17 September 2007

The Emerging Church Loves Darkness (or John MaCarthur's Idol) Part I

Call me glutton for punishment, but I ordered an audio CD of John MaCarthur's "Grace To You" radio show about the Emerging church.

Hey - it was free.

Now rather than going round and round with stuff we've all heard already before, I'd like to simply highlight a few things, because in all honestly, John said somethings that although I might disagree with, provoked and challenged me.

The first thing that struck me was John's (can I call you John?) semi-nobility, hierarchal attitude toward the common theologically uneducated layman. For example one of the first thing Phil (the host - can I call you Phil?) said was that he wanted John to "Talk about this in layman's terms for the average Grace to you hearer."

To prove his point he goes on to say that some in the emerging church might be Christians, but they are just poor souls who don't know any better and are just tossed about by every wind of doctrine that blows.

Now, he's entitled to this opinion - as outlandish as it is - but he also claims quite strongly that he is not modern or post-modern; He is a Christian (more on that later). Unfortunately for him, he's underlying above argument is that knowledge will bring you salvation which is a distinct modern approach. I'm sure if those poor souls were educated enough they would see their error and rationally forsake post-modernity and become a "Grace to You" supporter.

This brings me to the point that one is either pre-modern, modern, or post-modern. They are eras in which we live and we cannot escape them in Western Civilization. Jesus was a pre-modern Jew when he walked the earth. He choose it that way. As God, He had the choice on when he would arrive. We don't have the luxury of choice. All of us are living in a historic transition from modern to post-modern. Now this is a bit speculative but I believe historians will look at this period of time and draw comparisons to the Renaissance as Western Civilization moved out of pre-modernity into modernity.

Now John is right in declaring we that live with a higher calling. We are not to subject ourselves under the philosophies of the day. But as we live in an era from which we cannot escape, and as we are all products of our environment, we are to re-think how we live our lives as followers of Jesus in order to be a voice of light in dark places (including philosophies).

The pre-modern church was a bit slow to adapt to this (see Galileo, Newton, Kepler...) but eventually they realized that the world wasn't flat and that the earth was not the center of the Universe. As they did, they began to find that Christianity is indeed rational. Eventually apologetics, gospel tracts, and the sinners prayer was born. And to be honest, persuading rationally that Jesus died for us because we are sinners worked. God used it. It's true. And in the cultural thinking of the day, the kingdom expanded... or at least held its own.

Now it's time to re-think again. After 500 or so years of modernity, now is the time for the church to not keep arguing that the earth is the center of the universe and damned be all those who disagree, but to take the lead... to be the voice of Jesus in a post-Christian, post-modern culture. This is what the emerging church, although still in it's fledgling stage is trying to do.

I could go on, but I'll spare the rhetoric of a very well educated man that could probably argue me under the table. I do want to clarify one other thing though: John claims that the emerging church loves the darkness and therefore we just say that we don't understand the Bible, so we blow off scripture so we can enjoy our immoral ways (That's not a quote but it's pretty damn close).

He claims our humility in not completely understanding scripture is actually spiritual pride and that we deny the clarity of scripture.
He continues to say that the emerging church is just doing whatever it takes, and telling people whatever they want to hear, to please people.
He says that the emerging church wants to have a conversation because we don't want a line of doctrine that defines who we are because we like being in the dark.

I don't know about John, but my 'experience' (post-modern) trumps his 'knowledge' (modern) because I haven't met, read, or talked to any post-modern, or missional, or emerging Christian that is as John described. So based on my experience, and my knowledge, I must conclude that John supporting his argument by using a Strawman and a Affirming the Anticedent fallacy. Because, as John admits there is a wide range of specific beliefs within the emerging church, the emerging church is easy to attack by using these fallacious arguments.

The Strawman takes an extreme position and makes it the norm. So it's easy for John, and others to find one of these extremes and argue that the whole emerging movement is this extreme.

The second fallacy is derived from the first. Let me create an obvious but outlandish example to prove my point: "Norman loves snorting Coke. Norman is an Emerging Pastor. Therefore all Emerging pastors love to snort Coke."

Unfortunately for John and others who wish to attack the Emerging movement, post-moderns can be rationale too. :-)

And yet John, the not modern or post-modern, or even pre-modern follower of Jesus, continues to say things like, "I love the Word God." But I've never heard him say, "I love God." Now I'm not making any claims here because I don't want to fall into a fallacious argument myself, could it be (just an honest innocent question here) that John and others, are holding the Bible up as an idol? Could it be to them the fourth member of a Triune God? Could the dissection of the Bible in order to understand it be more important that actually loving God and loving others?

I could be wrong. I'm sure I am. But just a thought.
John may wonder if he'll see me in heaven, but I'll see him. Heaven's big enough for the both of us who are probably both wrong in more ways than we'd like to admit.

But for the record, I threw the CD away.


Danimal said...

WWFS? What would Fred Say?
Oh yeah, that we all are missing the "TRUTH." Because we have idolized our interpratation of the "word." Interesting that our post-modern interpretation is actually a striving to undersand the pre-modern through the rational of the modern. The problem with John is that he believe that Jesus is the same as human reason, and the we have arrived. It is the same problem that we always have delt with. Pride. We don't know. We won't know, and that is why grace is important. And that is why i love those who aren't really "christian." because they understand we are all in process. And that I may hate the diefication of a pony at a rodeo, or that I may love my sister in Christ even though she doubts, but I will never invalidate that fact that she is part of the saving experience. I suppose that is what Christ experienced on the third day, the fulfillment of grace and love of those in process. I hope those that use this as a metaphore for judgment and cliques eventually realize the power of God's love and grace in our human experience that was exemplified in his divine experience.

Jeff said...

"but he also claims quite strongly that he is not modern or post-modern"

Which goes to show that he really doesn't know what he is talking about. He seems to think that it is some sort of a club that you join (your frat name is "otter"). Of course, if anyone wants to help me form an emergent "club", I'll gladly collect the dues. :)

But until John MacArthur (and others) learn that different=bad is not a truism, for all of their education they'll still live in ignorance.

paul said...

It's hard I think for people like John to know what to do with the emerging church, i'm sure he's nailed a few of us but then also missed quite a lot of us as well - that's the fun of using a blunderbus :)

To be fair to him i think there are quite a few parts of our faith that we've deconstructed and are not exactly sure what to do with - and mystery is a great way of living with the tension of that, after all if you deconstruct the existing rational and haven't yet constructed a better one then mystery is what your left to embrace - if you still want to be embracing anything at that point.

But then again i'm guessing that you're probably not the intended audience of the CD david, it would like me listening to knit at home or something, i'd hear the words but i wouldn't be rushing out to buy any knitting needles anytime soon ;)

I wonder if the wind of doctrine is the Holy Spirit???