Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Emerging from emerging

Chris Elrod: Emerging from Emerging...I’m all for a healthy theological debate…however I will not even begin to entertain a discussion into the integrity and validity of God’s Word (ht: Thabiti)

8 comments:

  1. Dogmatic, defensive and polarising. Exclamations of heresy, before argumentation biblical or otherwise is offered. Quite depressing.

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  2. Ah c'mon his post is a careful reflection, which I thought was interesting.

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  3. Tom,

    Isn't universalism completely unbiblical?

    And hasn't Emergent (and the emerging movement) in general had plenty of time and space to air their arguments? They have done, in many books and blogs and talks from many leaders.

    I was heading down this track at one point in my life, and it's poison. By the grace of God I didn't get too far! I'm convinced that what Chris Elrod and Compass Point have done is right- it's commendable and deeply encouraging. It's not a split about candles vs preaching, or Enya vs Wesley; it's about heaven and hell.

    I think that's a serious issue about peoples' eternal destiny, and in Chris' words, it's a hill worth dying on any day of the week.

    Dan

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  4. Dan,

    I'm not objecting to his general theological stance. Universalism isn't a good thing.

    I'm objecting to the impression of his oppenness to discuss things that comes accross through the way this piece is written. That might not be representative.

    I think that the thing that I dislike the most is that he has not justified his stance properly. When you say this is what this group, or this person believes I think you should back it up with references and quotations. He gives some reasons why he doesn't do that. But if the critics (yes he is one) aren't going to do it then who has to? He should have done that.

    This would avoid the generalisation of what emergent is. Lumping it in with liberalism, betrays a poor reading and understanding. It is knee jerk theology from people who are scared. He lumps them in together when he says, 'Theological leanings toward a more liberal and Emergent doctrine'.

    Dan and Dave, sometimes, the way we say things, mean the conversations stop. Sometimes the way we say things means the conversation starts. Like the way you immediately went for the jugular of universalism before you understood the root of my objection.

    Elord says, 'I will not even begin to entertain a discussion into the integrity and validity of God’s Word' despite also saying, 'I’m all for a healthy theological debate.' If this isn't part of a healthy debate then I don't know what is?

    I say, differently, in the pattern of Schaeffer, (neither of us are universalists) that you are welcome to come to me, as a Christian and ask me your questions. I will help to create a space where you can ask your questions. This is a non-defensiveness that a strong leadership stance on universalism desperately needs. We need to work proactively to communicate that we do not believe we are above and beyond question.

    My sympathy, however is to a certain extent with Elrod, who found that there were people who were not 'on vision' with where he and the leadership were going. Who sought to convey a universalistic doctrine, 'in every situation that was presented to them.' That is destructive and unhelpful of them. This concerns their integrity too.

    I want to see a space, in church, in the lives of Christians where people who don't share their faith can come and really challenge them. I want to see Christians 'entertaining a discussion into the integrity and validity of God’s Word' for if it is as it claims it to be, you are right to say that it is a serious matter. This is what should make us take other peoples questions much more seriously.

    Tom

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  5. Tom, I really appreciate your reflections on this. I didn't really get the impression that he was shutting down discussion, but rather wanting to assert some core things. I guess there is a difference between the average church member asking their questions, and a church leader pushing out questions that seem to undermine the truth... We're all still learning but holding to sound doctrine remains a core qualification for leaders (granted it's only about one tenth of the qualification).

    I wish you'd comment more when you agree too, but online-conversing tends to be most lively when people disagree I guess. Keep the comments coming... yes Dan assumed a bit of what you meant but you didn't really give reasons for why the linked post was dogmatic etc...

    blessings brother, and thanks for the latest prayer letter :)

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  6. I'm Dan's internet Troll. So I know my place with him :)

    I think that Francis Schaeffer would have taken a different approach. I think there would have been more visible compassion, more of an effort to address the actual questions - head on. I would have liked to have seen the invitation from the pastor to come and spend time with him, talking about why he holds those views. Perhaps re-stating the argument that our high view of scripture comes because Christ has a high view of scripture. I would have liked to have seen him mentioning some resources or books people could look at. I would have liked to have seen him unearthing the underlying questions. Questions of relevance? Questions of authority?

    He doesn't actually engage with the ideas expressed, he just puts down the wall. "I'm going to ban the word emergent" "Emergent is now evil" etc. That is just so dogmatic and I have to admit that I think it is unbiblical, as a mode of communication, in this context. It smacks of the kind of point of view that means that you don't read books that you disagree with. While I don't want Chalke's books on the church bookstall, I think we should read them and find the good stuff. I think that it needs to be said that we could learn a lot from the emergent church, we can learn a lot from a lot of people.

    Of course there comes a point where you have to protect a flock, but this guy just doesn't sound like he knows the difference. And it is possible and bibilcal to walk and chew gun at the same time. Isn't it? Can't he warmly critique the actual ideas, at the same time as steering?

    We should teach people to think for themselves and give them the skills and resources to do that. We whould be very careful not to presume that they are not capable of doing that.

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  7. I agree with Tom. I agree that it's necessary to refute universalism robustly, but that needs to be done compassionately, and that side of things isn't emphasised enough.

    There isn't much indication of being willing to give space for "honest answers to honest questions" (to borrow a L'Abri slogan). Also missing is a recognition that eternal punishment is a difficult and painful thing to believe in. It's right to struggle with that, to be pained by that, because the idea of our fellows being sent to hell ought to weigh on us heavily.

    The intellectual freedom to question and grapple with tough issues such as this is vital if people are to come to a genuine acceptance of Biblical doctrine. Someone can be browbeaten into holding a particular doctrine, but people often need the freedom to really think about something, to look at what the Bible says and to have time for that to settle on them, for the Spirit to work in their hearts, before they really accept something - not just acknowledge something as true, but delight in it.

    It's the same kind of process that John Piper describes in coming to accept God's sovereignty in that video you posted: even when the arguments stack up, it takes more than that to change someone's heart. It's rare for glib assertions of orthodoxy to bring about the change of heart needed to accept hard teaching, but deal with people's honest questions compassionately and thoughtfully, and someone is much more likely to be receptive to the truth.

    As the Church, we're often not very good at creating this kind of environment. We need to both be faithful and clear about what the Bible teaches and at the very same time give people the space to explore that, so hopefully they can accept what we believe the Bible teaches, or at least have a principled basis for disagreement.

    Also, Elrod's plan for blanket-avoidance of anything Emergent-related seems to me to be rather short of what genuine discernment should be.

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  8. Haha internet troll! You are a bit.

    One thing to remember about Emergent- many of their leadership are ex-evangelicals (or perhaps ex-fundamentalists, as they'd say).

    They used to preach about the authority of scripture and the evils of universalism- but they've changed their minds. As far as I can see, this requires a different tack to a L'Abri 'honest questions honest answers', or a apologetic gentleness. These are brothers who are abandoning important doctrine, and the thing they need isn't necessarily conversation and dialogue. There is a good case for publicly distancing yourself, calling for repentance, and watching-out for your flock.

    All of this can still be done in an attitude of love! In fact it must be, but there's still a place for sternness. So far as I can see Elrod has done a very wise thing.

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