Sunday, March 15, 2009

thoughts on what it means to be 'emergent'

I've been pushing against Mike Wittmer of GRTS lately. I have no dobt he's a good guy, but he loves to take on my friends all while calling himself a friend of emergent. Here's my response to something he wrote: randy buist Mike, I just read thru your post and all the comments again after thinking about it most of the day. While you don’t want to make this a personal thing, your entire post is ridicule of Tony. I would hope we could argue against Tony’s position rather than attack Tony, but you really only question his faith rather than his position. Much of the point of being a friend of emergent stuff is being in friendship even when we disagree. Trusting that God is at work in another’s life even when we disagree with them. So, we often fail to arrive at the same conclusion because we know it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is Christian friendship — knowing that we will often end up at different positions and still knowing one of us is likely more correct than the other. BUT being right isn’t the most important thing. Perhaps it is in theology, but it isn’t in real life. Being ‘right’ ends marriages. Being ‘right’ ends friendships and ends familial relationships. Being right creates wars and never peace. When Jesus prayed that ‘they be one as we are one’, I doubt that he was kidding. Real friendships trust that being ‘right’ is secondary to knowing that you are moving in relationship with your friend. On the other hand, being right divides and ends relationships. It may be one person is more correct, but it seems this wasn’t the prayer for the Ephesians. Rather, the prayer was for unity among believers. Perhaps a fair question for the night: Is being ‘right’ with an understanding of original sin of more valuable than friendship with others who see aspects of God differently? Perhaps being ‘right’ is more important, but then we ALSO disagree with God regarding being in unity with fellow believers. In which case, being ‘right’ at the expense of Christian unity also leads to being directly in opposition to God.


Anonymous said...

I believe that this is the most valuable thing which the emerging conversation can bring to Christianity. We have spent 2,000 years trying to be right. As a result we divided in 1000, we divided in 1500 and have spent the 500 years since sub-dividing ad infinitum. We have constructed our entire identity around being right. Around being the right religion compared to other religions and being the right flavor of that religion. The failures of modernity make it horrifyingly clear just how dangerous and violent the quest for rightness can become. We, as a church, MUST abandon this quest and embrace the quest for unity. Not homogeneity, not monolith imperialism, not conformity, not uncritical tolerance; real unity. Unity that says I will be civil, kind, open, patient and gentle with my fellow believers even when we disagree about something we think is important. Why? Because it is more important to be civil, kind, open, patient and gentle than it is to be right. "Rightness" is not one of the fruits of The Spirit. Unity isn't either, but with unity as a goal, we are forced to learn to exhibit those behaviors and attitudes which are.

Seth said...

I am unfamiliar with Mike and his comments, so perhaps I'm missing the context here, but I think the "being right" phenomenon you're opposed to (and rightly so) is the arrogant attitude that often accompanies wanting to be right. But to disparage the desire to have a correct and biblically faithful theology is, I think, harmful. Yes, relationships are important, and being ministers of reconciliation, but I think accomplishing both of those goals need to begin from a foundation of right belief--thus the emphasis on it. I may be a really loving friend and tell someone about Jesus, but if my theology of Christ only includes "great moral teacher" but not "fully God/fully man" then we have a problem. Know what I mean?

stuff about me... said...


if our foundation is 'right belief,' then is it secondary to "Love the Lord your God with alll your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself." ???

from my perspective, the above mentioned is the foundation, and 'right belief' flows out of it.

on the other hand, right belief as a starting point doesn't necessarily lead us to the primary commands that Jesus sets before us.

i wonder why evangelical america still thinks 'right belief' is the basis of our faith? i don't know if it is ever the starting point of the Jesus... but then again, protestants prefer Paul every time.


R.D. Potter said...

A few thoughts:
1. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy are both essential to the Christian faith and equally as important. Thus loving the LORD your God with all of your HEART, SOUL, MIND, and STRENGTH. We must not miss, however, that the command to love the LORD with our mind is still present.
1 Timoty 4:16 "Keep a close watch on YOURSELF and on the TEACHING. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

2. I believe that the Bible makes the case for loving the Lord with your mind first and out of that your love for others should flow.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." Paul doesn't say "Get your thinking straight because that is all that is good in the world." But he also doesn't say you need to start acting rightly because that's what matters most. His point is this, "You need to change your lifestyle and start offering it up to God as a spiritual sacrafice. You do this by getting your mind right, and listening to what I've just laid out in the previous 11 chapters."

3. Evangelical America still thinks that right belief is the basis of our faith because without rightly believing who Jesus is then we cannot truly worship him. At some point, if all I believe about Jesus ends up being wrong, then I have not been worshipping Jesus at all but rather an idol. So, that is why Evangelical America still wants to "know" what they believe.
I find the analogy of loving my wife to be a helpful one here. I can love her with all of my heart and soul and strength. If yesterday I bought here a boquet of flowers and wrote on the card. "My darling Elizabeth, thank you for these past four years. I love everything about you from your beautiful blonde hair, to your sparkling blue eyes. I couldn't ask for a better spouse." I would have been sleeping on the couch since her name is Sarah, we've been married for 9 months, her hair is red, and eyes are green. So you can see that just by not being right on a few simple truths I have given my love to someone that is not my wife. The same is for Christ. If we miss out on the truths about him, (the two greatest commandments included), we have missed out on Christ.

Seth said...

R.D. - excellent insight. I agree completely. That's the point I was attempting to make above.

"stuff about me": Baiting a friendly conversationalist with the "prefer Paul" line is petty and unhelpful. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, and all Scripture is complimentary to itself and useful for self-interpretation. Paul and Jesus do not disagree. You wrote: "right belief as a starting point doesn't necessarily lead us to the primary commands that Jesus sets before us." Sure it does. That's like saying a recipe isn't a good starting point for determining how to bake a cake. Or, let me turn it around on you: in your opinion, what DOES work as a starting point that leads us to Jesus' commands?