Tuesday, January 04, 2005

More on this "conversation"

I think that Jonny's post and forthcoming comments deserve to be responded to in a full post because this is important.
1. Bonhoffer is exceedingly poetic. Read Life Together. Read letters and papers from Prison. Read Ethics. Read anything other than what is required of you in Huntington College ministry classes (Cost of Discipleship) and you will not only see why he is poetic but why he matters as a great theologian. It is nothing but poetic theology. This hits on Jonny's point exactly, everyone in that list does what McLaren wants to do/claims to do. Their all doing Theology of/with Language in a way that is enviable to every theologian who takes a more rationalist approach to their work. Jonny is right that McLaren is painfully stuck in a spot that most of us aspiring poetic/theological/whatevers find ourselves- neither really good at poetics nor really good at rationalistic theology yet equally passionate about both and somewhat unsatisfied with the idea of being silent.
2. Jonny- you are mostly right when you said: "Generous Orthodoxy is an argument without form or substance. It's not knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It's a thought experiment that goes nowhere." It is an argument without form or substance, mostly. It is a thought experiment that goes nowhere. yet I am convinced that enough other people are being convinced by it that the piece itself is knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Something is happening here, people who should know better find him to be one of the most promising Christian writers around, and therefore I am still convinced that, if we possess the intellectual fortitude, it must be examined and responded to. The rest of your critique is correct, and serves as the prescriptive mood of my critical descriptive response.
3. Eric Snider's comment hits the Emergent issues right on the head. Emergent is a comfortable bed-fellow with the very thing it is trying to overthrow- conventional evangelicalism. They seem to be somewhat aware of the shortcomings and ultimate failures of their context yet either too comfortable or unable to truely seperate and try something different. They are like the pissed off youngest son of a CEO I know that hates everything about his father's employment and capitalism as a whole but continues to take thousands of dollars a year from his parents. They are the perpetual college student, self-critical, ironic, and not afraid of the contradictions between their statements and their lifestyles. Nothing is satisfactory about anything they are around and there is nothing that will be done about it so I'm going to download 3,500 songs onto my hard drive. This is not a person-by-person description but rather a blatently modern generalization for a blatently modern movement that fails to see the necessary connection between doctrine and practice that is supposed to be characteristic of what they are claiming as post-modernism. This is what makes Emgerent things interesting: the irony of it all and the representation of what is American culture- when those who are "post-modern" perpetuate the "modernism" that is still the cultural norm. The Emergent movement can rest assured of its long standing place within Evangelicalism so long as it refuses to make actual changes to the very substance and structure of its churches. So long as there is a reason for self criticism and disapointment with evangelical churches there will be a market for McLaren and his friends to sell, sell, sell. Nothing could be more detrimental to McLaren's position within evangelicalism than for Christians to take some of his claims seriously and, as I suggested, follow his complaints to the logical conclusion of joining back with the Catholics or going the way of the Radical Reformation and putting to death evangelicalism and its perpetual commitment to the American way of apparent cerebral criticism married to a set of practices that seek efficiancy, practicality, and cultural normality that characterize the Emergent movement as much as the Evangelicalism it is responding to.
I reiterate- if you share McLaren's presuppositions that Evangelical Christianity is a failed movement and that being like American culture is unsatisfactory DO SOMETHING. Sell your automobile, quit your job, move, start a fucking revolution, but do not simply claim to have a "conversation" about the presuppositions that are at play in the conventional forms of life as we know it. This is what TV is for. Life is for living, doing, and being disciples of Jesus Christ. We not only need to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified but live it. That is what emergence is missing. This is what the church is missing. They preach a fuller gospel than conventional churches. But if the conviction is there then the lifestyle must match it or else the validity of said conviction will necessarily be questioned.


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