Archive for March 28th, 2008

In the movie, Tin Cup, Kevin Costner plays a golf pro who is so broke that his golf clubs are in hock. However, he has an opportunity to go against his nemesis, and decides to play with a hoe, a rake, and other garden equipment. While Costner’s financial state was of his own doing, the status of his clubs is all too familiar to those that write here.

Quote 1 Corinthians 9:22 (”all things to all men”) to an anti-emergent, and you’ll be told that “all emergents use that verse”. Never mind that (a) that response may be irrelevant to the conversation and (b) you’re not actually an emergent. That verse is off-limits (and therefore, apparently, not inspired by God).

Try to defend the usage of cultural references in teaching and preaching by noting Acts 17:22-34, and the anti-emergents will derisively sniff “contextualization” and terminate the conversation.

Then, of course, there are the claims — though not in so many words — of omniscience. An appeal is made to Matthew 7:16 and similar verses. However, a discussion of the recognition of false teachers somehow becomes a carte blanche that allows one to know every last intimate detail of every motivation of any person in the world, based on a single issue.

Case in point: I’m sure that someone discredited this entire post after 5 words, because I referenced an R-rated movie.

Finally, there’s the slam dunk. If nothing else seems to be working, the anti-emergent claims that the other person is not a Christian. Or as one Slice commenter once so graciously put it:

Houston will be a desert before I accept [him] as a brother in Christ.

I bet the person about whom she was speaking is glad that her acceptance is absolutely meaningless when it comes to his salvation. I find it truly amazing the work that God must have prepared for us, that heaven isn’t going to be full of cursing — “Oh, #%#^!! They are here ?!?!”

And so, here we sit — with a hoe, rake, and a few other garden tools — looking at the opponent’s multi-thousand-dollar set of Callaways, and thinking that the clubs in the backseat of his car look awfully familiar. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.

In the early days of the Peanuts comic strip, Linus was still a toddler. In one strip, Lucy spitefully takes all the toys away — not that she’s going to play with them — she just doesn’t want him to have them. She leaves behind a lone piece of string. Linus looks at it for a minute, and in no time is having a blast with that string. Furious, Lucy rushes back and snatches it from him.

To mix the Peanuts and Tin Cup metaphors, Lucy’s coming after the hoe now.

Kevin DeYoung (a pastor in Michigan) and Ted Kluck (a sportswriter) have teamed up to write a book titled Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be). The parenthetical portion of the title is a reference to the fact that, ostensibly, the emergent movement appeals to a particular demographic of which these men are a part. A bit presumptuous, but hey, lets not pick nits. There are much bigger issues between the book’s covers.

In decrying the argument that some of emergent theology is still in process, DeYoung writes:

It’s one thing for a high school student to be in process with his theology. It’s another thing for adults to write books and speak around the world about their musing and misgivings.

This is simply a (slightly) more gracious inverse version of Steve Camp’s rant regarding Tim Challies. Now instead of age bringing wisdom, and formal training being a good thing, we are told that by adulthood, we should have “arrived”.

So why is DeYoung writing this book? Is his only target demographic high-school students? Because, according to him, no one else should be in process with their theology.

For that matter, is the entire congregation of his church under 18? If not, why is he even bothering to talk to people who’ve already missed the boat?

DeYoung goes on:

I agree there must be space for Christians to ask hard questions and explore the tensions of our faith, but I seriously question that this space should be hugely public where hundreds of thousands of men and women are eagerly awaiting the next book or blog or podcast arising from your faith journey.

I’ll lay aside the ridiculous notion that says that if others react improperly to your teaching (e.g. hero worship), that’s because you did something wrong — that horse died a long time ago. The way I read this, DeYoung is saying that hard questions should not be public. Rather, they should be kept relatively private. This way, other people assume that you have no problems or struggles, and they figure they’re the only ones that are messed up. And God forbid that they find out that their leadership doesn’t have all the answers.

In short, DeYoung is advocating lying by omission.

Now, here’s where DeYoung goes after the hoe. To the claim that all emergent leaders should not be lumped together, DeYoung writes that:

when people endorse one another’s book and speak at the same conferences and write on the same blogs, there is something of a discernible movement afoot.

Let’s break this down:

  • Endorsing one another’s books: While Camp’s rant on Challies was waaaaaaaaaay over the top and contained a good bit of error, there probably was a measure of truth to his statements regarding book endorsements — namely, they don’t mean as much as one might think.
  • Speaking at the same conferences: A couple years ago, Mark Driscoll spoke at the same conference as someone with whom he disagreed immensely on several theological issues. For occupying the same space as someone else within a 48-hour period, Driscoll was decried for “partnering in ministry” with the other man. From there it was only a short hop to (mis-)applying 2 Corinthians 6:14 to the situation and claiming that Driscoll was in direct violation of being unequally yoked. Update: Matt Chandler has noted that if someone has the opportunity to share the gospel “even in shady areas, they would be fools to not take advantage of that.”
  • Writing on the same blogs: I can’t decide if this one is asinine or simply hysterical. There are many things about which I disagree with other writers on this blog — and not just because Joe is a [shudder] Yankees’ fan.

In short, DeYoung is saying, “Sorry, you can’t argue that all emergent leaders shouldn’t be lumped together. I have declared otherwise. It is so.” And whatever you do, don’t confuse him with the facts.

And there goes the hoe.

Other anti-emergents must be kicking themselves right about now. Instead of trying to defend irresponsible over-generalization, all they had to do was say “Over-generalization? What over-generalization?” And they could’ve spent their time more productively, like by digging out footnotes from 3-year-old books.

Excuse me — I’m gonna go play with this piece of string now.

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