Friday, September 17, 2004

Eavesdropping on a conversation

Finally made a download purchase of Don Carson’s lectures on the Emergent church movement - US$4.50 - to find out what the fuss is about. TallSkinnyKiwi’s take on the subject is mirrored in some ways in Messy Christian’s blog among others, while Sivin Kit is making plans for a get-together. The ongoing discourse is in a wildly creative flux although the shibboleths of the emerging movement do need some getting used to.

The traditional/institutional/evangelical church - postmodern/network/liquid/emerging church divide has been galvanized somewhat by Carson’s criticisms, and folks are digging in. How the church should confront postmodernism is a conversation that to my mind dates back to the late Francis Schaeffer’s writings. Charles Colson (whose apologetics is shaped by Schaeffer) is himself wary of the church courting postmodernism, and his columns in Christianity Today here and here tell you why. Brian Mclaren’s thoughtful response to Colson touched on truth and relativism, all within a whiff of an epistemological dust-up. Aah, sweet semantics. What McLaren is asking for is the same kind of encouragement that Colson gave to Catholic-Protestant dialogue several years ago: Why not do the same for a church and postmodern conversation, Chuck? Colson's reply? Here's the link to McLaren's website.

The point is, whatever the position, people are talking. Where there’s a 'conversation' (used loosely in normal context and as an emergent vocab) there’s bound to be difficulties because of the emotions invested into the arguments both sides of the divide. Innuendo, nuance, tone, even body language, frequently colour our words (spoken and in print) in ways that are unintentional. Okay, sometimes it’s intentional - harsh, sarcastic, malicious, condescending, etc - but I won’t be the first to cast a stone in anyone’s direction. It’s a delicate situation.

[As an aside, our allegiance to the Word made flesh is evinced in the integrity of words. Our feelings may sometimes be dictated by which side of the bed we get out of, but the word that gives life cannot be deconstructed (after Derrida), amorphous, shifting, or nebulous. Any concession and you’re walking too close to the edge, and - I’m getting out of my depth here - here be dragons!]

The trouble is, whose 'definitions' are we talking about? Hence, gatheringgrace’s Sept 11 blog entry:"I get irritated by the way Traditional Church interprets the Gospels."

Don Carson will be in KL giving a series of public lectures (20 - 22 Sept) from Rev 12 -14. They’re being billed as, “Understanding the church from God's point of view” which should offer a counterpoint to popular end-times hype. But judging from the passionate online exchanges on church and worship, traditional and postmodern, some of us will be paying real close attention to Carson’s talks for other kinds of clues, starting this coming Monday evening.


Sivin Kit said...

I was delighted to get a comment from you .. I think we met once or twice :-) at some Kairos event. I just got my free latest book by McLaren A Generous Orthodoxy .. will be having quite some mental conversations with the book and the few on the group blog :-)

Welcome to the eavesdropping ... I've been doing it for multiple groups and enjoy it!

David BC Tan said...

Wow, free book! I'll be waiting to read your take on the book....