We have all been guilty. Our self-selected source of authority on a given subject speaks and with something like blind acceptance we believe it all, proverbially hook-line-and-sinker. Ed Stetzer recently tweeted a long assumed quote from St. Francis was bogus. Many, like myself, offered an attributed quote to St. Francis to counter a climate where it seems Christians have been more interested in what we say to the exclusion of what we do. “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.” Rather than suggest we should not declare the victory of God in Jesus the Christ with words, most of us intended to assert we should accompany such a declaration in the dynamic integration of word and deed. Seems Jesus called for the same.
Mark Galli wrote a recent article for Christianity Today based, in part, on his book on St. Francis. He charged from the outset that St. Francis never said what has been attributed to him. Even more Galli notes St. Francis was known for his preaching. Now while I may disagree with Galli’s conclusion the popularized phrase speaks to the sentimentality of our age, it is important to adjust the use of such a phrase if, as Galli contends, St. Francis never made the statement. Repeating what is untrue says more about our age than anything else. Worse is repeating untruths under the rubric of preserving orthodoxy.
Mark Devine offered an evaluation of the “emerging church” in the MWBTS Journal of Theology (piece not longer available online) a few years ago. More recently he was part of a conference wherein he presented a paper on the subject. And, while at the conference he participated in a panel discussion for a podcast. Andrew Jones considered Devine’s remarks encouraging to some Baptists. We Baptists love categories. If we can place someone in a given category we may then relegate the categorized person to inconsequential at best and dangerous at worst. And, since others have been writing of streams and the emerging church for quite some time, we should not be surprised Mark divines two streams present in the “emerging church” – doctrine friendly and doctrine averse. Trevin Wax offered a summary of the presentation.
My quibble. One only need to talk to Tony, Doug, and Brian – those generally targeted for critique often associated with Emergent Village – to discover they are not doctrine averse. Now there may be some who self-identify with the emerging church who would be averse to doctrine. However, the aversion is not to doctrine as much as it is an aversion to absolute certainty. Before you assume that means they will make no statements as to what they believe, that is not true either. Instead it is a way they “hold” their doctrine, not that they don’t have a doctrinal position.
Tony and I chatted one afternoon several years ago in Glorieta, NM. We have talked by phone, via email, and IM. I have interviewed Tony for some research. I have read Tony’s most recent book. You cannot read The New Christians and come away thinking Tony does not believe anything. Now, you may not agree with his position but to consider him “doctrine averse” in the sense he is unwilling to say what he believes is to misrepresent another. And, for those who claim to be conservative, this would deny the ethics consistent with such a position.