Thursday, August 02, 2007

Not Getting Burned by the Pyromaniacs

I was just over at Pyromaniacs, a rather conservative Evangelical, strongly Calvinist blog site looking at some posters lampooning anything postmodern or emerging church. They are actually kind of funny but be warned that some of them only make sense if you have been reading a lot on the emerging movement and are familiar with some of its shortcomings.

Anyways I was reading the post mentioned above (that linked to many of the posters) criticizing Scot McKnight's (the guy who blogs at Jesus Creed) article on the emerging church found in Christianity Today online (I have mentioned that article before).

The folks over at Pyromaniacs were very articulate and very concerned about the more radical wing of the emerging movement. I'm concerned too. However the tone of parts of the discussions were quite vitriolic and I wondered how helpful some of the interactions were. Pyromaniacs are, after all, compulsive fire starters. I guess they like to generate some heat. However in spite of my wonderings, I posted a reply which I've quoted below.

Interesting post - and very good interactions. I'm new to the blog and came here to see the posters via a link from Tall and Skinny Kiwi (who thinks they are hilarious by the way). I like them too - but like most humor, they rely on exaggeration and stereotyping.

I suppose I would categorize myself as a radical conservative, Evangelical but post-Christendom Christian. As I read the post and the comments I often feel as if Emergent and Postmodern have become (almost) synonymous (in the eyes of many who criticize the movement). I think most emergent people I know would say they are trying to respond to postmodernity with an effective biblical witness. But then my circle may not be very large.

I like a lot of what the emerging movement is saying and doing but as a reform movement it has a lot of extremism. Most students of Church History would (and probably will in the future) see it as a minor blip in the history of the Church. I don't think it has much staying power because it is a transitional and temporary response to the current phase our culture is going through. It will move on and hopefully create space for whatever new expression of the church that will become the strong, biblical response to postmodernity.

The value of the emerging movement (in my opinion) is in that "wonderful" concept of deconstructionism - but probably not in the way someone like Jacques Derrida intended it. I think the contribution of the EMC will be in its deconstruction of the church - simplifying it and removing from it every non-biblical element and structure to the point where, if we removed one more thing, it would no longer be the church.

Luther and the reformers started to do this but I think they lost their nerve and continued to keep many of the elements of Catholic ecclesiology. They reformed much of the theology but not much of the ecclessiology and certainly not much of the church and state, political/religious intertwining - they probably made it worse (because of the religious wars and political jockeying that resulted from the reformation). But we live in a different age - an age where the church has been proclaimed irrelevant by a postmodern culture - and has lost its force. I think we can learn much about our current situation by looking at the theological wranglings of the reformation and the great awakenings (1500-1750). We sometimes see that period as a short moment in time but where do you think we will be in 250 years?

Our task is to steward a new reformation. What are its theses and who nailed them there? I think in some ways the argument about emerging is beside the point (because it is passing on and because the energy wasted on the culture wars takes energy away from creating solutions to the challenges of Postmodernity). I'm hoping I didn't miss the point with my comments.


rick said...

good post but I hated the posters ... as I followed many of the links from them I found little error and some that seemed to have nothing to do with the poster. Net, aside from causing generalized negative stereotypes, I think they were misrepresentative.

I have some issues with some aspects of the EC world but I don't think it is necessary to mock others to make the point.

Anyway, thanks for the good post.

hillschurch said...

Thanks for the comment. I hadn't seen their more recent posters. They certainly have become a bit more nasty. What I liked was that they did show some creativity and humour - but like I said - really nasty and a bit arrogant.
I also had a Recent Meanderings post about some more generous posters from the other side put together on the Emerging Grace blog site. They capture a bit more grace.