Friday, March 07, 2008
"What do you still believe and why?"
Thinking Ape has posted a reaction to my "I might have become an atheist" post on the De-conversion blog entitled "Why I am Not a Liberal Christan." He (she?) is someone who had gone from fundamentalist to emerging beliefs themselves, but then eventually passed on to complete atheism/agnosticism. He therefore closed with the following questions to emerging Christians:

It is at this point that I would like those who hold to the “Emerging” perspective to inform me of their own views. I don’t even care so much for a response to my post and my accusations, but I want to know what you actually believe, in a concrete way. What is the Bible actually to you? Who is Jesus? Who is Paul? What is salvation? Does heaven exist? How about sin? I could go on, but I think you got the point. Obviously I am speaking to the more liberal wing of the emerging church, not the “post-emergent,” intolerant, neo-Calvinist wing of Mark Driscoll and company. What stops you from reaching the place of non-theist Bishop Spong?

I enjoy dialogue with the emerging church because they are not afraid to talk, to have a chat, and they admit limited revelation. What I have yet to fathom is how we can stop at arbitrary points in our skepticism and rebuild. I have tried, and as I have stated before, I want a reason to believe. I know many within the emerging movement are artistically or philosophically minded individuals - I want to know how this process works for you because it certainly did not work for me.

So far the comments have devolved into an argument about Mark Driscoll, and very few have actually taken up the challenge to respond to the original questions. Anyone here want to try?


posted by Mike Clawson at 4:04 PM | Permalink |


At 3/12/2008 01:08:00 PM, Blogger Pollux


I just want to applaud your efforts on that whole thread--you have done a good job representing (at least one part) of the Emerging movement, and you have done so without losing your cool, despite the baiting of some of the other commentators. Nice job!


At 3/12/2008 07:16:00 PM, Blogger Mriana

What stops you from reaching the place of non-theist Bishop Spong?

Hi, Mike. I just dropped in to see what was happening here and hopefully hide out until someone cools his jets- if you catch my drift. I was reading and stumbled upon this question and thought it was worth inquiring about. I hope I'm not crashing the party here, either. If I am, I'll slip away quietly. :)

As for others who don't know me, no, I'm not here to cause to headaches, but I have wondered this. I think Mike knows I'm an admire of Bishop Spong, so the question should be of no surprise to him.

I would describe myself as being somewhere between Bishop Spong and Bob Price (ironically both are attend the Episcopal Church and I'm a lapsed member).

Hopefully I'm not asking for trouble with inquiring this. If it's any consolation, I asked Bishop Spong a similar question but in relationship to Bob's views.

It's an open question from an open-minded person (I try to be at least) and to make it fair you can probe me with questions, if you like. I'll do my best to answer, if I can.


At 3/12/2008 11:35:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Mriana, thanks for dropping by.

I seem to recall us having this conversation before during my "Ask a Christian Pastor" series. Here is my reply to you about my opinion of folks like Spong, Price, Funk, etc.; with subsequent conversation and clarification in the comments below it.

Not having read Spong much myself, I'm not sure that I have much more to say about his views than what I said there.


At 3/13/2008 12:38:00 AM, Blogger Mriana

You're welcome.

I don't know how much you and Spong do agree on for sure, but one of Spong's issues is how some churches use guilt to control people (and I'm paraphrasing a little). I'll have to look through my books for more accurate words and description. It was one of the reasons he wrote Sins of Scripture and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.

Not sure how you feel about the idea of God being internal, but he considers it internal, not external and a what, not a who, the Ground of All Being.

Not sure if I mentioned what his thoughts about ruach and nephesh either.

There might be something in those ideas you two might share. I know you try to give a different impression than the Evangelicals, so you might share something about the first one concerning imposed guilt.

I'm not even going to venture Price. I think I'd be racking my brain too much this time of night to even come up with a view you might share with him. lol

Tom Harpur (Anglican priest who wrote "The Pagan Christ"), while he thinks very highly of Bishop Spong, he thinks "the furniture should be rearranged even more". He also views the Jesus story as being another version of Horus/Osiris, only set to a different culture.

Don Cupitt (I think he is a former Anglican priest, could be still, not certain) is similar also. He believes Love is God and again it is internal: (It's not very long)

Trying to figure out what views you do share might be difficult if you haven't read any of their books, but it would be interesting to find what you do have in common, which might be an even better question than the previous one.

I think part of ecumenicalism is saying, "OK, we know what we don't agree on, but what do we agree on?" While I realize these are non-theistic views loaded with "God talk", there might be an area where you do come together, except maybe Price who is more left- so to speak. I just don't know where that is though.


At 3/13/2008 01:19:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

I can't speak for Mike. But as a former Episcopalian who is somewhat familiar with Spong and who has interacted a bit with Mike (and read much that he has written), my take is that Spong and Mike probably share a lot in common with regard to: (1) things that they don't like about fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, and (2) some concerns regarding ethics: for example a desire for tolerance, love of others especially the marginalized, care of and for creation, etc.

But I think they would differ significantly in other areas, such as [most of] the theology underpinning their shared objections and concerns in (1) and (2).

Spong strikes me as more modern than postmodern, and Mike seems pretty thoroughly postmodern. Although I'll go on to say that Spong does drift into sounding pretty postmodern in some places. It sometimes seemed to me like Spong and much of the mainline Episcopal church leadership arrived at their belief system such as it was through an odd melding/combination of the worst elements [to my mind] of both modernism and postmodernism. Scientific, materialistic empiricism in some matters (such as saying the idea of the virgin birth, or of other miracles in the Bible is just ridiculous in a scientific age such as ours, leading to a rejection of anything approaching a traditional understanding of the Nicene or Apostle's creeds) on the one hand, and a radical perspectivism on other matters (most matters of traditional ethics, the uniqueness of Jesus as the way to the father, universalism, pluralism etc.). I'm guessing Mike would agree with some of Spong's perspectivism but not all, or not all the places that Spong goes with it, and wouldn't agree at all with his more modernistic stuff, such as the "belief in miracles is an embarrassment" riff.


At 3/13/2008 02:49:00 PM, Blogger Mriana

I don't know about all Episcopalians just by looking at what is currently happening. However, I do agree that Mike would probably agree with Spong concerning Fundamentalism and conservative Evangelicalism, as well as the intolerance. Thing is, what we are seeing now is intolerance v. tolerance in the Episcopal Church. The Conservatives have been strung along throwing fits about women clergy and now ordaining gay priest. So, the Episcopalians are obviously not immune to intolerance within their ranks.

Spong, Schori, and others do their best to speak out against them, but they still throw their little fits. This latest one is the worst.

So, there is disagreement within the church too, even on the view of Jesus for that matter.


At 3/13/2008 02:52:00 PM, Blogger Mriana

BTW, Mike and I have have discussed the "miricles" in the Bible too. Needless to say, we don't agree.


At 3/13/2008 03:16:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

mriana, I understand what you're saying, and I definitely don't want to get into an argument with you on Mike's blog - or anywhere else, really. At the same time I don't think it's fair to define the discussion within ECUSA as being one of tolerance vs. intolerance - I don't think that really does justice to the side with which you disagree. I'd prefer to articulate my opponent's views in such a way that she responds with "yeah, that describes me and I'll own that label" or "yeah, that's what I think" rather than with a pejorative term or a straw man.

Yes, there are differing opinions within ECUSA but the leadership of the denomination, and its overall trajectory for the last few decades, is largely in the Schori/Spong camp (in varying shades and degrees) in spite of the objections of the dissenters.

The irony I found was that most liberal Episcopalians with whom I interacted had never really met a true fundamentalist as Mike and I have encountered them (at least not within ECUSA), although they freely used the term to describe anyone in ECUSA who disagreed with them regarding the particular hotbutton issues of the day. Nearly overnight and without changing any of my views but simply by joining ECUSA, I went from being a moderate-to-somewhat-liberal evangelical in my former evangelical church, to being a supposed intolerant fundamentalist in ECUSA. I had to laugh at the mistaken and unnuanced labelling.

Best wishes to you on your journey, and I'm glad you have found a welcoming and nonjudgmental dialogue partner in Mike.


At 3/13/2008 08:08:00 PM, Blogger Mriana

Try this again. I lost my post twice now. :(

Yes, there are differing opinions within ECUSA but the leadership of the denomination, and its overall trajectory for the last few decades, is largely in the Schori/Spong camp (in varying shades and degrees) in spite of the objections of the dissenters.

I agree and I highly support the Spong/Schori camp.

I do know some very far right Evangelical Fundamentalist. My mother and her family are Church of God and before that Free Methodist (hellfire and damnation sort)- they (my relatives) can be a nightmere. Far worse than anyone of the Conservative Episcopal camp and I admit I dog their behaviours pretty badly sometimes- not to their faces of course, but with good reason, which Mike knows I have.

However, the qualities you mentioned about Mike is what I appreciate about him. We don't agree on matters of religion but we can agree to disagree civilly and I appreciate that. He's hardly an Evangelical, that is for sure, but then again, my brand of non-theism is far from stereo-typical too.


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