Every once in a while a truly and thoroughly evil villain appears, such as a Hitler or Stalin, an Ivan the Terrible or Vlad the Impaler. Folks such as these are easy to oppose. But, when opposing someone who does not exhibit pure evil, building a caricature helps. The first step in any confrontation, be it political, military, or otherwise is to portray your adversary in as poor a light as possible… and the weaker your position/argument the more sever (and important) the caricature becomes.

We have seen this time and time again with various amateur discerners and their blogs. Arguing from a position of weakness, often employing logic based on faulty information, hyperbole, or mere preferences – they must create a caricature of their opponent. Addressing real issues, taking people at face value, using complete statements, bothering to understand the nuances of a thought or comment are either lost or ignored.

The process is exacerbated when the ADM echo chamber kicks in and they start cross-linking and reposting – each time hardening the categories and expanding the caricature.

For example; here is a recent post (in its entirty) by Ingrid on SoL:

Here is an excellent post by Chris Rosebrough at Extreme Theology on the emergent whine that anyone who states anything authoritatively about God is “putting God in a box.” That line is a favorite of those who simply like to make their god up as they go. God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. But emergents, kicking that Word to the curb, would prefer to have a god who changes with them. It is much, much more convenient.

Notice the definitive statements of supposed fact: anyone who states anything authoritatively about God, [they] make their god up as they go, God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. But emergents…

I challenge this ADM to show an example where anyone whom she regularly names says “Any definitive and authoritative statement about God is placing him in a box.” Her hyperbole in caricature creation renders her objections shrill, comical, and useless.  She may have had a point, but her method of re-creating her foe into an unrecognizable caricature renders her argument meaningless.

But this is just the echo chamber exacerbating the ridiculous. If you read the original by Chris R., you will see it is somewhat more tempered – but still guilty of caricature creation and assassination – or straw man – and therefore it is to be rejected.

The very title of the post betrays the false dichotomy upon which it is built – God in a Box” or God As He Has Revealed Himself? This is not a dichotomy. These are not mutually exclusive choices. God has indeed revealed himself, and we finite humans routinely place him in a box.

The thesis of the post is this:

Today, if you happen to be conversing with a group of CHRISTIANS and you boldly, confidently, and succinctly talk about God and His characteristics, attributes and what He has done you are very likely to be accused of “putting God in a box”?

To a point I agree, though I would say “You may be accused…” But instead of exploring this thesis, instead of advancing when God is boxed and when he is not -the ADM jumps immediately to a caricature of his own creation.

He writes:

One of these Christians might even throw a Rob Bell quote or two in your face and tell you that you need to not be so arrogant and should adopt a more humble hermeneutic. According to Bell, “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up.” (Velvet Elvis, Page 25)

Humility is poppycock?

It’s supposedly poppycock because

In the scriptures we have God’s revelation of himself and that divine self-revelation gives us some very hard neat lines and definitions about who God is, what He is like, what He has done and what true worship of Him entails. … But, we must always be careful to not allow our imaginations to go beyond what God has revealed about Himself in his word. That which God has not revealed about himself is still mystery.

At this point I would again agree… and so would Bell if he were allowed to speak for himself. After quoting a few of the giants of the faith the ADM points out “…that Paul didn’t say that we ‘can’t know’ but that we only KNOW IN PART.” Here he is denying a statement Bell never made. He’s arguing with a caricature of his own creating not any actual statements made by Rob Bell.

In context, Bell was simply affirming what the ADM himself said; “That which God has not revealed about himself is still mystery.” To deny and subvert this context the ADM must ignore statements that affirm the existence of truth and that Bell affirms the historic Christian faith. Which, by the way, he in no ways denies.

Basically, the ADM and the echo chamber have taken a simple and true statement – If your goal is to figure [God] out and totally understand [Him], it’s not going to happen. and twisted it into “You cannot say anything definitive or authoritative about God.” Then they attack.
This is sloppy at best; it is dishonest as worst… I don’t think they are that sloppy.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 at 2:57 pm and is filed under Blogging, Chris Rosebrough, Emergent Church, Ingrid. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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29 Comments(+Add)

1   Neil    
April 21st, 2009 at 3:16 pm


I know this will probably spin off into a Bell discussion, but the point of the OP is more about the illegitimate methods used by these two ADM’s when making an argument.

That said, Chris R blogs “that part [of God] that we do know is sure and certain and has neat lines and clear definitions.”

Are there any of their usual targets that deny this? Certainly Bell believes in certainty and lines… they are easily found HERE.

2   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
April 21st, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Notice the definitive statements of supposed fact: anyone who states anything authoritatively about God, [they] make their god up as they go, God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. But emergents…

This is so sad as most “emergents” i know and talk to take the bible very serious… and at times more serious than I see people like Chris R seems to… in fact the huge difference is that most if not all emergents I know try not only to know, understand… but live the bible and it’s teachings without picking and choosing… I see Chris R and many in his camp who pick and choose and misuse the bible as well as Jesus in such atrocious ways … in ways neither were ever intended to be used… imaging using Jesus words from the bible to condemn sinners… Jesus did not come to condemn… but to save.

Matt 12: 35. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

My misusing and abusing the bible and Jesus, I see that these people do not truly care for it’s teachings… let alone truth… they only care to have THEIR OWN words heard… and in the end unfortunately condemn themselves.


3   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
April 21st, 2009 at 4:19 pm

I would rather drink poison than spend my life studying and handwringing about what someone else believes. I still cannot find one ODM who actually believes in the sovereignty of God. Preach the Word is our comand, not scour the media to see what Rob Bell has said lately. If you believe he is an heretic, than move on. If not, move on.

The ODMs should thank God for Bell, Warren, and the emergents since without these men they would have no purpose in life.

I just may be a wide open theist, because I have seen where God can neither control the heretics nor the defenders of the faith. The church today is in such disarray and lacking any real spiritual power that it is possible the very elect won’t be reached. :cool:

4   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
April 21st, 2009 at 4:44 pm

And here is a post that wreaks with doctrinal self righteousness and theological hubris. The entire article says in essence “if you do not preach it the way I do (or the way the Bible teaches wich are projected as one in the same), you are not preaching Christ”.

And the article ends with this unbelievable statement:

“Conclusion: if an evangelist is not preaching repentance of sins and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name (aka the word of Christ) then he is not preaching a message that God will use to impart the gifts of repentance, faith and peace with God through the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.”

Yes, he is saying what you think he is, in that God will only use his gospel preaching in his format to save souls. Not only does that make him a liar, I am living proof that God uses unapproved men like Billy Graham to reach lost sinners, and even Broadway plays like Godspell to draw sinners unto Himself.

Could there be any higher spiritual self righteousness than to suggest that God will only use a gospel presentation like his to save souls? Souls have been saved and lives have been changed through many different and sometimes flawed presentations of the gospel. As I have said before, one of my best friends got saved under a health and wealth preacher who I am sure wasn’t preaching an ODM approved message. My friend is a faithful follower of Christ who attends a John MacArthur satellite church.

Just when I thought the depth of the self righteous theological “in crowd” could not get any more absurd, I am proven wrong.

5   Neil    
April 21st, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Well – he gets the Rev 3:20 part right…

6   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
April 21st, 2009 at 4:57 pm

You are correct, Neil, however the Spirit has reached out and saved many a sinner by a quoting of that verse out of context. Isn’t the grace of God something wonderful?

This is what happens when believers mix law with grace, they demand a verbal equation, etched in stone and with the exact theological wording, before God can or will save someone.

I read somewhere that Jesus said if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me. Talk about your nebulous and liberal message. When Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” he was presenting a false gospel as well.

The protectors of the Holy Grail strike again. Theological Calculus VI – sign up and learn how to be saved.

7   Pastorboy    http://crninfo.wordpress.com
April 21st, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Sounds like you all have put Rob in the Box and Pastorboy in the box.

It is so sad. You cannot stand up to the clear teaching of scripture, what we can know (not what is hidden) and you make your own strawmen about people who love the Lord God Almighty and understand who He is according to His revealed word.

You say we put God in a box? You and your teachers who you love make a god of their own understanding, of their own philosophy, one who they can understand and appreciate. Actually it is called idolatry.

And when people like myself or Rob call you on it, using scripture, you just shut them up.

It is your site, but it is hypocrisy, and it is gutless because you do not want any sort of reasoned, scripture backed, albeit hearty debate.

I love you guys.

8   Neil    
April 21st, 2009 at 5:39 pm

I agree Rick, we should maintain the distinction between correct interpretation and the actions of God.

9   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 21st, 2009 at 7:12 pm

This seems rather apropos to Chris R & PB’s assertions on this topic:

Straw Man Argument

10   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 21st, 2009 at 7:43 pm

You just have to love the irony of someone like Chris R., who spends an inordinate amount of time defending a very specific systematic theology based largely on Platonic and Greek thought, lecturing people on not going beyond the bounds of Scripture…

It’s kind of like the Obama administration telling us how to balance the budget.

11   Neil    
April 21st, 2009 at 8:06 pm


And both Chris R., and Ingrid address things no one has said.


12   Scotty    http://scottysplace-scotty.blogspot.com/
April 21st, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Rick: Yes, he is saying what you think he is, in that God will only use his gospel preaching in his format to save souls. Not only does that make him a liar, I am living proof that God uses unapproved men like Billy Graham to reach lost sinners, and even Broadway plays like Godspell to draw sinners unto Himself.

Me too in a similar way. I think I may have mentioned here before but, it was Robert Schuller that first tweaked my interest. Was it not for some of the things he said that cracked the shell I had surrounded myself with, I would not have become more open to the Gospel. I will say I’ve outgrown what he says but God used him to first touch me!

Don’t need to tell anyone here what happened when I mentioned that on an EDM blog when it still had a comment section!

13   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
April 21st, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Great testimony, Scotty. Aren’t we glad God is not restricted to what we think? I can imagine God calling the roll in heaven.

“Anyone here from Rob Bell’s church?”

“Yea, we are.”

“Get out right now!!”. :)

14   Chris P.    
April 21st, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Bell isn’t humble.

15   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
April 21st, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Good post, Neil, especially the “poppycock” line about humility. It never ceases to amaze me how Christians in some circles (like the one Chris R or Ingrid roll in) have such disdain for the virtues that Jesus considered so essential to the Kingdom.

I am leary of anyone who thinks Scripture is the last word on all things God. The Bible has become “God for Dummies.” Words have replaced the Word.

To take scripture with utmost seriousness ought to begin from sincere humility and a recognition that the best we can do is gesture towards the ineffable God. Scripture is not God, but merely points to God, but those who think they have things wrapped up so neatly have seemingly forgotten that it is not the scriptures that give life but a living, breathing person: Jesus Christ.

I can’t even begin to comprehend my wife, whom I live with and would never claim I have in a box (although she may wish to put me in one at times), let alone God. It is the height of arrogance for anyone to claim otherwise.

16   AnonymousJane    
April 22nd, 2009 at 8:32 am

Scotty’s comment #11 made me think of this, so forgive me if I am straying from topic…

I feel like God has used some of the ADM sites, especially Slice of Laodicea, to draw me closer to Him. When I first stumbled upon Ingrid, I was amazed that there were actually Christians like that. I had never known any Christian who espoused what she did. I had seen Christians like her portrayed in stories and the like, usually for humor, but had never met anyone like that in the churches I had attended.

Reading Ingrid’s articles made me question what I believed and made me dig deeper to answer the questions of why I believe what I do. She also led me to some great books and sites by introducing me to people like Rob Bell. Even with Purpose Driven Life selling like hotcakes, I had never heard of it until Ingrid addressed it.

I have yet to find the preacher/teacher/author with whom I agree 100% of the time, but I have learned a lot about myself and about God by digging through it all, thinking and sorting.

Thank you, ADMs.

17   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 22nd, 2009 at 8:44 am

It is sort of funny how that whole “forbidden fruit” aspect of the ADM phenomenon works. I know personally I would never have had any interest in reading any of the books that Bell had talked about in his endnotes had it not been for ADM type people making a stink about them. Back then I had never even heard of Marcus Borg. I do think Borg is out in left field, but still, I wonder sometimes if the fact that people even talk about him, even negatively, just doesn’t encourage some people to want to read him.

I must confess that’s something I even fear here. I sometimes wonder how much traffic we send to the ADM sites by even linking to them here. Maybe we should just let them fade into oblivion. It just seems to me that they have been exposed for who they are now.

18   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
April 22nd, 2009 at 8:51 am

I think that is true of many people, Jane.

Maybe we should just let them fade into oblivion.

I wonder this too, Phil. People with the sort of worldview and character found on those sites thrive on combativeness and negativity. I wonder what would happen if everyone would just shut up and be Christ to some body.

19   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
April 22nd, 2009 at 9:06 am

They are object lessons that can and do serve, as Jane mentioned, as crucibles of spiritual evaluation for many believers. Even though some credible issues are addressed, they are so often showcased in such hubris dismissiveness that believers who truly desire to be humble servants are taken aback by the caustic rhetoric and benefit from seeing the unbiblical tone.

The media, from TV to blogs, can and does magnify things and make them larger and more pervasive than reality would suggest. The emergent movement is still very small and most believers have either never heard of it or know almost nothing about it. Rick Warren is the most recognized name in evangelicalism, and even though many of us have disagreements with his format he still is generally orthodox in his beliefs.

I think personal discernment can be minimized expedentially. I read that Marcus Borg suggests the body of Jesus was eaten by wild dogs and I need not hear any more. See, the shortest distance between two points!


8.Self righteousness
4.Moral gospel
1.Carelessness with Scripture

Actually #1 encapsulates the other nine.

20   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
April 22nd, 2009 at 9:41 am

What is your counter to #7?

Liberalism in the classic sense is more in line with the way of Jesus than, say, conservatism.

21   Zan    
April 22nd, 2009 at 9:55 am

This may not be a direct retort, but I believe it does bear consideration and thought in how we respond to those that “are not one of us”…

Mark 9:
38″Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

These are scriptures I think of whenever I try and “put God in a box” by saying He won’t/can’t work in *insert method I don’t approve of* way…

22   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 22nd, 2009 at 9:56 am

Liberalism in the classic sense is more in line with the way of Jesus than, say, conservatism.

It depends on what you mean by liberalism and conservatism. In the classic sense, liberalism was associated with Enlightenment ideals, putting individual liberty ahead of all other ideas. To me, a person who would sort of embody classic liberalism was Thomas Jefferson.

Now conservatism, I think in its purest form is about personal responsibility. It’s kind of taking the classic liberal idea a step further by saying that not only standing up for personal liberties, but by somehow saying that everyone has to fight for their own and make their own way in the world.

In the end, I’d say Jesus wouldn’t necessarily endorse either worldview totally. Jesus’ command as to how we should live is to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I don’t think any political philosophy can claim to have lived up to this ideal all that well.

23   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
April 22nd, 2009 at 10:07 am

Phil, I agree. This is why I asked Rick to express what he sees as the better half of his #7.

Liberalism can also mean (and I take it to mean) an open posture to any and all, to freely give of what resources we have been gifted with (as opposed to the mindset that we own anything) and a desire to follow after the leading of the Spirit into a future that is not predetermined (thus holding loosely to old methods and beliefs).

To sum up what I am saying, a classic liberal line might sound something like: You have heard it said…but I tell you…

24   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
April 22nd, 2009 at 10:42 am

#7 is a great question. It dissects our interpretations, which can always have a subjective ingredient, from the actions of God which are absolutely true.

Liberalism in my view is an interpretation of redemption that either removes or compromises these truths:

* The Incarnation of Christ
* The cross as redemption and forgiveness of sin
* The reality of the bodily resurrection
* The exclusivity of Christ as eternal salvation
* Salvation by faith alone

These are core to the definition of Christianity. Notice things about which I omitted.

25   Neil    
April 22nd, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Sounds like you all have put Rob in the Box and Pastorboy in the box. – PB

I think reading a post should be a requirement before commenting… doing so would show neither of you were even mentioned.

…you make your own strawmen about people who love the Lord God Almighty and understand who He is according to His revealed word.- PB

And then when you do read a post you miss the point. No one denies that aspects of God are knowable. No one denies that he has revealed aspects of himself. No one denies that Chris R. and Ingrid love the Lorg God Almighty.

You cannot stand up to the clear teaching of scripture, – PB

In my OP I challenged Ingrid to show where anyone she routinely names says “Any definitive and authoritative statement about God is placing him in a box.” Now I challenge you to show where we have denied the clear teaching os Scripture.

Finally, you make grand accusations and fail to deliver proof or examples. You also seize on my illustration and ignore my greater point.

The point of the OP was to show how both Ingrid and Chris R. twisted what was said to better attack it, they both created caricatures that do not exist in reality, they both CHANGED WHAT THE PERSON SAID and then attacked it.

This you cannot deny.

26   Neil    
April 22nd, 2009 at 5:40 pm


In all seriousness, do you not see how Chris R. took Bell’s call for humility in the things we cannot know… and twisted it… then Ingrid amplified it to ““Any definitive and authoritative statement about God is placing him in a box.”

Do you not see the twisting and amplifying?


27   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
April 22nd, 2009 at 8:30 pm

PB has put himself in his own box… humility is not in that box… nor is the understanding of truth…

28   John Hughes    
April 23rd, 2009 at 8:15 am

I love boxes. I live in one, drive in one, work in one, worship in one, get entertainment in one, eat in one, sleep in one and will someday be buried in one.

29   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
April 23rd, 2009 at 8:20 am

And you think inside one as well! :)