Category Archives: emergent

Thoughts on Rob Bell (part four).


Evangelicalism’s Doom and the Phoenix that is Mainline Protestantism:  A response (sort-of) to David Fitch and Scot McKnight


{DISCLAIMER:  Post (and especially picture captions) are not for the easily offended.}


Faculty David Fitch

David Fitch and Scot McKnight are both evangelical theologians of the highest caliber, both with better-than-average communication skills in a field that’s not exactly known for its sublime prose. 

Fitch has a new book out, that you can learn all about here.  I’m excited to get a chance to read it soon, and as you can see for yourself on his website, you can get a copy at a 40% discount.  What a guy. Smile 

[See “our conversation” (in a manner of speaking) after the jump.]

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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in church, emergent, future, RCA, theology


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SHIFT:: breakouts, and limping evangelicals.

Just a quick blurb on the day’s events, then I’m off to bed…again. I tried to sleep a second ago, but couldn’t. Hating the PCT right about now.

I attended two special Point Leader breakouts, as opposed to most here who went to four shorter breakout sessions today, for an additional cost (I thought it was worth it b/c I really wanted the slower and more intentional pace of longer sessions and smaller group sizes… and besides, the McLaren and Claiborne breakouts were full already…..j/k)… Those groups were with Mike Novelli and Dan Kimball. I also had an early coffee date with Scot McKnight.

The theme of the day, much to my dismay, seemed to be the worry of evangelicals who have encountered emergent and like movements, and have found much to admire and that from which to draw inspiration… but, a concern remains about the perceived “over-open-endedness” of such movements. Particularly through the conversation with Scot and others at the table, and also through Dan’s breakout, I was struck repeatedly with the notion that our theological discomforts both reveal our own psychological tensions within ourselves, and that many emergent leaders’ thinking has been shaped by deep personal wounds. In other words, the struggle reveals our brokenness, from both sides. (I think my work as a chaplain is where this insight is coming from….)

With the coffee convo w/ Scot, I mentioned that the emergent movement is a half-way house, or a recovery group of sorts… and that’s not a bad thing. emergent is serving a badly-needed pastoral need for so many who have been wounded by the modern church. I hope that doesn’t come across as dismissive. However, those finding refuge in these “recovery centers” had better be careful about harboring their ill feelings about the modern church until it becomes anger, creating an “other” out of other brothers and sisters in Christ (wouldn’t be the first time) and separating ourselves from them and creating more church division.

With Dan’s group, it was the opposite that I observed: Evangelicals who have encountered emergent and have found resources, vision, passion, freshness, and new frameworks, but are fearful of fully identifying with emergent, are wanting to ensure that the old theological frameworks of “substitutionary atonement,” or “the fall,” or topics like homosexuality in the church, are not being changed. There are psychological ( I should say, pastoral…that is, reasons to be pastoral…) reasons for that. Dan at one point posited understanding theology as having a “core” with certain propositions that do not change, while other propositions contain varying amounts of truth are further from the center. Very Quine-esque, which is well and good…but my question is, what if my central propositions were different? (which they were?) What if I wanted more stuff in there? (as in, the Kingdom of God is at hand, which is pretty central to Jesus) What if I wanted less? (as in, Jesus paid the penalty for my sin)… it seemed to me that many evangelicals are weary of wading into the uncharted waters of emergent and are now floundering in the deep end, grabbing onto the old friends of propositional truths to keep them afloat. What is the fear there? What control would they lose? What fears would they have to confront?

I know sounds all very pompous; I know my theology probably reflects the results of a deeply wounded psyche in me…but I felt like I took a step backward in the second breakout session from the first with Novelli (which was great, and clearly addressed how we can have a clear, articulate faith, that can even be taught to and understood by teenagers, without clinging to propositional truth and even our own theological constructs!!!)… and I know I’m probably the only person in the room this afternoon that felt that way. I did learn from the session with Dan some ideas on how to ask tough theological questions with youth or young adults, and how to use visual media. But I was a little disappointed with the rest, if I may be as brazen to say so. Even so, another great day at Shift on the whole.

(And Bo Boshers impressed me again at lunch with his humility and honesty.)


Posted by on April 10, 2008 in church, emergent, theology, youth


at SHIFT 2008.

I’m sitting in my hotel room only 2 miles from Willow Creek, having just completed the first day of the SHIFT conference, a conference for youth leaders, volunteers, and students. It’s my first youth conference since becoming a youth pastor, and I must say, I’ve been quite impressed. I was telling Amy today just how comprehensive, pastoral, and even, dare I say, impromptu, everything was. Although I knew the speakers (Brian McLaren, Mark Yaconelli, Shane Claiborne were just TODAY) were high quality, I was sure that Willow itself and its staff would make me cringe with its commitment to hyper-efficiency, overproduction, and extravagance. And I must repent at the end of today, having experienced what I have. The worship leader, Charlie Hall, cut out half of his planned set after the second session after listening to Mark Y. talk about the need for silence in our lives, and allowed us to continue sitting in the grief that the silence was stirring up inside all of us. Bo Boshers, Willow’s youth exec, teared up after Shane’s presentation and again broke the day’s planned protocol so that Shane could come back up and pray again for us. All of Charlie’s music selections reflected both a deep pastoral conscientiousness of the subject matter, and attention to worship metaphors and pronouns (he had about the right balance of using You-We-I pronouns, in that order of frequency, instead of the usual I-You-We). And as expected, the speakers were all profound, prophetic, and yet still pastoral and loving (especially Mark, with whom I was less familiar). While I remain wary of megachurches in general, I repent tonight of my stereotypes. I thank Willow for providing this needed spiritual and intellectual sustenance for so many youth workers, newbies (like me) and experienced. And I eagerly await tomorrow’s fare.

Check out the blog discussions on Out of Ur for the conference.


Posted by on April 9, 2008 in church, emergent, theology, youth


The Fuller Generation

Well, Sam told me about this, and I was going to blog on it, but he already beat me to it. Figures.

Jim Wallis (above) wrote a blog on the Huffington Post discussing the new “twentysomething evangelicals”…. and using Fuller Seminary as one of the key examples of the changes happening in evangelical Christian thought and culture in America.

In one sense, I beam with pride for my now-alma mater, because I feel like the changes that are happening are positive ones. I also feel like Jim is describing me when he says that more and more Christians ID themselves as “Matthew 25, Luke 4, and ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Christians” who seek to live out the Kingdom of God in this life as much as the next one…although this change in my head and heart was rooted in events and biblical discoveries that happened before I ever stepped foot onto the Fuller campus….Fuller simply helped the seeds to grow.

I also am left wondering, “Almost every new movement, every fresh breath of the Holy Spirit, becomes over-systematized and dogmatic eventually, setting the stage for a new movement… when will that happen for us?” In other words, when will we take our new “hooks” and theological toys and push them to the extreme, using them (and not the Spirit, nor the Biblical narrative) as the litmus test for legitimate Christianity? I suppose we are years away from this, since we’re still the minority… then again, maybe in some circles, we’re not.

The rhetoric has been from the beginning that we continue to “emerge,” not to ever close neither our ears from dissension nor our eyes to seeing God’s fresh movement in the world…this is what makes people who desire a definition for the emerging church tear out their hair. (minus the “we are democrats” part, this might be one of the better attempts to give some definition to the movement, particularly as it is ID’d as an evangelical movement, primarily.)

My question is, will we stay open to the Spirit, and to criticism, and to theological balance?… B/c human history suggests that we won’t.

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Posted by on February 26, 2008 in emergent, seminary, theology