Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Belize Blog

As many of you know I am in the midst of travelling to Belize right now.

I found a computer and so I decided to give everyone who cares a quick update.

The first thing that struck me about Belize is that it is not Costa Rica. The airport is extremely small, dwarfing even the Myrtle Beach airport. There are a total of 4 incoming customs lines and the airport does not have A/C. Along side the stark poverty of teh country, there does not seem to be a culture of begging and panhandling as in other central american countries.

Today we have spent time with an American missionary who runs a seminary for nationals as well as a national pastor, both here in Belize City. I am most struck by the fact that this city reminds me more of Africa for some reason than it does

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Journey of UnEmergence: A Critique of A New Kind of Christian

So this blog began as a defense of my characterization of a Tampa Church. It will not be that. To the proponents of that church, please, bear with me as I present the whole of my thoughts on the Emergent movement.

As mentioned before A New Kind of Christian has been an influential book on the Emergent culture as well as my own life. In fact, I was the lone defender of the book in a graduate school class filled with opponents of McLaren.

On the positive side ANKOC presents its case in a narrative form. This is incredibly appealing. It is engaging and easy to read. The other strength of the book is that it is more than skin deep. Its critique is not simply "Jesus is OK with Beer, so in your face Fundies!" It goes down to the root of why we think what we think. It rightfully roots out our dependence as Christians on enlightenment presuppositions. This is superb and a needed critique. As Neo (a character) dismantles Dan's (another character)world, I felt my own beliefs coming apart in a good way. I followed Dan on his journey as it mirrored my own. Many of the constructions that we have called church in the past 100 years don't reflect the biblical model very well. I am so with McLaren here.

The difficulty lies in what comes next for Dan (who receives no real resolution even in the series finale)and for us. Are we to chuck the entire denominational (or non-denominational) model? Where do we start new? If our presuppositions are flawed (and both Neo and I believe they are) who gets to call the shots? Is it everyman for themselves? If not, is it every church for itself? Who becomes the authority for doctrine and practice? Is anything out of bounds?

At the end of the day, my question for McLaren is this:

What constitutes Christianity?

And if I disagree with your answer, how do we know who is right?

It seems to me that ANKOC takes deconstruction to a point of no return.

But I could be wrong, I'll be the first to admit it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Journey of UnEmergence pt. 2: Lazy-boy on a La-Z-Boy

So I wasn't familiar to any of the emergent literature during my time in Fundy bible colleges, but somehow, about the time I got married, I stumbled onto a copy of A New Kind of Christian (ANKOC). I put it aside in the hustle and bustle of getting married and starting a new job with Starbucks. About a month after I got married (this puts us in about February of '04) I picked the book up and started reading it on breaks at work. I was entranced. McLaren's writing style was hypnotique. Never before had I read theology in a narrative sense. On top of the style, the substance of his critique resonated deeply with me.

Perhaps a bit of autobiography is in line at this point. I had just spent two years at a Fundy bible school. I was a bit of a theological malcontent and a I had a bit of disdain for the rules and structure (especially in my second year); but I wasn't a "bad" kid per se. Nevertheless, I was asked never to set foot on the campus again due to "theological differences". In their minds, you could not separate theology from morality, and so my "bad" theology was the result of my poor morality.

This false idea of tying morality and theology together was a prime example of the things McLaren was writing against. Like a ugly kid who finally found a date, I embraced McLaren's way of thinking whole heartedly. The problem however was that the lifestyle that McLaren spoke of was by-in-large radically different than the way I was living. He really was advocating what seemed to me to be a new kind of Christianity.

I can vividly remember sitting in my green La-Z-Boy chair weeping and thinking, "O No, I am going to have to change my life. What if Ange doesn't like the changes I feel so false".

Well, luckily for me, ANKOC didn't cause a divorce, but it did cause me to begin to think in different directions. I immediately signed up for a budding new publication called Relevant Magazine. In fact, the first one I got looked like this.

I began to visit Mars Hill Church on vacation to Michigan. I started reading every piece of literature that the fledgling movement could produce. I began to explore the ideas of totally scrapping Christianity as I had come to know it. I questioned my ability to continue my job at a denominational church. I was on a mission. I had plans. I would work for Starbucks in management, and plant a church on the side.

The problem was, no matter how much I resonated with the movement, I was frustrated by its tone. It was all critique and no construction. I didn't know how to deal with this. And so, turned off by the strong negativity I kept searching, still holding on to the Emergent...