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Of Emergent Manifesto’s, Emerging death and bad language.

September 25, 2008
Sometimes I look at what is going on in the ‘Evangelical world’ (whatever that is these days!) and cringe. Other times, I watch the circus and have a laugh at the clowns. This week is one of those weeks where I feel compelled to break out the popcorn and enjoy the show.

For some reason, I was living under a rock last year when Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt released this video to go along with their combined writing project. An Emergent manifesto of hope is a great insight into what makes the more liberal arm of the emerg*** movement tick. Now for all the talk of deconstruction and paradigm shifts, post-modernity, prayer-labyrinths and soya-lattes; these folks have still positioned themselves inside Protestant Evangelicalism. The Jones-Pagitt video should bring to light what has been pretty clear from the beginning- they’re about constant reformation of the church. Out of the Reformation came the term, ‘Semper Reformanda’- always reforming. So what does that concept look like for our Emergent Hopers? The leader of the leaderless EC, Tony Jones, says:

“What we want is to fashion a beautiful Christianity that we can hand on to our children and grandchildren and that they can pick up and reform in their own way.”


Narrator: “Is that the sound of an agitated Martin Luther rolling in his grave?”

If that wasn’t bad enough. We get another little gem from Mr Jones…

“As I’ve reflected on the word ‘justice’ which crops up a lot in Emerging circles I’ve noticed that ‘justice’ and ‘gospel’ are really the same thing.”

I have a feeling that statement has the potential to make a backslidden Catholic throw up in his mouth. Knowing that justice= gospel, I went back to substitute the terms in Bmac’s Justice creed. But by then I had to move on due to an overpowering fusion of laughter and nausea.

Given that the offending video is barely 18 months old, it brings me great joy (yes, joy) to read Out of Ur’s story on the death of the Emerging church.

“Here lies the Emerging church, Peter Pan she was not.”

Now it’s obvious the movement won’t just die immediately. I’m sure the more extreme crowd will hold on for dear life, despite many like Andrew Jones and Dan Kimball calling for a dropping of the EC title.

Kimball is a nice guy. I respect him in that he actually seemed willing to involve himself in ‘conversation’ with more conservative evangelicals. So I’m not surprised that he can say the following:

“I can’t defend or even explain theologically what is now known broadly as ‘the emerging church’ anymore, because it has developed into so many significantly different theological strands. Some I strongly would disagree with.”

Kimball seems to want to go off and establish another movement based on the Lausanne Covenant. Which removes one more moderate voice from the whole conversation.

But lets be honest, the whole EC movement has barely outlived Wilkinson’s Prayer of Jabez fad. Changing the terminology isn’t going to sustain a movement which largely seemed intent on being built upon ‘authenticity’ rather than the foundation that is Jesus Christ- 1 Cor 3:11.

That doesn’t bode well for the future of the post-emerging church.

Which leads me to bad language and washing your mouth out. John Piper invited Paul Tripp and Mark Driscoll to speak at this years Desiring God conference. Living in the evangelical backwaters on New Zealand, I’ve been lucky to read Nathan Busenitz’ excellent thoughts over at Shepherds Fellowship Pulpit. Two conference related blog posts can be found here and here.

While some wonder why Piper has provided a platform for ‘reformed bad-boy’, Driscoll, it seems Tripp has been the more controversial speaker.

War of Words author, Tripp, managed to say the four-lettered ‘s’ word half a dozen times in a video. By the looks of things evangelicalism will never be the same again. After a lengthy warning about what follows, Tripp tells a story about him and his children having a conversation about language. Tripp’s point is that ultimately biblical speech is defined primarily by intent, not what is culturally appropriate. Hence, saying, “Ok, Dr Tripp, I’ll do that,” in a loathing, sarcastic way is not appropriate or good, despite none of those words being culturally inappropriate. In getting to this point, Tripp ends up using a bit of bad language.

SJ Camp had a blow up over this, managing to call Paul Tripp a “pinhead” and say “crap”, justifying their usage by claiming he was trying to see if anyone would “take the bait.” Some well respected bloggers and pastors have likewise joined the Tripp-lynch mob.

A few observations:

– Tripp’s kids are hardly now going to think it’s a good idea to swear, as their father rightly pointed out- you just can’t give use the word in a grace-giving way.

– Regardless of whether you explicitly mention the ‘s’ word, the word pops up into your head.

– You don’t have to play the video on Sunday morning during corporate worship.

-You don’t have to listen to it either.

– We’re a bunch of evangelical-Pharisees.

I know I’m not meant to defend a guy using bad language. But 340 blog comments about using a few swear words to illustrate a profound truth is simply much ado about very little.

Here everyone, take a chill pill.





6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rhett permalink
    September 25, 2008 6:45 am

    Another day, another manifesto.

    Good post, buddy. I’m tasting your radness on this one.

    My favourite comment on that Out of Ur blog was someone quoting James McDonald, “It’s a bunch of white, suburban, intellectually elite people having a conversation with themselves and pretending that it’s about everyone… A lot of people have this big dialogue going on with ‘the culture’ You’re talking to yourself! OK? That’s who you’re talking to.”

    I like Kimball. I like McManus (especially when he shares a middle name with my favourite Ninja Turtle) and I’m reading his book “An Unstoppable Force” at the moment. It’s good! I’m glad they’re doing something. And I’m even gladder that they are defining what they believe at the start.

    I like clarity (that’s some kind of sin in the Emerging Church, right?)

  2. GeorgeOfTheJungle permalink
    September 25, 2008 7:46 am

    Rock on!

  3. September 26, 2008 4:25 am

    Hey Jono,

    I watched this (I almost always normally don’t watch videos online) expecting to see some prime rib liberalism to feast on. And believe me I know a good liberal when I see one having spent my early post conversion years in an evangelical Methodist church within a radical, post-Christian denomination.

    I didn’t see it on this video. I haven’t read the Manifesto and it sounds like you have so I’m maybe missing the context.

    I understand that the “beautiful Christianity” statement could be heard as constantly reforming Christianity beyond its orthodox roots. But I could imagine it meaning something less sinister as well. I just can’t tell from the video.

    The comment about justice? I think the context amplifies the meaning more fully – the final sentence in that sound bite is: “To work for God’s justice in the world is to be Gospel people.” I have no problem with that statement in isolation. I don’t even think its slightly ambiguous. It begs a bigger question – how do I access a relationship with God so that I can work for his justice? But I don’t think it attempts to answer that question.

    To be honest I haven’t read anything of my long lost relatives writing so don’t know what he stands for in a wider sense. Doug Pagitt has never appealed – he just feels smug to me, which is an incredibly unfair yardstick, I know!

    I think the Out of Ur article is a premature obituary. I see 2 things happening:

    1. The word ’emerging’ has become a liability. Once people started feeling the need to distinguish between ’emergent’ [village] and ’emerging’ it was a gone-burger. There are similar issues for the word ‘fundamentalist’ which has gained negative connotations for some (when it started life as a word of protest). Even ‘Evangelical’ has had its problems.

    2. Some within the broader emerging current are voicing their commitment to evangelism and mission. I think thats always been there for significant parts of the wider ‘movement’. I don’t think that means another movement – I do think it means more attention going into these areas in an intentional way from some people who have influence and expertise. That will be good for the church in general. There is no earthly reason why emerging evangelism should be stunted – in fact, it would seem to me that if one values pre evangelism and community as part of the context for sharing the gospel, evangelism has a good shot of being enhanced.

    In that sense, the emerging church is perhaps still emerging? And the direction of some its emergence seems positive. You hit the nail on the head when you talked about Jesus as the necessary foundation – for much of the emerging church the person of Jesus is THE key to why they have departed from conventional evangelicalism.

    Check out this rant on Tall Skinny Kiwi’s blog which maybe highlights what some EC proponents are really on about:

  4. Dave N permalink
    September 29, 2008 8:54 pm

    Here are my thoughts on the Tripp video. (I sent this to a friend today – we are discussing this very thing via email)

    I think his point is this…. Intention. What is the intention of your words? Is it to build up others in the name of Christ, or is it not? The Bible doesn’t say this word is “bad” this word isn’t…. but, culturally speaking some words automatically bring to mind things that you would never want to bring to mind – hence, does not build up others in the name of Christ. On the flipside (this is what I really love about the video) he says that you can use words that externally may seem like they are building someone up, but if your intention is not pointed towards the building up the name of Christ, it is sinful. (Ephesians 4:29) It just showed me how much of a Pharisee I am – I’m not just thinking words here, but actions as well. My actions and words may appear to build up Christ, but is that really my heart and intention in all things? I confess that it is not. If you really think about it, the video is quite profound.

    Now, do I think what he said was true? Absolutely, yes – It points out how much of a Pharisee I am. Do I think what he said was good discernment in the platform from which he said it? Hmm… I’m still wrestling with that. Nevertheless…. It was helpful for me and helped me acknowledge my sin and build me up in the name of Christ. Point well taken here.

    Question that came to my mind as I thought through this (I’m being serious, not funny): If the “S” word is “bad”, or sinful, is “crap”? What about “poop”? “crud”? Where is that line drawn? Where does “society” draw the line for the Christian? Is that important? Where does a Christian draw that line for himself or others? I think if we think that way, its external, like a Pharisee. Its INTENTION. Personally, I cannot think of a way to use any of those words in a way to build someone up in the name of Christ – but I bet if you ask 100 Christians, “Which of these words are sinful: s**t, crap, poop, crud ?” I bet you wouldn’t get everyone to agree. In fact, I bet you would get a pretty good split on that in our church. The point, again, is intention – or heart. God looks at our heart – which further proves how much of a Pharisee we really are and don’t recognize it – and this is just an example of our words! 🙂

    Good post Jono! Love it!

  5. October 13, 2008 1:37 am

    Rhett, thanks mate. That Macdonald quote is GOLD. Sums it up for me nicely. Clarity is excellent. Lets hope for more of it from the Emerg*** guys.

    GOTJ- my faith aloning Catholic friend. Good to hear from you again.

    Dave- 100% affirm what you say on this subject. The intentions aspect is critical and profound in this whole discussion. That will provide a stable foundation for a speech in a changing (sliding) culture.

  6. Raybanz permalink
    October 13, 2008 11:35 pm

    Good post. I like what you had to say Rhett.

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