Monday, January 10, 2005

a recent e-mail

This could be of interests to some. It is a recent e-mail coorespondence on defining the Emergent thinkers main point of thought. To be more precise, what are they trying to revolutionize. I think my conclusion was that it comes down to the certainty and completeness of the knowledge of God. Without context, some of this coorespondence may be out of place for you. I won't give the context (which was someone else's blog) mostly because the argument got a little heated and I don't want to promote that. Tell me what you think.


> I am an Assemblies of God minister who has a
> theology
> degree from a very liberal college. I have studied
> under liberals for about two years and I have been a
> conservative for alot longer than that. I feel that
> I
> can say with authority that Emergent is neither
> liberal nor conservative. I am not surprised that
> you
> consider it liberal, because it will consider the
> voice of the liberals...but to say that
> "liberals are usually all for inclusion of all kinds
> of perspectives, while conservatives typically are
> not
> so open to that. The reason being, liberals don't
> value doctrinal rigidity much, and so they don't
> care
> what positions you take on a lot of issues, they
> feel
> they can still collaborate."
> seems a little misinformed. Liberals are not
> interested in considering your viewpoint at all
> frankly. They reach a set of conclusions that are
> just as rigid as the conservatives, however, theirs
> are based on higher biblical criticism. Don't
> forget
> that the liberals father, Schleiermacher, also
> published SYSTEMATIC Theology. What the Emergent
> theologians are promoting is a deconstruction of
> SYSTEMATIC Theology in place of an expressive one.
> Emergent thinkers conclude that any one method of
> interpreting Scripture is not complete. Truth (yes,
> objective, unchanging Truth with a big T) is far too
> important to get only one opinion. (If you had a
> serious health condition, would you see only one
> doctor, just a thought.) Instead, we evaluate many
> different interpretations and take what can
> contribute
> something to our understanding of God. Emergent
> thinkers prefer theology to come in the form of
> narrative, novel, metaphor, poetry, prose, or art.
> (Some of which were popular methods of our Lord, by
> the way) If I am to say that the men who
> revolutionized much of Christianity in the early
> 20th
> Century with Pentecostal theology were completely
> right, then I lose the great contributions of men
> like
> Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli of your Reformed
> tradition. If I presume that Calvin somehow got it
> right, then I must assume that Aquinas (the great
> doctor of the Catholic church) missed the boat. If
> Aquinas was absolutely correct in engaging the
> Aristotilean thought of his day, then Augustine has
> no
> worth in his Platonic influenced theology. It seems
> much more valuable to look at how this great list of
> men have each contributed to our view of God and
> then
> try to engage our culture with each of them cheering
> us on from their privileged box seats at the feet of
> the Almighty.
> Let's not forget that the systematic theology that
> you
> hold dear was a response primarily to the
> attempt to engage what the
> philosophical culture was throwing at the world of
> theology (and I dare say a successful one, since we
> are still here theologizing).
> Matt says: "Everything that the "Emergent Church"
> wants to do has been done, successfully, for
> millennia. But all of a sudden that's not good
> enough,
> and we need new models. Just over the last 20 years,
> people have apparently fundamentally changed from
> what
> they were for the previous 2000"
> I could address everything that is "logically" and
> historically wrong with this statement, but I will
> (graciously,I hope) leave it at this. Augustine saw
> a
> world that was consumed with Platonic thought and he
> communicated the Truth within his context. By the
> time Aquinas writes, the church thinks Platonic
> influenced Theology is it, so Aquinas has to
> re-write
> the theology to engage the re-emergence of
> Aristotilean thought. The Enlightenment thinkers
> built their "scientific" systematic theologies to
> answer the materialistic rationalists, and did quite
> well. Today, you and I stand at the face of a
> changing philosophical landscape, and if the church
> will still be clothing the poor in 2 more millennia,
> then we must learn to follow in the footsteps of the
> saints who have walked before us.
> Maybe this helps. Maybe it makes you mad. In any
> case, I hope it makes us think, and I hope it
> encourages rather than destroys conversation.
> Jeremiah Gibbs

And now for Matt's response:

> Thanks for your response.
> Without systematic theology, how can I discern
> whether someone is
> teaching truth or error about God?
> Matt

And mine:

Truth or error is not the problem. eg. God is love.
Is this systematic theology? no. But it is true. The
point is that "God is love" doesn't tell us everything
about God, and neither do our systematic theologies.
It is not that they are wrong. They are just one
tracked. I will give you an example that I think will
be close to your heart, coming from a reformed
background. I know it is close to mine. Systematic
theology defined Arminean and Calvinists theologies
and said that they cannot both be true. Emergent
theology might say that they are both absolutely and
completely the same way that God is both
three and one (two completely different things). We
don't have a problem with the idea of Trinity, but we
do have a problem with who made the choice in
salvation. In the same way that three and one are the
same, predestination and free-will are the same. It
is a mystery.
God bless.

And then it starts to get a little ugly:

1 John 4:1ff tells us to test the spirits to see if they are of God or
not, and then follows with the test, which is a test
of doctrine. We are commanded in the Bible to distinguish between
> > truth and error.
> >
Truth or error is totally the problem. The fact that you do not think
> > that it is tells me everything I need to know about
> > your view of "church".
> >
> > Matt

> I don't want to get into an argument on this, cause
> I
> don't think I will change your mind. Truth is, I
> don't want to...cause I probably agree with you on
> most of your positions.. I just don't think that you
> or I have it all figured out. One little point of
> critical exegesis: the passage in 1 John...John
> says
> that all who acknowledge Christ as Lord are from
> God...think about that. The very fact that you have
> just equated our discussion with "church" tells me
> quite a bit about your view of "church" as well.
> Notice that neither of us mentioned church even
> once...we were discussing theology, yet you equated
> this to "church." If theology and church are the
> same, then how right does someone have to be to be
> part of the church. 1 John 4:1-4 makes it clear
> that
> we are both among the called out preisthood of
> believers, and so are the Emergent leaders...and I
> dare say that even the professors at harvard and
> yale
> divinity schools might even say that Christ has come
> in the flesh...maybe even they are among the
> "church."
> Jeremiah

> Jeremiah,
> You already got into an argument. I just love it
> when folks come along
> and insult my beliefs (my theological framework
> comes from the
> Enlightenment), and then say "I don't want to get
> into an argument."
> I never said I have it all figured out. I don't
> know any theologian in
> the history of ever who ever said that. That's a
> complete red herring.
> The fact is, you have a consciously antirational
> approach to theology,
> which will of course affect the way you run a church
> or preach a sermon
> or anything else. You can call my rational approach
> "Enlightenment" all
> day long, but it doesn't make it so. Augustine,
> Aquinas, Anselm, all
> had systematic approaches hundreds of years before
> the printing press.
> Were they "Enlightenment" too?
> If you've got a position, then stake it out and
> defend it. But don't
> come along, insult my position, then say yours isn't
> really different
> from mine. And if you take a position, you have to
> accept the
> consequences of that position, and if you take an
> antirational,
> anti-systematic approach, one of the consequences is
> that it becomes
> very difficult to identify heretics and false
> teachers, which is an
> obligation that Scripture has laid on us. It would
> be a lot easier if
> we could all just hold hands and sing songs, but
> Scripture doesn't give
> us that option.
> 1 John 4 doesn't say acknowledging Christ as Lord.
> It says "Jesus
> Christ is come in the flesh."
> What does that mean, "Jesus Christ is come in the
> flesh?" That's a
> doctrinal statement. Nobody said you had to agree
> with any particular
> 1200 page long tome on systematics. But the
> systematicians, God bless
> them, were just trying their very best to be
> faithful to God's command
> to test the spirits. Would that we all had their
> zeal for the truth of
> who God is, and what Jesus came here to do.
> Matt

"But the systematicians, God bless
them, were just trying their very best to be faithful
to God's command
to test the spirits. Would that we all had their zeal
for the truth of
who God is, and what Jesus came here to do."

Amen--- This statement is the most coherent and
well-thought statement you have made in this brief
discussion. And just as the systematic theologians
were trying there best to test spirits...I am actively
doing the same. Just keep in mind that the Reformers
were called heretics in their day by those who had
decided they had cornered the market on
interpretation. My intention is not and was not to
insult your beliefs...I truly do hold many of the same
ones that you do, so I don't intend to insult them. I
am sorry. But, I hope you will read some of the
Enlightenment thinkers before you judge them so
harshly. Alot of what came out of the Enlightenment
did not acknowledge Christ had come in the flesh...and
should rightly be called what it is. But, some of
their thoughts are what have shaped ours...and
therefore should be considered. As for Anselm,
Augustine, and Aquinas...I have read all of them
extensively and they are rational...So am I (contrary
to what you think). Aristotle literally invented
logic and everyone was required to use rational
thought since his time...there is a difference between
systematic and rational. Do yourself a favor and read
Augustine's On The Trinity. Tell me if you think that
he thinks he is right or whether he has just given us
a bunch of different metaphors for a very mystical

Is it hard to identify heretics in light of this
acceptance of a very mystical faith? yeah...I think
about it every day. I haven't totally figured out
where we draw that line. But, I work towards the goal
of righteousness and purity in my life as well as my

Thanks for the discussion. I just want to let you
know ahead of time that I won't write again. I will
read your response if you have one, but I don't want
to embrace an argument that will cause a rift between
you and I when we stand before God in worship on the
other side. God bless.


It may be a little hard to follow all of it. But it starts to illustrate some of the discussions that are being made.

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