Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Presbymergents: Loyal Radicals?


"Presbymergent is the online community for those who live in both the Presbyterian (PCUSA) and Emergent/emerging church worlds and want to try and find a balance between the two. We are pastors, lay people, seminarians, theologians, youth directors and people who generally care about both the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Emergent and the emergent conversation."

Let's discern their nature of "Worship" from one of the Presbymergent "community of ALL peoples."

"We resolve to engage a variety of worship forms. Many people commented on the need for our worship gatherings to engage ritual and liturgy. We also talked about centering prayer and the idea of creating original indigenous liturgies."

Notice the source of authority is ideas from members, "We resolve...Many people commented...We also talked...creating original indigenous." Nothing from the Bible, the PC(USA), the creeds, or any spiritual tradition.

The only recognizable spiritual notions here are some of the vocabulary, "Worship...ritual and liturgy...centering prayer...indigenous liturgies." However, the "Centering Prayer" has a link to a Wikipedia article which gives a fuller explanation of this:

"Centering prayer is a popular method of contemplative prayer or Christian meditation, placing a strong emphasis on interior silence. Though most authors trace its roots to the contemplative prayer of the Desert Fathers of early Christian monasticism, to the Lectio Divina tradition of Benedictine monasticism, and to works like The Cloud of Unknowing and the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, its origins as part of the "Centering Prayer" movement in modern Catholicism and Christianity can be traced to several books published by three Trappist monks of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts in the 1970s: Fr. William Meninger, Fr. M. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating."

This is a very common form of spirituality shared by many Emergents. Notice the heavily traditional Catholic influence so as Solomon said, "There is no new thing under the sun" (Eccl 1:9). Notice also the emphasis on "interior silence" or as the article further clarifies, "The purpose of centering prayer is to clear the mind of rational thought in order to focus on the indwelling presence of God."

So ultimately, focusing on the indwelling presence of God clears the mind of rational thought which can then be used to "create original indigenous liturgies." This is a much shorter circuit to spirituality than the traditional, longer routes of using the Bible, the PC(USA), the creeds, or any spiritual tradition. So the fable here is Existential Experience and not rationality!

This is a far cry from Westminster's first lines:

"Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that His will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased."

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)

Baptimergent: Progressive Jesus?

At the Baptimergent and companion Alliance of Baptist sites, a post called, "In a word, "Progressive" appears with a curious attempt at making Jesus a "Progressive."

"Again, Jesus is helpful here. Progressive action in the gospel is determined and measured by relationships made, healed, and sustained. (Matt. 22:34-40) Such relationships are the very nature of the kin_dom of God; the defragmentation of the created world. Being a progressive Christian will describe someone who embodies this kind of defragmentation ethic."

The Progress Jesus in the Progressive's Gospel is a Jesus of Progressive Action determined and measured by relationships made, healed and sustained which is the Very Kingdom of God supported by Matthew 22:34-40?

What does this verse say about relationships? How about determining, measuring, making, healing, and sustaining them? How about relationships as the very Kingdom of God?

The context of most of the Matthew 22 account is "Jesus perceiving their malice" (Matt 22:18) of none other than Pharisees, Herodians, Experts of the Law, and Sadducees who were plotting to "Trap Him by what He said" (Matt 22:15)! So assuredly Jesus must be determining, measuring, making, healing, and sustaining relationships in this passage--Right?

Jesus’ opening Progressive, healing, and sustaining relational words here in context are, "Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? (Matt 22:18)! Wait! Do we start relationships with such openers? I know Emergents do this when talking to us but that's not what the Gospel's point is here. :)

Going with the contextual order here, first the Pharisees and Herodians are plotting how to trap Jesus by what He says (Matt 22:15-16) within the God and Caesar arena (Matt 22:15-22) and Jesus’ classic answer is, "Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matt 22:21).

Next, on the same day, Sadducees (who like Emergents do not believe in resurrections) come to Jesus to question him (Matt 22:23-33) about a wife who had beat Tamar's record for serial-brother marrying (Genesis 38:6-14). Great relational material here! Jesus’ Progressive, healing, and sustaining relational words here in context are, "You are deceived, because you don't know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matt 22:29)!

Next, on the same day, Pharisees having heard how Jesus’ Progressive, healing, and sustaining relational words had really silenced the Sadducees, come again this time with an Expert in The Law to test Jesus by what He says (Matt 22:35) about the Primary Commandments of Love God and Neighbors (Matt 22:34-40).

Is this the context of Jesus' statement about the Kingdom of God, "All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments" (Matt 22:40)? There's nothing here about the Kingdom of God or relationships or how to determine, measure, make, heal, and sustain them--just a straight answer about The Law!

Finally, Jesus turns the questioning back on the Pharisees, "What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?" (Matt 22:41-42). "Sit until I put Your enemies under Your feet" (Matt 22:44)! Great relational material here also! "No one was able to answer Him at all, and from that day no one dared to question Him any more" (Matt 22:46). In other words, Jesus relationship with the Pharisees, Herodians, Experts of the Law, and Sadducees was never restored?

So this account, in context, describes someone who embodies this kind of defragmentation ethic of Progressive Action: First, "Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? (Matt 22:18); Second, "Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matt 22:21); Third, "You are deceived, because you don't know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matt 22:29); Fourth, "Sit until I put Your enemies under Your feet" (Matt 22:44); and Fifthly, (Calvinist and Remonstrants hold off) "No one was able to answer Him at all, and from that day no one dared to question Him any more" (Matt 22:46). Is this the Jesus of Progessive Action who is determined and measured by relationships made, healed and sustained which is the Very Kingdom of God?

I'm not sure this is what the Baptimergent and companion Alliance of Baptist sites meant by this "in a word!" Come to think of it though, I have seen Emergents act this way when being challenged on their doctrine! :)


Monday, December 28, 2009

Baptimergence III: An Ongoing Tradition?

Let’s finish our discernment about what Baptimergents believe by looking at an “Identity” statement from a “baptistfamily of faith’s third paragraph. Here we finally get to a statement about the Bible, however, the source of authority becomes even more murky!

“From our beginnings, Baptists have self-identified as “people of the book.” This has been a longstanding confession of our commitment to the Bible as a trustworthy source for understanding who we are in relationship to God. We read the Bible prayerfully, and seek to discern its meaning together through what Jesus revealed about God. The stories, liturgies, songs, apocalypses, and parables that make up the Bible have made their way through centuries of translations and interpretations. We trust what we have, and embrace our part in that long ongoing tradition of interpretation and application.”

Reparsing their wording carefully, we again note: From our beginnings…self-identified…“people of the book”…longstanding confessionour commitment…who weWe read…We trust what we have…embrace our part…long ongoing tradition of interpretation and application. Where is authority? Apparently, our tradition of interpretation and application is the authority!

Notice carefully how the Bible becomes the Word of God: Our commitment to the Bible as a trustworthy source [Is there another source?] for understanding who we are in relationship to God [Does the Bible tell us about Who God is?]. We read the Bible prayerfully, and seek to discern its meaning [Would it be the Word of God if we didn’t do this?] together through what Jesus revealed about God. The stories [Are these not the testimonies of eye-witnesses?], liturgies, songs, apocalypses, and parables that make up the Bible have made their way through centuries of translations and interpretations [Were these not in the original manuscripts?]. We trust what we have, [How wonderful and irrational!] and embrace our part [How Martyr-like!] in that long ongoing tradition of interpretation and application.

In other words, the Bible is a source for understanding who we are! This is the fable of Barthian neo-orthodoxy. God does not reveal Himself but only gives revelations. God's Word suddenly comes to us and the magic happens by praying and seeking what Jesus has revealed about God. Thus, God's Word is contained in the Bible but it does not become God's Word until we experience it! Of course, we still have to plow through all those liturgies, songs, apocalypses, parables, centuries of translations, and interpretations to get to what Jesus actually revealed about God. But with much praying and seeking you eventually get to some real gems [amongst all the added noise of man]. Such crosses we must bear as “We trust what we have, and embrace our part!”

Therefore, Baptimergents final authority is not “Sola Scriptura” or “Scriptures Alone” (2 Tim 3:15-17; 1:12-14; Col 1:4-6; I Cor 2:13) but whatever they believe God has experientially revealed to them from the Bible! In contrast, historic confessional Baptists believe, "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience."

The London Baptist Confession of 1689

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Religion as G-D Management System

In a book that only Brian McLaren could have matched and did endorse (see below), It's Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian by New York City pastor Samir Selmanovic presents their jointly held Universalist, Rodney Kingish, "Why can't we all just get along" just "Hand me another tire iron" Post-Modern worldview.

“I'm speechless in trying to describe this book. I laughed out loud in places and cried big tears at the end. It's a work of faith, a work of art, and to some, no doubt, it will be a work of damnable heresy. I think this book will change people's lives, and more: it can save lives, in the many senses of that word. All the religious pundits and broadcasters on radio and cable TV had better take notice, because this book threatens our conventional, comfortable categories and familiar black-and-white polarities. Selmanovic has the nerve to imagine our religions becoming, not walls behind which we hide and over which we lob bombs of damnation, but bridges over which we travel to find God in the other.” Brian McLaren, Author/Activist

In the Publisher's Weekly description:

"Selmanovic synthesizes his upbringing in a Muslim-atheist household and his own conversion to Christianity as a young adult to create this concise and entertaining interfaith memoir. The author vividly describes his childhood in Yugoslavia, where his Muslim father and Christian mother reveled in multicultural cooking and entertaining. Essentially raised to be an atheist, Selmanovic shattered his parents' world when he converted to Christianity at age 18 during his required army service."


Only in Yugoslavia or America could we place these mutually exclusives so close together!

"Selmanovic's story goes much deeper while still being respectful of, and fair to, all faiths and beliefs. An active member of the interfaith movement, Selmanovic actually moves beyond just creating harmony between faiths toward achieving a d├ętente between people of faith and atheists. He challenges clergy to reclaim a space outside institutional walls and Christians to tone down conversion rhetoric. Sprinkled throughout are Selmanovic's entertaining and illustrative anecdotes, including the quite memorable Theology of Hemorrhoids."

Hemorrhoidal theology aside, Samir presents himself as the ultimate, passive, nice guy as can be seen in his video below. Is it any surprise that McLaren is so excited?


Especially, since Samir believes all religions are G-D Management Systems! Are these not the Post-Modern's ghost-like monsters and their fabled, evil "Metanarratives" created and reinforced only by power structures and are therefore not to be trusted? Brian McLaren was right, this will be seen as "a work of damnable heresy!" consistent with the Revelation 17:1-5 church!

Samir's Interfaith Memoir