Monday, October 16, 2006

A Battle for the Heart of "Reformed"

It seems to me that there's a fight going on right now over exactly what it means to be "Reformed." Now, I'm generally Reformed, but in a kind of post-Barthian, Moltmannian way. The term means little to me, and I don't regard Calvin, Westminster, or Dordt too highly. So, I really don't have a dog in that fight.

But for those of you who do, I'd say, "Wake up!" I talk to a lot of moderate Reformed folks, and they generally poo-poo the "Reformed Resurgence" of Piper, Driscoll, et al. They consider the conservatives to be modern-day fundamentalists, to be ignored like all other fundamentalists. But I say to all Reformed Moderates, watch out! The conservatives are building a movement, and they're happy to be ignored.

Meanwhile, Christianity Today is planting it's flag in ground on the same territory as the conservatives. For three issues in a row, they've shown their true colors: 1) a cover story on the preeminence of the penal substitution, 2) a cover story on the conservative Reformed movement (an article which has been described to me as "uncritical" and "polemical"), and 3) a 50th anniversary issue that leaned heavily on Reformed experts -- at the expense of other voices -- to predict the future of evangelicalism.

Like I say, I'm really watching this all from the sidelines (except when Emergent gets dragged into the fray). But I will say this: if the moderates ignore the conservatives, the conservatives will win.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I understand why you call Piper and Driscoll "fundamentalists". I could be wrong, but my understanding of "fundamentalists" is that they held/hold onto a propositional doctrine tightly and didn't/don't engage the culture. It seems though that Piper and Driscoll, and others associated with them, engage the culture. So I wouldn't call them
"fundamentalists" in that sense...but they do hold on to propositional doctrine tightly.

From my observiation [which is limited] it looks like Emergent is coming from the opposite direction. It looks like Piper and those folks are starting w/ doctrine and bearing fruit of engagement...while Emergent folks are starting with engagement and are saying that the engagement is their doctrine [or something like that]...and in the process their doctrine is defined by experience.

Tony, I just don't understand why some of the more Emergent folks don't value propositional doctrine, as opposed to experiental doctrine, more than they do? They acheive the same thing [in terms of engagement], but doctrinally it seems that the Emergent's foundation capitulates what the true Christian foundation is built upon...propositional doctrine. In some ways it's kind of like the modern [or post-modern] ecumenical movement, right?

I misunderstand things a lot, so if you can help me understand more that would be great. Thanks!

In Christ

8:50 AM  
Blogger Vitamin Z said...

What do you mean by "Moderately Reformed"?

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Ben P. said...

Tony, I think your criticism of Christianity Today is a little unfair. While they may "lean" towards the Reformed group, I also noticed they interviewed Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, Donald Miller, Jim Wallis, among others in their article about the future of evangelical Christianity. I've also read several articles which have at least given the Emergent voice a place to be heard. I know they may not be the best friend of Emergent, but I would give them some credit for at least continuing to give Emergent a place in their world. I wish Reformed folks wouldn't just bash Emergent folks and I wish the Emergent folks wouldn't just bash the Reformed folks. I wish each party would listen to each other seriously and without malice.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

Hi Tony,

Can you help me understand a couple things?

Help me understand who the "emergent conversation" is open to. Is it open to someone like me, who holds tightly to beliefs like the inerrancy of Scripture and the centrality of the cross (penal subsitutionary atonement I believe is what it's often called - complete with the belief in the existence of a literal hell)? Do I need to relinquish my beliefs in order to be a part of the conversation?

I'm getting the sense that there is a certainty that certainty is unacceptable...

The pieces just aren't fitting together for me. I genuinely ask you to please help me understand.


10:51 AM  
Blogger tony said...

Noah: I didn't call them Fundamentalists. I have a very strict, academic definition of that, and they definitely do not fit. I'm saying that others refer to them as that. It's that kind of marginalization that liberals and moderates do to the conservative position, then they pay for it later.

Vitamin Z: I mean folks who are into Kuyper more than Edwards, Barth more than Dordt.

Ben P: Agreed. Had that issue stood alone, I would have thought that CT was leaning mildly in that direction. But, with the two previous issues in my mind, I was acutely aware that their "survey" was unbalanced.

Nikki: You don't have to give up any of those, but, to be sure, you must hold your "certainties" with humility -- you could be wrong, you know!

P.S., Nikki: The centrality of the Cross by no means equates to the penal substitution! See Moltmann as a contrary position.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Nikki, I think what is helpful in conversation is a common approach to truth. If we each come to the table with our beliefs immovable, then we really have no place to go other than for you to state your point and for me to state mine.

But, if we come to the conversation holding these things loose enough, then perhaps we can go somewhere better together.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response Tony.

Regarding your response to Nikki...

Tony, you might be wrong too, right? Also, by saying that,"the centrality of the Cross by no means equates to the penal substitution," are you saying that penal substitutionary atonement was part of what was accomplished on the cross...but not the entirety of what happened on the cross? I would agree that more than just penal substitution was accomplished on the cross, but you can't possibly say that penal substitution wasn't part of what happened, right? [Isa 53:6, 12; Ro 3:21-26; 2 Cor 5; Galatians 3:13...or even the OT view of what or who the atonement in offerings were for...Also, Hebrews 7-10] If Jesus was the ransom/payment for many, all, etc. [Mark 10:45; 1 Tim 2:6; Rev 5:9] how does that not equate to substitution...and how does propitiation language [Ro 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10] not equate to penal.

I know I seem rigid from where I am coming from, but this is how I plainly read the Bible...but I'm trying to understand where you are coming from.

In Christ

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

Hi guys, thanks for your responses.

Tony - I guess my question is, how certain are you that I need to approach the conversation with humility? You said "you could be wrong, you know!", but that very statement, in and of itself, contains a degree of certainty. If we really are supposed to hold our certainties "loosely", wouldn't it be possible that you could be wrong and that it could be RIGHT to be absolutely certain about something? Do you see what I mean? This is the wall I keep running into with what I've seen in the emergent conversation. (sorry if that was terribly confusing!)

Can I be honest? It seems like it is open and welcoming to anyone except someone who believes in absolute truth the way I do, and that just perplexes me.

Anyway, thanks for your responses.

Oh, and sorry for any confusion caused by my equating "centrality of the cross" with "penal subsitutionary atonement". I was being a lay-person trying to use big words, which I really shouldn't do. :) What I MEANT by both of those things was the belief in Christ's substitutionary death for my sins, and my belief that it is not only the greatest expression of God's love, but the ultimate source of my hope.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Alisha said...

Here's a quote I was discussing with my husband today and it reminded me of the conversation between Nikki and Tony ... any thoughts?

"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert - himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason ... The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn .. There is real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it's practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic... The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether...We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table."

~ G.K. Chesterton 1908

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Sue said...

Tony, I am totally new to this site and your conversation. You described "moderately Reformed as, "folks who are into Kuyper more than Edwards, Barth more than Dordt."
I'm more curious about this, because when I graduated from Dordt, it was "all Kuyper, all the time."
And just to lay my cards on the table, I gained a lot of things I value from Dordt, but I will be the first to recognize its provincialism.

1:17 PM  
Blogger tony said...

Sue, I mean the Synod of Dordt, not Dordt College/Seminary. Actually, it's really the Westminster Confession that guides the conservative crowd.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Chase said...

Tony, you still have not explained what you mean by inspired in the last post. What do you mean by moderate in this post? Also. These are very proposition-like statements you are making. You should be careful. You would not want to hurt any relationships. We know you don't like people to do that.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Ben P. said...

Nikki, I think I am coming to the same place where I think you have come. I have really benefited from the Emergent conversation, as I seek to understand the world today. I was introduced to the "missional" mindset to today's culture through Emergent.

However, to me, the Emergent conversation seems only open to those who hold to a postmodern epistemology. Why else the reaction to those who hold certain doctrines as "true" -- such as "conservative reformed" folk? To me, it seems uncannily similar to the cyclic arguments of "postmodern" secularists who claim it is intolerant to claim that Christianity is the only way -- while that statement itself is an intolerant claim.

Personally, I would like to continue to hear Emergent's perspective, as well as the whole spectrum of theological interpretations of the Bible, but I would still like to reserve the right to judge which interpretations I think are most faithful to the text of the Scriptures, in light of many, many great theologians and communities who have come before us. I also have grown wary of people "cutting" other people out of their circles and in actuality cutting them down because of disagreements -- which I see on both sides. Why can't we hold to "truths" as hills we want to die on (and there have to be such hills or else why even "follow Jesus" -- isn't that a "hill"?), but still practice true hospitality: loving those who disagree with you? Tony, what is your perspective on this "critique" of the Emergent conversation?

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Chase said...

The centrality of the cross is not completely wrapped up in penal substitution Nikki, but penal substitution is a foundational part of the centrality of the cross. Moltmann was wrong.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Danny said...

Tony, an honest question: is there a problem when "the conservatives" win?

2:09 PM  
Blogger I Drive a Dodge Stratus... said...

Danny I think your question deserves a thoughtful response. It leads me to think that if guys like Piper and Driscoll are winning influence maybe there is a reason. Such as they are able to strike a cord between what emeregent does well (missional engagement) and the still hold to strong conservative theology. Sounds like a powerful combo that many have are ready to embrace. This might be worthy of some conversation.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Sue said...

My bad. I'm used to the spelling "Dordt" for the college, "Dort" for the Cannons, short for the city of Dortrecht, where they were composed. Legend has it that Dordt added the extra "d" to keep Nortwestern from spraypainting over the "o" with an "i". (Sorry for the rabbit trail.)

5:05 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

Piper and Driscoll are winning disciples because they are
a. intelligent
b. charismatic

Their stuff is old wine in new wine skins... 5-point Calvinism has been around for how long?

6:57 PM  
Blogger I Drive a Dodge Stratus... said...

Chris your answer is to simplistic and really dismisses what is going on in a n "unconversational" way. Of course calvinism is not a new theology, but the impact it is having is. And if the case is being made that a theology must be new to be relevant, and noteworthy than we better throw out orthodoxy because last time I checked it to is pretty old.

My point is that you are not going to find any examples within the last 100 years of of reformed theology, that is also missionally minded and truly making headways in to liberal secular cultures. I think it would be to simplistic also to just dismiss this as a Piper/Driscoll thing, as pointed out in the cover story of CT that seemed to frustrate Tony a tad bit.


7:44 PM  
Anonymous Christian Cable said...

Dear Tony,

I was tickled in your post about "Lunch with Piper" that he hadn't heard of you. If it adds perspective, I hadn't heard of either him or you before this calendar year. After reading Desiring God, I went to the national conference this year and attended the very meeting where Piper referenced his lunch with you. I'm now joining the emergent conversation largely through this website.

Why would someone listen to Piper and Driscoll? I suppose that it struck me as true. Can I maintain humility and still seek true from untrue in matters of doctrine? I hope so. I believe that I am instructed to be gentle and respectful, but not to pretend that I can not draw conclusions.

Considering your comments on Barth, did not Francis Schaeffer successfully explain and deconstruct his logic? I wish all would invest the time and effort to consider Schaeffer's Trilogy. I also was drawn to Piper because he dealt with difficult Scripture whether I was comfortable with it or not.

I was raised in an Arminian tradition and when the concept of sovereignty hit me it caused me to weep. You may grieve the billions of Christians who have a different understanding of the cross (if they are relying on Christ alone they will split heaven wide open) but I wept for the billions of Muslims who teach against Christ's claim of diety and so dishonor God.

Could I believe Piper and Driscoll because I think that they are right and that you are giving too much away? Could I believe that not just seeds of penal substitutionary atonement are not found in Paul's writings, but that the germinating fruit is growing in fertile soil evident throughout the pages of God's revelation to us?

One thing I like about you is the value that you place on people. Jesus taught and modelled that. But he was a man with opinions and he taught some difficult things that not all people will like.



7:50 PM  
Blogger Len said...

What's wrong with the Conservatives winning? ;-) One day I'll learn to make deep comments but for now, they are what they are.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

My point is:
a. Orthodoxy is up for redefinition as well. And, that definition is being debated even in this post.
b. Innovation is usually a bad word in conservative theological circles.
c. I think something new is going on here, whether it be a twist in thinking or something else altogether.
d. I'm willing to let this movement take more shape, we do not know what God is up to here, but it is still to early to make any final judgements. My sense is that Tony, et al., are working in a different milieu than Piper/Driscoll and rather than pull Emergent into someone else's categories, I am patiently watching and waiting to see just what is born of this labor.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Ali Campbell said...

Jesus died for me, I don't get why. I believe that He did though. We can boldly approach the throne now (Hebrews 4), and what do we find there? Mercy and Grace. I don't get the fixation with Paul's language about "penal" and the courts etc. There is SO MUCH more going on that my finite mind can understand . . . we are called to love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God.

I am certain, certain I am wrong about so many things . . . "you could be wrong you know!" - which was Tony's reply to Nikki earlier in this discussion is my warning cry to all those who are sure. I know we can SAY we are not sure of ourselves, but sure of Christ, or sure of what God has revealed to us through scripture . . . but what we are really sure about is that our interpretation of what has been revealed is right.

The mystery has been hidden and revealed to little children . . . in the Roman Catholic Catechism it says this . . . "a humble and trusting heart that enables us "to turn and become like children . . for it is to "little children" that the Father is revealed.

I am 38, I have grown up "evangelical" but I am like a little child in this discussion . . in our discussions about things where we differ or might place a different emphasis . . what has happened to love? I have no problem with people talking about penal substitution, except many have a glint in their eye and froth at the mouth as they say "the wages of sin is death" . . . they don't seem to delight in God's grace and goodness.

2:21 AM  
Anonymous carla said...

The issue of certainty is a straw man in this whole conversation. The heart of the matter is not whether someone can hold to some absolute truth and still be welcomed in the emergent conversation, or that the Emergent community is certain about uncertainty. Those assume that the important thing is being right.

But the whole point of emergent is that it's highly likely that none of us are right, that we need to be in conversation and community with other people of faith--and outside of the faith--if we are to live faithfully. I held "absolute truths" ten years ago that make no sense to me now. I have replaced them with other beliefs that seem true to me today, but that I recognize are still incomplete and changable. I don't really care all that much if I am right or if you are right. What I care about, and what I find to be the case in Emergent, is that I don't have to be right to be part of a community of faith. I can come with both my truths and my doubts and engage other people in theirs.

If I show up to the party with all my ideas set and unmovable, I'm there with an agenda (either to prove I'm right or to prove the other guy wrong). But agendas shut down community faster than bad chili. Who wants to be part of a friendship where it's clear the other person doesn't have any respect for your ideas or experiences? Who wants to have a conversation that is little more than a debate? That's why those who come to the emergent table are asked to come with a willingness to listen as well as speak, to acknowledge that their "absolute truth" is not divine knowledge and is therefore always open to refinement, to recognize that faith is far too important to reduce to a pissing match.

Yes, that's a two-way street and there are, of course, those in the emergent community who have a hard time being hospitable to those who come with a different view of truth. But that's the point--to be together, to struggle together, to work through all of this TOGETHER because God knows we can't do it on our own.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Just a side note. Not much has actually been said about what it means to be "Reformed." Intresting, in light of the fact Tony's post seems to be about not letting one particular person/group who speaks louder than others to define the term.

There were some intresting things said about the meaning of the Reformed terms in Austin recently, I believe.

And Arminians, those who follow Ariminus' teachings, not dilutions thereof, also teach on and love both the majesty/glory and the sovereignty of the Triune God

Grace and peace

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Christian Cable said...

Dear Chris,

I was raised Arminian and I couldn't agree with you more. I loved and love God with all my heart. I believe my understanding has changed as I study the Scriptures but my right hand of fellowship is open to those who do not share my interpretation of God's sovereignty.

These are issues for family discussion and I believe that Tony's blog provides a format to do so. There are issues though that really define the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. Do I have fellowship with non-Christian friends? Absolutely.

What then are the elements of faith which define a believer in Christ (Christian) in a post modern world?



4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The emergent church and its spiritual guru Brian McLaren sadly display a low regard for the Word of God. Guru McLaren’s reluctance to take a stand on doctrinal truth is indicative of a terminal cancer that will ultimately render this silly movement irrelevant. Spiritualizing into biblical text what we “feel” it’s saying, and combining it with an experience-oriented mysticism creates only the perfect recipe for spiritual disaster. The spirits have been tested according to 1 John and this movement has been exposed for what is truly is: Yet another false spirit with false prophets leading many astray.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Allen said...

The fascination for the latest and greatest fad has become the downfall of the western church. We are becoming spiritual dunces who have a complete inability to discern between the fundamental and absolute truths of the Bible and the snake oil and hair tonic salesmen hawking their tawdry wares. The churches and individuals frothing over at the mouth with delirium from the next spiritual high display an uncanny resemblance to Simon the Sorcerer who wanted an experience without the commitment to absolute truth.

How delusional to think that absolute truth doesn't exist. When one compares the major religions of the world and notes the vast differences on such topics as the identity of God, the issue of sin, the way of salvation, the condition of man etc., pursuing common ground or learning from each others faith for the sake of a good feeling in your tummy is a sheer act of madness and high treason against the inerrant Scriptures.

The ecclesiastical disease of ecumenism, now conveniently repackaged as emergent thinking, arguably "feels" good, but ultimately dullifies and deadens the true Church and true believers wherever it is allowed to flourish.

Sadly, much like the various denominations and trends in the history of the church that have veered from biblical truth, this too will eventually end up apostate. But praise be to God that the faithful minority will arise from the ashes to reaffirm their faithfulness to Him and His Word.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, thanks Tony for an insightful post. The less engagement there is between the conservatives and the moderates, the worse for all.

Secondly, I for one, would welcome conversations with anyone in the body, Arminian, Calvinist, emerging, Charismatic, Catholic, conservative, liberal or undecided.

There are in fact a number of sites that specialise in hosting such conversations. One that has bloggers of various persuasions participating is OST.

The diversity in the ecclesia has always been there. Let's work together to build fellowship and be missional and witness together in obedience to our Lord

2:29 AM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Fellowship as defined in Scripture is relationship(s) with others who are one in faith. That is they are born again.

There is no other form of biblical fellowship found in the Word. Conversations for the sake of having conversations are dead-end streets unless those conversations are with individuals regenerated by the Holy Spirit who are obedient to Jesus Christ and His teachings.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Andy, guess I'll be talking to you soon!

Since you don't know whether God has saved me and vice versa, your qualification makes no sense (as in non sense) of the word fellowship and without having a conversation how would you know?

Conversation is the beginning of fellowship. Sure hope that you are having one with the Lord (that's what counts) but, whether or not, I'll be happy to talk to you...either for mutual encouragement in our Lord or to see if I can introduce you to Him...

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Amen Sam! I'm all for conversations and fellowship but not with the followers of the Emergent Church of the Great Deception. Brian McLaren, the renowned Bible scholar and great theologian (in his own mind), made the following statement, "I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts."

OK Brian. Whatever you say.....

Emergents, if you really want to be taken seriously, you might want to find a new spokesperson who actually reads and understands the Bible.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are only two options. Either emergents are Christians and to not fellowship is not an option or they are the mission field in which case they have to be told the gospel. Take your pick - in either case not conversing is not an option!

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Interesting Sam that you completely avoided the crux of the matter. Or did you not understand? The issue at hand is the propagation of theological corruption by the leaders of the Emerging Deception. It is not with those who earnestly seek the Lord in truth, nor with those who are seeking but do not yet know the Truth. Conversations with these groups that lead to salvation in Jesus and in Jesus alone represent our mission as believers.

As for the false prophets and teachers who distort Scripture by denying the Trinity, the substitutionary atoning death of Jesus on the Cross, the sinful nature of man, the need for repentance, Jesus as the only way of salvation, and absolute truth, must we really continue debating this? Sam I would challenge you to read the Word and scrutinize the belief system of the emergent church movement. See for yourself as you allow the Scriptures to test the claims of this growing and dangerous deception.

I can only assume you are born again? I hope and pray that you know the Jesus Christ of the Bible in your heart and can discern between Truth and error.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Peter 2:1

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard, it seems to me that you are the one who is avoiding the issue.

There have always been false teachers, twisters of the truth, wolves in sheeps clothing, etc. in and around the church.

It was true in Jesus' day too. There were teachers then as now who were so convinced of their theology that they refused to acknowledge God when He fulfilled His promises in ways that they did not anticipate.

Jesus response was, as ours should be, to contend with them for the truth. He went out of His way to visit them in their homes, in the temple, in the streets, and in the synagogues.

In any case, these are leaders, theologians, with too much pride in their own thinking and without the humility before God that would allow them to see that God is not limited by their fine and oh-so-logical theologies.

I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day! Secure that He is able, I should get on with doing what my Lord, Jesus, tells me to do: To love Him, to love all others as He loved me and to share Him with everyone with whom He brings me into contact.

The fate of the false teachers is in His hand and I am going to leave them there. If I were a theologian or a scholar, then I may think that God has called me to tackle the theologians of this day. I am not!

So, I concentrate on sharing Jesus love, His death and resurrection and the unbelievable and glorious forgiveness of sin that His precious blood bought me with every one that I meet day-to-day, face to face and blogger to blogger.

I would ask you to not be denominational or discriminatory in whom you share Christ with. Not all evangelicals are good nor bad, not all x, nor all y...

Love and share His love without preconditions. I have been forgiven much, let me also love much.

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Chase said...

Sam, I think you're right that we need to speak to and about false teachers as Scripture records Jesus and his apostles doing. I think conversation is appropriate, though to be distinguished from, and hopefully leading to fellowship. I am hearing you speak some basics of the Gospel clearly and see you dig Stott, who is obviously sound. I am beginning to seek to dialogue with emergents and with people who do not claim to know Christ who have a post-modern mindset. Question- How do you dialogue with folks, many of whom might use similar words you use, God, Jesus, justice, though their words are only connotations of sometimes nebulous ideas, where as in Scripture these words have some fixed meaning? I want to do this well, for God's glory and people's joy in Him. I would lvoe to hear what you think abuot this.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope that Tony and his readers will not mind that we are off on a bit of a tangent.

I'm afraid that I can't give you a formula. What I can try to do is to tell you how I have approached emergent conversations.

In any bible study, even with a small group of close friends, differences of perspective, experience, language, theology, maturity, insight, and opinion are to be expected and in fact are a large part of the reason to get together in the first place.

When speaking across denominations, these differences get a bit bigger. An Arminian Baptist talking about the sovereignty of God may have a somewhat different concept in mind than a Presbyterian Calvinist. The advantage with the 'standard' denominations is that both of the conversationalists will have some sort of an idea of what the other's theological positions are likely to be - broadly.

However, such conversations have rarely, imo, led me anywhere and a big reson for that is that I was always more intent on getting my points across than in understanding why the other person was where s/he had been brought by the Lord.

Amongst emergents, from my experience, such broad brush strokes simply don't work - and that's why the conversation is more fruitful.

It's much more like just starting to attend an interdenominational fellowship in a new town and getting into a study with other new entrants, none of whom know anything about each other EXCEPT that the Holy Spirit has put this group together.

I would start by saying some things, sharing what I know about the passage, and get back responses. From these responses I can slowly start to see where the others are coming from.

In this conversation, we are now travelling a road together. Jesus, as He promises, joins us on this road and reveals His truth to each of us.

It may turn out that one or two 'came by accident' and don't yet have a relationship with Jesus - this is not a distraction! Instead it is a great opportunity to get to know them better and to share Christ with them.

It may turn out that one of them is really 'off the wall' expressing some strangely weird ideas - New Wave, Hinduism, Tao, reincarnation... Again, this is an opportunity, first to learn, then to find the 'talking points' and to take it from there as far as the Lord wants me to.

My assumption is always that the Holy Spirit is the one who leads. He will utilise these conversations to teach me new things, to polish me, to test me, to iron out some wrinkles. I will learn more of that precious truth that He has given me in His word.

What I know of Jesus, God's grace to me, His love, His word, these are what I have to share. In sharing, others may be benefited, I certainly will be, and my Lord will make me a little more into the person that He wants me to become.

The lack of expectations is actually a very good thing. I don't expect people to have fallen out of the same mould. In the emerging conversations that I have participated in so far, I have found that there are many people more conservative than myself, better exegetes than myself, with more spiritual maturuty than I have.

What I have to do is to actually and humbly listen, respecting the others even when I disagree. And to honestly share what the Lord is teaching me.

The specifics, like definitions of words, theological concepts, presuppositions, exegetical method, and so on will have to be worked out in conversation and by demonstration as each conversation progresses.

I have found that regardless of wherever the others are coming from, the Lord is Lord of the conversation as we invite Him to be. I know whom I have believed, and of whom I am witnessing and that is all that He asks me to do.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Chase said...

Thanks Sam! That is helpful.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Selah said...

All of you are missing the point. The emergent church itself is a farce and the leaders are false prophets because they are preaching something other than what's in the bible. Is anyone cluing into any of this? Have you all lost your senses? Some of you need to come back to your senses. Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Bryan Mcaren and the rest of the dirty dozen are leading people into error and deception. Wake up everyone!

3:21 PM  
Blogger Ali Campbell said...

Talking of the battle for the heart of reformed. Selah, we would do well to remember that God looks at the heart . . .

peace Tony and others, questions and pondering with blurry edges does not = unbelief!

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Allen said...

Ali, actually God filters everything through His Word. This will always be the starting and ending point for everything. Since our heart is deceitful above all else, I for one take great comfort in knowing that regardless of how someone may feel, their "heart" is as only as truthful as the Truth it contains.

10:54 AM  

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