I have run out of room in my office again. You can always tell when stacks of books begin appearing in front of the shelves. Time to reorganize and lose the last of the wall space. I guess pictures can be relegated to the computer screen. Anyway, to my left is a stack of books I’ve been using, or just received of late. Two copies of What Love is This? (1st and 2nd editions), Carson’s The Gagging of God, Rashke’s The Next Reformation, Waters’ Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul, Armstrong’s The Catholic Verses, and (finally), Carson/O’Brien/Seifrid (yes, same one), Justification and Variegated Nomism, Vol. II. I had just removed a few issues of The Reformed Baptist Theological Review and a few copies of books on The Da Vinci Code (it was getting a tad bit too tall). I think the term “eclectic” fits here.
The range of viewpoints expressed, and the challenges presented, by this stack of books caused me to think. I come in to my office in the morning and, through the wonder, or sometimes curse, of technology I am confronted immediately with a massive range of thought and teaching. I feel the pull of requests for help from every direction each day. At times it can feel overwhelming. Staying focused is a very difficult task that, I confess, I have not mastered. I have a deep desire to address a wide variety of issues and challenges to the once-for-all-delivered-to-the-saints faith, but I know I cannot fly two dozen directions at the same time. Zeal must be tempered with wisdom.
This morning I read at least one side of the dialogue in e-mail between a man named Bob Robinson and my friend Steve Camp (I haven’t had a chance to talk to Campi about all of this as yet: getting hold of him is always an experience)–at least as much as was posted. I confess it is simply maddening to me to read postmodern writing. Like the liberalism that I had to survive in seminary, I have a strong desire to simply grab a postmodernist and scream, “Would you just come out and say something meaningful, please?” I know that is not going to happen, for the obvious reason that postmodernism lacks a foundation upon which to place meaning anyway, but I have never been able to produce a lot of patience for those who flit about the theological landscape producing tremendous amounts of verbiage but never actually getting around to saying anything. And, of course, the very fact you do not have patience for such things is clear evidence of the superiority of postmodernism anyway.
Now, if you are just waking up to this movement, don’t get lost in all the buzzwords they throw around. For folks who talk all about communicating with the culture, they have the most clique-ish vocabulary imaginable. “Metanarrative” and particular understandings of “community” and a list of philosophical gurus a mile long are all part and parcel of the most basic introduction to their views and the “Emergent church” movement. A whole new set of names needs to be learned as well to come to understand “who is who.” And if you are looking for a book that provides a full, meaningful, biblically based defense of the system, don’t bother. The very idea that the Bible was intended to, or capable of, providing such a basis is one of the first casualties of postmodernism. In fact, don’t expect any debates on the subject: a debate assumes truth and error and the ability of mankind, based upon the clarity and perspecuity of God’s revelation, to come to a sound conclusion so as to say one side is right and one side is wrong. Once again, that is “modernism,” and we have now gotten past believing such things. Revelation is an outmoded term: now we have “conversations” and tell “stories.” This is all we can really do, and all we’ve ever been able to do: previous generations were self-deluded to think they had gone past that level.
The main thing to remember about this movement, whatever name it goes under, is this: it does not derive from biblical exegesis; it is fundamentally and inherently contrary to a biblical worldview; and in the vast majority of its expressions, it is nothing more than an expression of the sinful rebellion of the human heart, resulting in the darkening of the mind (Romans 1).
Let’s look at some examples. Brian McLaren is indeed one of the “prophets” of this new movement. In a current issue of Christianity Today we are offered a summary of his views on “evangelism.” We read,
For McLaren, the gospel is not primarily informational but relational/missional. That is, imparting information about how to be individually saved is secondary to inviting people into relationship with a king and with members of a kingdom whose foremost concern is wholeness for a broken world, rather than an insurance policy for eternal destiny.
Immediately one asks, “How can the gospel be one or the other?” That is, you cannot have a relationship with someone about whom you are ignorant. Hence, Christians have always believed that the gospel has been entrusted to them and they are to proclaim it (faith comes by….?). The gospel contains information, yes, even truth, objective truth, definitional truth (the thuds you are hearing are postmodernists dropping like flies), for Christian faith has an object outside of ourselves (“the God who justifies”) and includes truths upon which we act (God is God; sin is sin; wrath is wrath; repent or perish). The result of the gospel is relationship with God. But jettison the informational/proclamational and you no longer have the regenerational which leads to the relational (“-al” is a favorite ending in postmodern writing). Further, “inviting” rebels “into relationship” with the one they hate and are in rebellion against and the knowledge of whom they are suppressing requires the radical work of the Spirit in changing the heart and mind of such a person. That’s called conversion, not merely assimilation of a “Jesus element” into one’s life. What, exactly, does “wholeness for a broken world” mean? That sounds awefully wonderful, but what does it mean? If it means their concern is the clear and compelling proclamation that is a stumbling block, a scandal, and the smell of death (aka, the gospel), so that through it God may bring His peace to His elect people, then I agree. But that is not what is meant, nor could this system allow for such specificity. We continue,
The gospel, McLaren said, starts “with God’s concern for the world, in which God creates a community called the church, comprised of persons who stop (or repent of) being ‘part of the problem’ and choose instead to join God as ‘part of the solution’—thus simultaneously entering a mission and a community in which one is accepted by grace, through faith in Jesus.”
There is a part of me that really wants to try to read that in a biblical paradigm, honestly. But immediately my mind says, “So why not just say it the way the Holy Spirit said it in Scripture?” In any case, “God’s concern for the world” sounds a lot more like a benevolent grandfather than the sovereign King working out His purpose in creation to His own glory. How does God “create” a community called the church? Biblically, He does so sovereignly, powerfully, sacrificially, through the atonement of Christ. It is surely comprised of repentant sinners, if that’s what “being a part of the problem” means, but descriptively, not prescriptively. But I wonder where regeneration and all that “biblical” stuff fits in here? Or is it just to hard to express those terms in postmodern categories?
Well, I see I am waxing long, and still have much to get to. Time to break this up. We shall continue as the Lord grants time. Just remember: