Saturday, October 13, 2007
Tim Keller on Evangelicals and Emergents
Apparently Rev. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City recently gave a talk at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly Conference in London about "What are the risks for evangelicals?" Darryl Dash has an excellent summary of Keller's points. Apparently Keller addressed both the new hostility towards evangelicals in the broader culture, as well as the critiques of post-evangelicals (i.e. the emerging church).

I find much to like about Keller's comments, especially his encouragement to evangelicals to listen to their critics and be willing to repent of their mistakes. He especially emphasizes the need to be more gracious in their practice. For instance, Keller says:

There is a whole slew of younger leaders out there. They are watching us. We can't avoid drawing boundaries. Everyone does it, and if they say you're not doing it, then you're drawing a boundary by saying you're not doing it. But what matters is how we treat the people on the other side of the boundary. We're going to win the younger leaders if we are the most gracious and the most kind and the least self-righteous in controversy toward people on the other side of the boundary.

Some may say, "They should care about truth and they shouldn't care about things like that," but doesn't Jesus give them a warrant here when he says that we would be known by our love? Isn't orthopraxy part of orthodoxy? Of course it is!
I'm glad someone on the evangelical side of things is saying that. And I'm glad he acknowledges that evangelicalism, which started off as a "third way" between fundamentalist rejection of culture and liberal capitulation to culture, has drifted away from their desire to constructively engage culture and instead is drifting back towards the negativity and separatism of fundamentalism. He identifies the emerging church as a response to this drift - as younger evangelicals saying "The old consensus isn't going to work anymore", and responding to the anti-intellectualism in some parts of evangelicalism, and to the rigidity, self-righteousness, and political narrowness of the Christian right.

However, despite these good points, I have to take serious issue with his mischaracterization of the gospel being preached by the emerging church. He says (according to Dash):

In the older culture, people believed they had to be good, that there are moral standards, and that if there is a God he's mad at them. Therefore the older gospel is that you have a problem with God and turns aside the wrath of God.

[The emerging post-evangelicals] say this gospel won't work anymore, because people don't believe they have a problem with God, and if we look within the church we see all kinds of problems and not many changed lives.

The new gospel is not that Jesus took away the wrath of God and that if you believe in him you can be forgiven. The new gospel is that the Kingdom of God is here. Jesus Christ has overcome the powers that are oppressing the world. By dying on the cross he has opened the way to a new way of life, allowing you to become an agent of peace and justice in the world. You become a Christian by entering into community and by a mixture of faith and work in making Jesus Christ Lord.

This gospel says to the non-Christian that we're not about the wrath of God, we're about a new way of life. It says to the unchanged evangelical that being a Christian is not just believing; it is following him.

We as classic evangelicals believe there are huge problems with that. When you change the gospel to deal with the powers, it ignores the problems within. As G.K. Chesterton supposedly said, the problem with the world is me. The problem with the world starts with our sin. The other problem is that we can't be agents of reconciliation without a heart change. We can't abandon being saved by grace alone through faith alone in favor of a program of works. It won't lead us to sing, "My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed thee."

Keller gets it only half right. He correctly identifies the gospel of the kingdom that the emerging church is trying to reclaim. However, he completely misrepresents the emerging church if he thinks we are promoting this to the exclusion of a gospel of personal forgiveness and personal repentance. To the contrary, everyone I know within the emerging church would wholeheartedly embrace a both/and on this point. We are forgiven of our sins AND we are invited to become agents of justice and peace within God's kingdom. It's about dealing both with personal evil AND with systemic evil.

In other words, the emerging church is about reclaiming the fullness of the gospel, not about replacing the evangelical version with a newer version. But by casting it as an "either/or" rather than a "both/and" Keller creates division and disagreement where there need not be any.

In fact, he goes on to claim that traditional evangelicals, not progressive post-evangelicals, are the ones who embrace a "both/and". He says (again via Dash):

Corporate vs. individual - Here's another one: unlike the progressive evangelicals who pit the individual against the corporate, we don't have to. A robust Christian theology can pull together working for peace and justice in society with the old-fashioned gospel that says people need to be converted. There is no reason to pit these two against each other. It can be done. It worries me that very few movements are combining the two. Churches that focus on social renewal often can't evangelize themselves out of a paper bag, and churches that focus on evangelism and discipleship often ignore caring for the needs of the neighborhood because they're scared of taking resources away from evangelism. There is a way of integrating the two. Think about that, and be the first movement in the whole world of evangelicalism that really integrates the two.
Again, this is an unfair misrepresentation. I could point to numerous quotes by progressive evangelicals like Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, and Brian McLaren (among many others) who likewise suggest that we need to work towards both social justice and personal conversion. In fact, I first encountered this suggesting of "integrating the two" within the emerging church. Again, by falsely characterizing the emerging church Keller is creating a divide that need not exist. If he thinks that Christians ought to focus more on both, then we would say "Great we do too!"

However, in a response on Justin Taylor's blog, Keller did clarify a little more about what he thought the emerging church was leaving out of it's version of the gospel, and, as it turns out, it was not just personal forgiveness in a broad sense. He is specifically concerned that we are not holding to his particular theory of the atonement. He said:

My message is: a) classic evangelicalism was weak on the corporate/kingdom aspect, b)some people are over-reacting and stressing the corporate/kingdom aspect to the loss of the classic formulations (forensic righteousness, penal substitution)-- this is a grave mistake, c)we should not treat these people as lepers, but rather be gracious and even repentant, balancing our own gospel preaching, but d) we should also lovingly point out the dangers of their emphases.
Again, I appreciate his exhortation to graciousness and balance, however, by highlighting things like "forensic righteousness" and "penal substitution" as the essentials of the evangelical gospel, I would suggest that he has too narrow a definition even of evangelicalism. These so-called "classic" formulations are specific to Calvinistic theology, and are not the only ways to understand the forgiveness of personal sin or even substitutionary atonement. For instance, those in the EC who would question penal substitution still completely agree that personal sin has been dealt with at the cross. We would just describe it as an act of God forgoing punishment rather than inflicting punishment. Again, personal forgiveness and repentance are strong themes in the emerging church, we just don't feel the need to say everyone must understand these things in the exact same way Calvin did.

Anyhow, I hope that Keller and those who heed his words will realize that there is perhaps much more common ground that they share with the emerging church than they first supposed. And if he did (inaccurately) perceive our message as being focused solely on the kingdom to the exclusion of personal salvation, hopefully those of us in the emerging church can hear this as a positive critique that perhaps we need to be more clear and balanced when we speak, and not cast our words as an either/or. Because in the end both Keller and those talking about this in the emerging church are right: it is about both personal and corporate salvation.


posted by Mike Clawson at 5:24 PM | Permalink |


At 10/13/2007 09:06:00 PM, Blogger Casey


What readings/audio would you recommend that shows someone from the emergent stream articulating a both/and understanding of the gospel?


At 10/13/2007 11:52:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

casey - besides me, mike and every single one of our emergent friends? ;)

scot mcknight always does a good job at articulating that

brian mclaren has also in a few different places. a recent allelon interview is one place I heard him articulate it briefly

...there's lots.

as for your post mike, I agree, it was a mixed bag there - some good, some not so great. all in all it's refreshing to hear an evangelical willing to positively engage but unfortunate that there is still so much misunderstanding that people continue to spread that causes more division than what is necessary.


At 10/14/2007 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Well Casey, I don't know if you'd consider him "emergent" or not, but Tony Campolo has an illustration in one of his books entitled "Let Me Tell You a Story" (it's really just a collection of sermon illustrations) where he says exactly that - that we need to have a both/and focus when it comes to both individual transformation and structural change. (pp. 128-129 specifically). I'm pretty sure Jim Wallis makes exactly the same point in God's Politics at some point. And like Mak said, Brian has expressed this many times - in fact, he wrote a whole book on evangelism (and another on apologetics) so you can't exactly accuse him of neglecting the need for individual conversion.


At 10/14/2007 05:59:00 AM, Blogger Darryl


I really appreciate your interaction on this one.

I've been part of the conversation for a long time now and appreciate the emerging emphasis on kingdom, which is so necessary.

Not that McLaren speaks for the whole movement, but I look forward to reading his latest book which was a chapter on the conventional gospel vs. a more holistic one. I think he touches on some of these issues.

In my experience, as someone who appreciates a lot about the emerging church, I see strengths in both movements and weaknesses in both. If we really see a kingdom emphasis and a holistic, orthodox gospel, I'm very excited indeed.


At 10/14/2007 09:03:00 AM, Blogger Kay

I really appreciate this post Mike. I've been running into the "both/and" paradigm a lot lately. It's a narrow path to walk that runs between the two views, and it can be tricky not going too far one way or the other.


At 10/14/2007 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Darryl

P.S. Looks like Keller has responded to you:


At 10/16/2007 09:11:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

As Keller points out and Mike acknowledges, "both, and" was a part of the Evangelical heritage long before Emergent claimed (or re-claimed) it. And was part of the broader Christian heritage long before Evangelicalism came along to rescue it from the "either/or" options presented by fundamentalism and liberalism.

As someone attracted to much that is going on in emergent but who has been having these conversations longer than the term has been around, it saddens me to see so many evangelicals and emergents act as if the other side is wholly "other." Many of the thinkers being claimed as influences by emergents are evangelicals, who have influenced and continue to influence evangelicalism for the better.

In perusing blogs by and about emergents, it strikes me that there are those on both "sides" who are equally guilty of implying (and thereby causing) more division than what is necessary, as Makeesha says. There are reasonable, "centrist" voices on both sides but they get drowned out by the angry and the extreme.

I posted this elsewhere and wonder what your take on it is:

There is a spot (I think) where the more socially conscious, Biblically/theologically balanced, humble and culturally sensitive elements within evangelicalism overlap with some of the more theologically responsible, orthodox elements within Emergent.


At 10/17/2007 08:49:00 AM, Blogger Makeesha

There is a spot (I think) where the more socially conscious, Biblically/theologically balanced, humble and culturally sensitive elements within evangelicalism overlap with some of the more theologically responsible, orthodox elements within Emergent.

I think this is probably true and I think this is where we will find the bulk of the movement "settling" at some point. But the liminal component is important for continued progress


At 10/17/2007 11:41:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

Bob Webber (a big influence on my wife and me going back to our days at Wheaton in the early 90's) used to talk about the tragedy of the Reformation. Webber's influential book "Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail" describes the watershed moment when he, who once was dogmatically Reformed, chose "The Tragedy of the Reformation" as the surprise title for a chapel address he gave at Wheaton on Reformation day!

Webber's point, or one of his points, was that much was lost in the reformation - for both Catholics and Protestants (though his focus was on protestants). Yet protestants to this day continue to celebrate the reformation. Perhaps rightly so in some respects, but IMO the celebration should be tempered with some sadness and mourning for what was lost, as well.

I've seen emergent referred to as "a new reformation." Maybe it is. Maybe in Bell, McLaren, Pagitt et al. on one side, and Keller, et al. on the other side, we see another Reformation and Counter-Reformation. If so, and especially if emergent is an intentional parting of the ways with evangelicalism rather than a call for evangelicalism to reform from within, to rethink and return to its truest, best roots, then much like the protestant reformation it's as much a tragedy to be mourned as an event to be celebrated, IMO. Because both "sides" may find they have lost something in the end, as they look across the gulf at one another several decades from now.

I pray that instead of a gulf, the settling into an area of overlap that Makeesha foresees may come soon, and that the (perhaps necessary) liminal period be as brief and irenic as possible.


At 10/17/2007 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

"There is a spot (I think) where the more socially conscious, Biblically/theologically balanced, humble and culturally sensitive elements within evangelicalism overlap with some of the more theologically responsible, orthodox elements within Emergent."

Hey Karl,

This just strikes me as a strange statement. It seems to presuppose that evangelicals and emergents are totally distinct. But of course, there are plenty of people in the emerging church who would still consider themselves evangelicals.

And besides, the labels are not that important. The ideas and values are. So if you have a "socially conscious, Biblically/theologically balanced, humble and culturally sensitive" evangelical, then that person is "emerging" even if they don't want to own that label. And by the same token, if you have a "theologically responsible, orthodox" emerging person, then that person may still also be an evangelical. (Though of course it depends on your definition of "orthodox" and whether you think evangelicals really are. One could have a "theologically responsible, orthodox" emerging Catholic for instance.)

In other words, emerging is a conversation that is happening within the existing church (and not just the existing evangelical church either), not as a separate movement - not just as yet another Protestant sect. That's partially why I critique Keller for creating either/or divisions where there is already obvious overlap. As you yourself point out, many of the people emerging church folk are learning from are evangelicals themselves - people like Dallas Willard, NT Wright, Stanley Grenz, Scot McKnight, etc.

However, it's not just evangelicals that we're learning from anymore either. I think what we're seeing in the emerging church is a desire to stop "othering" those who the evangelical church told us to exclude. Evangelicalism might be a "both/and" in some areas, but as Dr. Webber pointed out, it has a lot of either/or's too. That's why many consider Webber as an influence in the emerging church - he has contributed to this desire for a "generous orthodoxy" that reclaims much of what has been lost in the past by our either/or language.

"If so, and especially if emergent is an intentional parting of the ways with evangelicalism rather than a call for evangelicalism to reform from within, to rethink and return to its truest, best roots, then much like the protestant reformation it's as much a tragedy to be mourned as an event to be celebrated, IMO."

Who are you seeing that is calling for it to be an "intentional parting of the ways with evangelicalism"? I don't know anyone in the emerging church who has suggested that we should do this. (Though of course many in the EC didn't start as evangelicals in the first place, so can't really "part ways". And others of us, while not "parting ways" with evangelicals, just don't agree with enough of their theology anymore to truthfully wear the label ourselves.) What I see is a strong desire to work for reform from within, not just become a separatist movement as the first Reformation did.

But I do see evangelicals who are wanting to push us out as it were, to define us as a separate "out-of-bounds" movement (as I wrote about here for instance). That's their right to do that, but even so my suggestion has always been to just continue dialoguing with those who still are interested in the conversation and not worry about those who want to kick us out or tell us to shut up. If any "parting of the ways" is done, let it be done by someone else.

Though it strikes me that we need a little bit better definition of what you mean by "parting of the ways". Hopefully it is still possibly to disagree and even critique some of what we see in evangelicalism without having to "part ways". The whole point of the emerging church is not that all Christians have to be in agreement, but that we can talk about and learn from our differences without always having to "part ways". The "emerging church", IMHO, can be defined as that relational space where questions, differences and disagreements are ok to have.

Anyway, sorry for the overly long reply.


At 10/17/2007 03:22:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

Mike, thank you for the thoughtful reply. Mine will probably be equally long because a conversation like this is difficult to reduce to sound bites.

Of course there are many who would qualify as both emergent and evangelical. Those for whom this is just a conversation toward reform and not a New Reformation might even be the majority. But there are emergents who aren't evangelical, and there are evangelicals who aren't emergent. And there seems to be an increasing drift apart, which is greeted with enthusiasm by too many on both sides.

In reading blogs and comments on blogs by and about emergents, there seems to be a near equal amount of pushing out by evangelicals ("emergents aren't evangelical"), and intentional parting of the ways by emergents ("I can no longer honestly call myself an evangelical"). Or else near-glee on the part of some emergents at being pushed out.

If you can't honestly call yourself an evangelical theologically, then by all means don't. That doesn't mean you're outside the Christian fold as far as I'm concerned, nor that you shouldn't be welcomed in dialogue and ministry with evangelicals.

Many in emergent speak of evangelicalism as if it were this monolithic thing when they are really speaking about their experience in a particular brand or brands of evangelicalism. When you talk about "those whom evangelicalism told us to exclude" I know what you mean but that doesn't resonate with me because I was fortunate enough to be raised in a charitable, ecumenically minded evangelical setting where exclusion wasn't a focus. When I think of the voices of evangelicalism I think of John Stott, Alister McGrath, Luci Shaw, Klyde Kilby, Robert Webber, Gilbert Bilezekian, Alan Jacobs, Roger Lundin, Ron Sider, Eugene Peterson, Tony Campolo, Ashley Woodiwiss, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Lyle Dorsett, Jasper Bacon, Mark Noll, C. Stephen Evans, Ray Vanderlaan, Virginia Stem Owens, and the heritage of diverse, compassionate, thoughtful, orthodox people of faith upon which they and those like them draw. I don't think primarily of Falwell or Pat Robertson, or Sproul or Piper.

You also say "we're not just learning from evangelicals any more", as if that were a new thing. The best of evangelicalism has always been in dialogue with those outside the evangelical tradition. Thoughtful evangelicals claim a heritage that includes such diverse voices as Augustine, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Jerome, Gregory and Aquinas, Cranmer and Moore, Wesley and Calvin and Luther, Theresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich, St. Francis of Assisi and St. John of the Cross, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, MacDonald, Tolkien, Williams, Chesterton and Sayers, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Madeleine L'Engle. Not enough evangelicals have horizons that broad, certainly. But when I think of evangelicalism at its best, that's what I think of and have experienced. And much of (I would say the best of) the "conversation" that is now called emergent has been going on for a long time, way before Rob Bell was playing alternative music in Traber dorm or anyone thought of themselves as emerging. It's awesome that emerging folks have discovered the conversation and are no longer trapped in a side-eddy of evangelicalism that ignores it.

I think we are at pretty similar points on the map. I resonate with your saying the labels don't really matter. I rarely use the term evangelical because it means so many different things to so many different people. I prefer to simply say Christian. I resonate much more with many non-evangelicals than I do with certain evangelicals. I think much of the emerging conversation is great.

You say "So if you have a "socially conscious, Biblically/theologically balanced, humble and culturally sensitive" evangelical, then that person is "emerging" even if they don't want to own that label. I'd say maybe but not necessarily. Maybe they are just walking in the stream of historic, orthodox Christianity - which is of course what emerging is trying to do also. But historic, orthodox Christian faith came first, so I think the labelling, if it happens at all, should work the other way around. i.e. its the difference between saying "if you are those things, then you are by definition emerging" vs. "if you are those things then you are by definition swimming in the stream of the best of the orthodox Christian faith - maybe you're emerging." Otherwise I think you'd be doing something similar to the Silva's of the world and suggesting that emergents are the only ones who can be humble, socially conscious, biblically balanced and culturally sensitive. The heritage of the Reformation is an ever-increasing tendency to separate, push away or jump out if I'm more right than you. If the emerging conversation is pushed out or jumps out, both those emerging and those who stay behind will be poorer for it.


At 10/17/2007 06:03:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

"Reformation", as such, if it actually means reforming from within and not actually separating off, is not a bad thing. What you're pointing to though is the fact that Reformation really did more separating than actual reforming. I think the hope with this New Reformation, if that's what the emerging church is one sign of, is that we would actually be about real reform, not just division.

For instance, I was having breakfast with Brian McLaren yesterday, and he highlighted a difference between those Protestants who (to borrow Luther's phrase) are "once reformed" and those who are "always reforming". The former go through their change, see no need for further growth, and separate them from all others who haven't changed in exactly the same way they did. I think the impetus of the emerging church is to pick up the second half of Luther's statement and say "we're not done yet".

Anyhow, I agree with you about the best of evangelicalism. I've been exposed to those same influences too (though, having been at Wheaton a little later than you apparently, I would also add to the list people like Jerry Root, Bruce Benson, and Scott Moreau) AND I've been exposed to the bad stuff as well. If the emerging church is emerging away from the junk with the help of people like the ones you mentioned, then, well, that's the point.

Anyhow Karl, like you said, I think we're basically in the same place with all this. At this point it just feels like a semantical game to say whether something is "evangelical" or "emerging" or "historic, orthodox Christianity". Who cares who gets the claim it?! If folks in the emerging church say "We're thinking in these ways", and someone else comes along and says "Well we've already been thinking in those ways before you even started", big deal! It just feels petty to argue about who got there first. Emergence is an inclusive conversation. It's not about reinventing everything all over again for ourselves. It's about learning from all those folks you mentioned and more. And if some folks in evangelicalism have already been learning from them, great! But some of are still just "emerging" into that, so if we're "emerging" into places that others have already been, fantastic! Novelty was never the point.

That's why I like to talk about "convergence" as much as "emergence". It's not just an emerging out of old ways of thinking, it's also a coming together of many different streams of faith. We're all learning from each other and contributing to the larger conversation. But it doesn't really matter who gets to claim what part of it. If it's good and true, then I'll take it for my own, regardless of whether it's evangelical or anabaptist or mainline or Catholic or whatever.


At 10/17/2007 06:33:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

I agree with everything you're saying here Mike. I especially liked this

If folks in the emerging church say "We're thinking in these ways", and someone else comes along and says "Well we've already been thinking in those ways before you even started", big deal! It just feels petty to argue about who got there first. Emergence is an inclusive conversation. It's not about reinventing everything all over again for ourselves. It's about learning from all those folks you mentioned and more. And if some folks in evangelicalism have already been learning from them, great! But some of are still just "emerging" into that, so if we're "emerging" into places that others have already been, fantastic! Novelty was never the point.


At 10/17/2007 09:09:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

Mike, I know Jerry Root and would count him as one of the living individuals most responsible for the way I think about my faith. I'm not fortunate enought to know Bruce Benson or Scott Moreau, nor Brian McLaren. But I'm pretty sure I did kick Rob Bell in the shins on the intramural soccer field once (or maybe he kicked me) and used to listen to his band. My wife and I still have an old _ton Bundle cassette. You can see echoes of Velvet Elvis (which I think was actually the title of one of Rob's early songs) in some of the lyrics. ("You've been shoved at me endlessly/But my back pocket is not where you're going to be.")

I'm familiar with the concept of semper reformanda and agree with you. I'm not always comfortable with where some in the emergent conversation take it, but in principle I'm with you and McLaren. Bell's saying the same thing with his illustration of repainting the faith.

I've been exposed to the bad stuff too. Although my family and pastor were open minded and modeled Christian caritas, I attended a Bob Jonesy private Christian school from K-12. I was warned by teachers against attending that liberal pit of lies Wheaton College, which held itself out as Christian but really wasn't. I'd be better off going to an avowedly secular college like one of the Ivies, that was at least open about the fact that it had abandoned its historical roots in the faith, etc.

A bad church experience post grad school in an uber-Reformed congregation and a growing sense of unrest caused my wife and me to seriously investigate Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and eventually to become Episcopalians largely as a result of Webber's writing and a hunger for the type of church he talked about. But we found that the "either/or" mentality existed on the liberal side as well as the fundy/Truly Reformed side, and "came home" to evangelicalism, so to speak, but with leanings that can now be described as emergent. Because my family, so much of my early church and college experience in evangelicalism was positive, and because I found the grass wasn't necessarily greener outside the evangelical fold, I don't have the rancor toward evangelicalism that I briefly did, and that I see in much of emergent.

That's probably more bio than you care for. I agree it's petty to argue about who discovered or rediscovered a truth first. The very term "emerging" though, seems to invite misunderstanding on that and other scores, and to suggest a separate ecclesial body or body-in-formation that is leaving behind the old rather than a reformation from within or a rediscovery of what's always been there. Lists of emerging leaders, emerging churches, etc. seem to do perpetuate that perception. I know that's not what emergent leaders see themselves as doing, but the name and some of the language doesn't help with the misperception. And I think evangelicals aren't always the only ones with that misperception. I'm not sure if there's a solution to that as networking with those who share your concerns is valid and vital. Again, I hope the "settling" Makeesha envisions happens sooner rather than later.

I liked your exchange with the friendly atheist. And with Silva. I won't tell Silva which of them I think is closer to living as Jesus would. Keep up the good work.


At 10/19/2007 06:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Dear Mike:

1) FYI-I don't know why someone proposed to you that someone was writing you under my name. I'm the Tim Keller who spoke at EMA in June.

2) You say: ["If you have a "socially conscious, theologically balanced, humble and culturally sensitive" evangelical, then that person is "emerging" even if they don't want to own that label."] With respect, it seems like you still read my remarks as being a criticism of the whole emerging movement. But I never try to define or criticize 'emerging.' My concerns are with those who see haughty 'uber-Reformed' people and assume that their distinctive doctrines constitute the source of their lack of humble, sensitive character. That, I think, is an enormous, even tragic mistake, though an understandable one.

Tim Keller


At 10/19/2007 07:41:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hi Tim, thanks for replying here and clarifying your identity.

Also, my response to that quote you mentioned was a response to Karl's statements, not to your own. I do appreciate that you are not caricaturing the entire emerging movement, but only certain elements within it. I agree with you that we emergents shouldn't likewise think the "uber-Reformed" folks are typical of all evangelicals or all Reformed Christians. As I wrote recently myself, I've long held out hope that there could be much fruitful conversation and many points of overlap between the EC and the RC. In fact, I personally came to my own postmodern views by way of Reformed theology.


At 11/01/2007 01:55:00 PM, Blogger bpun

Mike, while I agree that not everyone in the "emerging church" is abandoning personal forgiveness, I think it is quite clear that alot of people, like Brian McLaren are, even if they deny it. There are several passages in his new book "Everything Must Change" where he proposes an "emerging view" of the Gospel as more of a corporate Gospel as superior to the personal "conventional view." Although the critique is somewhat simplistic, you can see these snippets in this critique here:


At 11/01/2007 04:04:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

bpun, I'm not really sure what to make of your claim that folks like Brian are "abandoning personal forgiveness" even if they say they aren't. If you won't take Brian at his word when he says things like:

"I certainly believe in the need for saving faith, for forgiveness, for hope beyond death, for the pursuit of orthodox articulations of belief, for overcoming the damning effects of sin, for rejecting wholeheartedly the idea that we can be saved by our own efforts or through religion, and so on. I’m not attacking those beliefs."

I don't know what else to tell you. I think if you read the chapter in EMC on the "conventional view" vs. the "emerging view" of the gospel, you will find that Brian repeatedly states that he sees much truth and value in the conventional view, and that he's not completely rejecting it, only some of it's unintended consequences. "Emerging" and "conventional" are not an "either/or" in my opinion (and in Brian's too. I think the important aspects of the conventional view (such as personal forgiveness of sin) are contained within the emerging view as well.

And the bottom line too is what does scripture say. A lot of people want to criticize Brian for diverging from evangelical orthodoxy, but rarely do I see these criticisms actually deal with the biblical evidence for his views. As I've gone back and studied scripture I find a lot of support for Brian's emerging view of the gospel. And if the Bible says it, I don't really care if it doesn't exactly fit with the theological formulas that grew out of the Catholic-Protestant debates of 400 years ago.


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