Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Theology of the Word and the Postmodern Context: #1



The following thoughts have been milling around in my head for months now. My most recent thoughts have been sparked by an article by Jonny Baker that my co-worker, BJ, asked me to read. The article is great. Suposedly it was written for a book on preaching with many different UK voices, but his article was rejected. Read it and you'll understand why. Jonny Baker and many in the emerging church, including Doug Pagitt who has a new book on preaching, are calling for major changes in the way we think about and do preaching. Some have said that the emerging churches are strong in their anthropological understandings of what postmodern people want and can learn through, but not so strong in theology. I agree that the emerging church voices I often hear are not very strong theologically, not because their wrong, but because they speak mainly in anthropologic terms instead of theologic. I beleive the changes that the emerging church leaders are calling for in preaching can be supported theologically. In fact, at least in our context, this developing theology of the Word is stronger than what we have inherited from the modern church.

First of all, my theology of the Word has to be explained very quickly. Barth has helped me here. Barth says the Word of God is both scripture and more importantly Jesus. The Word of God is Jesus Christ. Barthian thinkers beleive transformation comes through the proclamation of the Word. That proclamation is the action of Jesus through the proclamation of the truth of scripture. Scripture is the conduit, but it is not the object of our worship. Our worship is of Jesus, not scripture. Of course scripture is beleived to be inspired by The Word and so it is held very high as the main way Jesus speaks to his church. But Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are all held far above scripture. Barth's theology, which I only understand in it's simplest forms, does not necesitate scripture to be inerrant, but it does hold it to be God's written Word and fully inspired by God. My thoughts over the next few days are built upon this kind of theology of the Word. A theology that places the greatest importance on what Jesus is presently doing through the activity of the Word.

14 comments:

terrytimm said...

john - thanks for gettimg the ball rolling. there is a quote that people are floating around from AW Pink as an arguement against the emerging church. here it is:

"what is needed today is a Scriptural setting forth of the character of God-His absolute sovereignty, His ineffable holiness, His Inflexible justice, His unchanging veracity. What Is needed today Is a Scriptural setting forth of the condition of the natural man-his total depravity, his spiritual insensibility, his inveterate hostility to God, the fact that he is "condemned already" and that the wrath of a sin-hating God is even now abiding upon him. What is needed today is a Scriptural setting forth of the alarming danger in which sinners are-the Indescribably awful doom which awaits them, the fact that if they follow only a little further their present course they shall most certainly suffer the due reward of their iniquities. What is needed today is a Scriptural setting forth of the nature of that punishment which awaits the lost-the awfulness of it, the hopelessness of it, the unendurableness of it, the endlessness of it. It is because of these convictions that by pen as well as by voice we are seeking to sound the alarm."

see anything missing here?

John said...

I've heard that quote, a perfect example of what Dr. Purvis and Partee have made us aware of in the Reformed church, a move back to 17th century orthodoxy, when the Westminster Confession was written. It's a reaction against culture, a condemnation of creation. It's my understanding that creation is good, infected with sin yes, but good and being redeemed by the creator and his work through his poeple. Doug Pagitt says the Emerging Church is optimistic, I first disagreed with him, but more and more I agree. Our theology is that God is good and is about bringing life, salvation and love, not death and hell.

marlaena said...

what is missing?? Jesus and grace -verse 24 of romans 3!! in my message two weeks ago i asked folks how many knew romans 3:23 - "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" - and how many have quoted that to a friend using the "romans road" or something. but verse numbers are not inspired and the rest of paul's thought was "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God AND all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus." AMEN!

Anonymous said...

Folks,

I am a Christian. I worship God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I do my best to follow the commands of Jesus, who is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being. I do not worship scripture, but the fact of the matter is that all I know about Father, Son and Holy Spirit I have learned from scripture. (I have also learned it from the examples and teachings of other believers, but they learned it from scripture, either directly or indirectly.) I believe scripture to be a family photograph album of sorts, where we see God as He truly is and where we stand in relation to Him.

I'm not defending the use of the A.W. Pink quote by the anti-emergent people. I have read the Jonny Baker article and believe it to be a good one. I guess what I'm saying is that it's absolutely ridiculous for the two sides to be using ancient quotes completely out of context as weapons against the beliefs of the "other side." When we do this, we spend all of our time shooting down the ineffective weapons of each others offensive rather than engaging in diplomatic talks. It's a waste of time and no one on either side is convinced of any truth in the other's stance. That's what I love about the emergent conventions. The problem is that it's really hard to get the majority of people to come because they're called "Emergent" conventions. Anti-emnergent people will not necessarily want to go to an "Emergent" convention.

What can be done about this?

-Ross Donaldson

terrytimm said...

russ - i hear your heart. it is painful when people in the Body use anything as "weapons" against one another. it certainly grieves the heart of God and it should grieve us as well. what can we do about this? inviting people into the conversation (trialogue) is critical.

John said...

Ross, great questions, and I really like the thought that scripture is like a family photo album of God's people and what God has done.

John said...

Ross, You are obviously in your league here! Thanks for your comments. I need all these comments to help do exactly what I'm writting about, pull us all to a balanced center. No offense at all taken!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, Terry and John. I'm not exactly sure what can be done about this problem other than inviting people into the conversation. The question is how to do it. Maybe the only thing we can do is start at a very local level and hope that it grows from there. Other questions: Where, when, who, how, and in what format?

- Ross

bj woodworth said...

The Pink quote lacks an emphasis on grace. In particular it is void of any sense of prevenienvt grace or general revealtion, the truth of the Gospel within the good creation. The difference seems to lie missiology. Those within emergent circles have a sacramental view of all of life, meaning that the Word can be seen, tasted and expereinced in all areas of life because the creation, though marred and distorted, is still good, and in particular humanity bears the very image of God. So the missiological goal of those within this tradition is to "bring out the God-flavors and God-colors" (Matt.6 in The Message) already exsisting in the world. It seems that Pink and others in the hyper-reformed tradition do not not have the same high view of the soverighty of God in all of creation (meaning the arts, other religions, science, nature etc.) but rather limit God's revealtion of Christ to scripture alone. So the missiological goal is to get people to understand scripture. Whereas the emergent folks see all of life as revelatory and scripture plays an important part in that.

As Ross stated the argument within the church is somewhat unimportant. The importance from my perspective is to get the Word out (by all means necessary) to the least, the last and the lost. Some of this will require proclamation in the traditional sense of pedagogy and some of this will require missiological and pedagogical imaginiantion to bring into the light the truths of the Gospel that are lying dorment with the postmodern culture.

Gotta go!

bj woodworth said...

The Pink quote lacks an emphasis on grace. In particular it is void of any sense of prevenienvt grace or general revealtion, the truth of the Gospel within the good creation. The difference seems to lie missiology. Those within emergent circles have a sacramental view of all of life, meaning that the Word can be seen, tasted and expereinced in all areas of life because the creation, though marred and distorted, is still good, and in particular humanity bears the very image of God. So the missiological goal of those within this tradition is to "bring out the God-flavors and God-colors" (Matt.6 in The Message) already exsisting in the world. It seems that Pink and others in the hyper-reformed tradition do not not have the same high view of the soverighty of God in all of creation (meaning the arts, other religions, science, nature etc.) but rather limit God's revealtion of Christ to scripture alone. So the missiological goal is to get people to understand scripture. Whereas the emergent folks see all of life as revelatory and scripture plays an important part in that.

As Ross stated the argument within the church is somewhat unimportant. The importance from my perspective is to get the Word out (by all means necessary) to the least, the last and the lost. Some of this will require proclamation in the traditional sense of pedagogy and some of this will require missiological and pedagogical imaginiantion to bring into the light the truths of the Gospel that are lying dorment with the postmodern culture.

Gotta go!

bj woodworth said...

The Pink quote lacks an emphasis on grace. In particular it is void of any sense of prevenienvt grace or general revealtion, the truth of the Gospel within the good creation. The difference seems to lie missiology. Those within emergent circles have a sacramental view of all of life, meaning that the Word can be seen, tasted and expereinced in all areas of life because the creation, though marred and distorted, is still good, and in particular humanity bears the very image of God. So the missiological goal of those within this tradition is to "bring out the God-flavors and God-colors" (Matt.6 in The Message) already exsisting in the world. It seems that Pink and others in the hyper-reformed tradition do not not have the same high view of the soverighty of God in all of creation (meaning the arts, other religions, science, nature etc.) but rather limit God's revealtion of Christ to scripture alone. So the missiological goal is to get people to understand scripture. Whereas the emergent folks see all of life as revelatory and scripture plays an important part in that.

As Ross stated the argument within the church is somewhat unimportant. The importance from my perspective is to get the Word out (by all means necessary) to the least, the last and the lost. Some of this will require proclamation in the traditional sense of pedagogy and some of this will require missiological and pedagogical imaginiantion to bring into the light the truths of the Gospel that are lying dorment with the postmodern culture.

Gotta go!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so BJ apparently really wanted to make his point. Allow me to add to it.

Missiologically speaking (look at me, usin' all these seminary words!), the argument for meeting people where they are has often been made by using Acts 17 as the example. This is where Paul uses the culture and "religious" beliefs of the Greeks to get the Word out, to make Jesus known. But, this is only one example of God's doing so. In this example, He used a human to do so. But, what about the first instance of getting the Word out?

A couple of years after Christ was born, there came from the east wise men according to Matthew, chapter 2. Now, the Greek word translated as wise men is Magi, who were a priestly line Medes who practiced astrology and divination, things expressly forbidden by the Bible. These men practiced another religion.

Bearing that in mind, we see in Matthew 2 that they go to Herod and they ask, "Where is the child who has been born? For we have observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage." (Matthew 2:2 NRSV) In other words, the Magi used astrology and divination to find out that Jesus was to be born and, through this, God led them to the one true God in human form. The Word become flesh was revealed to them and they were changed.

So, did God in fact use another religion to bring people to Himself? Some may call that heresy, but that is certainly what it seems like to me. Perhaps I don't understand the full implications. Perhaps this story was just a foreshadowing of God calling gentiles to Himself, but I do believe that we have a God that meets us where we are and it isn't as though He didn't lay groundwork for this event centuries earlier in having Daniel among the Magi (See http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg2182.htm).

So, yes, I agree that God is unlimited in His reach and that we need to meet people on their turf, as He did with all humankind. However, I still believe the scripture is indespensible and that it has been given to us as a safeguard because our experiences as broken people being sought after as a lion's prey can be deceptive. If you look a bit further in Matthew, chapter 2, you will see that the experience of these astrologers and diviners was backed up by scripture, which they used as additional evidence to the truth of their claim. It is the main evidence, I would argue.

Anonymous said...

Previous and current posts by Ross Donaldson

Anonymous said...

So, I just realized that I spelled indispensable wrong. Not that that means much to any of you, but I wanted to make the correction.

- Ross