I have to give it to the guys who associate themselves with the Emergent Conversation. Sincerely. They tend to be willing to interact about theology, even with guys like me who are not high fliers with thousands of readers or forthcoming book deals. So while I typically disagree with their theology (or what I take to be their theology since it is not often spelled out to my satisfaction) I applaud their willingness to--well, you know--converse. Some solidly "Reformed" types could learn from them.
Awhile ago, Spencer Burke commented on a post I made about him. And today, Kester Brewin had some thoughts on my review of his book, Signs of Emergence. Here's what he had to say (will make more sense if you read my review first):
Kidding, kidding. Here's what Kester actually said.
Thanks for reading the book and taking time to review it. Someone just sent me a link...
I think your comment that those "who use statistics and scripture deliberately to support their reasoning" is perhaps a good summary of your position.
Actually, I very deliberately didn't try to set out to convince people intellectually. I think doing so can lead away from action, rather than toward it. And in fact, I think we see Jesus doing this very little.
Scot McKnight had a similar criticism: "give me something concrete brother" was his way of putting it. But the whole point of an emergent system is that it is locally grown. There is no model to buy into, and thus the temptation to set out concrete examples needs to be resisted, as people often follow them, rather than the underlying principle.
I'm sorry if you're not sure if we're playing on the same team, or if you consider my view of God and Scripture slippery. The book is clearly for those of robust faith, whose knowledge of Scripture I felt didn't need patronising with footnotes on every nod to a passage... And for those who I felt could handle some different perspectives on faith, from some very different sources. Hopefully that doesn't mean we're on different sides, or I'm just trying to please everyone ;-)
I think Kester Brewin's response was fair enough, and points up both what I liked about Signs and what I found problematic. I'll respond briefly.
I agree that story and suggestion are often more powerful than syllogism. I'm a story guy. I read them and write them, even (especially) during final exams. C.S. Lewis is my favorite author, and it's obvious that sometimes people need to be inspired and sometimes they need a blueprint. Brewin thinks that evolving forms of church (ecclesiology) fall into the former category, and I pretty much agree. Churches in different cities and cultures and centuries can and should look different. So detailed prescription is not helpful.
However, biblical doctrine (theology) is not an evolving animal that changes color and grows new limbs to suit its changing environment. Therefore, while timeless truth can be embodied in story (parables), it is also spelled out explicitly, argued overtly, and defended relentlessly in scripture, and we're encouraged to do likewise.
It's vital to distinguish between what changes and is culturally informed and what is nonnegotiable and timeless. That's why I object to semantic games where theology is concerned.
This is where Kester and I differ, I think. He writes: I'm sorry if you're not sure if we're playing on the same team, or if you consider my view of God and Scripture slippery. The book is clearly for those of robust faith, whose knowledge of Scripture I felt didn't need patronising with footnotes on every nod to a passage...
Problem is, I can't assume we're playing on the same team. How could I? If I knew Kester Brewin personally, if we talked theology over coffee, maybe I would know where he was coming from. As it is, passing comments about God's evolution aren't exciting or stimulating--just puzzling.