Tuesday, April 1, 2008

why what they believe is important

In an exchange in another place on-line, someone made this comment as part of a reply in regards to the suggestion that emergents finally do something like give a statement of what their beliefs are.

It may look like this:
Hope, Reconciliation, Love, peace, and Unity as the central themes of the Bible, and thus the Christian faith. We believe in the historical person of Christ, and are called to respond accordingly to his ministry and impact in this world, before, during and after his incarnation. We believe that God is continually revealing himself by the work of the Holy Spirit though creation. We believe we are called, as God's creation, to love others, fulfill their needs, and focus on bringing the Kingdom of God into whatever situations they are in in their lives. We believe that The Kingdom of God transcends space and time, but is both "at hand" and "coming". We believe the overall goal of our lives is to become the person into whom God is making us, and all the response and responsibility that goes along with that!

with a later edit in the next comment

In that statement it should say..."believes in both the Christ revealed in the Bible as well as the historical Christ." or something like that...I'm sure someone else smarter will word all of that better!

There is quite a lot that could be made of this "statement", and it should be kept in mind that this is one person's idea, not necessarity something all in that 'movement' would agree with (for good or ill).

Still, it does give rise to some thoughts.

For example, it begins with a list of five words that are suppose to be good, nice, positive. Essentially meaningless words, though, outside of any context.

Take the word hope. A 'hopeful' word, one would say, but what kind of hope? Hope in what? And reconciliing, reconciling who to who? Let me give a reason why that troubles me.

From "The New Christians", p. 78

A generation or two ago, defenses of Christianity that focused on human sinfulness were potent: a common metaphor showed God on one side of a diagram and a stick figure (you) on the other; the chasm between was labeled 'Sin', and the only bridge across was in the shape of Jesus' cross. But emergent's asked "What kind of God can't reach across a chasm? Chasms can't stop God!" Indeed, many emergents will concur that we live in a sinful world...But they will be inclined to attribute this sin not to the distance between human beings and God but to the broken relationships that clutter our lives and our world.


Jesus' message and ministry are ultimately about reconciliation: bringing those on the margins back in the center of God's relationship with the world. And the crucifixion, when seen as an act of divine solidarity with the suffering and broken world, becomes the event of reconciliation...But when seen as an event of beauty and reconciliation, even in its tragedy, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the impetus for healed and healing relationship in a world that desperately needs them.

When emergents speak of 'reconciliation', we have reason to question whether they are referring to people being reconciled to God, or people simply being reconciled to each other in some kind of New-Agey,'holistic' idea. The author makes reconciliation between people the main thing, even saying that the main thing about sin is not how it either causes or effects our relationship to God, but how it is caused or results in broken relationships between people in the world.

And this is why I do not trust emergents, and do not consider them worth trusting.

This whole "we don't need a statement of beliefs" idea of theirs has gone on long enough. They've gone far too long with people buying into their "let's play nice and have a conversation which resolves nothing and answers nothing" shtick, and it's getting old.

We can see the problem when we look at the concept of reconciliation above, that if we accept the author's definitions and explanations, when they talk about reconciliation, they mean something different then "be reconciled to God". It is this kind of amorphous, undefined, slight-of-hand refocusing of attention that a statement of beliefs on their part would hopefully make less problematic.

Because if there are problems with the one word, what about the others? Certainly few words are more problematic then 'love', and how we define acts of godly love or charity would well be determined by our beliefs. If we believe that those in other religions needs to know about Jesus so they can repent and trust in Him, then evangelism and missions work can be seen a works of godly love towards them. If we believe that knowledge of Christ isn't really necessary and people simply need to live rightly in their own cultural contexts, that concepts of heaven and hell are really too divisive and give a judgmental view of God and need to be put behind us, then evangelism and missions works may well be viewed as unnecessary and even unwelcome intrusions based more on concepts of cultural superiority then love of God and others.

And peace? If we consider that emergents seem to be attracting the detritus of pacifism, then we can understand a bit what they mean by peace. And unity? Read this

So I find it hard to “give a testimony” today without offending people of my own religion whose identity depends on a divided and conflicted world. As a follower of Christ, I have grown to believe in a world that is larger than Christianity. Jesus called this larger world the kingdom of God. It is the symphony made of all stories, individual and communal, our magnanimous God is involved with in this world.

Only God is God. And Christianity is not. Nor Judaism. Nor Islam. Paradoxically, this realization about the greatness of God is a deeply Christian, Jewish and Muslim teaching.

When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I begin with the first word, “Our . . .” (see Matthew 6:9) and I stop and ask myself, “Who do I include in this Our?” I remind myself that the story of God is bigger than my personal story, bigger than the story of my religion, bigger than the story of all humanity, and bigger than the story of all creation. In the kingdom of God, these four stories are all really my stories—all at the same time—woven together, giving meaning and life to each other.

You can see the tactics used--those who believe that Jesus is the only way are those "whose identity depends on a divided and conflicted world". The 'kingdom of God' is to this person's mind 'larger than Christianity', meaning it included people in other religions who worship idols and false gods.

God is loving, and is involved in this world, yes. And our message is clear, to tell people to "be reconciled to God", to repent and trust in Christ, not stay in their false religions worshiping devils and false gods.

This is why the opening "statement of beliefs" is hollow and meaningless. It may read nicely, but underneath is the potential for the misleading and unbiblical ideas to find root. That is why they must put aside this perceived need to feel nice and PC, and give us the cold hard facts. Yes, if they follow what those quoted above have said, they will be openning themselves up to controversy (like that's not already happening), but at least they would be being honest.


Anonymous said...

well said.

Jim W said...

I like what you say here. I also appreciate what you've been saying over at "pastorboy's" blogs. Lot's of good thoughts, here and there.