Tuesday, February 19, 2008

6 Questions Emerging Christians are Asking

Scot McKnight was a part of a panel at a conference recently talking about emerging Christians. Scot has come up with a list of the six most common questions (or types of questions) that Emerging Christians are Asking.

I have done my best to transcribe quotes from Scot's talk to make the point. There isn't much there, but he went over this pretty quickly. You can find the whole panel discussion on the Emergent Village podcast in 2 parts called the 2007 AARP Panel (it is about 38 minutes into part 1).

Also, one more note I should make. Scot told a lead in story where he used a "Blue Parakete" as a metaphor for emerging Christians, which in the story is basically saying that they are weird to the traditional (meaning both evangelical and mainline) church. When that term is used, that is what he is referring to. Scot is coming out with a book soon by the same name.

6 Questions Emerging Christians are Asking (that the traditional church doesn't want to hear)

1. What kind of truth can be found in scripture

"The authors of the Bible are real human beings with real human vocabularies and that they're not all American-speaking, NIV-writing type people. That they learn Paul had his opinions, and the writer of Hebrews."

"And so they're begining to ask questions about scripture that an older generation thought it had answered and knew that it had final answers an that everyone would conform to these answers, and those who didn't were blue paraketes and would just squak on there own somewhere else. I think they're asking fair questions about scripture."

2. If Evolution isn't true, I would like to ask God why he made a world that looks so much like evolution?

"This is a generation that isn't even attracted to questions proving that Genesis 1-11 is historical record. They don't care about creation science. They believe in evolution and that's just the way it is and they want to be Christians and believe in these things."

3. Questions about Christians, and the kind of behavior Christians show

"They grew up with the scandals of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker and the priests."

"They just don't trust institutional leaders in Christian churches."

"If Paul says those who are in Christ are a new creation, why are there so many old creatures in the church? Why is this going on? And they are scandalized by some of the behaviors of Christians."

4. Questions about Hell

"Scot, my evangelical pastor tells me that people who haven't heard the gospel are going to hell. Is he really telling me that everybody in North Korea who never has a chance to hear the gospel is going to Hell? I just don't believe that's true."

"This question is not going away. This is not a questions that evangelicals and orthodox Christians can simply give a traditional answer and get by with it anymore."

5. Moral Questions

The shift is from asking historical questions about contradictions between Chronicles and Kings or were there three Isaiah's to asking why was Jephthah in the Bible and then why was he valorized in Hebrews 11? What about the rapes and sexual abuse in the Bible?

Scot says, "I find these questions far more penetrating than those old historical questions."

6. Social Location

"There is social location to everything we talk about, the language we talk about, the theology we shape, the way we talk about the gospel, the wqy we preach the gospel, the way we respond to the gospel. These things are socially located. And I find emerging Christians not only admitting that and humbling themselves, they develop a chastened epistemology because of it, but they delight in it."

"They are not seeking a universal theology, but they are willing to live with a theology for the midwest, or the east coast, or that sort of thing."

He concludes by saying:

"I think the church needs to [preach] that these people are okay. Church is a great place for questions, rather than a place that should kick people out who have really good, deconstructive, at times, questions."

Thoughts? Have you been asking questions like these or heard them asked? I think that is one foundational element of the Emerging Christians, that they have questions about all kinds of things the last generation of Christians thought they had settled and never questioned. In fact, that generation is often uncomfortable with questions like these.

Your reactions?

29 comments:

nate said...

I believe that these questions are nothing new. They have been asked before...many...many times before. "Emerging" is just a cool new name. Has everyone forgotten the enlightenment asked these very questions and provided answers (i.e. Bultmann).

Besides the enlightenment, these questions have been asked since Acts, and answers are constantly being provided. That is why there is relevant, critical scholarship still seeking out unbiased answers (ie, Wave Nunnally) I myself took five years of Greek in response to question #1, and so did my teacher, and his teacher, and his teacher, and so forth, all of whom have recognized the validity of the question.

Maybe the majority of Christians aren't so "American" as EC posits...maybe it is just the minority...the televised...the political.

Great post nick.

Mark said...

"This is a generation that isn't even attracted to questions proving that Genesis 1-11 is historical record. They don't care about creation science. They believe in evolution and that's just the way it is and they want to be Christians and believe in these things."

OK, evolution is the core issue I have with American Christians. Only in the United States can one still find people still fighting Darwin, like people fought Copernicus before him. I just don't understand how they can deny facts. If you are wondering why I say facts and not theory, this is what I mean by facts. There is no reasonable way to argue against such strong evidence. But, creationists do. Creationists (if any of you are reading this), it's not healthy to deny the truth. In fact, ignorance is dangerous.

Help me understand. Why do some Christians have such a difficult time with (#2) evolution? Even the Bible must give way to reality, right? It sounds like emergent Christians have come to this realization.

Nick said...

I agree, Nate. They are not new. but, I would suggest that this younger generation of emerging Christians are asking them in a much higher volume that the last generation that gave birth to American evangelicalism did. Sure, some of the last generation asked these questions, but they didnt ask them en masse. In fact, often time asking questions like this meant you were a troublemaker. I think that is the point.

Chip Burkitt said...

It's time American Christians got over evolution. The bible was never intended as a treatise on any science. It is intended as a revelation of God's character and his dealings with human beings. It is neither systematic nor comprehensive. Even theology is not covered so well as we would like.

However, the notion that we can, in some sense, call God to account for his behavior is treated in the bible as very dangerous. Job wished he dared do it. The trouble is not in the question but in the questioner. How can we approach God with anything like humility and demand that he answer us?

Nick said...

The evolution/creation debate is just still so divisive. It is kind of like democrat/republican in evangelical circles in the way people cannot disagree about it. Creationists draw a line in the sand, in a way, and try to make you deny the faith to deny creation.

I remember in college, the pastor of the church I was going to said this in a sermon on evolution: "Either you believe Genesis 1:1, or you don't." Below the surface, he was saying "either you agree with me and God and believe/know that God created the world in 6 literal 24 hour days, or you dont believe the Bible and are not really a Christian." That kind of statement is fashioned in a way so that you cannot disagree. It is impossible to have a conversation under those terms.

Do you find that, Chip? When you tell Christians you accept evolution do you get weird looks?

Mark said...

"Creationists draw a line in the sand, in a way, and try to make you deny the faith to deny creation."

They shouldn't do this. Evolution does not deny God. I've heard it said many times that God is great. Well, why can't God have used evolution as His mechanism for creating life's diversity? Just saying that God made everything pop into existence in 6 days, to me detracts from the grand scope of the true story, that it took millions and millions of years of development to reach the point of human existence. Creationists don't give God enough credit.

Nick said...

They shouldn't do this. Evolution does not deny God.

I agree, Mark.

Earl Barnett said...

Nick, excellent post. I've listened to that panel discussion at least 6 times since I found it on the emergent website and find it intriguing every time.

On Evolution- I personally refuse to place my faith in science. I by no means take Genesis as literal, but I haven't been convinced that evolution is 'true' either. (Note: I have the youtube link above bookmarked to watch later) I cannot speak for anywhere outside of my individual circles of influence, but creationism is still very much alive and kicking and telling them 'don't be so stupid' isn't going to help anything. Instead of trying to convert the conservatives to accepting Evolution why don't we interact with why the believe that Genesis MUST be read literally? Just because we disagree with them doesn't change the fact that we need to be gracious and loving.And if they decide to be stubborn and opposed to genuine dialogue at the end of the day, I don't understand why we can't just let them believe that God made man out of a mudpie.

As Christians I think one of the beauties of our faith is our ability to be unified despite diversity. I think there are a handful of things we need to agree on, but evolution is definitely not on that list.

Nick said...

Hi Earl, thanks for the comment.

I think most emergents and those of us on this thread have been saying a similar thing from the opposite side: Can we believe evolution and still get along? My background is amongst people who wouldn't be comfortable with that. You seem to be saying the opposite, can we get along with literal 6 day creationists?

I could say yes, no problem. I can agree to disagree. But it seems creationists are so charged into this debate, that agreeing to disagree is not an option for some.

Thanks Earl!

Bob said...

Even the Bible must give way to reality.

Really? I'm admittedly an old guy (66) so my opinion may not be worth much to you young whippersnappers :) , but it would seem to me to depend on what you mean by "reality." I grew up in a mainline denomination with very liberal theology. At age 20 I became a super-funda-menta-listic-expi-ali-docious dispensationalist/cessationist anabaptist. By 35 I had become a raving charismatic. I married someone who was raised Eastern Orthodox and ended up Pentecostal Holiness. Oh, and my other was Jewish. All of these are "realities" and all of them have played a part in who I am now, someone who is still evangelical but postmodern and listening to the emerging conversation. I said all that to say, I believe "reality" must give way to the Bible. We don't really have a handle on what "reality" is. The Bible says man is spirit, soul, and body. Can you scientifically prove or disprove the spirit or the soul? Neither can I, but they're there.

But back to the topic of creation vs. evolution, I really don't know how long it took God to do create everything. Maybe six days. Maybe millions of years. My eyes tell me millions of years. But my heart tells me it could have been six days. If Adam was created as the Bible says, then on the first day he existed wouldn't he have appeared to be 20 or 30 years old (with or without a navel)? The earth (and the universe) could also have been created with signs of great age also, including the fossils, even if they are of recent creation, if God chose to do it that way. I'm not saying He did, and I'm not saying He didn't. But it's possible. God likes to hide himself so that we can find him. Jesus liked to speak in parables so that his hearers wouldn't understand. He said so Himself.

All I'm saying is, whatever your opinion, don't be so cocksure about it. When a voice, possibly the enemy of your soul, whispers in your ear, "Are you going to believe the Bible or are you going to believe your own eyes?" that indeed is the question. That is the crux of the whole matter. I choose to believe the Bible even when it seems to contradict my own eyes. I have heard that dogs don't have color rods in their eyes, so they see everything in black and white. Does that mean there is no color? If you're a dog, yes. If you're not a dog, no. Everything is not always what it appears to be.

Sorry for rambling. It's part of the territory that comes with age. You may not believe that now, but one day you will.

Mark said...

No one is saying "don't be so stupid." I have a strong conviction though that creationists do not view evolution objectively. I think they view it through the lens of scripture. Hence, science is not to be trusted, especially, evolution. My answer to, "I don't understand why we can't just let them believe that God made man out of a mudpie" is that creationists want to teach children God made man out of a mudpie in public schools. That is not science. Why not teach astrology at that point? How would our astrologers fare against the astronomers of other countries? Probably as well as our creationists would fare against the geneticists of other countries.

"I personally refuse to place my faith in science."

I agree with you if by faith you mean, religious faith. But you do place faith in science every day. Whenever you fly in a plane you place your faith in science, in aerodynamics. Whenever you listen to the weatherman you place your faith in science, in meteorology. Whenever you get a vaccination, you place your faith in science, in evolution.

Young earth creationists should think about gasoline. Whenever they fill their tank up, they should ask themselves what they are putting into their tank. What is gasoline? Gasoline/oil is a fossil fuel. That means, like coal, it's formed from the organic remains of prehistoric plants and animals. We consumed Oil: 1,050,691 to 1,277,702 billion barrels (167 to 203 km³) between 2003-2005 - Wikipedia. Young earth creationists should ask themselves how many generations of dead plants and animals would it take to accrue a reserve of a billion barrels of oil. Don't forget to factor in the geological time, pressure and heat required by the plant and animal material to undergo diagenesis The answer is a heck of a lot longer than 6-10k years. It's immoral to teach people the Earth is 6000 years old because it's teaching a lie. It's perpetuating ignorance. Note that I'm not saying stupidity, but lack of knowledge and understanding.

"That is the crux of the whole matter. I choose to believe the Bible even when it seems to contradict my own eyes."

I don't think putting the bible before common sense is a virtue. This is a conversation killer because there is no way anyone can reason with someone who believes this. Basically, I can show you something but you won't believe it even when you see it.

"All I'm saying is, whatever your opinion, don't be so cocksure about it."

If my opinion is that heliocentric theory, that the Earth orbits around the sun is true, why can't I be "cocksure" about that? Aren't you also cocksure about it as well Yet, it wasn't long ago that Christians were just as "cocksure" that everything revolved around the Earth. That is, until scientists like Galileo forced them to believe their own eyes and not the Bible.

Earl said...

Mark-
"...creationists want to teach children God made man out of a 'mudpie' in public schools"

I don't see a problem with this as long as it's presented as 'what those people believe'. I realize that isn't what the creationists are looking for, but I hardly think trying to use epistemological methods to prove each other wrong is working very well. I think we can all agree that there is a much bigger issue here than a literal interpretation of Genesis. Honestly, no one is going to be hurt by the belief that God created Adam and Eve in 6 literal days. What hurts people is conservatives using their literal hermeneutic to tell the rest of the world how to live. Proving them wrong about creation won't win that battle, they'll just dig their heels in deeper. What I'm trying to say is that I think honest dialogue is the answer, not 'truth'.

"I agree with you if by faith you mean, religious faith.

I don't mean religious faith. Science consists of a group of people measuring, charting and probing to figure out reality. That is a very admirable goal, and I am very happy to live in the technological age I do. But at the end of the day, anything that has to be proven via extrapolation is not to be treated as reality. When the plane takes off I trust that each person figured accordingly, but understand there are almost always variables that are unaccounted for. When the weather man says it's going to rain, that's his best guess using the equipment he has- but unless he is 100% accurate all of the time he cannot claim 'truth' justly. You see where I am going with this so I'll stop there.

I'm not saying that you need to believe what I do about science, I'm fine with you believing what you believe- it gives us something to talk about. But, just like I refuse to tell someone that the existence of God is 'truth' because I cannot prove it without extrapolation and hypothesis, until there is no extrapolation involved I refuse to accept or propagate to anyone else the 'truth' of evolution.

Does where I am coming from make sense? And what do you think about the concept of creationists and Christian evolutionists dialogging?

-Earl

AbiSomeone said...

Earl,

I appreciate your focus on the leap of faith required by both Creationists and Evolutionists due to the extrapolation and hypothesis required to prove what we do not (yet?) have the ability to prove.

The problem, from my eyes, is that we (like Job before us) ask questions that are beyond our ability to comprehend. We are not God, and so we do not know and see and understand as God does. And as Job, he cannot answer our questions directly because we are not capable of understanding.

That does not mean that we cannot continue to look for the answers as we use our minds to try to understand our universe and our place in it. It does mean that we must remain humble in our conclusions and gracious towards those who disagree with us.

And for my money, a "mudpie" in the hands of God, fashioning a human being into which is breathed the breath of life, is beyond science. Just as Jesus putting a small mudpie on the eyes of a blind man resulting in regained sight. I don't know how...and neither does anyone else. It is a mystery.

Science looks at mystery as a problem to be solved. Some can be solved. Perhaps some cannot. That doesn't mean you can't try to solve them. It does mean that we need to ratchet down the rhetoric to acknowledge the faith that each position requires.

I acknowledge that there is a great deal that science has discovered, but I would cautiously suggest that some of the conclusions reached are not comprehensive or deep enough--especially in disciplines like health, nutrition, medicine. It is too often a shallow drugs and surgery as quick fix...and I find that not terribly acceptable.

Thanks, Eric, for asking the questions. And thanks to those of you who have engaged in the conversations. It is continuing to provoke thought in areas that are just hard to embrace either extreme.

Mark said...

Earl,

"But, just like I refuse to tell someone that the existence of God is 'truth' because I cannot prove it without extrapolation and hypothesis, until there is no extrapolation involved I refuse to accept or propagate to anyone else the 'truth' of evolution."

Well, God and evolution are two different things. "God" denotes the belief in a supernatural being. "Evolution" denotes a scientific theory based upon strong factual evidence. Gravity is another scientific theory, though we know more about how evolution works than we do gravity.

What if I told you I believe in the supernatural. Fairies are supernatural, so when I say, "I believe in fairies" and someone replies "I refuse to tell someone that [fairies don't exist] because I cannot prove it without extrapolation and hypothesis," does such a reply hold any water?

I'm not trying to blaspheme by substituting "God" with "fairies." I'm just trying to make a point of logic.

Concerning evolution, one can't ignore the facts. Again, if I can extrapolate and hypothesize that the Earth revolves around the Sun, why shouldn't I be able to tell someone straight up, that the Earth revolving around the sun is the truth and those that say that the Sun revolves around the Earth are mistaken?

"And what do you think about the concept of creationists and Christian evolutionists dialogging?"

I can relate my own experiences dialogging with creationists. It's almost impossible. Creationists don't believe what they believe based on evidence. Their belief in creationism is faith based. As such, their faith is non-negotiable and no matter how factual and reasonable my dialog is, they always ignore it. It reminds me of Jehovah's witnesses who believe that blood transfusions are wrong. They hold this belief so strongly against all rhyme and reason, that they are willing to let their own children die for their convictions/misconceptions. I see the same rational in creationists. I don't think it's healthy. That's just IMHO, of course. I'm sure Jehovah's witnesses would beg to differ.

Earl said...

Mark--
"What if I told you I believe in the supernatural. Fairies are supernatural, so when I say, "I believe in fairies" and someone replies "I refuse to tell someone that [fairies don't exist] because I cannot prove it without extrapolation and hypothesis," does such a reply hold any water?"

You missed my point. Proclaiming extrapolated information as fact without concrete, absolute evidence is my problem. There is not concrete absolute fact to prove God's existence nor is there concrete evidence to prove evolution. Were there concrete facts Atheists and Creationists wouldn't exist.

Futile argumentation aside, I don't see enough concrete evidence for either side to claim 'truth'. And can someone explain to me why both Creationists and Evolutionists are so rabid?

AbiSomeone said...

"And can someone explain to me why both Creationists and Evolutionists are so rabid?"

In my view it is because they both are unwilling to embrace the ambiguity of not being able to be certain about many things. They must have concrete answers to everything.

I have heard many great and wise people say something along the lines of: the more I know, the more I know I don't know.

I very much agree with this because it seems that every "answer" we have raises another question or two!

Mark said...

"Proclaiming extrapolated information as fact without concrete, absolute evidence is my problem."

Earl, if that's the case, then I don't see you having a problem with evolution. I agree with this regarding the supernatural. There is as much hard evidence for Yahweh as there is for Allah. We know though that evolution is as solid a scientific theory as gravity, if not more so.

"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky (geneticist)

If not, may I ask what evidence could I put forth would be sufficient to convince creationists? How would I go about dialogging with someone who literally believes the earth is no more than 6000 years old? In my experience, it's Mission Impossible. What would they listen to? I've tried facts but as Bob said before, "I choose to believe the Bible even when it seems to contradict my own eyes."

"Creationists and Evolutionists are so rabid?"

Honestly, I think creationists are rabid in perpetuating creationism because to them, it's a matter of faith. Evolutionists are rabid about defending good science against the misconceptions perpetuated by creationists.

AbiSomeone,

I completely agree with you that it seems as if for every question we answer, it raises 100 more questions. This is a good thing though. It helps us to make progress.

Rick Meigs said...

"'Evolution' denotes a scientific theory based upon strong factual evidence."

Actually, aside from scripture, evolution and creationism are both based on the same set of factual scientific evidence. It is not the facts in question, but the interpretation of those facts.

AbiSomeone said...

After viewing the Ken Miller video, my husband found this interesting rebuttal:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n4/tale-of-two-chromosomes

I do want to go on the record as not being a "young earth" creationist, and point to another interesting article that suggests that the creation "days" were rather sequential "extended periods of time" and yet another example of poor translation of Hebrew concepts :^(

http://www.creationingenesis.com/TheHebrewWordYOM.pdf

Mark said...

I don't know Rick. It seems to me that creationism is based entirely upon scripture. Specifically, Genesis and the interpretation of Genesis. For example, one of the assertions creationism makes is that mankind is descended directly from Adam and Eve. Where is the scientific evidence supporting this? There's none.

I think creationists are confusing what they believe, with what they know.

Bob said...

Picking up on one of Mark's earlier comments, just for the record, I'm Yahwehcentric, not heliocentric. Job 26:7 says, "He stretches the north over an empty place, and hangs the earth upon nothing." So much for gravity. And what keeps the earth from falling? Mark would probably say centrifugal force. Hebrews 1:3 says, "He upholds all things by the word of his power." And as for the earth orbiting around the sun, I'm convinced that the flat disc we live on is balanced on the back of a gigantic tortoise. Just kidding. But that idea was once "scientific fact" and then Copernicus was "scientific fact" and now Galileo is "scientific fact." Does anyone see a pattern here?

Mark said...

Bob, you lost me. I'm mystified about what you're trying to say.

Abisomeone, I believe "answers in genesis" is actually a creationist website. Is there anyone who is not a Christian who backs them? For example, evolution is supported by countries all over the world. Even the Vatican supports evolution. Are there any non-Christian sources who can back AIG up? Otherwise, I'd say AIG is simply a creationist propaganda source which only American Christians seem to buy into. I don't take them seriously.

Bob said...

Mark, I was just trying to respond to various references you made to Galileo, Copernicus, Yahweh, Allah, gravity, and heliocentric theory in some of your posts.

Not to worry. This isn't the first time someone has been mystified about what I was trying to say.

Behold, I show you another mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. (Hint: It's not about evolution.)

Mark said...

No problem, Bob. I was confused because Copernicus and Galileo didn't contradict each other. Galileo verified that the Earth is not the center of the universe when he saw moons orbiting Jupiter through a telescope. This was perfectly consistent with Copernicus. It's a fact. In regard to "We shall not all sleep..." Yes, we shall all sleep. :)

I'm guessing here, but I think your point really was that since science changes, it can't be trusted, whereas the Bible is the truth, and the truth never changes. This kind of thinking leads to sad events like this with Bill Nye...

"The Emmy-winning scientist angered a few audience members when he criticized literal interpretation of the biblical verse Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights, the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

He pointed out that the sun, the “greater light” is but one of countless stars and that the “lesser light” is the moon, which really is not a light at all, rather a reflector of light.

A number of audience members left the room at that point, visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence.

“We believe in a God!” exclaimed one woman as she left the room with three young children."


I think that's just sad.

Wrapping things up, it's been implied that Creationism is true and that it's scientifically supported by factual evidence. I challenge any creationists reading this to make a non-religious case for creationism. Make your case for creationism using only science. If creationists can't do this, I think it makes it clear that the term "creation science" is an oxymoron.

AbiSomeone said...

Mark,

Yes, is it a creationist website. But I thought the article was interesting, none the less, as it directly responded to the video clip provided here. That was all I was saying -- that there was a rebuttal out there.

I would hope that it would be possible to listen to all sides and look for the truth wherever it can be found...and please don't tell me that there is absolutely NO "real" science in any of their articles.

The sad thing is that this discussion too often becomes a matter of politicized "spin" where opposing sides are not willing to follow the solid trail of truth wherever it goes -- if it does not line up with their preconceptions.

I yearn for better conversations about nuts and bolts without grinding axes or pressure to find the "right" information. Sometimes I believe folks are too quick to draw conclusions and are not willing to sit with the data and look at all options.

But I have this same difficulty with most folks on most subjects. Too few really looking for truth; too many looking for simplistic proof-texts for their theories.

Real truth is more complex than this and requires a different approach than is usually used.

And the uncomfortable bottom line is that there are lots of things we (on all sides of all issues) just don't know. May never know. It's how we deal with this ambiguity in the midst of our society that is the biggest challenge, IMO.

Thanks, again, for the interesting conversation, Nick and friends.

Mark said...

"...and please don't tell me that there is absolutely NO "real" science in any of their articles."

I think this is the the case, for the most part. They have zero scientific credibility. When you said...

"I would hope that it would be possible to listen to all sides and look for the truth wherever it can be found..."

I would have agreed with you if the creationist side had some kind of factual validity. But, it doesn't. The bible is NOT a science book. I do however completely agree with the following...

“If we are going to teach creation science as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction.” - Judith Hayes

I don't think religion should masquerade as science. I still don't understand why so many evangelicals have such a problem with evolution. Maybe evolution is the mechanism God used to create life's diversity. Why is that so difficult?

Mark said...

I guess I embody the sentiment in Nick's original post about the new emergent Christians...

"This is a generation that isn't even attracted to questions proving that Genesis 1-11 is historical record. They don't care about creation science. They believe in evolution and that's just the way it is and they want to be Christians and believe in these things."

Bob said...

I would like to tackle part of question #3 (If Paul says those who are in Christ are a new creation, why are there so many old creatures in the church? Why is this going on?) from the perspective of an older person (66 years old), but not an old creation (in the 2 Corinthians 5:17 sense).

The answer that springs to mind (an obvious one, but not the only one) is that being "in Christ" and being "in the church" are not the same thing. If you sit in a garage, does that make you an automobile? If kittens are born in an oven, does that make them chocolate chip cookies? To my anabaptist way of thinking, this is the disagreement I have with covenant theology. Our natural offspring are not just automatically part of God's flock. People who have been sitting in church all their lives out of habit or family loyalty but have never made a conscious decision to follow Christ or ask Him to be their savior are like the kittens in the oven. Even if somehow they manage to look like chocolate chip cookies, they will never taste the same.

I don't think all roads lead to the same place; I don't think we're all headed for the top of the same mountain from different sides. If I get on a train for Denver sincerely believing that I am on a train to New York, it doesn't matter how sincere I am, I'm going to end up in Denver, not New York.

I know this must sound horribly modern (meaning old-fashioned)to all the emerging and postmodern folks, but it's what I believe.

Earl said...

BOB- Thanks for being willing to put your views out knowing that we're going to talk about 'em.

I think you've missed the concept of the community in Reformed (or covenant) Theology. Having been trained Dispensationally (now I call myself Neo-Orthodox in the tradition of Barth and Bonhoeffer because it sounds better than 'liberal') I have found R.C. Sproul's 'What is Reformed Theology?' helpful to understand where this group is coming from.

Briefly, in the OT there was Israel and there was 'the remnant'. All Israel were the people, but 'the remnant' were the ones who actually sought righteousness and living according to the communal guidelines. The 'Covenant' Church views it the same way with not all the Church being part of the 'remnant'. It should be. But being honest, the contemporary church looks a lot like the biblical account of Israel/Judah. They don't really believe that dunking babies in water makes 'em go to heaven, its purely symbolic.

I think you raise a very good point about people living in the community and missing the call to be disciples. I think that is something that mainliners and evangelicals as a whole need to ask themselves- 'Why does the Gospel we preach create so many Christians that have little interest in being disciples of Jesus?'.

You do sound modern, but that's ok. Its rather hypocritical for us to demand the right to ask questions and challenge the status quo without giving the same freedom to hold to what has worked for you as well. I do want to ask where you found that the rules that apply to geography also apply to one's existence in the afterlife?

Earl