Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I really like this Trevin Wax reaction to The Way of the Master's take on the "emerging church".

I like it for Trevin's insistence that reconciliation to each other is important to the proclamation and living out of the gospel. But I also like it for this:
Apparently, talking too much about ”the Kingdom” is enough to get you labeled as Emerging now.

I’ve just about had it with the knee-jerk reactions of some of corners of evangelicalism against anything that even smacks of “Emerging.” Including talk about “the kingdom.” I guess this would make Jesus “Emerging”?

The Emerging Church deserves to be critiqued from other sections of evangelicalism. I’ll be the first to admit that.

But come on! We don’t have to choose between a theology of “the kingdom” and a biblical view of the atonement. It’s not just Emergent that talks about God’s Kingdom coming on earth as in heaven… it’s all over the New Testament. It’s in the Lord’s Prayer!

Now, I could rant myself about the fuzzy and frequently fubar theology coming out of the emerging church movement, but I tend to think the label "emerging church," as a theological category, is so vague and schizophrenic as to be practically useless.
So this isn't a defense of the emerging church.

It's a plea for Christians to stop with the boogeymen. In this instance, The Way of the Master's Todd Friel isn't offering a substantive critique of the emerging church (whatever that is). He's making an us vs. them argument and casting "those emerging people" as the them to avoid. It just so happens that the reasons he gives for avoiding them would actually be a reason to be interested in them (as Trevin points out). But perhaps Friel doesn't realize that. He just knows emerging is bad.

This happens on another side all the time, and I'm personally sick of it. I'm tired of folks anywhere left of fundamentalism employing a caricature of judgmental, legalistic, hellfire-and-brimstone religious types as boogeymen too. I don't doubt that these people are out there, but they are certainly in the minority and they certainly don't maintain much influence today. Looking out at the state of evangelicalism today, I don't think anyone could convincingly argue that we suffer too much at the hands of ultra-traditional fundamentalist religious hypocrites. In fact, we've run out of those guys so quickly that now the hip preachers who need boogeymen just start putting the fundy religious hypocrite label on fellow Christians who have the misfortune of merely being uncool (they wear suits to church or listen to CCM or have a Jesus fish on their car or something). Those are the new boogeymen. We certainly don't want to be caught looking like those people. (Witness the Christian vs. Christ-follower videos, which people still think I overreacted about.)

Here's a clue: We can't be reconciled to each other in the fullness of the gospel if you're picking and choosing which Christians you want to be reconciled to. You don't get to decide which ones are cool enough or have the right labels. And in this practice, emerging church poseurs share as much of the blame as traditional religious squares.

Stop with the boogeymen.


hamster said...

*cough* Shouldn't it be spelled bogeymen not boogeymen? The latter brings to mind boogers instead...

Seriously though, I just have a question. Why must we label everything? I just believe in the facts of the Bible where theology is concerned and what it says and take everything that comes and weigh it against God's word. Which camp do I fall under? Nominally I'm a Presbyterian but I shy away when I hear the Presbyterians talk about maintaining traditions on top of teaching God's word (which not many of the pastors actually do). So why all the labels and names? Why not just come out and say I believe in such and such - I don't care what that makes me - because of Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross?

Jared said...

I think we end up labeling stuff and people because it's convenient and efficient.
Frequently it's rude and an excuse to avoid conversation.

I think labels can be helpful in communication, but obviously they become less and less so when we insist on applying a label to someone they wouldn't self-apply. (Doesn't mean the label is wrong, btw. eg. A Mormon reader on Thinklings doesn't like that we believe Mormonism is heresy, but that doesn't mean the label is wrong.)

Obviously labels aren't helpful as the sole content of theological communication. (What I mean when I say I lean Reformed is not the same as what a Lutheran, for instance, might mean by it.) But labels themselves aren't necessarily bad.


Oh, and I've seen alternately:

Also, where I'm from:


hamster said...

That's actually in a way what I mean - when we stick to labels, we get so focussed on the labels that we forget to ask what's behind the real person. It's a real struggle still, now, to ignore the supposed background of a person that I've met for the first time, and instead ask questions to find out more about what he believes. And this includes non-Christians, though alarmingly, I have to do this for Christians that come from churches which are labelled "way out".

Of course it doesn't help that after questioning, usually you find some basic problems such as works-based salvation or tounges-based salvation. *Sigh*

I know it's convenient, and may not be bad, but it's very frustrating when we judge with a knee-jerk reaction. I say this about MYSELF as well and it frustrates me that I see the label and not the person.

Ah I come from an Asian country, so we only hear of bogeymen. And can't even begin to imagine how they're supposed to look like. :P Ask Terry Pratchett.

Steve K. said...

Jared, Amen and amen.