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Friday, April 15, 2005 

Tony Jones and Emergent

Just as an aside, apparently accomplished authors have now weighed in on my thoughts about Emergent. And, like everyone else in the movement thus far, they haven't really answered the questions. Tony Jones is the latest to avoid my questions, as noted in this recent post he made to the Emergent-us weblog. Notice that he defined the gospel as "the good news of/in Jesus Christ." Well, not to be too harshly sarcastic, but a Ph.D candidate at Princeton should understand that you should not define something by translating it. We all know that "Gospel" means "good news," Tony. I am also hoping that we all recognize that it has to do with Jesus Christ. So in the words of Caddyshack's Maggie O'Hooligan, "tanks for nut-tin'." I really did ask the question in order to get an honest response. I was hoping that he would say something like "See 1 Corinthians 15:1:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed."

But what I and everyone else who asked questions of Emergent got was the same ole answers. And that is what postmodernism does, it searches for more questions, but not any answers. I am thankful that Jesus was not a postmodern, for if He were He would never have said, "I am the way, the truth, and the Life; No one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6).

Until Christ is Formed in Us All,

So, if Tony Jones defines the Gospel as the Good News in/of Jesus Christ, then he can get away with ignoring the "not so good news" that Jesus gave...Like his bringing not peace but desention, and that there would be poor with us always, and that there is in fact a devil's hell waiting for those who are not part of His kingdom. Ah, yes...The greatest commandment is LOVE, the fruit of the Spirit is "Love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, patience, goodness and self control (yeah I know, I got them out of order) anyway, against these there is no law. And the Beatitudes are nice too. But just taking two...love and faithfulness, or the pure in heart and poor in spirit...we can not Love God, and remain faithful to Him if we insist in rewriting His word to fit our day and age and whims. Would the poor in Spirit be so haughty as to think that they know something more, or better, than the rabbis of old? Would the pure of heart engage in activities that are obviously out of step with the God they claim to believe in? It seems more ancient than modern, that these people say Truth and Sin are relative, and when there is something in the Bible that they don't agree with, they just explain it away...get enough people to agree with them, then it must be true...like the ancient Romans, Babylonians, Pagans. Instead of emerging, I think they are descending into the darkness where truth is covered in smokey clouds. Sorry, I am getting carried away. As far as the Arminian and Calvanist debate...I guess I continue to be a Wesleyan, but don't tell my AOG friends.

Pardon me, but how is Tony saying that the gospel is "the good new of/in Jesus Christ" a sign of postmodernism? I mean, that's what it is, isn't it? It includes everything that your passage of scripture includes and more. Seems like an answer to me.


Actually, I never said that Tony's response was a sign of postmodernism. My exact quote is thus, "And that is what postmodernism does, it searches for more questions, but not any answers. I am thankful that Jesus was not a postmodern . . ." However, I am calling Emergent postmodern, just like McLaren and a host of other folks in the "conversation do as well. And one characteristic of postmodernism is that it usually spawns more questions than it actually answers. And not only that, postmodernism generally leaves things undefined and open to interpretation, much like Tony did with the word "Gospel." For goodness sake, all he did was translate the Greek for Gospel.

And in response to your comment regarding Tony's answer: "It includes everything that your passage of scripture includes and more," I would disagree. It is way too vague. Even Paul felt it was too vague for the Corinthians. That is why he defined it as such. And not only that he wrote Romans as well to define his gospel in order to show them that he indeed preached the same Gospel as they. In fact, Paul constantly defined the term, as well as God's character in light of it. And by the way, I wouldn't say that it is "my" passage, but rather Paul's or better yet, God's.

My problem with Tony's answer is that it leaves Gospel open to more interpretation than the Bible allows. The Gospel is simply, but not simplistic; it is loving, but not without wrath; it is for us but ultimately for God's glory. We owe our hearers what Paul gave his, a defining Gospel that means something and is based upon the facts of the life of Christ -- that He was born of God, that He lived the perfect life and died the righteous death which was given to us in exchange for our life and death through faith that we might live eternally with the Father in glory. And that is not negotiable according to the Bible.

I hope you will see Keith that we as Christians living in a postmodern era need more than ever to heed the words of the writer of Hebrews:

"Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits" (6:1-3).

If we can't give a better definition for the Gospel than it is "the good news of/in Jesus" then we have a big problem.

Soli Deo Gloria,

I think you're being nitpicky and preachy.


You know man, I am sorry you feel that way. I think that God is a precise God and when it comes to the Gospel, He could be called nitpicky as well. I mean look at how much He fulfilled the entire OT through Christ. It is simply amazing.

And as far as being "preachy" is concerned, it seems that I am in good company. I remember Paul saying to the Corinthians,

"For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe."

You see we are called to preach. John the Baptist preached, Christ preached, Peter preached, and we see here that Paul preached. We have to call men to repent, whether it be of sin or of false belief. Paul did this not only with Peter, but with the Galatians and the Colossians. John did this as well. Now I am doing the same thing with the Emergent folks. I am calling them to define what they say and if they are wrong according to the Bible, to repent. That is something Emergent must do themselves. They need to call Brian McLaren to repent of his false views on hell and his inclusivistic views of salvation.

And furthermore, Paul gives us this mandate to call men to the carpet who are leaders and Peter tells us to always be ready to give an account for the hope that is within us. So what is wrong with my questioning and with not feeling satisfied with an answer. Tony and anyone else (including D.A. Carson) should be willing to answer their critics logically and completely. That is all I ask.

Keith, I hope you will see that this issue is not really about trying to divide, rather it is about keeping the purity of the Gospel in the forefront. If one of us is wrong, then it hurts the overall Christian witness. We are called by Paul and others to judge those within the church and to sharpen one another. In humility we must be willing to offer Biblical responses when we are challenged.

Keith, you and I at the least share a passion for the truth and for that we should be thankful. However, that also means we must be willing to submit in love to one another when we are wrong. That is why many Evangelicals are "attacking" the Emergent crowd -- because they are passionate about Christ and the Gospel. Be thankful that people care that much. But we as Evangelicals have to be willing to hear the critics of Emergent. But so far it is hard to hear them when they are coupled with a desertion from Orthodox theology.

I hope we can continue to dialogue. And honestly, I do appreciate your contribution. You have been polite and respectful and for that I say "Thank you" and may God be glorified through you.

Soli Deo Gloria,


First, anyone that takes on Tony Jones wins my admiration. We have gotten a little of his wrath ourselves. Join the club...see we do have much in common.

Second, you and I agree, the Emergent church has very few answers. It is ill-defined and a lot of talk thus far. As a matter of fact, ask an "Emergent" leader to define the "Emerging Church" and how it is different...they can't even define it themselves except to use the word "postmodern" often and loudly. It is funny to me...because I do not see it radically different from anything else that is seeking to be relevant these days.

Third, not to hi-jack your comments, but I think you should give another listen to the "Emergent Hoo-Haa" podcast. We don't "degrade megachurches", we don't embrace the Emergent (quite the opposite)... we advocate a return to some NT biblical principles of church of the First Century. Now how that practically plays out today is hard to navigate.

The church will do just fine in the future without all of our blogs and podcasts and talk. It always has and always will. But it's still fun though huh? Thanks for allowing me to comment and I look forward to reading more of your stuff in the future.

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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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