Emergent at Yale and Masters

Emergent Conversations have been going on at both Yale Divinity School and Masters Seminary. Never expected to see both institutions in the same sentence.

At Yale, students were interacting with teachings by Miroslav Wolf. Yale Daily News captured the moment and there was some negative Catholic response who someone who wasn’t impressed. Bloggers Jason, and Cleave WERE impressed enough to write notes and there is more at Faithasawayoflife,

At the same time, Masters Seminary are doing a series on the Emergent Church. John MacArthur Jnr has been describing the emergent church as the 3rd wave of movements that threaten our clarity of the Scriptures. The first two waves, according to MacArthur were the charasmatic momement (which he tackled in “Charasmatic Chaos” [see also Vineyard Response to Charasmatic Chaos .pdf, and this letter]) and the Seeker Movement (which he confronted in “Ashamed of the Gospel“).

BTW – cant find any bloggers from Masters who have their own thoughts on this or their reaction to the professors at Masters. Anyone help? And not only this, but I have not been able to open all the audio files on my Mac. Must be a PC-Window’s based audience.

The third wave, says MacArthur is the emergent church movement that he characterizes as believing the Bible is “hopelessly ambiguous” and avoiding debate with anyone except people like himself -who apparently – are the only people true to the Scriptures. [I feel a third book coming on] MacArthur believes the main threat comes from a lack of clarity regarding the Scriptures – that the Bible has never been clear (his take on MacLaren) or is only NOW clear (his take on N.T. Wright) rather than a MacArthurite Absolute Clarity, as expressed when in states in his presentation . . .

“We have the mind of Christ, We know EXACTLY how he thinks!”

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John MacArthur Jnr says the two most popular emerging church books are Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi by David Crowder and Faith of My Fathers by Chris Seay. I haven’t read either of these two books (had not heard of Praise Habit) but I know the authors well from previous encounters at their old church. David was the worship leader at Chris’s church in Waco. Both great guys. They are both connected to the Baptist General Convention of Texas (moderate) and not the other more fundamentalist baptist stream so sides have already been drawn in this debate.

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However, if a seminary is going to critique a movement, why cant they tackle some of the more weighty books put forward from the movement itself that discuss the missiological basis for emerging church? – say . . “The Shaping of Things To Come” by Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost. Nothing against Dave Crowder – I love that guy – he’s a fantastic worship leader and i play his music all the time. But I have a feeling his book on Sushi and Sunsets was not written as an exhaustive apology for the emerging-missional church. Not saying MacArthur is wrong – perhaps they ARE the most popular books on the subject right now. Maybe I should buy them so that i can see where the movement is at right now? I really like Chris and Dave and if their books are rocking America, then fantastic!

As for MacArthur’s critique on the emerging church, I don’t have time to give a response. But since it is so similar to the previous attacks on the charasmatic movement and the seeker movement, perhaps it would be wise to go back and see if MacArthur’s clarity on those situations was well founded before moving onto this third wave.

THIRD WAVE? wow. I guess the emerging church is making an impact in USA after all.

Along similar lines, yesterday, in the bathtub, I was reading TEDS Professor Paul Hieberts excellent chapter on “Spiritual Warfare and Worldview” (from Global Missiology for the 21st Century). He believes that a systematic theology [based on algorithmic logic] on its own is not enough. Its good for tackling subject matter categorically, but we also need a biblical theology (narrative, historical, contextual) AND a missiological theology (applicable, involving phenomenology, ontology, evaluation and missiology, ie, applicable to current context). In other words, its not systematic theology VS all the rest. Its systematic theology when the need arises AND other ways of approaching the Scriptures when called for, or when context demands it.

Another angle, given by Hiebert, is that of tropological theology which is “done in the context of worship and stresses the mystical, sacremental and iconic nature of Scripture.” “Tropological methods are essential in studying poetical, wisdom, parabolic, and apocalyptic passages in Scripture. An excessive trust in algorithmic logic also overlooks the fact that all human reasoning is touched by our fallen nature and that Paul warns us against putting too much trust in it (1 Cor. 1:20-25)” (pages 166-167)

As for me and my house, I lean toward the balanced, synoptic approach to Scripture and theology that Hiebert outlines than I do towards the ONE RIGHT WAY of John MacArthur. And I am hoping MacArthur will invest in a few more books on the global emerging church movement before he writes his book.

Related: Proper confidence and Lesslie Newbigin.

Troplogical: Has Emergent Gone Troppo?

UPDATE:

Other Bloggers – Theology is life, Soylent Green, Jason Blair, Foolishblog

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

41 Comments

  • Andrew – you are too kind. I am not looking forward to another MacArthur book. I used to really like his writing/speaking – but I was younger and stronger then. Now it is simply too much work to get through the barbed wire. And then there are the endless conversations dealing with those that buy into his excellent writing style and seemingly great logic. The logic is unfortunately just as you say. He thinks A. I think B. He has the mind of Christ. Therefore I do not.
    No sir, not another book…

  • I was just thinking this morning about clarity on positions in the emerging church. Most recently, we have Brian McLaren who ticked off Mark Driscoll because he would not hammer out a definite position on homosexuality. Now we have McArthur’s overgeneralized statement about the emerging church believing the Bible is “hopelessly ambiguous.”
    While it is very easy to view your own position with charity (something I hope McArthur can admit), I see Jesus being fairly ambiguous in the Gospels. And he was ambiguous about being the Messiah, the number topic of his time. He was also vague about paying taxes, the sabbath, etc. He supported them to a certain degree, but he sought higher ground in the debate that others didn’t want to deal with. Those in power frame the debate, any attempt at framing the debate differently is a threat to those in power who have carefully crafted well intrenched positions.
    Once again, I view the emerging church with charity and associate us with Jesus. McArthur does the same thing. We’re both wrong and we’re both right. But I think the emerging church can at least say:
    1. We’ve see the damage done when we try to hammer out a 100% certain position on every topic, and so we err on the side of inclusion and ambiguity in order to find out if the Bible has anything more to say as we reread it.
    2. If the Bible is always relevant, then it better be unclear and ambiguous at times. The bottom line is that McArthur and the EC both value the Bible, but we express that value in different ways. He thinks he honors it through hammering out doctrinal positions, we think we honor it through a more open theology. I have no doubt about the openness of God . . . I mean, God’s openness with theology, not THE openness of God. 🙂
    3. I think we talk past McArthur because the EC doesn’t hold to the same exact authority of scripture as he. NT Wright is “wright” on when he says that we cannot speak of the Bible’s authority without first speaking of God’s authority. I think that McArthur puts a bit too much stock in the authority of scripture and not in the God who wrote the scriptures and interprets them through his Spirit.
    OK, enough. that was supposed to be a short reply.

  • bryan .. . you mean where the student said . .
    ” I honestly saw the lecture as a sad, professional over-simplification’
    yes – thanks for that link. good conversation over there.

  • you’re welcome, I promptly went back to my blog and tried to flesh it out a bit more (not sure if it helped though). It has just really struck me today that the key issue is what we value and what our goals are. That’s where we can find common ground. I think many opponents have similar values and goals, not to mention the same Lord!

  • I find it funny that so many of us find one’s substance, approach, or method as “ambiguous” when it doesn’t fit within our own personal cultural framework.
    I’m sure that there are those who are part of the emergent church movement who, being new to the very idea of “church,” would probably think some of the “old ways” are ambiguous becuase they have no bearing on their personal culture.
    I fled the independent, fundy Baptist ranks to get away from the short-sighted bigotry of “we’re better than you because ______.” Not that we shouldn’t be critical of one another, but let’s do it in the spirit of “iron sharpening iron” and not tearing one another down.
    Thanks for your post, your outlook, and your work with the BGCT.

  • I live a few miles away from the Master’s College and have to live with the utter self-righteousness that permeates the people who come from that establishment. I do have friends that have attended and most of them are in recovery:) That being said, the thing that bothered me most related to one of my friends who graduated from TMS, My friend Paul is a leader in the House church movement here in the US. When he got the newsletter about the conference he sent an email to the professor/friend who is in charge of putting on the conference. He asked if TMS would like some dialogue with one of their own regarding Emergent, house churches and missiology. Of course they politely told him they wanted no such dialogue. That might have interfered with their position of God’s on our side, not yours.

  • Is McArthur trying to invoke the shade of Alvin Toffler?
    Granted Toffler’s book “The Third Wave” begins provocatively enough with, “A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it.”
    I don’t think McArthur is painting the emerging church with Toffler’s brush (he has his own axe to grind), but the use of the term “third wave” may put a link in some people’s minds.

  • “We’ve see the damage done when we try to hammer out a 100% certain position on every topic, and so we err on the side of inclusion and ambiguity in order to find out if the Bible has anything more to say as we reread it.”
    As we are looking for direct thou shall and thou shall nots, I wonder if McLaren take some flak if he said that he wasn’t comfortable or willing to take a position on Slavery-which is not even directly addressed in the New Testament. How much flak would he take for not saying anything not wanting to offend any one.
    His response was to be pastoral in the area of homosexuality. How can one have a pastoral perspective or give guidance without clarity of our theological positions. What would his guidance be?
    Or maybe that is too direct for the emergent community, maybe if he keeps it on emotional and relational plane then all will be well.
    The response from Mark Driscoll is nothing, compared to the coming request for clarity on Brian’s position on Hell. Dialogue, Rock throwing, sarcasm, whatever you call it, its coming. Lets all keep a tender heart .
    Tim

  • Ed, I need a little more clarity on your thought that MacArthur does not take seriously the authority of God. I, too, was once a “MacArthurite,” but have been frustrated by the same things you have. However, from what I understand of him, his authority of Scripture comes straight out of the authority of God. It would be foolish non-sense to say Scripture is authoritative without the authority of God. I think you’re misrepresenting the guy. Let me know if I’m wrong.

  • I’m a TMS grad and I’m very thankful for my experience there. Contrary to some of the comments here, our grads are a mixed bag and you won’t find us walking in-step with each other on every issue. It seems a tad ironic that no one here is engaging the arguments of the lectures but simply repeating second-hand anecdotes about TMS grads they have known. However I have come to expect this in the blog world. I think every seminary is guilty of graduating foolish ministers and TMS is no different. However, I wonder if there is any critique from outside ec/EC circles that you would consider fair and has been used to reform the “movement.” I’m curious, could anyone document a single case of rapprochement on the part of ec? By this I mean those who are committed to a McLaren-styled approach and have moved toward a position more akin to MacArthur’s.
    I do think MacArthur is focusing on some of the very real weaknesses of the movement that continue to plague its effectiveness. Questions over the very nature of truth, Scripture, and ecclesiology should be given a fair hearing without shooting the messenger before he finishes. I offer this with charity and hope everyone will re-holster their broad-brushes so that true conversation can be attained…if possible. Grace and peace.

  • I like your take on the synoptic approach to theology and your humility when approaching the Gospels. I think too many conservative theologians conflate the Bible’s absolute truth with their own ability to access that truth using their own fallen logic and reason. The two are not the same thing at all.
    And yet I share their concerns that some within EC are looking at really bloody obvious passages and going “ooh – too hard – I can’t possibly know what this means”. Still, the fundies are gleefully willing to ignore large chunks of scripture about feeding the poor, caring for the earth and the manifest gifts of the Holy Spirit, so they shouldn’t cast stones.
    Funny you should mention Mike Frost, who is teaching my Evangelism unit at Morling College this year – a conservative Baptist College here in Oz. In Sydney, it’s the Anglicans (Episcopalians) who are the real rationalist/conservative extremists. The Bapos are pretty mild.

  • Brandon, here’s what I said:
    “I think that McArthur puts a bit too much stock in the authority of scripture and not in the God who wrote the scriptures and interprets them through his Spirit.”
    You said:
    “Ed, I need a little more clarity on your thought that MacArthur does not take seriously the authority of God”
    First of all, you’ve found the weakest part of my post. I’m not an expert on McArthur’s views, but I have spent a lot of time in a similar theological camp. So my critique may not be right exactly, but it’s close.
    I think you also read me wrong. I was not saying that he didn’t take the authority of God seriously in relation to scripture. I said that he put too much stock in scripture when compared to God’s authority to use scripture in any way he chooses.
    While I admit I can’t speak for certain about McArthur’s view on this, I can at least observe that he and many other evangelicals, typically assume that if you can find a verse on a topic, you then know God’s will for all time on the topic at hand. It’s just a conservative reading of the Bible. I may be wrong on McArthur, here, but that is how most Christians read the Bible. That is why most Christians don’t let women teach men for example (but I don’t know McArthur’s view on that topic, so once again, I could be wrong in specific relation to him).
    So perhaps its better to speak generally of the conservative notion of Biblical authority, which I’m pretty sure McArthur would mostly endorse. While I don’t think conservatives dismiss God’s authority, they do use scripture in a way that assumes quoting a verse is the same as God’s authority.
    I believe that God can uses scripture in ways that are far more complex than we could ever imagine, and that’s where I think many emergent theologians put a bit more emphasis on God’s authority in relation to scirpture. Pardon the seeming heresy, but what if God can authorize actions that are prohibited in parts of scripture? I could spell it out here, but I think that Scott over at Theopraxis.net says it best:
    scripture, answers, and Alex Trebec
    I hope my html was correct. I also hope that I have been fair to all parties involved.

  • The term “Third Wave” has also referred to conservative evangelicals who have adopted a more charismatic understanding of spiritual gifts but hold to more Reformed (Calvinist) theology. The term was originally presented as such by C. Peter Wagner, and has been in use in this way since the mid-1980’s.
    It was confusing enough when compared to Alvin Toffler’s writing, but for MacArthur to appropriate it for his own purposes will only be more confusing — but considering MacArthur’s track record of burning straw men and ad hominems ad nauseum, perhaps not all that surprising.

  • Ed-
    Isn’t it funny how our little nuances that we easily overlook in conversations can steer them in a completely different direction than we intended?
    I understand what you are saying about the Conservatives in general, and about MacArthur. The reason why so many conservative evangelicals think “this verse says this so that’s God’s brain on the subject” is because of the notion of the authority of God. You are right. The way they view Scripture as “all time” leads people to observe more of a proof-texting theology. But just as you say about the emergent folk, “I believe that God can uses scripture in ways that are far more complex than we could ever imagine, and that’s where I think many emergent theologians put a bit more emphasis on God’s authority in relation to scirpture,” the conservative evangelical folk think that what is in the Scripture is what God intended to teach all people for all time. As we have seen, people on both sides of the camp think the other side has lost themselves in their studies (or lack thereof). So what am I saying? I’m saying that we ought to be careful in communicating with eachother because both sides of the discussion are coming at it from opposite presuppositions. Both sides, in my opinion, hold up the authority of God in the name of his holiness and character, but both sides see it in different ways.

  • Andrew,
    I’ve enjoyed your blog for the last few months. It fires up the missionary in me. I think a lot of the criticism of the Emerging Church, at least that I hear, comes from an unstudied fear than anything else. People will do the most unreasonable things when they feel their faith is being threatened. I still hope and believe that God will use the EC as a missionary movement that will change this world.

  • hey ed…i just went to your blog…i see you go to biblical seminary in PA. i was inches away from going there but chose western seminary (breshears) instead. i’ve got to be honest…i’ve been second guessing myself lately. can i email you and we can talk about biblical? my email is brandon.capuano@gmail.com. drop me a line, i’d love to talk if that’s alright with you.

  • brandon, i also went to western in the 80’s. and golden gate. and fuller.
    i think most seminaries adopting new courses to equip their students for ministry in teh emerging culture. this is good. ryan bolger from fuller is even blogging his course.
    a school that i taught at a few times in basel, switzerland, has an entire track in this area. They encourage students to study traditional church ministry for as long as they can before switching over to emerging church training. They say it is easier to go that direction and almost impossible to go backwards.
    hey – i just woke up – i think most of the questions here have been addressed.
    regarding people moving from one position to another within the EC, (thank you for your ecumenical challenge) :
    what i have seen is that emerging churches in their respective traditions (charasmatic, reformed, pentecostal, baptist, whatever) generally stay connected in those traditions and are judged by them. The ecumenicism shows itself not by one leader or one church adopting a new view from another but rather by holding tight to one’s own views and allowing dialogue and fellowship with others who believe differently (eg, reformed and pentecostal)

  • Andrew-
    What did you think about the school? I know it was a while ago, but Breshears was still there when you were, correct? He seems like a rad guy and is one of the reasons I chose to go there. What did you think of studying under him? In terms of training emerging leaders, they have partnered with the Acts 29 training network to train their leaders, which really excited me. I would like to hear your thoughts on the school and whether or not you have been keeping tabs on them.
    I really like what you said, Andrew, about eccumenism. I think it is a goal for the church to be able to get to the point where conversations within different streams leading to the same ocean, if you will, are allowed to and encouraged to come together every once in a while and show they are made of the same stuff. As we all know, our own views are our own views because that is what the Spirit has convinced us of in our fallen state of mind. We’re all equally fallen, whether we are dangling from chandalers or shouting a hearty amen after being “ministered to in song through special music” that uses the cheesiest tracks from the likes of Sandi Patti and Amy Grant. If we cannot acknowledge our own fallenness and our own openness to being wrong, we do not have the right to attack someone else. However, if we are able to humbly bow before eachother and learn from eachother by allowing eachother into our conversations, then we can get somewhere. Good point, bro.

  • Just for the record, I’m actually out of school and have been in pastoral ministry for the last five years or so – but I suppose I do still consider myself a student!

  • Emergent at Yale and Masters

    Emergent at Yale and Masters Andrew Jones states: Emergent Conversations have been going on at both Yale Divinity School and Masters Seminary. Never expected to see both institutions in the same sentence. True. True. Excerpt: At Yale, students were int…

  • Brandon,
    How funny to find us reading the same blog?
    Tallskinnykiwi, thanks for sharing your perspective/opinion.

  • Andrew-
    Thanks for that link to your reflections. There was some good stuff said there about Western and about seminary in general, things I have been thinking about. You said, “when you want to learn from someone, you have to pay any price…no matter if they teach at a seminary or not.” Dude. That’s what’s been on my mind. Thanks.
    Caleb-
    You can’t escape this madness, my friend. I will haunt you for the rest of your life! Drop me a line sometime, bro. Let me know how the ministry is going. I pray for you.

  • Brandon-
    I will def. do that. We are praying for you guys as well. Amy brought her crew to college class today. That was fun.
    I better sign off before the tall kiwi kicks me off. He loves us TMS guys though.

  • Being held by truth

    Christian Scharen has a nice summary of some of the discussion at the recent emergent conference at Yale. This post explores some of Miroslav Volf’s work on “exclusion and embrace,” and talks about the ways we “are held by” truth,…

  • Point of Clarification…HE’s the Masters Dude…I’m a Crossroads Bible College and potential Western Seminary dude!

  • Sorry, link is
    http://firstmovethyself.blogspot.com/2006/02/john-macarthur-attacks-emergent-church.html
    Here are a few highlights from my post:
    MacArthur explained that the problem with the Emergent Church is that they question the perpescuity (or clarity or intelligibility) of Scripture. I think that is actually a good insight which I hadn’t considered. And yet I would put a positive spin on it: that many emergent church folks are taking a fresh look at the Scriptures to make sure the texts actually mean what we think they mean before we construct doctrines with them.
    I don’t know of anyone who likes Tom Wright because of his unorthodox view of the atonement! We like him for a host of other reasons.
    I could not help but notice MacArthur’s tone as compared to McLaren’s.

  • Please excuse my confusion if when I ask the question, it misconstrues your opinions.
    Are we to say that God’s word is not absolute or that our understanding of it is not absolute? Example;
    If Jesus was ambigous about homosexuality when he confirmed all the law and the prophets (Mat 5.17), how are we to know what Yahweh intends in this area? This obviously does not mean that we are to kill homosexuals or hate them (Mat 22.40) but treat them with love. Does the whole counsel of God say that homosexuality is wrong or not? Not trying to be argumentative, just looking for clarity about your posts and opinions. Thanks,
    Jim

  • Oops! Seems I missed the “if” that was supposed to be between ‘question’ and ‘it’. Sorry!
    Jim

  • My thoughts and critique of Phil Johnson’s critique of the “emergent church”

    Emergent No has recently posted a full-length presentation by Phil Johnson on the “emerging church”, which he gave at the Shepherds’ Conference at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA. His presentation was titled, “Absolutely Not! A critical look a…

  • Phil Johnson’s critique of the “emergent church”….and how those who believe different seem to be labeled as lacking clarity or Truth.

    Emergent No has recently posted a full-length presentation by Phil Johnson on the “emerging church”, which he gave at the Shepherds’ Conference at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA. His presentation was titled, “Absolutely Not! A critical look a…

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