During an ETREK discussion a couple of weeks ago the question was asked, “Why don’t the “leaders” of Emergent/emergent respond to their critics?” The line of reasoning went on to suggest that if someone like D.A. Carson took the time to critique the movement, “shouldn’t those scrutinized give us an answer?” Today, Tony Jones sent out a e-newsletter from Emergent with an article by LeRon Shults. I met LeRon in Nashville last summer. We shared a brief conversation about theological education and where he saw it going. It was a delightful “get to know you” type of conversation.
It seems as though everyone needs a statement. The result of the recent T4G conference in Louisville resulted in a Gospel Statement. Someone transcribed this copy. It was interesting to read comments on various blogs regarding the statement. Some believed it solid work. Others took exceptions with various articles. Personally, I wondered about the necessity to declare what is denied when attempting to make a positive statement that we are for the Gospel. I suspect the fact that Dr Mohler wrote the piece may well explain the necessity to decry something when stating a positive. We Baptists, especially Southern Baptists, have a hard time just saying what we are for without saying what we are against. Not sure if it is the penchant for precision or the need to mark those for and against so we know with whom to/not to work.
This morning I read the Memphis Declaration which grew out of a meeting of a group of Southern Baptists the first couple of days of this week. I read with interest the personal application of this statement by Wade Burleson. Especially interesting was the last couple of paragraphs wherein Wade challenged some who had been sniping at the thought of the group getting together. When the news broke that this meeting would take place, some seemed a bit critical that this smacked of similar tactics used some 27 years ago to “stem the tide of liberalism” in the SBC. This sniping may have been practiced by some who had been invited.
My friend Spencer Burke, who is no stranger to provocation and critique, was asked to write a piece for Christianity Today’s blog, Out of Ur. For some time now Spencer has questioned the “event-driven” model found in most churches. That is, everything geared to the “Sunday” event or the “Saturday” event. Lost near the bottom of this abbreviated piece is the call to focus on the mission of God. The Church ought to be the centerpiece of the project that is the “mission of God” in the world. To make the focus the event is to miss the mission. Small groups learning to live into the mission of God may be the best bet for seeing the redemptive work of God unfold in the world. The Sunday event may well be a part but it is not the focus. Could be what Spencer is saying. You will have to wait for the complete article to come out this summer in Leadership Journal.
In this post I have referenced some of my reading habits. Many would find this a bit dissonant – Mark, Lig, John, Al, RC on one end and Tony, LeRon and Spencer on the other. Quickly my words are parsed and my reading list scrutinized. Quick scan the blogs I read on the left column. Looking to pin a given label requires “proof-texting” my blog posts. Under the microscope a phrase here and a statement there will be, and has been, pulled so the dehumanizing act of labeling may begin. In fact, just by pressing some fellow bloggers thinking, my brother Paul was told he would be prayed for so he might return from his errant ways. I guess you can either quote a nineteenth century preacher, or you can seek to work out the Gospel and the mission of God in the world as it is today. I honor the former and choose the latter.
Each of the four statements/declaration/blog post have been cast under the watchful eye of the readers of those respective places and commenters take them apart looking for either agreement or disagreement – and largely to find something to write others will read on their own blog. Maybe my friend Jeff was right, rather than an exercise in writing, blogging may be nothing more than narcissistic at best. In the end, many trained in Scriptural exegesis would do well to take some time with their blogging exegesis and shun proof-texting. This only heightens the rhetoric, reduces the potential for cooperation and obscures the mission of God in the world as we scatter shoot each other.
By the way, this is precisely what I came away with after reading Wade who suggested wider parameters of Kingdom cooperation. Look out Marty, I may not be the cynic you think after all (insert winking smiley here) …