That Other Standoff

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Is it almost Thanksgiving? You’d never know it from the various wars erupting all over the Christian blogosphere as one faction yells to the other faction,Standoff “Oh yeah, well what about this!”

Yes, I’ve participated, but I’ve tried to be as civil as possible. I’m not trying to establish a beachhead. I just desire that other people understand the faction I’m tenuously a part of, especially since mine seems to be on the small side as factions go.

The cessationist/charismatic debate on the surface has tended to be civil. I think that the default faction leaders, David and Adrian, have done well. There have been a few gashes, but I’m not seeing any severed limbs lying around.

But there’s another war out there and this one has turned grisly: Emerging Church vs. Traditional Church. The rhetoric on both sides is so dense that it’s approaching depleted uranium stage. This week brought out the mustard gas and biowarfare as Emerging Church proponent Justin Baeder attempted a domain rustling by securing “emergentno.com” in an effort to put the spoofing screws to Traditional Church proponent Carla Rolfe of Emergent No at “emergentno.blogspot.com.”

Two words: Truly Lame.

While the cessationists and charismatics appear to at least be listening to each other so far, the Emerging Church (EC) vs. Traditional Church (TC) battle has degenerated into a hatefest. I’m halfway tempted to pronounce a pox on both their houses. (I’ve previously blogged about this issue here, here, and here.) The sad part is that there are people on both sides of this EC/TC war whom I appreciate, and the truly thoughtful folks on both sides are not as heinous as they are portraying the other side to be. In many ways, both sides there are attacking the same fringe elements that are under assault in the charismatic/cessationist debate.

But assaulting the weirdos is easy. I’m a charismatic and I’m fed up with the fringe within the charismatic movement. (I’m even more fed up that the fringe may be taking over!) When examining the war going on between the EC and TC camps, each side has every right to be hacked at the lack of Christlikeness in the other side, but then we all know what Jesus said to the group ready to stone the woman caught in the midst of adultery.

I’ve got zero diplomatic skills, so if I tick someone off here in either the EC or the TC camps, I apologize in advance.

This is what the Bible says:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
—Mark 12:28-31 ESV

Earlier this week, Ingrid Schlueter of Slice of Laodicea, one of the TC blogs that is most fiercely battling the EC, had this to say about Traditional Churches:

There is, without doubt, a shortage of biblical love and concern on the part of church members in Bible preaching churches today. There is a reason that emergent churches and mega churches with small groups are attractive. There is no more empty feeling in all the world than having attended a church service as a visitor and leaving without a kind word being spoken. In my husband’s and my search for a church for our family in an area where good churches were in short supply, we found this again and again. At one point, after attending a church for almost a year, I said, “Tom, we could be in an advanced stage of rigor mortis in the back pew and I doubt seriously that anyone would notice.” … After moving to a new state, we visited one church where we needed directions. I went to the church office and said, “Excuse me, we’re just visiting and we need to find out where to put our children for Sunday School.” The woman looked me up and down rather cooly, and gestured vaguely down the hall. “Someone will help you down there.” She said. This, folks, was a small church. But I was new and uninteresting looking and that was that.

I don’t think I can add anything to her disappointment. Far too many Traditional Churches, filled with people who adore God and love the Scriptures, are getting the first part of Jesus’ two greatest commandments right, but are missing the second. Doctrine has no strength unless it’s put into practice. It’s not enough to be able to cut down every heretical anti-lapidarydipsydoodlearian out there with the Truth of the Scriptures. Yes, that has extreme value and must be guarded, but if we do not love the very people that the Lord Jesus died for, all the doctrine in the world will sit idle in our hearts, gone begging for someone, anyone to put it into practice for the disenfranchised of the world.

Ingrid’s lament is even more tragic, since it should be second nature for us to at least love the rest of the Body of Christ, even if we have difficulties with extending the love of Christ to the lost. Yet how can we do the latter, as the Lord Himself showed us, if we can’t even love our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Does the EC do this better than the TC? Probably. That need to be part of a loving community greater than oneself is one of the reasons that the EC is gaining adherents. The people who don’t normally get called to the wedding party are being handed an invitation. The Traditional Church needs to understand this and repent.

Now as open as Ingrid was about failures of the TC, I’ve searched high and low to find someone within EC ranks who was willing to take on the fact that the EC plays fast and loose with a lot of Scripture, muddying just about every doctrine it touches. With Open Theism increasingly discussed within the EC (but not in those exact terms, since the EC doesn’t desire to have exact terms about anything), one wonders if they’re doing the second commandment right, but are unraveling the tapestry that spells out that the first commandment clearly. What the TC does well—speaking to sin, holding up the cross, affirming the inerrancy of Scripture and its authority—the EC outright mangles, with many of the leading lights in the EC giving depositions on doctrine in the same manner that Clinton asked us to rethink what the definition of “is” is.

For this, the TC has every right to hold the EC’s feet to the fire, but the EC won’t stand for it. I won’t go into all the sites posting doctrinal fallacies attributed to the EC (and they are legion), but suffice it to say, it’s hard to think of the EC in any way other than a reactionary movement that can’t form a coherently Biblical reason for everything it supposedly believes. What other outcome, other than rank heresy, can be expected from the EC if it continues to deconstruct the Scriptural base on which it’s supposedly founded. The oldest lie in the Book is, “Did God really say…?” The Emerging Church needs to understand this and repent.

All this makes me tired.

Why is it incongruous to think that we can have solid doctrine that holds up the full revelation and personhood of the Triune God while ministering Christ to His Chosen and the lost around us? When those two are melded in purpose, isn’t that The True Church? Emphasizing any part of the whole revelation of the Gospel over any other part is a recipe for disaster, yet somehow Traditional Churches and Emerging Churches are doing their best to cook up such a mess.

And we wonder why the Church in the West is failing.

21 thoughts on “That Other Standoff

  1. Carla

    It makes me tired too, Dan. I’ve done my best to stay “out of it” as much as possible (after posting my position, obviously) because prior experience in these kinds of controversies tells me, it only gets uglier, before it fades away.

    I don’t like ugly. I don’t want to be a part of ugly. Ugly makes me sad, and generally causes me to repent for things I should have never said in the first place.

    Take heart though, His church isn’t failing, He assures us it will not. (Contrary to the way it may appear.)

    SDG,
    Carla

  2. Dave Taylor

    The more I see of ‘debates’ within the Christian community, the more I understand the foresight and wisdom of Paul’s instruction: “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” We’re as knowledgeable and gifted�and immature and worldly�as the Corinthians were.

  3. Pilgrim

    Dan

    I think I know that Baptists are TC. Who are the EC fellowships. Name one in the Cincinnati area that people who know would classify as EC. I am fairly confused about this debate.

    Pilgrim

  4. Gayla

    Good post Dan. As with the cessationist/continualist debate, the same can be said for the TC/EC one – balance; it’s all about balance.

    When the pendulum swings too far either way, there is a problem.

    Spirit AND truth.

  5. salguod

    Dan, I’m a regular reader of Justin’s blog. I will not defend how he went about this (and I’ve said so on his blog), but I will speak to his intentions, wwhich I think were somewhat noble.

    What he was after was exactly what you have said near the end. He acknowledged that the TC folks at E-no and SOL have things to teach the EC, and that the EC would be wise to consider their criticisms. He created the E-no.com aggregator of their two blogs to enable uninhibited conversation of the issues posted. It is Justin’s contention that these two frequently ban and delete posts from EC folks. I wouldn’t know as I don’t frequent those sites, but in a post about this on one of Carla’s she said at the end “Baeder�s supporters are banned from commenting here, for obvious reasons …” I’m not sure what the obvious reason is, the only one I can think of is she doesn’t want to hear from folks who disagree with her. I’m probably missing her point, however (I mean that sincerly).

    So, since Justin felt that the EC folks couldn’t participate in the discussion at E-no and SOL, he aggregated their sites to encourage open discussion there of the real issues involved. He has acknowledged that it is the complete right of E-no and SOL to moderate and screen content and comments on their sites. To him, creating his own mirror if you will would allow both – free discussion on his site and whatever level of screening they wanted on theirs. Didn’t turn out so rosy after all.

  6. Ted Gossard

    If you go to Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed” blog you will see a good conversation by people on both sides in the EC/TC debate.

    I think a couple of keys are the writer/administrator of the blog themselves. The way they write as well as what they allow for comments will either enhance or detract from a good dialogue, discussion and conversation.

    I don’t think generally much light comes in the way of much heat. People then become defensive and want to defend their own position which is under attack, rather than be able to calmly consider the thoughts of others. To the extent that blogs and bloggers are bringing on heat, that is to the extent that they are not bringing light. Note the way of Jesus in this. He spoke and did good, only on occasion bringing heat down on those who he knew to be unrepentant.

  7. Salguod,

    I don’t know why some ECer comments were deleted. Carla and Ingrid would have to tell me more.

    No matter what the feud is here, trying to spoof Carla’s site with an “almost, but not quite” domain name is bad form. It really is. If someone tried to spoof my blog that way, I’d be angry, too. I’ve been on the Internet for almost 25 years and I know that almost every long time ‘Net denizen knows that there are rules of etiquette. If Justin thinks Carla’s not doing give and take, then the way of Christ is NOT to try to spoof her site!

    Justin could have just hotlinked to E-No and SOL if he wanted his readers to follow an argument. It’s bad form to reproduce blog postings in their entirety, too.

    He may have his reasons, but it still smacks of bad form to me. I certainly would not have gone the route he took.

    Emergent No has raised some good issues. So has Slice, even though I sometimes find that Slice is less judicious in how ministries are judged. (I know that I have several problems with the fact that any mention of environmental concern in a ministry is enough to make Slice’s hitlist.) Still, I’ve written some responses on both asking for a little more understanding. I find Carla to be an understanding person who is at least willing to think about some of the subtleties found in both sides of the argument, but I’ll be honest that Ingrid and I haven’t hit it off as well. Oh well. She’s probably nicer in person than she comes off in her blog. We’ll see.

    I spent two years and wrote over 3000 posts on TheOoze talking with hundreds of Emergent folks, so I think I have some handle on the Emerging Church. Like I said in my post, the concern for community and the needs of the sick, poor, and disenfranchised is admirable. But please, being sensitive to those concerns does not mean doctrine has to be tossed. Some of the conversations on TheOoze had me scratching my head or worse, throwing a fit. Take that for what it’s worth.

    I’m probably about 70/30 TC to EC, but then I’m also a charismatic, which puts me on the outs with a large chunk of the TC. Just the other day I had to go onto Slice and argue that not every charismatic is Benny Hinn. Some of us aren’t charismaniacs. While I do ascribe to Reformational theology, I’m not firmly in the Calvinist camp (I’m more Lutheran in theology), so that doesn’t endear me to a lot of the TC bloggers who are 5-pointers, either. Oh well. No one is a perfect representation of all the theological systems out there. In the end, I just hope to be the image of Christ.

  8. Ted Gossard

    Also I want to add that when one comes across with humility and does not have a “the sky is falling” kind of attitude- I think that this too promotes a Spirit and Biblical fellowship and edification that otherwise will be lacking. To me a consistently troubled tone seems to indicate that there is a lack of understanding that in Jesus God’s kingdom has come and is coming. We need to major on that rather than major on all the wrong that is going on around us everywhere.

    Peace, righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit is where the kingdom of God is found and advances. Not easy for any of us to enter and abide in.

  9. Pilgrim,

    I know that Ordinary Community and Vineyard Central have identified with the EC. There’s an Episcopal church in the Glendale area that has an EC offshoot, but I don’t know the name. Some consider Christ Community to be EC, though I’m not sure they would say so. Strangely enough, I’m not as up on local ECers as I am elsewhere. Cincinnati is always a decade behind what the coasts are doing, so I think you’ll see more EC here in the future.

    I know about Vineyard Central pretty well, but I would say that they’ve been more resistant to some of the EC excesses. Can’t speak for Ordinary Community or Christ Community.

    Lastly, my old church, Vineyard Community Church in Springdale can’t seem to decide if it’s a Vineyard, a Church Growth Movement megachurch, or an EC. That church is changing a lot after getting off track, so who knows how it will turn out.

    Does that help?

  10. Ted Gossard

    Many EC’ers are young and even such as are bloggers really don’t represent very well much of their leadership, I believe.

    I think we must avoid monologue and seek dialogue with them in an irenic way. We must thank God and encourage them in their many good concerns and deeds. While asking questions and seeking to engage them in further considerations and understanding of truth.

    We can at least plant seeds in doing so. But if we do it in any adversarial spirit at all we will likely fail to be of any help to them.

  11. salguod

    “He may have his reasons, but it still smacks of bad form to me. I certainly would not have gone the route he took.
    I feel the same way. I merely wanted to shine some light on the background of his actions, not defend them.

  12. Sam Graf

    “Us” and “them” …

    Am I the only one who thinks we have a serious, fundamental problem so long as we accept the notion that the Body of Christ is rightly divisible into factions of whatever sort? It’s interesting to me that very often we are more concerned about things like “one nation under God” than we are about things like one Body under obedience to one Head.

    All this makes me tired indeed.

  13. Don

    Interesting to me that you should bring this up right at this time, Dan. I’m similar to you, I think — a charismatic who detests the weirdo stuff, a Calvinist-leaner who won’t go hyper-. I’m no friend of the full-EC, but there is some exciting stuff going on there that we can learn from, even if we don’t agree with the weaknesses you identified. (Some European ECers are heavily into 24-7 prayer, which God is using for serious evangelism on the bleeding-edge of Christianity. Read RED MOON RISING for a glimpse of an exciting, possible future for the Church!)

    I tried to read a Brian McLaren book and couldn’t finish it, I found it so poorly written. However, I have empathy for him as someone who’s trying to breathe life into a dying corpse called TC. (Of course, only God himself can breathe life, which is what revival and renewal is all about — but that’s another day’s bunny trail).

    Anyway, I found a recent post by a Rev. Silva cross-posted on Ingrid’s blog, and thought it slashed McLaren unmercifully. I said so in the comments section, asking for some Christian charity and some personal investigation a la Matthew 18 [http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com/archives/2005/11/emergent_church_5.php#comments].

    Well, Ingrid’s adherents were having none of it, and slashed me up pretty well with take-no-prisoners “Christian love.”

    Then the Rev. Silva posted again, making it clear that people like myself – who would ask people like him to approach McLaren personally for clarification before skewering them on a blog – are pretty stupid.[http://www.apprising.org/archives/2005/11/emergent_church_5.html]

    Is it any wonder the Holy Spirit is trying to get us out of the four walls of the Church? Out in the streets – hat’s where the desire is for a cold cup of spiritual water, named Jesus. Inside it’s bare fists.

  14. Don,

    It’s funny I just read the your comment on SOL and found myself nodding in agreement. Of course, I also was waiting to read the barrage of attacks that were coming your way. And I was not disappointed – you cannot expect to be so reasonable and get away with it. Over there, if you merely insinuate that the EC might be right about something – anything – you are a heretic that must be confronted and condemned.

  15. David Norris

    Justin’s main sight is Radical Congruency and some of his comments are enlightening. I wish he had just kep that sight and not tried to interfere with what Ingrid or Carla were saying. He has now added a third copy of another’s blog. While I don’t agree with everything he says there are some areas of church that need adjustment. That is what the Reformers once thought of the Catholic Church. As long as they are civil we should try to understand their side with the love of Christ. If they are doctrinally unsound, then point that out to them (Proverbs 27:5-6).

  16. Anonymous

    For years I have been developing the theory that most denominations (and sub-splits) are truly different in one major, but understandable, way: each grouping has found a specific aspect of God to love most.

    The Baptists love the precision and justice. Catholics are heavy into awe and majesty. The Methodists recognize God’s desire to impact the community through involvement. The Charasmatics look to the daily empowerment of the Holy Spirit. (I have to stop here because my denominational knowledge is too limited). Each characteristic is Biblical, but could become problematic if we instist on that being THE way to know GOd. It is sort of like the the blind men who encountered an elephant. Each felt a different part and described it to his friends rather authoritatively. They were all right in their descriptions, but wrong in their assumptions of the others’ incorrectness.

    I am wondering if this EC/TC debate is merely an extension of the denominational thing. If so, then a corrollary to my original hypothesis is worth examining: as each denomination has earnestly tried to show God to the nations (but really only hits part of the target), perhaps we could best benefit from figuring out how to incoporate other Biblically accurate characteristics of other denominations.

    I know, someone will accuse me of ecumenical leanings, willing to toss correct doctrine out in the name of unity. No. No. Not even.

    I am saying this: how stupid and arrogant would I be to assume that I’ve got the answers? If the Holy Spirit doles out (or, for the cessationists, doled out) gifts to this person and that, couldn’t a deeper understanding of God be equally doled out? I mean, if God isn’t going to bestow on me ALL the spirital gifts, how could I expect Him to pour into me ALL spiritual knowledge?

    Personally, I look around. Say what you will, some highly worshipful stuff comes out of Catholic tradition. And those Methodists are everywhere; if we are looking for lifestyle evangelists, head on down to the Wesley. And yeah, we are a bunch of legalists sometimes, but the Baptist do have a high respect for the Word; not a bad thing. While the pew jumping and hand waving is not my thing, I do believe the Charasmatics have a greater sensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit than I.

    It is late and I am not sure how to wind this up. Am I asking us all to be spiritaul mutts, half-breeds one and all? I guess.

    Perhaps I just want to see…something…maybe it is a lack of arrogance (even unintentional) on our part. We don’t know it all. We don’t have all the answers.

    Anonymous Missionary

  17. I am convinced that if is impossible to convince people in another rrib to change tribes. The Lord gave me a short phrase to guide me when I was in staff at CHPC. “Go with those that want to grow end bless the rest. Do not try to motivate the unmotivated for they just get more unmotivated.”

    I had many cessationists come to me for healing prayers. Secretly. They would never invite me to preach or teach but did want to be healed. Since I am also a Clinical Counselor with which most disagree, many also come for secret therapy. But many would teach end preach against my counseling centre. So what? Give end love them despite their immaturity. I try never to convince people against their will. That is up to God.

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