-read. Of COURSE we know he's sayng something more than "question authority" and it's a lot MORE than not liking it. It's destructive.

Another thing that drives ME crazy, is that McLaren hides his contempt for the fundamentals in a layer of false humility. Did you ever read his open letter snark to Colson? Talk about damning with "love." Ick.

One thing about TeamPyro is you don't have to wade through layers of ersatz docility to find out what they're really thinking. With McL, you do. Ick again.

Phil Johnson said...

Drew: "As I see it, this post is saying, "McLaren should be dismissed, because he just doubts, and never says anything.""

Not exactly. This post is sayng McLaren should be opposed, partly because of the way he glorifies doubt while denigrating faith; partly because of where such an earth-bound world-view leads him; and partly because of the way he undermines the authority of Scripture.

Now it's your turn to be honest: The part of that which irks you most is its refusal to take McLaren on board and start with the presupposition that whatever his underlying worldview, it's just as valid as anyone else's opinion, and he's bound to be helpful somehow if we just give him a listen. Am I right?

Tim Bertolet said...

As I see it, this post is saying, "McLaren should be dismissed, because he just doubts, and never says anything."

McLaren disarms his readers by doubting so much that has been essential to Christianity for 2,000 years. He encourages doubt and relabels it humility. But this is so self-defeating because while he encourages doubt in one area [historic orthodoxy], he is really confident in his own beliefs. I think Phil is really trying to say "the emperor has no clothes".

People drawn to his "doubt" and "hermeneutic of suspicion" often fail to see that he does not consistently apply this 'method' to the things he is most passionate about. If he was truly consistent his book would be "why perhaps almost everything may have to change or just be tweaked, a little bit, or just be altered slighty, although some may disagree, and there opinion is valid and I may be entirely wrong because I just don't know if we should do what I say..." Of course, if he applied uncertainty consistantly there would be nothing to sell. Sadly, there is a certainty to the emerging movement and most often it is not a certainty to the very things Christ calls us to be certain on (Col 2:2-3, 6-8).

Phil, great Nash quote. For the life of me, I've always had trouble understanding how emerging folks have claimed to move beyond fundamentalism/liberalism divide when so many of the driving forces can be found in liberalism.

Thanks Phil.

donsands said...

"The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love IN THE TRUTH; and not only I, but also all those that have known THE TRUTH.
For THE TRUTH"S sake, which lives in us, and shall be with us for ever.
Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in TRUTH and love.
I rejoiced greatly that I found your children walking in TRUTH, as we have received a commandment from the Father." 3 John 1-4

"Holy Father, keep through Your own name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one, as We are.
I have given them Your Word; ... Sanctify them through Your TRUTH: Your Word is TRUTH. ... I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through THE TRUTH." John 17:11-19

Love rejoices in the TRUTH. The Church of Christ has been given the TRUTH, and we need to proclaim it boldly. And we need to live it, and be it, in another sense.

Drew said...

Now it's your turn to be honest: The part of that which irks you most is its refusal to take McLaren on board and start with the presupposition that whatever his underlying worldview, it's just as valid as anyone else's opinion, and he's bound to be helpful somehow if we just give him a listen. Am I right?

If you aren't exactly right, you are pretty darn close.

McLaren and like-minded people appeal to me because they wrote the books that I would like to think I would have written. What I mean to say is, they articualted my theology before I could.

So his "worldview" is very similiar to mine, which is why I like it (duh), and why I reach similar conclusions (double duh).

Do I think the worldview is as good as any other one? Actually, no--I think it's better! At the same time, this worldview insists that I hear other views, and listening to them seriously means that I must humble myself, and yes--even doubt my strongest held beliefs.

I do think it would be helpful if you gave him a listen, for a number of reasons.

wordsmith said...

"McLaren disarms his readers by doubting so much that has been essential to Christianity for 2,000 years. He encourages doubt and relabels it humility. But this is so self-defeating because while he encourages doubt in one area [historic orthodoxy], he is really confident in his own beliefs. I think Phil is really trying to say 'the emperor has no clothes'."

Exactly. McLaren is such a hypocrite, it's a wonder that anyone actually takes him seriously. The scary thing is that so many do, and I would venture to say that it's the logical consequence of putting one's own ideology as an authority over Scripture. It's the same lie that the serpent told Eve: "God doesn't really know what He's talking about - you can figure these things out for yourself."

GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME said...

People have been listening to other views long before McL articulated it. But as we listen, we have got to test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 John 4:1) And you can't do that with doubt, but with faith.

Mike Riccardi said...

Drew,

Is there anything that you believe that God has definitively said and revealed to us in the Bible? I'm sure you'd say yes. Would you mind giving me an example, and then telling me why you believe it?

Some choices might be:

- Inerrancy
- Inspiration
- any of the 5 solas
- PSA
- virgin birth
- trinity,
- any of the 5 points of Calvinism

John Haller said...

It is obvious that Drew is angry. I think that's a valid human emotion. However, I'm sure that the TPers (TPs) and others here choose to be angry at sin and evil and not at the church that they feel did them wrong like McLaren. That is one of the things that I find most often when I hear McLaren (or Bell). They are angry at the churches they grew up in and those who believe in a certain eschatology and who are otherwise certain about what they believe.

They (McLaren and Bell) then launch into an attack that denigrates the churches with whom they are angry and they complain that they are bad and evil because they only believe certain things, but they are better than those churches because they DO certain things.

Exactly who is the Pharisee in that scenario?

Sidebar: I keep hearing this phrase "God loves you just the way you are." Any of the TPs care to comment on that?

Phil Johnson said...

Drew:

The part of the equation I'm not willing to entertain is the presupposition that all worldviews are merely opinions, and an unbiblical worldview is therefore as valid as what the Bible says.

I also think it's wrong—no, it's anti-Christian—to think it's OK to foster doubts about what the Bible says; or to teach that God's Word is ultimately no more authoritative than Brian McLaren's opinion; or to imagine that no one can ever truly know the difference between what Scripture actually teaches and someone's mere opinion about what it teaches.

Mike Riccardi said...

Ok... Phil just basically stated as clearly as possible everything that I was intending to demonstrate in a few steps. :o)

So, Drew, if you don't want to answer my question, that's fine.... as long as you read what Phil just said five times.

Phil Johnson said...

Drew:

Incidentally, if you read the blog, you surely know that I've read several of Bian McLaren's books. So it's not that I'm unwilling to "give him a listen" in any sense whatsoever. It's that I'm not willing to give a sympathetic hearing to someone who shows so much contempt for the authority of Scripture on the face of everything he writes—and I don't think any Christian should.

Sled Dog said...

I love Mark Driscoll's description of closed hand/open hand approach to theology and ministry.

In the closed hand are theological truths that are cannot be ignored, denied or altered.

In the open hand are the methodoligies used to communicate these truths.

If there is room for discussion, its in the area of methodology, although Scripture still holds us accountable as well.

Daryl said...

This is what I'm finding over and over, even those of us who have read McLaren are repeatedly told to read him and we'll see the light. WE HAVE READ HIM, and, sadly, there is no light there to see.

Tim Bertolet said...

"I do think it would be helpful if you gave him a listen, for a number of reasons."

Drew, I think a lot of us are trying to listen and that is the point we don't like what we hear and we try to demonstrate and articulate why.

It seems that you mean "listen" in another sense, you wish more of us here would be convinced or agree with McLaren.

I hope your not trying to say that just because someone disagrees they aren't really listening. I also hope your not saying that only those who agree are those who are really listening.

I hope your not suggesting that if we really "understood" something we'd be compelled to agree with it.

Rhology said...

Drew:

Do you doubt your (obviously strongly-held) belief that you must be ready at all times to doubt your most strongly-held beliefs?

If so, how is it not self-refuting/disarming? Why not be correctable by the Scriptural commands to be faithful in love and in faith to the One True God Who is the Redeemer of mankind and also its Judge? After all, your obligation to doubt has been doubted and therefore has sunk.

If not, why the inconsistency on that point?

SolaMeanie said...

Phil,

I hate to say it, but the spell of "Wonderland" is wafting its way through the ether again. Any moment now, either the Queen will shout "off with their heads" or Humpty Dumpty will declare from the shadows, "words mean whatever I want them to mean. No more, no less."

Drew, I heartily recommend that you read "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll. While not a Christian book, it is certainly instructive about the Emergent mindset and view of reality.

Strong Tower said...

john haller-

God loves us just the way we are is why he is conforming us to the image of his Son.

Oxymoronic, no?

Ken Silva said...

In my view John Haller hits the bullseye here:

"They (McLaren and Bell) then launch into an attack that denigrates the churches with whom they are angry and they complain that they are bad and evil because they only believe certain things, but they are better than those churches because they DO certain things."

The hypocrisy they exhibit is that while teaching against certainty, they themselves are certain of the above.

"Exactly who is the Pharisee in that scenario?" Precisely!

Phil Johnson said...

dac: "An interesting post, contrasted to (compared? read together with?) C.M. Patton's post at Parchment and Pen today."

Indeed. Patton is advocating a kind of self-doubt (really self-examination—2 Corinthians 13:5). I'm decrying the kind of doubt that is set against God's revealed truth. The first commenter under Patton's post does a pretty fair job of pointing out the necessary distinction. Given that simple distinction, I can wholeheartedly affirm what Michael Patton said in his post today, while standing by what I wrote.

The difficulty comes when that necessary distinction is rubbed out by those who buy into postmodernism's anti-epistemology. They conflate self-doubt with doubt toward God's Word by insisting that "epistemic humility" requires us to believe we can't really ever know for sure what the Bible means. So we can't hold any truth with settled conviction, even if it's something the Bible plainly says—because at the end of the day, we can't really trust our own interpretation of the Bible.

That's the position Drew is advocating. It's also what underlies McLaren's trademark skepticism toward truth and certainty.

And the reason Drew shouldn't be surprised to find McLaren channeling his very thoughts before Drew himself has even given expression to them is that practically everything in our culture tells us we ought to think that way. And apparently Drew and McLaren don't distrust the trends of the culture as much as they distrust the Bible. Drew and his famous mentor (and hordes of post-evangelicals along with them) have basically joined the greater portion of Western postmodern society in an act of collective epistemological suicide. While talking a lot about "engaging" the culture, they have actually been pressed into postmodern culture's mold.

And that mold is a perfect coffin.

Dean Olive said...

Amen and Amen! Keep on telling it like it is!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, writes on his website: "I am on a post-evangelical journey, discovering what it means to be vitally connected to Jesus. That process is always worth sharing."

Phil Johnson writes the following: "Drew and his famous mentor (and hordes of post-evangelicals along with them) have basically joined the greater portion of Western postmodern society in an act of collective epistemological suicide."

I wonder if Michael Spencer (aka the Internet Monk) defines "post-evangelical" the same as PJ, and if Michael Spencer would agree with PJ's prognosis of the post-evangelical journey?

Drew said...

Wow. I shouldn't have left my computer. It's tough when life gets in the way.

A couple responses off the top of my head, and then I will go through a little bit more systematically.

I know that many of you have listened to McLaren. I didn't bring that up. Phil suggested that I would really like it if he/others listened to McLaren, and I concurred. I never meant to imply that you didn't.

I do question my strongly held conviction that even strongly held convictions should be questioned.

As for questioning scripture, I think that questions are a must, when it comes to interpretation. And questions always involve some bit of doubt or uncertainty.

This certainly DOES run the risk of setting myself up over scripture. Which is why I also question myself, and challenge myself. If I interpret scripture in a way that is particularly self-affirming, than a doubt that scripture even more.

Of the 5 points of Calvinism, I hold them all. Total depravity means that every part of me has been touched by sin, and I am NOT a faithful interpreter of scripture. So I question and doubt every conclusion that I reach, and I submit myself to the Holy Spirit, other brothers and sisters in Christ (including saints that have gone before me) and the whole counsel of scripture.

And I realize that even "heavyweights" have gotten things wrong. Calvin burned anabaptists at the stake. Luther was an anti-Semite. Even Augustine seemed to get a few things wrong. Heck, even Peter got Praxis wrong in acts and had to be corrected by Paul. Why should modern thinkers seem to think they will bat 1.000? McLaren should doubt himself because you (his brothers) doubt him, and you should doubt your convictions because he (a brother) doubts yours. So yes, I doubt myself, and therefore, I doubt my interpretation of scripture. Likewise, I doubt all other human interpretations, and human interpretations are the only kind there are. (Please don't hear this wrong. I believe that scripture is divinely inspired, but as soon as a person reads it, than interpretation begins).

Ok. That's a start. Time to work through some of the rest.

SolaMeanie said...

Drew,

Even "Doubting Thomas" finally came to a conclusion.

Drew said...

John H:

I don't think I am that angry, but I do get frustrated with teampyro sometimes, and that sometimes becomes angry. But today is my day off. I wouldn't let a blog take that joy away from me!

I don't think I ever said, "God loves you just the way you are," but I do believe that while we were still sinenrs, Christ died for us. So God loves sinners, even in their sinful state, but he that does not mean that he wants them to remain in said state.

I don't think that McLaren and Bell have sold their churches as "better" communities. They apply their own self-doubt to their communities. I have to believe that they would be the first to admit that they don't have it right (and then they'd get criticized for that!).

Phil in your last comment, you were right on, in understanding how I approach scirpture, but I would disagree with this part:

And apparently Drew and McLaren don't distrust the trends of the culture as much as they distrust the Bible. Drew and his famous mentor (and hordes of post-evangelicals along with them) have basically joined the greater portion of Western postmodern society in an act of collective epistemological suicide. While talking a lot about "engaging" the culture, they have actually been pressed into postmodern culture's mold.

And that mold is a perfect coffin.


I also distrust the trends, and the greater culture. I, like McLaren, was formed in the evangelical sub-culture, which I also distrust. It's not, as is so popularly alleged, "what is cool," or "what works," but "what is true" that I aim for.

But I admit that I will likely miss. I don't think that we have committed epistemological suicide. I think the old epistemology has collapsed under its own weight. I guess I see the emergent crowd as having admitted that, and sought out to find a new epistemology. Until we find it, we do speak carefully, or at least try to.

If we end up in a coffin, than that's ok. Dieing with Christ comes before rising with Christ.

Daryl said...

"Likewise, I doubt all other human interpretations, and human interpretations are the only kind there are. (Please don't hear this wrong. I believe that scripture is divinely inspired, but as soon as a person reads it, than interpretation begins"

I hope this isn't what you meant Drew, but it sure sounds like you've given yourself permission to doubt the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, salvation by faith alone etc etc ad nauseum just because you could find a way to put them under the fallible human interpretation category.

Where's the trust in God to communicate his word clearly and simply (in such a way that the idea that the church has missed the 'Secret message of Jesus' for 2000 years becomes impossible to believe even)

Rhology said...

Drew said:
It's not, as is so popularly alleged, "what is cool," or "what works," but "what is true" that I aim for.

You have to interpret ANY AND ALL FACTS from ANY text, from ANY author, from ANY speaker, even if it's Rob Bell or B-Mac.
The difference between everything else and the Bible is that the Bible is God's revelation. I know you said you doubt even your strongest-held beliefs, but you might run into trouble here: Do you think God didn't make His revelation sufficiently clear and understandable?

True humility does not disagree with God's opinion of you; true humility submits to the Master and goes from there.

Chris Hemmelman said...

Drew,

So does that mean you think Paul should have listened to the Judizers and "super apostles"? You know, see what they had to say and contribute to the conversation?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Drew, you're mixing up too many things here. Questions, even doubts, are not bad in and of themselves...it's what you do with them. What McLaren is doing is not just "doubting" but REMOVING the very possibility of resolving doubt.

And his is not, as has been stated over and over again, a benign questioning. He wants to DESTROY fundamental Christianity. Not reform it; kill it.

Yes, any one of us can "get things wrong" but we believe there really exists a "right" that is worth pursuing. McL would declare the pursuit fruitless and even harmful.

Drew said...

First of all, the Secret Message of Jesus has a horrible, overly provocative title, and its not about what you think it means. McLaren does not pretend to discover "new, secret knowledge, or anything like that."

Do I have permission to doubt those things? Of course I do! But at the same time, I'm not going to lightly throw away the wise counsel of the vast majority of the Church. And I have thought carefully about each of the things that you have listed. There is no good reason to disagree with what the church has taught for centuries on these matters.

On the other hand, the church has been pretty united about other things before, and bold people have had to say they were wrong (Papal authority, for example).

Drew said...

Drew,

So does that mean you think Paul should have listened to the Judizers and "super apostles"? You know, see what they had to say and contribute to the conversation?


He spent most of his life listening to them, and he followed them for some time! He knew their argument QUITE well before he rejected it.

Drew said...



And his is not, as has been stated over and over again, a benign questioning. He wants to DESTROY fundamental Christianity. Not reform it; kill it. . . we believe there really exists a "right" that is worth pursuing. McL would declare the pursuit fruitless and even harmful.


This is not the McLaren that I have read. Can you back up these allegations?

Daryl said...

"He spent most of his life listening to them, and he followed them for some time! He knew their argument QUITE well before he rejected it."

Same goes for the EC. Restating the social gospel of yester-year doesn't constitute a new idea but an old one with which all Christians should already be familiar. (I realize they are not, but they should be)

Rhology said...

This book review should suffice for backing that up.

Drew, when you get a chance I'd really like an answer to my question as well.

SolaMeanie said...

Let me put things a bit more strongly, and perhaps get to the root of the issue. Considering what happened with Adam and Eve when they began to doubt the word of God Himself -- not to mention the fruit of their doubt, disbelief and then disobedience -- the stakes are serious.

Is not doubting the word of God tantamount to calling Him a liar? Case in point, God clearly condemns homosexuality in Scripture. But we are told by McLaren to have a five-year moratorium on discussing the issue until the church can figure out what it thinks about homosexuality.

There are other examples I could give. And we are not talking about particularly difficult passages of Scripture here. Some debate about those areas one could understand. But other areas can't possibly be spelled out any more clearly. When people can't understand such clear statements, it makes me suspect a lobotomy has been performed.

Whenever someone asks, "Did God really say," I think we ought to be able to discern the hiss of the serpent. Why don't they just come out and admit it? They really don't think the Bible is God's written word, inerrant and fully authoritative. Some are subtle about their denial of Scripture, wanting to have the veneer of "loving the Bible," while others are very up front about their disdain.

It's not a very long walk between where Brian McLaren is now and a certain individual named John Shelby Spong. It's only a matter of time unless he comes to his senses.

Ken Silva said...

"First of all, the Secret Message of Jesus has a horrible, overly provocative title, and its not about what you think it means. McLaren does not pretend to discover 'new, secret knowledge, or anything like that.'"

I would say we should take exception to the above. Because in his review of "The Secret Teachings of Jesus," my friend Dr. Gary Gilley reveals further McLaren’s deviation from the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself:

But herein lies the problem. McLaren does believe that the church has never understood the real message of Jesus.'

In fact on page 91 McLaren himself enlightens us that the Church itself has not even understood the Gospel because, as Gilley shows, according to McLaren this is not actually “justification by grace through faith, the free gift of salvation, Christ being a substitutionary sacrifice for [one’s] sin.” Instead says McLaren “the kingdom of God is at hand. That was Jesus’ message”.

Drew said...

Daryl: McLaren comes out of evangelicalism. Either way, the point stands--you should seek to understand something (evangicalism, liberalism, super-judaizers, or whatever) before you publicly criticize them. Sometimes this takes a long time. With other ideas, it doesn't take much (I never considered Mormonism for too long, for example).

Rho, I guess the answer depends on what "suffiecntly" means. Sufficient enough to respond? Absolutley. Sufficient enough to know God relationally? yup. Sufficiently enough to completely understand him and his ways? nope, not even close.

Drew said...

ken. McL didn't "discover" that message. It was in the Bible, and it has been proclaimed by the church throughout history.

Ken Silva said...

Drew,

"it has been proclaimed by the church throughout history."

No, the denial of "justification by grace through faith, the free gift of salvation, Christ being a substitutionary sacrifice for [one’s] sin" has not been "proclaimed by" the historic orthodox Church.

Yet, proving Johnson's thesis in the above post, this is McLaren's "certain" declaration in that book however.

Phil Johnson said...

TUaD: "I wonder if Michael Spencer (aka the Internet Monk) defines "post-evangelical" the same as PJ, and if Michael Spencer would agree with PJ's prognosis of the post-evangelical journey?"

I long ago gave up trying to guess how the iMonk would answer any question. It's my impression that he tends to backpeddle when criticism of his various worldview experiments hit too close to home, and (let's be clear, here:) that's prolly a good thing. Nevertheless, you've got to weigh the fact that what he's best-known for (and seems most proud of) are angst-filled "confessional" pieces where he recounts his serial worldview shifts as he abandons things he would once have deemed certain and/or essential truths, while embracing newer, more fashionable ideas.

This issue of pathological paradigm-shifting comes up in our meta frequently—and not just with regard to the iMonk. I could name several fairly well-known quasi-evangelical pundits who think constantly renouncing whatever they themselves said just last year is the very essence of "humility." There are even whole blogs devoted to this notion, suggesting that everyone's "spiritual journey" ought to be filled with hairpin twists and turns (contra Colossians 1:23; Ephesians 4:14, and a host of other passages that urge us to be steadfast in the faith).

So I know already that someone is going to reply to this comment by pretending I've said it's always wrong to change your mind. For the record, that's not even close to the point I am making. As I have said before, "No one around here ever suggested it's 'wicked' to change one's mind or theological perspective. What I [am saying] is that people who are prone to undergo regular seismic worldview-level paradigm-shifts every other year or so prolly shouldn't fancy themselves fit teachers or be chronically argumentative until they have stood firm in an opinion for at least five years or thereabouts.

And likewise in another place, I wrote: "I have a couple of friends who undergo seismic paradigm-shifts in their thinking every three years or so, like clockwork. And when their friends don't follow every wind of change, they tend to get really upset. Actually, the blogosphere sometimes seems dominated by people like that, and they like to blog nonstop about the recalcitrance of Reformed opinion.

"[But] who is more 'arrogant'? Someone who refuses to compromise even when popular thinking shifts against him, or the guy who never settles on any truth and yet constantly argues about everything anyway—not really because he himself has stumbled on something he is certain about, but merely because his contempt for other people's strong convictions is the way he justifies his waffling in his own mind?"

I'd like to point out that Scripture never commends people for the "humility" of claiming they're not sure what's true and what's false, or what God's Word really means. And the Bible never encourages us to remain unanchored about what we believe and celebrate our doubts—especially while we're functioning as teachers of others. Jesus referred to that as the blind leading the blind, and He indicated that it's a Really Bad Thing.

Chris Hemmelman said...

Drew, Drew, Drew, history my friend, history...

Paul was never a Judizer that he attacked in Galations or a member of the "super apostles" mentioned in Corinthians. You confuse these groups with the Pharisaical sect Pual belonged to. These were so-called "Christians" that Paul confronted for teaching a false gospel.

He didn't say we should listen to them, consider what they had to say, etc. Merely that they were false teachers who should be called out and cast out.

Drew said...

and rho, that review didn't do the job.

Daryl said...

Drew,

Yes the church has proclaimed that message but within the context that "that Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost" not fix all social wrongs in order to create a better life for people.

This is what McLaren misses (odd at his age) life is SHORT, eternity is not, hell is real, so is heaven (at least according to Jesus)

Chris Hemmelman said...

I love the spin...

Emergent: "No, no, we don't doubt God's word, it's oursleves we doubt."

In the immortal words of Peanuts: "Good grief!"

Drew said...

Chris, you got me on the histroy question. One more reason I should doubt myself, I guess :)

Daryl, I was responding to McLaren's positive statement, about the Kingdom. He doesn't necessarily reject the system that you outline, he simply points out that the message Christ proclaimed was more simple.

mark said...

"Either way, the point stands--you should seek to understand something (evangicalism, liberalism, super-judaizers, or whatever) before you publicly criticize them. Sometimes this takes a long time. With other ideas, it doesn't take much (I never considered Mormonism for too long, for example)."

Consider neo-marxism. Consider the Hegelian dialectic. Recognize that Biblical Scripture cannot be framed, or interpreted, with either.

There. That didn't take long.

Rhology said...

Drew,

But do you doubt that the review didn't do the job?

I meant my first question to you, which I'm more interested in:


Do you doubt your (obviously strongly-held) belief that you must be ready at all times to doubt your most strongly-held beliefs?

If so, how is it not self-refuting/disarming? Why not be correctable by the Scriptural commands to be faithful in love and in faith to the One True God Who is the Redeemer of mankind and also its Judge? After all, your obligation to doubt has been doubted and therefore has sunk.

If not, why the inconsistency on that point?

Daryl said...

Surely this quote -

"In the following chapters, brother is alienated from brother and a form of class violence enters the story, as the class of pastoralists (symbolized by Abel) are exterminated by the class of agriculturalists (symbolized by Cain)."

indicates something of McLaren's refusal to take Scripture at face value and gives us all a reason to start with suspiscion when reveiwing McLAren's ideas and ask him to allay those fears, rather than the other way around.

How can someone who misuses such clear passages of Scripture so easily (replacing real people for classes of people) expect the same level of trust given to say, Dr. McArthur or Dr. Piper?

Daryl said...

Drew "He doesn't necessarily reject the system that you outline,"

Actually when he insists that we need to pursue social action INSTEAD of making disciples/converts, he really does reject the gospel Paul preached.

Daryl said...

By the way, what is more simple that "You must be born again" ??

(except maybe "Repent")

Drew said...



Do you doubt your (obviously strongly-held) belief that you must be ready at all times to doubt your most strongly-held beliefs?

If so, how is it not self-refuting/disarming? Why not be correctable by the Scriptural commands to be faithful in love and in faith to the One True God Who is the Redeemer of mankind and also its Judge? After all, your obligation to doubt has been doubted and therefore has sunk.

1. yes.
2. It is self-refuting.
3. I do seek to be corrected by God and his word.

yup. I'm sunk. It's the problem of post-modernity.

But if we take sin seriously, it's not just my problem, but all of ours.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Drew, the body and trajectory of McL's work quite obviously points in that direction. Do you know what The Fundamentals are? Ever read them? Do you know how many McLaren is actively working against? That's backup enough for me.

Strong Tower said...

Nash's "Social Justice and the Christian Church" is a good read Drew. You should avail yourself of it and you might begin to understand that the ECM's kingdom now teachings are not in Scripture. It is a matter of definitions, you know? Justice has a "A Certain" meaning, one which social gospelites have deconstructed and then redefined to advance their agenda.

I'll answer your assertion that we cannot know exhaustively all that God has given us to know with this:
"'For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ'"

The likes of the ECM, McLaren and Bell..., are discribed by these verses as the ones who are in the flesh, who claim that we cannot have "certain knowledge" because it is folly to think we can.

So, I would say, "Who has deceived you, Drew?" You directly contradict the clear unequivocable teaching of Scripture by claiming experiential relational ignorance as superior to revelational knowledge. I then begin to worry about you, as Paul did the Galatians. Who has bewitched you that you are so quickly abandoning the Faith once and for all delivered? And for what, uncertainty?

Drew said...

Daryl, I don't find too many problems with that reading of scripture.

I know.

wow, wow, wow.

Glad I could save you some time.

Strong Tower said...

Epistecide, a newone for the TP lexicon.

Chris Hemmelman said...

As a commenter on here (I believe it was here) stated before, McLaren is channeling Frederic Jameson by providing a Marxist interpretation of scripture.

Jameson's "Political Unconscious" is handbook for postmodern Marxism. I bring this up because it is worth repeating. The heart of McLaren's beliefs is not biblical orthodoxy but postmodern Marxism.

Drew, reviewer after reviewer is picking up on this in McLaren's new book. At some point you are going to need to acknowledge this or your ignorance will be plain willful.

GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME said...

The comments here are going back to and fro quicker than the centre court @ Wimbledon. Nay...the Chinese Table Tennis (Ping Pong) Championships.

Mark Van Der Molen said...

The emergent deconstruction project is among the most pernicious deceptions facing North American churches. David Wells has said pomo thinking is,in itself, God's judgment on the church.

Given the emergent's trashing of the 5 Reformation Solas, I've often wondered on what BASIS could McLaren expect us to believe with any confidence he is a Christian.

C.T. Lillies said...

I don't know about you all but if I had any doubts that the Bible was God's Word I'd certainly find something else to do with my time.

Chris Hemmelman said...

Drew,

I may have "got" you, but you missed the more important point.

Daryl said...

c.t.

which is, of course, exactly what Mr. McLaren has done.

Daryl said...

Drew,

"Daryl, I don't find too many problems with that reading of scripture."

Red Flag if there ever was one.

Rhology said...

--Do you doubt your (obviously strongly-held) belief that you must be ready at all times to doubt your most strongly-held beliefs?

1. yes.
2. It is self-refuting.


If it's self-refuting, then it is a very powerful evidence that you don't really take the principle of non-contradiction seriously. If you don't, do all the Bible-reading you want; if you read it, interpret it, and apply it consistently with this bankrupt worldview lens, I don't see how it'll do you any good.

But if we take sin seriously, it's not just my problem, but all of ours.

Well, what if I just go ahead and doubt that assertion? Where does that leave me and anyone else?

mark said...

Drew,

If "Everything Must Change" is correct, then what was the value of scripture for all the thousands of years dating back to Moses, when the "tools" of Marx, Lyotard, Derrida, and Foucault were unavailable to God's covenant people and the world at large? Was it good for anything?

centuri0n said...

I doubt this thread will not reach 100 comments -- especially if Phil is answering any detractors.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

If uncertainty is a prime virtue among Emergents, would it then be okay for folks to say that they are uncertain about whether Brian McLaren is a Christian?

And if tolerance is another prime virtue of postmodernism, then wouldn't that mean that we should tolerate any TeamPyro person who says, "I doubt if Brian McLaren is even a Christian. I am uncertain whether he really is a disciple and follower of Christ."

Mike Riccardi said...

Just to repeat Strong Tower's quotation of 1 Corinthians 2:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.

Drew, I'd love (and afterwards, probably hate) to hear you interact with that...

Phil Johnson said...

Centuri0n: "I doubt this thread will not reach 100 comments -- especially if Phil is answering any detractors."

In the words of John Calvin: Good luck. I have to leave for the rest of the day. (I'm going to Disneyland with the fam. The Annual GTY Christmas outing.) So everyone please play nice, and I'll try to catch up with the thread later tonight.

(It's not great weather for Disneyland, BTW. The wind and rain blew down the only tree in my front yard overnight, so I began the day at 6:00 AM by chopping it up and getting it off the front sidewalk. Not an auspicious start to a "vacation" day, huh?)

Drew said...

Chris H.: I'm not denying the similarity to Marxist thought, I'm just saying that the Marxist interpretation of this particular text is not unfaithful.

Rho., I'm with you. Now please tell me how we can know anything with out our sinfulness calling that conclusion into question?

Mark,
Of course it was! The best thinking, be it from McClaren or Spurgeon, comes FROM the Bible. I never claimed that we need marx or mclclaren or anybody to understand scripture.

Truth,
that's a big "if" you start with, and I would argue a false one. But it is ok to say that. I don't think its very justified, or helpful for anybody on this board to do so, but I'll bet that Brain constantly asks if he has been a faithful follower of Christ, and confesses that he hasn't.

And I hope that you can see that we EC folk have been tolerant of TP folk. I hope you can see thatI am doing my best to answer your questions patiently.

Mike, I will reflect on that question for you, but first, are there any particular questions you want me to address?

GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME said...

Phil writes: The wind and rain blew down the only tree in my front yard overnight, so I began the day at 6:00 AM by chopping it up and getting it off the front sidewalk. Not an auspicious start to a "vacation" day, huh?)

Haven't you got a thing about earthquakes and tornadoes :-)

dac said...

Phil said:

"I can wholeheartedly affirm what Michael Patton said in his post today, while standing by what I wrote."

I would agree. I read his first, then did Pyro, and first thought there were some differences. But after following the logic train out on both posts, you guys are running on parallel tracks.

Both of which I agree with.

Chris Hemmelman said...

Drew,

Not unfaithful? A materialistic philosophy that reduces human activity (sin) to production and consumption is faithful to scripture?

Drew, have you ever read Marx? How about Jameson, Althusser, Moufe, LaClau, Bloom, or any other Marxist philosopher? It is beyond me why anyone calling themselves a Christian would even want to channel their humanisitic thought.

The fact that you can acknowledge McLaren's use of Marx and it not trouble you says a lot about where you are theologically.

Drew said...

Not unfaithful? A materialistic philosophy that reduces human activity (sin) to production and consumption is faithful to scripture?

Drew, have you ever read Marx? How about Jameson, Althusser, Moufe, LaClau, Bloom, or any other Marxist philosopher? It is beyond me why anyone calling themselves a Christian would even want to channel their humanisitic thought.

The fact that you can acknowledge McLaren's use of Marx and it not trouble you says a lot about where you are theologically.


Just to be clear, I do not want to channel marx, or any other thinker, and I have not read enough of anybody on your list to say too much about them.

And I did not assert that McLaren USED Marx. His reading parallels a marxist reading, but that could have happened any number of ways.

I guess I know that enough about Marx to say this. He was wrong about a whole lot of things, but he wasn't wrong about everything.

Our activities of production and consumption are part of our sinful way of being. McLaren traces that through scripture. That, of course, is not the only ways in which we are sinful, but it IS one of them, and McLaren talks about it.

Stefan said...

Goodnightsafehome: Your ping pong comment made me laugh!

Postmortem: I liked your analysis drawing on Hebrews, way back near the beginning of the thread.

Daryl: Wow, if that's McLaren's analysis of the story of Cain and Abel, then we have a serious problem.

Various: I'm waiting for someone to say that conservatives don't care about social justice (surely it will come up sooner or later). So to preemptively allay that, Scripture calls us to a certain kind of social justice, but it is a justice based on God's compassion and mercy—taking care of widows, orphans, the poor, the sick, and foreigners. Loving our neighbours. And this is all in the Old Testament. Jesus didn't even teach anything that was new: he was reiterating this, in the context of demonstrating what the fruits of true faith are. But those things are not a condition for salvation: they are a side effect of the Holy Spirit working through us. And this true faith is borne of repentance for one's sins and placing one's whole trust in God—heart, soul, mind, and strength—by His grace, and made possible solely by the perfect righteousness, fulfilment of the Law, and sacrificial atonement provided by Jesus Christ. As he died to the world and was resurrected to sit at God's right hand in heaven, we are called to die to our sins and receive eternal life. And in so doing, the Holy Spirit will work to sanctify us and bear the good fruits: working out God's kingdom here and now, not because that is the ultimate or highest thing to which he calls us, but as a way of working out his compassion, mercy, and lovingkindness in the world and calling the lost to Himself.

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daryl said...

Amen Stefan,

As one Frank Turk stated in a previous article, it's the difference between ushering in the kingdom and demonstrating the kindgom.

Very different, very important.

Stefan said...

...Which is what faithful Christians have been doing to varying degrees (depending on the place and time) for the past twenty centuries.

Chris Hemmelman said...

But Drew you are missing the point of both McLaren and Marx...they are both asserting that consumption and production are the foundational basis of the problem not a symptom of a larger problem.

And like Marx, McLaren is calling for a systematic change in the political sphere as the solution to the problem, the whole "suicide machines" and all.

The connection between Marx and McLaren is not coincidental nor should you continue to make it one. Again, to do so is to be willfully ignorant and intellectually dishonest.

Drew said...

But Drew you are missing the point of both McLaren and Marx...they are both asserting that consumption and production are the foundational basis of the problem not a symptom of a larger problem.


To me, it's both. Why are we destroying ourselves? Because we are sinful. Because we have stopped being good stewards of creation and are using it up like its going out of style. Because we are abusing the dominion that God gave us. Marx, by the way, would never say something like this, "But to be a human being is to live within creaturly limits in God's creation," but it is in McLaren's book, as well as the most obvious difference, how the Kingdom of God is counter to the "suicide machines."


And like Marx, McLaren is calling for a systematic change in the political sphere as the solution to the problem, the whole "suicide machines" and all.


It's part of it, but not all of it.
McClaren is calling for Kingdom living, in which our first allegiance is to Christ, and Christ's ways. This is not a violent revolution or a disengagement, but reformed and re-shaped priorities within a system. You are correct when you call it political, because it is anti-empire, but it isn't a political solution in either a marxist or democratic, or any other traditional way of thinking about Politics. It's living the confession that "Christ is Lord," even within a system that proclaims, "Ceasar is Lord."

The change in the political sphere that McLaren calls for is the same one that Christ calls for--its a different kind of change, but Christ changes the whole world, politics included/

Strong Tower said...

Whose are Drew. I am not part of the collective and my activities and means of production and consumption are mine, not yours. You see, you speak in collectivist. However, the Biblical view is that we individually stand or fall, not as a collective, but each man before God.

The borg world of marx is a mythological monstrousity that only borrows likenesses from the real. ECM's penchant for taking simultudes and universalizing them absolutely is their marxist problem. It is like the panic, crisis politic of the Democratic party. Create the boogy, tell the people it must be picked and then offer the party's omnicient, fool-proof, government sanctified, taxpayer-funded, police state enforced...., and monographed- hanky.

Rhology said...

Drew said:
Rho., I'm with you. Now please tell me how we can know anything with out our sinfulness calling that conclusion into question?

A better question is how we can know anything for sure at all, even that we're sinful, if we use the type of thinking you're promoting here.
See, thanks to you I'm starting to doubt whether I or anyone else is sinful.

Chris Hemmelman said...

Wow Drew, your glossing over of McLaren's theology coupled with your postmodern sensibilities make you blind to the obvious.

I really don'tthink I can say anything to you that has not already been said by others. I just hope that one day you see McLaren's beliefs for what they are and are no longer enamoured with his neo-Marxist theology.

Drew said...

Whose are Drew. I am not part of the collective and my activities and means of production and consumption are mine, not yours. You see, you speak in collectivist. However, the Biblical view is that we individually stand or fall, not as a collective, but each man before God.


First of all, I was not speaking as a collectivist. Second of all, on what do you base this view of scripture? Was it hear "O individuals, the lord thy God is one?" Countless times throughout scripture God speaks to and judges groups of people.

Not that I am saying that we are the borg, either.

There's something inbetween. Something like, us being the body of Christ and idividually members of it.

And strong tower, that tactic is used just as much by people on the right (using terrorism or hell, depending on the topic). It's only a foolish tactic if the threat isn't real.

Rho, I am with you--you are right that one cannot know anything for sure in my system. You imply that you have a way of knowing anything. Well, I'd like to hear it. Tell me something that you know, and how you know it beyond the shadow of any doubt, despite your sin and the sin of the world.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Drew, Have you ever read The Fundamentals? Do you know how many McLaren is actively working against?

Rhology said...

I know I'm sinful.
I know God exists.

That makes 2 things.
Your worldview as you express it here would seem to preclude knowing even that, would it not?

steve said...

I checked the comment thread at morning break time, and it stood at 47 comments.

I check two and a half hours later, and it's already clocked more than 100 comments.

Am I the only one at work today while everyone else is having fun?

Mark B. Hanson said...

From my vantage point, the uncertainty expressed in Phil's post sounds a lot like prideful agnosticism: "I don't know whether there's a God. I can't know. Neither can you. No one can know." This sort of agnostic insists on defining the world as having the same problem he does - or rather, believing his problem is endemic to the world God (probably) didn't create.

Maybe we need a new category for this kind of postmodern "believer": call them post-agnostics. They don't believe they can know truth about God, so they are quite sure no one can.

gavin said...

Phil,

While this comment will no doubt be buried obscurely in the thread, I just wanted to say that I think your posts/critiques on the EC are the best and most clearly articulated that I have read to date.

You've easily got enough material here at TeamPyro to write the book that I keep hoping (as an every-day-reader, hardly-ever-commenter) you are going to announce that you're writing (end run-on sentence)!

Drew said...

Johnny no, and no.

Rho. Great. We are in agreement.

I know those things, too.

And really, I don't tend to question either one.

But I know the second based on the first, right? I wouldn't be sinful if God didn't exist.

But my sinfulness means that I am bent, distorted, broken, right? So how can, finite and broken, know God--even his existence?

Now again. I like, you, know both of the above things.

But I have to start with a given, to not end up in circular logic. And so do you (as far as I know, at least!). And nobody can agree on a common given.

So this post-modern problem is one we all must face. I'm not saying that I have solved it, I'm just suggesting that you either stop pretending you have the answer, or put one forward.

Brian Nash said...

Thank you very much, this is something I have been dealing with lately as I witness to people in my church. You put eloquently into words exactly how I feel

Strong Tower said...

No Drew-

The Bible gives us the given.

The Bible puts us all on the same level, and gives us the answers to the questions that we on our own would never ask.

We, that is believers, all agree on the common given.

And, I ask again, why don't you agree with what is given? This post modern problem is not common, except in the borg. You continue to speak collectivist, not as a collectivist, collectivist. You speak their language.

So, there is the answer. Read the Book!

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

Brian MacLaren has been more than gracious in providing an entire inventory of heretical quotes and beliefs. When someone cannot see serious heresy in MacLaren the problem lies less with the particular points and more with something much deeper.

polycarp said...

PHIL:

THIS POST IS SO SPOT-ON ACCURATE AND CONCISE; IT IS PERHAPS MY FAVORITE SO FAR! Thank you for exposing the web of rhetorical deceit emergents have created through all of their double-speak and non-answers to direct questions even further.

I don't know the extent to which the average emergent (leader) has read very much from the likes of men such as Chompsky, Derrida, Fish, Quine, Focault, and other gurus of relativism, deconstruction, and/or language manipulation, but they are good and faithful students of these men nonetheless!


Below is a link to an excellent article written by Charles Krauthammer (TIME) entitled: "In Defense of Certainty". The great thing about this piece is the fact that Krauthammer makes no claim to even being a believer, yet finds the current trend of retreating from truth by those who DO claim identity with absolute beliefs is an appauling state of affairs:

http://www.time.com/time/columnist/krauthammer/article/0,9565,1067816,00.html

ADB said...

I wasn't going to say anything, really. The more this shell game goes on, the less restraint I can muster. So here goes (full rant mode on – tempered with love and appropriate sarcasm when necessary)

It is as if the po-mo crowd (Drew is the only representative so far) continues to circle round the " with a given, to not end up in circular logic. And so do you (as far as I know, at least!). And nobody can agree on a common given" tree so we don't/can't really know anything or discern when someone is teaching unsound doctrine.

This is no time to be the kid who picks up the ball and goes home. Stay in the game and confront the errors doctrine of those on the EC forefront.

Contrary to the EC doctrine, we are supposed to be certain of things. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, not the doubt of what is out there. Our faith is continually being strengthened, refined, and challenged. Why? So we can stand firm until the end and receive a crown of life. Not so we can continue to doubt, but so we can know and trust Him even more.

If we truly were created without the capacity to know truths, the bible would be unreliable. We can know about God. To save space, here's a brief NT list: Rom 1:19, Rom 1:32, Rom 2:2, Rom 8:28, 2 Cor 5:1, Gal 4:9, 1 John 2:5. Not to mention why in the world Paul would exhort Timothy to teach sound doctrine, if sound doctrine was impossible to know.

(full rant mode winding down)

mark said...

Drew,

"Mark,
Of course it was! The best thinking, be it from McClaren or Spurgeon, comes FROM the Bible. I never claimed that we need marx or mclclaren or anybody to understand scripture."

Drew I didn't intend to suggest that you were making a case that we need some extra-biblical philosophy to understand scripture. Rather, even a casual reading of BM's latest effort reveals it to be nonsense without the philosophies expounded by Marx and the pomo triumvirate of Lyotard, Derrida, and Foucault to give it context. Though I'm sure that BM targets an audience ignorant of their philosophies, he most definitely uses their philosophies for interpreting motivations and texts.

In any case, it doesn't require a deep knowledge of post-modern political theory and philosophy to recognize the influences that most shape BM's worldview, as he expresses it in "Everything Must Change". And he leans on the vain philosophies of men, far more than the Bible. In fact, it seems that he merely uses the Bible as an artifice to frame neo-marxist and postmodern philosophy. It strikes me as being not only bankrupt, but heretical. And tolerance of such, far from being noble, belies the agape that is due to our Lord and Savior.

I think Schaffer was onto something when he pointed out that theology tends to follow philosophy. It is certainly, yes certainly, evident in the Emergent Conversation vis-a-vis the post-structuralists and deconstructionists of the late 20th century. However, ambiguity is not a virtue...at least not a biblical one.

Jesus did not proclaim, "I am the conversation" or "I am the doubt" or "I am the synthesis of all the parts of the thesis and antithesis that you liked, but none of the parts that you didn't like". He proclaimed, "I am the Truth". Pretty straight forward wouldn't you say?

When Paul preached on Mars Hill, he didn't say, "Men of Athens, I see that you're quite a religious people but, there are some pet virtues and good works practiced by my people that you should assimilate into your modes of worship for your pantheon of idols." No, he essentially told them "you don't know God, but I will declare him to you, and his requirements of you." And he did. And you know what?, some believed and some didn't. The whole of Scripture does the same thing. It declares God to us, and His requirements of us. And you know what?, some believe and some don't.

The whole of Scripture is remarkably straight forward, like the examples above. The Spirit of God is not a spirit of confusion. Nor is His word confusing, but "a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." An insistance that one can't really understand the Bible, or that Christians have completely misunderstood it for the last 2000 years but that BM and other Emergents have it figured out now, seems like a confession to being unregenerate. Without the confession part.

Understanding the Bible, and our relationship with God, and our responsibilities to Him, are part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. While spiritual immaturity can can obfuscate these things, and sin can retard them, over time the Spirit living in us will make them clear. Beware of those who say such things can never be known with confidence. They are devoid of the Spirit. Don't look to them for teaching or spiritual leadership, because they can't provide it.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Drew, when you can answer Yes to the first, you'll be able to answer Yes to the second.

carolczech said...

Drew: "Of the 5 points of Calvinism, I hold them all. Total depravity means that every part of me has been touched by sin, and I am NOT a faithful interpreter of scripture"

How do you know?

Drew said: "But my sinfulness means that I am bent, distorted, broken, right? So how can, finite and broken, know God--even his existence?"

The writer of Hebrews said: "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6 ESV).

As far back as Genesis God said of Abraham, "And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6 ESV).

That thread is woven throughout the entire tapestry of the scriptures. Faith is an either/or proposition not a might/might not.

This is not rocket science. I once heard D.A. Carson speak about how the scientific calculations needed to put a man on the moon were off by a few cm. but they were still suffient to get the job done safely. So it is with God's word. Although we may not know or understand everything *exhaustively*, we can know it *sufficiently*, in particular what we need to know to have a faith unto repentence and salvation.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Dear PJ, thanks for your in-depth response about I-monk and his post-evangelical journey: "I long ago gave up trying to guess how the iMonk would answer any question. It's my impression that he tends to backpeddle when criticism of his various worldview experiments hit too close to home, and (let's be clear, here:) that's prolly a good thing. Nevertheless, you've got to weigh the fact that what he's best-known for (and seems most proud of) are angst-filled "confessional" pieces where he recounts his serial worldview shifts as he abandons things he would once have deemed certain and/or essential truths, while embracing newer, more fashionable ideas."

Interestingly, the I-monk wrote the following today on his blog: "Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement this week noting the continuing conversation between Roman Catholics and the Baptist World Alliance. It’s a good statement, and as a Baptist and a post-evangelical (if you want to know what I mean by that, ask Phil Johnson) I thought it laid down some very good lines worth noting in my own journey of clarification and awareness."

ddd said...

Drew,

your main problem is firstly your hatred of logical thinking (misology), and secondly your refusal to heed the sole authority of the Scripture in reforming your beliefs. For the first, how can you say that you believe in the 5 points of Calvinism and yet you find no problems with McLaren's redefinition of the Gospel? Shouldn't you know that the law of non-contradiction holds true everywhere?

pastorbrianculver said...

excessive confidence

that sure sounds much like the mormon church! They make such bold statements as: I KNOW THE CHURCH IS TRUE AND I KNOW JOSEPH SMITH WAS A TRUE PROPHET OF GOD.

As for the Christian, we do have confidence because of God's promises and what Jesus did on the cross for each one of us. Thank you for your post

Dan Paden said...

Just a few brief thoughts, sparked by a few sentences in the foregoing:

...even those of us who have read McLaren are repeatedly told to read him and we'll see the light. WE HAVE READ HIM, and, sadly, there is no light there to see.

Yep, that's been my experience. I've read and reviewed three of the man's books and find them positively goofy. The few responses I've gotten don't acknowledge a thing in the world that might be wrong with the books, but either attempted to direct me in the proper method of reviewing a Brian McLaren book or suggested that I read a different book than everyone else did.

I've long since come to the conclusion that many of the people who like Mr. McLaren's books so much are reading them more for a feeling his writings give them than in an attempt to understand exactly what is being said. It has often seemed to me that positive reviewers and enthusiastic readers of these books have completely missed their nihilistic and hostile elements.

...the Secret Message of Jesus has a horrible, overly provocative title, and its not about what you think it means. McLaren does not pretend to discover "new, secret knowledge, or anything like that."

Oh, I'll grant you readily enough that he admitted that--at the time--he didn't know what the Secret Message was. At the time I reviewed it, I noted that it was a particularly cheeky maneuver to write a book with that title and sell it to tens of thousands of people and not actually know the message.

In the long run, it hardly matters, as in his latest book, Mr. McLaren seems to have pretty much settled on what the Secret Message is--he notes that the two books can be read in any order and should be considered as a unit--and it seems to be "Orthodox Christians are wrong, greedy, arrogant, and unloving. Western civilization is destroying the planet. Repent and save the whales."

The heart of McLaren's beliefs is not biblical orthodoxy but postmodern Marxism.

Let's not leave out radical environmentalism (as opposed to sensible conservationism). I really do think that Mr. McLaren has a genuine concern for the poor and downtrodden, and for the state of the planet. His errors tend to be, in my opinion, largely the result of allowing demonstrably failed solutions to poverty and environmental destruction to guide his thinking, which leads to inevitable clashes with certain Biblical texts, which are then said to be either classically misinterpreted or their meaning unknowable by flawed human beings. In other words--to return to the point of Phil's post--his certainty about redistributionist economics and radical environmentalism drives his worldview and forces him to doubt the knowability of truth from Scripture, at least where it conflicts with what he wishes to believe.

centuri0n said...

Wow. I forgot GTY was at Disney on Friday.

I wonder if Phil saw anything, um, unusual at Disney ...

... Freddy ... ?

Drew said...

In the last few comments, It has been alleged that I am being too precise, and not precise enough.

It's also been said that I hate logic.

I'd comment on how much that makes sense, but that would only make me angry!

Listen, I'm not saying that we can't know anything enough to act on it, or to trust it--just that we see, as Paul said, "as through a glass, darkly."

When everything comes to light, very few of us should expect to say "See, I told you so." Most (all?) of us will be quite surprised.

Everyone keeps saying that I am contradicting myself, but nobody is saying how.

donsands said...

"Paul said, "as through a glass, darkly."

Paul also said, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." 1 Tim. 1:15

&

"For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day." 2 Tim. 1:12

Drew said...

yup. All three are true.

Am I breaking the law of non-contradiction?

Mike Riccardi said...

If all three are true, then the fact that we see darkly as through a glass does not preclude our ability of knowing things certainly, confidently, with no need for doubt.

Sled Dog said...

As far as terms go, I am not drawn to very much that comes from present-day emergent, but I do like the term post-evangelical. Evangelicalism has over the decades collected a lot of strange debris that I really don't care much for. Rather than re-invent doctrine and ecclesiology, I'm for returning to the simplicty of Acts 2:42-47, and immersing ourselves in the whole counsel of Scripture. My fear is that evangelicalism has turned the concept of church into a self-feeding monster.

SolaMeanie said...

This wonderful thread yet again illustrates something better than Picasso, Salvador Dali or Bill Mauldin could ever hope to do themselves. It illustrates just why so many of us find trying to reason with an Emergent-type mindset frustrating to the point of a cerebral thrombosis.

It is either because they genuinely can't grasp what you're saying, or they're being obtuse on purpose just to irritate the hoarfrost out of you. It gives you a whole new perspective on the Bible's statement about the "god of this world" blinding peoples' minds.

I would encourage our Emergent friends -- that is if they can read a plain English sentence without running it through Derridian filters -- to examine what Scripture has to say about those who doubt God or His Word. It isn't pleasant.

Of course, there isn't anything written in Scripture that they can't explain away or redefine after ingesting a few peyote buttons and listening to Jefferson Airplane for a while.

Jon Nunley said...

"Doubt your Doubts and believe your beliefs."--Switchfoot

polycarp said...

Rather than expressing more of my personal thoughts on this matter, or upon this silly McLaren fellow, I think the timeless insight and wisdom of Spurgeon needs to enter this conversation:

"When a Christian man constantly acts like a worldly man, can it be possible that he is acting rightly? When the two actions are precisely the same, and you discern no difference, is there not grave cause to suspect that there is no difference? for by the fruit must you know the tree, and if two trees bear precisely the same fruit, is there not cause to suspect that they are the same sort of trees?"

"Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel, carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all"

"Men go after novel and false doctrines because they do not really know the truth; for
if the truth had gotten into them and filled them, they would not have room for these
day-dreams"

"It has been well remarked by a great writer, that he never knew a man who held any great theological error, who did not also hold a doctrine which diminished the
depravity of man"

"Every age produces a new crop of heretics and infidels. Just as the current of the times may run, so doth the stream of infidelity change its direction"

"If you meet with a system of theology which magnifies man, flee from it as far as you
can"

"If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him, and he who has the smile of the ungodly must look for the frown of God"

"Perhaps I ought to add that there has grown up out of the existence of unconverted men and the prevalence of sin in them certain customs, fashions, maxims, rules,
modes, manners, forces, all of which go to make up what is called “the world,” and there are also certain principles, desires, lusts, governments and powers which also make up a part of the evil thing called “the world.” Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of
this world.” James speaks of keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world.” John says, “the world passeth away and the lust thereof;” and Paul says, “Be not
conformed to this world, but be ye transformed”"

"The very persons who talk most about being liberal in their views are generally the greatest persecutors. If I must have a
religious enemy, let me have a professed and avowed bigot, but not one of your “free thinkers” or “broad churchmen” as they are called, for there is nobody who can hate as they do; and the lovers of liberal-mindedness who have no creed at all think it to
be their special duty to be peculiarly contemptuous to those who have some degree of principle, and cannot twist and turn exactly as they can"

polycarp said...

TO ALL:

Sorry for the dead link to the Krauthammer article (In Defense of Certainty). Just do a Google search with the article title. Worth reading!!!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I am uncertain whether there is a strained relationship between PJ and the I-monk, but it would seem so. I just read the following on I-monk's blog this morning:

Anyone know the proper use of the word “smarmy” when applied to Christian bloggers?

And just to clarify a couple of things: 1) Certain well known bloggers who won’t stop using the term post-evangelical have- seriously- no idea what a post-evangelical is or how most of us use the label. Agreeing to certain bloggers’ assumed authority to define the terms used in all discussions is not a universal moral obligation. If it helps keep things simple for some of you, have at it.

Note this comment that perfectly represents what I mean.

As far as terms go, I am not drawn to very much that comes from present-day emergent, but I do like the term post-evangelical. Evangelicalism has over the decades collected a lot of strange debris that I really don’t care much for. Rather than re-invent doctrine and ecclesiology, I’m for returning to the simplicty of Acts 2:42-47, and immersing ourselves in the whole counsel of Scripture. My fear is that evangelicalism has turned the concept of church into a self-feeding monster.

2) Most of us who get thrown in by such bloggers into the Brian Mclaren fan club are not Mclaren followers, and many of us have little, if any, appreciation for Mclaren. Using Mclaren as the straw man for everyone who isn’t a “real Calvinist’ (RC?) is just another bullying ploy.

When a TR/RC uses the term evangelical as a NORM that shouldn’t be deconstructed, I’m amazed.


I wonder why I-monk doesn't reference Phil Johnson and TeamPyro directly? Unless he he thinks it's irresponsible of him to provide further visibility to TeamPyro.

ddd said...

Drew,

when you can say on one hand that you are certain of the 5 points of Calvinism, and then deny in the next breath that you can be certain of any truth, why is that not a violation of the law of non-contradiction?

Michael Spencer said...

I don't know who "truth unites" is but he's determined to start a blogwar on this thread. He's not speaking for me and he's quoting things that are not part of this discussion completely out of context.

That Phil and I use the term post-evangelical differently isn't news.

"Truth...": Get out of my business and stop posting as if I have something say over here. I don't. Except to you.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Michael Spencer,

I don't appreciate you impugning me and my character with your false accusation that I'm determined to start a "blog war" on this thread.

You owe me an apology for that false accusation.

I just thought it odd that you quoted a commenter (Sled Dog) from this blog without giving citation to Sled Dog and to Team Pyro.

That is OUT OF CONTEXT.

And thus you owe a SECOND apology for that.

Get off your self-righteous high horse.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Michael Spencer,

Let's look again at what you wrote:

And just to clarify a couple of things: 1) Certain well known bloggers who won’t stop using the term post-evangelical have- seriously- no idea what a post-evangelical is or how most of us use the label. Agreeing to certain bloggers’ assumed authority to define the terms used in all discussions is not a universal moral obligation. If it helps keep things simple for some of you, have at it.

If anything, it's YOU who are making the inflammatory remarks.

Have the decency to own up to it and take responsibility for your own actions and words.

Phil Johnson said...

Everybody be nice, now.

"Post-evangelical" is not a precise term with a set definition. I first noticed it in Dave Tomlinson's book The Post-Evangelical in the mid-90s. Tomlinson's book was picked up by Zondervan in 2003 and added to their EmergentYS line, so you might say Tomlinson's book was the first Emergent work I ever read. He used the term as a kind of broad label for any postmodernist who identifies with the evangelical movement and its prodigious fringe.

iMonk uses the term in his own idiosyncratic way, which he has defined more or less precisely here.

There are similarities between Tomlinson's post-evangelicals and the iMonk, but they aren't exactly the same. On the one hand, I suppose if Tomlinson read iMonk, he'd prolly say iMonk fits his category perfectly. On the other hand, if iMonk read Tomlinson, he'd no doubt disagree with some of Tomlinson's key ideas.

In either case, my original reference to "post-evangelicals" was not any kind of deliberate reference to the iMonk, if that's what TUaD is seeking to discover. He was the furthest thing from my mind when I wrote this post. (Though in retrospect, some of what I said in it fits him like a glove.)

Another thing: I've never thought of my relationship with iMonk as "strained." We are in total agreement that the evangelical movement is irremediably dysfunctional. But we disagree about what should be done about it. iMonk thinks it's time to abandon the notion of evangelicalism altogether and hackey-sack a whole lot of ideas around a virtual tavern and see how many orthodoxies we can deconstruct in the process. I've suggested faithful people in the so-called evangelical movement need to recover their commitment to historic evangelical principles (starting with the authority and reliability of God's Word), quit reciting the mantra "peace, peace" when there is no peace; put on the whole armor of God; and wage ideological war against the false assumption that the truth of God's Word is now negotiable just because we live in postmodern times.

So you might say iMonk is a post-evangelical, but I'm a retro-gelical. Whatever.

Anyway, iMonk and I have always had that disagreement. It pretty much defines the only "relationship" we have ever had. I'm not sure "strained" is the right word.

Post-ecumenical, perhaps, would be a more fitting label.

So here's the deal: let's leave iMonk out of this thread henceforth, unless he wants to come back and be part of it personally.

Drew said...

ddd, I never said "certain." It's easy to make someone contradict themselves when you put words in their mouth.

wenxian said...

Hello Drew,

Maybe its good to consider that no matter how many interpretations there may be for passages in the bible, in the end, when the dark glasses are removed, there can only be one true context, one true interpretation and the rest wrong.

So a few passages in the bible are deliberately difficult to assess e.g. Revelations because well, if it was easy to figure that out, we would all know the future. But even so, we know quite a lot already e.g. Jesus is coming back, the dead will arise, there will be a new jerusalem etc etc etc. And these things we can be certain to a great degree because its obvious in plain sight.

But many of the parts of the bible are plainly instructional. Its like reading an instruction manual if you will. When it tells you "no women can have authority over men [in a church]", well we take it at face value. When the bible tells us that murder is wrong it is wrong. There is no alterative interpretations of 'sin' nor 'murder', unless you are of another planet.

While we have to accept the fact the Mclaren does doubt many of the core reformed doctrines of the bible, it does not mean his opinion is as weighty as current orthodox doctrines.

Why?

Because his arguement (1)Does not have biblical support, so he has to resort to non extra-biblical philosophies to undermine the bible's arguements (2) His reasoning is flawed in many portions (i think you have enough examples)

So in a formal debate, if Mclaren were to present his point of view vs the points of view in the orthodox reformed churches, he would lose both in terms of weight of evidence, as well as in his logic.

This is the reason (i think) why Mclaren's opinions should never be considered as equal to orthodoxy.

[an analogy] If a madman comes in and goes around raving that you are not a human being but an animal, does his opinion have equal weight compared to what you would present in your defence? Obviously not. It is difficult to disagree with established orthodoxy, because frankly speaking, Mclaren's arguements are not even new.

So Mclaren, pardon me, is the madman in this analogy.

I do not agree you hate logic, as some people have mistakenly said. If you hated logic, you would not be here using [biblical] logic to argue your way here, which is far more commendable than the arrogant babberings of Mclaren.

I insist to see that you are simply a person wanting to find out the truth that is both logical and convincing. Good job.

Drew said...

wenxian. Thanks for the nice reply.

Sadly, my life will get in the way of me posting to much today. But here's a few thoughts:

a. The Bible, as I see it and read it, is much more than an instruction manual. If it were an instruction manual, it would be a pretty lousy one (so many stories! Poetry? For accounts of the Gospel (and they don't harmonize perfectly!? Which one should I follow?!)

b. As you may have guessed, it's not so clear to me either. Paul told Timothy not to let women preach, but told the Galatians that in Christ there is niether male nor female. He also let women prophesy. (not trying to start a discussion on gender roles, just showing that its not as clear and clean as you imply it is.)

c. You speak of what's "established orthodoxy," but sometimes "what is established" and "what is orthodox" are different.

McLaren is being VERY biblical in asking what the Kingdom of God is and hwo Jesus proclaimed it. Inasmuch as many churches ignore this key teaching of Christ, they stick with what is "established" (at least in recent history), but ignore what is orthodox (using a longer scope of history).

He has rejected an enlightenment model of interpretation, which is different than what is established, but Luther and Calvin and the lot of them broke with what was established, too. They were in a whole new world with the printing press--McLaren (and our) new world is shaped by Web 2.0, and interactions like this.

Do I want to lose orthodoxy? Absolutely not. I want the church to be wholly and truly rooted in Christ, and truth. But recent history(by which I mean the past 300 or so years) has (in my opinion) blinded us in some ways, and we need to consider just how orthodox the "established orthodoxy" is.

PuritanReformed said...

Drew,

so are you certain of your beliefs in the 5 points of Calvinistm? Yes or no? From your latest reply, the answer seems to be no. Therefore, your statement "Of the 5 points of Calvinism, I hold them all." is false, unless by "hold" you mean "I think that they are correct, but I may not be correct". If so, then may I suggest that you do not use the phrase "I hold", because you do not truly hold them. If you cannot say that you know anything for certain, then you do not truly believe in anything at all.

And if you don't truly believe in anything, then please do not say that you believe in such and such. That would be a false statement, and you are bearing false witness against yourself anytime you state that you belive in anything (because you actually don't believe in it).

To be logically consistent, you should also be uncertain about your uncertainty, and therefore you should not be telling people about your certainty and uncertainty over anything, because you are uncertain over that as well. And therefore, by even commenting you are not being consistent with your position, for how can you be certain or uncertain about the truth/falsehood/certainty/uncertainty ad infinitum ad nauseum of what you are writing?

Mike Riccardi said...

McLaren is being VERY biblical in asking what the Kingdom of God is and how Jesus proclaimed it.

I suppose Satan was being biblical -- and even theological (!) -- in asking, "Indeed, hath God said..." by virtue simply of the fact that he was talking about something God might have said.

If all McLaren (and other Emerging folks) was doing was asking -- and if he (you) was genuinely asking -- then he'd (you'd) accept an answer when it's given. It's his (your) scorn of all the answers he's (you've) had and he's (you've) gotten that demonstrates that he's (you're) not interested in answering the question, just asking it over and over again.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.

stratagem said...

I wish Bible-believing Christians would stop being so uncertain themselves, and start referring to "doubt" by its Biblical name, "unbelief."

Doubting Thomas: A man before his time. Could have made a fortune in selling Emerg*** books.

Drew said...

Puritan: I guess I'm not allowed to talk then.

To all others: I would like to answer your challenges, but see puritan's comment.

If you cannot say that you know anything for certain, then you do not truly believe in anything at all.

Should I accept this position, I would quickly descend into insanity and immoral living. No doubt many of you probably already think that I have.

But I have no idea why I would have to believe such a ridiculous statement.

Mike Riccardi said...

You should believe such a ridiculous statement because all true belief and true faith comes from truly knowing something.

stratagem said...

I appreciate McLaren's teaching, in that he demonstrates how easy it is to fool and confuse people these days, and how pervasive naivete and gullibility are in our modern culture.

When I was a kid, "The Emperor's New Clothes" was supposed to be a ridiculous story: Here's a guy who is buck naked, and yet everyone's afraid to acknowledge what their eyes are plainly telling them. Now, in real life, here comes McLaren, with his plain denials of basic Christian doctrine, and yet there are loads of people out there who insist he is still somehow representing a form of Christian belief.

It is sad to see what our modern thinking has become.

SolaMeanie said...

Drew,

What is so unclear about it? Paul's "neither male nor female" had to do with position before Christ in terms of salvation, not roles within the church. You don't have to be an MIT grad to see it, either.

I think you're creating complications where there aren't any, which itself is an Emergent hallmark. Over at Dr. Gleason's blog, there is a classic example in the meta of an Emergent advocate taking Bible verses willy-nilly and throwing them out in blunderbuss fashion, without any concern for context or applicability. This guy seems to have the idea, "Hey, the more verses I throw up in scattershot fashion, maybe something will stick in the way I want it to."

If Emergent friendlies would abandon their love of pettifogging and use the time tested pattern of "letting Scripture interpret Scripture," you would be astounded at just how clear things become.

Drew said...

actually, it has been taking the whole counsel of scripture that has led to me taking different conclusions.

donsands said...

Unless one is born again he can't even see the spiritual kingdom of God. John 3:3

But if he is born again, even a newly born Christian has "the mind of Christ". 1Cor.2:16
But the carnal, and natural man only has his own wisdom and logic, and cannot know the pure and simple things which must be "spiritually discerned". 1 Cor 2:14

Strong Tower said...

You got a problem Drew-

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."

Instead of leading you to singlemindedness about Scripture, your studies are leading you to confusion, it should not be that way: "This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him...Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him...A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure...Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him...The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse....

I extend this because, Drew, the word of God is a lamp for our feet, and a light showing us the path straight ahead, a voice crying in the wilderness, "make straight and level paths for your feet." It is not fractured and unsure, but is called the light, a plum line, the sharpest two-edged flaming sword, dividing exactly, the fuller's soap, a purifying fire. It is his Name, and a strong tower, in which we can take refuge; we would not flee to it if we could not trust in it. It is not unsure, but it is the rock, the solid foundation, upon which we can stand, immovable.

I would ask this, who are you submitted to for discipleship? And then let me suggest this, that you drop your presupposition that the word of God is too difficult to understand, and adopt the presupposition that the word is intended by God for our understanding. I would also suggest that you listen to these men here. Each is a scholar in his own right and men of God given for your instruction. It may take humility, to submit yourself. I am not asking that you swallow them, but that you avail yourself of the Holy Spirit working through what they teach. Have you listened to Phil's sermons? If not you are missing out on a great blessing. Ask them, and then go to the sources they give you. They will, if you ask, show you others that can help you understand that God is not playing games with your mind. He, above all thing is for you, and wants you to know him in Truth.

SEALCON said...

Phil:
Very good post.

I agree with your criticisms that the emergent church has not honored the authority of God's Word which has left them certain about their uncertainty. But at the same time I found it odd that you did not include in your article any Scripture when trying to correct some of their issues?

If you by example could instruct people in God's Word about what you write here on the emergent church, it could be a good ministry when myself and others are learning to speak with some who are blinded by emergent beliefs.

Thank you and I hope my comment wasn't too off topic.

With mercy,
Connie

wenxian said...

Hello Drew,

For point 1): I meant that the tone was intructional. Sry for the misunderstanding. Well, having stories and etc does not mean that it can't be instructional! Just look at Leviticus and Deut.!

[they don't harmonize perfectly!?]

They don't? Well if its true then you can throw the bible out of the window. The christian faith as well. Then as Paul said, we ought to be pitied if our faith was false.

It does harmonise.

Hmm established orthodox is actually kind of a repetition. The word orthodox already assumes that it is established as well. Am i correct? How can a thing be orthodox without being established?

To all concerned,

I think it would be most unwise to assume that Drew must be

-unceretain about his uncertainty

He is uncertain, in some parts, and certain in others i presume? I believe this is evident from the exchange. he sees a certain degree of soundness from the 5 points of calvin but he needs more information.

Instead of encouraging him to learn further, what you all are effectively trying to do is to tell him to back off from calling himself someone who sees the 5 points as something that is godly and good, but because of the imperfection of human knowledge, he would want to find out more before committing himself. Perhaps the term 'hold' was wrongly used, but who does not mispell or misuse a word?

We do not possess perfect knowledge. And we cannot assume that Drew is not a young believer. He might be one who is trying to decide [between emergents amd the reformed] and by your comments, intead of telling the truth, you might drive him away by attacking his character first. Is it wise?

Are christians supposed to tell the truth or attack one's character or both? At worst, drew is confused and thus unsure, thats all. This does NOT warrant such a strong rebuke. Save it for Mclaren.

I agree with strongtower's suggestions and i urge you, Drew, to find out more. While we by no means can compel to you to believe, i urge you to see the soundness of reformed teachings, the soundness of the reformed wirt and by all means, test it with Scripture as much as you can. You are more than welcome to do so.

In fact, testing is not only encouraged but mandatory -ref the 3books (not gospel) of John.

Steve Lamm said...

WENXIAN,

According to his own profile, Drew is neither a novice in the faith nor theologically ignorant. In fact, he is a pastor! Drew, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Therefore, he ought to be able to defend himself well enough, and he should expect vigorous, debate if he comments on this blog since we are dealing with ultimate truth here.

In fact, as a pastor myself, I expect a higher degree of accountablility for my theological views in light of the warning in James 3:1 - "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness."

Strong Tower said...

Steve Lamm-

Pastor or no, he is confused, and confused to the point that it puts in doubt his understanding of his own salvation. He really needs help.

From what he has said, I do not think that he really understand the danger that he places himself in according to your excellent Scriptural warning and myriads of others that might be quoted.

wenxian said...

Steve,

He is a pastor? Interesting. Yet i agree with strongtower that he needs help.

So what if he is a pastor? Before the Lord all men are equal. If he desires help [i.e. a knowing of the truth], then help we shall give without discrimination. Unless you think drew is totally condemned beyond help.

Drew said...

Yes, I am a pastor.

Yes, I am being discipled by several godly people.

I am not one tossed by doubt. In fact, I hold many convictions strongly.

My point, on this post, was and is, that any epistemology is flawed by sin, and therefore, while we can know (because I believe, despite what has been said for me, that God wants to be known), we only know in part.

I do (as you assert) need help, although we probably disagree on the help that I need.

I do believe that a pastor is held to a higher standard, and that scares me to death. That verse was preached at my ordination, and I do seek to be a faithful shepherd.

donsands said...

"and that scares me to death."

Scared is a good thing. More pastors need some genuine holy fear when speaking/proclaiming/teaching God's holy truth.
And even greater than this fear, would be a love for Christ Himself. If we love Him,then we will obey Him. John 14:23
And knowing His love for us in our calling, especially a pastor, is essential as well.

Drew said...

And knowing His love for us in our calling, especially a pastor, is essential as well.

Absolutely. And I do know that. This is relational knowledge, not propositional knowledge.

Strong Tower said...

Drew-

That is the problem, you are creating a category that does not exist in Scripture. Relational knowledge is propositional knowledge in Christ. There is no difference between out relationship and our knowledge. Even a baby has true propositional knowledge in realtionship, even if they are not able to formulate or articulate the proposition. The knowledge exist outside of us and is in Christ. Paul said it like this, I know him in whom I have believed. We cannot have a relationship with that which we do not know. Faith is the substance, the hupostasis of our hope. To restate it, our faith is our hope. They are one and the same. Jesus is the Word, both relationship and doctrine, or to put it another way, the knowledge of the Holy One is our Salvation. That, is Christianity.

Drew said...

Thank you for giving me credit for creating this category, but I didn't make it. Really. You can deny it if you want, and it certainly doesn't exist in scripture using those words, but (for a guy that is accused of not knowing anything at all, this may seem weird) it seems pretty obvious to me.

Strong Tower said...

Drew-

I didn't accuse you of not knowing anything. You have claimed for yourself, both the ability to know, and the inability to not know the same things at the same time.

I know that it seems obvious to you that these categories exist. Let me put it like this. Our knowledge is experienced. It is both relational and propositional. As I tried to explain, Jesus is both. We do not have a knowledge that is within us that is not in Christ. They are one: John 17. Our knowledge is in Christ, in us, who is in the Father, and we in them, they in us.

So, when I say that you have created a category of knowledge that does not obtain in Scripture, it is true. You have imported a rationalistic philosophy into the Word of God. I know that is hard for you to understand. At first we all view Christ after the flesh. We we do so no longer. Our understand and our knowledge is found within Scripture. It is external to us, in Christ, in us.

PuritanReformed said...

Drew,

>Should I accept this position, I would quickly descend into insanity and immoral living.

That you do not do so indicates your inconsistency. On the one hand, you refuse to be certain about anything, yet you live as if you are certain about at least some things. So why are you living contrary to what you are teaching? And please do not "create" the category of "relational knowledge". Scripture knows of no such dichotomy between belief in propsitional truth and experiencing truth in a relation with our Lord Jesus Christ, as strong tower has said. Such a false dichotomy either indicates rationalism or experiential anti-intellectualism. I guess you tend to the latter since you love the Emerging Church Moment.

KBC said...

I am not certain about your denigration of uncertainty because I have failed to certainly see a certain definition of what you mean by certainty.