Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, December 17, 2010

In Response to Atoday blogs a few words from the Emergents

Over at Adventist Today there have been a couple of Blog authors who have been attacking the Emergent Church movement. Usually with some pretty poorly reasoned and biased arguments such as the opening lines from Cindy Tutsch most recent article which reads like this:
Retreat centers, seminars, and worship experiences that focus on mystical rituals and ancient practices are often seeking to find "the God within." In the ensuing blur of sacred, secular, and mystical, the God who transcends the universe vanishes and is replaced by pantheism or panentheism. Thus, the Creator God cannot be distinguished or worshipped over creation. As a result, each person's interpretations or ideas are as valuable or perhaps more valuable than the expressed Word of God in Scripture.
Cutting edge generalizations there and as with most of the blog articles at Atoday without any source material being given. Because when you actually deal with the actual words of people it is much harder to smear them with banal generalities.

Now I can agree with all the teachings of the emergent church leaders just as I don't agree with all of any other denominations or all of any independent church leader. I don't expect to agree with everyone but I do expect to be able to present my side of an argument and to have the other side accurately be presented. Sadly such objectivity is becoming harder to find in Adventism...maybe also in general Christianity as well.

So in my effort to confront the perversity of such authors as Herb Douglas and Cindy Tutsch lets take some time an hear what an emergent church leader actually says. His own words even, we don't have to go to someone interpretations of what he said we can all look at it. So here is some material from Brian McLaren found in his article A New Kind of Bible Reading He lists 13 points in regards to Bible reading I will abbreviate them here but it offers a nice demonstration between the thoughtful emergent church and the dogmatic traditionalist as seen in Cindy Tutsch's opening lines.

1. Reading the Bible narratively: This means reading the Bible in context of the nested series of stories it is telling.

2. Reading the Bible conversationally: If a culture is a community of people who
converse (or argue) about the same things across many generations, it makes sense to learn the contours of the main players in the conversation.

3. Reading the Bible missionally: If we believe there is a narrative arc to the Bible, we would agree it has to do with God’s creative project, the missio dei, God’s mission of making a world, healing it when it goes astray, and calling it to ever-greater justice, beauty, goodness and truth.
4. Reading the Bible politically/economically: The God of the Bible loves justice,
especially for people who suffer under the domination of violent and oppressive empire. God’s counter-imperial mission is therefore both personal and public, individual and social.

5. Reading the Bible rhetorically: Often, we focus on what a text says and miss what it is trying to do. For example, a mother might say, “If you hit your brother again, I’m going to lock you in your room for a year!” Grammatically and logically, we might say she is making a conditional promise that would qualify her for a charge of child abuse: I will do this if you do that. But rhetorically, she is using hyperbole to encourage one of her children to stop hurting another child. She wants what is best for both children – for one to be non-violent and for the other to be a non-casualty. What seems at first glance to be a threat of cruelty is, in a rhetorical light, the opposite: an expression of love flowing from a desire for peace.

6. Read the Bible literarily: When people claim to interpret the Bible literally, they often unconsciously mean, “like lawyers who write and interpret constitutions.” Constitutional readings trap readers in the grim and limited hermeneutics of the past. But when readers of the Bible develop sensitivity to the ways poets, protesters, storytellers, activists, priests, and mystics use language, the Bible is liberated from its constitutional captivity to be the wild, inspired, and impassioned collection of literary artifacts that it is.

7. Read the Bible closely: One of my favorite theologians asks how we can distinguish a better interpretation from a less satisfying one. Better interpretations, she says, account for more of the details in the text than their counterparts. In other words, we should prefer an interpretation that makes sense of details – showing why the author or community that produced the text decided each detail was worth including.

[He either forgot 8 or miss numbered in the PDF]

9. Reading the Bible communally: The Bible is not, as many preachers of my childhood affirmed, so easy to understand that any child can interpret it. A grown-up can’t even do it on his or her own. Nor can all the scholars of a generation. Nor can all the scholars of all generations. One dimension, in my experience, of the Bible’s inspiration is its depth, its absolute saturation with meaning, its ability to generate meaningful insight again and again, across generations and cultures, and across each individual’s lifetime as well.   That’s why, with so much meaning to be explored, we need to engage with it communally.

10. Reading the Bible recursively: Readers of the Bible have seen it in widely varying ways across centuries. For example, who today would guess that the Song of Solomon would have been the book in the Bible taken most seriously by certain late-medieval commentators, much the way that Romans has been primary for Lutherans and Calvinists, or Daniel and Revelation for Dispensationalists? Just as readers across the centuries have seen it differently, so will we across our personal and denominational life cycles.

11. Reading the Bible ethically: Even a cursory review of the use of the Bible in relation to slavery, anti-Semitism, the treatment of Indigenous Peoples, or Galileo’s discoveries about the solar system should remind us that interpretation is a moral act. People suffer and die because of bad interpretations, and they thrive and celebrate because of good ones. That’s why I believe that we should test an interpretation by reason and scholarship, using our rational intelligence – as we have traditionally done. But we must go farther, and also test our interpretations by conscience, using our emotional, ethical, and social intelligence - which we have too seldom done, raising questions like these: How might I treat people if I follow this interpretation? Whom might I harm? What unintended social consequences can we predict if this interpretation is widely embraced?

12. Reading the Bible personally: The Bible scholar or reader who is a follower of Christ can never pretend to be apart from the textual community as she reads the text. She must remember that she is a part of that community of faith, accountable to the God to which the text points and by which the text is inspired. It becomes dangerous to the soul to practice reading the Bible outside of this relational, personal context.

13. Reading the Bible mystically: To take the personal dimension a step deeper, the
faithful reader must develop the habit of mystical openness, receptivity not only to
understanding from the text but to enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, not only to
interpretation but to revelation, not only to intelligent engagement with the text but also to personal abduction by its message. As we read about people having dreams and visions, we must remain open to the possibility of having our own imaginations invaded and surprised.

Scary isn't it, the Bible actually calls for interpretation, much different than just letting some traditionalist tell you what it means. Though of course if you let the traditionalist tell you what it means they won't spend their time bad mouthing you. Of course you won't really grow and you can only tell others what the traditionalists believe and you end up digging a deeper hole that you can't get out of, but then getting out of traditionalism is never high on a traditionalist's agenda.

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