Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Emerging spirituality (page 2 of 2)

Well… he’s done it again

For anyone who has ever read Brian McLaren… funny stuff indeed.

that is not my blog: Be afraid. Be very afraid…

Allen "Breaks the Back" of Emergent Morality

Gay activist Chad Allen, star of “The End of the Spear” (soon-to-be-released) was on Larry King Live the other night with Al Mohler and others. The topic of discussion was “gay love” (as brought up by the film “Brokeback Mountain“) and “gay marriage” (in the United States). Mohler was fantastic, as always, and very biblically-centred.

But it wasn’t him that caught my attention. It was Chad Allen.

And it wasn’t because Mr Allen is a brilliant man or a wonderful orator or anything like that. He didn’t have anything particularly insightful to say that hasn’t been said before. But what struck me this time was his profession of faith–what that faith looks like, how it is defined, and how it effects his morality.

Here are some excerpts from the transcript:

  • My parents, they had a hard time. We’re friends again, we have a wonderful family relationship. But I have to say, if they’re going to speak about absolute transcendent truth, I need to tell you, I know absolute transcendent truth.

    I have a deep relationship with God and my understanding. It’s very powerful, and it’s taken its own shape and form. And I am very much at peace in the knowledge that in my heart God created this beautiful expression of my love.

    Listen, Larry, we are going to be different, we’re going to disagree on the details of this and we probably always will.

  • [I judge how it’s right for me to live my life…] By the standard that I judge all of my actions. These days I judge all of my actions by my relationship with God of my understanding. It is a deep-founded, faith-based belief in God based upon the work that I’ve done growing up as a Catholic boy and then reaching out to Buddhism philosophy, to Hindu philosophy, to Native American beliefs and finally as I got through my course with addiction and alcoholism and finding a higher power that worked for me.

    You know, I had to sit down with that same God today and say, “Do you want me to go on this show? Do you want me to speak the things that are in my heart? And if not, I’m happy not to go. Do you want me to make this movie?” It’s the same God that I go to for every decision.

Here’s the question that I kept coming back to, over and over again: How would the emergent movement respond to this man, while remaining faithful to the Bible’s standards for morals and marriage?

He has had a genuine experience. He claims his grasp of absolute truth is real. His faith is existential. He talks to “God” and knows what “God” wants him to do.

Somehow the emergent church which was designed to speak so well to our culture has unwittingly left itself unarmed when it comes to morality. This is why, I can only hope, that the end of emergent will be sooner rather than later, because it can not work pragmatically, which exposes its faulty theological and epistemological roots.

[HT: Challies.com]

Frame’s Generous Orthodoxy

There is considerable overlap between McLaren’s concerns and mine. I too would like to see less doctrinal wrangling in the church and more love. Like McLaren, I think it’s important to learn from traditions other than our own (43-67) and in controversy to be both more winsome to those who disagree with us and harder on ourselves. I like McLaren’s way of putting it, that in theological dialogue we have the unfortunate tendency to compare our opponents’ worst with our best (136, 140). And I have argued, like McLaren (105-114), for a missional concept of the church…

So begins John Frame’s review of Brian McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy. You can read the rest of it here.

What Controls You?

A couple of different events are converging at once, prompting this post. One of which is some recent reflections I’ve had on narrative theology (most recently, Justin Taylor brought out the connection between narrative theology and emergent/emerging). The other series of events that leads me to these thoughts is the series of sermons we find ourselves in at Grace Fellowship. We’re currently in Romans 9 and working through what it means that God ‘has mercy on whom he wills, and hardens whom he wills.’

It’s a basic presupposition of many people that you must allow a certain set of texts (be they divided by genre, place in redemptive-history, author, whatever) to control the other sets of texts.

For example, because of their predisposition to narrative theology, open theists say that the ‘divine repentance texts’ must have priority over the seeming ‘exhaustive detail sovereignty texts’ in teaching us how God interacts with people. In fact, the narrative texts ultimately determine how we interpret those other texts.

This post will obviously not resolve all (or perhaps any) of the problems raised within these issues. That being said, I want to suggest that we sometimes overlook basic rules of logic when it comes to interpreting the Bible. In other words, sometimes we think that we have to have an entirely different type of thinking cap on when we’re reading God’s word.

Here’s an example of what I mean. One of my all-time favourite bands is braveSaintSaturn (although I think they may be defunct now…?). I love this band so much because I can identify with the poetry, allegory, images, and emotions conveyed in their art. It pulls at my heart. As they sing, I interpret everything that they say… and to be honest, I think I get it. I think I totally understand what the author of that song was trying to get across.

But I could be wrong. The other day I read an interview with Reese Roper, the lead singer of the band, and the guy that writes most of their lyrics. He started talking about what the symbols meant, and what he was trying to get across in various songs. Now, if he had’ve explained that a certain image meant something completely different than what I had expected, who would be right? Should I still insist that the image is what makes sense to me? Or should I understand that in his mind, he meant to convey something else, and let his explanation govern my interpretation?

Basically, my point is this: We sometimes forget that all revelation did not always exist (it came in sequence) and that not all Scripture is equally clear (2 Pet 3.16). Just as poetry provides brilliant images and draws on emotions and encourages audience involvement, so does the narrative of the OT (and gospels and Acts). But, if we understand the concept that there is one author of the whole Bible–as there was one author who both wrote the braveSaintSaturn songs and spoke about them in the interview–(see 2 Pet 1.16-21; 2 Tim 3.16; and Heb 1), then we must understand that what comes later, and clearly interprets all of narrative history (cf Romans and Hebrews for example), is intended to control our theology. This is especially true of theology proper.

What in the world does all that mean? Simply this: When we read things in the Bible that confuse us about God, we allow the newer revelation to control the older (cf Heb 1.1-2) because it is better. It interprets what came before. This is a simple principle that we apply all the time to other things we read, we just seem to miss it somehow when we read our Bible. Maybe we have a ‘presupposition-driven theology.’

Misunderstanding McLaren (or, Conversing About the Journey of a Man and the Interpretation of That Journey)

Justin Taylor did this better back in July. I recommend reading that post over mine.

That being said, I couldn’t help but notice some serious irony the past few days as I’ve been reading. As Taylor noted, it seems that whenever emergent-types are criticized, they respond with (a) “you hurt my feelings,” and / or (b) “you don’t understand us.”

Brian McLaren is no exception.

The article I read yesterday is a case in point. McLaren has been critiqued over and over again. His response: “You don’t understand us.”

Thus, his solution (at least in part) is the article cited above. In that article he “tells his faith story” so that he will let us all see “the real man,” in hopes that we will be able to contextualize his writing and understand what he is trying to communicate.

The irony of it all is simply this: It’s typically the argument of these pomo post-propositional guys that we should employ a reader-oriented hermeneutic (to Scripture and otherwise).

So… in reality, the message isn’t determined by McLaren as he writes, but by us as we read and interpret. Really, then, he’s misunderstood himself, I suppose, if I think he’s said something he doesn’t think he said. Boy, does that suck. Ah well. He’s fallible anyway (aren’t we all?), so who’s to say with certainty that he knew what he wanted to say in the first place?

I guess now he knows how the biblical authors would feel, were they alive to be subjected to the types of interpretations he and his cronies come up with.

A Harmful Humility

You all know her. She’s the beauty queen who, for some reason, won’t admit to being beautiful. Some people think she’s fishing for compliments, others think she’s got self-esteem issues. In reality, false humility is just annoying. If you’ve got no reason to think you’re ugly, why insist on it when the evidence is otherwise? That’s not true humility. True humility would be knowing how to acknowledge the truth of a compliment (based on fact) and accept it gracefully. There’s not much nicer than a person who can take a compliment well.

There’s another person we all know. He’s the guy in your class who insists that he really will fail this test this time, even though everyone knows he’s the smartest guy in the class and he has studied for this for weeks. False humility is true pride in disguise.

Why pretend you’re not beautiful when you are? Why pretend you’re not smart when you are? Is it helpful? No, it just annoys people.

Why do Christians nowadays find it so trendy to say “I don’t know” all the time, when we really do?

The plain truth is that we can know truth, and everyone knows it’s true… so why pretend like we can’t? Is that humility?

Moses was the meekest of all men. Seems to me he was pretty certain about some convictions he had. Jesus was meek. People wanted him lynched several times over before he was finally killed for the drastic truth claims he made. Paul, Peter, John… the list goes on and on. They all claimed to know a truth that was worth suffering for. In fact, Paul said in more than one place that he considered that all the sufferings he went through were not even worthy to be compared with what the Lord has for us. Seems to me he was pretty certain about that.

I wonder how many of the saints in Hebrews 11 would concede that perhaps there was salvation outside of God’s revealed plan of redemption? All those guys and gals were special though. Guys like me should maybe be more humble… maybe I shouldn’t get so excited about the things that I “know” to be true, when really it’s just what I “believe.”

That’s not humility.

If the Bible says it, it is true humility to subject myself to its truth, whether or not I can conceive of a God who is glorified in the damnation of millions. I am just a little guy… so why should I be able to conceive of a God anything like the real God of the Bible, the Creator of the universe, the Great I am, who was and is and is to be?

In humility I stand on the authority of the Word of God and declare that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name by which we may be saved. In humility I confess that I do not comprehend God, but I comprehend things from his Word. Things like the fact that all are guilty and deserving of hell, but are justified (saved, declared innocent, made righteous) because of his grace, through our faith which came to us freely, as a gift from him.

Humility does not demand that I deny I have received these gifts and others have not. Only a fool tries to deny that he has what he has. Humility demands that I stand in a place of awe and wonder that God could love even a sinner like me. Humility demands that I become a servant like the greatest servant the world has ever known — which includes preaching his gospel like he preached it; hell and all. (Or is humility insisting that maybe God should be gracious like I would be, and give everyone a second chance?)

In fact, humility almost begins to look like the opposite of the “I don’t know” chorus line emanating from so many evangelical and emergent circles these days. I do know, because it has been given to me freely. I was blind, now I see. Only a proud fool would shame the one who gave him sight by suggesting — even for a second — that anyone else could provide that sight.

And while we remain ever so humble, being always careful to never insinuate that the gay guy who lives next to me and the devout Muslim down the street are going to hell, they really, really are.

All in the name of humility…

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