Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's Wrong with the Emerging Church?

IF you have been following the recent blog posts and comments, there has been, what I think, a very good discussion on the emerging/emergent church. We have decided that the terms really mean absolutely nothing. I make a distinction between emerging and emergent, but honestly, who cares what we call either. What I call emergent are the Bell and McLaren followers, and what I call emerging are the guys who are theologically conservative but who are using innovative methods to reach the culture with the gospel. I clearly reject guys like Bell and McLaren and won't for a minute even consider them believers in the same gospel. If that offends you, I am sorry, go write a blog about how intolerant I am.

But if you have been following the comments, I have been defending the guys within the emerging church who I would consider brothers in Christ, and faithful expositors of the word. Though I have been defending them, I do have my qualms with them, one that isn't a small issue, but one that really boils down to biblical authority.

These guys, the faithful preachers of the gospel within the emerging movement, are seeking to do church differently because the way we did church 50 years ago isn't quite working. I agree. We can't do church the same way we have been doing it for the last 50 years. That's because church the last 50 years has been pragmatic in its evangelistic services, simply focusing on numbers, inauthentic in its fellowship, and self-centered in worship. I am not saying every church has been like this, but as a whole, the church has been on a slippery slope the last 50 years.

While I won't brand the emerging guys in view as heretics, I don't think they are responding the correct way. I believe they have the right mentality in reaching the culture with the gospel, but I don't think we really need new ways of doing church, but we need to go back to the original way of doing church, built by Christ on apostolic authority. The blueprint for the church is found in Acts 2:41-47.

In verse 41, we have the membership of the church recorded. It is 3,120. 3,000 who came to Christ in verse 41, plus the 120 believers praying in the upper room. In the following verses you have what I believe to be the marks of a biblical church.

1. Committed to Sound Doctrine....they were devoted to the apostles teaching.
2. They fostered authentic community.....they were devoted to fellowship.
3. They were CHrist centered.....breaking of bread.
4. They were a praying church.
5. They were a reverent church...everyone kept feeling a sense of awe.
6. The were united...they had all things in common.
7. The were a thankful church...they ate their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.
8. They were a worshiping church...they praised God.
9. They were an upstanding church...they had favor with all the people.
10. The were a growing church...daily people were being saved and added to the church.

I don't think we need to think of new ways to do church, I simply think we need to go back to this model found in Acts 2. I think the church has failed in this. Perhaps some within the emerging church follow these ten things, and I believe some are. More Power to them! Perhaps those guys can be lights within a movement that as a whole, is not so good. But traditional churches too can, and indeed do, exhibit this model and are very effective, even in areas where the culture is extremely diverse.

Ninth and O Baptist Church, where I attend, is what I would call a traditional church, though we are somewhat contemporary as well. Even though we are traditional, I believe we exhibit each one of these categories, and people from all walks of life are coming to Christ and becoming a part of the church.

What's wrong with the emerging church? New ways of doing church isn't really the answer. Following the Biblical Model for the Church is what we need to be doing. Only then will the church really be effective in reaching lost souls with the gospel.

58 comments:

Bradley said...

I'm glad you are bold enough to come out and say what you really think: Brian McLaren and Rob Bell are not Christians.

Could you explain what you think the basic message of the gospel is, and then show where Brian McLaren and Rob Bell contradict or deny this basic message of the gospel? Please be specific. Give us quotes from their books or blogs (in context). We are eager to see evidence of your claim so we can see for ourselves that they do indeed deny the gospel.

If you can't provide such evidence, it will further convince me that most people who call Bell and McLaren heretics or "non-Christians" are just slinging mud. D.A. Carson doesn't even go that far.

Fred said...

John MacArthur has taken a delved into McLarens beliefs and states:

The central propositions and bedrock convictions of biblical Christianity —such as firm belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, a sound understanding of the true gospel, full assurance of salvation, settled confidence in the lordship of Christ, and the narrow exclusivity of Christ as the only way of salvation—do not reconcile well with postmodernism's contempt for clear, authoritative truth-claims. The medium of postmodern "dialogue" thereby instantly and automatically changes the message. And the rhetoric of the Emerging Church movement itself reflects that.

Listen, for example, to how Brian McLaren sums up his views on orthodoxy, certainty, and the question of whether the truths of Christianity are sound and reliable in the first place:

How ironic that I am writing about orthodoxy, which implies to many a final capturing of the truth about God, which is the glory of God. Sit down here next to me in this little restaurant and ask me if Christianity (my version of it, yours, the Pope's, whoever's) is orthodox, meaning true, and here's my honest answer: a little, but not yet. Assuming by Christianity you mean the Christian understanding of the world and God, Christian opinions on soul, text, and culture . . . I'd have to say that we probably have a couple of things right, but a lot of things wrong. [A Generous Orthodoxy, 293.]


McLaren suggests that clarity itself is of dubious value. He clearly prefers ambiguity and equivocation, and his books are therefore full of deliberate double-speak. In his introduction to A Generous Orthodoxy, he admits, "I have gone out of my way to be provocative, mischievous, and unclear, reflecting my belief that clarity is sometimes overrated, and that shock, obscurity, playfulness, and intrigue (carefully articulated) often stimulate more thought than clarity." [Ibid., 23.]

I don't think MacArthur is slinging mud when he says, "The message coming from postmodernized evangelicals is exactly the opposite: Certainty is overrated. Assurance is arrogant. Better to keep changing your mind and keep your theology in a constant state of flux."

gordan said...

Josh,

I agree with your assessment here: they've rightly seen a problem in contemporary evangelicalism and have sought to correct that.

But it's Reformation broken loose from all moorings. It's starting from square one, and rejecting the notion that the Bible might actually describe what the square ought to look like.

There's another aspect to the problem they've seen, though. What you've noted above is correct, I think, but there's more.

They've also seen that modern evangelicalism has truncated the Gospel message until it has become a radically individualized, pietistic mysticism. It's totally devoid of any power to engage the culture, much less transform it.

If you know much about the recent Christian Reconstruction movement among the conservative Reformed, I think this emerg____ thing is a sort of antinomian, left-wing response to that.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

I'm not throwing out the baby with the bathwater...I think there are several guys within the Emerging Churvh who are doing alot of things right....but...i think theres alot of bad bathwater that needs to go. Let's not close the door on the good guys, for they have some redemptive qualities, but lets be quick to point out the problems and the guys who are leading others astray.

gordan said...

I'm not throwing out any babies here, hopefully. I was just agreeing with you that some have seen a problem and sincerely pursued a solution. The problem is that it's the wrong solution.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

exactly.

Josh said...

I find it interesting that most people are putting Bell into the same category with McClaren but when asked to give evidence that they belong together, they always quote McClaren, who I would agree seems to be questionable at best. Can you please give us evidence that Bell belongs in this group?

gordan said...

I haven't seen a lot from Bell, and I bet Joshua will answer for himself, but his video response to his made-up "bull-horn guy" was enough to let me know that he and I are not talking about the same gospel.

Additionally, his bizarre interview with Tood Friel on Way of the Master Radio causes me to place him in the same category as the liberals who ran the PC(USA) into the ground and are currently killing the Anglican/Episcopalian community.

Josh said...

Gordan,
So do you agree with the church that is going around and protesting at
soldier funerals saying that they died because God is judging America
because of homosexuality?

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Josh...what in the world would lead you to believe that just because we reject Mclaren and Bell we would embrace Fred Phelps and the folks at Westboro Baptist Church? In fact...I have written on my own blog about Fred Phelps, and consider him not just a heretic, but a cult leader.

But Phelps is no threat to the church...he isnt decieving people...he is just making lots of people angry...he has no following except for his twisted family..

McLaren and Bell however have a wide following, which makes it extremely important to study and know the gospel.

Josh said...

Gordan had mentioned "made up bull horn guy" as his reason why he rejects Rob Bell. I have watched this video and who do I see as "bull horn guy" but Fred Phelps. So, I wanted to clarify just who he thinks th "bull horn guy" is.

Josh said...

To follow-up, I took some time to listen to Way of the Master radio and their attacks on Rob Bell.

But before I get too far, let me begin by admitting that I do admire RB. But, I have discovered a lot of negativity, including here on this site, and I decided I needed to take a step back and do a little research on who he is and why people have a problem with him which I have done over the past couple of weeks.

Here are a couple of things that seem to hit me:

First, he is being placed in the same category as Brian McLaren. I really think people need to think twice about lumping the 2 of them together. Brian has no idea who he is and what he believes in. I feel like RB does fundamentally believes the Bible (http://www.marshill.org/pdf/narrativeTheology.pdf)

Second, RB is not out announcing God's judgement on the world. Most who disagree with him do so on this basis. Way of the Master is a perfect example of this. RB reaches people through serving, love and compassion. WOTM and other such organizations reach people by showing them how our sin has caused this gap between us and God - and how we are not worthy of God's love and yet He sent His Son to die for us.

The church is called the Body of Christ. It drives me mad that we are picking it apart. I know friends who will not respond to someone who shows them their sin and even though I do not think that WOTM and others are necessarily passing judegement on them, that is how it is percieved. But these same people, if they were shown love and compassion, perhaps they will see Jesus through them. This can be true the other way.

Do you all agree or disagree?

gordan said...

Josh,

No, I don't agree with Greg Phelps.

Gosh, for a guy who's here decrying the fact that Bell is lumped in with McLaren, you're sure quick to associate us with some outrageous bad guy.

I think "bull horn guy" is the WOM sort of street preacher.

gordan said...

Have I got my Emerg___ guys mixed up or isn't it Bell who admitted that he does not believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but rather a human product?

I'm not being a smart alek on this: if I'm wrong, somebody correct me.

gordan said...

Josh writes: "The church is called the Body of Christ. It drives me mad that we are picking it apart."

Well, that would drive me mad, too, if that's what I thought was happening here. With the case of the milder, more orthodox Emerging types, I think we here have stressed that we consider them brothers: brothers doing ridiculous things; but brothers.

With the case of McLaren (at least, leaving Bell out of it for now) I am not convinced that he is my brother in Christ. I think he is a wolf among the fold. What drives me mad in that case is genuine sheep who are willing to give him a pass.


"I know friends who will not respond to someone who shows them their sin and even though I do not think that WOTM and others are necessarily passing judegement on them, that is how it is percieved."

To which our question would then be something like, how is that different than the way the preachers in the Bible were perceived? Shall we preach with one eye on how we're being perceived?

"But these same people, if they were shown love and compassion, perhaps they will see Jesus through them. This can be true the other way."

Of course, your suggestion there is that telling someone the truth about their natural relationship to God is somehow different than showing "love and compassion." Like it would be loving and compassionate for my doctor to hide the fact of my new cancer from me, and instead focus on how marvellous my eyesight happens to be? (I don't have cancer--just an illustration.)

You seem to be suggesting there are multiple ways of delivering the Gospel. Either be honest with them about their standing before God and how serious sin is; or, if you like this other option better, be nice and focus on things they'll like to hear better.

I think we here are generally convinced that the most loving thing we can do for someone is be honest and declare as plainly as possible the message we've received.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Gordon...I think you make a great point...Josh....not me the other one...is assuming that it isnt a compassionate thing to do to mention sin and the severed and even hateful relationship we have with God....I believe those of us here at the Mafia see it otherwise...I am so glad someone told me about my sin...I am glad someone told me the truth about my relationship with Jesus instead of trying all sorts of other things to try to make me want to be a CHristian. Honestly, when I was lost, there wasn't anything that attracted me to Christianity...Repentance didn't sound very pleasing, and it doesn't. But once we see our desperate condition, we flee to Christ...It is the only loving and compassionate thing to tell someone to repent.

RB is simply a social gospel guy...Be nice to someone, act like Jesus around them...and then they will act like you too and do the things that you do, and then we will all live like CHristians, and live happily ever after. Problem with that: Rob Bell still hasnt dealt with the real issue...we are sinners under a curse, in need of redemption, in need of freedom from bondage, in need of salvation. The new way of life follows salvation...not the other way around.

Sorry guys....we aren't being jerks, we just want people to open their eyes when it comes to things like this.

Josh said...

OK... before we go any farther, I need to clarify something. I am not saying that we don't show love and compassion by presenting the gospel to an unsaved person. I do think that there are different approaches to sharing the gospel with them whether it is by building a habitat home or going to the mall and talking to someone about Christ. We both seem to agree that there are nuts out there who do sit on the street corners and pass judgement on others like Phelps. That is what my perception of what the bullhorn guy is in the video.

My last comments were based more on what people who have a problem with RB are saying and not you all. In a way, I have passed judgement on you all without getting your feedback - sorry.

So, with that being said, what is the major theological problems with RB?

gordan said...

Josh,

Just to clarify: I do see a difference between "sharing the gospel" and acting in ways that are consistent with the gospel.

Above, you seem to be talking in the same ball park as that quote: "Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words."

I don't believe that's a biblical idea. God's foolishness has consigned the communication of the Gospel to the written and spoken word. If you never declare the facts of the gospel of Christ in linguistic form, then all the things you do can never be more than just really nice things.

If I build a Habitat House, as noble as that may be, if a clear presentation of the message in words is not given, then the whole venture is a generic humanitarian deal, and not specifically Christian. It's a really nice thing to do, but it's not going to save anybody.

I suspect that you are really talking about what goes under the label of "servanthood evangelism." Is that correct? Where you do nice things for people and then maybe they'll listen to you when you verbally share the message?

I'd be interested in knowing where or whether you see this modeled in the Bible at all.

Because I really used to buy into this idea pretty heavily. My whole church did. My experience in the midst of that does not bear out the theory. In fact, we ran into people being quite resentful. That is, in the cases where the process actually made it to the "share the gospel" phase, which was rare. They were resentful because the lightbulb seemed to click on for them immediately and they had an "a-ha" moment, realizing suddenly why we had been so nice to them. And guess what? They still thought we were judgmental and had no business telling them how to get right with God. That's in addition to being irritated with getting "set up" by the good deeds.

That's not to say we shouldn't be charitable and act right as followers of Christ, but that's to draw a line between that and actually doing the work of evangelism. Not the same things.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Good words gordan..perhaps this critique of velvet elvis could be of some help.

http://www.reformation21.org/Past_Issues/2006_Issues_1_16_/2006_Issues_1_16_Shelf_LIfe/February_2006/February_2006/148/vobId__2030/pm__338/

gordan said...

Thanks for that link, man. It contains a lot of the quotes I've seen from Bell that have greatly influenced my perception of him.

Josh said...

Josh and Gordan,
I guess you can call it "servanthood evangelism."

I look at Jesus' ministry - Every single time that he sends his disciples out to preach he tells them to do so while healing the sick, driving out evil spirits, etc. He doesn't say, if the people listen to you preach, than go ahead and heal them. There is no conditions - as James says - Faith without deeds is dead. Should we not do deeds because, gosh, we may do all that work and we may not get the chance to witness to that person or they may reject what we say? So, instead, let's just knock on their door...

BTW - We don't save people, God does. Mark 26-27 - "Who can be saved? With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

Back to RB - have you guys listened to his sermons, watched his Noomas or done any additional research besides reading an article of someone who has picked apart a book and given his opinion on it?

I sometimes go on blogspots of atheist and spend time talking to them to understand why they don't believe (well, I argue they do believe) and they oftentimes quote an off the wall verse in the Bible that talks about God killing people or something else drastic they have have picked up somewhere from someone and I try to explain to them that you can't get the whole picture unless you take the time to pick up the Bible and read through it and understand God's plan of salvation and the sacrifice Jesus made.

I get the feeling that both of you are making these statements, which I believe are partly irresponsible especially when you judge someone not to be a Christian and yet seemingly have not take the time to thoroughly learn about the subject of your critism. And you are making this critism to an audience of not just you all, but other Christians and non-Christians who stumble across your website and read it.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Josh....you are doing the same thing with the scripture as you accuse us of doing with Rob Bell. You are quoting, and not really even quoting, but summarazing some scriptural themes, without really looking at anything behind it.

You say:

Every single time that he sends his disciples out to preach he tells them to do so while healing the sick, driving out evil spirits, etc. He doesn't say, if the people listen to you preach, than go ahead and heal them.

But here you are confusing physical healing with spiritual cleansing. No Jesus didn't say that, but if you read the scriptures Jesus didnt just heal people to heal them as its end. He healed them for the purpose of showing his power, and would call them to repentance and faith. So you are right...Jesus doesn't say that....but that doesn't prove your point whatsoever...In Romans 10, it is clear the gospel must be preached...follow the logic of Romans 10...It is better to interpret narrative passages from more didactic passages anyway...any good ole hermeneutic book will tell you that.

So before you accuse of just taking Rob Bell out of context...dont take scripture out of context either...thats a more serious danger...In order to discuss healing passages, you must show a connection between physical and spiritual healing, and systematically show the purpose of healing miracles...IF you are ready to do that...then go ahead...but if not...don't make silly statements like the one you just made.

Josh said...

Josh,
I am not debating the fact that the gospel must be preached. I'm also not trying to debate with you what the best method is to preach it.

I agree that Jesus didn't just heal just for the fun of it - hey guys, look what I can do! I believe that he used the external physical healing to lead to the spiritual healing - or salvation from sin and an eternal death in hell.

Here is where I believe the difference is between our arguement. In your blog, you give a top 10 marks of a biblical church based on Acts 2:41-47 and I agree with each and every single one of them. But I ask you to continue on to Acts 3. If you include this chapter on your list it would include...

#11 - They went out to the people who were broken and hurt. In the name of Christ they healed them and in doing so shared the gospel not just with those who were healed, but also those who saw God's power at work.

You see using a previous example, if I am working on a Habitat House, I'm not just doing it for the person who is in need of the physical healing that house will provide, but I understand that this person lives in a community, many of whom may not know Christ and some of whom may come over to help or ask why we are there doing it. And in doing so, my hope and prayer is that spiritual healing will take place in all the lives that have witnessed this event. And here is the difference between it being a "generic humanitarian deal" and a "Christian deal" - Christ and doing it in His Name! If we allow him to use us as an instrument for Him, He will provide a time and a place for us to use any method He chooses to reach whomever He wants.

I hope that is not a silly answer!

gordan said...

Hey, Josh, I think we are in agreement about the fact that the preaching of the Gospel must be accompanied by the doing of Gospel works. No one's arguing that.

We have a problem with the idea that the Gospel can be preached rightly while leaving certain key ideas completely out of the discussion.

Yes, I have done more than read one book review.

How much do think a guy needs to do before he can say, "I don't think this man is teaching right?"

Frankly, having been raised as a very liberal "Christian" I can spot the key words and foundational ideas very quickly. I live in the Southwest, in rattlesnake country. When you hear one, you've got about a second to recognize what you're hearing and decide if you need to jump away or not. You can't afford to stand there and give the source of the noise the benefit of the doubt while you thoroughly inspect every aspect of it.

Maybe you could help us all by pointing us to a specific place where Rob Bell affirms orthodox Christian doctrine with no equivocations, in a straightforward manner.

Josh said...

Gordan,
Let me ask you a question. I'm assuming you are a preacher so my question revolves around that. So a person walks into your church and listens to one of you sermons. Now, if he does not understand, questions or has a problem with what you are saying, would it be your hope and prayer that he would give you the opportunity to sit down, perhaps after church at lunch or maybe stop by your office for coffee during the week, and discuss your sermon. Wouldn't part of that include finding out first hand about this person... who is he, what is his family situation, what does he believe.

Now, what if this person didn't do that and instead left upset. And later you found out that this person was going around and complaining about you and your sermon to other people, including those in your congregation and in your community. Later you find out that the reason that he did this was, using your words, "when you hear a rattlesnake you can't afford to stand there and give the source of the noise the benefit of the doubt while you thoroughly inspect every aspect of it."

If you can't give this rattlesnake (RB) the benefit of the doubt while you thoroughly inspect every aspect of it, what gives you the right to go to the online community and rattle off about him?

As I said before, I am here because I had heard people warning against what RB was preaching. As a Christian, I feel like it is my responsibility to do so before I continue to support his ministry through purchasing his material and listening to his sermons.

Is there anyone out there that isn't afraid to get snake bit and do a thorough investigation before they pass judgement?

gordan said...

As a matter of fact, Josh, both of your hypotheticals have happened to me. Sure, the latter one is disheartening. So what do I do when that happens? I devote the whole matter to God and rest in the knowledge that I've done my best with the grace He's given me. And then, I don't think too much about it.

I will answer the question with another, though.

How many sermons from Greg Phelps did you have to listen to, or how many articles and books, before you decided he was not worth the trouble? And if you have not taken the time to meticulously inspect every thing he's put out there, explain to me why not. He certainly claims to be a true Christian, and by your reasoning here, the demand is thus placed on all of us to hear him out in detail before passing any sort of judgment on his teachings.

gordan said...

Clarification for the record:

I'm no fan of Greg Phelps. I used him as an example precisely because Josh has referenced him above as a fitting target for criticism.

Josh said...

Gordan - I did not write a blog and post it to the WORLD WIDE web attacking his Christianity.

I'm tired of this. I am ending up attacking you, my Christian brothers, and that is not what Christ has called us to do.

Merry Christmas!

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Merry Christmas to you too Josh...and Gordan.its Fred Phelps...I have no clue who Greg is. Anyway....Josh....heres the deal: By your comments it leaves us to assume that you believe one can be saved by simply watching someones charitable deeds, without every hearing any message of the cross. Please correct us if we are wrong. God does save how he chooses, and the fact is, he has already chosen how he is going to save sinners, through the message of the cross. Scripture is extremely clear on that point.

That is where we take issue with the emergent guys. They don't believe the gospel is needed...they think it is outdated and barbaric. They think all you need to do is be nice to be people and then they will become followers of Christ...but what they mean is followers of an ethic...To those guys Christianity is just being nice to people and doing good things....thats cool...but the Bible is clear that is the message of the cross that brings salvation....if this message is absent....people will not come to CHrist...no matter how many houses you build with your own bare hands for habitat for humanity.

Rhett said...

You know... I'm all for good deeds. Build houses! Feed the poor! Take care of orphans and widows! These are all wonderful things!

That being said, I think it's critical that when Christians do those good works it is in the name of Christ and is used as a means to share the Gospel. Balance is key.

The "social gospel" is no Gospel.

gordan said...

Josh,

I don't feel attacked. We are just talking, and you have legitimate concerns about a man you think may be getting unfairly villified. I respect that.

I hope your Merry Christmas was not your final word here, as I would like to continue exploring the question.

Yes, this blog is on the World Wide Web, but that doesn't mean the world is reading it. I think we do a nice job here, but the Reformed Mafia is (sorry, my family bros) a really tiny fish in an enormous ocean. I'm amazed you even found us.

But is that the issue? If we were to go on the offensive vs. Greg Phelps on this blog, would it matter to you if we had listened to multiple sermons, or can we agree that the basics of his message are well-enough known that a fair assessment of his doctrines can be made without doing that?

I don't have a cut-and-dried answer for you.

As an example, I am a big fan of Rev. Douglas Wilson. My theology doesn't match his, but I'm a huge fan anyway. I think he gets very unfairly accused of heresy by people who lump him in with worse men and don't bother to read what he's actually written. Or, worse, they read what he's written in the hope of excavating something to hang their charges on. That frustrates me greatly, and I have taken some heat for going to bat for him in my own little corner of the world.

But here's the key in what I think you and I are doing differently here. I can point you to places where my guy (Wilson) has been painfully direct and clear about what he believes, and why his beliefs ought not be considered heretical. I haven't seen that you are able to do that for your guy (Bell.) We both believe our guy is unfairly labelled...but I can show you proof, if you're willing to read it.

Where would you point me to see Rob Bell unequivocally state, in an unambiguous manner, his beliefs about issues that are central to Christianity?

I see equivocation everywhere.

He believes in hell, but not the sort of hell Christians have historically believed.

He believes the Bible is "inspired" but then in another place calls it a human work, not "divine fiat." (What's that new terminology mean, y'know?)

He says he believes in the historic doctrine of the Virgin Birth, but then goes on to claim it's really not that important; which begs the question about how important he thinks the Incarnation is?

You see what I'm saying. Where is he clear and plain? Exactly what does he think about the Virgin Birth if he's concluded that it's not central to Christianity???

For me, that equivocation above, all by itself is a tell-tale sign. I would need convincing that it doesn't presage serious error in other places.

gordan said...

Joshua, you obviously haven't heard of the evils of Rev. Greg Phelps, if you think I was talking about that "God hates fags" guy.

(Kidding.)

Josh said...

Let me give you a brief recount of my story - perhaps that will help you understand where I am coming from.

I grew up in Maryland where my grandfather was a conservative Bible believing/preaching United Methodist minster in the most liberal part of the country. You all are well aware of the struggles that the UMC church has had with the liberal theology/social gospel.

I spent time in the UMC, Nazarene, Presbyterian and Baptist church. I moved to Nashville, met my wife - a good Southern Baptist girl - and moved back to Nashville where I worked as a manager in a non-profit.

We found a wonderful Bible believing/preaching non-denominational church. But it was during my time with my new SBC wife and fresh thoughts of living for several years in the south that I came to the conclusion that the south is really a huge mission field. You see, to her and most others that I met, if you live in the south you were born into Christianity because you went to church on Sunday and Wednesday nights. There was no real need to study the Bible or grow into a deeper relationship with Christ and His fellow Christians.

It was during this time that God opened the door for a move to Kentucky to be a children and youth director (my degree is in business administration) at no other than a United Methodist Church, where I am today.

My general thoughts on the complacency of the people here are confirmed almost on a daily basis. One thing I did not expect is how deep the division is between the denominations. It quite honestly infuriates me. How can you reconcile telling a child or a youth how much God loves them but don't go near those Baptist or Methodist - they're crazy!

And I'll just be honest with you all and I hope it doesn't offend, but the Baptist here are really bad at this. On multiple occasions I have tried to reach out to do events with them and all I get back is a rattle of their tale, like I have imposed on their territory. They are very exclusive and judgemental. The Baptist church closest to us has a new youth pastor that I have become friendly with and I hope and pray that it will change. But there are many Baptist churches in this town and a vast majority hold this same viewpoints. Don't get me wrong, most of the denomiations are guilty of this - I just am amazed that the Baptist here are so open about it!

I believe that it is out of this culture that the emerging/emergent church is gaining hold. Instead of critism, they are embrasing love. Are there some that are taking this to the extreme and missing some traditional Christian beliefs - yes - they are the preachers of the social gospel and I also dismiss them. But on the whole I see this movement as recentering the church closer to the picture that we see in Christ.

This post is long enough. I will follow up with my thoughts on RB a little later.

Josh said...
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Rhett said...

Josh,

"if you live in the south you were born into Christianity because you went to church on Sunday and Wednesday nights."

Yeah, no kidding! That's especially case here in rural GA. My home state of Florida is now pagan enough that such is not really the case.

I'm all for Christian unity, but I think there comes a time when you just have to draw a line...

How can I work with a PCUSA church that denies the deity of Christ? How can I work with a UMC that openly accepts and affirms homosexuality within it's membership and/or denies the Bible is the Word of God? Should I work with a United Pentecostal who denies the Trinity and teaches that one must speak in tongues to be saved? Do you see what I'm saying? At some point we must draw the line.

I try to give folks the benefit of the doubt, but there's some things I cannot go along with without violating my conscience.

Take the Reformed Mafia for example:

Though we are all credo-Baptists and Calvinistic in our soteriology, yet, even within this team blog there are many things we each disagree on.

I don't think any of us agree on the same eschatological scheme. We have guys who hold to both Covenantal and Dispensational theology. There's a number of different views on Spiritual Gifts, and the list could go on and on...

I have lots of Arminian friends in the Church of God of Prophecy (my former denomination) who I love as my brothers in Christ, though we vehemently disagree on Soteriology and a number of other issues.

So you see Josh, we grant folks grace in the non-essentials, but when it comes to things we consider to be essential to the truth of the Gospel we draw a line.

From all accounts I have, Bell, McClaren and a number of the others in the Emergent movement have indeed crossed the line.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

True...and Gordan himself has crossed the line by being a Dallas Cawboy's fan.....what a shame!

gordan said...

blasphemer

Bradley said...

LET THE BLOGOSPHERE DISCERN: Lots of interesting claims; still no proof of the claims. No quotes from their books that demonstrate any of the anti-Rob Bell anti-Brian McLaren rhetoric which classifies them as non-Christian or heretical. Just as I suspected.

I give a hat tip to Fred for trying. He's the only one that actually gave me any actual quotes from any actual writings (from original sources). But he still hasn't shown us any sure proof of GOSPEL denial. It's one thing to speak provocatively to make a point, and to say that clarity is overrated; it's quite another to deny the gospel. Nice try Fred. I really am desiring to see some real quotes that support that claim. Once I see them, I will rest easy that you guys are not being uncharitable after all (this is what I would rather believe about you anyway).

Lot's of mudslinging, zero case-making. I shall use the reverse of McDowell's idea here to communicate the theme of my own rhetoric:

A Verdict That Demands Evidence

[from original sources which sufficiently demonstrates the sort of claims being made that these guys are not real Christians]

Rhett said...

Bradley,

Why don't you provide us with something proving they are? It sounds as if you are very familar with them. I for one would be happy to examine it. :)

Bradley said...

Rhett,

I'm not the one who is on a blog crusade against these guys. I'm not the one who is advancing a verdict. For me, the jury is still out on these guys. I need to investigate further. I've made it a long-term goal to read their writings over the next few years in order to discover the truth. I know enough, however, to know that people often misrepresent them, and misunderstand them (not to mention slander them) without ever spending the time and energy it takes to actual discover them for who they really are.

The burden of proof belongs to those announcing harsh verdicts.

Josh said...

So, if I were to move to your town USA and if I was not a Baptist youth minster and I invited you all to join our youth group going bowling or even something more serious like a 30-hour famine. You all would turn down the invitiation because I was not Baptist?

Let's just get to the heart of the matter, will any other Christians other than Baptist be in heaven? Are you guilty by association if you are a member of another denomiation? Heck, will my grandfather be in heaven?

Will a person who claims to be a Christian and lives a God pleasing life but who also is more accepting of homosexuality, has a differing viewpoint on creation go to heaven? (again - Josh, I'm not arguing for or against any of those viewpoints, I'm just trying to figure out where the line is that you guys have drawn)

Rhett said...

Josh,

If you moved to my town and did that, I might very well take you up on it. Especially if I got to know you. :)

Please understand, Denomination isn't the point. If that's how you understood it, either you misunderstood my point or I wasn't clear enough.

For example:

We recently had a missionary -who I believe is a member of the PCUSA- come speak to our youth about missions work he's going in the Congo. We just had a Methodist come speak to our men's fellowship. My favorite theologian is R.C. Sproul: a Presbyterian. The point is orthodoxy, not denomination.

Yes, if your grandfather was born again, he's in Heaven now -I'm not so sure about mine.

All people who are truly saved will be in Heaven, God will straighten out ALL OF OUR theological shortcomings when we get there.

Rhett said...

Bradley,

I, for one, can relate to having dismissed a group before I really understood it. I used to do this very thing with Baptists and Calvinists -now I'm both.

What I have personally read on the movement has been from John MacArthur and what I heard at the Ligonier Conference. Is MacArthur slinging mud too?

gordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gordan said...

Bradley,

I appreciate your concern on this, along with Rhett.

But I would caution you to avoid making the same mistake you're worried about (accusing without sufficient evidence.) This blog has provided links to the Bell video itself and to a pretty exhaustive critique of Bell's book which does in fact include many direct quotes from the man. And even on this thread we have been discussing real things he has said and taught.

The ironic thing is that you challenge us to find places where Bell clearly teaches heresy, while one of my/our big points has been, Where does Bell clearly teach anything at all? Have you found such a place yet?

I would sincerely like to see a place where Bell clearly, succinctly, and without equivocation lays out his beliefs concerning the foundational doctrines of Christianity.

You're the committed student in this area: do you know if such a place exists?

If your answer is no, then I fail to see how you can take us to task for complaining that Bell equivocates on everything and thus does not clearly teach orthodoxy.

Again, I have asked for links to any place where his beliefs are clearly stated: I cannot find any such place. I am left to go off what he has in fact written and said (his wishy-washy, equivocating book, and the Pnooma video in question.) Those pieces of evidence to not stack in his favor, unless one approaches them (as you seem to) with a willingness to impute orthodoxy to them, and spin them in the best possible way.

You've committed yourself to years of reading what he's written: My point is, why in the world should it take so long to figure out where he stands. You confirm my point: he is not clear, and that's the best that can be said. Apparently, even one who is a defender of his is willing to admit that, having read him carefully, you still can't reach a verdict and think it must take years to do so.

So another question of mine is this: how much of my life must I devote to a teacher before I can get a handle on where he's coming from. Apparently, his mere claim to be a true Christian is enough to obligate me to a lifetime of searching which may well not be rewarded.

I do not see the New Testament approaching teachers in this manner. I do not see the Scriptures advocating the approach you have taken and want us to take. Bell has written many thousands of words and made many videos, and we ought to be able to get a read on where he's coming from in those. My read is this: he is a liberal who uses Christian terminology but imports to those terms his own ideas, without telling anyone he's pulled this switch.

You may disagree with that reading of things like the Pnooma video, but all you've got is your opinion versus mine. You think he's orthodox. Fine. Nothing he's said or written seems to fall on that side of the fence, as I read it.

You accuse men of slander and offer no evidence. Since you're doing that on a blog and apparently are willing to make a crusade of it, where is your evidence?

Rhett said...

Gordan,

"My point is, why in the world should it take so long to figure out where he stands."

You know, you have a point there my friend...

It doesn't take one very long to figure out where John MacArthur or John Piper stands on the essentials -or the non-essentials for that matter.

If I had written a few books that were totally orthodox, and yet decent Christian people came out calling me an infidel or a heretic, I would be inclined to think that I wasn't clear enough in my presentation, not that everybody was just wanting to pick on me for no reason...

Perhaps clarity isn't so overated after all?

gordan said...

Not only that, Rhett, but in your imaginary scenario there, I'm betting you would be absolutely mortified by that response from your fellow believers, and would be zealous to discover what it was that you messed up so badly. I'm not saying you'd capitulate right away if you sincerely believed you were right and they were wrong, but I am fairly certain you would be zealous to clear the air with them...and, yes, repent if necessary. But, if, after a response like that that, you instead wrote a book called something like, "We've Been Doing Christianity Wrong for Hundreds of Years," I would take that as a pretty bold statement of your belief that you're the only one who's got it right. Either you're right or the rest of us are. Either way, it would then be wrong for you to get upset about the fact that the rest of us don't view you as one of us.

One more thing: if you saw the vast bulk of your orthodox brethren having these sort of issues with your writings, AND THEN you pretty consistently refused to engage any of them in serious discussion about any of it, that'd be a tell-tale sign for me. If you left it to self-appointed defenders to go out on the 'net and try to explain you, without your help, I would lose all remaining respect for you.

Rhett said...

Amen to all that...

Josh said...

Hey guys,

Here is Mars Hill's Narative Theology. RB is the founding pastor. I'll let you all tell us what is wrong with it...

We believe God inspired the authors of Scripture by his Spirit to speak to all generations of believers, including us today. God calls us to
immerse ourselves in this authoritative narrative communally and individually to faithfully interpret and live out that story today as we
are led by the Spirit of God.
In the beginning God created all things good. He was and always will be in a communal relationship with himself – Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit. God created us to be relational as well andmarked us with an identity as his image bearers and amissional calling to serve, care for, and
cultivate the earth. God created humans in his image to live in fellowship with him, one another, our inner self, and creation. The enemy
tempted the first humans, and darkness and evil entered the story through human sin and are now a part of the world. This devastating
event resulted in our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation being fractured and in desperate need of redeeming.
We believe God did not abandon his creation to destruction and decay; rather he promised to restore this broken world. As part of this
purpose, God chose a people, Abraham and his descendants to represent him in the world. God promised to bless them as a nation so
that through them all nations would be blessed. In time they became enslaved in Egypt and cried out to God because of their oppression.
God heard their cry, liberated them from their oppressor, and brought them to Sinai where he gave them an identity and a mission as his
treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, a holy people. Throughout the story of Israel, God refused to give up on his people despite
their frequent acts of unfaithfulness to him.
God brought his people into the Promised Land. Their state of blessing from God was intimately bound to their calling to embody the living
God to other nations. They made movement toward this missional calling, yet they disobeyed and allowed foreign gods into the land,
overlooked the poor, and mistreated the foreigner. The prophetic voices that emerge from the Scriptures held the calling of Israel to the
mirror of how they treated the oppressed and marginalized. Through the prophets, God’s heart for the poor was made known, and we
believe that God cares deeply for the marginalized and oppressed among us today.
In Israel’s disobedience, they became indifferent and in turn irrelevant to the purposes to which God had called them. For a time, they
were sent into exile; yet a hopeful remnant was always looking ahead with longing and hope to a renewed reign of God, where peace and
justice would prevail.
We believe these longings found their fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, mysteriously God
having become flesh. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted and set captives free, proclaiming a
new arrival of the Kingdom of God, bringing about a New Exodus, and restoring our fractured world. He and his message were rejected
by many as he confronted the oppressive nature of the religious elite and the empire of Rome. Yet his path of suffering, crucifixion, death,
burial, and resurrection has brought hope to all creation. Jesus is our only hope for bringing peace and reconciliation between God and
humans. Through Jesus we have been forgiven and brought into right relationship with God. God is now reconciling us to each other,
ourselves, and creation. The Spirit of God affirms as children of God all those who trust Jesus. The Spirit empowers us with gifts,
convicts, guides, comforts, counsels, and leads us into truth through a communal life of worship and a missional expression of our faith.
The church is rooted and grounded in Christ, practicing spiritual disciplines and celebrating baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The church
is a global and local expression of living out the way of Jesus through love, peace, sacrifice, and healing as we embody the resurrected
Christ, who lives in and through us, to a broken and hurting world.
We believe the day is coming when Jesus will return to judge the world, bringing an end to injustice and restoring all things to God’s
original intent. God will reclaim this world and rule forever. The earth’s groaning will cease and God will dwell with us here in a restored
creation. On that day we will beat swords into tools for cultivating the earth, the wolf will lie down with the lamb, there will be no more
death and God will wipe away all our tears. Our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation will be whole. All will flourish as
God intends. This is what we long for. This is what we hope for. And we are giving our lives to living out that future reality now.

Josh said...

By the way Rhett, thank you for your comments and clarification. I'm wondering if your fellow mafia members would agree (Josh?)

gordan said...

I agree with whatever Rhett tells me to.

Rhett said...

Josh,

"I'm wondering if your fellow mafia members would agree (Josh?)"

I'd say yes... If not, I'll "waterboard" that blog member until he agrees with me. LOL! ;D

Rhett said...

You see, Gordan understands how things work around here!!!

gordan said...

BTW, I don't have a big problem with that blurb you posted, there, Josh, and was happy to read it.

Of course, it is short of a detailed statement of theology, but that's probably not what it was intended to be. I don't have a huge argument with any of it, although there are some terms and phrases I'd like to see defined better. I note the absence of the idea of Justification by Faith.

But, you can probably understand the confusion on our part, in that while the Virgin Birth seems clearly affirmed here, Bell has said in another place that he doesn't see the doctrine as necessary to Christian faith, and frankly believes the core of Christianity could go on and survive quite nicely even if the Virgin Birth was proven factually wrong somehow. To me, that demands some further explanation; as well as his statement about the inspiration of the Word when combined with the confession that he doesn't see the Bible as divine in origin, but rather as a "human work." What's that mean?

Also, I'm not certain if you're aware of this, but some proponents of so-called Narrative Theology believe that it is the story itself that is powerful and important, and not so much the actual truthfulness of the elements of the story. So, you can tell the story without actually having to believe that each part of it happened. I'm not suggesting that's being done here, but saying this is a start (only) in a good direction.

Bradley said...

I'm sorry for such a long response to Gordon's comments below, but sometimes when someone manages to incorporate so many misunderstandings in just a few comments, it takes the person who does cross-examination a good deal of time to unravel all of them. Since Gordon's comments were relatively lengthy, and so riddled with misunderstandings it forced me to give quite a lengthy response. Gordon's comments are so entangled it's difficult to know where to start.

Gordon,

The only part of your comments I felt unsure about was your comment about the biblical "approach" to teachers. You said:

"I do not see the New Testament approaching teachers in this manner. I do not see the Scriptures advocating the approach you have taken and want us to take."

What exactly do you mean when you refer to the "biblical" approach to teachers? Do you mean that the Bible convicts teachers of being guilty till proven innocent? Do you intend to make reference to the fact that Paul is quick to speak out against false teachers? If the former, where do you get this? Give me some passages of scripture to support it. If the latter, your point seems to beg the question about whether guys like Bell and McLaren are indeed "false teachers" in the same sense. I would agree that we should speak out against the kind of "false teachers" Paul speaks out against, I just think we should be sure they are indeed the same kind of "false teachers" before we aim our "heresy" bazooka's at them. If neither of these accurately represent what you meant, then please explain, por favor, what you did mean.

Perpetuating Bias vs. Consciously Attempting to Overcome Bias

If I want to know what a conservative evangelical believes, I don't go reading critical book reviews written by Richard Dawkins (or some other hostile liberal or atheist). When liberals don't take the time to read conservative scholarship, but limit themselves mainly to reviews written by people who already agree with them, it perpetuates bias and misunderstandings. One gives herself a better chance to overcome some of her own biases when she is open to actually carefully reading the original writings of those with whom she disagrees. It's called "engagement." We evangelicals (as a whole) have not been any better than secularists on this. Our minds live in ghetto's. If I want to know what Rob Bell and Brian McLaren believe, I don't just go reading the scathing reviews of John McArthur. This is why it's important that the discussion on this blog be based around actual quotes from Bell's and McLaren's writings, sermons, or words. It will help give a more objective flavor to our discussion.

Bradley said...

Have I Overlooked Your Evidence?

Although you caution me not to make the same mistake of "accusing without sufficient evidence," your caution is only fair if I have disregarded valid "evidence." You appealed to three pieces of evidence: 1) the video, 2) a critical review of one of Bell's books, and 3) blog chatter. You said:

"This blog has provided links to the Bell video itself and to a pretty exhaustive critique of Bell's book which does in fact include many direct quotes from the man [Bell]. And even on this thread we have been discussing real things he has said and taught."

Only one of these three (the video) is of the kind of "evidence" I have challenged you guys to expose (first hand evidence from the horses mouth). But even with the one piece of the right kind of evidence-the pnooma video-no one (including you Gordon) has given any direct quote from the video where heresy is clearly taught. If your response to that is "Well … the whole point is that Bell never teaches anything clearly," then see my rebuttal of this position below. You can't just reference the video as if everybody who's watched it automatically knows exactly which part of the video you intend to accuse Bell of speaking heresy. You have to be more specific if you want an audience to consider a passing reference to a video snippet as substantial "evidence." Don't just say "our claims are based on this video," but give me a quote (in context) from the video, explain what you understand him to mean by what he says in the video, and, why this should be considered heresy (as opposed to just bad theology).

Second hand critical book reviews don't count as actual quotes from Brian or Bell. What is more, although you say that the guy who did the book review actually quotes Bell, you don't even offer any of these quotes from his review. A mere link to a critical book review is a far cry from giving actual quotes from Bell and Brian's writings or teachings in context.

Although you say "we have been discussing real things he has said and taught," the challenge is to not merely to discuss real things they have supposedly said, but to first show that they have actually said it by quoting them in context, then to show why the substance of what they actually said is clearly heresy. In other words, blog chatter is not substantial evidence.

In sum, I'm afraid that second hand critical reviews, blog chatter, and vague references to the video are simply not substantial evidence, much less enough evidence to justify your case that Bell or Brian teach heresy.

On the other hand, Josh has provided the entire "Narrative Theology" from Rob Bell's church. This is the kind of evidence which meets the objective criterion. However, we find in this "Narrative Theology" that Bell believes exactly what you say he does not. For example, you accuse him of believing that the Bible was a human product, and not a divine work. However, the NT (Narrative Theology) says:

"We believe God inspired the authors of Scripture by his Spirit ….this AUTHORITATIVE narrative…" (you can see the context above).

The Chicago Statement on the doctrine of Inerrancy also holds that the Bible was a human work, just not merely a human work. This appears to be Bell's position also-he believes the Bible is both inspired by God and authoritative, but he also believes it's a work of human liturature. Although he affirms the Bible as a human product, this does not rule out or contradict his belief that it is also divinely inspired. IF you think that an affirmation that the Bible is a human work excludes the affirmation that it is also divinely inspired, you have misunderstood the mainline theory of inspiration among conservative evangelicals. Thus, while Bell holds to the typical conservative evangelical view with regard to scripture, you go accusing him of being liberal on this very doctrine. Although originally when I used the word "slander" I did not have you guys in mind, your accusing Bell of being liberal on this could very well be used as an example of what I mean by "slander." Accusation of slander seems justified by this evidence, although you say "you accuse men of slander and offer no evidence." I would feel slandered if someone called me a liberal and said I didn't believe the Bible was Inspired or the Word of God. If I have somehow distorted what you have said, please correct me and I will gladly retract this indictment.

Furthermore, you want to reciprocate my accusatory language about you being on a "crusade." You said: "Since your doing that [accusing men of slander] on a blog and apparently are willing to make a crusade of it, where is your evidence?" However, this reciprocation is unfair, since your post's against Rob Bell force me to go on the defense, not the offense. You guys are the ones posting about it, not me. I'm simply responding to you in a defensive mode. Attempting to bring an objective flavor to a discussion on your post is not the same as "going on a crusade" against those who bash guys like Bell and Brian. On the other hand, repeated posts on your "Reformed Mafia" blog which all bring a negative spin on guys like Bell and Brian, seems to be more appropriate to the language of a "crusade" than my defensive engagements in the thread of comments. If al-Qaeda marched on US soil and we defended ourselves-who's crusade would it be?

Although Gordon continually asks whether I have found such a place where Bell teaches anything clearly, not only does Gordon himself attribute certain teachings to Bell (so these teachings, at least, are "clear" to him, see below), but Josh's direct quotes from the NT entail a number of "clear teachings" such as the one above on scripture. It's not exactly The Chicago Statement, but does it really have to be? *Just in case you plan on responding by saying that the NT may not reflect exactly Bell's beliefs, ask yourself whether you would hold him responsible (as the head pastor at that church) if the churches doctrinal statement endorsed, say, homosexuality, by way of creed.

Gordon says: "All you've got is your opinion versus mine. You think he's orthodox. Fine. Nothing he's said or written seems to fall on that side of the fence, as I read it."

So maybe NT does not give some detailed elaboration on what he means by the scripture being "inspired by the Holy Spirit" and "authoritative," but it seems to me that such a doctrinal statement (NT), as it stands, does indeed "fall on the side of the orthodox" fence. Although Gordon wishes to paint this discussion as one opinion against another, my whole effort in engaging this blog is to avoid this very thing by Actually Presenting Real Evidence of Actual Quotes, rather than merely airing our opinions about what these guys do or do not teach. I'm afraid blog discussions are all too often just that-one opinion against another. That's why I challenge this discussion to revolve around objective evidence, not mere hot air. Me and Josh give relevant quotes from Mars Hill's church's doctrinal statement. You give vague references to the video, a link to some second hand book review, and a bunch of he said she said blog talk. (I've already addressed Fred's quotes, see above). It seems from our discussion so far, it's your opinion against our quotes.

Bradley said...

Does Bell Not Teach Anything Clearly At All?

As to your question "Where does Bell clearly teach anything at all?" it is difficult to answer this question for two reasons.

First, you have already imputed many teachings to Bell and McLaren, so It's hard to take your question seriously. For example, you say they teach that "evangelicalism has truncated the Gospel message until it has become a radically individualized, pietistic mysticism." You also seemed fairly confident (given that your memory was correct) that Bell "admitted that he does not believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but rather a human product." Thus, you yourself seem to think they are actually teaching something clearly enough for you to impute it to them (whether or not they actually said such things---let the blogosphere discern). Your statement that my challenge is "ironic" (because one of your main points is that Bell never teaches anything clearly) is itself "ironic" since you seem confident enough to tell us what he believes and teaches with respect to at least a few things.

Second, Bell and McLaren have taught so many things, I can't help but see your question as mere rhetoric. It seems that it is simply your way of accusing them of being ambiguous with respect to certain teachings, but not that you actually believe they don't clearly teach anything. For example, Bell clearly believes in the virgin birth (you seem to admit this, and this has been proven by Josh's direct quotes from the Narrative Theology). He also clearly believes that the virgin birth is not as important as Christians have often thought. Please don't get sidetracked: whether he is right or wrong about the relative importance of the doctrine of the virgin birth is beside my point. My point is that he clearly believes in the virgin birth himself (there's at least one belief he is clear on) and that it is not as important as most Christians tend to think (there is at least two beliefs he is clear on). It seems I have met your challenge to present something Bell is clear about from your own comments. He's apparently clear enough for even you to admit that he teaches both these things. Are you now prepared to say that Bell is "not clear" about these two things to rectify your position?

There is another point of misunderstanding here also. Gordon has (in frustration with Josh, I think) asked the following question: "How much do think [sic] a guy needs to do before he can say, 'I don't think this man is teaching right?'" The problem with this question, at least from my point of view (I can't speak for Josh) is that I'm not necessarily saying you have to read all of their works before making a judgment. This was not my challenge. If you read just the first page of a preface to just one of their books, and it says something like, "I have for some time been convinced that the doctrine of the deity of Christ has been a distortion in the history of Christianity, not the truth, and that we have been wrong to think of the Bible as God's Word…" this would be sufficient enough to justify your claims. The challenge is not about reading X amount of anyone's writings, the challenge is about having read at least enough of their writings to be able to give us actual quotes (in context) that demonstrate your claims that these guys are flaming heretics. Since you so far have been unable to do just that, I am suggesting that maybe you need to do a little more reading and come back with actual quotes (in context), or be more modest in your posture toward them.

Bradley said...

Have I Really Confirmed Your Point About Bell's Ambiguity?

Gordon says: "You've committed yourself to years of reading what he's written. My point is, why in the world should it take so long to figure out where he stands. You confirm my point: he is not clear, and that is the best that can be said. Apparently, even one who is a defender of his is willing to admit that, having read him carefully, you still can't reach a verdict and think it must take years to do so."

Gordon, what makes you think that because it may take me "years" to read Bell and McLaren's writings, that the reason why is because they are masters of ambiguity? I could probably read two or three of each of their books within a few months and get a very good idea about a lot of their convictions. The reason why I have devoted years of study to this is because I'm too busy doing ministry at my local church, working on my masters degree, and handling other responsibilities to pause my life for the sake of plowing through their writings. I will have to try hard to squeeze in their books. Your assumption that I have proved your point, therefore, has begged the question about WHY I have devoted "years" instead of "months." Furthermore, as Josh has already shown, many of his views are not hard to come across-all you have to do is go to their church's website and look at their Narrative Theology, and other related links. "The best that can be said" even from a guy like me who is not an "expert" on the movement, is that they "seem" to basically be conservative evangelicals, holding the Bible as the Word of God, authoritative and inspired, holding that we find forgiveness in Jesus' death, that Jesus was born of a virgin, etc. etc. (see NT above)

Furthermore, it is one thing to accuse them of ambiguity, it is quite another to accuse them of heresy. These are not the same thing. I do not pretend to defend them against the accusation that they are more ambiguous than most evangelicals. My only defense of them is this: Those who claim they are heretics and non-Christians don't have sufficient evidence to demonstrate their case. That's all. Proving they are ambiguous, therefore, would not help your case (at least the case in question). I would rather be guilty of ambiguity (even intentional ambiguity) than unbelief.

It appears that you only see my statement about devoting years to study these guys as affirming your position for the same reason atheists tend to see much of the Christian apologetic as only further affirming their atheism-your glasses color everything you see, it's called: Bias. I don't claim to be free from bias. Rather, I call for this discussion to revolve around actual quotes precisely to AVOID my own biases. We all have bias, Gordon, but it seems to me that your bias is easy to see in this discussion. Perhaps I see it that way because of my own bias. Let the reader discern.

LET THE BLOGOSPHERE DISCERN: Still lot's of interesting claims, no substantial evidence justifying the "guilty" verdict. Counter-evidence has been pointed out.