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Tuesday, March 22, 2005 

Emergent Church 2

I want to say thanks to all that posted comments about the Emergent Church Blog. I took them all to heart. I have responded to them by posting a comment alongside of them. I hope that those who wrote in will take the time to read my response, though it is lengthy. And please don't stop commenting simply because I don't hold to your position or because I don't seem as though I really listen to what you are saying. I take every criticism to heart and I try to evaluate it properly. Most of you who are reading this know me well enough to know that I think deeply and take hard line positions, even if I don't always have all the facts. But as J. Greshem Machen wrote in his book, Christianity and Liberalism, "Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith." I refuse to be indifferent because Jesus never was.

One issue that was brought up in the midst of this was the place of theological disagreement in the community of faith. Recently, I found myself in disagreement with an acquantance (imagine that!). His response was that arguments never help the body of Christ. I once again respectfully disagreed. Tomorrow, God willing, I am going to break down why I think God has decreed that arguments occur within the Body and how these tension points have actual led to more spiritual growth.

Until Christ is formed in us all,

"To Ray I would say that Jesus did indeed place truth above compassion. Reading through both Luke's and John's Gospels shows that Jesus showed compassion on those who were humble, but not on those who were not. He directly told the Pharisees that because they said they could see, He would indeed leave them blind."

This has to be the most blatant misuse of a text that I've ever seen! Jesus was condemning those who had no compassion! He was condemning condescending jerks that thought they had the whole truth of God figured out. He was attacking folks who were narrow-minded and thought they were superior to others!

The problem with Fundamentalists who seek to make sure no one is unorthodox is that they divide and divide and divide because they are always looking for the worst in people. They are always looking to condemn others so that they can feel good about themselves. There's absolutely no room for grace in their theology. That's why they have to distort the Bible to make Jesus into one of them.

I don't see how anyone who reads Jesus' command for us to love one another, love our enemies, and demonstrate our connection with him through our love for one another can spend so much time trying to prove others are heretics.

I've got so much more to say, but I feel it will be a waste of time.

Can we really say that Jesus places truth above compassion? Is compassion not part of the fundamental truth of who God is and who Christ reveals him to be? I'm not sure how you can compare the two.

Secondly, I would say to both Mark and D.R. in my most motherly tone, let's be mature in making our points.

Mark, I can tell that you and I are struggling with some of the same issues. I agree with some of what you say, but it seems a little harsh. I understand how easy it is to view so many Christians who hold to certain ideas as narrow-minded fundamentalist. I'm very guilty of this. Regarding these topics, there are so many attitudes that frustrate me as much as I can tell they frustrate you, but we cannot afford to be judgmental either. More than anything, now that I maybe standing at a different end of the argument, I don't want to have the same attitude that drove me away from the SBC. I've seen that happen to so many of my friends, and I really want to be the kind of Christian that has nothing to do with such condemnation and judgment.

DR- I love you enough to be completely honest, so that is what I'm going to do. I'm pretty sure that in your heart you don't mean to sound judgmental, but when you use words like rebuke and condemn without even totally understanding all that you are rebuking and condeming, that is how it comes off. People who you disagree with will never listen to you if you tell them they are in danger of hell or use phrases I mentioned earlier. Are we really even sure that Christ gives us the right to do this? It just doesn't seem like a very mature or intellectual way to go about proving a point. I know you are a true student, and I admire you for it. I want to listen to your thoughts and learn from you, but it's hard to when you use this language.

I hope I didn't offend anyone with those comments. I just believe that this is a truly important conversation, and I'd hate for us to shut it down through our attitudes and language.

AMEN! I am struggling to love those who condemn others because of their self-righteousness. I'm a lot better than I used to be thanks to the grace of God. Getting there, but not there yet.

Ok, I am going to respond to these comments and then end this particular thread. I will admit that the text I used (found in John 9:39-41) was a stretch to defend the point I was making. It was fresh in my mind and I felt it was applicable to this situation. I still do. I don't think the text alone makes the point that Jesus placed truth above compassion. So I am sorry I used it. However, I don't think the criticism fits the usage. It is obviously not the most blatant misuse of a text that Mark has ever seen. And I think that set a stage for moving from an irenic debate to something personal. Janalee is right in saying that I do not mean to personally offend anyone on this blog. However, I do feel that if Christians do not act in calling one another to account, we stand accused ourselves. Paul made this clear to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5-6 as he leads to understand principles of church discipline. He also shows this in his letter to the Galatians as he rebukes not only the church for being "bewitched," but Peter himself for his actions in the presence of the Jews. Furthermore, the apostle called out 2 men by name in 1 Timothy 1 and John wrote his first epistle to rebuke those involved in a pre-Gnostic philosophy. So I believe it is our responsiblity as the people of God to judge theologies that are not in line with Biblical truth and do not conform to orthodox Christianity. This has been the way the saints have disciplined themselves throughout the centuries -- see the early church councils and the Reformation.

Secondly, I am not alone in my assessment of Open Theism as heresy. It is not a "fundamentalist" idea to condemn this teaching. There are many across the theological horizon that consider this to be outside of the Biblical scope. And the rebuke of this view does seem to be working. Clark Pinnock softened his position and apologized for implying that the prophesies of the Bible were/are in error. He has even offered to change certain statements in later editions of his books to rectify this.

Additionally, let me defend the charge of fundamentalism. Mark knows the difference between Evangelicals and fundamentalists. I am not a "fightin' fundie" as Kelly called me. He made that comment tongue-in-cheek. I do hold to traditional evangelical theology, which honestly is making a revival among young adults. In fact, many studies have shown that the fastest growing churches in America are those who hold to this view. As Gamaliel said regarding Jesus' followers, ". . . if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrown them; or else you may even be found fighting against God." Despite many problems in the church, God continues to grow it.

Finally, to Janalee. I understand my language is not always dripping with honey. However, when I read the Bible, I see that neither Jesus nor Paul spoke with kindness at all times either. This is not a revision of Jesus, as Mark suggests, but a natural reading of texts such as Matt. 4:17; 8:18-27; 10:5-15; 11:20-24; 15:21-28; Luke 2:48-50; 4:16-30; 9:37-41; 12:49-59; 19:45-48; John 2:3-4; all of chapter 7 (Samaritan woman and nobleman both); 6:59-65; and 20:17. In all of these instances (and several not mentioned), Jesus spoke rather harshly toward others. And in almost every occasion mentioned above, He was not speaking to the religious leaders. In regard to the comment that you are not sure that Christ gives us the right to do this see Matthew 18:15-20. Combine these words with Paul's exhortation to the church in 1 Corinthians 5 regarding discipline, his actions toward individuals mentioned above, and his words in 2 Timothy 3:16 regarding Scripture and in Titus 1:10-16 regarding those in the church and what seems to develop is a precedent that we are to judge the church and at times to do so harshly (Paul even delivers one man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Why? In order that his soul might be saved in the end). As to the particular wording I use, those phrases can be found in the Bible. I strive to use words that are found in the text so as not to stray from the Biblical example. So I am sorry to be harsh and like Paul, in person I am less so (even as you know). However, I will try to watch my more and offer criticism in a more loving way.

And finally, I do care about the church. In fact, that is why I strive as I do -- in order that the church would not be led astray. Look at what is happening that is good -- millions being reached by evangelicals (and yes SBC'ers) in the world, billions of dollars being spent by Christians in the tsunami relief and other natural disasters in this country. A change in the culture of America that is expressed in a demand for a culture of life (look at the Terri Schiavo situation and the recent emphasis on morals in the election). So I think the charge against fundies (or evangelicals) is not sticking. In the end a sovereign God who is holy and demands righteousness can only save us by grace and THAT grace is the only kind that can change our eternal destiny. That is the grace I preach.

I love you Mark and I know that we disagree. Still I respect you and have nothing personally against you. I wish that you would not see me as a Fundie drone, as you see many others, but as a man with my own mind who has been convinced by Scripture and the Holy Spirit to hold to the theology I believe is clear in the Bible. Otherwise you make the same mistake for which you criticized those who drove you from the SBC in the first place.

Now let us move on. I am going to stray from controversial blogs for a time to allow healing, but I have enjoyed it and it has sanctified me. I look forward to having both of you continue to dialog with me. Mark, I hope you will not see it as a waste of time, but rather a further investment in a life you have put so much into during my youth years.

In Christ,

About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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