Moody Bible Institute on Emerging Church

MBN Open Line had an interview [MP3] on the emerging church this week by Moody Bible Institute professors John Koessler and Kevin Zuber. I am expanding this post to include more info and to give a more accurate picture of my response to this interview:

Verdict: These guys were MUCH better than Masters Seminary but not as good as Dallas Theological Seminary.

The Good – I liked their description of emerging church worship as “participatory” and things all happening at the same time, similarity to Jesus Movement, and the lowering of volume, and using an appropriate tone and texture. They want to engage the culture with an attitude of humility. Good overview of modernism and postmodernism, and the complexity of trying to nail this down. Challenge to not pre-judge but to listen with discernment.

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The Bad – Nothing about the missional impulse of the EC, nor its legacy and history in overseas missions. And also none of the EC representatives under scrutiny studied at Moody. It would have been more helpful for Moody fans if they critiqued some of the Moody graduates now leading emerging churches. People like Moody Grad Lance White who has a good article on Next-Wave. Also, i dont like the way “emerging” and “emergent” has become a new dichotomy that more fundamental groups employ to distance themselves from the other.

The Ugly – Why is it assumed the EC plays “loose” with doctrine and has a defective Christology? “When they question the virgin birth” [hello – did someone do this?] I find this offensive. Why the heck does obeying Jesus call to the emerging culture result in a downgrade of doctrine?

Hey – who out there went to Moody??????

HT: AKPolarBear.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Hey there TSK.
    “Why the heck does obeying Jesus call to the emerging culture result in a downgrade of doctrine?”
    I never knew that Jesus asked us to engage in the emerging culture. Last time I checked, we were asked to take captive thoughts stacked up against Christ.
    Emerging culture is pregnant to thinking opposed to Christ. So should I, in the attempt to connect with such people, water down the Gospel?
    When Paul addressed the crowds in Athens, some thought he was a lunatic, some found him interesting and wanted more and some believed.
    Take home point here is that we are called to be faithful to scripture – not to culture.

  • I didn’t go to Moody but I went to Moody Church for 12 years, which is close friends with the Institute and I’ve listened to Moody Radio a lot.
    I thought it was interesting that Open Line had Jim Henderson and Matt Casper on a couple of weeks ago (look at Friday May 18)
    (Not that Off The Map self-identifies as Emergent or emerging)
    As to your question
    “Why is it assumed the EC plays loose with doctrine and has a defective Christology? I find this offensive. Why the heck does obeying Jesus call to the emerging culture result in a downgrade of doctrine?”
    – I know why. Because conservative Christians make assumptions about lots of things and rely on second-hand sources, like each other, for information about outsiders.
    Emerging Christians often make as many assumptions about outsiders as conservatives.
    In fact it’s a general problem with people that they often don’t go to the source. It’s quicker and easier to just ask a friend “Hey what’s the deal with this?”
    And unfortunately people who listen to Open Line are doing just that and will probably assume whatever is said on there about the emerging church is accurate. (Why not? Moody Radio wouldn’t lie to them)
    I assume that Moody staff probably pray for graduates who have been enticed into emerging church theology and ministries ;-). Who knows if they are interested in hearing why. Maybe they are – I hope they are. Sometimes if a person you (you meaning anyone but ‘one’ is so formal!) have a relationship with knew to be faithful and committed, goes a direction you don’t understand, you are more willing to let them tell you why than a stranger.
    I have to say that my experience is mostly otherwise, with conservative Christians. On the whole they don’t know or want to know why. They just want me to get back on the straight and narrow path – meaning their straight and extremely narrow path.
    Oops, I think I got off into my own issues a bit there 😉

  • Layguy – thanks for your comments.
    If we were as faithful as Paul was in Athens to spend time in the culture to understand it AND bring a prophetic word on behalf of God, filled with redemptive analogies that make sense and bring hearers to understanding and repentance. . . then we probably wouldnt need to have this conversation.
    If Paul did not need to water down the gospel, then why do people [you] think we do just because we are committed to love the people in Athens?

  • I don’t understand the assumption that EC’s are watering down doctrine, either. In fact, you find some of the most conservative doctrine in Emerging churches. How can this be? Does incense=watered down doctrine? Does casual dress and experiental worship=heresy? It is my very respect for the truth of the word of God that calls me to do some of the emergent-type of things that I do! There are a lot of piano and organ, suit-wearing churches that have extremely liberal doctrine. As Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment!” (John 7:24)

  • thats exactly what bugs me.
    por exemplo . .. when i speak at an emerging church, i usually make the assumption that the people will believe the Scriptures and the commands of Jesus are authoritative.
    But if i get invited to preach at a traditional church, i dont make those assumptions.
    and when i see emerging churches in action in the darkest and toughest areas of cities, i assume its obedience to the call of Christ that has brought them out of their comfortable two story houses in the suburbs and away from their pastoral salaries to work for peanuts . . or nothing.
    thats why it hurts.
    dang . . . i need counseling!!!!!

  • Oh my…I’ve been shaking my head an awful lot this week.
    I’ve just finished reading The Study of Theology by Richard A. Muller. He makes a strong case for the historical and continuing practice of theological contextualization. Making the gospel clear to our culture is not watering it down. Rather, contextualization ought to make the gospel as offensive to today’s hearers as it was to the original hearers. This almost always means restating our propositions and reforming our practices. When we miss the mark of clarity, we’re off base.
    There is a lesson here for all sides of this discussion. Those who stand firm on historical formulations need to rethink and rework those formulations so the truth of the gospel is clear to this generation. Those who are experts in contextualization need to be sure they are contextualizing the actual gospel (which will be offensive). There is responsibility on both sides to listen to and question one another in order that the message of Christ might be clear.
    Enough preaching…
    TSK, Thank you for your voice.

  • Hey TSK did you see my post on Jason Clark’s blog about foundationalism vs non-foundationalism?
    I was very interested when I came across that framing of how to approach the Bible. It seemed like a very thoughtful approach to a key issue. Anyway it wasn’t my idea – my post was based on an article by John Armstrong (this article led to him being denounced by John MacArthur in his new book as too postmodern/emergent).
    I don’t know John Armstrong well but everything I do know impresses me. He’s a conservative of a different sort which seems rather rare to me. He respects and listens to emerging Christians (and Catholics) and wants to build bridges based on common values/concerns. This approach has caused him to make both friends and enemies as you might imagine.
    Right now I am browsing Spong’s latest book. Now there’s a person who will never be on Open Line!

  • Thanks.
    As to where I come from…that’s rather funny: one of the places I come from is Talbot School of Theology at Biola University (a bastion of conservative evangelicalism, if there ever was one). This summer, I’m starting research for a ThM thesis on emerging church ecclesiology, which has raised interest–and a few eyebrows–here at Talbot.
    Given the summer I’ve laid out for myself, I may pop by and preach periodically 😉 …the topic twill be on my mind.

  • cool. i should really play my cards here – i had 3 choices for Bible college in USA – Multnomah, Moody or Columbia. I went with Multnomah because there were less Christians in Portland and i didnt want to get stuck in a christian bubble.
    but it was almost moody.
    and i wanted to go to talbot later on, or maybe dallas theol. but in ended up with western and then with . . . Fuller School of World Mission which was a big stretch for a fundie like me but i really felt it was God leading me to do it.
    and God led us to a new season of mission in the early 90’s which became known as the emerging church movement and now my name is MUD among my fundie friends and the fundy churches i used to attend.
    but nailing your reputation to the cross is part of the cost of following Jesus.
    God deliver us all from the fear of men.

  • I am a Moody grad, and sat under Koessler for pastoral classes. He was one of the few profs who really challenged me there. I will check out the audio.

  • Andrew wrote: “now my name is MUD among my fundie friends and the fundy churches i used to attend.
    but nailing your reputation to the cross is part of the cost of following Jesus.
    God deliver us all from the fear of men.”
    But how does one avoid playing the self-righteous martyr?
    I’m not saying you are. I’m just saying that I think it’s a temptation. When Jesus said “When you fast do it so no one can tell” I think that has wider application and means we are to be careful what we say lest we are mostly saying it to elicit sympathy.
    If we go there it means we DO care very much what men think and are looking for some sympathetic ones to replace the ones who have stamped MUD across our names.
    When is the line drawn that separates appropriately telling the truth and whining?

  • Like Joe, I also sat under Koessler, though just for one class as a heathen Comm major. In fact, if I remember right, Joe and I have some common friends and have talked once or twice back in the day.

  • “If Paul did not need to water down the gospel, then why do people [you] think we do just because we are committed to love the people in Athens?”
    TSK – why do you you throw me into this basket? Why do you think that I think the EC is watering down the Gospel? Why do you think that I don’t want to love the people of Athens in a culturally relevant way?
    Remember, not all culture is “emerging” – only a niche of it is. The church plant I serve in is in a culture ignorant to Jesus – not emerging from traditional view on Christianity.
    If I cater to an emerging mindset, it would be lost on the people of this culture.
    This is what bugs me about the whole EC thing. The so called “emerging culture” is assumed to be the norm all over the place. This is just crap. Culture is a melting pot of all kinds of persuasions. Emerging is just a niche and should be treated as such.

  • LayGuy. I think we are totally missing each other in these comments. Sorry if i jumped in too quickly. We really need a cyber counselor to say
    “TSK – i think i hear you saying that emerging culture, according to LayGuy, is somehow in opposition to Christ in its thinking. Layguy, how do you feel about that?
    Really sorry if i offended you. If i get time, I will read your blog and see where you are coming from.
    And if you get the time, you might be interested to see what I believe and the doctrinal creeds I affirm. Maybe then we talk better.
    Here’s a link to my response to Aaron who asked about what i believed.

  • Hi Andrew, we were at the emergent gathering together 2 years ago 🙂
    The whole issue with Moody Bible Institute is a sticky one because the leadership changed more recently when Dr. Stowell left and along with him practically all of the professors that I would have considered open to emerging thought. Professors such as Pate and Bredfeldt.
    I remember a big issue when I was at Moody was Lordship Salvation and also another was Christian Psychology and Bredfeldt really challenged alot of people on the latter. It seemed like an open forum for discussion at the time.
    With the new President the school has gone back to polarization unfortunately, and, when that happens it is easy to dismiss those that disagree with you and live in your little holy bubble.
    I know who Dr. Koessler is and would have never suspected that he was any type of theologian. If they wanted that then they lost those with the switch over, unfortunately.
    What I am seeing as one that is part of the church emerging, is that the spectrum is so wide on the eccelsiology of those representative in the conversation that it leads us open for alot of attack. I don’t know if things will solidify and move into clumps in the future or not. I personally would like that to happen so that we can become more focused and productive in some areas.
    I see myself as missional more than anything. That part of the church emerging that would identify with Mars Hill. But those are things that I have always believed and held close to my heart when I was at Moody, before Mars Hill become a commodity or well known.
    If any hardline fundamentalist/evangelical school had a chance at embracing emergent I thought it was Moody. But, sadly, with the new leadership they signed their ticket imho. It breaks my heart. The progressives have left. When I think of it, at the gathering I spoke with Brian for a while and mentioned my ideas about Moody being open and he smiled and said they may never be. At that time i didn’t know about all of the changes. Now it all makes sense to me.

  • Lance, thanks for your perspective on Moody. I knew about the change in President but didn’t know the ramifications of that. I guess I never got the impression Joseph Stowell was open to progressive thought, but then I didn’t know much about him.

  • thanks Lance for your comment. Sounds like you had a good training experience at Moody. i wonder if its more cyclic for schools to go in and out of these things rather than something they will be stuck in forever.

  • I appreciate this discussion very much and hope that this will clarify some of the comments I made on Open Line. I am sure that I do not entirely understand all that is going on in the emerging church. I am trying to understand it based on what is being written about it. Let me clarify my perspective. Please understand that I am speaking only for myself and not for Dr. Zuber.
    I appreciate the emerging church’s desire to contextualize ministry for a post-modern culture. I think it is reflects the spirit of the apostle Paul’s approach to ministry. I have been greatly helped by writers like Leonard Sweet in thinking about the implications of doing ministry in a post-modern world.
    It is not my personal impression that the majority of leaders in the emerging context have forsaken the Scriptures or the foundational truths of Scripture (I am speaking here only for myself not Dr. Zuber or as an “oracle” of Moody Bible Institute). However, I can see how our remarks could have given that impression. Part of what we were doing was trying to talk about the anti-foundationalism of post-modernism and I think we may have unintentionally conflated the two. What I think emerging leaders are trying to do is find a way to communicate foundational truths in an anti-foundational context. As I said on Open Line, one of the ways this has been accomplished is by “dialing down the volume.” I think that they are trying to present dogma in a non-dogmatic way. I am concerned that in time downplaying dogma will lead to loss of dogma. I am using dogma in a positive sense here-those foundational truths that are essential to the Christian faith.
    I think it is important to understand that Kevin and I were guests on Open Line sharing our personal opinions on the subject (just like any other guest). We were not presenting the “official” position of the Moody Bible Institute. To my knowledge, Moody Bible Institute has not articulated an “official” position regarding the emerging church.
    I find the “conversational” nature of the emerging church very appealing. This was my attempt to enter the conversation and give my opinion. As in any conversation, I am very open to others sharing a different point of view and pointing out where I am in error. Dan Kimball has very graciously done so and I appreciate it very much. I do feel that I need to apologize for our confusing emergent and emerging in the discussion. I doubt that we are the first to do so. Thanks for listening.

  • John, very kind of you to come here and comment. and brave of you to tackle this complex subject.
    Sorry if we sound too petty. The emerging/emergent distinction is even more confusing – many churches that are a part of emergent village do not display typical “emergent” phenomena.
    thanks again for being open to talk about it.

  • The only real concern that I have, as one with a pretty solid bible background, is that I do not want to see the church emerging be thrown to the side because of misunderstandings from the far right or foundationalists. I have seen a number of articles by people that don’t really know what they are talking about. That is very disconcerting to me.
    If a school like MBI would invite someone to speak a series for chapel, much like they allowed the prewrath rapture guy to speak when I was a student there, then that would be great. I have to believe that people at MBI respect NT Wright like we do, Bruegemann, etc etc.
    We do NOT need this constant polarization. We do NOT need finger pointing. We do NOT need religious elitism. We NEED to realize that there are hurting people everywhere and they are hurting for a reason. It would be so nice if all of the religious weapons were laid down and we just embraced one another under the cross wouldn’t it?

  • Lance wrote: “We do NOT need this constant polarization. We do NOT need finger pointing. We do NOT need religious elitism. We NEED to realize that there are hurting people everywhere and they are hurting for a reason. It would be so nice if all of the religious weapons were laid down and we just embraced one another under the cross wouldn’t it?”
    Wow, awesomely put, Lance.

  • its a great idea, lance .. but anyone they invite will bring their own slant and biases and will not represent the whole breadth and depth of this EC movement that is all over the world and in every denomination.
    which is why i liked the humility of john and kevin on the radio.
    but a few people with moody backgrounds would shed some light and good perspective.
    “under the cross” . .. yes

  • I agree. Sooo John, how about looking into having some of us that are involved in the emergent conversation come to Moody and speak to it?
    I have always wanted to come back and give something back for everything that my time at Moody gave to me. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some perspective from some people that have actually made it through the extremem rigors of Moody’s academics and come through with respect for that tradition as well as a respect for diversity?
    I’ll tell you something. If you want to make some waves that will be noticed and extend the olive branch, that would certainly do it.I promise to be nice, humble, and insightful 🙂 I don’t have any hatred for MBI and I understand that when something is not fully understood the first response it to attack from afar like many from the religious right have done.
    You know, when B. Mclaren and I talked at the emergent gathering I told him that I really wanted to learn to have his grace and balance in perspective. I am a lion of the dessert in personality but even lions know how to act in certain situations.
    Alumni week? 🙂
    I don’t believe that MBI would need big name people to speak to represent the different perspectives. Mark Driscoll talks about 4-5 different branches within the conversation. I would be more than happy to represent the conservative branch that I believe many students would embrace at Moody. They would just need to give me some time to put on 8lbs at the different pizza places, 6 lbs eating gyros, and 7 lbs eating at G’s and J’s 🙂

  • Sorry, but I don’t think we need the emerging church. I believe it will cause a split in the Protestant church, just like the split caused by the reformation. You guys seem to forget that there is a Holy Spirit. There is election, there is calling, there is God’s will, there is God’s drawing a person to Christ. Are we to think that salvation is all about us? That we must woo people into believing by relationships and good deeds? The Word of God is living and active. It is Spirit and it is Life. The emerging church folks are forgetting about the power of God. I think when a church does that it winds up only with the outward form of Christianity but not the real power of it. I am a bit older than you. I got saved in 1977. Shortly thereafter I started listening to Moody Radio. For the first time in my life I heard the Word of God taught. I had not religious background, nothing that would have attracted me to it. You could say I was post modern. I bought a Bible and began to read it over and over. I was transformed by God’s Word. Many other people of various walks of life, rich/poor, educated/uneducated, cultured/uncultured; it does not matter. God’s Word is powerful to transform any heart regardless if it’s in the age Post Modernism or the Dark Ages. I am glad Dr. Easely came to Moody. The Institute was drifting from its solid foundation. Progressive education is what brought American Public schools to where they are today. Progressive is another word for liberal. Moody will die if it does not hold to its foundational truths. We cannot please everyone, nor should we even try. Christians need to be loyal to Christ alone. The Church has lived through every age in the past 2000 years and has carried on and brought the message to the world. There are some good things to learn from the Emerging Church, but the bad things far out number the good things. Thanks for hearing me out.

  • Just a thought… a total guess… but could local Emergent congregations be slanting Moody’s perception of the EC? After my first visit to the Chicagoland Emergent cohort’s website, I was shocked at the blatant attack on an orthodox Christology via universalism. Perhaps first impressions scar us for the worse. I consider myself extremely “emerging” and see it overall as wholly compatible, indeed necessary, for the propagation of the Good News. But I do find the fact that a blog led by the pastors of an Emergent congregation which gives any creedence to a most anti-Christian theology as universalism to make me wary of the Emergent label. (Wary because heresy is not fought against.)
    I was not indoctrinated in a conservative Church growing up, and most often find myself swimming upstream when in conservative circles, but the Holy Spirit and the Word of God testify to my soul that the fire of heresy is not something to be toyed with… not entertained, not treated as cute. We are told to “hate what is evil” and “cling to what is good”. As an insider, my biggest critique of the EC would be that it “toys” with heresy, as if it is a game. McLaren, when put to fire, will deny adhering to many of the concepts he entertains (concepts for which he has come under fierce scrutiny).
    But this is the issue for me: thousands–even millions–of Christians have given their lives valiantly in order to preserve orthodox Christian faith. Theology is no game. It certainly is a conversation–in many ways, even an “event”. But we ought to take tremendous care that we do not appear to treat it flippantly. This, I believe, is arrogance in its vilest form.
    I just finished a Christian History course at Trinity a week ago, and am overwhelmed by the valiancy of saints throughout the ages–for their perseverance in debating the nature of the Trinity–for the great effort they put forth to stifle heresy, even heresy which might not seem too far removed from orthodoxy for many Christians today. But hopefully we’ve learned–even Luther recognized–that war has never and will never resolve our differences. Committment to dialogue, with humility, and yet not compromise, will enable us to maintain unity within diversity. So help us God.

  • yeah – and commitment to passing on the truth to the next generation also. its a shame that in the EC, when we try to be Berean-like we are called skeptical and when we promote unity we are heretical. cant win.

  • Andrew,
    A question for you mate. How would you compare and contrast emerging and emergent?
    Just curious. Not a loaded question. Just want to know your opinion.

  • question is fine. answer is confusing.
    here is what i told a number of ministry foundations and mission agencies a few years ago at the IMB HQ about the vocabulary of “emergent”
    link to emergant and the page on tallskinnykiwi
    love to hear feedback on what you read and maybe hear from you if you think the defintion has changed since i wrote and shared that 2 years ago.

  • Not sure if it’s inappropriate to jump in here and respond to Matt’s question. I suspect that those of us who have a view of the emerging church at Moody have gleaned it from what we have read. That’s the way of academics. I don’t think you can underestimate impact of D. A. Carson’s evaluation (I know it has been criticized for focusing too much on Brian McLaren). In addition to Carson’s book, my own impressions are drawn from books by Leonard Sweet, Dan Kimball, and a number of articles from a variety of journals, including Christianity Today and Leadership. (including David Mills’s response to Dr. Carson’s critique). I also think conservative academics sometimes formulate their views based on the critique of others. The result is a kind of second-hand negativism (a derived critique). One of the challenges I have had in talking about the emergent church in my classes is that the diversity of views almost always lends itself to caricature on my part (I usually tell my students that this is the case). I also think it is important to recognize that Moody is not hunkered down and brooding about the emerging church. It is of interest to some and not on the radar much for others. The broadcast that sparked this discussion grew out of a symposium presented to the broadcasting division. It was one of a series of symposiums focused on a variety of topics. Now a question I have been pondering, and please know that it is meant to be framed in a winsome manner (i.e. I am not on the attack here): is it possible that there is an element of unhealthy self absorption reflected in this discussion? I guess if I were in your shoes and convinced after serious and biblical reflection that my course was both biblical and directed by God, I would not be overly concerned about the criticism of others (though I suspect I would be hurt by it). It is the nature of reform movements to be misunderstood. I don’t mean this in a mean spirited way.

  • Just speaking for myself, John, I think you’re partly right about the self absorption bit… at least for some people (including myself) at some times. This and that interview, article, etc. may not make significant waves except that we (EC) make a show of them. We sort of get a tickle out of being talked about, that is, taken seriously by the mainstream. Of course, there’s also a significant element of commitment to the conversation–or movement, if you want to call it that–that we feel is worthy of defending and propagating. We take ourselves seriously, because we believe we’re touching on something(s) that desperately need to be embraced by the global Church in general, and the Western/Global North Church in particular. In short, some fly the emerging/Emergent banner for shock value… because it’s the in-thing to do… because they want to be on the cutting edge. Others of us have seen serious rumblings of the convictions we hold for a couple of decades now, as well as interlaced throughout Christian history, and desire to kindle them. Commitments to authentic community, historically-rooted orthodoxy and ecclesiology, vibrant spirituality, wholistic discipleship, and the wholistic Gospel. Honestly, I see strong evidence of these convictions in faculty and students of a broad cross-section of seminaries and faith traditions–they just may not call it “emerging”. If anything, the evangelical clergy and seminary faculty ought to be exhiliarated over the brooding interest in historically grounded theology and practice, rather than just the flavor of the month wineskin. IMHO, those critical of the EC should look at Bob Webber’s The Younger Evangelicals for a picture of the larger population inclined toward the EC… not necessarily the self-identified leaders, but those longing for such a revolution on the ground floor.

  • John wrote: “is it possible that there is an element of unhealthy self absorption reflected in this discussion? I guess if I were in your shoes and convinced after serious and biblical reflection that my course was both biblical and directed by God, I would not be overly concerned about the criticism of others (though I suspect I would be hurt by it). It is the nature of reform movements to be misunderstood. I don’t mean this in a mean spirited way.”
    John, I see your point and I think it’s a good one. However can I ask you a question in turn: why do conservative Christians rely so much on second-hand information (by your own admission) about the emerging/emergent church (and other topics)? If the goal of conservatives is to uphold truth why do they not work harder to make sure they never misrepresent reform movements like the emerging/Emergent church? Because if they misrepresent anything they are not role-modelling truth-telling.
    Matt could you give the URL of the Chicagoland Emergent cohort site which affirms universalism? I didn’t know there was a Chicagoland Emergent cohort website.

  • yeah. i just read matt’s comment again and realised i didnt really address it.
    i met with emerging church ministries in chicago back in 1998 and i think i was back there in 99. but i havent been there since and have not met some of the new players. you, john, would have a better idea than i about the church emerging in chicago and the involvement by moody students.
    there is a kind of self-absorbtion and a gravitation [unhealthy] toward the criticism – its like a reversal of st francis where instead of seeking to understand, we seek to be misunderstood and when it happens, it turns viral and is used as justification for our trials.
    i am sorry if my tiny blog post focused on the negative in this manner and did not give appropriate credit to the entire interview.
    as for why the miscommunications concern me – and Carson’s did – its not really something i worry about for me because the the denominations and mission organizations i consult for and represent know that i hold the same doctrinal stance as they, and together we all hold to the Lausanne Covenant which provides a platform for trust so that we can get on with God’s mission. My main worry is that the young missionaries working in the global emerging culture will lose trust and support (which happened) and the mission agencies that have refocused on the emerging culture and the Foundations that have given funding to EC projects, at my recommendation, will regret their decisions
    and as a result, support to those on the front line of mission will dry up and flow back to the institutions that take the lions share already.

  • helen . . where did you come from . . sneaking that comment in just when i was talking . ..
    but yeah – i would be very suprised to find any emerging group anywhere that would support a universalist view. i certainly havent come across any.
    and i can say that the emerging church movements supported by the Boaz Project over the past decade have not been universalist.
    but you might find a few folk who are universalist AND doing ministry in the emerging culture – just as you might find them in a traditional church.
    does that help.

  • Andrew sorry if I snuck up on you and made you jump 😉
    Matt mentioned the site with the universalism article – I was hoping he’d provide the URL. I understand universalism is a very a-typical position for someone in the Emergent/emerging church to take. (Hopefully I didn’t just start a rumour about the E/e church being universalist – yikes – that certainly wasn’t my intention!)

  • “”Matt could you give the URL of the Chicagoland Emergent cohort site which affirms universalism? I didn’t know there was a Chicagoland Emergent cohort website.””
    Hey Helen and all, there is a Chicagoland area emergent group called uprooted at . I have a bunch of friends from that are part of it. Also, I know of at least one emerging church plant that it has spawned.
    I also saw that you guys mentioned Moody Students being involved emerging churches in the Chicago area. My first thought on that would be that I wonder if the leadership of Moody knew if the students were involved and the second thought would be if they would be barred or threatened if they were involved.
    I know that may sound crazy to some but I know the new President is pretty hardline from what my conservative Moody friends have told me that I am in contact with. I really wish that wasn’t the case 🙁
    I wonder if I will get an invite to speak at MBI sometime? Gyros and pizza isn’t asking too much is it 🙂 Maybe a little cheesecake on the side?

  • lance – i think they need someone passionately committed to moody and who can speak moody-eske as a bridge.
    as i was listening again to the interview, i actually think the 2 professors did a great job and i am not sure why i wrote so little on the positives and so much on the negatives. in fact, i am adding some positives to my original post right now so it can accurately reflect that interview.
    maybe it would be helpful for you to find out what moody grads (and dropouts) are doing that is working in the emerging culture, and putting down thoughts from your own experience, and get that intel back to John – who perhaps is already marked out to be our spokesman for moody.

  • Hi Lance, I know about uprooted – I went to their meeting in December where Scot McKnight discussed his book The Real Mary.
    I’m participating in the Midwest Emergent Gathering, organized by uprooted, as an ‘outsider’. Last I heard I’m leading a workshop at it.
    So, is uprooted the Chicagoland Emergent cohort? I know they don’t endorse universalism in general. I’d like to see the article Matt is referring to, whether it was on their site or elsewhere.

  • Helen:
    What a good question: “Why do conservative Christians rely so much on second-hand information (by your own admission) about the emerging/emergent church (and other topics)?” This has been one of the really valuable insights I have gained from this discussion. I think there are several reasons for this. One is simply pragmatic. Since the movement is large and diverse, we are drawn to statements that synthesize its ideas and describe its trends. I think academic culture is another reason. Academics value the cited source, not just the original source, but the opinion of the scholar who gives his view of the original source. This creates a kind of modern “scholasticism” (in the medieval sense) where we may be working with ideas that have morphed after being viewed through the lens of several different interpreters and responding to what amounts to hearsay. To be honest, I had never thought about it before now. I think the third reason is simply a matter of respect. There are scholars and Bible teachers whose opinions we value. When they say something is wrong, we tend to believe them. We don’t feel that we need first hand information because the authority we trust has spoken to it. This is not a distinctly fundamentalist tendency. I think it’s just human. Also, I think the conservative tradition of Fundamentalism has made us wary of the logical extension of ideas. Sometimes we are reacting not to the ideas themselves but to the place we fear the ideas will take us. Also known as the “slippery slope.” Andrew, thanks for your gracious expansion of your thoughts our original broadcast. It means a great deal to me. I really did want to engage and not offend.

  • absolutely, john. i appreciate your desire to engage and learn and pass on what you have already experienced. you seem to have a good nose for this.
    and helen, i have been thinking about your criticism of me “whining” and being a “self-righteous martyr”
    theres a lot of truth in there. i think i do lean towards that. especially when i notice all my friends back home are, as Paul said to the Corinthians, getting rich, and that without me.
    but hey – i chose to be a missionary overseas and this is my lot. God help me to love it and not complain and keep my hand on the plow.

  • Andrew, I’m sorry – I think my comment came across as more personal and more critical than I intended.
    I know I quoted you but I was hoping to raise the issue more as a general discussion point, for all of us to reflect on, lest any of us are falling into too much whining and self-righteous martyrdom, than to go after you personally.
    I’ve lived through the struggle for years – I sometimes resist the temptation; other times I fall into it.

  • Sorry I’ve been out of commission. I completed the last leg of my four-day, five-stop road-trip this evening. Back home safely in Chicagoland.
    I’m glad others mentioned up/rooted by name. I wanted to give such an opportunity to others who undoubtedly had more experience with them than I. All I know is that the blog of the pastor was taking very seriously the claims of universalism. And everyone knows that Spencer Burke is a self-proclaimed universalist. I think you all are savvy enough to find the blog and its universalism thread. If I need to go back and do the research for you I can. 😉 Unless they’ve deleted it, I’m assuming it’s still there. It’s been at least six or eight months since I read it.

  • Matt – in moments like these . . i just send out an email and ask the people straight out rather than get involved in speculation wars.
    i went to the uprooted website and realized that one or two of the authors there, whose names i recognized, read and comment on my blog:
    mike clawson and geoff holsclaw – so they must be GOOD guys!!!
    but i just sent an email and asked them if they were universalist.
    lets see what they say.

  • and while we are waiting for their response, you can visit their blog at about uprooted
    in case you dont have time to look at it, they declare their theological commitments as follows:
    Theological Commitments
    * We are committed to God as the foundation of reality. In a world where particularity is a scandal, we seek rootedness in history, following God as revealed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    * We are committed to maintaining the authority of Scripture—the apostolic authority of Holy Scripture as a valid witness to Christ beyond modern reductionistic, propositional scientific criteria.
    * We are committed to the faithfulness and integrity of the church as a ‘contrast culture’, witnessing to the reality of the Kingdom of God.

  • John thank you for taking my question seriously and posting a thoughtful response.
    I have to confess that I didn’t listen to the podcast of Open Line until yesterday afternoon. Which means I was relying on second-hand information until then in this discussion. I apologize for not role-modelling ‘going to the source’ better.
    When I listened I was impressed. My sense was that you were carefully and generously doing your best to present a balanced picture of the Emergent/emerging church – sharing the good as well as what concerned you. I appreciated your generosity in noting the motive behind resisting certainty is probably a desire to exemplify humility rather than arrogance.
    With callers you encouraged them towards more balance rather than extreme positions. You carefully unpacked such things as whether the Emergent/emerging church believes in sin, defending that they do, but frame it a differently – seeing the worst evil as the broken relationships it causes. (Which is not necessarily antithetical to a conservative viewpoint, in my opinion, if you consider that The Sin underlying all sins is The Broken Relationship with God)
    One thing that confused me was how you and/or Kevin differentiated between Emergent and emerging. It almost sounded the opposite way around to what I’d heard. I thought it was Emergent that had definite leaders – Brian McLaren is associated with it, and others. And my experience with emerging leaders is that they are fairly conservative in their theology – hence Andrew’s chagrin at how often the emerging church is painted as unacceptably straying from sound doctrine.
    I would rather point people to Scot McKnight’s excellent Christianity Today article about the Emergent/emerging church than anything by Mark Driscoll, for further information about the Emergent/emerging church. Mark is a-typical of the movement because of his reform theology. And – you mentioned anger against traditional churches – Mark once worked with Brian McLaren, then at some point they split over theology (as best I know). From what Mark writes, he is not disposed to be generous about the rest of the movement.
    I appreciate your desire to engage. I was rather shocked to see John MacArthur’s statement in his recent book of concerns about the emerging/Emergent church “This is not friendly fire”. He was right that it wasn’t friendly – but of course the statement means “these are our enemies not our friends”. I much preferred your evident position: these are fellow Christians – brothers and sisters in Christ – and we should listen because they make some good points; notwithstanding that, we also have serious concerns.
    I don’t know if you know John Armstrong (who is local – he’s in the Wheaton/Carol Stream area) – his ministry is Act3 –
    He’s a conservative who engages with Christians from other many other traditions in the hope of building bridges – appropriate bridges which do not compromise or overlook significant differences. He would be a good person to talk to about the strengths and weaknesses of the emerging/Emergent Church – he has lots of first-hand knowledge.
    Anyway back to first and second-hand knowledge: I understand what you’re saying. My perspective is – when second-hand information is handled with the care you use, it seems to work fairly well, although I still think you will improve your understanding of the emerging/Emergent church to the extent you engage directly with members of it. And of course you can choose which members – you can avoid those who appear motivated primarily by anger and/or who mischaracterize conservatism. You can look for people who seek to have a balanced view of your tradition even as you seek to have a balanced view of theirs.
    My concern about second-hand information – and it might be more about information that is many more times removed than that, because it circulates through the Christian subcommunity – is based on regularly hearing mischaracterizations of outsiders that, were an outsider to hear them, he/she would immediately know they are way off-base. I think there is a lack of accountability because outsiders generally don’t hear them or don’t have access to point out to the speaker how wrong they are. But surely they must think “If this speaker is so wrong about the things I know about, why would I trust him/her on what I have to accept on faith?” And so the likelihood of the gospel being given even a fair hearing is compromised.
    Also sloppy referencing – pastors frequently use illustrations in sermons without apparently devoting even 30 mins of their 10-30 hrs prep time to a Google search to look for the original author or check whether the story has got inappropriately distorted or wrenched from its original context. Outsiders go on google and then ask why preachers aren’t more careful. Again, there is a lack of accountability because outsider comments don’t tend to reach Christian speakers (which is why I recommend those speakers go to the outsiders – the ‘source’). And for some reason, insiders will look up the Bible passages quoted but not the rest of the sermon/message. So they don’t bring an accountability to the process which could improve the reputation of Christian speakers with outsiders.
    I agree that it’s human nature to listen to our friends and like-minded people and those we trust. I’m most familiar with the problems of relying on second-hand (or further removed) information in the conservative Christian subcommunity. I’m most concerned about it there since misinformation – even if inadvertently passed on – contradicts the core value of integrity. Should not Christians make every effort to be sharing accurate information on whatever topic they are discussing? (Or bow out of the discussion and admit they do not know?) So, while it may be human nature, judgment begins with the household of God, right? Aren’t Christians supposed to be the example to the world? Paul very bravely said “imitate me as I imitate Christ”. Ethical outsiders rightly recoil whenever imitating a visible Christian means imitating sloppy research (or any sort of unethical conduct). And, for what it’s worth, Christian gloating over “You have no basis for your morals!” does nothing to address the embarrassment of when Christian ethical standards are lower than those of outsiders.

  • helen – the emerging/emergent DID get confused on that interview but that was an honest mistake and i was able to work out what they were saying.
    – scot mcknight is also a great resource and that article was excellent
    – mark driscoll, brian, myself and a few others were part of Young Leaders in the 90’s and yes, Mark did leave but was one of the key players of that organization/conversation.

  • I thought Matt must be referring to some group other than up/rooted since no-one I’ve come in contact with in up/rooted has been close to seriously entertaining universalism.
    Ok, here’s Mike Clawson’s review of Spencer’s book on the up/rooted site.
    Here are some of Mike’s actual words:
    “This is where Spencer’s “universalism” comes in. I say that in quotes because Spencer is not actually a universalist. While he uses that term in the book, he does so rather “tongue-in-cheek”. He is a “universalist that believes in Hell”, which is to say, not really a universalist. Rather, Spencer is an extreme inclusivist. His suggestion is basically that perhaps salvation is an opt-out rather than an opt-in. In other words, God’s grace and forgiveness is already extended to all people. Because of what Christ did on the Cross, we are all “saved”, i.e. recipients of God’s grace right from the day we are born. However, because we still have free will, and because God will never force anyone to love him, we all still have the option of rejecting God’s grace, of refusing his love. Perhaps, suggests Spencer, salvation is not so much about intellectually assenting to the particular doctrines of the Christian religion, but is simply about responding to God’s love and accepting his free grace to us, in whatever form it appears. (Incidentally, I think this whole view would help greatly in making sense of what Paul says in Romans 5:12-19.)
    Personally, I think Spencer is on to something.”
    Not only is Mike not a universalist, Spencer isn’t either.
    THIS is a great example of why we need to go to the source and get first-hand information. I’ve quoted some from up/rooted. And anyone who wants first-hand information about Spencer ought to read Spencer’s book even if he/she trusts Mike’s analysis (which I do – he writes some of the most careful thoughtful book reviews I’ve seen in the blogosphere).

  • Andrew – yes, I realized it was an honest mistake on Open Line about the difference between Emergent/emerging. It has confused me enough that I’m not surprised it confuses others!
    Thanks for the perspective on Mark’s involvement.

  • Universalism would be a non-issue if all people cared about was learning to treat each other as Jesus asked us to do, so God’s will would be done more on earth as it is in heaven.
    Really, universalism is simply an attempt to redeem God’s character by people who can’t believe a kind God would send people to hell. I tend to like people who feel that way.
    Universalism is horrific and heretical mainly because Christians have decided that belief matters more than behavior. I find myself unconvinced that Jesus himself thought that way. He said so much about behavior and when he said who was going to hell in Matthew, Mark and Luke, he always described those people as ones who did evil, not ones who ‘didn’t believe the right propositions’.
    (These are a few of the thoughts and observations which have made me an outsider among conservatives and emergents/emerging Christians. Sorry if they are off-topic)

  • Spencer is not a universalist . . . he is just a very naughty boy. . . by which i mean he likes to make people think.
    And Mike is not a universalist just because he wrote a review of Spencer’s book.
    And for the record, I am not a universalist either. In fact, for someone like me who is an overseas MISSIONARY, it would be a little ridiculous to turn up in other countries and each time have to say . .
    “ooopps. . . i guess i am not really needed here after all since everyone is heaven-bound. Hey . . see you all at the Wedding Supper . . . I might as well fly home now, Bye! Wish me luck in getting REIMBURSED for my plane fare from my universalist sponsors.”

  • Andrew if a missionary’s only job is to connect a USB to people and download some Bible verses into their brains then yes, you should give up and fly home. Even if the universalists won’t pay (ok maybe you have to swim – not so practical, I guess ;-))
    But if you can change the quality of the peoples’ lives where your mission field is right now, would you really give up that opportunity just because of a belief about what happens after they die?
    “Don’t worry folks, life will get better once you reach heaven. My life is good now but hey, some people get the breaks – some don’t what are you gonna do?”
    Do people really need the threat of hell to push us into being kind to each other (even if it involves some personal sacrifice)? Or could we do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do? Because it’s what Jesus did and being a Christian means following his example?

  • Andrew – so do I 🙂
    In reality I understand that belief informs behavior and I respect how you are choosing to spend your life.

  • Actually, the thread I was referring to was the 9/12/06 post entitled “Question #1: Universalism”. The very fact that they were asking the questions they were is, in my estimation, akin to flirting with fire. And the whole thread of comments deeply disturbed me.
    The whole sphere of religion that bases faith on one’s personal, humanistic preferences of how God “ought to be”, which completely ignores vast swaths of scripture. These views emanate from people who either (a) belittle Scripture, (b) are ignorant of Scripture, or (c) are malevolently trying to deceive vulnerable sheep.
    If inclusivism is true, then the Protestant Reformation was for naught. Inclusivism is one small step away from universalism. It renders void the vast majority of Jesus and Paul’s teaching, even if we may extract a verse or two out of the broader context of the Canon.
    Andrew, thanks for remaining a voice of the both/and mentality. It irks me to no end that right-wing fundamentalists denounce incarnational theology while left-wing extremists denounce propositional truth. It is my earnest prayer that the emerging church learn what previous polarized sects have not: that truth and love are not at odds, nor are they synonyms.
    I hope it was clear that I was not making any decisive pronouncements in my previous replies, but rather sharing my brief encounter via the aforementioned blog thread. I haven’t read Heretic’s Guide, nor have I read reviews of it. I don’t have enough time to worry about all the books out there that appear to be off-track. I hardly have the time to read the ones I’m itching to devour! 🙂
    Much love,

  • Hey all, Mike Clawson here. As one of the coordinators of up/rooted I just wanted to clear up a few things regarding our supposed universalism:
    1) I am not a universalist, nor is anyone else I know at up/rooted. You can read everything we’ve had to say about universalism on the blog here. There were two posts about Spencer’s book (but since Spencer himself denies being a universalist I don’t know that really counts), and one in which we simply raised the question of whether an evangelical could also be a universalist and invited comments. AFAIK, no one confessed to being a universalist there either.
    2) However, all that is irrelevant because up/rooted is not a church, nor even a formal organization. We are simply a group of friends that get together once a month for a no-holds barred discussion of whatever topics are on our minds. There are no statements of faith or expectations of agreement required. If someone wants to come and talk about universalism, they’re more than welcome. It’s a question that Christians wrestle with, therefore it’s a question that we’re willing to talk about. And if someone there says they are a universalist we wouldn’t kick them out. That would kind of defeat the point of conversation, now wouldn’t it?
    Hope that clarifies. BTW, any of you should feel free to drop in on the blog or at an up/rooted meeting anytime if you’re in the area. Maybe you could just ask us first hand about this stuff. 😉

  • Matt, here’s the link to that uprooted post: Question #1: Universalism
    Do you think Jesus ever said to anyone “Don’t ask that question! Don’t go there!”
    Rather than restricting people from ‘going there’ what if conservatives who are convinced emergents/emerging Christians are arriving at wrong answers, respectfully shared why they think that.
    And what if that was not a one-say “Here’s why I’m right” but a real two-way dialog in which both sides were listening and both sides learned that sometimes there is more than one way to interpret a verse/passage/concept/theme in the Bible?
    I have learned so much from ‘heretical’ books. It messed up my theology because sometimes the Jesus in the heretical books was more exciting than the one I heard about at church. I decided to be honest about that instead of pretending I hadn’t noticed it.

  • Yo friends,
    An apology is in order. First, I spoke about something I read too long ago to represent with any degree of accuracy. Second, I jumped to conclusions. Third, I neglected to consult with Mike, Geoff or others from up/rooted before making assumptions. I have a lot to learn with regard to patience and caution. I have apologized via their blog, but want to make that public here as well. My apologies to the rest of you as well. I guess this is a lesson learned in speaking hastily.

  • Thanks Helen for bring up the question issue. I think it is very dangerous to just say that there are things that should never be discussed, ideas that should be suppressed and ignored.
    The universalism question arose at up/rooted when we had an evening of write down any question and drop it in a hat. We drew out questions and discussed. I guess some people think that we should have censored the questions first and told people that they, their questions, and their faith journey aren’t welcome.
    I think universalism is a question that needs to be discussed and explored instead of just ridiculed and feared. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I do not fear knowledge and will continue to seek answers to even the “taboo” questions.
    I would hope that Moody people would be a bit more academic than to judge a whole movement by a couple of posts on a blog that they obviously didn’t understand the context of. I don’t apologize for talking about universalism and I don’t reject universalists. I’m not one, but I find it amusing that people are so quick to reject and judge because of a discussion of this one issue.
    But then again we have had people complain and reject up/rooted because it is too conservative. This is a common emerging issue – to be judged and rejected by both the traditionally conservative and liberal sides…

  • Helen,
    I’m actually embarrassed for having originally been so bothered by the discussion, after going back and rereading it. I actually hold in very high regard the value of maintaining atmosphere’s within our faith communities where questions are welcomed, so I don’t know what my problem was. Looking back, I don’t think the way they treated the subject was irresponsible. Now I, personally, would have probably included links to articles which would shed more light on the issues and aid a legitimate hermeneutic, but I can’t judge anyone else for not doing so.
    Much respect,

  • Hey Matt, just to be clear – I wasn’t trying to embarrass you.
    I just wanted to know if there was something I’d missed about a local group since I was having trouble reconciling what you said with my knowledge of up/rooted (which isn’t vast but I do know a bit about it).
    Thanks for caring.

  • hey everyone. just got back.
    MATT – you rock! stop apologizing. i love where you say
    “It is my earnest prayer that the emerging church learn what previous polarized sects have not: that truth and love are not at odds, nor are they synonyms.”
    obviously you are more open and balanced than your first comments allow on first glance.
    i think i misjudged you also.
    i am sure if everyone on this list of comments were knocking back a coffee at the local cafe (not starbucks) and able to watch each others facial expressions, then we wouldnt have experienced half the misfires we did.
    i am tempted to close the comments but i emailed spencer and asked him why LOTS OF PEOPLE assume he is a universalist. it would be good to hear from him in person before we move on.
    actually – spencer just emailed and said nothing except this:
    Thanks for the opportunity to respond… can we talk over the phone – I have
    a podcast now for Soularize. Maybe we can do a “reverse interview” I can
    have you as a guest and you can ask me questions… also I would like to
    find out more about what you have been learning. It is a 30 min conference
    call maybe after your dinner time 7pm is 11am my time…
    I have an opening next week for the call or in a couple of weeks. What do
    you think?
    Spencer ”
    thats spencer for you. dont anyone mention jello . . .

  • well, now didn’t i show up late to the party. I don’t check email on mondays so i missed the chicago street brawl. i guess everything has been resolved.
    but would like to throw out a dirty little secret in relation to moody and the EC.
    for fear of impending expulsion I will omit the names, but there is a very nice couple studying at Moody who take the train out to worship with us every sunday. they might even begin to corrupt our youth by working with our youth ministry. o the scandal. where’s the hemlock.
    we also have many students and some faculty crossing the line from Trinity much to the chagrin of Carson.

  • Geoff I was interested to see the mix of people who attended NT Wright’s lectures at Mundelein earlier this year. I met some Trinity PhD students there. I didn’t meet anyone from Moody so I don’t know if students from there went.

  • Julie, it was helpful to have you and Mike come by and explain you aren’t universalists.
    Have you read what GK Chesterton said about being criticized from both sides? He said maybe it means you’ve got it right 🙂

  • Well to return to the original theme of the post, just wanted to share this update. While stumbling around the EmergentVillage site tonight I saw this comment on the page discussing the formation of an Emergent Theologins group:
    Lily May 18, 04:02 AM
    I need to find a scholarly type leader / teacher to come to Moody Bible Institue (820 N. LaSalle, Chicago, IL 60610) on one Tuesday, 1-2pm, 6/2007, to explain Postmodernism and the Emergent Church view for the modular course graduate students. Would you please give contact information for appropriate candidates (full name, title, organization, email, phone #)? Thanks!

    Looks like at some level there is a desire for real engagement, I don’t know if she ever got any replies … there were no public ones in the post after that.

  • Wow, I wonder if Lily found anyone to do that. If so I hope it was someone who could explain Postmodernism and the Emergent Church in a fair, balanced way.

  • Wow, all kinds of conversation going on since my last post. If I were in Chicago, I would’ve jumped on that invitation to speak to the grad students at Moody. I have a bunch of friends that have graduated from the program and probably still know some of the prof’s.
    You know, the whole emerging church conversation that we are having here reminds me alot of when I was a student at Moody and there was a sortof mini-revival. What happened was some of the senior profs and leaders stayed and kindof watched what was gong on in a hands off but, protective way for the students and everyone involved.
    There were profs in chapel the whole time and classes were cancelled and a lot of good things happened. It all started with an chapel service too. I believe the same thing was going on at Wheaton too then.
    Something that I think may concern some of our detractors is that as the emerging church conversation we really do not have any guardians that are well respected, in an immediate sense, that are the face of what is happening.
    We have a bunch of scholars, yes. But, they are scholars, they are not people that are the face of emergent. They are passionate people with lots of knowledge and lots of things to say that inspire questions and interaction, but, not alot of concrete solid things that our detractors tend to grasp onto as secure.
    I think alot of people love and hate Brian Mclaren. They just need to spend some time with him and other leaders and I am sure they will have an appreciation for them all.
    There is a great deal of humility at the forefront of emergent, even if some of us don’t show it very often.
    But, back to the point. The institutional churches/evangelicals, etc etc. find their security in solid concrete leadership and rules because, imho, if they have that organization then they clearly know where the guidelines are.
    We do not have that so everyone freaks out and the red flags go up and we get put out as a cult by the people living in the caves, selling booklets out the back of their pickup trucks (okay a little embellishment, hehe) But, I did meet them in the country outside chicago once!! 🙂
    And will we ever have that concreteness. I bet we will because alot of times these things are cyclical. I don’t know what the cycle is with this one but chances are it will happen.

  • cool. thanks lance. and i think that about wraps up the comments. i will leave it open so if anyone has anything they HAVE to say then they can.
    thanks all for the chat.
    i was thinking yesterday of the global impact of Moody. The two most formative years of my life – much more than any bible college or seminary – were the years i spent with Operation Mobilization on a ship called Logos. The guy that started it all was a Moody grad named George Verwer. this is ancient history for most of you here – but much of my missional thinking and practise was shaped by my time with OM.
    so thank you Moody Bible Institute.

  • Thanks for the interesting, entertaining, and enlightening conversation, all. Nice to see people humbly growing, learning, apologizing, and forgiving in such forums.

  • Wow… what a fascinating discussion. Let me a give you a little info about myself.
    1. I am a Moody alumni
    2. I go to what I call an emerging church (though they don’t officially have that label)
    3. I have no idea what website I am on right now, this post and comments popped up in a google search.
    Everything everyone says about Moody on here is fascinating. I had the common experience of having two seemingly contradictory opinions about Moody. I absolutely loved my time there and I was taught so much, but I also really struggled against the conservative leadership and rules and then cynicism against Christianity in general. My semi-emerging church was the place I felt comfortable to question, and I am so thankful for that community.
    Let me say a couple of things about my experience at Moody. I wouldn’t say that everything changed and all of the professors left when Dr. Easley came on board. Dr. Easley does seem to be more fundamental/conservative then Stowell, but there was no mass exodus of professors by any means. There seems to have been a steady turnover of theology proffs over the past 10 years, but not all in one go.
    Someone mentioned Dr. Bredfeldt as a great open-minded teacher who opened up a lot of avenues in the Christian Psychology field. I agree, and I loved studying under him. However, that has not been undone. I studied in the counseling major and generally felt that the education department as a whole had a much less conservative feel then the theology/bible department. Nancy Kane and Dr. DeRosset were very formative for me in my attitude towards church and spiritual life and I can’t tell you how much that meant.
    I have a high respect for the theology proffs as well. I studied under Dr. Zuber and I love him despite the fact that I disagreed with him and found him to be much more conservative then I was willing to be. He is a great teacher and thinker, and he does love shock value and saying extreme things to get students attention – it’s one of the things I liked about him.
    As for Moody and the emerging church, I honestly think that the majority of the leadership really have no idea what they’re dealing with. How could they? Most of them are rooted in typical evangelical churches (not a bad thing in and of itself, in my opinion) and have hardly seen an emerging church. Lets face it, it is a fairly new movement and it does thrive among the young, so many evangelical Christians have still never heard of the “emerging church” and if they have they only have a very vague idea of what it is.
    Moody professors, in an attempt to understand this new movement they’ve been hearing about begin to read the latest books about it, and as as you all know some of those are less then flattering. In addition, it’s pretty hard to nail down the emerging church (one of the reasons I like it!), because there is such a wide range of beliefs. My own church is a baptist church that I call emerging because of their approach to the gospel, their community, worship, and church. Still, their doctrine is unchanged. Moody professors exposed to Brian McClaren are going to be more concerned then when they talk to my pastor (despite his long hair).
    My church, the Church of Wrigleyville, has a TON of Moody students that come during the year. We tease them about the rules they have to follow and the pastors tease about scandalizing them every time they say anything slightly controversial, but most Moody students are cool with that and are drawn to it, like I was. There is no danger of a Moody student being kicked out becuase they go to an emerging church. In fact, I think that it’s unlikely that a Moody student would be kicked out for theological ideas at all, I just know some people that left the school on their own accord when they decided they couldn’t sign the doctrinal statement required for graduation.
    And indeed, I think conservative schools have a surprising penchant for producing some pretty wild and crazy/fun people, perhaps just becuase the kids react to the environment. George Verwer is one example, and he was back a couple of years ago producing quite a circus at one of the Moody Missions conferences. Many of my friends are going through the same thing I am and moving away from the conservative church while still trying to follow God and His Word.
    I guess I would say that although some people at Moody might have a bad impression of the emerging church or might be dead set against it (although I hope not), most are still very open for dialogue and their view of the emerging church is still being formed. If we approach Moody and schools and churches like it with an open attitude, willing to say our piece gently, it will pay off in a much better relationship between churches AND a better representation of us when today’s professors and students start writing books about us!

  • April, I agree.
    Hi Kacie, thanks for your comments about Moody. You’re on Andrew Jones’ blog. He’s based in the UK and his short bio says “I am the Project Director for the Boaz Project. We are developing a support structure for church in the emerging culture. My blog is about God, spirituality, new media and new expressions of church.”
    I think this used to be the number 1 emergent blog on Technorati but now it’s number 2 (oops, maybe I am not supposed to mention that it’s not number 1 anymore ;-))

  • “”Why is it assumed the EC plays loose with doctrine and has a defective Christology? I find this offensive. Why the heck does obeying Jesus call to the emerging culture result in a downgrade of doctrine?”
    – I know why. Because conservative Christians make assumptions about lots of things and rely on second-hand sources, like each other, for information about outsiders.
    Emerging Christians often make as many assumptions about outsiders as conservatives.
    In fact it’s a general problem with people that they often don’t go to the source. It’s quicker and easier to just ask a friend “Hey what’s the deal with this?”
    And unfortunately people who listen to Open Line are doing just that and will probably assume whatever is said on there about the emerging church is accurate. (Why not? Moody Radio wouldn’t lie to them)
    I assume that Moody staff probably pray for graduates who have been enticed into emerging church theology and ministries ;-). Who knows if they are interested in hearing why. Maybe they are – I hope they are. Sometimes if a person you (you meaning anyone but ‘one’ is so formal!) have a relationship with knew to be faithful and committed, goes a direction you don’t understand, you are more willing to let them tell you why than a stranger.
    I have to say that my experience is mostly otherwise, with conservative Christians. On the whole they don’t know or want to know why. They just want me to get back on the straight and narrow path – meaning their straight and extremely narrow path.”
    This second comment really bothers me. I’m graduated from Moody this past May and his perspective is rather wrong.
    The reasons for profs suspicion about the “emergent” church is because of books like “A Generous Orthodoxy.” John Koessler has his preaching students watch sermons by Rob Bell for learning different styles of preaching and how to be effective in different audiences.
    Several of my friends at Moody for their MOODY SANCTIONED their required ministry activity would go to Poetry slams and read, build relationships with other poets and work with a church plant in Wicker Park. Anyone who knows Chicago, will know how crazy that is. And its not the normal “evangelical church” either. It can’t be. Its effectively reach out to those who truly can’t stand what they perceive a Christianity and religion in general.
    Moody makes a big deal about the pastor who is the most “emergent” of their graduates. New Life Community Church, a multi national, multi site church pastored by team of pastors who write their sermons together every week. nine locations, 16 services and 2000 people city wide. Most of the pastors are Moody graduates.
    But Moody professors don’t think of the founder of that church when they hear the word “emergent.” They don’t even think of the Wicker Park church plant where their students are ministering.
    They think of Brian Maclaren. Some of them read Rob Bell and question his theology because his view of scripture sounds like that of Karl Barth.

  • “Hey – who out there went to Moody??????”
    We went to Moody! John Koessler was one of my professors (and I deeply admire and respect his comments on this post) and we are also missionaries to Europe (Ireland in fact, with the Kingsleys). Or we will be, in a matter of months… Anyway, thanks for the discussion.

  • Phil Kingsley with GEM I assume. Very cool. Every good thing to you as you move out there and hang with those great people. and thanks for the comment.

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