Saturday, April 09, 2005

Criticism

"I am twenty years old and by the grace and sovereignty of God have been redeemed by the bloody work of Christ on the cross. The reason I write is with concern for your theology and paradigm of who the church was made for ..."

"I think I saw things more as you do back when I was twenty, and when you’re pushing fifty, you may see things a bit more as I do. Thanks for telling me how you see things and for trying to help me out. I appreciate your desire to correct me and help me."

- "Dialogue" Statement & Response, Brian McLaren's website
There is alot of criticism out there of the "emergent church movement", some of it on target, but most of it unwarranted and mean-spirited. In the exchange above, the criticism is more accusatory and judgmental than it probably needs to be, and McLaren's response, at least the first sentence, might be more condescending than necessary. But really, I appreciate his recognition that the critique is coming from a heart that wants to help but might not know how to do that best, that wants to pursue truth but doesn't have the tools or language to pull it off yet. We all come to these conversations with baggage, plus and minus, and realizing that about the people on "the other side" is what allows us to respectfully and affirmingly disagree.

Andrew Jones links to this article by Frank Viola - "Will the Emerging Church Fully Emerge?" - complimenting the author on his fairness and well-thought out criticisms. But then there's criticism from D.A. Carson, this weblog entry from Albert Mohler, and a critique of McLaren posted by Steve Camp, and the general tone is generally arrogant and superior in tone. Why is that? What is it about this conversation that causes so many people to get all wadded up?

The reason, if there is one, is that MOST PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE HAVING THEIR FAITH CHALLENGED. What we hold dear is sacred, and when something challenges that, it hurts. What we do with that hurt is usually strike back, or shrug the critique off as "you have your opinions", or we internalize it and take the hurt inside. But that's just what this "emerging movement" is doing: challenging why we do what we do, deconstructing why we believe what we believe. Where that deconstruction is leaving holes, there is hurt - and there should be, if we're really people of faith. But where there's new growth and new reconstruction on better more grounded foundations, I wish the church and its leaders could be more gracious and open to what's possible.

I'd rather be proved wrong and helped to be made right, than to stand firm on what I think is "right" and miss out. I think that's happening alot lately.

4 Comments:

Blogger janet said...

I'd rather be proved wrong and helped to be made right, than to stand firm on what I think is "right" and miss out. I think that's happening alot lately.

AMEN!! Rick, you have so completely summed up my thoughts and emotions of the last week. Thank you!

9/4/05 3:43 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

the more i look, the more there are people who are on the same journey - and the more there are people who need to be, you know? thanks for being right there, jae - i appreciate that.

9/4/05 8:45 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I don't quite agree with your assessment of the quoted exchange. Going on what you have here, I don't see where the question is accusatory. The first sentence is a statement of faith. The second seems simply to specify the topic in question. The only phrase remotely "judgemental" (though i'd call it...well, concerned) is "with concern for"--which i read originally as a variant of "in regards to."

(*reading the extended question*)

Even upon further review, it still doesn't sound "judgemental", i.e., the inquirer doesn't pass judgement on McClaren personally. Rather, he engages McC's opinion and states his own, without insult or malice.

On the other hand, McClaren's "response" evades the points brought up, and dismisses the inquirer as essentially being "too young to understand."

Clearly, you're coming to the defense of the Emergent 'side' in this post, and of course that's fine. But be sure to acknowledge that arrogance, superiority, and insult is on both sides of the question, and that certain (self-appointed?) spokespersons of the "Emergent movement" (I am not directly referring to McC here) are just as guilty of being close-minded and judgemental as those having their beliefs "challenged."

12/4/05 2:20 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

accepted - and you're right. i felt that the response was ageist at best, and condescending at worst. i was actually taking note that the original statements were just that: statements, with little wiggle room for a discussion. instead of trying to get our heads around what's going on, the other position must be wrong and here's why point point point. i'd rather the same criticism be rephrased inquisitively with questions, because i think that opens both sides to learn from each other. as it is, i don't know that either is really open to that possibility.

point taken, though, and thanks :)

12/4/05 2:29 PM  

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