Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Even More Reformed!

The comments of Anthony here and others at the Emergent blog are not surprising. I've spent a lot of time considering why the conservative Reformed crowd is so concerned about Emergent thinking and theology. I have all sorts of ideas why, but I don't think I'm willing to state them publicly until I think them through some more.

But it's clear that other Reformed folks are friendly toward Emergent. There's the Calvin College crowd (like Jamie Smith), the Kuyperians (like Vince Bacote (see also this)), and even the Barthian-Hauerwasians (like the Ecclesia Project (Geoff Holsclaws is an example). I'm cautioned a lot by these folks not to allow the most conservative forces to define Reformed thought. (But it's interesting to note that in this month's Christianity Today cover article on young people who are joining the Reformed movement(s), there was nary a word about Karl Barth or Calvin College or the PC(USA). The entire article was about the right wing of the Reformed movement.)

The irony may be that I am pretty Reformed in my understanding of God. For instance, I believe that the agency of God is in no way contingent upon the agency of humans. That is, God freely acts however God chooses, regardless of human activity. God may choose to respond to human activity (like prayer), but it is not incumbent upon God to do so. That sounds Reformed to me!

What I find especially disheartening is the clear misrepresentations of Emergent Village that come from the conservative Reformed circles. Those guys say that we don't care about doctrine (untrue), that politics is more important to us than theology (untrue), that we water down the Bible (untrue), etc. I could go on and on. I do wonder about these criticisms, because I just don't hear these sentiments within Emergent. And, I am quite sure that most of these critics have never read a word that I've written.

My challenge to the other Reformed folks out there is to start speaking out. For instance, why doesn't Jamie or Geoff or someone else write a blog post laying out the entire landscape of Reformed thought as it's currently playing out in the American church?


Blogger Anthony J Stiff said...

I'm not sure why you posted my name at the top of your blog "Even More Reformed" but what I was trying to convey to you was sympathy, I think these guys should go out to coffee with you and after that possibly have you speak at it. (As the student leader of the Westminster Conference I made sure we had good representatives from the emerging church conversation - McKnight and Franke). Particularly because you do label yourself 'Reformed'. And my request for your opinion on the series I'm writing was a genuine one. Your much more involved in the conversation than I and I could benefit from your thoughts.

When I said in my last post that you must understand why the Emergent Village is getting treated the way they are it was not meant to endorse that treatment rather it was because I thought you understood their (DG ministries) concerns where coming from their tradition, a tradition the EV is not cheifly working from. If you're in the same broader tradition (inclusive to more than them) as these guys who you've labeled the conservative Reformed group then the onus to demonstrat that is on you. And I think the more you work that out and convey that to the 'conservative Reformed community' the better the EV relations will be with them. As a leader in EV and someone self-labled Reformed I think you're particularly called to this. Ecumenical mission takes work as I know you have experienced, even the humbling one of loving your 'enemies' who happen to be brothers. Continue to labor in that Tony...please.

My hope is coffee and conversation for you with these guys. If they won't have it with you then please, the next time you're in Princeton email or blog to me and I'll drive over for coffee. And if you're in town during October 26-28th come to our conference and join some of the dissucions in our breakouts...or perhaps lead one.

7:42 PM  
Blogger  said...

The AWFUL fact is, 0=Totality=0 .

11:18 PM  
Blogger tony said...


YES! What I meant to convey was that your *encouragement* was not suprising. Neither was Jamie Smith's over at the EV blog. I know that the attackers do not represent all of Reformed-land. I very much appreciate your openness to conversation and your invitations to McKnight (non-Reformed) and Franke (Reformed) to your conference.

Like you, I'm working hard to build bridges. I'm NOT trying to call people out on my blog, I don't go after any individual's personal theology. I'm inviting people out for coffee and hoping that they'll say yes. (So far, one has said no and another has said probably not.)

When I last visited the Philly cohort, there were a couple folks from Westminster there, and they were great. I'd love to be at your conference -- if not this year, maybe in the future.

Thanks, Anthony.

3:46 AM  
Blogger geoffrey holsclaw said...

whoever wants to join the hauerwasian mafia, shoot me an email...

but concerning conservative Reformed theology, especially in its theonomous incarnations, the basic issue that I have seen is between those who believe in Christendom and those who don't.

In recent exchanges around Jamie's book, he gets most criticized by those who still seek to form a Christian nation. see douglas wilson as an example: http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=2645.

They say they are most upset about "post-propositional, post-dogmatic, post-authoritative," but the 'post-' they are most fearful of is post-Christendom, which is curiously absent. Their own political orientation is overlooked while epistemological issues are front and center.

of course being the 'emergent type' that I am, formed by the hermeneutics of suspicion, it is always what is left out which is most important.

anyway, those are my suspicions.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Sivin Kit said...

Good to see you blogging more regularly on your personal blog! Hey where does all this "reformed" talk leave the Lutherans, or Malaysians like me? :-)

11:09 AM  
Blogger Bob Robinson said...


Thanks for this post!

When I read the CT story, I was both encouraged and disheartened. I was encouraged because, as someone who is "Reformed," I'd love to see young people embrace this theology. I was disheartened though because the only form of "Reformed" talked about was the Piper/Dever/Carson kind.

When you and I met in Pittsburgh over a beer to discuss how the CCO and Emergent might be able to cooperate, I felt that we left the meeting encouraged. As an organization with Kuyperian foundations, we are now very “emerging.” We embrace the “Semper Reformata” slogan that the hard-line Reformed camp seems to forget.

I’m so glad that Emergent has allowed the Reformed voice into the conversation and has not, out of frustration with those Reformed critics, disregarded all of us as “one of those.” As Vince Bacote wrote, I think there is a neo-Kuyperian assist to the Emerging Church; I also think there is an Emerging Church assist to the Kuyperian church.

6:04 AM  
Blogger Bob Robinson said...


I'm going to take you up on your challenge. watch for it over at Vanguard Church.

6:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came to your blog from a link on Chris Linebarger's (http://www.passivemomentum.net/blog/).

I have been weary of using the term "Emergent" because it seems to be contradicting to the word "Reformed". Something that emerges is coming into existence, which doesn't seem to be what the Reformers were trying to do. They were trying to reclaim and recover the true Church - they were looking purification not a new element.

Perhaps I am not familiar enough with you or your writings to properly comment, I hope I am not out of place.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Pilgrim said...

Just a typo correction - weary is to be "wary".

And to give a bit of introduction, I am a Reformed Anglican sistered with the Nigerian Anglican Church (though I was raised hyper-evangelical and am closely related to the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals). I am a foreign missionary to the poor and needy, which doesn't leave much time for meaty theological discussion. So, I look forward to reading your posts.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Reason the Calvin and Kuiper crowds were not mention is becasue most of the mentions groups are not denominational reformed but rather Baptist. They have a Reformed world view and soteriology but not a denomination...

I would disagree with calling John Piper right wing but thats just me. He is a Baptist, so is Dever and as one who lives in the home City of both Calvin and Kuiper I can safely say that these names are not at the top of the CRC and RCA reading list.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Bob Robinson said...


I've responded to your challenge over at Vanguard Church!

3:26 PM  

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