26 November 2005

Can't we all just get along?

Why "playing nice" by postmodernist standards is a losing proposition

Beware

The favorite buzzwords of the postmodern spirit all sound so warm and friendly, don't they? Conversation, dialogue, openness, generosity, tolerance. Who wouldn't want to participate in discourse with someone who truly prized human values such as those?

On the other hand, the very same Zeitgeist has demonized a host of other essential biblical values, such as authority, conviction, clarity, and even truth. In the milieu of the emerging discussion, this second category of words has been made to sound harsh, unreasonable, arrogant, and extreme—if not downright evil.

Moreover, postmodern human values are increasingly being defined in a way that expressly precludes eternal biblical values. For example, the prevailing opinion nowadays is that you cannot be "open" and certain at the same time. A person who speaks with too much conviction is ipso facto deemed an "intolerant" person. Above all, anyone who recognizes the full authority of Scripture and insists that God's Word deserves our unconditional submission will inevitably be accused of deliberately trying to stymie the whole "conversation."

This is not to suggest that disagreement per se is prohibited in the postmodern dialectic. Quite the contrary, "deconstruction" is all about disputes over words. Postmoderns thrive on dissent, debate, and contradiction.

And (giving credit where credit is due) it should be noted that postmodernists can sometimes be amazingly congenial in their verbal sparring with one another.

One thing the participants in the postmodern "conversation" simply will not tolerate, however, is someone who disagrees and thinks the point is really serious. Virtually no heresy is ever to be regarded as damnable. The notion that erroneous doctrine can actually be dangerous is deemed uncouth and naive. Every bizarre notion gets equal respect. Truth itself is only a matter of personal perspective, you see. Everything is ultimately negotiable.

Now, if you want to join the postmodern "conversation," you are expected to acknowledge all this up front—at least tacitly. That's the price of admission to the discussion. Once you're in, you can throw any bizarre idea you want on the table, no matter how outlandish. You can use virtually any tone or language to make your point, no matter how outrageous. But you must bear in mind that all disputation at this table is purely for sport. At the end of the day, you mustn't really be concerned about the truth or falsehood of any mere propositions.

Some "conversation." The ground rules guarantee that truth itself will be a casualty in every controversy, because regardless of the substance or the outcome of the dialogue, participants have in effect agreed up front that the propositions under debate don't really matter.

Entering the "conversation" at all is tantamount to breaking the seal on a software package. The moment you do it, you have putatively given your consent to the postmodernist's ground rules. If you then violate those rules—meaning if you take any doctrine too seriously or insist that Scripture is really authoritative—you will be savaged as someone who is cruel, intolerant, unenlightened, and hopelessly arrogant.

That's why it is well-nigh impossible to have an authentic, meaningful conversation with a devoted postmodernist and ever see anything genuinely resolved. The postmodernist by definition has no real hope or expectation of arriving at the truth of any matter. That's not the goal of the postmodernist exercise. It's not even a desirable objective. The only real point is to eliminate certitude altogether. This is done not by settling disputes, but by silencing or assimilating everyone who resists the unrestrained free flow of the postmodernist idea-exchange.

Truth is under attack on countless fronts today. What's popular these days—even among professing Christians—is glorying in ambiguity and uncertainty. Precious few are still committed without reservation to the truth and authority of Scripture. The very last thing I would willingly do in times like these would be to pledge a moratorium on candor or agree to a ceasefire with people who delight in testing the limits of orthodoxy. See Nehemiah 6:2-4.

Phil's signature

109 comments:

mrclm said...

You forgot to add..."and doing this while sober is always optional..." ;-)

Hope you enjoyed your pizza!

Big Chris
Because I said so

Carla said...

You've just summed up in one entry, the majority of my experience in the last year of dealing with the EC non-movement-conversation.

Thanks for this, I appreciate it.

SDG ~ Carla

lycaphim said...

"For the last time, we ECers DO believe in truth and certainty!"

Maybe if they say it enough the majority will buy it.

Oh well, you just set them back by at least 30 blog posts =(

rabbi-philosopher said...

Oohh, most excellent Phillip. Seems to me that over on the secular/political side you can make the same argument. The only thing "tolerant liberalism" hates is the intolerance of those who insist there is absolutely truth and it actually matters. Then the "tolerant" lose their tolerance and become implacably intolerant towards them who don't agree.

The national library society, or whatever they're called, used to have an annual day where they decried books that were banned. Well now - a - days the only banned books are to be found on the right side of the spectrum, particularly those based upon a Biblical worldview. So, when's the last time the national library society decried banned books? You'd have to go back a few years. They'll never defend the officially "intolerant." Books by the "intolerant" they'll gladly ban.

Kim said...

Virtually no heresy is ever to be regarded as damnable.

I would go so far as to say that in a postmodern way of thinking there is no such thing as a heresy, and if you think there is, and you point it out, then you're, well, a heretic.

Rob said...

This is a pretty dumbed down version of post-modernity. Let me sum up Calvin in 200 words or less.

He was a tyranical despot who ruled Geneva with an iron fist. He was hypocritical and paranoid. He hated women and helped support racist doctrine. Anyone who didn't attend church would be severely punished. Anyone who would not become part of the elect was exiled or put to death. Based on this evidence those who love 'Absolute' Truth don't seem very Christ-Like.

Those things I have said are true and can be verified with footnotes if needed. But the article isn't balanced. Yes there was lots bad about Calvin, but there was lots of good in Calvin too.

When you say Post-Modernity is evil. I think you're right. But it can be good too. Just like modernity. It's a human system of thought. It's not from God. But because it exists we need to pay attention to it. To understand it's good and bad so it may be used for God's glory. The goal of the EC'ers I've seen isn't to make the Church Post-Modern. It's to be missionaries to a post modern world.

Your article communicates to me that you don't understand or care about post-modernity except in how it affects your modern faith. Great. The body needs followers of Christ to be missionaries to the modern thinkers and those with a modern world-view too.

Rob

Andrew said...

Phil

I think Lycaphim might be right and this post brings us all back 30 steps, especially those in the emerging church that can hold
"Conversation, dialogue, openness, generosity, tolerance"

AND

"authority, conviction, clarity" and truth

at the same time.

To make a dividing line between the two, forcing a choice of either/or, is not the way forward.

Steve said...

Rob said: "The goal of the EC'ers I've seen isn't to make the Church Post-Modern. It's to be missionaries to a post modern world."

Rob, you can be the most well-meaning missionary in the world, but if you're not going to fulfill the part of the Great Commandment where Jesus said "teaching them to observe ALL things I have COMMANDED you," then you're destined for failure. ECers routinely undermine the clarity and conviction expressed in God's truth. Those who are lost are in error, and need the truth. If you don't hold up the truth clearly to them, they aren't going to come to a clear understanding of their own error with a realization they need to depart from it. It is the truth alone that has the power to set people free.

Ole School Baptist said...

Dang Phil, another great post. Have any left over pizza? THat sure made my mouth water. All i had was deep fried turkey and I thought... Mmmm... Deep fried turkey on a chicago style deep dish pizza...

Dan Paden said...

Discussing things with these people can be, to use a phrase borrowed from Marvin Lubenow, like trying to nail jelly to the wall. But it's gotta be done. Almost the whole of the next generation has been raised with a postmodernist intellectual background (such as it is). If we can't or won't consistently and kindly engage them, we will lose them.

S. C. Mooney said...

In order for Rob's analogy with Calvin to accomplish what he would like it to do he must adopt a view of history that completely rules out that which he would like to accomplish.

Ray said...

It is interesting how many post-modern writers/apologists/thinkers, believe that the great truths of the Word of God are no longer sufficient for today, as if people are incapable of grasping them, or worse yet, BEYOND them! Or that God's Word cannot speak to all people's because cultural context is not observed... I guess the church fo rthe past two thousand years has just been fortunate that the gospel spread, huh?

The great deception espoused by the post-modern crowd is that they are somehow unique in history, that they have stumbled upon the exact right questions and are now setting about to grapple with them, and are the first to do so.

The thing I have found is that many of them have a poor grasp of history, and an even poorer grasp of the Word of God in its entirety.

Th reality is that they are not post-modern in their thought, but more PRE-modern, bowing to superstition and any mystical thinking that comes along.

Go read the history of the church; the same thing was going on during the time of the Roman reign before the Reformation! People were driven by superstition, and the leaders took full advantage of that, enabling the people to be bent to their will by simply invoking some new 'revelation'.

It was the people of the Reformation (nasty ole Calvin, etc.) who stood up and said, "Enough! There is an absolute truth, and here it is (the Word of God)"

Absolute truth has again gone out of vogue, and the PM folks act as if they are somehow enlightened and have discovered something that has never been experienced before; but they are sadly mistaken, it is old heresy reborn in many cases.

Now, with that being said; the PM crowd HAS asked many pertinent questions regarding the 'modern' method of 'doing church', and I tend to agree with some of the conclusions, it is the solution to the problem where I feel they have left the path and are wandering about in the weeds.

The answer is not to embrace every crazy notion and ritual, and become pluralistic, rather it is to raise the banner of Christ high in this time of uncertainty and shifting sands and give people something SOLID to cling to.

Conversations won't get it; the preaching of the Word of God will! And until people hear the undiluted proclamation of the Gospel, they will continue to founder and grasp at straws.

The PM leaders will continue to use Tibetan Yogic practices, glommed onto psuedo-Christian elements, that have been sutured together with TM and listening to the Beatle's White Album backwards, and they will continue to promote that this is somehow worship of the ONE TRUE God...

There is truly nothing new under the sun... This is the Jesus Freak movement coming home to roost in its self-absorbed home...

Sorry for the length of the post Phil!

jigawatt said...

Phil,

Great post. John Piper writes about the horrors of Biblical subjectivity in chapter 2 of "Don't Waste Your Life," specifically of note are pages 23-25.

Piper writes,

[quote]
. . . since we can't know objective reality outside ourselves, there can be no objective meaning in what we write either. So interpretation does not mean trying to find any objective thing that an author put in a text, but simply means that we express the ideas that enter our head as we read. Which doesn't really matter because when others read what we have written they won't have any access to our intention either. It’s all a game. Only it is sinister, because all these scholars (and small group members) insist that their own love letters and contracts be measured by one rule: what they intended to say. Any mumbo-jumbo about creatively hearing "yes" when I wrote "no" will not go down at the bank or the marriage counselor.
[end quote]

I encountered such teaching (as I'm sure everybody does nowadays) at college. I remember in Freshman Literature, our teacher was talking about how there were many different ways to interpret Shakespeare, and that all of them were right. "Well sure," I thought, "nobody gets hurt or loses money if they misinterpret Shakespeare." But in my math and engineering classes, you had to put The Right Answer on the test or you got points counted off. I think it's telling that postmodern deconstruction has not made much progress in the hard sciences. I know there are some places that are trying it (where it's ok to think 2+2=5), but they are the exception. The problem is that people know there are absolutes, but they just don't want to (openly) acknowledge them. If I'm designing a bridge and I think 2+2=5, people might get killed.

wordsmith said...

astute observations, Phil - stay the course!

candyinsierras said...

i've brought this up in posts elsewhere and people have thought i was a bit out there..but here goes. Businesses, education, evangelical Christianity, etc. are learning to engage in dialoguing to consensus, putting down resisters, scoffing at absolutism, labeling those who are dogmatic as pharisees and other methods that are very similar to hegelian dialectics. It is a proven method utilized by Rick Warren (for example), many corporations, and our educational system to break down a traditional system that is hierarchal in nature. The Emergent types just fit right in. We totally have to be prepared to stand up for truth. Don't give in to pressure to just get along at the sake of precious biblical truth. Just to give you an example of how this process gets worked out in the workplace. My husband attended a one day workshop on "conflict resolution". They all brainstormed (dialogued) on how to be good team members and get along. One point was made very very clear. One does not bring up religion in any shape or form. So...one cannot tell another employee that they are a Christian or share their testimony. Now we all have experienced this at our jobs, but I am just using an example of "conflict resolution" being the silencing of controversial subjects, religion being the most controversial. You will see another example during the holidays as employees of stores, post offices, etc. are not allowed to say Merry Christmas..but must say Happy Holidays instead.

In case you don't know what hegelian dialectic is: the Hegelian process of change in which a concept or its realization passes over into and is preserved and fulfilled by its opposite; also : the critical investigation of this process b (1) usually plural but singular or plural in construction : development through the stages of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis in accordance with the laws of dialectical materialism (2) : the investigation of this process (3) : the theoretical application of this process especially in the social sciences

kaelien1 said...

Hey. I dont know you, or what "EC" is; I got this website from my friend, he quotes it a lot. And I just had a major problem with this last blog post. You talk about post-moderns as a group of people, usually leftist atheists, but postmodernism isn't a group of people. It's a time period. Something natural that's been occurring since the beginning of time, along with romanticism, naturalism, and modernism. Everyone in that time period has qualities of these eras. So not only do left-wing atheists have post-modern qualities but so do the most conservative christians in the world. This means that they enjoy in arguing without actually attaining a purpose just as much as the opposing side. So when you say that only the "other side" enjoys ripping apart arguments you are completely false. There is no way to argue and get a point across to the other person in postmodern society, I agree with you, but christians acknowledge this too. When you use words like certain and open canNOT be compatable to each other. It is impossible to be absolutely certain about your point and to also be open to others' ideas and beliefs. To be open to something is to seriously take it into consideration, to think about it, to question it with you heart. When you're certain about your own belief it's not possible to open to others'. That's all I really wanted to say.

C.H.H. said...

Rob said: "The goal of the EC'ers I've seen isn't to make the Church Post-Modern. It's to be missionaries to a post modern world."

Let's pretend I grant you this point for the sake of argument. But how do we become missionaries to the post modern world? I don't know where you've been, but from the big guys at the top to the little guys at the bottom the message is that to do this we have to re-tool Christianity to be palatable to the post-modern palatte. Which, in doing so, ends up making... the... church... post modern!

But really, this is kind of silly. If I dress up like a bear and go ramblinb through the forest so that real bears will be more accepting of me, I've got to have a pretty thick skull if I complain when the group of campers I stumble upon gets scared and runs away. (This illustration leaves aside the question of whether "dressing up like a bear," or seeking to couch Christianity in the prevailing mind-set of the say, is a biblical idea in the first place.)


"Your article communicates to me that you don't understand or care about post-modernity except in how it affects your modern faith."

Sorry, just stating something doesn't make it true. In order to make such a statement, you actually have to spend some time demonstrating why Phil's "faith" is "modern" instead of, say, "biblical."

stauf46 said...

The EC converstation reminds me of the little bit of Rabbinical commentary I read in seminary - a lot of opinion, a lot of unresolved chords, even contradiction between commentators. They left this tension alone. But they had an excuse. They would often end a "post" commenting on a passage with "when Messiah comes, he will make it clear."

The last word in the OT is "curse." Would God's people escape that curse? Now we know how - Christ came to deliver us from the curse. Now that the Word has come, we have the truth of God to proclaim from the rooftops (see Rom. 16:25-27; 1Pet. 1:10-12; Heb 11:39-40). Why would we want to go back to the shadows of uncertainty regarding God's plan of redemption?

Terry Stauffer

David Norris said...

Tolerance is speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) but not the syrupy love most have (Porverbs 27:5-6)- Open reuke is better than secret love! Try out my blog
http://spm1313.blogspot.com
or
http://bibleexpository.blogspot.com

John Haller said...

Good observations all. I have experienced the same thing. It can be very frustrating.

Also, you have forgotten an important part of any such conversation: you must first apologize for your mere existence and for not affirming the value and worth of the PoMos. Very important to do that.

John Haller said...

While postmodernism may be a time period, it is also a philosophy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism

bout ye said...

Keep the posts coming Phil.

Steve said...

kaelien1 said: "It is impossible to be absolutely certain about your point and to also be open to others' ideas and beliefs."

Are you sure you want to hold to such logic?

Let's consider what Jesus said in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

He was absolutely certain about that, wasn't He? Are you saying He should've instead proclaimed openness to other ideas and beliefs?

And if Jesus was absolutely certain about the point he made in John 14:6, shouldn't we as Christians be, too?

That's just one example of numerous absolutely certain statements in Scripture which nullifies any need to be "open to other ideas and beliefs."

There's great danger in saying we cannot allow ourselves to be absolutely certain, and that it's always necessary for us to be open to other ideas and beliefs. Certainly, we can LISTEN to those other ideas and beliefs, and TALK about them...but that doesn't require that we also be OPEN to them.

There are some matters in which we had better be absolutely certain, because the outcome makes all the difference in the world. As Jigawatt observed, that's true in math and the sciences. According to the Bible, that's true in religion. It's the difference between eternity with God, or eternity without Him. It'd be the epitome of cruelty for me to be "open to the ideas and beliefs" of a Buddhist friend while he's on his deathbed.

Many in today's society--including those in the EC nonmovement--think that professing absolute certainty equals intolerance. Not so. By that definition, Jesus' statement in John 14:6 would be abhorrently intolerant.

Fact is, Jesus was being infinitely loving, for He wanted people to know the one true way to heaven. You can't be more loving--and truthful!--than that.

I'm not saying the ECers are denying that Jesus is the way. Not at all. The problem with the ECers is that the Bible is absolutely certain about specific truths which the ECers don't want to be absolutely certain about. That, to put it mildly, creates a dilemma.

SJ Camp said...

Some words we shouldn't surrender to the pomos.

I.E.:
I really value the word conversation. It requires both listening, communicating, understanding, patience and responsibility. It takes time to effectively communicate (the blogosphere is evidence of this) and I don't want to give up that word to the pomo-EC verbage war quite yet.

Dialogue is also a great word. In fact, it has its etymology from the Greek word, dialegomai, which is the same word the Apostle Paul used in Acts 17:2 and Acts 18:19 for "reasoned." The word literally means to dialogue, have intelligent discourse, engage in debate, or to present intelligent argument. Though it has been watered down in our day, we shouldn't let the pomos reinvent a key word of such rich meta-narrative. (This is also a derivative from the Greek word dialektos for language.) (I am currently in "dialogue" with one of the key leaders of EC; and it has been very profitable, biblical, and beneficial for both of us so far. No its not McLaren).

Genorosity is also a word that we should never surrender to the pomos. It is a wonderful attribute of a true believer in the Lord, and one that I try to daily teach my children. Being generous is a lost "art" in the church today... Giving sacrificially, unreciprocally, without asking for anything in return is one way that we genuinely demonstrate love for our neighbors; for each other in the church, and in fact, it is essential to loving our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Just because some pomos want to deconstruct its meaning to represent the acceptance of any so called truth system shouldn't thwart us in our quest to preserve the wealth of meaning of some of these terms.

Just like the word authority - though it has been abused and misused by many pastors and elders in church leadership by lording over their flocks - that shouldn't diminish our usage of that great word when it comes to the absolute rule and standard of Scripture for all matters of life and godliness.

Thank you for this post.

BTW: I'm with you on the pizza thing being a Chicago boy myself. And what a year for Chicago sports: though the Cubs tanked once again, wasn't it great to see the White Sox bring "the sauce" back to The Windy City?

Grace and peace to you Phil,
Campi
Col. 1:9-14

Greg Linscott said...

Phil,

Perhaps you should just adopt this strategy...

:-}

Phil Johnson said...

Campi: Thanks for posting that. Tosssing aside true civility and Christian charity is certainly not an appropriate response to the postmodern Juggernaut, either. And of course, that's not what any of this is about.

Here's the point I am making about "human values": Too many Christians have worldly ideas even about such fundamental things as what constitutes true goodness. Ultimately Scripture, not contemporary opinion, ought to shape our definition of charity, benevolence, generosity, and other civil virtues.

In other words, the problem is not that our culture has elevated love too high on the hierarchy of moral excellence. That would be impossible. The real problem is that culture has corrupted the concept of love. Terminology itself has been so badly deconstructed that the popular conception of "love" now includes even fornication (which is actually a Satanic attack on authentic love, which does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth).

It is not an attack on love to point this out. (Though the mind committed to the corrupted notion of love will always squeal in protest about it and claim it is hateful to insist on a biblical definition of love.) It is not "uncharitable" to say that homosexual desire is sin. It is not inherently mean-spirited to say that someone who questions the authority of Scripture has no right to teach Christ's church. It is not inhumane and pitiless to acknowledge that God's wrath is real. Etc., etc.

The virtues of authentic love, joy, peace, etc. must be recovered from the morass of postmodern confusion, not tossed aside in haste, just because those ideas have been so badly twisted out of shape—having been both humanized and then de-humanized—in contemporary thought.

I know that's exactly what you would say, too. I almost stayed up an extra half-hour last night and added this point to my post itself, but it was already well past midnight. So I appreciate your raising the point. This saves me having to do a follow-up post.

wordsmith said...

is there any virtue in being so open-minded that your brains fall out?

perhaps there is for pomos - personally, i prefer to retain all my cranial matter.

Nathan White said...

John 8:31-32: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

I find it interesting that so many Christians -whether they claim to hold to post-modernism or not- simply believe that absolute truth in some areas cannot be known. Often times the above verse is interpreted to mean that Jesus was only referring to absolute truth in regards to His Deity. But I disagree. This verse is clearly referring to the teachings of Jesus, which in turn can be interpreted as the teachings of the entire Bible, and obviously points to ‘abiding in My word’ as a prerequisite to understanding truth. Praise God that truth can be known! Even truth in the toughest of areas (eschatology, soteriology, spiritual gifts).

Rob said:“Those things I have said are true and can be verified with footnotes if needed.

Looks like someone is using What Love is This? for their source of information on Calvin! Please, let us not depend on Dave Hunt and his sources for any kind of information, especially in regards to Calvinism.

SDG

art said...

The last word in the OT is "curse."

That is not true.

The last word in the Old Testament is ya'al, which means 'to go up' (2 Chronicles 36.23).

The last word in Malachi is cherem which means 'devoted thing' or 'destroyed thing.'

The Hebrew word for curse is qelala and is not found anywhere in 2 Chronicles and only found twice in Malachi (2.2 & 3.9).

marc said...

Carla,
You've summed up in one comment how I feel about this post.

Marc

Highland Host said...

Over at Free St. George's we are beginning to consider Henry Drummond ('The Greatest Thing in the World' etc.) and his 'New Evangelism' of the late 19th Century. I think some of you might be interested. It is my two-and-six worth of the 'conversation', the historical perspective.

Jerry Wragg said...

The problem with post-moderns is that they make absolute assertions about the absolute uncertainty of moral standards, all the while believing themselves to be "open". It's high time they start living what they believe IN EVERY ARENA OF LIFE! IOW, in a post-modern world the following should be standard fare:
(1) No privilege or freedom to propogate one's moral views in the public square. After all, without objective moral certainty one wouldn't want to take responsibility for influencing others who follow such fluid ideals to their own harm.
(2) No borrowing from an "absolutes" system in life or death (ie, moral) matters. For instance, don't expect the pilot flying your transport to strictly adhere to absolute standards while you're on board; Don't demand that your bank meticulously follow contract terminology when dealing with your account; Don't require your spouse to take your words "as certainly as you mean them"; Don't exhort your children strongly on any moral issue since then you would have to speak in propositional assertions (Heaven forbid!...er...uh...if Heaven even exists); And never, under any circumstances, teach anything to anyone that might impress them to adopt your view...since postmodernists can claim no meaningful views.
This would be a truly consistent post-modern way of life!

Phil Johnson said...

Highland Host, I am so glad you're doing that. I hope people here who want to see this whole conflict in a larger historical context will read what you write and learn what happened the last time this particular merry-go-round mad a revolution.

Vermigli said...

Rob without any consideration to truth and fact wrote the following concerning Calvin and Geneva:

"He was a tyranical despot who ruled Geneva with an iron fist."

That is a statement contrary to fact -- in other words, a lie. John Calvin never ruled Geneva in any manner whatsoever at any point. In fact, he wasn't even a citizen of Geneva and couldn't vote or even carry arms; he was also banned from the city-state.

rob curiously continued, "He hated women and helped support racist doctrine."

More nonsense.

rob went on, "Anyone who would not become part of the elect was exiled or put to death."

Damned lies and complete sophomoric incompetence.

rob laughably added, "Those things I have said are true and can be verified with footnotes if needed."

The things rob "said" are lies and the comments of an incompetent hack. rob simply expressed his ignorance of history and John Calvin, nothing more. It is one thing to disagree or to lay emphasis upon certain facts as determinative to an issue, but to offer such blatant lies is not only intellectually horrid but also ethically shameful.

Zach said...

Ravi Zacharias once wrote, "Never before has skepticism had such a brilliant halo around its head. There is a glory about 'not knowing.' A high premium is placed on the absence of conviction, and open-mindedness has become synonymous with intellectual sophistication." He then went on to quote G.K. Cherston who said, "that an open mind, like an open mouth, does have a purpose: to close upon something solid." Two relevant comments to the Emergent movement. Great Blog Phil!

TheBlueRaja said...

Perhaps genuinely edifying conversation with "emerging" brethren is rendered further unlikely by the radicalization represented in this post? I'm not sure what qualifies you to make these sorts of generalizations, but it seems to me that this sort of rhetoric is the same kind of thing that you opine about in the caricaturizations of your own positions.

The idea that postmodern theories of truth and or knowledge is fundamentally a failure of nerve is typically unhelpful critique. What might be useful is an evaluation of the theoretical forces driving the postmodern turn: the move from correspondance to coherence or deflationary theories of truth, the rejection of knowledge as a "justified true belief" (this move has taken place in other circles as well, as in Reformed epistemologies). In any case, for everyone outside the choir loft, this post has exactly the same value as the "you're mean" critique has for you.

Incidentally several seminars at both ETS and SBL have proven you wrong, or at least ignorant, about the genuine engagement that is happening in evangelical scholarship with regard to the "postmodern turn" many have taken. A good example might be the six views book edited by Myron Penner. You should read it and do a book review for a more productive post on the topic. It looks to be a satisfying meal for those who like to chew before they swallow.

Rob said...

Vermigli,

Thank you for this post. My comments re Calvin were absolutely true from a certain point of view.

Many believe he was responsible for the burning of Servetus, helped to create a system that allowed for slavery and engaged in the supression of women. But my comments were also unfair, ONE-sided and rather uninformed. Much like this post and many others I've seen on post-modernity. There's no one-word (or 250 word) answer to sum it up. This post is very ONE-sided. Where is the positive commentary on the post-modern experience? There's lots of good in this worldview.

For example, it's much more spiritual then the modern era. More and more people I see are open to Jesus (unfortunately not open to Christians though).

Look at post-modernity from more then one-side and I think you'll begin to understand the EC a lot more.

Rob

Moe said...

Is it so bad to question your faith?

This, purely, is your word against postmodernism. And you are showing a great intolerance toward postmodernist thinking.

At least they allow room for your opinion.

Jason E. Robertson said...

UPDATE: Having read much more of Michael's writings, I find that I do disagree with much of his theology. It is such error that drove us to start blogging, and if Michael thinks he will get a "pass" then he is sorely mistaken.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja,

Thanks, but see my comment above about the definitions of charity, benevolence, etc. I think I'll also let Scripture, rather than postmodernity, define what is "productive" and edifying.

Speaking of which, did you realize the Bible doesn't actually set forth any formal academic prerequisites for understanding the essentials of the gospel? Or that wisdom and discernment are not, strictly speaking, virtues that can be acquired mainly through the study of philosophy? As a matter of fact, Scripture expressly teaches that spiritual enlightenment is not conferred by titles or academic degrees. And my strong personal suspicion is that the study of epistemology as an academic discipline might in fact be detrimental to the actual pursuit of knowledge.

But we've had this discussion before, haven't we?

So why must your criticisms always be laden with a smarmy tone of condescension about the "qualifications" of whoever you disagree with? Surely by now you realize I'm not going to wave a white flag and go drown my grief in suds at the Boar's Head just because someone fresh back from ETS reports that "several seminars" there have nailed the coffin shut on my worldview. Give me the substance of an actual argument and I'll be happy to discuss it. Otherwise, please feel free to give the snooty remarks a rest.

That whole approach actually contradicts what you are saying and proves my point.

S. C. Mooney said...

Phil said, "my strong personal suspicion is that the study of epistemology as an academic discipline might in fact be detrimental to the actual pursuit of knowledge." AMEN Phil! Very well said! The only reason that knowledge is a "problem" is because of unbelief. The only benefit of the study of epistemology is to show the unbeliever that on his terms knowledge is impossible.

Dean said...

You state, "Truth is under attack on countless fronts today." I do not believe truth is ever truly threatened. Truth cannot be defeated and need not be defended for it stands quite unshakeably well on its own. Truth is rather like God who simply is. We can like it or ignore it and live with the consequences either way.

The great fear of the modernist mind is that somehow truth needs us. However, the opposite is more the case; we need truth. To hear the modernist clamor for dogma doesn't surprise those of us who let truth speak for itself and judge us wherever we may stand. Such an insistence on systematic categories of so-called truths sometimes annoys us but more often just saddens us.

To know Christ is to know truth. To state some categorical creedal statements in no way strengthens truth. For a truly "post-modern Christian, truth is not some theological construct; truth is embodied in the same One who is our life and lights our way.

That may not be good enough for those who want tight boxes to manage belief about God, but it does quite nicely for those who yield allegiance to the Lord of all creation. Those who frequent your blog are certainly entitled to their opinion that truth must be defended, but I hope they realize that this opinion is based upon some assumptions about God's omnipotence that they do well to examine more closely.

In short, God doesn't commission us to defend truth, but to make followers of the Truth.

MTG said...

Could the post modern spirit be named Neville Chamberlin?

Jerry Wragg said...

Dean -

You said "truth is not some theological construct; truth is embodied in the same One who is our life and lights our way."

Excuse me, but your assertion is a theological construct.

You said "To hear the modernist clamor for dogma doesn't surprise those of us who let truth speak for itself and judge us wherever we may stand."

Let truth "speak for itself" from where? Inside you? From your intuition? When truth does speaks to you are you saying it isn't "dogma"? With no source but yourself for the origin of truth, I guess that makes you the embodiment of it.

You said "To know Christ is to know truth...That may not be good enough for those who want tight boxes to manage belief about God, but it does quite nicely for those who yield allegiance to the Lord of all creation."

How do you know He's the "Lord of all creation"? By what means did you determine that "truth"? And how will be certain of your allegiance since there are no "[manageable beliefs] about God" against which it may be measured?

If all you're going to do is make statements for which you alone are the acid test of authenticity, please refrain and try interacting with the words of your "Lord of creation" Himself...
John 17:17
John 16:13-15 (BTW, the men to which Jesus directly spoke these words wrote most of the NT).
I'd like to see the post-modernist get down to the business of exegetically disputing clear passages defining and proposing truth. Saying you "know" Christ and therefore know truth is only legitimate if your words themselves carry their own absolute authority---a highly unlikely notion.

Ray said...

Dean -- I am curious; how do you KNOW what truth is? Is it a feeling, or an assumption, is it what the Scripture means to you specifically?

I am sincerely asking because I hear a lot of folks from the EC/POMO camps denigrating people who adhere to creedal statements. However, I have not got the foggiest idea how you determine truth, and I have had this discussion with several of my friends who are in your camp.

What I get from them is a lot of hand-waving, and broad statements about my beliefs 'having God in a box' etc. Now, when I ask them what that means exactly, I don't get much more than some mumbling about my view of God being incorrect...

The creeds/confessions were put together in order to combat heresy, and to provide a framework from which we could state our faith via affirmitiva. The statements of faith that many disregard are actually Scripture, stated in a manner that leaves no doubt as to the meaning of the statement.

I am curious as to what 'those who frequent this blog' are missing regarding the omnipotence of God. I am not saying that you are incorrect, I am asking that you tighten the statement down a bit, and explain this statement.

Ray said...

jerryw -- You beat me to the punch, I should have just let you say it, you did a better job than I...

:-)

C.H.H. said...

Dean,

While you are certainly entitled to your opinion that truth does not need defence, but that opinion is wrong. Here's one example why:

"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 3)

But poor Jude, he was just a modernist, clamouring for dogma who wanted tight little boxes around his conceptions about God. Yep, poor Jude.

Jerry Wragg said...

Raja -
I'm grieved at your comments. Chewing before you swallow is one thing...but putting everything and anything into your mouth is just plain unhealthy!
See 1 Cor. 3:18-23 and 1 Tim. 6:3-5

Jerry Wragg said...

Ray -
Thanks for tag-teaming my thoughts.

Keith said...

The EC tries to do a better job loving others than they see in churches around them. This is where their “missional” objective comes from. However, they do this operating on a faulty definition of love, so the results are faulty. They confuse real love with acceptance and openness. Somehow, if they were to reject someone's ideas, and not seriously consider those ideas, then they wouldn't (in their mind) be showing authentic love to that person. This results in what Phil says:

“Every bizarre notion gets equal respect...you can throw any bizarre idea you want on the table, no matter how outlandish. You can use virtually any tone or language to make your point, no matter how outrageous.”

They have failed to separate the person from the ideas. They think they must accept the ideas in order to love the person. There is such an EC bias toward erroneous love they will be open and accepting toward anything. The only way they can be enfolding, inclusive, accepting and open to all these disparate ideas is to put them on equal footing. The shortest route is to accept the idea that truth isn't absolute, or if it is, it can't be known with any certainty.

The result is a warm fuzzy group of people with no grounding in truth, and readily chasing after whatever doctrine tickles their ear.

chamblee54 said...

good grief
this sort of nonsense is what gives jesus worship, and jesus, a bad name.

Steve said...

Dean said: "You state, 'Truth is under attack on countless fronts today.' I do not believe truth is ever truly threatened."

Dean, I'm sure many of us would agree with you that truth can stand on its own. But we Christians are the vessels who have been entrusted with the responsibility of communicating the truth. That's a pretty serious stewardship, wouldn't you say?

You seem to disagree with Phil's observation that truth is under attack on many fronts. But the evidence is pretty obvious. There are many people (including ECers!), who, by operating on the premise that we cannot be absolutely certain about the truth, are muddling it, making light of it, and undermining it. To do such, quite frankly, is to attack the truth. That's not to say the truth can't stand on its own. Rather, it's to say it's being mishandled, dishonored, maligned.

Vermigli said...

rob stated:

"Thank you for this post. My comments re Calvin were absolutely true from a certain point of view."

No, rob, your comments were absolutely false. For example, you wrote, "He was a tyranical despot who ruled Geneva with an iron fist."

You get an "F" on your history exam. John Calvin was not a "tyranical [sic] despot who ruled Geneva," for the simple reason that he never ruled Geneva in any sense, whether in a "tyranical" (it's spelled tyrannical) or benign manner.

Period. End of story. He wasn't even a citizen of Geneva, let alone its "tyrannical despot".

This is not a "point of view," but simply historical fact. You simply don't know what you are talking about and simply have no restraint to bear false witness against better men than yourself. But this is part of the postmodernist mess, to simply state whatever your subjective metanarrative requires in order to construct whatever "power" assertion your "belief community" wishes to put forward for itself.

Ergo, lies and ignorance are retooled and presented as a "certain point of view." None of it has a thing to do with a Biblical epistemology or a Christian worldview. In short, nothing you offered has anything to do with the truth.

Mark said...

Well I don't know about all this stuff.

It seems pretty high minded and inflated if you want my personal opinion.

But don't mistake my lack of "dialogue" with inexperience.

I've been in church my entire life, was converted at 6 baptized at 8 and filled with the Holy Spirit when I was 12.

I've been everything from a Methodist to the full fledged Pentecostal...and one thing I can tell you in over 40 years as a christian is...the American Church isn't exactly making the kind of impact that the "pre-modern" church made.

I cannot phathom the concept that truth is relative to the situation, but I also cannot fathom the concept that we have it all figured out yet, for crying out loud we're not even half what the early church was, and we think we've made such progress.

So before we dump the dialogue, lets at least admit to the fact that we either have a long way to go in impacting the current postmodern culture, or I suppose we could just add another chapter to the Scoffeild Dispensational Model and call it the "Laodecia Dispensation"...since we're all rich with truth and what not.

I really don't think Jesus cares much if you are a Calvinist or not, what He seemed interested in was whether or not you loved.

And if I remember correctly the fruit of the Spirit didn't include "doctrine", but actually Paul exhorts us to "not become boastful, CHALLENGING one another..."

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil, I'm not trying to be snooty. As usual my problem is with the fact that you speak authoritatively about things you don't seem to know very much about. The point you seem to be missing is that you own (or have inherited) some philosophical presuppositions that you're not very critical about. And in my view that's one of the good things about this whole postmodernity thing - ideally it's forcing people to take a critical look at the ground they're standing on. Who doesn't say, "I'm standing on the Bible alone?" It's not as easy as CLAMING that you do. Justin Taylor's Reclaiming the Center, Milton Terry's work on hermeneutics, and all the other stuff you might claim as the "traditional biblical view" happen to appeal to a great deal of philosophy. The idea that not studying epistemology will somehow cleanse you of philosophical influences is crazy.

As for expecting you to "waive a white flag", I'm not commenting to fight a war, and I'm not interested in surrender. The battle motif isn't really the way I characterize my interaction with believers who disagree. If you would have read more carefully you might have noticed that I said there was GENUINE INTERRACTION, not a coffin nailing ceremony.

I have a problem with much of the postmodern trajectory myself; but in posts like these you continue to insist on fulfilling the caricature postmodernity sets itself against, and end up proving the point THEY are trying to make. I wouldn't have commented, but I wanted to earn my keep as provocative ;)

Jerry, agreed. I don't chew on Mormonism, Islam, etc. But when someone affirms the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Chalcedonian council, etc. I'm a little more willing to listen. I agree that the straw men are naughty and dangerous. I also agree that there are serious problems even with conservative appropriations of postmodernism. But hurling Bible verses into the void, as if they interpret themselves, doesn't usually help.

TheBlueRaja said...

By the way Phil, I don't know where you're getting the idea that I have piles of academic credentials behind me - I graduated from TMS. We didn't learn a lot of philosophy there. I'm a pastor, like you. I've no more education than you do.

ScottyB said...

The Blue Raja is saying it well Phil

Two quotes:

"One method that I have found helpful in making sure that I have dealt fairly with a position that I could not espouse was to assume that a person endorsing that view was present in my audience (or was reading what I had written). Then my aim is to represent the view faithfully and fully without mingling the criticism with factual statements. In fact, I try to represent them so faithfully and fully that an adherent to that position might comment, "This man certainly does understand our view!" It would be a special boon if one could say, "I never heard it stated better!" Thus I have earned the right to criticize. But before I proceed to do this, it is only proper that I should have demonstrated that I have a correct understanding of the position I desire to contest."



"I may learn from those who differ from me that I have not sufficiently perceived certain dangers to which my view is exposed and against which I need to be especially on guard. I may find out notably that there are certain weighty objections to which I had not given sufficient attention heretofore. Here again, I must be grateful for a signal service rendered by the objector. Instead of being irked by the opposition, I should rise to the challenge of presenting my view with appropriate safeguards and in such a way as to anticipate objections that are likely to arise."

http://www.founders.org/FJ33/article3.html

Ephemeral Mortal said...

Moe Said...
"Is it so bad to question your faith?

This, purely, is your word against postmodernism. And you are showing a great intolerance toward postmodernist thinking.

At least they allow room for your opinion."

But if Phil's "opinion" is grounded in Scripture alone(which i think it is, even with my limited knowledge of him from the LRBS), and postmodernist thinking is contrary to that "opinion", then postmodernist thinking must be rejected, since it is contrary to the word of God.
In my humble opinion.

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

"Is there any virtue in being so open-minded that your brains fall out?"

Well said. As a former atheist, I am somewhat familiar with the quasi-intellectual dodges utlilized by the likes of PoMo's.

The inherent contradiction in the PoMo mindset is that PoMo's are open to anything, except the questioning of the PoMo approach to theological discussion.

It seems that all of this boils down to a rejection of biblical authority. Since the Bible cannot be destroyed, the best one can hope for (so to speak) is to neutralize its effects by continuously insisting that its true and authoritative meaning cannot be finally known and settled.

The ancient Hebrews had an interesting metaphor for a person who was undiscerning, who could not tell right from wrong. The metaphor went like this: an undiscerning person had a mind like an unlatched gate that swings back and forth in the breeze. Anyone could go in and out at will, though the purpose of the gate was to regulate traffic.

The Hebrews called such people "simple minded." The modern term for such a person is "open minded."

What some mistake for being in "lock step" is actually the end result of a thought process that makes a decision. That person can defend that decision with reason.

PoMo's cannot defend their positions with reason, and cannot abide those who have made up their minds. The purpose of reason is to arrive at a conclusion. How can one claim to be reasonable if achieving conviction is denigrated as being "close minded"? If the end of the exercise does not, or cannot, result in a position worth defending, what is the point of the exercise?

"Making up one's mind" is anathema to the "open minded." I believe that a person that has made up their mind after careful thought is right to be "closed-minded."

It sure beats being "simple minded" i.e. "open minded."

DeathRowBodine said...

Impacted Wisdom Truth said:

It seems that all of this boils down to a rejection of biblical authority. Since the Bible cannot be destroyed, the best one can hope for (so to speak) is to neutralize its effects by continuously insisting that its true and authoritative meaning cannot be finally known and settled.

You are right, but it is more than that. By rejecting Biblical authority, they lose any hope of achieving any form of unified understanding of knowledge. The EC-ers continues to preserve the “Upper Story” in an irrational application of “God Words” that have no meaning. They may even claim to ascribe to Reformed Creeds and Confessions, but the real and historical meanings have been evacuated from them. All that is left is a self-delusion that helps them to cope with the inevitable despair, for they are “thinking” in a mode that falls below what Francis Schaeffer calls “the line of despair.”

Phil Johnson said:
And my strong personal suspicion is that the study of epistemology as an academic discipline might in fact be detrimental to the actual pursuit of knowledge.

I agree, but like so many things we study as an “academic discipline” separated from “abiding in the Scriptures” the perversion comes not from the study of such things as an academic discipline but rather the study of the discipline in isolation from Scripture. We should exercise care that we do not throw the baby out with the bath water.

I think what Steve Cowan has recently written in his blog on Preventing Dumbness: The Role of Philosophy in the Academy, the Pulpit, and the Pew is helpful in understanding the importance of having a clean baby while disposing of the dirty bath water.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Ultimately what is required to “redeem” any “academic discipline” is our commitment to do as Jesus said, “abide in my word…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” That is, it will set you free from sin and despair.

John 8:31-32 (ESV)
(31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

I think it is important to not that Jesus said, "YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH." He didn't say that we maybe kinda' almost will sorta' know the truth.

The EC’s failure to admit the absolute moral truth of the Scriptures, and then fail to confront it and attempt to remain neutral is as Os Guinness says in Dust of Death, a betrayal of the Christian faith.

By the absolute immutability of His character He [God] is implacably opposed to evil and outraged by it. So, for the Christian to live with moral neutrality is to betray his faith.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja, as usual, you misconstrue the whole point. I do understand you are "not commenting to fight a war." I'm quite aware that you think militancy is the wrong answer to postmodernism, and that we should all join the "conversation"—or rather hand the evangelicals' side of the conversation over to experts who are trained to speak pomo. I'm the one who thinks that is the wrong approach. That's what this post was about.

I'm also not surprised there were plenty of people at ETS who are enthusiastic about dialogue with postmodernism on postmodernism's terms. ETS had a hard time reaching consensus and sounding a clarion note on the issue of open theism, too. I'm not sure the fact that rapprochement with PMism is a popular strategy among ETS members is really a very strong argument against a more militant stance. That's exactly what I was saying: I'm not going to wave a white flag just because you and lots of ETS members think it's better to learn the language, accept the terms, take a seat at the postmodern table, and join their "conversation."

I do also realize that you don't have piles of academic credentials. That's why there's a certain irony in the fact that every time you have ever disagreed with anything here, your answer starts with a condescending remark about my "qualifications" and an esoteric reading list.

2097 said...

Rejecting truth doesn't mean that all relativists do is sit around and discuss things all nights long.

Postmodernists can still feed the poor, treat each other kindly, and do other things that modernists, moralist and non-relavitists would deem "good".

ScottyB said...

This is higlights the difference in tone between Justin Taylor on EC and You, Phil:

Before explaining some of my concerns, we need to remember that we are bound by the Word of God to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Some of us are so wired to “speak the truth” that we fail to do it in love. (And of course, the converse is true as well—those who are so concerned about speaking in love that they never get around to speaking truth.) I know for myself that am often far too impressed with my own cleverness and far too desirous of “scoring points.” The biblical imperatives call us to a higher ground—a both–and—truth and love. Perhaps the most helpful phrase is that coined by my pastor: “brokenhearted boldness.” We must seek to soak our critiques with meekness and humility.

I’d also encourage fellow critics to focus on the main things. Candles and couches certaintly aren't central. Let’s keep our attention on the most important issues, and agree to continue the dialogue on secondary matters.

Also recall that emerging churches—broader than the Emergent category—are a very diverse group. That makes criticism particularly difficult. It must be stressed that churches can be emerging without falling prey to the weaknesses identified below. But if we are to speak of this movement at all, we must speak in some broad categories.

Can you tell that he is being fair and balanced?
Are you being fair and balanced?


http://www.theologica.blogspot.com/

S. C. Mooney said...

As Van Til said, "It is not kindness to tell patients that need strong medicine that nothing serious is wrong with them."

[The Intellectual Challenge of the Gospel, p. 40]

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

How can I misconstrue a point that I'M making? I said that your post didn't address the real issues, is unhelpfully polarizing and reflects a weak or nonexistent analysis of the forces behind postmodernism - you can disagree, but those sentiments don't "misconstrue" anything you've said.

You find it ironic that I read books and recommend them on germane topics? I don't get it. I'm not sure why you've taken so much offense at my skepticism about your "qualification", but I wasn't speaking about academic credentials when I made that comment. I wasn't saying that you need to go to Oxford before you could register an opinion - I was simply suggesting that you actually do some work to characterize your opponents fairly and that you address the strongest and more relavent forms of postmodernism instead of the weakest and most radical ones.

Your comment about "handing the conversation over to those that speak pomo" exemplifies that uselessness of your polemics. It's something like King James Only people responding to issues of textual criticism with "I don't need to know about 'authographs", 'uncials' and 'minuscles' in order to know that the 1611 KJV is THE WORD OF GOD!"

Your comment about people being "enthusiastic about dialogue with postmodernism on postmodernism's terms" is just plain ignorant. The panel discussions included vigorous arguments against postmodernism - it just happened to actually do so with a much deeper understanding of what it is and how its affecting evangelical theology. Just because the entire organization isn't willing to oust anyone holding those views it doesn't mean there aren't people with passionate, deeply held differences.

I don't see a difference between the rationale behind KJV Onlyism and your attitude about refusing to "learn the language, accept the terms, take a seat at the postmodern table, and join their conversation" - it's effectively saying that we should label and reject what we haven't bothered to understand. I find it scary that when people reject views that are ascribed to them ("you don't believe in truth, you don't believe in the authority of the Bible, you only trust in your own feelings" etc) it doesn't make a dent in the critique.

Look, it's not "condescending" to say that you're not well-read on the subject if you aren't. It's not "talking down to you" to say that you don't understand what postconservatives et. al. are trying to say if you admit you're not interested in doing that.

I recommended a popular book to get some traction for a more informed discussion - it's hardly an "esoteric reading list". I'm not sure if the hours of reading we did in seminary were meant to create a habit of that, or if that has anything to do with "showing yourself approved", but my sense is that reading on topics that you criticize isn't a bad thing. You think I'm being snooty; I think you're engaging in uninformed rhetoric. What's new? But don't let that deter you from picking up that book. One of the reasons I suggested it is because the "against" positions are well-argued (especially Jim Beilby's contribution). Take it for what it's worth and continue the tirade.

Scottyb. -- Exactly.

DeathRowBodine said...

its funny, cuz my whole thing as in one of the few things i really truly care about is crossing boundaries that separate people. peacebuilders theology. i want people to all get along. i dont want to divide them. and drawing clear black and white lines like churches so often do doesn't break down boundaries. it creates them. it says "i'm being saved and you aren't, so change. you should be like me."[emphasis added]
Gaaaaa!! Machen is rolling in his grave. This very fight, the struggle to subvert orthodoxy to the god of unity, is the very same one that led to the mainline denominations down their current dismal dying path that has Buddhist meditation and Hindu study groups meeting at the local Episcopalian church. The contention here is not to warn folks from venturing too near a slippery slope; it is an attempt to prevent them from diving head first into a bottomless pit!
This is not about speaking the truth in love; it is because WE DO LOVE the souls of men that we so ardently contend for the truth. This is about the very ability to speak TRUTH at all. To reject that you can KNOW the truth is, in essence to call Jesus a liar. John 8:31-32
What Phil and others are contending for here is simple orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is an area of common ground for belief. It is the essential basis for promoting unity since, by definition; this is what all Christians must agree upon.
To Christians of past centuries, preserving orthodoxy was something worth dying for. Throughout history, orthodoxy has not always been popular, but it has always defined what the true Christian believes. And the truth has prevailed.
Orthodoxy is the only basis for unity in the Church. Any form of unity that does not necessitate the preservation of orthodoxy is a false movement.
To “dialogue” about something that you never believe can be absolutely resolved is a chasing after the wind. It is pointless. Why bother pushing a rope or one hand clapping? If you start out with absurdity, you end up with absurdity; not “meaningful dialogue” and certainly not true unity. True unity is NOT tolerant plurality. One the other hand, if you believe that TRUTH is real and can be known you will contend for it and you will unify around it.
It is far better to have countless factions all participating in the invisible church, than to have all unified into a single hell bound entity. Our striving for unity occurs at the local church level where all the members are unified to a single confession. Our unity with other Christians outside our local church is likewise around a more general creed or confession. We are not required by the Bible to seek or maintain unity where the Gospel is compromised, indeed we are required to separate and excommunicate.

I will not echo the words of Pilate and say “What is truth?” and then try to wash my hands of the blood of Christ. I stand firm in the TRUTH that HIS blood is upon me because of my sins and it is His blood that cleanses me of them.

TheBlueRaja said...

2097,

I don't know that you can say feeding the poor, etc. can be deeply held moral values at the same time you reject "truth" - certainly the binary category of "truth and falsity" doesn't encompass every dimension of Christian living, but even those who say that "truth is a Person" would acknowledge that it remains an important Christian value. If you're equating "truth" with an air-tight abstract doctrinal fortress, I can see your reticense; but I'm not sure that's the only way to understand the word.

DeathRowBodine said...

Sorry about the readability of that post. I don't know what happened to my carriage returns.

DeathRowBodine said...

raj,

You said:
If you're equating "truth" with an air-tight abstract doctrinal fortress, I can see your reticense; but I'm not sure that's the only way to understand the word.

And there is lies the problem...

As I said before:
The EC-ers continue to preserve the “Upper Story” in an irrational application of “God Words” that have no meaning.

Without the ability to even ABSOLUTELY define the word TRUTH, there is no way you can even begin to discuss it in a meaningful way.

[Deathrow Bodine wanders away mumbling under his breath about getting some practice trying to nail jelly to the wall...decides to just pound his head against it instead]

ScottyB said...

i think raja is talking about the different applications of truth and different ways to hold forth the truth-either in confidence inviting opposition or with defensiveness like in a doctrinal fortress

- i don't think anyone is saying that truth is relative--

Challenging orthopraxy is really the part of the EC that i appreciate-they dont like our lack of compassion because frankly we hold the truth forth like a long sword and not like a scalpel

I think overall of the ministry of L'Abri of Francis Shaeffer or of CS Lewis

I think of the way Justin Taylor responds to objections and the way Phil Johnson responds to objections.

It is ok to have questions ala the book of Habakuk because the Lord can deal with our questions.

-the truth is still the truth whether your McLaren or MacArthur and both have to answer to the scriptures

Phil Johnson said...

BlueRaja:

What you misconstrued, for starters, was my remark about waving a white flag. You treated it as if I were accusing you of being militant. I may not have read _all_ of Zondervan's latest EC titles, but you could give me SOME credit. I do get it that you don't think militancy is an appropriate response in the debate about pomoism (except, perhaps, for the occasional snark-bomb in your comments here).

However, you're not a really the best person to be wagging your finger at others about trying hard to understand your opponent's position from his point of view. Virtually every challenging comment you have ever posted at my blog puts words in my mouth I would never say; imputes to me views I would never hold; and misconstrues points I am trying to make.

And the pinnacle of your argument is to equate me with a KJV-only fanatic.

You're simply proving my point about the post-modern "dialogue."

ScottyB:

John the Baptist and Jesus had different "tones," too. Matthew 11:16-19. What, precisely, do you think that proves? I like Justin Taylor's tone, too. I rather suspect he and I would be more in agreement about the EC than you think.

BTW, this post was not offered in lieu of a comprehensive response to the EC. It was a comment about the Postmodern approach to dialogue. Am I generalizing? Yes? Are my critics also generalizing? Absolutely.

If anyone wants to discuss any of the actual statements I made and not just bicker about my tone or the number of books I read before coming to these conclusions, please feel free.

Otherwise, let's move on.

ScottyB said...

btw here is a good summary from the A-Team blog on an ETS paper from Dr.John Hammett of SETS that evaluates the Ecclesiology of the EC

I think it's fair minded and raises some good points about where the movement overeaches--http://ateam.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2005/11/23/1418941.html

I think really that most of these guys started Gen X services 10 years ago in reaction to their pipe organ fifties style church and now they are being asked to write books by publishing houses on the secret of their church success--most of them are not scholars and dont understand that some of the questions they are asking are Dragon like and back people into theological corners that cause apostasy
Other of their questions challenge the process and are helpful for sharpening our the 21 Century Church

Because it's easier to throw the baby out with the bathwater it's easy to paint the movement with broad strokes as a bunch of neo liberals

I think Tim Keller and Marc Driscoll have a middle way that is worthy of the discusion-
If you find that you are in the city of Hollywood,San Francisco,Seattle, or New York City dealing with post moderns here are some good methods to deal with their objections without compromising the truth of the Gospel.

ScottyB said...

you just sound like a fightin-fundy thats all

i know you and justin are on the same page

i generally agree with your concerns

it's just the way you say things(too much satire-it can provoke the flesh) it can be unhelpful to your point-

many of your readers are people with a high view of scripture and God centered theology

where we need help is reaching the lost without compromising the gospel

the church needs your help Bro

we need to live the gospel in all of life like Jesus and John the Baptist did

and we need church historians like yourself to show us the All Around Ministry of Spurgeon and to expound the doctrinal underpinings that drove such a powerful ministry

I think of the Sword and Trowel in times like these-To Build and To Defend

its not all defense

help us

we will listen(and i wish i could have goteen some of that pizza dang)

ScottyB said...

btw the whole post you wrote was on pomo tone i think we were just concerned with fundy tone and that insted we would bibline tone--patience with the weak encouragement for the fainthearted and admonition for the unruly

TheBlueRaja said...

I guess I stink at online discussion; but I'm not sure how I can be "proving your point" about discussions with postmodernist, since I am, in fact, not a postmodernist.

As for the "white flat" naybe you didn't understand what I was saying (which is almost certainly my fault)- I was trying to say that I, unlike you, don't see a millitant attitude as productive for actually helping anyone mired in the issues, trying to work their way through them. How does that misconstrue your point? I'm saying that I'm not millitant and you are. If you want some credit for recognizing that point, so do I. I hereby award both of us three upper division credits in debate. Just don't expect them to be accepted at most educational institutions.

As for my habit in missing your point, I can't help but see it the other way around (surprise). I feel as though any disagreement is to "misconstrue" or to "put words in your mouth". This seems to be a lot like your frustration with postmodernists. The substance of my criticisms are that you don't understand postmodernism and that you frequently mischaracterize it because of your lack of reading on the subject. They DO believe in truth, but they have models of truth that are different from correspondance theories and severe differences about issues of epistemic justification. Some of them DO believe in biblical authority, but in different models than B.B. Warfield or Carl Henry. Moreover they attempt to give Scriptural support for their models and Scriptural arguments against the ones they reject. All of that says nothing about the problems with their models or criticisms -- but it does say that you haven't acknowledged them, much less given informed critique of them. Instead, your post discourages even finding out what they say on these topics because genuine engagement with any conviction about the truth of the matter is just not possible. In my view, that approach doesn't help Christians on either side of the issue (which is an ethical matter, in my mind).

It might help to know how your actual position differs from the ways I've characterized it? If I've mischaracterized something you meant to say, I don't think I've done so in a way that's unfair to what you've actually written. If your logic in this matter is different from the KJV only debate, how? I honestly don't see the difference. KJV only people have legitmate fears about the erosion of the Bible's authority. They have legitimate fears about the human philosophy used in the pracitce of textual criticism. They have concerns about the sub-Christian sorts of people that have been involved in its development. They see most of the church as selling out to secular and pagan ideologies in their uncritical acceptance of the so-called "alexandrian" text. They don't want to argue the case on the basis of text critical guidelines because this would be to stand on the ground of the enemy to fight the battle for truth. They don't want to listen sympathetically to proponents of the "alexandrian cult" because the so-called "dialogue" is an act of compromise in itself. This seems like a legitimate comparison. Accepting this line of reasoning in the tussle with postconservatives but not with KJV only people seems arbitrary. Maybe it's not; but you haven't really shown how.

In regard to my "finger-wagging", don't take it too seriously. Your posts and comments seem to expect others to be rather thick-skinned, and have constantly pleaded for people to listen to you (agree with you?) regarldess of your "tone". I hoped my supposedly "snooty" response to you would be taken in the same spirit.

If you don't think you have to interact with them "on thier terms" and learn thier terminology to understand their issues, fine. If you don't think you have to read their positions or their influences to accurately characterize their views, that's fine too. But the fact is that I've addressed the statements you've made regardless of whether or not you like what I said. I have hoped that you would at some point like or been admonished by SOMETHING I've said, whether on this blog or elsewhere. But if not, I'll live.

Phil Johnson said...

Actually, Scotty, the post I wrote had absolutely zero to do with "tone," and everything to do with dialectic.

But one complaint I forgot to add is the obnoxious dripping-faucet accusation that practically everyone who disagrees without sandwiching his disagreement between positives and softening it as much as possible is guilty of an evil "tone."

Thanks for reminding me.

TheBlueRaja said...

By the way, Phil, I'm not criticizing you for generalizing or not dealing with postmodern thinkers in detail - I'm criticizing you for inaccurate and uninformed generalizations on this issue.

ScottyB said...

did this have to do what i have been writing?:

But one complaint I forgot to add is the obnoxious dripping-faucet accusation that practically everyone who disagrees without sandwiching his disagreement between positives and softening it as much as possible is guilty of an evil "tone."

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: "It might help to know how your actual position differs from the ways I've characterized it?"

I was thinking about your assertion that I characterized pomoism as "fundamentally a failure of nerve" (which is not what I said at all); the implication that I somehow might champion Milton Terry's work on hermeneutics (when I'm no fan of his at all. I'm frankly surprised that a preterist like him gets such good press in the circles where I travel, but that's not something I really would care to get into here); "the idea that not studying epistemology will somehow cleanse you of philosophical influences" which bears no resemblance to anything I said, and a host of other opinions you seem keen to put in my mind and mouth.

What I say and what you seem to think I mean rarely have a close correspondence. I'd try to be real gracious like you did and insist that it's probably my fault, but since I never even mentioned Milton Terry, cleansing of philosophical influences, failures of nerve, etc., etc., I'm having a hard time being that magnanimous.

ScottyB said...

no response to the question?
I guess i'll just post what I did on Raja's site:

ScottyB said...

good books did you ever go to Pasadena to some of the used book stores down there?

nice job engaging Phil

I think years of a "corner on truth" mentality can provoke readers to be a tad smarmy in response.

Obviously we have to be careful to be gracious and I think your posts on his site generally are on the mark.

The "smarminess" is a similar tone to his own and is the difference between admonition and encouragement in my opinion. It works like a little chump slap rather than a massage.

I think this can actually be helpful in provoking a realization that TMS et al. has some need for sharpening its model(to clarify I added some examples--see TBI(MN) SBTS(KY) and SGM Pastor's College(MD) as good examples of schools that produce church planters rather than church splitters).

Too many people get on that site and massage the host.

The ones that dont generally are discounted as liberals.

Matt Stone said...

Yawn...

Jerry Wragg said...

Raj -
One more thing...
You said, "...hurling Bible verses into the void, as if they interpret themselves, doesn't help"

First, the texts I cited were not "hurled into [a] void", but clearly were offered in the context of my caution about indiscriminate intake. It should've been obvious that I believe those passages teach us how to be discerning, never giving human wisdom any divine ground. But if I should've been clearer, I'm sorry.
Second, at least my volley includes some reference to places in scripture that I think bring clarity to our interlocution. If you want to dispute what I infer from these verses and offer a better understanding, be my guest...but don't accuse me of Bible hit-and-runs. Many of my comments have included passages that I believe, according to the exegetical work I've done, directly answer some of the issues. I must say, that's more than I've received from you my friend. You're right...verses don't interpret themselves, but neither will they ever enjoy such attention if the "dialogue" muses on in the pattern so far established.
Oh yeah, one more thing (I feel like Columbo), you strongly challenged Phil regarding an alleged "ignorance" of the profitable discussion taking place in pomo and EC circles.
OK...so you think the talk is positive. Now what? Are we supposed to feel bad that we don't agree. Honestly, I've heard, read, and otherwise eavesdropped on most of what is "definable" in the postmodern and emerging world...and I don't see any real, long-term, edifying positives.

Oh sure, their preoccupation with man's finiteness as an alternative to the rationalist arrogance of modernism might earn a brief "atta-boy", except that they use this "humble" concession as the main trump against a reachable objectivity (an arrogance of another kind---sorry, "atta-boy" removed).
Perhaps we could award them for championing "authentic relationships" over cold "linear proof" models, except that their definition of "authentic" is its own immoveable, linear proof by which they deem rational evidence inauthentic (since when did our culture become more superior at understanding social and intuitive influences than other eras?---sorry, "atta-boy" removed).
Or maybe we might thank the pomo's and EC'ers for their genuine interest in the worthiness and equality of all cultures, except that again this other-cultures sensitivity is used to argue that the subjective complexities of human communication make objectivity impossible (how in the world did I ever "connect" in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Greece, England, Scotland, South America, and France with so much abstraction?---sorry again, "atta-boy" removed).
You see, I'm truly thankful for the privilege of coming under the sanctifying grace of God's word in order to answer the challenges of postmodernism and the EC. What I will not do is join a "conversation", even a "positive" one, that requires me to check my Bible or my certainty at the door simply because the moderators think believing in attainable absolutes is "epistemologically naive", "academically obtuse", and "culturally insensitive". Whatever "relational positives" such dialogue promises, the dangers, in my judgment, far outweigh them.
Will the purveyors of this "new kind of Christianity" be around in 30 years to clean up the mess and take responsibility? The history of every movement entrenched in subjectivity demostrates otherwise. Everyone says "woops!", but the seed-planters are no where to be found.

Sharad - as your friend and co-laborer, be discerning.

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

What I meant by your seeing postmodernism as “a failure of nerve” is that they are motivated by an aversion toward authority, truth or certainty or closure of any kind. That is, in fact, exactly how you characterized it; as a “glorying in ambiguity and uncertainty”. You’ll also note that I didn’t say that you embrace Milton Terry – I just said that he represents a more “traditional” view on matters of biblical authority, interpretation and epistemology – whether you actually agree with his preterism is immaterial; the fact that he is considered “traditional” and “orthodox” (even if you don’t agree with his entire project) and yet relies on a good deal of secular philosophy was the point I was trying to make. Your comment about the danger of studying epistemology as an academic discipline is what motivated my statement about “cleansing yourself of philosophical influences”. The point that you can’t seem to grasp is that you operate on certain philosophical premises that you aren’t willing to criticize or even acknowledge. When these issues are raised, you disregard the discussion as being on “pomo terms” and suggest that studying such things is detrimental. What sort of conclusions ought one to draw? If you mean something other than “pomo’s thrive on ambiguity and hate saying anything definitively” and “studying epistemology detracts from knowing the Bible”, maybe you could make that more clear. Otherwise, my criticisms stand.

Jerry,

As usual I really appreciate your brotherly warnings about being discerning. Believe me, I’m not hook line and sinker on anything coming out of the academy in regard to this subject, and I’m not deaf to the concerns you’re raising. My point is that the issues are so deeply methodological that when these issues are bypassed with simply quoting bible verses, I think it actually adds to the confusion since the issue is so much about how to interpret these verses. If you see me as not appealing to the Bible enough, that’s why. When we were learning about Greek grammar in our exegesis classes, they didn’t try to show us how to exegete using the Scriptures, they used Daniel Wallace, Buist Fanning, A.T. Robertson etc.

One of the benefits of the discussion I witnessed at ETS between J.P. Moreland and John Franke produced some backtracking on Franke’s part that I thought served as important clarification. It also served to show J.P. that some of his concerns came more from the sloppy use of language and philosophical distinctions on Franke’s part than what Franke actually meant to say. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I think that sanctification and mutual edification can really take place in these discussions if people are patient and teachable. The conversations I witnessed didn’t require anyone to “check their Bible at the door”, nor did it bar conviction or sensible argumentation. The conversations I have been in with even more radical postmodernists have been characterized by a willingness to change and listen.

The attitudes involved here seem akin to the way covenantalists like John Gerstner and Greg Bahnsen have treated dispensationalists in the past; they were accused of teaching “multiple ways of salvation” and it doesn’t matter what they say, we shouldn’t bother to listen to their explanations or hermeneutical reasoning. It’s another Gospel, period. Yada, yada, yada. These comparisons (like the KJV Only comparison I made earlier) don’t seem to make a dent on the rhetoric, but the fact is that when this approach is taken against our positions, we see it as obviously unreasonable and a failure to listen. Does that not resonate at all with you, Jerry? I’m not saying you should give up the store, but aren’t we obligated to the same engagement with some of these Christians as we have historically expected of covenantalists et. al.? What is the difference between the reasoning employed AGAINST us that we decry and the reasoning employed against postconservatism, etc.?

Denise said...

I call the Emergent Church Movement/Post-Modernist:

"You're Not the Boss of ME!" movement.

They stick themselves in Pilate's camp when he said "What is truth?" and how sad that is. Jesus IS the truth, and Scripture IS truth, but these Emergent Church folks are often just rebelious (sp)and angry young folks (smart as many of them are). They run to Rome and the New Age for theology and practice.

Anyone interested in further articles or see how these folks "converse" with intolerant, colonial types like me or Carla, check out Emergent No and read their comments. Slice of Laodicea is also good.

Keep fighting for the truth! Don't grow weary and keep on guard. This nonesense is seeping in to many churches because no one is watching the doors.

Jude speaks of such folks like Brian McLaren, et al when he says:

Jud 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jud 1:8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

Jud 1:10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.
Jud 1:11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion.
Jud 1:12 These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;
Jud 1:13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

Denise said...

The ECM isn't a group of believers reaching out to the world. Rather, its a bunch of people who ARE the world, trying to reinvent Christianity.

Denise said...

Let me clarify in saying that not all ECMers are lost, but I mean as a movement, they are the world in their thinking and behavior.

Coffee and a Muffin said...

Wow, Denise (Surphing)! Excellent, excellent Scripture quotes!

yacoub said...

And let's not forget the passage that speaks most directly to what these folks really are with their avoidance of absolutes:

Rev 3:14-22 (ESV used in quote)

14"And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.


15"'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

TheBlueRaja said...

Don't forget this one:

Isaiah 66:24 (NASB):

24 “Then they will go forth and lookOn the corpses of the menWho have transgressed against Me.For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

Hey, I think is helping. I can feel the tide turning . . .

Rob said...

Surphing, your comments are incredibly uninformed and border the innane.

Jud 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Heaven's going to be a really small place if only people who believe exactly like you are going to be there!

I'm agreeing with Jimmy Carter's new book, conservative FUNDAMENTALIST Christians believe only they have been given God's revelation and to argue with them means your arguing with God. Is there no possiblity you're wrong? In theory I could quote Jude and say the same thing about you? But where does that get us?

Again, the world doesn't dislike Fundamentalist Christians because they're too much like Christ. Where is GRACE?

yacoub said...

"I'm agreeing with Jimmy Carter's new book, conservative FUNDAMENTALIST Christians believe only they have been given God's revelation"

Nice fallacy/strawman there. The issue is, as always, is the Word of God inerrant, inspired, etc. If it's not absolute truth then sure, no one can argue they're right because *liberal hippy voice* who knowwwws maaaaan.

If we believe the Word of God is absolute truth, then it IS right and all else IS wrong.

Bill said...

rob wrote Heaven's going to be a really small place if only people who believe exactly like you are going to be there!

Yup, see Matthew 7:17-27. The gate IS narrow, and "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven". It is going to be much smaller than we would care to admit.

There IS truth and those who pursue truth through the only source of truth are those who will be allowed to enter through that narrow gate. The reason the world dislikes "Fundamentalist Christians" is because we believe that Heaven is a small place and only those who believe in Jesus Christ will be allowed to enter.

Is there a possibility we're wrong? No, not if the Bible is true (which, of course, it is...)

You also ask "where is grace"? Well, it's in Jesus Christ. It certainly isn't in accepting anything that any one cares to believe as the truth.

"ray" put it perfectly in a prior post in this thread:

The answer is not to embrace every crazy notion and ritual, and become pluralistic, rather it is to raise the banner of Christ high in this time of uncertainty and shifting sands and give people something SOLID to cling to.

Conversations won't get it; the preaching of the Word of God will! And until people hear the undiluted proclamation of the Gospel, they will continue to founder and grasp at straws.

2097 said...

Even if the truth's broken so bad that all the king's men can't put it back together again, we can still make the best of it.

Frankly, I don't care about going to heaven if that's on the expense of someone else.

And you? You'll have your rapture, one of these nights.

I'd rather stay here in hell with the other wretched, we can learn how to feed each other, teach each other, reach each other.

I don't believe in truth or goodness. I just believe in kindness and caring. (You say "Well, true kindness is showing the path to heaven! True caring is giving the harsh medice to the spiritual ill". Right. But I'm talking about the other kindness and caring. The "shelter me from storm" kind. The earthly kind.)

I'm sorry to butt in in this debate, but the reason I'm writing is because all I'm seeing in this is a lot of people saying "Of course, I'm not a postmodernist, but..."

So I thought that I needed to stand up and say "Well, I am. I'm pomo. I might not be a christian according to most people's definition, but pomo? All the time. Leave me in peace with my kind, or try to reach out. But as it is, you're not understanding it at all."

If I don't believe in the heavenly mirror called truth, how can you convince me by showing me your most shining shard?

Christians can't convince me the Christian way, the thumping way, the "I know the Lord"-way. But Christians can sit at my pomo table and we could talk and they could teach me something about kindness, patience, love and forgiveness. To the extent that they have those things to share, to teach, and to the extent that they find those things worth sharing.

But truth? Truth is nothing to me now. You say you understand that I feel that way, but you're still acting as if there was a truth that you just have to "open my eyes" to. Which might or mightn't be true, but is the Christian story (we pomo, we like to talk about the stories, see?) so important as to neglect all other virtues?

YMMV.

I sincerely wish all of you all the best in your further endeavors.

Jerry Wragg said...

2097 -
I here what you're saying, but here's the dilemma your comments present:

You say you don't believe in "truth", but then you go on to state propositions which have become "truth" for you. Why are your assertions (e.g. the "kindness and caring, shelter-me-from-the-storm" kind) NOT considered simply truth-claims of another belief system (yours)?
This is truly the most frustrating aspect of postmodernism...they declare an entire set of life-propositions which form the basis for disagreeing with others, yet simultaneously claim to hold to no truth at all.
You did this several times. You mentioned being content to stay in hell with the "other wretched" in order to "feed...teach...reach [them]". You obviously believe the TRUTH that caring for people is a greater moral priority than considering one's eternal standing before God (if He exists), yet you want to deny the existence of truth (which includes moral priorities).
You also asked Christians to "leave you in...peace" because "as it is, [we're] not understanding it (pomo) at all." How can you evaluate whether we "understand" you if "truth is nothing" to you? You must be using some TRUTH standard of your own from which you conclude we've erred.
You also said we could "sit at [your] pomo table and...talk...about kindness, patience, love, and forgiveness." How did you come to know about and define the above concepts? By what standard do you measure these qualities and deem them "worth" learning?
You ask, "...is the Christian story so important...as to neglect all other virtues?" How can you hold that other "virtues" exist when you don't believe in truth?
Lastly, your claim is that Christians are vainly trying to "open [your] eyes" to some "truth", but are you not attempting the same thing toward us with your comments? Have you not been trying to "open our eyes" with your TRUTH about your belief in the absence of it?

Surely you can see why Christians would enjoy a rational conversation with pomo's, one where the pomo jettisons the claim to neutrality and admits to having their own set of "truths".

Look back over your comments and find all the places where you emphatically state PROPOSITIONAL TRUTHS by which you deem Christians in error. If you truly "don't believe in truth or goodness", then the debate you jumped into should have been no more a concern than fiction.

2097 said...

Thanks for your time, Jerry.
JerryW wrote:
"Why are your assertions ... NOT considered simply truth-claims of another belief system (yours)?"

If you disagree about kindness and caring, I'm curious to hear about that (even though this isn't the time/space for it). My belief in that matter is not carved in stone, but it (kindness/caring/mutual aid) is a goal I've currently deemed worthy of pursuing.

Further, my position is neither a neutral nor an objective position.

"This is truly the most frustrating aspect of postmodernism...they declare an entire set of life-propositions which form the basis for disagreeing with others, yet simultaneously claim to hold to no truth at all."

Right, it must be very frustrating and I apologize for that.
But let me outline a major difference:

TRUTH as a universal lewisian absolute is a different concept from my personal beliefs, disbeliefs and moral priorities. I'm out of touch with (I even deny) the former. I do have some of the latter.

"You obviously believe the TRUTH that caring for people is a greater moral priority than considering one's eternal standing before God (if He exists), yet you want to deny the existence of truth (which includes moral priorities)."

I perceive arbitrary, personal moral priorities as different from universal truth.

"How can you evaluate whether we "understand" you if "truth is nothing" to you? You must be using some TRUTH standard of your own from which you conclude we've erred."

I haven't concluded it via truth I got from the bible, or from science, or from logic. However, the idea that (many of) you don't understand pomo is my current, non-absolute impression of the situation.

"By what standard do you measure these qualities [kindness, patience, love, and forgiveness] and deem them "worth" learning?"

It's my curiousity and inner longing that wants to learn these qualities. I've subjectively deemed theme interesting. Of course, my brain tries to rationalize it with utalitarian arguments, or appealing to my self-interest (It tells me "If you were more patient, than others would be more patient with you"), and my heart has it's own rationalizations. But what it boils down to is a whim.


You ask, "...is the Christian story so important...as to neglect all other virtues?" How can you hold that other "virtues" exist when you don't believe in truth?

In that sentence, I meant Christian virtues, virtues from a Christian perspective. Virtues in the "Christian story".
To clarify that sentence:
* In the Christian story, Christ presents one truth, and other things that are posited as positive.
* Is the "truth"-part of the story worth neglecting the other things?


Lastly, your claim is that Christians are vainly trying to "open [your] eyes" to some "truth", but are you not attempting the same thing toward us with your comments? Have you not been trying to "open our eyes" with your TRUTH about your belief in the absence of it?

Yes. Some of my friends would scald me for that. I presented my beliefs to clear up what I subjectively perceive as misunderstandings about my position.

However, the beliefs Christians are presenting are posited as the word of God, and as universal law. I'm not saying that's wrong (that's part of the Christian story in itself, after all), but I am saying it's vain (as in hopeless) to try to do so when it comes to me.

"Surely you can see why Christians would enjoy a rational conversation with pomo's, one where the pomo jettisons the claim to neutrality and admits to having their own set of "truths"."

Thank you. I understand and will try to be clearer in my non-neutrality in the future. I do have one (or several) positions, and none of them are neutral. I apologize if that wasn't clear.

However, I was under the impression that some Christians are uninterested in even that kind of conversation, and wanted to discuss on biblical terms alone.

"Look back over your comments and find all the places where you emphatically state PROPOSITIONAL TRUTHS by which you deem Christians in error."

Have some of these places been adressed in this comment, or are there still unclarities?

"If you truly "don't believe in truth or goodness", then the debate you jumped into should have been no more a concern than fiction."

I'm very concerned with fiction.

John Haller said...

Rob said: "Again, the world doesn't dislike Fundamentalist Christians because they're too much like Christ."

Here's some news for you: the world hated Christ.

TheBlueRaja said...

John,

Here's some news for you: the church in America is a lot less like Jesus than Jesus. Telling the world "You just hate me because I'm like Jesus" is like girls who say, "No one likes me because I'm so pretty and everyone's jealous".

Chris Pixley said...

Raja-

I'm just thankful for all of the razor-sharp specificity your last comment brings to the discussion. I mean with all the over-generalizing that's going on in this comment thread it's so nice to see someone who resists the urge to stoop to such frustrating debating techniques ;-)

John Haller said...

blueraja:

Once again you seem to be writing before thinking it through. I wasn't trying to make the point that if fundies are hateful, they must be like Jesus. I was pointing out that Rob's point was a false: if you were like Jesus, they would like you. That's simply not the case. That is typical seeker sensitive claptrap (which seems to prove the point that the EC is merely an extension of the seeker sensitive movement).

I agree the church has a lot of work to do. That still doesn't change the fact that Rob's comment was wrong. That was my point.

And thanks for allowing me the opportunity to make it twice.

Bill said...

chris wrote: I'm just thankful for all of the razor-sharp specificity your last comment brings to the discussion. I mean with all the over-generalizing that's going on in this comment thread it's so nice to see someone who resists the urge to stoop to such frustrating debating techniques ;-)

Now THAT'S FUNNY!!!

Rob said...

John,

But they don't dislike fundamentalists because they're too Christlike. They disklike Fundamentalists because they talk about Christ an awful lot; but don't seem to resemble Him.

Rob

Bill said...

rob said: ...because they talk about Christ an awful lot; but don't seem to resemble Him.

Another generalization. You and Blue need to get together. Did you have a dialogue with us fundamentalists to see if you really understand where we're coming from before you made this sweeping statement?

Rob said...

Bill,

Firstly, I don't know whether you're a Fundamentalist or not. Or anyone on this site is a Fundamentalist. However, some warning signs are there.

From all the posts I'm getting the impression that only 'you' have the line to God so discussion is out because anyone who disagrees with 'you' is against God. That is a significant warning sign of Fundamentalism. Christ dialogued an awful lot and He was always right. Even God seemed to tolerate discussion in the Old Testament. See Job; see Moses; Joshua; Jonah; Abraham etc.

Secondly, the inability to empathize or look at something from another point of view. This is another characteristic of Fundamentalism that is so damaging to cultures. (See the Muslim world and the damage Fundamentalist Muslims have done).

Finally, I have had many disucssions with Fundamentalists and gotten to know tons of them. (Again I'm not saying you are a Fundamentalist. I don't know you at all. I'm making generalizations about all the posts I've read). My friends at work think they're nuts and say things like "if that's Christianity then I want nothing to do with it."

By the way, there are Fundmamentalists in the emerging camp as well. I've walked that line a number of times myself. (Mostly in reaction to a Fundamentalist church I grew up in). My point is, we need to guard against these Fundamentalist tendancies. Is there absolute truth? Yes. But that doesn't mean there's not a lot to talk about. Let's show grace and have respect for each others experiences. Extremists cannot do this because only their experience is right.

Rob

Bill said...

Rob wrote: I'm getting the impression that only 'you' have the line to God so discussion is out because anyone who disagrees with 'you' is against God. That is a significant warning sign of Fundamentalism.

Well, I see you're a real pro at encouraging "dialogue" also, aren't you? Care to quote where I implied that "anyone who disagrees...is against God"?

What I said is "those who pursue truth through the only source of truth are those who will be allowed to enter through that narrow gate." This is straight out of Mattthew. Perhaps you consider him a fundamentalist. I don't know. This all goes back to your (repeated) sweeping generalizations about "Fundamentalists". Now if you believe you can make those judgements based upon your personal experiences, then likewise I can make such sweeping generalizations about those who participate in the EC community, since I too have had much contact with them, including at my pomo-packed college community church (and the senior pastor is one of the biggest of the bunch), the Cornerstone music festival (where I lasted thru a hour-long talk from Brian McLaren), and other venues.

Problem is: if you espouse what the scripture says about exclusivity of eternal life, you're automatically branded a "fundamentalist". The principles of Christianity as described in the Bible ARE "fundamental" by nature.

I can listen to your point of view, but I don't have to agree with it. This is the problem. I know of few, if any, of those who you'd consider "fundamentalists" who won't listen. They just likely won't agree...and this seems to be how you and others in the pomo/EC culture define "listening".

Bill said...

I wrote Perhaps you consider him a fundamentalist.

Sorry, didn't mean to imply it was Matthew that was the fundamentalist. It's Jesus.

Rob said...

Bill,

The 'You' in my quotes wasn't Bill. Sorry I don't know if that made sense. I don't know you at all and frankly it doesn't sound to me like you're the sort of person I'm talking about. Again, I'm making a generalization about all the posts above.

On another note it sounds like you have my problem in reverse. I go to a fairly conservative, evangelical church (especially for Canada) and I'm constantly frustrated by that. I'm sure it's not easy for you.

Rob

Caleb Kolstad said...

Phil and Jerry,

Thank you for the wonderful insights. You really help me discern these issues better.

I wonder though when it is appropriate to apply Proverbs 26:4-5? Sinclair F spoke on this passage at a Ligonier conference a while back.

Proverbs 26:4-5
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.

In my humble opinion this would be a good passage to blog on Phil. Explain what it means and then encourage your bloggers to apply it appropriately.

Thanks for your posts (PJ and JW)!

CK

pgepps said...

Hey, Phil--

What a comment thread! Yikes, there's enough here (skipping the snark) to keep a good conversation going a while. . . .

I want to take this up some more, over at my place. I'm truly stuck between your reaction and ze blueraja's reaction to this, and am trying to keep working through it. As an academic engaged with post-structuralism, I find the whole "pomo" thing among churches confusing, ill-informed, and hasty on both sides. I'm just not sure what the *best* way to respond is, or whether it can be quickly generalized.

Seems to me that a whole lot of the confusion of medievalism and modernism and postmodernism begins when we forget one of two truths:

a) Egyptian gold is *Egyptian*
b) Egyptian gold is *God's*

Cheers,
PGE

TheBlueRaja said...

Sorry for not saying anything earlier, John - I just noticed your reply. I was simply trying to press Rob's point, which you didn't seem to be appreciating. I appreciate your desire to help me think these things through (that's the beauty of blogging), but I wasn't trying to clarify your point - I was trying to help you understand his. I don't think your restatement of Rob carried it across very well. Your restatement of his point may be wrong and objectionable, but what he actually said was something you'd apparently agree with.

Chris - tssssssssssssss . . .