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January 18, 2005



I'm sorry, but this can hardly qualify as a "critique". It's an attack on an exaggerated and inaccurate caricature of the emerging church.

The first thing that jumped off the screen at me was the heavy-handed and pointless use of what I call the "false dichotomy". Simply put, the emerging church is NOT the antithesis of believing the Bible, so to list "here's what the emerging church believes AS OPPOSED TO what the Bible teaches" is misleading and manipulative.

It sets up the undiscerning reader(s) with the false idea that to agree with anything emerging is to automatically put yourself in opposition to the Bible.

Second, I've read a great deal of the writers who are discussing all things emergent (Len Sweet, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Dallas Willard, Todd Hunter, Len Hjalmarsson, Dan Kimball, etc.) and I've NEVER read anything like some of the assertions above. If I may be blunt -- it's bearing false witness. The writer of the original comparison need to humble him/herself, repent for spreading lies, and work a lot harder at accurately understanding the emerging church before attacking it. (This kind of stuff gets under my skin, can you tell?)

I'm all for an honest critique of the emerging church -- it would probably do us good to have observers, in a loving and constructive way, point out areas of weakness or blind spots. This does not qualify.

My shut up now.


Bill, I think that this is a good point-by-point analysis. It is a shame that most who will read this are convinced of the need for emergent theology and practices in our churches today, or are looking for something to attack. This has become the way of the Church in the contemporary West.

Like you "I have found the emerging "conversation" to be helpful in my own walk with Christ." I am more conscious of how far from God and yet I have more of a desire to seek God's heart than ever. I am reading scripture with delight. I am reaching out to the world around me with a fresh incarnation, and this "conversation" is the reason. And maybe that is all we can ask for - to seek to live in harmony with God ourselves and to ask those with whom we live in fellowship to do the same?


Good stuff, Bill...

I like:

> The emerging church desires not
> to come up with a new purpose,
> but to recapture/reclaim the
> commission mentioned above. We
> are interested in adapting to
> postmodern times, but this is
> not about a change of purpose,
> but a desire to communicate the
> gospel from within the culture
> that we are a part of.

Nice work... I agree with Will and Robby as well, though. While this _should_ lead to a deeper conversation/discussion, it may only lead to more ignorant (for lack of a better work) defamation. I pray that we can all learn to learn from one another (I'm sure that "group" might actually have some good things to say about theology in general) rather than taking one side.


A thoughtful reading of MLK Jr's Strength To Love, remided me that "life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony." See Matthew 10:6.

We serve a God who dances on the edge of contradictions...unfortunately that same God has the audacity to contradict those who are not comfortable at all with contradictions. One of the aims of the emergent discussion seems pointed at getting opposites to hold hands and reap the benefit of synergy.


Wow - Bill, very well done - I read most of her website... I would have really liked to hear her cite her "sources" instead of just saying from books, articles, etc... Like you & Will, I too have gained and grown from the emergent discussion - I feel the whole emergent conversation has rescued me from CHRUCHianity and I'm moving more towards CHRIST... obviously I, and the whole emergent conversation has a long way to go, and we "see through the glass, dimly" on this side of heaven, but I can't help but think God is pleased - which is what we want, right, to be pleasing to Him... again, thanks for taking the time to address the misinformation!


Sounds to me like the original author is setting up a "straw man" and then proceeding to rip it apart. One thing I cannot understand about some Christians is why they feel it is perfectly okay to rip other Christians apart. Besides the fact that it gives non-Christians a perfect opportunity to sit on the sidelines and poke fun at us, you'd also think that such people had never read Matthew 7:1-5 or Luke 6:37-42, nor for that matter the 9th commandment.

There is probably much more that could be said - for example, does the author feel that "psychological healing" is any less valid than physical healing? Part what puzzles me with regard to certain fundamentalists is that they seem to have accepted the fact that they are (for the most part) unable to heal those with physical afflictions as Jesus did when he walked the earth, but yet they seem to feel that any sort of mental illness can only be treated by prayer. Well, I would only ask, if they don't have a 100% success rate when it comes to praying for physical healing (that is, you rarely see broken limbs instantaneously healed or anything like that), why on earth would they assume that prayer is all the treatment that anyone with a mental illness needs? I understand that they don't like the idea of putting people on drugs to address mental conditions, but for that matter, people who have to take thyroid pills or high blood pressure pills often don't like being dependent on those either. And we acknowledge that some drugs do more harm than good, for both physical and mental conditions, but still some people really do need some form of medication.

To me, one of the proofs that the teachings of Jesus have been changed or partially lost is that he said we would do the things he did and even greater, yet today we see no one who comes close to filling his shoes. Today when someone comes along and claims to have a major healing ministry, it seems it's only a matter of time before they are exposed as engaging in fakery and using "shills" in the audience, and in not letting those who have genuine afflictions get anywhere near them. That is not to say that genuine healings do not take place, but I don't think that anyone today can come close to being able to legitimately claim that are able to do what Jesus did and greater (at least not anyone that you see on TV, let's put it that way).

So when you have someone who goes on the attack like this against their Christian brothers and sisters, I wonder why they think they have any special right to go around trying to remove the specks from anyone else's eyes, since we ALL "miss the mark" to some degree. It would at least be understandable if they thought they were coming against some dangerous cult, but to attack over what amounts to differences in doctrinal beliefs just seems totally wrong to me now (I say "now" because, sadly, I did not always see it that way).

Goyo in Nicaragua

I, too, paroused the "Emergent Movement" website. It seems like the author(s) of the site have jumped into the fray with only the shallowest research of the emergent movement (lumping us in with the "seeker sensitive" church growth movement is quite amusing). I agree that this is a typical "straw man" approach to "defending the faith."

I think the most interesting thing is how they approach the idea of "relativism." Don't be fooled - this is the one word that scares the life out of the conservative evangelicals. WE all know that we're not "relativists" as they've defined us but that, rather, we've shaken off the Cartesian/Kantian foundation of certainty that serves as the thought-foundations to these conservatives' systematic theologies. Just shouting the mantra "sola scriptura!" won't diminish the cultural and ideaolgical lenses in which you view these scriptures.

Also interesting is the lack of previous dialogue the author(s) had with anyone in the real emergent movement. A few weeks on the ooze boards or commenting on the emergent blogs could've provided them with much more insight (and things to attack, too) for their website.

Oh well.


Bill, if anything, this serves as an further jumping off point for the continuing conversation.

I wonder if there is a way to represent the same thoughts in a less dichotomous way, as I think robbymac has a point that perhaps organizing the information in this manner creates a false dichotomy.

Thanks for your honesty and your reflection.


I was simply replying to her various assertions, trying to give everyone the context so they wouldn't have to keep referring back to her chart. Just making sure you realize the Emergent vs. the Bible things was what she had set up.


Good stuff, Bill.


Hi Bill, I think the larger discussions should revolve around 1) whether one believes the Holy Spirit works salvation in an individual soley through the historic orthodox interpretations of Scripture (the interpretations of which would be assumed that He gave the Church) or if He works in His drawing and salvation of an individual through "truth" in general. The question is not whether All Truth is God's Truth, but whether all truth is utilized by God in His saving work within an individual. 2)Whether one has Calvinistic or Arminian presuppositions. You seem to indicate that this is not relevant, which actually indicates that your not aware of how relevant it really is. If one is saved by being regenerated to accept Scriptural truth because He is being effectually drawn by God and would not reject the Gospel as presented in Scripture, then there is no need to re-package it in order to pull an individual to it. One would not have to worry about being relevant to an individual, since God makes His truth relevant to His elect; but from an Arminian perspective, there is a little more on our part in drawing men and making the message relevant since men are converted by their own free will and God is not absolutely causing their decision for Him. We must persuade men then and prove the message relevant.
How you answer the two above questions will determine whether you would accept the emergent movement, or any movement with its presupps, as Biblical.
There are of course numerous other issues concerning whether mysticism, ecumenism, psychology/sociology and their presuppositional worldviews are all compatible with Christianity. I'm not sure the "Modern" church has been defined well either. What is the difference between what the "Modern" church is doing and the Ancient Church, Medieval Church, or Church of the Reformation did? Has the Holy Spirit given the church a grid through which to see the Bible and is therefore changing it a direct act against His guidance in Church history? Do we then come out with a completely different religion when we apply a different grid to the Bible? Like Arius, Gnostics, Mormons, JW's, Psychologists, etc. These things need to be defined a little better.
I was once told that apologetics was for those stuck in the enlightenment, which was fascinating for me as one who is a student of the Church Fathers who practiced the same thing. I wasn't aware of their bondage to Modernity. So all of this needs to be hashed out as well; but I think the major issue revolves around the two questions above, and only one who knows his or her Bible well could probably answer the two accurately.


"...only one who knows his or her Bible well could probably answer the two accurately."

That's interesting. So you think those who agree with your position are the ones who know their Bible well. They are the ones who are accurate. That seems awfully prideful to me.

I disagree with your assessment of what the larger issues should be.

I don't think I need to decide which truth is related to the salvation of the individual. Maybe I'm not understanding your statement, here. You seem to think that the only "utility" the Bible has is related to this. That doesn't make sense to me. It seems to be extremely individualistic and extremely utilitarian.

You said:

"If one is saved by being regenerated to accept Scriptural truth because He is being effectually drawn by God and would not reject the Gospel as presented in Scripture, then there is no need to re-package it in order to pull an individual to it. One would not have to worry about being relevant to an individual, since God makes His truth relevant to His elect..."

First of all, everyone assumes this so-called re-packaging is all about getting people saved. I don't think that way. I simply understand that truth, whatever it's nature, must be contextualized within culture. In other words, it won't be received in exactly the same way across all boundaries. This is why I am not an absolutist when it comes to interpreting the Bible.

Second of all, your assumption is that from a calvinistic point of view there is absolutely no burden on those who preach the gospel. This is patently false according to Romans 10:14--"...how can they hear without someone preaching to them."

In my mind, it is simple logic that such preaching will need to be contextualized in some fashion. I think that globalism has made us more and more aware of just how different other people groups think. Just thinking about language itself, in order to translate the gospel, you will have to use different idioms, metaphors, etc.

Putting all this aside, it seems to me that people with a variety of views about predestination, etc. have been capable of worshipping alongside one another, glorifying God, and carrying the message of the gospel. I have nothing against someone who tries to persuade others about their soteriological views, but I think there is a point at which dogmatism becomes destructive.


Hi Bill, i have to address numerous misunderstandings in your last post. 1) you stated that you thought it was arrogant of me to assume that I had a correct interpretation of the Scripture. Does that mean that you are arrogant for assuming that you have the correct theological idea that Scripture is not absolute and no one can therefore be sure that any interpretation on these issues is correct? Let's not play the "I am more tolerant than thou" game because it is self-refuting.
The issues i was talking about when i said only one who knows his Bible will be able to answer accurately is whether one knew about the theology of Exodus, Deuteronomy and the Gospel of John which all have within them what is called the Sinai Theology, where one cannot worship and follow God apart from submitting to revealed/known truth of Scripture. The Spirit of God is with the Scripture and does not manifest His relational presence through any other medium (i.e., not mysticism, philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc.). I was simply stating that there is a theology to Scripture about these things, and it is not a patch work systematic theology that is common among both the orthodox and cults which can use any proof text to back up their positions.
Secondly, your claim that one should not be an absolutist needs to be clarified, since you seem to be using this to state that you don't need to speak Scripture with the same idioms, metaphors, etc. (which I think anyone would agree), but then apply this to repackaging the Gospel in a Gen-X relevant way that seems to misunderstand, not the metaphors or idioms, but the very core teaching to which they point. But because I'm not totally sure by what you fully mean by this, I won't pursue as much.
However, I do want to comment on the fact that you still don't understand how Calvinism and Arminian presupps direct all theology and practice in the Church. You assume an Arminian approach already by stating that

"I simply understand that truth, whatever it's nature, must be contextualized within culture. In other words, it won't be received in exactly the same way across all boundaries"

Your emphasis here seems not to be on clearly communicating the message of Scripture and the Gospel as trying to make it relevant to a people the Bible states will never accept it as relevant unless God regenerates them. And if He does regenerate them then there is no need to try to persuade men, apart from Scripture itself,with ideas and/or practices foreign to the Scripture and Church History. You have already assumed that you are the one to make it relevant, not soley the Holy Spirit. That is arminian/semi-pelagian (that's a heresy by the way because it distorts the nature of God, man and the gospel).
As to this idea that one cannot understand the Bible: so you believe that men can communicate to one another using language, but God is not able to do the same? I know you would never say so, but doesn't your presupps that each man has his own interpretations and who can say who is right since the Bible is so hard to understand and mysterious (a presupp of mysticism that denies the Sinai Theology I noted above). I guess God is weaker than men in that He cannot get past our traditions to communicate truth with any assurance of His Church. So would you say that Arius, Marcion, or Joseph Smith were simply brothers who should worship alongside us and not worry about dogmatism.
I think the dogmatism of calvinism that you say is so destructive is because you don't understand the implications of the two. If God is center, our evangelistic approaches are based on how He defines the Church and the Gospel in Scripture (whatever language and culture you may speak it in), but if man is center than we must look to what interests him and what he desires. What is our consumer looking for in our message. Let's find out so we can persuade him that our message is something he will want to buy. Let's talk about doubt and mystery instead of propositional truth since that is supposedly modernity's tool (even though I'm pretty positive the entire Bible is written in propositional truth--maybe that's where we disagree the most).
Finally, I have to say that your misunderstanding of what I said about how one is converted within the two presuppositional beliefs displays that you don't know enough about it to comment on it intelligently (and i don't mean that as a put down, but simply a fact that you obviously have not looked at it in depth so as to understand it). The Church's responsibility is not in converting an individual (unless you are arminian). The church's responsibility is to preach the Word in season and out of season, to preach the full counsel of God and to preach it within the orthodox grid given to the Church by the Holy Spirit who resides solely with His Word to always convict and apply it to an individual or group of individuals. I'm sure that this dogma would be destructive to what you want to do because it destroys the need for your movement. However, it has liberated many Christians who had constantly felt the guilt and need to convert people and get Christians to live according to their conversion by figuring out "just the right method" to persuade them (i.e., something only someone with an arminian presupp would worry about). Instead, the calvinist can feel free to obey God through what He has revealed and not try to second guess the effectiveness of the solid truth of the Word by seeking to add a little cultural flavor to it.
I am well aware that people who would claim calvinism and some who would claim arminianism have worshipped alongside each other, but no consistent calvinist could ever endorse your movement because it conflicts with the core beliefs of it. That was my point that was so casually dismissed by someone who obviously needs to study it (although if you think those truths are irrelevant to any of the "important" issues of ecclesiology, i don't know why you ever would). You ought to try to read Bondage of the Will by Luther. It might help you understand the issue. (an interesting note is that Erasmus, Luther's opponent in the dialogue, also considers theological dogmatism destructive and that everyone should not worry about different theological interpretations of the Bible, but emphasize the primacy of practical living. Since the doctrines we have discussed here were the same issues Luther and Erasmus, the Catholic advocate, debated years ago, and were the reason Luther and all of the early reformers departed from the RC, you would have no reason to dispute with Erasmus. I guess you should be Roman Catholic.
To sum up if you are really saying that you don't think one's soteriological views effects one's ecclesiastical views, then it's time to rethink the rethunk church.


I think that it's not so much a person's assurance about a subject as much as it is their attitude about assurance. I find you totally lacking in humility and more than ready to insult my intelligence.

There's a lot to respond to here, but I want to respond briefly:

1. I think that absolutISM is destructive. That doesn't mean I arrogantly claim that anyone who is sure of themselves about something is wrong. I think truth is somewhat if not highly subjective at times.

2. I don't agree with you that people cannot follow God without revealed Scripture. I think they are at a distinct disadvantage, but I don't think God is unable to communicate unless someone has a Bible in their hands. The Bible is not a magic book in my view. It is one way that God communicates with us. He is not bound by a book.

3. I don't know why people like you think that people like me want to repackage everything. I'm not interested in Gen-X crap.

4. I would say that there is much that I agree with concerning your soteriological views. I certainly understand the problems of you speak of (i.e. guilt about trying to convert people). I disagree that it has bearing on my "movement."

I'm sure you don't think that preaching the gospel involves simply reading the text. There will always be some contextualization done. If this is done in an unintentional manner, it could be potentially destructive. All I was saying was that this necessary regardless of your views of the way God calls us.

Furthermore, I don't agree with the way you have made a strict, literal chronology out of God's salvific work in our lives. I do not see the practicality in trying to figure out whether or not someone is regenerate before they can understand. I am charged with preaching the gospel, correct? I believe that involves contextualization. That's not because I'm trying to commodify the gospel. I'm not just saying all I care about are the whims of a person. That's really not fair. All I'm saying is that I honestly want to communicate with that person.

Part of love is communication. If I am to love my neighbor then I must understand my neighbor. If they are to understand what I'm saying, then I must speak their language.

Brother, I'd like to communicate with YOU, but your words really bite into me. Don't you understand that yours is the kind of attitude that turns off people who have found solace in the emerging church?


Bill, I don't want to beat a dead horse because i think i've stated a lot that would address what you said in this post before.
1) I'm sorry if somehow I am coming off as biting or harsh. Sometimes it is difficult to communicate your tone in blogs. My "attack" of your misunderstanding the issues has absolutely nothing to do with your intelligence. It has everything to do with whether you have dived into the depths of understanding the implications of differing world views. I find the emergent movement to be oblivious to the fact that what you believe directly effects what you do, and they cannot be divorced as I see you doing. This is not an attack on your character, intelligence, or sincerity. It is questioning a premise that I find to be a very superficial view of Biblical theology that those within your movement seem to have.
2) I think it obvious now by your last post that your disagreeing about the Sinai Theology I spoke to you before that you do not understand a central teaching in Scripture. That is why I said this was such a pivotal issue (which was really my only original statement). Do you at least see now that if one believes the theology taught by Exod, the Deuteronimistic History and the Gospel of John (not to mention Psalms, Proverbs, etc.)concerning God's communal presence as exclusive to and through the Scripture that one would not utilize extra-Biblical worldviews and philosophies or even alternate theologies to convey Christianity to an individual? If you held to this, and I'm not saying you agree or disagree, I'm asking if you did hold to this, instead of a more general view of God's work through all "truth," then would you believe the emergent movement was involved in a Christian pursute?
3) I think I noted before that if you are only talking about communicating the message of Scripture, I think everyone would agree that this needs to occur (and frankly already does), but the movement is not saying just that. It is saying that the Gospel is not seen as relevant to postmoderns and therefore that it must be because we're not making it sound relevant (once again an Arminian idea). Instead of course seeing the Biblical view of man that he does not consider anything that would glorify God as relevant to his self worship because he is dead in sin and therefore needs to be regenerated first (hence the relevance of knowing the Scriptural idea of regeneration and when it occurs).
How can you state that it has no bearing on your movement to believe whether we are responsible for making the Gospel and Biblical truth relevant or whether we are simply responsible for communicating it? Isn't this the whole point of your movement. Isn't it therefore the most relevant of all issues here? If you don't understand the bearing on what the emergent movement is doing then I think that you are oblivious to the presupps of the movement, which is what i tried to state before.
4) You seem to be confusing the preaching of the God-centered, God directed Gospel, which is the Biblical and Orthodox one with man-focussed gospel which tries to sell the gospel to the spiritually rebellious and dead man, who the Bible says by nature hates God. If you are only talking about preaching the God-centered Gospel in idioms, metaphors, language of a particular culture, then there would be no disagreement, but that is not what is being done, and this statement of contextualization is being used to justify the implementation of earthly ideas.
5) Finally, I think another issue that you mentioned before has a great bearing on your understanding of culture. You mentioned that globalization has made us understand that different cultures understand things in different ways, but this is different from saying that different cultures desire to hear different things. One is trying to communicate the unadulterated truth to a foreign culture. THe other is trying to adapt the message to the culture so that the message will be received. Unfortunately, however, it is no longer the message once adapted. Maybe if you provided an analogy on what you mean this would help our discussion (I definitely don't want to go round and round if we agree on this point).
Secondly, I think you stated, if I can remember correctly, that you don't believe the whole world is ruled by the demonic? Was that your meaning in stating that you thought that alternate philosophical views to the Bible are not necessarily evil? I wasn't sure your meaning here, but this could have a lot to do with what we spoke about before.
Having said all of this, i really appreciate your willingness to correspond, and hope that you don't think that i am simply trying to bash you or something that is "new" (although I don't think pietism and existentialism/mysticism is new). Because of my belief in the theology of the Scripture that indicates a man cannot have a relationship with God apart from Scripture, this movement obviously concerns me as one that teaches a form of godliness but denies the power thereof. If the modern church has failed, it has failed in the same area that the emergent church now fails (in the combination of Scripture with an alternate grid through which to see it---whether that be an alternate theological system like Arianism, Mormonism, or an alternate philosophical system like psychology, existentialism, liberalism, etc.). This is the true problem of the church, not that it hasn't contextualized enough, but that it has contextualized too much throughout history.
Furthermore, if Christianity cannot be distinquished by its theology, then there is no difference between a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or decent Atheist. It is the blurring of Biblical assurance in the truth that it teaches by cultural ideas that confuse and damn men. So once again, I am sincerely concerned about the rejection of the exclusivity of the HS through the Scripture and the relativistic claim that one cannot have assurance in the truth (wouldn't you then have the attitude that it is true. isn't that a part of assurance?). Do you have an absolute assurance that your claim that "truth is highly subjective at times," or is this just a subjective guess that may not actually be true? I did finally want to correct one thing. You stated you didn't have a problem with people being sure of themselves. I never said i was sure of myself, but made the claim that Scripture through the orthodox church teaches a theology that we can be absolutely sure of. That's an assurance of what God has said is clear because God can communicate to His people more effectively than finite people can with each other. One is arrogance (sure of oneself), the other is faith/trust in God (sure of God and His abilities and care for not just our mystical emotions, but also (if not mainly) for our minds (I believe emotion is not even in the list of how we should love God, but the mind by being sure of and submitting to His known truth is).
I apologize Bill if I have offended you, but I think your problem is with major Biblical themes that the Bible centers around, and would interestingly enough counter the need for such a movement as the emergent church.


These comments are getting a little long and it's honestly hard for me to respond to them thoroughly. You mentioned in your last comment that I "casually dismissed" a point you made. I probably just didn't get around to addressing everything you had said. I appreciate what you're saying about it being hard to communicate tone, but still find your comments to be somewhat condescending overall.

Let me give a shot at a few replies:

1. Where are you getting your information about my "movement?" The original post we're spending all this time commenting on was my attempt to show how a lot of what was said by the woman who was attacking the emerging church was unfair and irrelevant.

2. Tell me something about this view of Scripture you keep referring to. What is it that is so thoroughly providing you with this view? You wrote about "God's communal presence as exclusive to and through the Scripture..." But how was God present with those who lived before Scripture was ever written? That makes no sense. And how was Jesus present to those who walked this earth with him? Was he only visible when people had their scrolls unravelled? I'm sorry, I'm poking fun now. I'm probably misunderstanding, to some extent what you're saying. How about those who became followers of Christ between the time when he departed this earth and when the first gospels were written down? Help me understand what you're saying.

3. Again I want to ask you where your information is coming from. Are you reading primary sources or just the website that I tried to correct? I'm not trying to be insulting, just checking. I think this whole issue of being relevant has been blown out of proportion by some, both inside and outside of the emerging church. I can't speak for all emerging thinkers, but I can tell you that I am not all that concerned about some notion of being more relevant so that people will accept the gospel. I do, on the other hand, believe that Christians do and say much that gives outsiders the wrong impression of our faith. I definitely would want to see changes made where people are misunderstanding or miscommunicating the message of the gospel. That's not the same as trying to commodifying the gospel, however. Wouldn't you agree?

You asked "Isn't this the whole point of your movement?" My answer is no. I will try to poll some of those who are heavily involved in the emerging church and see if they would agree. I don't want to misspeak on this issue.

4. I think that quite possibly what you call "earthly ideas" come from God. I don't think the Bible is an exhaustive source of truth about all things. Therefore, I think that truth, whether it is derived from Hebrew writings, early Christian writings, Buddhist writings, or a blockbuster film, is all in some sense derived from God. Having said that, I am still trying to discern the level of authority that the Bible ought to have in my life. I'm still on the path toward understanding how the Bible might somehow help me to objectify things. There's a lot going on in this little brain of mine and the point of what I'm trying to say is that I'm not necessarily throwing away the traditional view of the authority of scripture. I'm sure you wouldn't approve of my unsteady stance, but that's where I'm at and I'm being honest about it.

5. Here's where I think you just don't understand the relation of culture to our perception of truth. Here are a couple of quotes from "Beyond Foundationalism," by Stanley Grenz and John Franke that make sense to me. Maybe they'll give you a better idea of where I'm coming from:

"To be human means to be embedded in culture." (p.147)

"...liberal thinkers sought to give place to culture in their theological reflections--so much so that it is now fashionable to fault them for linking theology to the culture of the day. Concerned about the risks entailed in what they saw as blatant cultural accomodation, many conservatives argued that theology involves the discovery of transcultural truth and consequently tha theologians need give litte, if any, thought to culture." (150-151)

"Rather than coming to us in transcultural form, divine truth is always embedded in culture." (151)

"Jesus ministered to a culturally embedded people in first-century Palestine in a culturally sensitive manner. Indicative of this, he approached the Samaritan eoman (John 4:1-24) in a manner quite different from his response to Nicodemus (John 3:1-21)." (152)

"...the Spirit, who always speaks in accordance with the Word, speaks most clearly through the word and, since the completion of the canon, more particularly through the inscripturated word. Yet the Spirit's speaking through scripture is always a contextual speaking; it always comes to its hearers within a specific historical-cultural context." (160-161)

There were a lot more quotes I probably could have put in there, but I'm trying to keep this as short as possible. Hopefully that will give you an idea of where I'm coming from when it comes to the subject of context.


Hi Bill,
I just wanted to comment on the two things that you have. Sorry about the long posts. I can be long winded, but I thought some of the issues needed to be addressed (even though most of them cannot be adequately treated in a post).
Before I do, I did want to state the difference between being condescending of a person and being condescending of an idea. I think both of us and anyone for that matter that critiques a view that we perceive as dangerous to the Church are going to sound condescending by stating that it is wrong. Maybe that's a distinction that a lot of people in your movement do not make and thus think of the orthodox church as mean-spirited.
Concerning the Sinai Theology within the texts: it is coming from the exegesis of the texts themselves. The theology contained therein. I think your debate is not with me on this point but with the Scripture itself. If you want to broaden it to divine special revelation for Abraham or Noah,that's fine. I was speaking of the the divine special revelation that people have had since Moses and now that we have in the Scripture, so I didn't think I had to address the other, but that is what is meant by "Scripture." For instance, in the Deuteronomistic history there is a constant condemnation of people worshipping on the High Places. Why? They were worshipping Yahweh on the High Places. But the High places are not the Temple wherein the Ark containing the Scripture is housed. God will not commune with an individual apart from the Scripture He has spoken. His Relational Presence is only with the Temple because the Scripture is in it. The same thing is bound up in the tabernacle, the golden calf incidents in Exod and Kings, and the second commandment. Your comment on Jesus being physically followed because He had physical form show me that you do not know the theology of John I alluded to earlier. John's whole point is that one cannot worship God and therefore follow Christ through anything physical (including signs themselves, which would have been culturally a more effective way of communicating God to these people in that day (that's why they sought for it so much). I guess Jesus stayed on the Old Time Religion of the OT instead and communicated that theology to them regardless of their culture. Therefore, Christ's comments to the disciples were that they will no longer physically see Him in a little while but in a little while they will really perceive Him because His physical presence is a hindrance, not a help to them.
Secondly, the book you quoted was interesting to me since half the statements display the same type of Biblical ignorance that perpetuates this movement. First, Jesus actually didn't address the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus differently. I found that humorous since He said the same thing to both of them---that God must be worshipped in a non-seen way through obedience to the truth revealed by the mouth of the Son. Hence the connecting statement between the two dialogues, "He who has the Son has the life, but He who does not obey the Son, does not have the life but the wrath of God remains upon him." I would agree that He communicated the truth so that they both would understand what He was saying, but He hardly turned the same truth into a culturally relevant message that in any way changed the message from being God-ward to man-ward as the emergent church movement does (regardless of what it says it is trying to do).
Was it culturally sensitive for Christ to tell a bunch of Jews that they needed to drink His blood or they could not be with Him? Couldn't that message have been communicated more clearly and He wouldn't have run off the crowd that all left Him after He said it? Why was He so culturally insensitive? Why? Because His sheep hear His voice and they will not listen to another. So it does not matter how the truth is communicated. It only matters that it is communicated, and communicated completely (which means both propositionally and in loving practice--not one in exclusion to the other).
Finally, I think one of the biggest problems people have with the movement, as with any other that is culturally prompted, is that it replaces Biblical theology with anthropology. I find the quote concerning the sympathies toward liberalism in the 19th Century to be a perfect example of this. The author obviously buys into the liberal anthropological grid used to evaluate man and the Scripture. Man is bound by his culture because he can naturally only know what his environment allows him to know. He can only think in the way his culture teaches him to. However, does this include God as one of the factors in his understanding? I think not, which returns us to the issue of regeneration and its relevance to our discussion. Cannot God communicate truth that trascends a man's ethnic culture and become a new culture for the man? Is there no inherent way of thinking to the Kingdom/Culture of God? Your statement about there being truth in Buddhism, Islam, etc. is interesting. How can you identify what if true in one of those religions? Is it simply an arbitrary subjective guess? Or are you using the Bible to know what is true first and then looking for it in other things? According to the statements above, you must be bound by your culture in understanding what is true and therefore are simply using that same culture to evaluate others. I appreciate your honesty in searching for the Scripture's place in your thought and life, but I think that is probably a central concern. One which I'm not sure could be answered consistently within your system.
Let me be clear, I am not saying that the Bible contains all truth. I never said that. The Bible doesn't tell me how to fix my car. It doesn't give me scientific formulas to build a space shuttle, but it (along with the orthodox church) does give me the grid of the Kingdom/Culture of God through which I evaluate all else and can discern truth from error. When this divinely inspired grid is replaced with an anthropological/anthropocentric one of an individual's culture, then we will simply be left, not in illumination, but in misperception of the truth. So I think that a lot of this again fails to recognize God's primary role in communicating truth and leaves man to try and find his way in the dark.

"...the Spirit, who always speaks in accordance with the Word, speaks most clearly through the word and, since the completion of the canon, more particularly through the inscripturated word. Yet the Spirit's speaking through scripture is always a contextual speaking; it always comes to its hearers within a specific historical-cultural context." (160-161)

I think i would agree with the statement, but not the conclusion to which it is being nuanced. Because it comes to a culture does not mean that it is not able to communicate beyond that culture, since one culture can be communicated to another and exchanged for another (especially if we consider God's work of regeneration--i.e., being born again into God's Kingdom/Culture), then there is no reason to assume that the message must always take upon the form of a receiving culture EVEN WHEN THAT RECEIVING CULTURE HAS IDEAS THAT CONFLICT WITH THE CULTURE OF GOD. I could say a lot more but don't want to ramble on too much. Suffice to say, God's work is being left out of the equation when we talk about man's inability to process or receive truth apart from his cultural upbringing (Isn't that Christ's point to Nicodemus in the first place?). I wanted to also point you to a good website on the subject of what's going on in this discussion http://theologica.blogspot.com/2005/02/emergent-church.html PLEASE NOTE TO LISTEN TO THE DISCUSSION THAT WILL BE HELD BETWEEN the boys at the White Horse Inn and McLaren, Grenz and others on March 6 and 13. Take care for now, Bill. If you want to see what some people like James White have commented on the movement briefly see his blog search and type in "emergent." He's supposed to be coming out with a full article on the movement soon as well. For now look for the books coming out on the site I gave you above. Maybe this will all clarify the issues and discussion. Once again, Bill, I appreciate your time.


I don't blame you for being long-winded. I think we both have the same "habit!" I don't think I should take the time to respond to you right now, but I will try to soon.

I'll just say this (those fateful words):

I don't want to get on a kick of judging you, but this is what I observe. I agree with you that one should not be offended by someone disagreeing with his or her ideas. I think I disagree that it has to be condescending, though. I think the call Christ has given us is to go out of our way to love and support people, both Christian and non. This doesn't mean you give them permission to sin or think wrongly or whatever. I just mean that we can easily insult people or make them feel like they're not really being listened to. I, as a mature Christian thinker, should probably just suck it up and continue to debate with someone like you without taking anything personally. I guess I just feel the necessity to exhort people to be more understanding, compassionate, and to be a little less rhetorical in their argumentation (which I am very guilty of, by the way). I get the impression from some Christians that everyone is the enemy. Everyone who doesn't have two feet in their camp, that is. I think we, meaning all Christians, need to think about our attitude toward others. After all, even if they are "enemies," we know how Jesus has instructed us to interact with them.

Here's a recent example, so you know what I'm talking about:

"...the book you quoted was interesting to me since half the statements display the same type of Biblical ignorance that perpetuates this movement."

The major contributors to emerging thought, including their intellectual influences, are some of the most well-educated, thoughtful people I've been exposed to in my short life. They know their Bible's well and they know theology, both yours and your opponents'. You might disagree with much of what they say, but to label their thoughts as biblically ignorant, just sounds like rhetoric to me...it's like a "resounding gong or a clanging cymbal" in my ears, to use the words of 1 Cor. 13.

I'm trying to keep in mind Jesus' words about judgement as I say all this. It seems like people, even if they are quite right in their assessments of some danger to orthodoxy, do an injustice to the gospel and to the church when they "go on the attack." As I say that, I'm mindful of the way Paul seemed to be quite the attacker! He was also an apostle (unlike you or I), however, and he did know how to encourage people as well. I hope that's helpful. Hopefully I can learn something from this, too.

Maybe I'm not giving you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I'm misreading your tone in some places. If so, I apologize. I realize my "measuring rod" for judging people is probably not all that accurate.


tooaugust, you wrote:

"The Bible...does give me the grid of the Kingdom/Culture of God through which I evaluate all else and can discern truth from error. When this divinely inspired grid is replaced with an anthropological/anthropocentric one of an individual's culture, then we will simply be left, not in illumination, but in misperception of the truth. So I think that a lot of this again fails to recognize God's primary role in communicating truth and leaves man to try and find his way in the dark."

I believe that God communicates truth. I believe that the Bible can be viewed as "a divinely inspired grid." The pages of the Bible, however, were originally written from within a cultural/historical context. When I read those words, I have my own context. I think we need to rely on the Holy Spirit for illumination. I believe that the Holy Spirit can speak to us through our culture or others. I happen to think that a lot of Western culture has mistakenly thought that they could view the Bible from some sort of Platonic philosophical viewpoint and understand everything that God is communicating to us. I think some of what theologians are saying today may possibly be a good corrective to that.

I don't think God "leaves man to try to find in his way in the dark." I think God can actually work in any way he chooses. I don't think that God can be boxed in. He does not change like shifting shadows, but he also can't be given rules such as "You can only speak to people through the Bible."

I don't agree with what you wrote about the high places and the ark of the covenant containing the "scripture." First of all, my best guess about the problem with the high places was that it was somehow related to pagan rituals. I wasn't aware that scholars had a definitive answer about that. Perhaps I'm wrong. Second of all, wasn't it the decalogue that was placed in the ark? Correct me if I'm wrong. There's certainly far more to "scripture" than the decalogue. Additionally, I believe that the Holy Spirit resides in us somehow, though I don't pretend to understand it. He doesn't reside in a book. I don't need the book to have Him. I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense to me. Can you explain to me where this concept of "Sinai Theology" comes from? I don't mean where in the Bible, I mean what theologian or what school of thought are your ideas coming from?

You wrote: "I think one of the biggest problems people have with the movement, as with any other that is culturally prompted..."

I'm curious...do you think that the Reformation was in anyway prompted by culture?

Concerning your last paragraph:

I don't know that God has a particular culture. I think some are convinced it's their own or maybe their modernized interpretation of Jewish or early Christian culture. If you are trying to say that there are aspects of cultures that are evil, I agree. I just would say that not all aspects are.

You wrote:

"How can you identify what if true in one of those religions? Is it simply an arbitrary subjective guess? Or are you using the Bible to know what is true first and then looking for it in other things?"

My best answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. I think that I should come back to the Bible as my authority concerning truth, but that I might go to these other things to help shape my understanding of what that "authority" is saying in the first place. That is, I can't be sure what I believe the Bible to be saying has not already been influenced by man-made "religious" ideas. See what I'm getting at? Culture, or cultural changes (as in the Reformation, for example), might help me to see how I have been misinformed by my cultural grid.

Thanks for the heads up about the discussion on the 6th and 13th.


Hi Bill,
I wanted to first just comment briefly on my perceived attitude. I'm really trying to communicate the concept that you can speak against a person's ideas and their qualifications for talking about them without degrading an individual's intelligence or worth. The example you gave of me stating the ignorance of the quotes in the article were not stating that these people are uneducated or unintelligent, but rather to state that they are ignorant/unaware of the a wholistic view of the Bible's teachings as to be familiar with specific teachings which would negate the movement.
Your comments that you don't agree with my comments on the Sinai Theology are coming from how many hours of close study in the Hebrew text of Exodus and Deut-2 Kings? Why do you want to know what school of thought teaches it? Doesn't this stem from the idea that there are multiple interpretations to this and only one school holds it. If you pick up a good critical commentary on any of the books, you'll see some of what I've commented on (regardless of what school the commentator is coming from---this is mainly the case because it's not rocket science to figure it out once you start reading it closely).
You stated that you thought that the high places were only condemned because pagan rituals were going on there. That is not why they are condemned. There are pagan rituals going on at the Temple, and yet the Deuteronomistic History is very condemning of any place of worship but the Temple. THis is once again because it is the only place where the Scripture is. By Scripture, I never meant that the entire Scripture is in the ark. You ought to know that the Decalogue represents God's revelation through inspiration in general. That is why the Pentateuch and eventually the entire OT is often called "the Law." I really don't have the ability to give you a dissertation on why the Sinai Theology is true, but I can see that this is a central issue here. The first thing however we need to do is clarify something that I think you misunderstood me saying last time. I didn't say the Spirit resides in the Scripture, but that His communicative/relational presence is only with the Scripture. The reason why He resides in Christians is because the Scripture becomes a part of us, in our minds, written upon our hearts (the seat of thought in the Ancient Near East) and we then become the Temple ourselves. But if the Scripture is not in us, then neither is He (if you abide in My word and My word abides in Me, then you will bear much fruit--i.e., then the Spirit will be with and in you and bear much fruit).
You stated that God shouldn't be boxed in and that He can work in any way that He wants to. Then you stated that He does not change. I agree with both of these. However, I've been giving you Scripture which is God's revelation of how He has chosen to work. As we should not box Him in ourselves, we also should not contradict Him and say that since He's God, He shouldn't just work this way or that way. Both of those are trying to make God do something that He has not willed to do. If He has chosen how to work and has revealed it, then who is man to say otherwise? That God in a box argument really is tiring, since it is usually being used to undermine the very vehicles or vehicle in which God Himself has determined to work. You do agree that if God is unchanging and He has determined to work in such and such a way, that it would be arrogant to assume that He will work in other ways instead, don't you? Where is the Scriptural authority for stating He will have fellowship with men in other ways? That He will reconcile and commune with people in some other avenue then the one He explicitly communicated? You may challenge the Sinai Theology (which I think is all over the Bible) but you haven't offered Scriptural support for an alternate method.
I have to say that I think that you're right when you say many people have assumed that God's culture is their culture, but that is not my point, or the point of the Scripture in talking about the Kingdom of God. If God has thinking, He has a culture. If God has a way, He has a culture. I don't mean ethnicity or physical environment, but rather a culture created from His nature that then can take hold of His people. There is a way of thinking inherent within His nature, and therefore, that way of thinking needs to be transferred to His people (for there is only one mind of Christ, not many, and we are to be transformed in His thinking). You certainly don't think that the mind of Christ is referring to first Century Palestine do you? Where is the mind of Christ coming from? Where is the way of living and thinking if not from the mind of God, which is only communicated clearly to us in the Scripture---everything else needs to be evaluated to see if it has that mindset by the Scripture. Otherwise we are just in the dark.
Just to comment briefly on the Reformation comment, I think that there certainly are cultural reasons that many entered the reformation, but the primary cause of it was not cultural. It was actually supernatural. This is actually a fantastic point, since Luther should have just believed his cultural understanding of the Bible and yet somehow came to understand the truth which was not bound by it. I believe this is because he was regenerated. Does that mean that Luther was absent of cultural ideas? No. But it does mean that the primary factor of the reformation did not come from culture, but God's regeneration of individuals which then contended with the culture of their day. Interestingly enough, the Holy Spirit did not work in changing Luther's man-made religious views via a foreign man-made culture, but instead through his reading of Scripture informed by Augustine and the influence of the orthdox Christian church.

Bill, I think if I understand you correctly on the last point (and I'm not completely sure I do, but if I do), then I think I agree with you. However, the primary cultures to study would be the ones in which the Scriptures were written. Other cultures certainly would cause us to ask questions that we in our own culture may never ask or see in the text, but I think our primary disagreement is in things that the Orthodox Church (as it passes on the teachings with which it has been illuminated by the Holy Spirit with the Scripture) would object to as being consistent with Christianity and the worldview given to us by God's culture/Kingdom.

I think the primary point we need to dwell on is the Sinai Theology in Scripture, however. Mainly because if you believe the following

"I don't need the book to have Him [the Holy Spirit]"

then we need to look at the Scriptures that definitely teach otherwise. But I have to ask you: If you can see that the Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit's relational presence is with the Scripture alone, that He uses the teachings of Scripture, not psychology, Buddhism, anthropology as His means to transform, convict, establish and commune with a believer and the church in general (conviction of the world as well), then would you admit that the emergent movement needs to reject the use of alternate cultural grids (which is really just the philosophical grid of postmodernity here) in its interpretation of life and Christianity? I think i probably would want to know that before we go into a more extensive discussion on the teaching.
I'm looking forward to the discussion on March 6 and 13 as well as hearing your comments on it. Once again, I very much am thankful for your time and energy, and hope that a distinction can be made between loving the "idea-maker" but hating the idea:)


Shall we compare hours of study? I'll just assume you would win. ;-)

I was just giving you what my impression of your arguments was. Yes, I'm basing my opinion on somewhat limited knowledge of everything in question. I'm not a totally new student of the Bible, however.

I think you have to remembe that God as spoken through the prophets and that not all of them were even writers, per se. God also spoke through Balaam, not to mention how he spoke through Balaam's donkey! This is, in my mind, a good example of how God has even spoken through someone from a foreign culture to the Israelites.

Listen, I think we're in agreement that things have to evaluated against Scripture. I just disagree that revelation has to come from the Bible in the first place. In other words, I might come to understand something about life from observing Buddhism. I would not try to let that supercede Scripture. I would, in fact, check it against my understanding of truth based on what I've learned from Scripture. But I would also be open to the idea that this newfound truth (for me, I mean) might change the way I've understood Scripture. That doesn't mean I'm changing the original intention of the message. It means I am better understanding that message than I used to.

The thief on the cross did not have the book to have him. Right? Let me paste in a quote from above again:

"...the Spirit, who always speaks in accordance with the Word, speaks most clearly through the word and, since the completion of the canon, more particularly through the inscripturated word. Yet the Spirit's speaking through scripture is always a contextual speaking; it always comes to its hearers within a specific historical-cultural context." (160-161)

I think we're agreeing that the Spirit speaks most clearly through the Scripture, right? It's just that you think the Spirit ONLY speaks through Scripture. Is that a fair assessment?


Hi Bill, I think we agree on looking into other cultures can help expand the mind and ask questions of the text that we may not have before. However, I think we disagree on the fact that I believe that there is a grid already in place and therefore should not be replaced by an alternate foreign grid (whether that's a Western one or one of another culture).
I do want to clarify something, however, and that is that I don't think you understood me correctly about the Spirit of God. I never said that the only revelation is that of Scripture. I said that the Scripture itself teaches that the only revelation through which man can know and have a relationship with God and God's Spirit manifests his communal presence is the special revelation we now only have in Scripture. Natural revelation and man's philosophies to comprehend it are not only not sufficient but always lead him (because of his sin nature)away from God, not toward Him (Rom 1-3). I stated therefore that the Holy Spirit (as in both the OT and NT) is only with special revelation/Scripture in the sense that He does not conform His people to the image/mind of Christ through relationship via any other teachings/ideas/theologies/philosophies than those which are in Scripture and have been exposited by His Church.
Was the revelation through Balaam, his donkey, that which the thief had received, etc. through his cultural reflection and philosophies, or natural revelation, or was it from special revelation? So the Israelites didn't learn something from Balaam's culture, they learned something from God's culture through Balaam (a passive vehicle for God's revelation). By the way, it was a foreign king who learned something from him in the story and yet it was still God communicating truth irregardless of what the king was looking to hear.
Secondly, i want to point out that the Scripture is unique in that it is meant to conform all of God's people to the image of Christ, whereas revelation that was given and lost was only meant for the individual. The revelation given to Balaam only becomes profitable for the Church's edification when it is placed into Scripture by the Spirit (who by doing so is therefore communicating that He wishes the revelation to go to all of His people, not just the specific audience to which it was originally addressed). I say this because it would then mean that the Church should not be concerned with natural revelation, people claiming to have special revelation (whether they actually do or not), but solely with the special revelation of Scripture Alone as understood by His Church, the supernatural Kingdom/Culture of God. The distinction between natural revelation and special revelation, and the Spirit's exclusive relationship with it, should not be blurred or else we will fall into the trap of those who misread it in Rom 1. Therefore, the church ought to be extremely careful (and largely is not) about what alternate philosophies (especially in our anthropocentric culture)they seek to apply to Christianity. Postmodernity, which is really the alternate cultural worldview we're talking about here, is contrary to the Biblical worldview of God, man, truth, etc. and therefore should be seen as a foreign system competing with the Word of God. As when the people no longer listened to the Scripture or combined it with surrounding cultural ideas (which was a common practice of the Isreaelites in Canaan and Mesopotamia)which were contrary to its inherent teachings, the Spirit of God left the Temple and His people perished as Adam and Eve who bought into a foreign idea that sought to harmonize some and reject some of what God had said were banished from His fellowship and cast into death.

THAT MY FRIEND IS WHAT WE CALL A RUN-ON SENTENCE:) Don't you love these things? No need for proper punctuation, grammar, etc.

So I hope that clears up what I am saying, Bill. The examples used should be one of a piece of information that you have learned from a foreign body that you then say is necessary for a person to know in order to be more like Christ. Do you have such a teaching that is either not in Scripture or that has not been taught or noticed or could be noticed by His Church from Scripture without this info? that would be a good place to start.


Let me tell you about an experience that helps clarify this for me. My wife and I decided to take kung-fu. We signed up and even got uniforms with littl yin-yang symbols on them. I don't exactly agree with Taoism, but I figured it wouldn't kill me.

Sometimes, at the end of class, our teacher would wax eloquent on philosophical matters. I found that I had the attitude that I couldn't possibly learn something from him in this kind of area, gievn the fact that I am a Christian and have the truth...you know, that kind of attitude. At some point it hit me how prideful I was being. I realized that I could indeed learn something from him if I would be humble enough to listen.

Some of what he talked about over the months we were there had to do with how to deal with other people in general (not just in combat!). I find that sort of thing very applicable to becoming more like Christ. Do I check that sort of thing against what I know about Christ from Scripture? Yes. But the point is that while Christ says to "turn to the cheek" he doesn't go into all the specific about just how to do that. Do you see what I'm getting at?

That's the best example I can think of right now. I just think we need to be careful in claiming that Scripture is sufficient, by itself, to teach us everything we need to know to live the "life to the full" that Jesus talked about. So, whereas I might check things against Scripture, I do not consider it to be the only source of "revelation." Perhaps, we could say that I'm using that term (revelation) more broadly than the conservative, traditional view of it.


Hi Bill,
So what I can gather from what you stated, you are talking about an application of a Scriptural teaching, not a teaching or moral that Scripture does not teach, correct? Didn't you yourself say that Christ is the one who taught turn the other cheek? So this is not a foreign teaching that you would not have gotten from Scripture. It is an application in which you learn how to apply/contextualize the teaching in a specific culture. That is where everyone would agree. But we are talking about a Spirit indwelt transforming truth whereby a person cannot become like Christ without it, not applications of the truth. Remember that my whole contention is that postmodern presupps are contrary to Scripture as well as numerous ideas found in psychology, sociology, alternate religions, etc. Where they might agree only shows that they are not necessary to add to the Scripture in order to commune with God. Where they differ, they should be rejected. So please provide an example of a teaching where Scripture is insufficient (as well as perhaps a Scripture where it teaches that the Spirit's presence resides with anything else besides the special revelation which we now only have in Scripture). Are you able to do this?
By the way, I would like to know the specific application you learned from Taoism.
I would like to answer this, however,

"I just think we need to be careful in claiming that Scripture is sufficient, by itself, to teach us everything we need to know to live the "life to the full" that Jesus talked about."

That's interesting because I think we should be careful about saying that it isn't sufficient. Are you then saying that God commands His people to be conformed to the image of Christ, but then doesn't give them enough in the Scripture for them to do so? So those martyrs in Church history who were more like Christ than anyone I know didn't live life to the full because they believed that God fellowships with men only through His divinely inspired Word? We need to be really careful about saying that it is not sufficient when Scripture itself says that it is:

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (2 Tim 3:16-4:4).

So when it says that the man of God may be equipped (artios - fully qualified/sufficient) for EVERY GOOD WORK, in your view Scripture only makes a man partially equipped for some good works, or fully equipped for some good works, or partially equipped for all good works, but not what the passage actually says, "fully equipped/qualified/sufficient for every good work." We need to be careful about contradicting the Holy Spirit we say communes with us through other truth since Scripture (which that same Holy Spirit said was fully sufficient) is not. So does the Holy Spirit commune with us when we call Him a liar, or worse yet make ourselves think that we agree with what He says and then try to twist what He says so it fits our preconceived theology? That's what we need to be careful about. When it comes to the orthodox position and that of a new one that is spawned by philosophical shifts within the world, we ought to be careful to give the orthodox position (which alone is guided by the Spirit as opposed to the world's religious systems which are demonically inspired) the benefit of the doubt. What say you, Bill?


Looks like we're getting down to the real theological differences between us and that's good. Let's see if I can keep this reply brief...

1. I don't believe the Bible is exhaustive in its revelation of truth, even of moral truth. Perhaps you have a more narrow view of what is needed to "commune with God?" For myself, I want to be careful about compartmentalizing what truth has to do with communing with God and what does not. For example, I'm a musician and believe that making music can be a way of communing with God and glorifying him. So, if I learn something about making music better, then I would tend to group that in with truth that helps me commune with God. I might check what I'm learning against principles I understand from Scripture, but Scripture is most likely silent about how to employ a 2-5-1 progression in jazz. Is that helpful in calrifying what I'm talking about?

2. You wrote: "That's interesting because I think we should be careful about saying that it isn't sufficient. Are you then saying that God commands His people to be conformed to the image of Christ, but then doesn't give them enough in the Scripture for them to do so?"

Maybe my argument for this is silly, but again, what about those who did not yet have the Scripture. I believe the Torah was enough for people who only had the Torah. Are we at an advantage because we have more Scripture? Yes, I believe so. I also believe we are at an advantage because we have more of tradition and just of history to learn from. N.T. Wright talks about how we have more of God's future in our past than the early church did.

3. I don't read Greek, so I'm at a distinct disadvantage when getting down to the nitty gritty of exegesis. However, I wouldn't be surprised if various scholars agree with my assessment of 2 Timothy 3:16ff. The NIV says "All Scripture is...USEFUL..." The version you quotes has "profitable." Neither of these words implies that teachings in the Bible are an exhaustive means to teach, rebuke, etc.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to belittle the Bible. I think it is highly profitable. I think we should turn to the Bible first in trying to grasp the truth that God is trying to communicate to us. But as I've said earlier, you can'tleave it at that. You're cultural grid is always going to have some kind of impact on how you're interpreting the Bible in the first place. You have to be able to analyze that impact and learn from what the Spirit is saying to you through things such as the culture at large, history, even psychology, which I realize is a dangerous prospect. I'm not saying we should foolishly believe every thing that people say or do. I think I'm advocating more of a dialogue between Scripture and culture than you are. For example, Doug Pagitt (a pastor who is a leader in Emergent) talks about the Bible being a member of your community. It is "someone" we look up to as a source of inspiration and truth. I would say it is something that we continuously confer to help us get an objective viewpoint from God. The problem with that is God has revealed his truth through specific cultural and historical contexts, which is quite possibly the only way for we, as humans, to receive truth.

4. I agree that we should give special weight to the traditional orthodox position on a given subject. However, parts of the church have segmented themselves and neglected to understand said orthodoxy from the viewpoint of those they were separating themselves from. We have this thing called Protestantism, which unfortunately (I think) has a general tendency to be all about protesting. If we're not protesting those "other people" we feel like we're not upholding the gospel. In actuality, I think God's desire is more for unity (as per John 17:23). This is why I think books like "A Generous Orthodoxy," by Brian McLaren, could be really helpful for the church. And I'm not saying that I agree with everything in the book. I just think it is a valuable attempt to bring beliefs about orthodoxy from various factions into communication with one another.


Hi Bill,
I think you are misunderstanding some of my argument.
1) Truth is propositional. Therefore, your playing a musical note isn't "truth." If you read 1 Cor 14 carefully you'll realize that it is through propositional truth that the assembly is edified (built up in the knowledge and grace of Christ). That is why the things that do not contain well understood propositional truth are condemned.
2)You never dealt with the Sinai Theology that the Scripture itself teaches, nor have you referred to a Scripture that substantiates your position. You seem to just be restating what you believe, but no authority as to why you believe it as true (other than experience which seems to dominate your movement). I have said from the beginning that we are not talking about truth in general, but revelatory truth that WE now only have in the Scripture. Why do you think the Spirit of God rested on the Tabernacle/Temple? Isn't God everywhere? Why is worship in any other place condemned? Why cannot someone worship God in an alternate way like through an image that represents Him? Isn't the imagery and idol gives truth too? Why does Christ emphasize the importance of the truth which He is speaking as a means to salvation in John? Do you really mean to say that the truth that sets us free is something we'll have to learn later through a Buddhist in the 21st Century? or that this truth will only set us partially free? Why does Christ say that when the Spirit comes He will not speak new info from Himself but repeat what the Father and Son have said? Why is all of this in the context of Christ Word and commandments which are to abide within us? Why if this does not abide within us does Christ not have communion with us?
3) God's desire for unity is not at the cost of the truth He has spoken. In fact the very passage you quote is in John (which is what we have been talking about) and is in unity in their relationship with Christ and the Father through the truth which Christ has spoken. Unity in the Bible is always in the truth.

"Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom 15:5-6

"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment" 1 Cor 1:10

"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose."

Notice that you be of the same mind, think the same things, say the same things. Love and unity in the Spirit are once again interwoven with the truth to which we submit.

4) Please note that I did not emphasize the word for profitable/useful, i emphasized the word artios "fully sufficient"/"fully qualified" for EVERY GOOD WORK. I forgot to mention the other word exertismenos "complete"/"lacking in nothing"/"to finalize in completion." So are you denying the teaching of this text then? or are you twisting it to say what you want it to? By the way, what does it matter what a translation does(especially the NIV translators that would probably be more sympathetic to your cause) if I'm quoting to you the Greek? I know you don't know it, but you are discussing passages obviously based on it, and simply quoting alternate translations is not sufficient (especially when talking to someone who can just go ot the Greek and tell you what it says). Either way, please deal with the latter part of the verse, not the former.

5) I think the Bible "compartmentalizes" what truth through which you can commune with God. Can you commune with God through a math formula or the Gospel of Christ? You may glorify with all truth, but you can only relationally know Him through the truth He has revealed. How else would you ever know what is of God and what is not? Secondly, what you consider compartmentalization, the Scripture and the orthodox church would see as holy, separate, special truth through which alone He communes with His people. Once again, I never said the Bible contained all revelation. I said that it contained all special revelation which we as His church now have. I also believe that those who believed the Pentateuch has sufficient knowledge to commune with God because it is not how much special revelation you know, it is whether you acknowledge its place and submit to what you do know of it. In other words, you may commune with God through less than all of Scripture (although you will be lacking as those in the OT were), but you're not going to commune with God through more than the Scripture, and especially through that which is contradictory to it.

6)Finally I wanted to touch on the idea that the Bible is A member of our community a)places the Bible in a category alongside our other experiences and environment and b) once again assumes a purely naturalistic transfer of God's truth to His elect which cannot transcend cultural ideology. I disagree with both of these, but want to bring it back to the fact that there are contradictory voices within this community which seem to be accepted by your movement because of its pietistic tendencies (theology is not as important as sincerity and moral practice).
If you remember nothing else from this whole thing remember this: that those who want to constantly redefine orthodoxy are usually the ones who aren't orthodox in the first place. Maybe McLaren should be generous to God's truth, His people throughout history and His people today by contending for the faith, guarding the truth and holding every thought captive for the sake of Christ.


1. In 1 Corinthians 14, I think Paul is talking specifically about speaking in tongues. Your thoughts about propositionalism are probably stretching the application a bit.

2. You asked: "Why do you think the Spirit of God rested on the Tabernacle/Temple? Isn't God everywhere? Why is worship in any other place condemned?"

I ask you: Why did Jesus say, "A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem?"

3. You wrote: "God's desire for unity is not at the cost of the truth He has spoken."

I agree.

4. I wasn't quoting a different translation with any ulterior motive. It's just what I normally read and happened to have next to me on my desk.

I think you're possibly taking your analysis of the grammar too far. I think people have started with certain presuppositions about what the Bible is supposed to be and then use texts such 2 Timothy 3 as a "proof-text." I think that God wants us to be "thoroughly equipped" or however you want to translate the Greek. I think that the Bible is "useful" to that end. I'm not sure I need to turn that into "The Bible is an exhaustive resource for teaching, etc. and is the only way to make your training as a Christian complete."

5. I don't agree that the Bible compartmentalizes truth. I would venture to guess that's a rather Modern proclivity.

6. I think that McLaren is indeed attempting to be generous to God's truth. I think that he is open-minded to what other segments of the church have said and are saying. I hope I can say the same thing about myself.

I probably shouldn't have to say this, but let me just give my disclaimer. I'm not trying to say I agree with everything Brian McLaren or other people in the emerging church have said or written. I do find value in the conversation as a whole, however, and it's at least partly because of that open-mindedness I've just mentioned.

And I'm not saying you're not open-minded, either. I don't know you well enough to know. I don't even know your name! But I do want to say that it's wrong to make assumptions about people just because they want to be open-minded...just because they might seek to reclaim some of the truth in other traditions that has been lost because of factions in the church.


Can I suggest that you just e-mail me your next response? My address is billval3@msn.com or you can click the "e-mail me" link at the top of the right hand column. I don't mind continuing the conversation, but at this point I don't think anyone's going to bother to wade through everything we've said.

Also, I'm trying to rework my schedule so that I will be a better steward of my time. I value my time on the internet, but I think I tend to go overboard with it. For that reason, my responses to you might be a little more brief than they've been so far. I might have to be more selective about which points I respond to. I don't want you to think I'm being flippant about the way I respond (or don't respond). Thanks.

Alternatively, we could end this thread and you could continue to comment on later posts that I've written. I tend to talk about this KIND of thing often. I'm going to school next Fall to study Theology and the Arts, which is directly related to culture, so a lot of these issues will continue to surface on my blog.


Hi Bill, this will be my last entry for now:

1. You said: "In 1 Corinthians 14, I think Paul is talking specifically about speaking in tongues. Your thoughts about propositionalism are probably stretching the application a bit."

Actually, when you read it in context, Paul is talking about how the Wisdom/Truth of God brings one to maturity; and tongues, or multiple prophecies stated at once are counter to the edification of the Church (i.e., tongues is the primary issue in Chapt 14, but it relates to the primary issue of the letter). So the real issue in 1 Cor is the human/cultural ideas that get in the way of maturity (i.e., the Perfect [love] in Chapt 13) in God's Wisdom.

" So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual [gifts], seek to abound for the edification of the church. 13 Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. . . 26 What is [the outcome] then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification."

As I stated before, most people think edification is emotional uplifting, but in this context as in every other in the Scripture it is the building up of someone in the knowledge and grace of Christ. You can't build up in knowledge without propositional truth. Therefore Paul forbids a wrongful use of the gifts (which are meant to be platforms to display the truth) as simply existential/emotional religious experiences which was common within the Greek cultus (like Dionysius) and philosophy (like Gnosticism).

2. "Why did Jesus say, "A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem?"

Um, I dealt with this numerous times. Because we are the temple now. That's why He says that those who worship the Father will do so in spirit and TRUTH. Jeremiah says it will be written upon our minds, etc. (see also Isa 66).

3. At least we agree on this in theory.

4. I found it interesting that you stated how people prooftext and enter into texts with their own presupps when it is you who obviously do not want to deal with what the text says because it doesn't fit your presupps. Secondly, I don't prooftext. I stopped doing that awhile ago. The Scriptures I quoted you are a part of the larger themes of the Bible (which is why i mentioned the Sinai Theology before). I found this to be a common copout to basically say that "well that's just your presuppositional interpretation." I didn't talk about the grammar by the way, it was the lexicography of the latter half of the text, which is also confirmed by liberal lexicographers that aren't trying to make it say what they want it to obviously or they would have interpreted more closely to what you may have wanted. I'm taking it then that you want to dismiss the text because you realize the implications of it if interpreted/exegeted consistently with the entire passage (which is what I originally quoted you---men will seek after their own desires, seekers of self, not of God, desiring extrabiblical myths, but instead Timothy is to preach the Word in season and out of season. Why? Because the Scripture is God-breathed and therefore sufficient and needs to be utilized to complete the man of God in all righteousness). I don't think that's an out of context proof text.

5. So if you don't believe that truth has distinction in its uses and purposes, you must necessarily believe that 1+1=2 is just as much saving knowledge which puts me into relationship with God as the truth of the Gospel of Christ. Or do you want to retract that and see that the Bible does make distinctions between the uses of knowledge and truth? Paul doesn't show in Rom 1 that natural revelation is insufficient for sinful men to know God? There is a distinction. That is what I meant by compartmentalizing truth. That is far from a Enlightment credo when the Scripture itself makes the distinction (which is what I was arguing again with the Sinai Theology--you seem to be begging the question by saying that the Scripture doesn't make the distinction, but you must admit that you are unaware of the theology of which I've spoken.)

I think what I'm going to do is wait until the interviews and discussion from Whitehorse on the 6th (this Sunday) and 13th and then ask you now if you will comment/create a blog on the conversation. Then maybe we can pick it up from there.
What School are you going to for Theology and the Arts? Hopefully one which will teach theology for theology and not switch theology for anthropology (which is the true Modern/Naturalistic tendency). Until then, Bill, I have found this conversation with you to be worthwhile, and just ask that you be openminded as equally with the orthodox position that you are with the new trends and innovations. Take care.


Hi Bill, just a quick note to you and any readers. I wanted to know if you had listened to the Whitehorse broadcast this past Sunday. If not, you still can here www.oneplace.com/Ministries/The_White_Horse_Inn/

It contains a few clips from the emergent conference as well.

Just a reminder that next week they will also have an interview with Brian MacLaren.
If you would blog about this, I would like to know what you thought of both broadcasts.


In case you didn't get my e-mail, I have transferred your comments to a different post, which you can get to by clicking here.

I listened to the program and wrote some comments on that post rather than here because I figured this thread was getting too long.

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