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The Emerging Church and The Line of Despair Escaping From Reason Presented by Bob DeWaay September 9th, 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "The Emerging Church and The Line of Despair Escaping From Reason Presented by Bob DeWaay September 9th, 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Emerging Church and The Line of Despair Escaping From Reason Presented by Bob DeWaay September 9th, 2005

2 Defining The Undefined The Emerging Church does not like to be defined, because definitions create boundaries and they do not like boundaries.

3 One of the key features of the “generous orthodoxy” promoted in McLaren’s book, is that practice must precede theology. This means, rather than going to a people group with a fixed set of theological beliefs about God, man, the world, Christ, salvation, justification, the Holy Spirit, and other important Biblical matters, one goes to the people first and finds a practice that fits their needs and priorities. What the Emerging Church Means by Missional

4 “I am a Christian because I believe that, in all these ways, Jesus is saving the world. By ‘world’ I mean planet Earth and all life on it, because left to ourselves, un-judged, un-forgiven, and un- taught, we will certainly destroy this planet and its residents. And by ‘the world’ I specifically mean human history, because again, it was and is in danger, grave danger, ultimate danger, self- imposed danger, and I don’t believe anyone else can rescue it.” (McLaren; 97) In Emergent Thinking, One’s Mission Determines One’s Theology

5 “Theology is the church on a mission reflecting on its message, its identity, its meaning.” (McLaren 105) But How do we know what the Mission is? In Emergent Thinking, One’s Mission Determines One’s Theology

6 Oppressed people would be free. Poor people would be liberated from poverty. Minorities would be treated with respect. Sinners would be loved, not resented. Industrialists would realize that God cares for sparrows and wildflowers—so their industries should respect, not rape, the environment.... The kingdom of God would come—not everywhere at once, not suddenly, but gradually, like a seed growing in a field, like yeast spreading in a lump of bread dough, like light spreading across the sky at dawn (McLaren 111) Mission is Defined along the Lines of Liberation Theology

7 There is no Bad News “The idea that the Christian message is universally good news for Christians and non-Christians alike is, to some, unheard of, strange, and perhaps heretical. To me, it has become natural and obvious.” (McLaren, 110)

8 Rejection of Systematic theology “At the heart of the theological project in the late modern world was the assumption that one could and should reduce all revealed truth into propositions and organize those propositions into an outline...” (McLaren, 152)

9 Rejection of Systematic theology “Barth anticipated the day when the common sort of systematic theology would become a historical artifact. Prose abstractions just don’t contain or convey God’s truth as well as we thought they did.” (McLaren 152)

10 Deconstruction “The implications of deconstruction are staggering for Christians doing ministry in the emerging culture... By driving for ‘the one true interpretation,’ for example, they disenfranchise postmodern reader for whom deconstruction is as much the mother tongue as traditional interpretation is for modern people.” (Language, Sweet, McLaren, Haselmayer, 89)

11 Re-imagining “This full, radiant, glorious experience of God in Jesus Christ eventually revolutionized the whole concept of God, so that the word God itself was reimagined through the experience of encountering Jesus, seeing him act, hearing him speak, watching him relate, and reflecting on his whole career.” (McLaren, 73)

12 A Theology of Personal Preference Think of the kind of universe you would expect if God A created it: a universe of dominance, control, limitation, submission, uniformity, coercion. Think of the kind of universe you would expect if God B created it: a universe of interdependence, relationship, possibility, responsibility, becoming, novelty, mutualilty, freedom.... I find myself in universe B getting to know God B (McLaren 76)

13 Perpetual Doubt – Rejecting the Reformation View of Scripture “How do ‘I’ know the Bible is always right? And if ‘I’ am sophisticated enough to realize that I know nothing of the Bible without my own involvement via interpretation, I’ll also ask how I know which school, method, or technique of biblical interpretation is right....

14 Perpetual Doubt – Rejecting the Reformation View of Scripture “What makes a ‘good’ interpretation good? And if an appeal is made to a written standard (book, doctrinal statement, etc.) or to common sense or to ‘scholarly principles of interpretation,’ the same pesky ‘I’ who liberated us from the authority of the church will ask, ‘Who sets the standard?...

15 Perpetual Doubt – Rejecting the Reformation View of Scripture “Whose common sense? Which scholars and why? Don’t all these appeals to authorities and principles outside the Bible actually undermine the claim of ultimate biblical authority? Aren’t they just the new pope?” (McLaren 133)

16 Schaeffer’s View of the Scriptures “The Scriptures give the key to two kinds of knowledge—the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of men and nature. The great Reformation confessions emphasize that God revealed His attributes to man in the Scriptures and that this revelation was meaningful to God as well as to man...

17 Schaeffer’s View of the Scriptures “There could have been no Reformation and no Reformation culture in Northern Europe without the realization that God had spoken to man in the Scriptures and that, therefore, we know something truly about God, because God has revealed it to man.” (Escape From Reason, 21)

18 Schaeffer Warned of the “New Theology” “To the new theology, the usefulness of a symbol is in direct proportion to its obscurity. There is connotation, as in the word god, but there is no definition.” (The God Who is There, 58)

19 Emergent Theology is a Contemporary Version of Neo-Orthodoxy “The secret of the strength of neo- orthodoxy is that these religious symbols with a connotation of personality give an illusion of meaning, and as a consequence it appears to be more optimistic than secular existentialism.” (God Who is There, 58)

20 Schaeffer Rebukes Emergent Thinking before the Fact “All the new theology and mysticism is nothing more than a faith contrary to rationality, deprived of content and incapable of communication... Rationality and faith are totally out of contact with each other.” (God Who is There, 61)

21 Rationalism and Rational Rationalistic: “By this meant that man begins absolutely and totally from himself, gathers information concerning the particulars, and formulates the universals” Rational: “The sobering fact is that the only way one can reject thinking in terms of an antithesis and the rational is on the basis of the rational and the antithesis.... The basis of classical logic is that A is not non-A” (Schaeffer, Escape, 35)

22 Emergent Thinking Loathes the Propositional “The purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s People for good works. Shouldn’t a simple statement like this be far more important than statements with words foreign to the Bible’s vocabulary about itself (inerrant, authoritative, literal, revelatory, objective, absolute, propositional, etc)?” (McLaren 165)

23 Schaeffer’s Warnings and Predictions “The evangelical Christian needs to be careful because some evangelicals have recently been asserting that what matters is not setting out to prove or disprove propositions; what matters is an encounter with Jesus...”

24 Schaeffer’s Warnings and Predictions “When a Christian has made such a statement he has, in an analyzed or unanalyzed form, moved upstairs. If we think that we are escaping some of the pressure of the modern debate by playing down propositional Scripture and simply putting the word ‘Jesus’ or ‘experience’ upstairs...”

25 Schaeffer’s Warnings and Predictions “We must face this question: What difference is there between doing this and doing what the secular world has done in its semantic mysticism, or what the New Theology has done?...”

26 Schaeffer’s Warnings and Predictions “Certainly men in the next generation will tend to make it the same thing [mysticism]. If what is placed upstairs is separated from rationality, if the Scriptures are not discussed as open to verification where they touch the cosmos and history,...”

27 Schaeffer’s Warnings and Predictions “Why should one then accept the evangelical upstairs any more than the upstairs of the modern radical theology?.. Why should it not just as well be an encounter under the name Vishnu?” (Escape from Reason, 76, 77).

28 Religious Symbols, Stories, Mystical Experiences, Icons, etc. Replace Proclamation of Truth “To go abductive, get rid of your inductive/deductive outlines and points and make your sermons pointless!... Instead of asking yourself before creating a sermon... ‘What is my point?’ ask yourself, ‘What’s my image?’” (Language, Sweet, 31, 32)

29 The Ten Commandments; Propositional Truth or Religious Symbol? Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:1-3)

30 Heeding Schaeffer’s Warning “Increasingly over the last few years the word ‘Jesus’, separated from the content of Scriptures, has become the enemy of the Jesus of history, the Jesus who died and rose and who is coming again and who is the eternal Son of God...”

31 Heeding Schaeffer’s Warning “... So let us take care. If evangelical Christians begin to slip into the dichotomy, to separate an encounter with Jesus from the content of the Scriptures (including the discussable and the verifiable), we shall, without intending to,...”

32 Heeding Schaeffer’s Warning “... Be throwing ourselves and the next generation into the millstream of the modern system. This system surrounds us as an almost monolithic consensus.” (Escape from Reason, 79) This system is now called “postmodern”

33 Brian McLaren Writes of “Seven Jesuses I have Known” “Up until recent decades, each tribe felt it had to uphold one image of Jesus and undermine some or all of the others. What it, instead, we saw these various emphases as partial projections that together can create a hologram: a richer, multidimensional vision of Jesus?” (McLaren, 66)

34 How Much Heresy Will This Lead to? “The end of entropy” “In the postmodern matrix there is a good chance that the world will reverse its chronological polarity for us. Instead of being bound to the past by chains of cause and effect, we will feel ourselves being pulled into the future by the magnet of God’s will, God’s dream, God’s desire.” (Language, Sweet, 113).

35 How Much Heresy Will This Lead to? “This new vision sees the universe as only partially created, an unfinished symphony, a masterpiece in progress. In this eschatology we are invited to be part of God’s creative team working to see God’s dream for the universe come true...”

36 How Much Heresy Will This Lead to? “... In this way our relationship with God is more than interactive; it is collaborative. It is more than just a matter of God interacting with us; it is a matter of God inviting us to be creative partners in the construction of a world as it could be from the world as it is to be.” (Language, Sweet, 113, 114)

37 What Does the Bible Say About this? “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,” (2Peter 3:10, 11)

38 What Does the Bible Say About this? “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” (2Peter 3:12)

39 The Traditional, Christian View is that History is Linear: History Begins with God’s Act of Creation and Ends With God’s Act of Judgment Postmoderns reject this view and claim a new view that is a combination of linear and circular time; a helix – “A spiraling faith is one of timelessness within time, one in which the past is embedded in the future.” (Language, Sweet, 143)

40 We Were Warned about This But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.... holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.... always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2Timothy 3:1, 5, 7)

41 How Does the Emergent Church Cross the Line of Despair But Apparently Feel no Despair? They are clinging to the false hope that God is still creating and that with our help the world is going to solve its problems This is like going to the dentist with an abscessed tooth, getting a shot of Novocain, and going home happy because the pain is gone.

42 Brian McLaren Mentions “post- foundationalism” What is That? Foundationalism is the classical epistemology that builds a theory of knowledge from foundational “givens.” These givens are typically the basic reliability of sense perception, the law of non-contradiction, and causality. Emergent thinkers reject foundationalism.

43 What is the Alternative to Foundationalism? Coherentism judges a system of knowledge by internal coherence without requiring it to be attached to the real world.

44 What is Wrong with Coherentism? Coherence requires foundational presuppositions such as non contradiction in order to test for coherence. That a coherent system is better than a non coherent system merely assumed, therefore is itself a “foundation.” It would be possible to create a fully coherent view of reality that had no attachment to the real world.

45 What is Wrong with Coherentism? Coherentism is an epistemological attempt to put knowledge into an “upper storey.” This creates a disjunction in which in the realm of nature, people go about their business in areas such as science and engineering as if foundationalism were valid in a lower storey, but put everything else into a mystical upper storey.

46 An Illustration of Why “post- foundational” Epistemology Leads to a Disjunction Between Upper and Lower Storeys A Trip to a post-modern doctor.

47 A Trip to a Post-modern Doctor. A person goes to the doctor with vision problems and severe headaches. A brain scan is ordered and it shows a brain tumor. The post-modern doctor has rejected foundationalist premises: basic reliability of sense perception, the law of causality, and the law of non-contradiction.

48 A Trip to a Post-modern Doctor. Patient: Am I going to need Brain surgery? Doctor: There is no reason to believe that. Patient: But the person who read the brain scan sees a tumor. I did not use to have these symptoms, now I do, the tumor must have caused them. Doctor: Causality is a relic of Enlightenment Rationalism, I don’t believe in it.

49 A Trip to a Post-modern Doctor. Patient: But the technician who read the scan showed me the tumor, I saw it. Doctor: The reliability of sense perception is a relic of foundationalism, now we know that we cannot believe what we see. Patient: But a brain with a tumor is not the same as a normal brain, I need help. Doctor: I do not believe in non- contradiction.

50 A Trip to a Post-modern Doctor. Patient: So what do you believe in? Doctor, I believe reality is filtered through a culturally determined grid that distorts what you see. Perhaps you should stretch your mind to see things differently. I suggest meditation. Patient: I think I want a second opinion; do you know any Enlightenment Rationalist doctors?

51 This Cannot be Lived out in the Real World Schaeffer: The basic issue is a shift in epistemology.... As far as the theologians are concerned, they have separated religious truth from contact with science on one hand and history on the other. There new system is not open to verification, it must simply be believed.” (God Who is There; 54)

52 Schaeffer Warns about Hegelian Synthesis Schaeffer wrote, “If our own young people within the churches and those of the world outside see us playing with the methodology of synthesis, in our teaching and evangelism, in our policies and institutions, we can never expect to take advantage of this unique moment of opportunity presented by the death of romanticism.” (God Who is There, 47)

53 The Emerging Church Uses What Schaeffer Warned Against “For those familiar with Hegelian synthesis, it may be tempting to see modernity as the thesis and postmodernity as the antithesis. We believe a better approach would be to see pre-modernity as the thesis, modernity as the antithesis, and post-modernity as an attempt at synthesis—an attempt that is still in its earliest stages.” (Language, Sweet, 242)

54 Conclusion: Distinguishing Description from Prescription The whole Emerging Church Movement is predicated on the idea that relativistic, postmodern young people cannot be expected to embrace the gospel in terms of it being an absolute truth claim. Therefore it, they say, it cannot be presented that way.

55 Conclusion: Distinguishing Description from Prescription That many people in our culture are relativistic is descriptively true. It does not follow, however, that the gospel or Christianity must be changed to make it attractive to such people.

56 The Gospel Is God’s Power to Change Anyone who Believes; Regardless of Their Cultural Prejudices Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”


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