Dluxe's World

Thursday, May 4

If we told you, we'd have to kill you...

The Emergent Church believes stuff. They just can't tell you what... I'm not sure if it's so they don't rob you of the joy of discovery or because their beliefs are actually closely tied to US nuclear secrets.

The Emergent conversation seems to have decided not to issue a statement of faith for guiding their affiliated whatever-they-call-'ems. In the post on the Emergent-US blog, we find the following rationale:
Jesus did not have a "statement of faith." He called others into faithful relation to God through life in the Spirit. As with the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, he was not concerned primarily with whether individuals gave cognitive assent to abstract propositions but with calling persons into trustworthy community through embodied and concrete acts of faithfulness... The very idea of a "statement of faith" is mired in modernist assumptions and driven by modernist anxieties...

Interesting. While Christ was on the earth, we had the physical presence of Divine Truth here with us, speaking to and teaching the disciples. We have a written record of those teachings in Scripture. I would think it's safe to assume there's some statements that are important enough to affirm in those texts.

More to the point, people managed to take those things Christ taught and start to distort them through our sins just after His left this world. Left strictly to our own devices, we will end up one place: LOST.

I'm not a big church history person, but I seem to recall learning that the early creeds were formulated to help establish 'foundational' truth and refute error. The emergent point seems to be that formalized, over-analytical, microscopic statements might 'cramp' the style of members of the so-called 'conversation' (and that, potentially, is true). But I am confident there are some truths that are absolute in our faith. Thinking specifically of the early creeds - Don't they provide a sufficiently open framework for 'free discourse' while at least providing some bedrock?
Various communities throughout church history have often developed new creeds and confessions in order to express the Gospel in their cultural context, but the early modern use of linguistic formulations as "statements" that allegedly capture the truth about God with certainty for all cultures and contexts is deeply problematic for at least two reasons...

I would disagree that the driving issue was cultural context. Tell me the specifical cultural context within the Apostle's Creed, for example? It's about defining foundational TRUTH which can be a measure for error. We ignore those basic statements of faith at our peril. By setting no groundrules (e.g. Trinity, Divinity of Christ, Atonement of the Cross, etc), we might as well holler "Pull!", throw everything in the air, and shoot at 'em.
The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

True: We can't capture God's fullness in words. But what other means do we have to communicate truth to one another over time? If we take our words as the complete, perfected revelation of God, we're plainly too proud of ourselves. Nonetheless, I don't know many people who teach without some use of human language. Should we scrap everything we've ever read about God simply because it was in print?

More disturbing: If words are not effective, are we left to our own subjective, inner experience alone? Perhaps the inference is that other mediums, such as interpretive dance, might serve us better in expressing theological profundities.

Blech! Of course we're incapable of expressing all of God's manifest glory - no matter what tool we have available to us. Still, I know of no statement of faith that claims to have done so. Instead, the purpose is to provide a framework of theological absolutes that allow us to process/discuss other issues. Without that framework, we're swimming in tub of Jell-O.
Emergent aims to facilitate a conversation among persons committed to living out faithfully the call to participate in the reconciling mission of the biblical God. Whether it appears in the by-laws of a congregation or in the catalog of an educational institution, a "statement of faith" tends to stop conversation. Such statements can also easily become tools for manipulating or excluding people from the community. Too often they create an environment in which real conversation is avoided out of fear that critical reflection on one or more of the sacred propositions will lead to excommunication from the community.

Oh, please. Though postmoderns might disagree, conversations need boundaries. How do they propose to call balls 'in play' or 'foul'? Using the logic above, everyone can pull up a chair and just say whatever they feel. There can be no controls except personal conviction or some passive majority rule. There's no way that's what Christ advocated.

Come to think of it, that atmosphere sounds a whole lot like the Boar Head Tavern, don't it?

Isn't it hubris to assume that our awesome, postmodern processes will actually ever get us to the right conclusion? The testimony of Scripture is that God is shouting at us with His creation and yet we willingly stick our fingers in our ears out of rebellion (Romans 1). Is the candlelight and incense of the 'conversation' supposed to somehow get us past that limitation?

I don't think so. Completely irresponsible.
This does not mean, as some critics will assume, that Emergent does not care about belief or that there is no role at all for propositions. Any good conversation includes propositions, but they should serve the process of inquiry rather than shut it down. Emergent is dynamic rather than static, which means that its ongoing intentionality is (and may it ever be) shaped less by an anxiety about finalizing state-ments than it is by an eager attention to the dynamism of the Spirit’s disturbing and comforting presence, which is always reforming us by calling us into an ever-intensifying participation in the Son’s welcoming of others into the faithful embrace of God.

"Don't think we dislike propositional truth... We just don't want to state them."

Ahhh... I get it now! It's so much easier to allow things to just flow, like a beautiful river, than restrict ourselves with 'facts' and 'truths' and 'rules'. I mean, after all, we've done perfectly well getting it right up 'til now, right?

This is such bunk... We do need to honestly think about and wrestle with the 'tough issues' in life, but we need to do so with a safety net. Our enemy and our own nature will absolutely drive us as far away from the truth as we can be driven. The only way to guard against that is to affirm some groundrules that we hold sacred and pray that the Holy Spirit illuminate our hearts and minds.

Try playing baseball without the rules... Tell me if you think it was productive.

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5 Comments:

  • Good post, bro, but I think you missed one point (or maybe you were being kind by not pointing it out -- I'll fix that ;-) ) The start of the article says:

    Yes, we have been inundated with requests for our statement of faith in Emergent, but some of us had an inclination that to formulate something would take us down a road that we don't want to trod. So, imagine our joy when a leading theologian joined our ranks and said that such a statement would be disastrous.

    Wouldn't this be more concisely stated, "this is something we didn't want to do, and imagine our relief when our laziness was validated" ?

    The one other thing that struck me was, for all the cries of inclusion and not stopping conversation, much of what I've seen written by those in the movement, er um, conversation comes off as VERY VERY VERY smug. Even if you don't recognize many of their beliefs for the theological dung that they are, they're shooting themselves in the foot by seemingly claiming to have arrived. Who would want to converse with that?

    By Anonymous Brendt, at 12:23 AM, May 05, 2006  

  • Heh. There's so many bullets and I have but one gun. :)

    "some of us had an inclination that to formulate something would take us down a road that we don't want to trod."

    I was kinda poking fun at that with my opening statment. The Emergers believe 'stuff', but they don't wanna tell you what.

    Wouldn't this be more concisely stated, "this is something we didn't want to do, and imagine our relief when our laziness was validated"?

    Well, first off: If look hard enough, you'll find someone to validate anything you want to say. The probability is high that just about any delusion has at least two believers in the world.

    Honestly, I don't want to impute my impression of emerging motivations on them. That is to say, it's quite possible that they actually do think that the 'right' thing is to leave the conversation "open". It's also possible that they believe their is enough doctrinal unity in the 'conversation' to keep some level of orthodoxy.

    Then again, it's also possible that pigs will be taking off from Kennedy Space Center this afternoon.

    I guess I'm saying I think their motives are honest (sadly), but also completely impure. Their 'genuine heart' doesn't validate the outcome... No good intentions should excuse the confusion and theological error that is bound to come out of this.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 8:43 AM, May 05, 2006  

  • I don't want to impute my impression ...

    Totally with you there. I may have crossed that line a bit, but I purposefully phrased it as a question (albeit a snarky one) rather than saying "what this really mean is..."

    Then again, it's also possible that pigs will be taking off from Kennedy Space Center this afternoon.

    Bad weather forecast for this afternoon at the Cape. It's been postponed to Monday.

    By Anonymous Brendt, at 9:53 AM, May 05, 2006  

  • From their statement: Jesus did not have a "statement of faith."

    He also didn't have a home (Matt 8:20) or any of the New Testament (Reality 1:1). I'm also fairly certain that he didn't have deoderant. So where do we draw the line?

    By Anonymous Brendt, at 9:54 AM, May 05, 2006  

  • Bad weather forecast for this afternoon at the Cape. It's been postponed to Monday.

    That is a major bummer.

    He also didn't have a home (Matt 8:20) or any of the New Testament (Reality 1:1). I'm also fairly certain that he didn't have deoderant. So where do we draw the line?

    Putting on my emerging hat: Well, what do you feel about that? Where do you think that line should be drawn? And, by the way, what's that smell?

    I learned my postmodernity from Emerging Chad.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 10:01 AM, May 05, 2006  

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