theological chastity

My assessment of Pete Rollins’ argument is NOW HERE, which probably means for Pete that it is NO WHERE.  See what he did there?  It’s cute, but it’s not terribly helpful to give an argument/explanation/illustration for God’s non/existence that only works in the English language.  I wonder what argument Pete would use in China.  Perhaps he could make up something cool, like the name for God (Sheng-di) and nihilism is the same word in Chinese (which would be as true as the widespread rumor that the Chinese term for crisis also means opportunity, and it’s equally inspiring).  Here is my brief rebuttal of yesterday’s streamlined presentation of Rollin’s main argument (again, with footnotes omitted).

The simple answer to Rollins is that the God who made us in his image knows how to overcome our frailty and reveal the truth about himself in words and deeds that we can understand.  We will never comprehend or capture God with our human categories, but we are able to truly conceive of him.  God is more than what he can express in the pages of Scripture, but he is not different from what we read there.  We know God because he has revealed himself to us.

Rollins seems inconsistent on this point, for despite his repeated claim that we do not possess knowledge of God, he does claim to know that God, if he exists, wants us to love each other.  He is even indubitably certain about it, for he has “the certainty that something has happened” which has transformed him into a born again person who sacrificially loves others.  But how does he know this, and how is this experiential certainty any more reliable than “the epistemological certainty so loved by Enlightenment-influenced Christians”?  It is surprising that someone who argues so vociferously against knowledge and certainty would ground his case in knowledge and certainty.  In the end, Rollins’ deconstruction of traditional Christian orthodoxy could also be turned upon himself, making his argument self-refuting.

Rollins is also guilty of caricaturing the opposing view.  He has nothing good to say about Christian doctrine, but argues that “the facts” of our faith distract us from our real business of loving our neighbor.  It is true that some Christians may care more for the intellectual aspects of their faith than the call to serve others, but we should not use their unloving extreme as an excuse to justify the opposite extreme of ignorance.  Knowledge of God and what he has done in history is what fuels our sacrificial love.  “We love,” writes John, “because he first loved us” and “sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:19, 10).

Finally, the wittily provocative Rollins seems to over think the message of Scripture.  While I appreciate his passion for altruism, his argument for a thoroughly disinterested love is impossible to reconcile with the Bible’s promise of reward and resurrection.  This may not bother a man who believes that there is no right interpretation of Scripture, but the rest of us must take our cues from Paul, who declares that the resurrection of Jesus is the catalyst rather than an obstacle to our faith (1 Cor. 15:1-34).  Rollins’ reminder that the resurrection must be lived is well-taken, but he misses the more fundamental point that there is no new life to implement if Jesus did not physically arise from the tomb.  Jesus’ resurrection is not an optional distraction but the very foundation of our faith.  Contrary to Rollins, the Christian life of love cannot get started without it.

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  1. Great analysis. Similar to the same problem with John Hick, if God is truly ineffable and we can know nothing about Him – then how can we know that we should love our neighbor? Why not eat our neighbor? Both are supported by the silence of the ineffable. If we grant his point, even then there is a huge problem. What does it mean to love our neighbor? Jesus taught the story of the Good Samaritan to teach what love looked like. For an example of the problem – look at Buddha’s teaching on “compassion” in the Holy teaching of Vimilkirti where feeding and taking care of the poor is actually bad for the poor!
    Like all the rest of the emergent heresy pool, when you deny the reality and need for orthodoxy – you don’t “free” space for orthopraxy by removing its foundation (oops i swore!) and description. You end up a slave to multiple interpretation and its limitless disasters. Not a pretty picture.

  2. Nicely done, though I think you’re a little too gracious with this guy. Rollins doesn’t strike me a sincere Christians who wants to generate “conversation” in order to better understand our Great God and Savior and this Glorious Salvation that He’s accomplished in Christ; rather, he seems like he just wants to “provoke” the people of God and cause division and doubt among the faithful. We should listen (among other places) to Paul’s warning to the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-31 and Peter’s warning in 2Pet 2:1-3 and recognize and put out false teachers whose only purpose (whether consciously or not) is to destroy.

  3. Crud! I had bet an old seminary buddy that, within twelve hours of post, Rollins would appear in the comments section to (very kindly) explain just how hopelessly you’ve misunderstood him. CURSES! Peter Rollins, you just cost me four hundred bucks!

  4. What if the resurrection is only believed when it is implimented? If I claim it as reality with my words but not my life, I do not believe in the resurrection. I only pretend to believe.

    In fairness, C.S Lewis also wondered if God could be known as well as you believe to be the case. This is a tension that has been between theologians and philosophers prior to Pete… this is not a tension created by emergent church people.

    There are inconsistencies with Pete’s arguements. Neither is there any theologian whose orthodoxy and orthopraxis are without any gaps.

  5. Randy, I’m not sure I understand your third paragraph: “There are inconsistencies with Pete’s arguments. Neither is there any theologian whose orthodoxy and orthopraxis are without any gaps.”

    Do you mean that with every theologian you’ve read, their professed beliefs and their actions don’t line up completely? Or do you mean that every theology of orthodoxy contains holes?

    I’m also curious about your response to Pete’s inconsistencies — what would you say is an appropriate response to inconsistent arguments?

  6. I appreciate that Charles Templeton (evangelist contemporary of Billy Graham) of a bygone era admitted that he was an atheist. I wonder if the same admission would have been made if it were today, or would error be proclaimed as truth and marketed in “christian” bookstores? It sure seems that we are in the last days and are experiencing those “having a form of godliness” (II Timothy 3:5).

  7. Re: Yooper
    “It sure seems that we are in the last days and are experiencing those “having a form of godliness” (II Timothy 3:5).”

    On the other hand, the more I learn about history post-Jesus — and about humanity in general — the harder it is to find a time when II Timothy 3:1-9 did not apply.

  8. Adam, And that is why it was written some 2,000 years ago. There is nothing new under the sun.

  9. For clarification, some of Pete’s arguments are lacking at time. So are all theologies and/or philosophies that attempt to fully explain God. While we may know much about God as he reveals himself, we can not fully understand the mind of God. The Apostle Paul writes, “Now we see thru a glass darkly; then we shall see face to face.”

    My point is that regardless of how we want to discredit Pete, every other theologian also has holes in his/her understanding of God. Pete comes from a different perspective that we’ve experienced here in West Michigan, and we quickly disqualify his thoughts as heretical.

    Making these kind of judgements does nothing for theological discourse nor does it lead to good critical thinking. If we are going to pull the ‘heretical’ card out of our pockets as a soccer ref does with his yellow card, then we gain nothing for the kingdom other than to say “I am right, and I now hold the advantage.”

    Unfortunately, holding the advantage is generally the end-game when it comes to theological critique. Yet, we need to find better ways to dialogue if we are to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

  10. Randy, How about comparing Pete’s beliefs to the Word of God rather than others?

  11. Randy,

    Unfortunately your entire argument is based on a false premise: “While we may know much about God as he reveals himself, we can not fully understand the mind of God.” No one here denies this. Rollins, of course, denies the first part this claim–and that’s the problem!

    And no one would deny that “every other theologian also has holes in his/her understanding of God.” But when a “theologian” (or layperson, for that matter) denies or opposes the Scripture (which is to deny or oppose Christ who is revealed in the Scripture), then we have an obligation to oppose him/her. Are you suggesting that just because a person claims to be a “Christian” that nothing that comes out of his mouth is heretical or anti-Christ…just “another perspective”? If that’s the case, then the NT warnings of being careful of false teachers within the church is meaningless.

    At what point, if any, can we call someone a heretic or anti-Christ if all he is presenting is “another perspective”? Are we not obliged to hold people to some standard of belief? And if so, what is the standard?

    If someone suggests that God is not an object of knowledge such that He can reveal Himself and His purpose to me in an intelligible way so that I can know Him, then I have every biblical right to call him a heretic (at best) and an “anti-Christ” (at worst). Anyone who prides himself on playing word games with the Resurrection of Christ is an enemy of the Church and therefore an enemy of God.

    The only “dialogue” this guy is generating (and seemingly enjoying it all the while) is an ever-increasing disdain for the Scripture among “Christians” and non-believers alike. This guy should be publically dismissed as a false teacher so that the “world” is not decieved into thinking that he speaks for Christ.

    I agree with Yooper who expressed it clearly and succinctly.

  12. Jason:

    Interesting points. Honest question: have you had successfel dialogues with people when you use phrases like like “anti-Christ” and “enemy of God”? Because the times I’ve heard (or used) those phrases, they’re more likely a conversation stopper. On the other hand, words like “tension” and “inconsistency with the gospel” have made people (both Christian and non-Christian) more receptive to dialogue.

    A subjective observation: your post reminds me of tone that Jude takes with his church. This probably has its own place, so I’ll think more about your points, and also this — when should we not be like Jude?

  13. I wonder how Paul’s response to Elymas (Acts 13:4-12) would go over today? Is it time to call a spade a spade?

  14. Adam,

    Consider that the Apostle John is very clear in II John about the nature of dialogue with those who deny the biblical Jesus. To welcome one who denies/downplays the words of Jesus is to “…share in his wicked work.” (v.11)

    While love for our fellow man requires that we speak with respect, consideration and love, it is no help to return sweet talk in answer to lies. Capitol “T” Truth should be served straight up with no hedging. Sometimes the “loving” response is a simple and straight forward “You are wrong.”

    Larry

  15. Adam,

    In answer to your first question, I suppose it would depend on who I’m talking to. With regard to Rollins, he doesn’t seem to be interested in “dialogue” at all. He’s been questioned, challenged and corrected on numerous occasions (not just here) and has continued to promote these unbiblical and heretical ideas. At some point we should just “shake the dust off our feet” and move on. But in moving on, we have an obligation to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ and to the world that is need of Christ to confront error and false doctrine within the Church–and sometimes in the strongest language possible. Rollins simply does not speak for Christ and he needs to be called on it. And the Church, as Christ’s Body and representative in the world, needs to distanced itself from him. Anything that is opposed to Christ and His Gospel is “anti-Christ” and I don’t know how Rollins can be understood in any other way.

    I think the ideas of “tension” are biblical and I certainly wouldn’t jump on the “heresy bandwagon” just because I notice “inconsistency” in a fellow believer’s thinking (we all succomb to inconsistent thinking to some degree or other). But again, Rollins is simply not interested in being corrected. His only interest seems to be in being provocative for its own sake and in playing “word games”.

    Sorry Adam, but in Rollins I only see a person who, purposefully or not, is not only driving a wedge between Christ and His Church, but who is always misrepresenting Christ to the world. And in both cases we see the principle of “anti-Christ”.

    As for my tone, well, when we are dealing with false teachers there is no reason to be subtle when the person has been confronted on numerous occasions. I certainly wouldn’t come off sounding like this when in discussion or debate concerning nuances of understanding Christ and His Gospel (at least I would hope that I wouldn’t). But when the Gospel is at stake, I don’t think a strong condemnation is inappropriate.

    Hope this helps.

  16. Oops, in my third paragraph I wrote “always” and it should be “also”. It should read:

    “…but who is ALSO misrepresenting Christ…”

    I would never be so bold to suggest that he is ALWAYS misrepresenting Christ.

  17. Oh yeah, good points since I last posted, and I especially thank Jason for his pleasantly long and articulate reply.

    I think my main point is that we should use care when considering whether or not to emulate the Apostles’ behavior. Before I consider their behavior (i.e. exorcism) to be proscriptive examples, I want to know a heck of a lot about the historical-cultural situations. So I’ve been scrutinizing the Apostles’ communication lately, because I’m finding myself in situations with a surface resemblance to biblical events. But are the similarities JUST surface-level?

    Dunno. Will take prayer, exegesis, dialogue to figure it out.

  18. Jason,

    If you have not had a real, live in person conversation with Pete, you have no idea if he is interested in conversation… There is no justice in your statement.

    Dr. Wittmer has been invited to numerous conversations with Pete; so he can attest to Pete welcoming conversation.

  19. That’s not the kind of “conversation” we’re talking about here. Theological conversation doesn’t always take place face to face but through papers, books, statements and other “public speaking” venues as doctrine, ideas and concepts get discussed and evaluated.

    This is “conversation” right here; only you’re not engaging in the discussion.

  20. Jason,

    Conversation is both/and. Conversation should mean welcoming others (strangers according to the biblical text). Conversation should also mean welcoming ideas different from your own as having some sort of legitimacy.

    Pete never disregards others who disagree; he simply chooses not to agree. On the other hand, people who disagree with him sometimes call him heretical. Throwing that sort of jargon around isn’t being in ‘conversation’ in any way, shape, or form.

    So, how can we condemn Pete as heretical and yet claim that he doesn’t want conversation? There is nothing good, just, or righteous with that sort of posture – unless you can give some biblical evidence?

  21. Randy:

    If I can quote the Princess Bride, I don’t think that word (“conversation”) means what you think it means. By your definition you could never have a conversation with someone you disagree with, which means that by your definition you are not having a conversation with us.

    Saying that Pete’s views are heretical is not “disregarding” him, but is actually giving his views much more regard than even you do. I give his views so much regard that I am willing to take them seriously and search the Scriptures to see if they are true. Why don’t you do that?

    By the way, I dislike your insinuation that I am not open to personal conversations with Pete. As you know, I have spoken with him in person and like him very much. Just because I cannot fit a particular invitation into my schedule does not mean that I avoid conversations.

    The main point here is not who is conversational and who isn’t (and if I were you I would not go down that road too far with me), but what is the Christian faith. Pete, God love him, has denied it, which does make him, in his own words, a heretic (though he would ironically call himself an “orthodox” kind).

  22. Mike,

    Pete denies the Christian faith as you have defined it. Pete does not deny the Christian faith as many other followers of Jesus have defined it. While you believe his teachings are heretical, others who also love Jesus Christ are not so quick to suggest that his teachings are heretical.

    There are several professors from Calvin College, a Calvinist institution by all regards, who know Pete Rollins work very well. While they do not agree with all of Pete’s writings, neither do they believe that Pete has denied the Christian faith.

    Simply because another person does not agree with your/my understanding of what it means to be a Christian does not mean he/she is not a Christian. Rather, it means you can’t conceive of Pete being a Christian… which also means that 2000 people listening to Pete in Grand Rapids in early July are wrong.

    I ask, what makes your convictions more correct than all of those 2000 put together? Are you really willing to line up 2000 leaders and tell them that you know better? Honestly, I’m just looking for some Christian charity because I think a posture of humility is how we are called to be as followers of the risen Christ.

  23. Randy:

    We obviously disagree on what the gospel is, but please do not confuse honest disagreement with a lack of charity. I have not written or said anything that is unloving toward Pete, in fact, my critique of his beliefs are intended to lovingly bring him and others who may be influenced by his writings back to Jesus. While I’m sure you disagree with that, you are wrong when you suggest that I am speaking from anything other than love.

    And by the way, I am speaking from within the consensus of Christian history, which trumps any gathering of 2,000 people.

  24. Randy, You are a people pleaser – with the exception of those who have firm and differing beliefs. You claim safety in the belief of numbers – based upon what? What is the source of your beliefs?

  25. Dr. Wittmer,

    I appreciate your distinction between honest disagreement and a lack of charity. I agree with your assessment of Rollins’ position, but I’d like to mention a potential complication with your argument in your second paragraph: “I am speaking from within the consensus of Christian history, which trumps any gathering of 2,000 people.”

    Is it true that sometimes, appealing to consensus of Christian history can be counterproductive? I’m thinking of the pushback that good scholars like Erasmus of Rotterdam and Abraham Kuyper must have felt while sharing their information with Christendom at large; and I’m thinking of the popular misunderstandings that you (Dr. W.) have dealt with in “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.” Y’know, a Christian can’t just say “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong”…

    That said, the differences that E. & A. had with Christianity At Large do seem qualitatively different than Rollins’ deal. Randy, you may disagree with that (and I’d be interested in why) but it does appear that Rollins favors a strategy of throwing out revelation. I don’t mean merely throwing out popular interpretions, but throwing out the possibility that revelation works. And that means he’s throwing out much (almost all) of Xty, no?

    Sincerely Adam,
    Sincerely not an Elvis fan,
    A couple thou Bob Dylan fans
    are probably not wrong

  26. Mike,

    Leslie Newbigin believed the hermeneutic of the gospel was contained within the community of believers. In other words, it takes the local community within a particular time and place to understand the biblical text for their situation.

    This is not to suggest the local community stands apart from church history. For this conversation, it means 2000 thoughtful church leaders need to be recognized when they affirm some of Pete’s thoughts.

    To simply overlay church history over Pete’s thoughts/arguments isn’t fully faithful either. It discounts wisdom, discernment, and ultimately the Spirit of God living within each of those people who collectively have affirmed Pete’s thoughts.

  27. Randy,

    Since I’ve been the most vocal opponent of Rollins on this thread, I feel I need to make clear that I don’t think everything that has or will come out of his mouth is heretical (and I don’t think anyone else here believes that either). I have no doubt that 2,000 or 20,000 people can affirm some or much of what Rollins teaches. But when a person denies the fundamental tenets of the Gospel (or even plays word-games with the Gospel so that the clear message is blurred or missed completely), then he is opposing Christ and we must stand against him. Even a “heretic” doesn’t lie against the truth all the time.

    Your latest reply suggests that the truth of the Gospel is (or can be) ever-changing based on the “community of believers” from one generation to another. I hope you don’t believe this. Obviously as times change and generations come and go there will be different circumstances in which we “apply” the Gospel; but hermeneutically we can (and should!) recognize the SAME Gospel as has been handed down from Christ, the Apostles and the faithful in church history.

    When a person or “community” (think JW’s, Mormons, etc.) attempts to redefine the Gospel such that the truth of it is essentially lost, then he (or they) should be rightly exposed as the false teachers that they are. The Christian community throughout church history has had many occasions when it could have affirmed an apostate (ostensibly out of “love” and “graciousness”) but chose instead to stand with Christ and His Gospel. I don’t think we should be less dedicated to the unchanging truth of the Word of God today simply because someone is affable and engaging.

    To be honest with you, you seem to not recognize the severity of the situation or the clear counsel of Paul to strongly stand against those who compromise the Gospel. It’s one thing to be gracious in disagreement over periphery issues, but when the Gospel itself is at stake and a person continues to teach a false Gospel when correction has been attempted, then we must be willing to stand with Christ and call a serpent a serpent.

  28. One more thing: since I seem to be beating a dead horse with my participation in this thread, I’ll defer to others from here on out and just say thanks for the “conversation”.🙂

  29. Adam:

    Good question. I don’t think that theology should be a democracy, where the the greatest number of votes determine what we believe (theology should be decided differently than our latest American Idol). I considered raising the perverseness of appealing to numbers in my last post but decided it might make it too long and confusing. So my appeal to the Christian tradition is more than an appeal to numbers but to what the councils and creeds and fathers have always said.

    Regarding the non-platonic message of “HIPOE”, I would say that this does not address the essential element of the gospel, without which a person cannot be saved, so I felt that I had more freedom there in challenging the prevailing wisdom. But even then, precisely because my view on the new earth was probably not held by a significant part of the church throughout history, the burden of proof was on me to show from Scripture that my perspective was correct and to demonstrate how a significant chunk of the church missed it.

    We should always be initially skeptical of anyone who goes against church tradition (the burden of proof lies with them) but open to new light breaking upon us. Sometimes we will find ourselves in Luther’s shoes, proclaiming that we just don’t see any better way to read the biblical text, so here I stand I can do no other.

  30. Well said.

  31. If we think for a moment that all of Pete’s work will be followed entirely by a group of people, we are kidding ourselves. Neither is this his intent. We do need to recognize that he brings some very good thoughts to the table that challenge our status quo.

    Regardless if Pete is a Christian or not, his thoughts are worthy of hearing. When we fail to give grace to another person because they disagree, we fail to appreciate God’s grace. When fail to show mercy to another person, we fail to appreciate the mercy of Jesus Christ. When we fail to show generous love, we fail to appreciate God’s love.

    I believe it is essential to be in relation with someone if we want to personally challenge his/her beliefs. While Mike doesn’t agree with me, if he really wants to call Pete to a different way of thinking, then he owed it to Pete to pursue him while he was in Grand Rapids. Calling someone to a different way of thinking via the internet isn’t anything close to church discipline. It’s simply expressing difference.

    Ultimately, I do suppose the gospel becomes reality to different people in differing ways throughout history. Prior to Augustine, there was no doctrine of the Trinity. Yet, today Mike affirms it is necessary to be a Christian. I wonder about the salvation of everyone prior to Augustine.

    Prior to the reformation, grace didn’t seem to be sufficient for salvation; the reformation suggested otherwise. Yet, Luther hated the book of James because it seems to suggest that Pete’s ideas of the resurrection hold weight from the biblical perspective.

    So, let’s all recognize the gospel takes differing shapes and forms at different times and places. It it has been unchanging, I have no need to acknowledge the doctrine of the Trinity…

  32. Dear Randy, I am at a loss to find any Biblical sense for “conversation” as you have argued here. You totally misapply the OT conception of alien in the midst of the land – somehow twisting that to be accepting and tolerant of heretical ideas. No one here is talking about driving him away from food and shelter – the Biblical understanding of the word.
    On the other side of this how is having a conversation with Mormons or JWs or any other false teachers any different than bringing out the false teaching of Rollins or anyone else? I witness to these people because I love them and want them in Heaven with the Father. Do you presuppose that I am somehow less humble because I present God’s word as if we can actually know what God says? Where is the epistemic humility in implying that it is arrogant to say that we can know what God revealed about Himself to us? The alleged humility of Maclaren, Jones, Pagitt because they claim not to know who God really is, is more than offset by the absolute arrogance of claiming that no one else (of course they really have Bible believing Christians in mind) knows either. Maclaren himself goes from alleged humility to absolute arrogance – Everything Must Change! – in less than eight years!!! If God says He is light – then any claims that He is dark or that He is both, is a flat out lie and denial of the faith. Of course the Apostle John makes this very point. In his “conversation” in 1st John he makes the statement that to deny Jesus or to misdefine Jesus is, (in his own conversational style!) to be an Antichrist! Perhaps the Apostle whom Jesus loved missed the memo on “conversations” with those who would distort the faith…
    The first time I had a conversation with a professor at a allegedly conservative Christian university (of which I was both an alumni and an adjunct professor) who was clearly in process of abandoning his earlier faith committments and becoming “post-conservative” post-liberal, post-evangelical, post-toasty (ok I admit I added that one) was quite telling. After being told that She/God did not have absolutes – that She had made a mistake in giving the Ten commandments and that there was literally nothing that we could assert about God in any way. Knowing from our conversation that he was drinking the Barthian koolaid – I thought I would pull the anecdote out of the Professors hat by referring to Barth’s quote – the one thing I know is “Jesus loves me this I know”. I was befuddled. He said we can’t even know God is love. I could multiply the heresies pouring out of once Christian colleges and seminaries by the hundreds. Calvin is not what it once was and the fact that Rollins is deemed acceptable as a Christian there tells us much more about the school than anything new about Rollins.
    This is not about hating emergent people or anyone else. This is about taking what God says in a book that can be read by uneducated farmers, fishermen and so on, and trusting that God is the best source of information about Himself. We don’t need the wisdom derived from the atheistic morally bankrupt food chain of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Ricouer, Foucoult and the rest of the gang, to set the table for how we know and how we live. It is not loving our neighbor to not tell them the truth of the Gospel. It is helping them on their way to an eternal hell. And it is not loving God to basically call Him a liar in his own description of Himself and that revelation of that description to a lost world.

  33. We can trust wisdom, discernment, and the Spirit in our midst for the following:
    “We don’t only believe in the Trinity, we live in the Trinity” – Jurgen Moltmann

    There are plenty of biblical texts to back this up as well; so perhaps we need to begin trusting the Spirit in greater ways that we have previously imagined.

  34. Randy – now I read with alarm the post you just read and so much becomes clear. How exactly was Jesus in “personal relationship” with the Pharisees he nailed? How exactly was Paul in personal relationship with the false teachers who changed the Gospel that he refers to Galatians 1? This can go on and on. How exactly was Elijah in personal relationship with the slicers and dicers of Baal? How about that rousing personal relationship between the Isaiah and the idoloters referenced to in Isaiah 42-44? This is sad.
    No doctrine of the Trinity before Augustine??? Please pick Shelly, Latourette or any other standard church history before you accept things like this nonsense. Tertullian even uses the word “trinity” long before Augustine was born. The belief that there is only one God and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all called God and yet are distinct from each other is from the Bible and was recognized long before Nicea, Chalcedon or any of the other councils. The dispute of that teaching by a the heretic Arius brought the fight. Notice that the division was caused by the heretic – not by the orthodox.
    Re – You also really need to read the history of the Reformation as well. Everyone of the major reformers, (say Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanthon, etc) would deny what you said. They went back to the Fathers – especially Augustine – to show that grace alone through faith alone was the historic teaching of the church and that this teaching had been perverted by papal and magesterial departures from the Bible. Luther did not “hate” James. He certainly wrestled with it, but later came to understand. Citing his earlier struggle and then miscasting the situation by ignoring his acceptance of the Epistle is downright dishonest – if not by you than by whoever taught you. And bringing that to the Rollins situation would be comical if not so sad. Luther affirmed the scriptures and put his life on the line for the truth of them. Hier Ich stehe! Rollins ignores, twists and miscasts and gets primo speaking engagements and the adoration of fellow heretics like Maclaren and Jones.
    Your last paragraph is unclear. Is the Gospel unchanging or is it taking different shapes and forms? The Apostle says the Gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. How does denial of those basic facts equate with “different” shapes and forms? Maybe you could explain what you mean here.
    Bill

  35. Moltmann is at least an established heretic and denier of the orthodox faith. His flat our denial of Jesus’s teaching on the eternal separation of the wheat and tares, or the sheep and the goats, in favor of his “theology of hope” makes it clear that he has painted a different God in his mind and writings then the Biblical. Fine – he is free in this life to do so but we are also free to call him out for the idolater that he is.
    Randy I must ask – what exactly is the Bible from your perspective?
    Bill

  36. Bill — We are obviously at very different places. Jones, Pagitt, and Rollins are all friends, and I spent much of today in Chicago with Moltmann. I love their passion for the things of God, and I have no doubt of their salvation. Neither do I doubt the salvation of anyone who hangs out around Mike’s blog.

    We simply have very different understandings of the gospel message. I”ll take my chances with those on the fringes; Jesus did. And since I love the ways of Jesus, I trust that I’ll be o.k. at the end of the day… I’m sure you’ll disagree, and for that I am sorry.

    Shalom.

  37. Randy – if having a conversation means listening to the other person, then how is it that you ignore everything I said? If you are friends with these people, and you are a child of God, then in love you should speak the truth to them and call them to repentance of false teachings.
    I don’t know if you will answer this question as you dodged the others, but is it even possible from your point of view to be an idolater or heretic? That is one of the first things postmodernism does when it overlaps the Christian faith. If all is just interpretation and all interpretations are mere constructions – then the construction of a Baal worshipper offering his child to the flames of Moloch is just as appropriate as someone giving their life to serve the poor. Yet I believe you know better than this, but are forced by your apriori commitment to the procrustean bed of the emergent village’s commitment to pomo thought that keeps you from saying what even you know is right.
    If all is interpretation then Rollins alleged posture towards social justice is just arrogance on his part. Who is he to question the interpretation of another communities commitment to their own self interest!!! How dare he judge others. Surely the human slavers and despoilers of the environment are just living out their own interpretation and who are we do judge?
    Sorry my satire button came on strong but you cannot have it both ways and be coherent. If it is all interpretation then Mother Theresa’s interpretation is no more correct or meaningful than Pol Pot’s. And since God is ineffable then who dare speak from on high to say so?
    Is this really what the Christian faith is?…
    Bill

  38. Bill,
    I’m hesitate to write much as I don’t want to write too much on Mike’s blog. Conservatives have quickly suggested that emergent(ish) people are post-truth, but I don’t know of anyone who makes that claim. Rather, it’s a claim that has been put upon a group of people even though they don’t agree with the idea…

    Here are a few thoughts of John Franke from Wednesday of this week. I found them helpful:

    Orthodox Christian Is characterized by irreducible plurality by God’s design.
    Those in the 16th century were still looking for that ‘one’ way of being faithful.

    The truth is that truth is characterized by diverse plurality.
    This is significant because: we all do theology. It is not one right system of doctrine. This does not mean anything goes, but we should expect considerable plurality that invites conversation.

  39. Randy – don’t be shy – we are both guests and Mike doesn’t seem to mind.
    What Franke said is virtually meaningless. You can’t affirm opposites. As John said God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Of course the Hindus teach the plurality or truth. But do you really think the Veda’s are a reputable source of information about the true and living God?
    You are still ignoring the questions I ask. Is there a real reason?
    I seem to remember Brian M’s story about how he hated hearing radio preachers affirm the certainty of their message. That doesn’t exactly model the plurality of truth does it? Or does plurality only get applied in one predetermined direction?
    Bill

  40. That should read plurality OF truth. And btw – I am not affirming any system, but rather reading the Bible for what it says? Or do I have to have the secret decoder ring to understand it? The worst of the emergent village attack the Bible – thanks to their alliegence to the joys of Derrida and others like Marcus Borg, etc. The best them affirm there that the Bible is God’s word and true – and then turn around and say we can’t know anything about it. Wow thanks a lot fellas. I guess we really are blind men circling the elephant – and God hasn’t cared enough to give us a clue.
    Bill

  41. Bill,

    So Barth, Moltmann, Derida, and Franke are all meaningless. Augustine? His wife and daughter left him; so does his shameful marriage make him meaningless too? Hopefully not.

    As for how do I hold the biblical text: it’s God’s revelation for his people. It’s infallible, and it was written with the guidance of the Spirit. Most people involved with emergent village would support something similar.

    Let’s agree that we’ll disagree on lot of things; you perspective simply doesn’t allow for much variation within Western American Christianity… if a highly respected academic institution such as Calvin College is too liberal, few people make the grade as faithful followers of Jesus. As someone out of the Calvinist tradition in 2009, I believe God’s grace is more generous.

    Grace & Peace.

  42. Randy,

    You truly are a people pleaser, and appear embarrassed to claim a source for your beliefs (a bad word to some) – that travel whichever way the wind blows; and are susceptible to continual change by the most recent breath of Rollins et al. This kind of thinking brings to mind those at Mars Hill…the one in Athens also, who had idols to every god under the sun and enjoyed playing mind games – wanting always to hear something new. Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. However, the Rollins et al crowd reeks of apostasy to me. Are you too close to see this?

    Are there any truths/beliefs that you would want to pass on to your children? What does your faith rest upon?

  43. Randy:

    I will not tolerate your criticism that I lack love or do not converse enough. You well know that you are the last person who should lecture me on the proprieties of conversation. I will delete any future allegations from you, real or imagined. And if you continue to make such careless accusations, I will block you from this site.

  44. Randy – “So Barth, Moltmann, Derida, and Franke are all meaningless. Augustine? His wife and daughter left him; so does his shameful marriage make him meaningless too? Hopefully not.”
    Wow. What is one to even make of this sentence? And you say that others are judgmental? I must have missed where I said anything even remotely close to what you posted. I said Franke’s statements involve logical contradictions and are therefore meaningless. Something is either true or it is not. That has nothing to do with my alleged limited Western Christian paradigm but is essential to how we think and how we even communicate with one another. So if as Franke asserts that truth is some sort of plurality then it is a meaningless statement or truth is some sort of synonym for plurality. This leaves us with a false tautology. Truth now means “many opinions”. The cults have got to love yall. Everything is ok and you can assert, best as I can tell here, virtually everything and it is part of the plural tradition. Again good news for pagans and Baal worshippers everywhere.
    As for your dependence upon the community and the leading of the Spirit – it is possible that a community can be wrong? Is it possible that what one claims at a Benny Hinn meeting might not be the leading of the Holy Spirit? How can you adjudicate this without a canon or measuring stick? You and I and Peter Rollins and Jones, Pagitt and the rest all stand before the same God and are all judged by the same word. You quote scriptures about love constantly on your blog but by some strange coincidence refer never to discernment, Godly judgment by believers, God’s wrath upon a rebellious world. This is argument by omission – which ironically is the same thing you accuse the conservatives of. You say that believing by “mind” only and not by deed is missing the gospel. The gospel is not about what we do – it is about what Jesus did for us. To separate orthopraxy from orthodoxy is a disaster for both. On your blog you refer several times to Doug Pagitts building homes in Guatamala as proof of his Christian faith. Gee I hope he teaches them yoga there too, because of course that is so Christian as well…Not. Best as I can tell that might qualify you as part of the Peace Corps, but is not in itself a mark of a Christian nor part of the present day Kingdom of God you constantly refer to. You also claim that no one in emergent circles in teaching salvation by works. Well that is a fun shell game we are playing. Since virtually all the big names are either full blown pluralists and universalists, then salvation comes apparently through breathing oxygen.
    To relate this to my earlier post – should Doug eat the poor or build houses for them? If I can’t know what the Bible really says about homosexuality (still the big issue at CC isn’t it?) then how in the heck can I know what the Bible really says about taking care of the poor? I am stealing from Jonathan Swift here I know – but without those mean ole propositional statements in God’s word I might not know what to do?
    On your blog you castigate Kevin DeYoung for what you believe are uncharitable statements he makes? How do you know that it is wrong to be unloving or uncharitable? Is it a feeling you have or some mystic revelation? If this is unloving according to your community then you have the problem that from Kevin’s community it might be seen as very loving to make those kinds of judgements. Who are you to say? If the word of God is so open so such a variety of interpretations then it is only your interpretation and why should anyone care about that? Of course if the pomo/emergent community is wrong about interpretation, then perhaps you could make a convincing case against what Kevin said. But of course that would open up the very point he really makes – that the emergent crowd has dramatically departed from Biblical teachings.
    Just for fun – are you listing Derrida as a believer now? What a shock that would have been to him! As a Marxist atheistic Jew-I imagine that it would have been disgusting for anyone to put him in the follower of Jesus camp. But I bet now he would feel differently…
    Simply put for your Franke quote – Are those who deny the physical resurrection of Jesus saved? Are Bultman (denier) and Barth (affirmer) both in Heaven? What the heck does this plurality of truth really mean?????
    Sorry for the length and all the typos from this post and the earlier ones. No time for serious proofreading.
    Bill

  45. I’ll leave for a while…

    I continue to be saddened that being right is always more important than goodness, and kindness toward others. I’m also saddened that there is such little trust in the Spirit of the living God while there is unending trust in theological discourse which is also subject(ive) of culture, language, personal background…

  46. Nice dodge Randy. Way to avoid actual discourse and substitute false dichotomies and platitudes. Very helpful indeed.
    I am sure the wolves appreciate the lambs being offered up to them seasoned with “kindness” and “goodness”. Maybe someday you will deal with families and others who have been destroyed by wolves and you will learn the difference. Maybe someday you will see that the social justice platform you advocate will ruin Kenya – like it has ruined other African cultures. But I guess its all interpretation…
    Bill

  47. Bill, I am convinced that the issue is an absence of the fear (reverential awe) of God – which is the beginning of knowledge.

  48. Yooper – You have no idea.

  49. Randy, A truly born-again, and God fearing individual would not treat God as flippantly as the community that you are a part of.

  50. Randy, You take whatever tickles your ears from the Bible, your community of authors, and the thin air, to create your own personal god that suits your personal fancy. God is deserving and demands much more than that.

  51. I’m late to this conversation, but thought I would add that Shang-Di (上帝)could be changed to Shang-Di (上地) which sounds the same, but means “upon the ground.” There is no doubt that Rollins reading of Zizek has created a theology that is built from the ground up, where the grounding is the exestential event of the individual.

    Honestly, I disagree with Pete, but enjoy his writing. Unfortunately, I read him first because a friend of a friend became an atheist after reading Rollins and thinking that Satre and Camus did it much better, and if this was all Christianity had to offer in response to Existential criticism, then it wasn’t worth believing. I’m sure there was much more to the story, but since it wasn’t a personal friend (and since I now live on the other side of the world), I couldn’t invite them out for a cup of coffee to discuss the historic Christian response to the existential crisis.

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