Abductive Columns

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Balanced Emergent? or One of Those Waaaay Over on the Other Side

Spend ten to fifteen minutes in the blogoshere reading some of the post of those party to the emergents and you'll find numerous reviews of Spencer Burk’s new book “Heretics Guide to Eternity.” They run the total gamut; from a “thought-provoking book” to a book written as a “parable on universalism today."

But Rick Presley's sees this book like no one else; a fulmination. And with that, he exposes what he sees as a subtle shift taking place among the emergents.

I emailed Rick and chucked at his “Abbie Hoffman comment: Burn, Baby Burn” and he wrote the following:

I really wish Spencer Burke had written a more thoughtful book when he penned his Heretic's Guide to Eternity. I think the book had a lot of potential and really wish Spencer had given a little more attention to dialogue instead of diatribe. If his intended audience is the timid Evangelical looking for something better than the rigid legalism or dead orthodoxy of their current congregation, he did little to attract them to the emergent conversation. I can tell you that not many "recovering fundamentalists" will find his approach welcoming or sympathetic. As a former practitioner of the Church of Christ, you probably know many of these people who really don't like where they're "at" but they are scared by the incendiary anarchists who are too far to the other side.

I think there is a broad middle out there of people like Stephen Shields who really like the emerging church/conversation but want to distance themselves from the Emergent ChrisiAnarchists. If you go on lists like PoMoXian and Emerging Theology (what used to be Postmodern Theology, John O'Keefe's group) on Yahoo groups, you find a lot of rancor, disillusionment, bitterness and people who are "cultural Christians" but want nothing to do with evangelicals or evangelicalism. A number of these people even describe themselves as "Christian atheists" without the slightest hint of irony.

Meanwhile, conservative Christians who want to tap into the benefits of contemporary culture like Rob Bell of Mars Hill are being edged out of the conversation by the hardcore Emergents. Sad to see but it looks like the emerging conversation has split into very different streams. Anytime a group of "inclusive" Christians start talking about who is and is not a "real" one of what they claim is not a movement, it's time to say like Elijah, "I am no better than my fathers."


At 3:00 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Hi Fred,

I found this column from the reference to my PoMoXian list (the link is actually to my blog, which is only PT dedicated to theological discussions... it's more of a personal journal.) I was a bit surprised (but not entirely) to read Rick's comments about

a lot of rancor, disillusionment, bitterness and people who are "cultural Christians" but want nothing to do with evangelicals or evangelicalism.

It makes me wonder if I have gone too far or not done enough to maintain a balanced perspective re: evangelicalism. The fact remains, I live and work in a highly evangelical community and subculture. Even though it's admittedly difficult for me to fully participate in evangelical worship these days, I don't think I'm as hostile to the tradition or the people who still embrace it. I am simply disappointed that there is so much continuing emphasis on pushing for doctrinal absolutes in the sermons and teaching ministries. I am tired of being viewed as a subversive enemy of God because I don't hold to what I consider to be ancient and often archaic speculations about the supernatural, the afterlife, etc. I'm not out to blow up the church or otherwise encourage its impending collapse under the weight of untenable doctrines. I just wish there was more of a space within evangelicalism for people who think creatively, independently and without a de facto adherence to orthodoxy simply to keep up appearances or claim some kind of fidelity to the teachings of centuries long past.

I acknowledge that on the PoMoXian list there are some hard-core cynics and other off-beat characters who are given free rein to play all kinds of word- and mind-games in their emails. Maybe they run the place so freely and loosely that more conservative perspectives don't feel welcome, but I've taken a lot of satisfaction that self-identified fundies like Rick Presley and others have actively participated in a "liberal" list quite harmoniously over the years. No one has ever been harrassed for being too orthodox, conservative or traditional that I can think of. It's just that we don't grant a free pass to traditional teachings or orthodox theological heavyweights. Nor do we argue with each other all that much, IMO.

All this has little to do with Burke's book, which I have a copy of but haven't read yet. (Check out my blog to see what's been keeping me so busy.) I will get around to reviewing it soon and we'll see where Burke takes me, and by extension, the list, since I'll be posting my comments there as well.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger Bilbo said...

Hi Fred, Dave, and Rick,

I am a self proclaimed Christian Anarchist and an "active" member of both Pomoxian and Stephen Shields Faithmaps, although I no longer participate much these days with faithmaps...Not sure who or what the emergent Christianarchist's represent...but...the traditional Christian anarchy I represent has nothing to do with secular anarchy or chaos. Just means one does not make uncritical allegiances and alliances with ideological, theologically dogmatic, leaning groups and institutions...which doesn't imply one can't or shouldn't participate or belong to such a group. Just means one keeps a certain distance and critical stance towards the group and their agenda, if they have one...and...is not particularly interested in promoting the group and it's vision, although one may choose to promote some of the particulars of the group. I hope this makes sense?....Bilbo/Bill Baugher

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Big Mike Lewis said...

Amen Fred! Glad you are back.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Big Mike Lewis said...

I wrote something about this shift in theology back on my blog a while ago...hope you read and enjoy it.



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