UPDATE: Comments are now closed. This conversation has shifted over to the next post "Emergent Definition on Theopedia" Since this post was published yesterday, the definition of Emergent on Theopedia has been radically updated to show new 50 new changes and additions. Rather than the 7 common characteristics (below) with no explanation apart from a link to another definition, there is now a growing body of knowledge that will continue to become more accurate. Thanks everyone! Thanks Aaron for your hard work! Next step is for Em. Church to communicate and be known for what they practise. "They will know by our . . ."
I did it . . I took a self imposed heresy test. My score is at the end of this post. When you get to the end, I challenge you to take the poll also. I want to see how many heretics we have out there.
One of the comments during an interesting discussion going on at the Emerging SBC Leaders blog is very relevant. Here is the comment:
"my biggest problem with Emergent is those who seem to speak the loudest in the conversation . . . Their theology seems to be flawed in some places and, at times, downright heterodoxical (in regard to Open theism and inclusivism). I think if those involved in Emergent could or would distance themselves from these types of theologies within the conversation, then I think they would be more respected by the SBC leaders and conservative evangelicals like myself who feel that theology is essential for praxis and important for proper ecclesiology." Link
Open theism and inclusivism? Where’s my dictionary?
Heres the deal. We might be heretics. Certainly the Irish have confessed to being a heretical community and the Canadians were quick to inhabit TheHeresy.com. but the problem remains that the traditional church does not really know which heresies hang around our heads because the language is different, as are the categories.
So I was thinking . . . what if some of us took a heresy test – what if we stuck our theological heads under their microscope and let them examine us with THEIR TERMINOLOGY? What if i did it? (thats scary . . what if i come out looking more heretical than i thought i was?)
Well, yesterday I took the test. I headed over to the Theopedia, an "open-content encyclopedia on Biblical Christianity" and used their 7 common distinctives of the Emergent Church as a means of testing myself. Here is how I stood up.
Common Distinctives of the Emergent Church From Theopedia
I admit I am partial to a postmodern critique of society, and acknowledge that we live in a world characterized as postmodern, but the "postmodernism" that is offered here does not resonate with me. There is no defintion on Theopedia for what they mean by postmodernism, but the resource links on Theopedia’s page on postmodernism, include references to "textual gnosticism", "loss of a transcendent signifier-the Logos", and other things that I just don’t buy into.
But having to choose is difficult and is probably not a good idea.
Dr D.A. Carson has a very good article in that list in which he agrees with me . . .
" Informed Christians will neither idolize nor demonize either postmodernism or modernism. Both are founded on profoundly idolatrous assumptions. And both make some valuable observations that, when they are properly integrated into a more biblically faithful frame of reference, enable us to reflect fruitfully on the world in which we live."
D.A.is right – having to choose yes or no is not wise and almost impossible. but since so much of this characteristic is based on their understanding of postmodern epistemology in terms of a radical deconstruction of truth and a textual gnosticism, i would tend to say NO. I don’t believe that. There IS something [SomeOne] outside the text and He is God.
Verdict: NO. So far, so good.
2. Absolute truth is either non-existent or unknowable
No. God is true and He is both existent AND knowable. I guess I cant qualify on that one either.
Verdict: NO. Put the noose away, Mr Hangman!
3. Narrative Preaching.
Well. my preaching has always leaned on the narrative. I am a storyteller so naturally I use a narrative method, especially when i preach from the gospels and other narrative literature. When I studied a class on storytelling the gospel at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, my teacher John Langston told me that 80% of the Bible was narrative, and if that is true, then it would make sense to employ narrative preaching, just to honor the source material. Have I been guilty of narrative preaching?
Verdict: YES. DANG IT! They got me on that one. Don’t go home yet, Mr Hangman.
4. Irrelevance of expositional preaching.
Well, no. I don’t think its irrelevant. Although I don’t find nearly as many examples in the Scriptures of expository preaching, sometimes I employ it when i need to. Especially when i preach in really traditional churches who like expository preaching. In fact, one of my old pastors, when my wife and i were in Fullerton, was Charles Swindoll, who I felt was a dynamite expository preacher and i still appreciate his messages.
Now I no longer preach like Chucky did – I am more likely to use my points to prop up the Biblical narrative than the other way around, but I dont think it is irrelevant.
5. Corporate Inclusivism
Definition : "Inclusivism posits that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for one to be saved.
Now this is a sticky one. When I prayed to receive Jesus as a teenager, I didnt have all the facts about Jesus and his pre-existence and attributes. I just knew a little bit . .. enough, I guess, to respond to in God’s estimation anyway. Does that make me a Corporate Inclusivist?
I needed more help on this one so I read on to see who lined up on either side of the fence. According to Theopedia’s definition, famous/popular proponents of inclusivism include:
C.S. Lewis, Matthew Henry, J.I. Packer, John Stott
Now hold on . .. J.I Packer wrote "Knowing God" which was a staple of my Bible College education. And John Stott was one of the major figures behind shaping the Lausanne Covenant, which is what I suggest ALL emerging church networks read, understand and abide. Now if these guys were corporate inclusivists, then I guess I might be one, if I had to be. Certainly better than being an Exclusivist. which does not describe me.
Verdict: YES . . But wait
I might be an Exclusivist:
"Exclusivism is the belief that only certain religions contain teachings which, if followed or believed, lead to salvation, or eternal bliss in some sense. To say that a sect or religion is exclusivistic is usually to say that it does not believe members of other sects or religions are going to have eternal life, though sometimes it might also allow for salvation in a clearly limited number of other groups."
Well, I believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. But that is different than saying "Except through my religion". Which religion? Are we saying here that my Pentecostal friends dont have the truth and my Fundamentalist/Dispensational friends do have the truth? Now this is getting weird and I feel myself shifting away from this word "exclusivist" and towards the lesser of two evils.
Revised Verdict . . I don’t really know. I’m sorry. I am trying to wear one of the hats but cant decide – and you know i like HATS!
Final Verdict: For the sake of the poll, I am going to reluctantly throw my lot in with Packer and Stott. YES
6. Open Theism
Open Theism, Theopedia says is "the teaching that God does not know all things."
No . . . God DOES know all things. The word I was taught way back when was "Omniscience".
7. Apophatic Theology.
OK – I had to look this one up. Luckily they have a definition which includes "this system only defines God negatively in terms of what He is not (i.e. God is not finite, not sinful, etc.)."
Verdict: NO . . thats JUST SILLY! We all know that God is love. God is light. . . so I guess I cannot, in good conscience, call myself a pathetic . . I mean . . an apophatic theologist.
Right. Lets add them up. The inclusivist one is still confusing, but if John Stott went that direction . . ummm. How about I get half a mark for being a tempered inclusivist. No – I will go for a full mark so i can participate in the poll.
OK – 2 out of 7. And that is how I voted.
Either I failed the test and am not a heretic
or even worse
I passed the test and am NOT part of the Emergent Church
and I have to ask the question
Is how I am perceived, is how the emergent church perceived ACCURATE or do we have some work to do in mending bridges, communicating a little better (and in the right language)
Is Theopedia’s definition of Emergent Church accurate? Of course it is open source and I am sure many of you will want to assist the people in coming to a truthful accounting, and maybe already you are.
In February, Aaron Shafovaloff added 2 pages to Theopedia’s defintion among his many projects. and i certainly don’t want to disrespect him. I am sure that he found those 7 distinctives present in the Emergent churches he researched – otherwise why would he write them into the defintion? He must have come across a couple of REALLY BAD POTATOES and if he would name them to me in a private email, then I will speak to them, be it ever so severely.
How about you? Want to take the test? It would really help some people out . . .