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Monday, July 28, 2008


The spiritual world reminds me of a kaleidoscope. I love this fractal image with its colors, hues, shapes and many beginnings and ends.

I have just finished reading Don Carson's interaction with the Emergent Church phenomena and have been informed and challenged by his work.

The first thing to say is that it is an extremely well written book. If anyone needs to know how to present a well reasoned academic discussion that is both gracious and able to critique then this is a great place to start.

As far as engaging with the emerging church Carson deals with some good examples of the movement and doesn't focus solely on Brian McClaren although McClaren is well covered. There is a very good overview of the positive and negative aspects of postmodern thought as well as an effort to capture the practical meaning of postmodernism as opposed to the amorphous way in which the word is sometimes used to cover anything relatively new.

What I missed in Carson's conclusions were any mention of spiritual gifts or the demonstration of God's power that transcended human words and teaching. As I review the emerging church and ways to engage with the "post-Christian" Western world I see a lot of words and teaching and I wonder if we have moved past propositional teaching or even if there is any need to move past propositional evangelism.

Carson comes from an academic, Reformed background and although I resonated with most of the book I wanted some discussion about how postmoderns want/need to see the power of God in action as opposed to simply more and more words. I am planning to write on this topic for the long paper component of my Masters but I am interested in comments to guide my thinking.

In the many efforts of sections of the church to engage with the postmodern world I want to explore how we demonstrate God's power. I have been bolder in the taxi and have been trying to tell people about what God is like and what he does as opposed to getting knotted up in long, winding discussions about religion and truth. This is not to say that it is not important to address concerns about religion and truth claims but in doing so we can sometimes move God off the agenda and depersonalize the trinity.

Can anyone join in the discussion and help my thinking?

1 comment:

One of Freedom said...

I didn't particularly like that book. It is similar to R. Scott Smiths contribution and feels like a more academically acceptable version of the alarmist crap from folks like John McArthur. My big problem is that it makes a critique of postmodernity that doesn't always belong as a critique of the emerging church. Carson is a conserving element, and we need those voices, but I would like to see a more careful engagement with a broader range of authors (you are right he is McLaren heavy, McLaren is somewhat of a manifesto writer so he is easy to pick apart, I think McLaren is an important entrance into a conversation, but consistently fails to be clear enough).

One of the key contributions of the emerging church is its understanding of incarnational theology. There are resources there for a more encounter oriented theology of evangelical witness (I'm hesitant to use the term power as that seems more like a different branch of evangelical traditions).