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Sitting in the back of the room

When my husband was in grad school, I used to tag along with him to academic conferences. I’d select a few panels that sounded interesting, slip in the back and listen. If it was a good one, I’d learn more in the following hour than if I’d read a book on the subject.

That’s how I feel about good blogs—and Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed is one of those. Some of his recent posts gave me the same geeky butterflies that sitting in on a good panel gave me back in my husband’s grad school days. I learned more from the posts below (and the links from them) than reading a book. For many of you, it is old news. But for me, it’s good stuff.

In a series of three posts, McKnight reflects on a recent issue of Criswell Theological Review that focuses on the emerging church movement. In this post, he examined an interview with emerging church guru Brian McLaren (in which, interestingly concludes McKnight, “the central issues facing the emerging movement are not directly addressed but instead the piece focuses (yet again) on how the emerging movement reportedly (not necessarily truly) threatens conservative evangelicalism"). In the second post, he responds to an article by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mar’s Hill Church (I just love that name, heh), who, it seems, also comes from a conservative evangelical perspective. In the third post, McKnight reviews an article by David Mills, in which, says McKnight, "Mills contends the emergent leaders are not dabbling in the denial of truth or epistemological relativism, and it behooves its critics to pay more attention to what the postmodernist turn is actually saying."

What did I get out of it? For one thing, I got a better understanding of what the emerging church movement is not. As McKnight writes:

Others have said this, but it is probably worth saying again: the emerging movement is not a theological movement, it is heavy in theological discussion and stimulation, but it is not defined by a specific theology. It is a conversation, and one in which lots of folks are asking questions that shake and rattle some things many would prefer not to ask.
Another aspect I liked was the definition of a few of those questions. For example: What is the Gospel? And how do our theologies affect our understanding of it? And how sound are our theologies?

I like these questions. They get at what we really believe. Too often we rely on doctrinal statements and "Christian-ese"—even to the point of elevating our theology above Scripture, allowing it to define our faith instead of Jesus. But McKnight helps me understand why some find these questions very threatening. For some, they are an open invitation to a road to heresy (and I can definately see their point). But for most emerging church folk (at least as I understand what McKnight is saying) the questions aren’t designed to throw all theology and doctrine to the wind, but only to take another look at what we believe through a different lens:

I think the emerging movement wants to re-vise theology through the lens of kingdom of God, and it tends to accuse Reformed evangelicalism, like that of Driscoll and others, of shaping theology through Romans as read through the Reformers’ or post-Reforming Western evangelicalism’s soteriological eyes.

What if, the emerging leaders are asking, we begin with Jesus’ view of the kingdom and re-cast how we see Romans (a la Tom Wright), where then is our genuinely biblical and more historically-sensitive theology? What will it look like? I, for one, think this is worth the time it takes to work it out.
Me, too. Anyway, this post is already lengthy, so link-way and join the fray.

(image: iJames at flikr.com)

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