Saturday, April 01, 2006

Theological Issues Confronting the Emerging Churches - Yet Another List

We’ve had Gibbs/Bolger list the nine core practices of the emerging church, we’ve had Scot McKnight list the seven habits of successful emerging conversations, and “Emergent” itself list its “four values and practices that flow from them.” Now David Fitch of the Great Giveaway proposes another list?
What are the key theological issues posed by the current culture of postmodern, post Christian, post-Western Enlightenment culture to the emerging churches seeking to be missional in these contexts?
Here’s what he thinks they are.
Inerrancy, propositions, and the perspicuity of the text are inadequate to the task of describing the authority/interpretation of Scripture under the critique of modernity. In fact, these terms actually now demean Scripture’s authority. As a result, N. American society still can’t see the power of the Story we pass on in our history. Look anew at apostolicity, the church Community’s (big c) canon of interpretation, Story, Narrative and the performance of Scripture as ways to go forward. Van Hoozer, John Francke, NT Wright (and others) are well on their way to helping us in this area.

Substitutionary atonement, the separation of justification from sanctification in the ordo salutis (the order of salvation) by us evangelicals have provided the means for the over individualized, consumerized, exchange-based mode of salvation so prevalent in the N. American evangelical church. In fact, these notions have been abused to demean and cheapen the cosmic supreme nature of the salvation offered in Christ for the world. As a result, American society can only see our salvation in narcissistic terms. These notions once abused have made the atonement appear as a violent act in itself and exclusionary. Look anew at recapitulation theories of the atonement in Scripture, the categories of character and virtue, and “the new perspective on Paul,” to restore the unity of the ordo and the hospitality of God in the cross. Scott McKnight, Hans Boersma, NT Wright, James Dunn and others can help here.

Over Lutheranized accounts of Pauline justification (mentioned above), the separation of individual from social political salvation, have made possible the making of justice as a duty of the evangelical Christian instead of the very character of who we are. As a result, American society continues to think we’re trying to win a culture battle instead of working for the redemption of all creation. We continue old habits of treating issues of racism, economics, gender, sexuality, etc. as if they were problems of individuals only, or as capable of being solved by "individualist" solutions of a better capitalism or democracy. Look anew at Yoder’s “the politics of Jesus,” and “the new perspective on Paul,” and to Cornel West, Luce Iragary, Bell Hooks, William Cavanagh, Dan Bell, Steve Long and yes Stanley Hauerwas and many more to help us here.

Four… PLURALISM AND CHRISTIANITY “Jesus is the Only Way.”

But how do we communicate what it means to say “Jesus is Lord” to a Buddhist? Exclusivist, Inclusivist, John Hick’s “Christian pluralism” are simply inadequate to understand witness, dialogue and the supremacy of Christ in the world of new pluralism. Look anew at post Wittgensteinian theorists as well as the doctrine of the “sovereignty of God” to help us. For me the old ecumenicist George Lindbeck, as well as Stanley Hauerwas help us to know how to speak about these orthodox doctrines and practices in these new worlds. They help do what we must do faithfully yet carefully. It is one of the central issues of our day. In Wittgenstein’s phrase, these figures help us learn how to “go on” in a world stalemated by pluralism.

In a fragmented world where individualist foundations to epistemology are disavowed, everyone, including Christians, must have a social space, a language and a politic in order to be shaped sufficiently to live coherent lives. For Christians who live at the end of modernity, we simply cannot do without the church. Evangelical hyper- individualism made the church expendable. For we who now live in these postmodern worlds, we must re articulate and re invigorate what it means to be the church. Look to missional church thinkers, Van Gelder, Hunsberger, Guder, as well as Hauerwas, Lindbeck and new people writing on the church.
Fitch goes on to say that these
same questions were posed earlier at the forming of evangelicalism in the 20’s. The answers of that time articulated in reaction to modernist protestant liberalism yield the modernist answers:
1.) inerrancy,
2.) substitionary atonement,
3.) dispensational pessimism towards social structures,
4.) Exclusivism and
5.) no ecclesiology.
We must do the theological work here to go forward for those who wish to lead the church amidst the cultural malaise of post-Christian post-modernity.

There is some interesting discussion on his site. There are a couple of simplistic reactions to his list
1. old line evangelicalism and
2. the classic protestant liberal answers.
There is also
3. the post-moderist, individualistic, self-expressive, new-line simplistic answers

We need to root our theology in the Word of God; we cannot simply throw out all historical interpretation of the Scriptures; our theology needs to be rooted (and more than that, fleshed out,) in the context of the community of God's people; and it needs to speak to (i.e. address the real context of life in Waterloo or Belmont or Calgary or Lethbridge or wherever) the reality of this world. There's some real meat here to chew on...


The Righteousness of God said...

Yes - 'Hermeneutics' hitting the wall of 'exegesis'. Selah...

I would encourgage anyone who is a passionate believer to read Fee and Stuart's 'How to Read the Bible for All it's worth'. It is truly a gift to the the body of Christ.

I suspect that P*Mike has a loaner in his stash of hardcopy. For the keener, in Christ, buy a copy - less than twenty can-uck bucks.

My experience - I love scripture and value it's very breath into my life. Many things within have meaning for me today. Some have no personal value other than it is nice to know i.e. Old Testament accounts. I believe that a great divisive struggle within the body is that they profess New Testament theology but remain bound in slavery in Egypt (Old Testament-ism). Or they are somewhere in between with compromised with a mix of 'bull'-oney (wilderness).

We are under a new covenant. Jesus said it to be so. Jesus promised us His Holy Spirit. He is our life. He is our teacher. We fail to take belief that he is a rewarder of those who seek Him. I will be even bolder here...this is different than seeking a primary relationship with a book (Bible/binding law) or gazing lovingly at insightful Church Father's interpretations.

Fall in love with Immanuel not the 'manual'. He will do the work.

Scott said...

One thing that scares me about Post Modernism is when it starts to sound like Relativism.

I totally agree that we need to relook at what were doing and not just keep doing it because of tradition. That being said though doesn't mean that anything goes. We need to go to God's word and use that as our compass. And with that as the post suggests I think we need to base ourselves in the word, taking into account historical interpretations for what they're worth.

The form might change, but the content must stay the same.