Thursday, October 19, 2006

Criticism of the Emerging Church: Why we do not hear you

Criticism of the Emerging Church: Why we do not hear you.

It is not that we do not want to hear anyone, in fact if we of “emerging” want more is to hear and exchange points of view. We truly desire dialog… we truly desire to share and explore… we even desire to have “sound doctrine”. The conversation is not about just wanting to hear what we want, in fact more often it is hearing what we don’t want, what we do not see happening, when words are just that words… and often from the modern church we see and hear this story played out as the goats seem to attack us and we fear when you won’t listen:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

We perceive that often our critics are in denial of their own short comings… that one does not see that “all have sinned and fallen short the Glory of God”, and if that is a truth, be it “propositional” or “relational” or both… we all need a savior. In that if you are a critic and do agree with me that we are all “sinners”, then remember it is by Grace we are saved and not by our own doings. So the same Grace that saved you also saved me. I see it that to deny this is a slap in the face if not placing the nail in the wrist of Christ. It is the denial that the same power to save you can in fact save someone else.

So often our disagreements are not based and approached with this Grace in mind. Also the very Mercy that is displayed by this Grace, is lost. To place ones own doctrine over a person is as Jesus said in Matt 23:23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Often in your criticism we see that you are more into the fine details of “doctrines” which are lost in your lack of “love” which in the passage quoted is defined as “justice, mercy and faithfulness”. We are to see God’s justice and realize we are all lost, and receive His great mercy, in that the result should be faithfulness. We in essence get lost in your approach and ruthlessness and cannot hear what you are saying.

Often as we are also just human we respond as we would not want. I have seen really good godly men get caught up in rhetoric and in a flash get caught up in the trap. Yes, that is another reason we do not listen to you. We see and hear a trap… much like the traps the Pharisees used to “get” Jesus in His “heretical” ways. So often you are not criticizing us, but rather mocking us. In your questions, you seem to be more like one who hisses at us, much like those who mocked Jesus… Some, which has included myself have tried to engage with you and tried to talk, yet all we get is sarcasm and mocking. In that, why would we want to converse with you? Why would we want to listen to you if you come across as that abusive relative who drinks too much and calls you fat at the family gathering? We just do not care for your abusive behavior. Remember also people will respond in kind to how you treat them. So if someone is angry with you, the problem may be in how you approached them in the first place.

Do some of our critics have legitimate things to say? YES! And some do know how to engage and communicate and do talk to us… and we do listen as we too have many of these same concerns over these issues.

I have mentioned that the “conversation” we talk of is huge, yet as in any room where many are talking some have louder voices than others. Am I concerned about Brian McLaren’s view (or possible view) on hell? Yes. Yet which is more important, that we agree that God torments those who he cast into hell? Is it more important to be “right” that one is annihilated, tortured, purified, or whatever, than to collectively agree that it is better no one has to find out what hell is like at all? Would it not be better to lead one to the Kingdom, than to teach about a place no one would want to go?

Hell is important, and I am not saying in any way we should diminish it nor its place in the scripture, yet, I see it as really silly to fight over such non-salvic doctrine. Often I agree to disagree and then teach what God has shown me. Again, to me it is more important to lead someone to Christ than to get them to believe exactly how bad hell is or that there is even one or not. To have a relationship with God through Jesus is the main thrust of our being as Christians.

We seem to be able to agree to disagree within “Emerging”. Respect is one of our values we hold high, so disrespect is not given much credence. Many do not agree with the loudest voices… many are trying to help others realize that some things are not in accordance with the teachings of Christ. Again, here I am talking within the circle of “Emerging”. Do I listen to Brian McLaren… yes and agree on many more points than I disagree with. In this then we can have points of contact in order to relate and build a possible relationship with… in that then earn the right to tell the other where there may be something wrong in some areas of their theology.

Often I see that there is a major emphasis on Christology in the “Emerging” talk, and if one is “bible based” (which is neither a criticism nor a bad thing) we are perceived as not thinking the Bible as important. On the contrary, we hold the Bible very highly. We may see things a bit differently yet that in most cases is not always true.

What I see in this case is many are discovering the Life of Christ in us, and are accused that we must “believe doctrines” over our experience. I can see both side of this on going argument. Yet, what most modern thinkers miss is we do not see it as an “either/or” as you are presenting, but a “both/and”. We are able to grasp that we must live our life experientially at the same time base our walk on the teachings of scripture. We just see it as coming from Jesus first then going to the Scripture, as I have seen most of the critics come from the “propositions” of Scripture then base their faith on them to believe in Jesus. In my life I found that the Bible is a supplement to my relationship to Christ Jesus. That as scripture states, Jesus began writing His teachings on my heart, (Jeremiah 31) and the bible is there to clarify these teachings being etched on my heart by the Holy Spirit. What I hear from my critics is a lack of the Holy Spirit in their theology. It tends to be more based on their ability to follow “propositions”.

The effect you have on most of us is only more validation of what we believe. Think about that… if you are a critic, and if you are right, then you are creating a situation that is sending people to hell… This is not “blame shifting”, just an observation. You yourself use this argument at times when you think we are preaching against holy living and claiming we are being “worldly” leading people astray. We see that most of our critics are more concerned about the outside appearance than the inside and what God may be doing. More outraged by a swear word than if someone is starving to death in their own alley behind their fine home or as the story goes about Tony Campolo that 10,000 children have died todayand you get hung up on a swear word. We just have different values as we care more of the 10,000 children than if someone uses a swear word. Do I like vulgar language? No, yet God used Jeremiah he can use today’s Jeremiahs also.

Also, people tend to become more entrenched with their beliefs if cornered and argued with. That is why kindness is much more effective than finger pointing. Remember it is God’s Kindness that leads us to repentance.

Romans 2: 1-6

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.
So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done."

With that I end with this scripture:
Romans 12:16-21
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

My prayer is that we can learn to live in harmony with one another… not to be neither proud nor conceited, not seek position of favor and forsake the lowly, to live lives worthy of the call, and to live in peace with all as best we can. To not seek vengeance o those who harm us to love our enemies so that we can over come evil with good.


(A side note here: To you who have websites that are out to criticize me on a personal level... If you truly have integrity and are trying to be honest in your "criticism", at least put links in your blogs to the post you are lambasting... it would be only fair for your readership.)

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1 comment:

blind beggar said...

Well said Iggy. The Matt. 23:23 verse is powerful and to the point.