Archive for the ‘postmodernity’ Category

Today I had the pleasure of sharing a few insights on mission and worldview to the members of the ‘College Green’ pastoral group at Trinity College.. This group has pioneered and developed a chaplaincy which seeks to serve and bear witness to the young people who gather outside of Bristol Cathedral. Further information can be found here. The session today was intended to provide a theoretical/theological/philosophical basis for using worldviews in evangelism. On a practical level we will be using a modified version of the UCCF worldview questionnaire to engage in discussion.

If any church or group would like me to come and lead an interactive workshop on  ‘Worldview and Mission’ then I would be more than happy to assist. There would be no charge for any group in the Bristol area and for anyone else, within reason,  I would only ask that traveling expenses be covered. If interested then just leave a comment on this post. I can get references for those who want to know that I am kosher and can communicate effectively. I have previously discussed this material at West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies, local churches and a ‘Exploring Vocations’ retreat.

The following is primarily aimed as a resource bank for the pastoral group.

My presentation can be found using the following link.

I mentioned 2 books in my presentation.

Walsh and Middleton, Transforming Vision which introduces the reader to a Christian worldview. This book, if i remember rightly, takes a look at the worldview questions.

Where are you? Who are you? What is the problem? What is the solution? Where are we going? It will be worth checking out my  mate, Mark Roques’ website who has a great page on the worldview questions and sketches out a number of answers from different worldviews.  Also check out his podcasts.

I also recommended N.T Wright’s ‘New Testament and the People of God’ which provided the story, symbols, q+a, praxis part of my presentation. This book is great and will greatly assist you in hermeneutics and study of the New Testament. It is meaty and is not directly related to mission or evangelism. If this is your first year of theological training it may be best to leave on hold for a while. I think that it would be great to try and sit down and sketch out the worldviews of some of the young people you have met. What is their praxis? symbol? story? answers to worldview questions.

If you are interested in the Christian metanarrative and a holistic understanding of mission then check out some of the audio lectures by Micheal Goheen.

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Chapter 4 is entitled ‘Deep Truth’ and explores issues of epistemology.  He thinks that traditionalists have often misrepresented postmodernism and have failed to understand postmodernity as  emergent leaders understand it. Is postmodernity in all forms the enemy? Lstenign to the rhetoric of some evangelicals you would think so. However, he also criticises the emergent church for not recognizing that there are movements and thinkers in the evangelical world who also reject modernism.

‘Emerging voices tend to overstate the traditional church’s captivity to the rationalism and individualism of modernism by ignoring the last hundred years of evangelical criticism of Enlightenment rationalism by thinkers such as Abraham Kuyper, C.S. Lewis, Cornelius Van Til, Herman Dooyeweerd and Nicholas Wolterstorff [quite a few neocalvinists in this list]. Long before post-modern thinkers came on the scene, these Christian thinkers have been debunking the church’s captivity to science and rationalism. It concerns me that bright scholars like Stanley Grenz and John Franke, two influential thinkers for the emerging church, do nor bring this up. It seems the emerging church, for rhetorical purposes, uses sweeping generalizations about the traditional church that are unfair.’ 76

But the traditional church is just as guilty. By not taking the time to understand what the emergent church means by postmodernism, traditional thinkers jump to the conclusion that the emerging church is abandoning historic Christianity. This is certainly not true of the whole movement…Brian McClaren rejects ‘hard’ postmodernism. Few embrace radical relativism or deep constructivism that rejects all revelation or external authority.’ 76

I think Belcher’s analysis is spot on.  I will post more later

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Part 1 can be found here.


Here are my notes on Chapter 3.

The emerging and the traditional crowd ( I read emergent and conservative evangelical crowd) are poles apart and regularly seem to sling mud at each other. Belcher ask ‘ Is there a way forward? How do we get to the point where both sides can talk about their differences and learn from each other without being accused of heresy?’

Belcher proposes taht a way forward is possible by going in the way which Tom Oden describes as ‘new ecumenism’. We should not expects emergents to sign up to Piperesque calvinism, not should we expect Driscoll to renounce his reformed tendencies. No, the way forward is to commit to classical orthodoxy as the launching pad for discussion and interaction.  This classical orthodoxy is found in the Apostle’s creed, Nicene Creed and the Athanasius Creed.

We should adopt a two tier system,

Greer says, ‘ A two tiered system reflects the phenomenon of family resemblances within the Christian faith. The top tier establishes the overall family resemblance. The bottom tier makes room for different looks within the family. This sense of unity plus diversity offers the church an opportunity to love one another, as Christ prayed in his high priestly prayer, and thereby an effective witness to an unbelieving world.’

This makes sense. We don’t deny doctrinal distinctives but will embrace those who differ on the bottom tier but are commited to the orthodox essentials of the first.

I came across an interesting podcast of Belcher on the White Horse Inn.  I got the impression from listening to this that Belcher was being pushed to being anti-emerging.

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The librarian at Trinity college, Bristol is excellent. I told her about the book ‘Deep Church’ by Jim Belcher which had recieved numerous good reviews. She ordered a copy  which I was able to pick up today.

Deep-Church-200x300The book explores a path, which he calls Deep Church,  which can be taken which avoids both  traditional evangelicalism and the emergent scene.  A friend pinted out to me that people in the UK may get a little confused as there is a ‘Deep Church’ movement/set of books/blogs in the UK.

There is a ‘Deep Church’ website and excerpts can be found here.

Why was I so keen to get my hands on this book?

Firstly, I appreciate the theological leanings of some of the main traditional evangelical preachers/teachers in the UK such as Don Carson, Wayne Grudem and John Piper. However, I do think that the emergent scene has rightly criticized, amongst other things, the impact of modernity in the formulation of rationalistic evangelical theology. This places me in a strange place. I spend half of my time defending a traditional evangelicalism but this, at times, leaves me feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps this book will help me be more comfortable with my posiition.  Secondly, a quick look at endorsements reveals that this book is spoken highly of by a wide ranger of scholars and practitioners. ie. Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Scot McKnight, Rob Bell, Dan Kimball. If these people from different theological and ecclesiological positions are in agreement that this is a great book then it should be read. Thirdly, I want to have an ecumenical spirit (I really do) which seeks to build bridges and find unity in the Christian Church. What has Athens to do with Jerusalem Emergent to with Conservative Evangelicalism?… well for starters both camps claim allegiance to Jesus Christ. This book, which seems to be balanced, will explore and critique both traditional and emergent.

Here are some of the endorsements.

“Jim Belcher shows that we don’t have to choose between orthodox evangelical doctrine on the one hand, and cultural engagement, creativity and commitment to social justice on the other. This is an important book.”
—Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

“Smart, passionate, thoughtful, hopeful and Jesus-centered–this is the Jim Belcher I used to hang out with in the early nineties (like it was so long ago!) at the Huntington–and this is the Jim Belcher in this book. Lots of people are going to find this book very helpful.”
—Rob Bell, pastor, Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, author, Velvet Elvis

“Rising above the usual shallow, facile critiques of the emergent church movement, Jim Belcher has written for us a book that, indeed, goes deep. Jim took the time to listen to emergent voices, and as a result, he appreciates the movement for what it is. And, further, his admonitions ring true. While Jim and I have theological differences, I can heartily recommend Deep Church as an invigorating study of and healthy corrective to both the emergent and traditional church.”
—Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier (http://tonyj.net)

“Deep Church is a thoughtful, helpful and practical addition to the growing field of missional church thinking.”
—Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, president, Acts 29 Church Planting Network, president, Resurgence

I have just read the first few chapters and am not disappointed. Here are some of the highlights so far.

His goal is to provide  ‘well rounded picture of the emerging community’s conviction’. After surveying many books and blogs he sees the emerging church as being critical of several aspects of the traditional church. (For ordinands we must recognize that this book is from a US perspective and that traditional means ‘traditional evangelical’ as opposed to Anglican traditional which means liturgy and bells and smells).

1) Captivity to Enlightenment Rationalism (Yep! evangelicals do like their water tight theological systems)

2) A narrow view of salvation (Being a Tom Wright and Neo-Calvinist fan I agree with this)

3) Belief before belonging

4) Uncontextualized Worship

5) Ineffective teaching. I have tried to deal with some of this here.

6) Weak Ecclessiology

7) Tribalism

He goes on to mention the three fold division which Ed Stetzer employs to describe the emergent church.

1) Relevants- Driscoll

2) Reconstructionists

3) Revisionists- Emergent Village

In this book Belcher will mainly interact with those of the reconstructionists and revisionist camps.

I am going to enjoy reading this book and may well blog my way through it.

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I have just finished reading a book by  Anthony Thiselton. Yes! thats right I read it from cover to cover… only pausing once or twice to re-read a sentence or two. I think that this means I am a bona fide Scholar….

However, it wasn’t one of his well known Horizons books. I must confess that I have tried reading them but i always get the I-am-swimming-through-thick-stodgy-boiling-treacle feeling. However this recent book, a mighty tome coming in at 26 pages, has been a pleasure to read. It is called Can the Bible Mean Whatever We Want it to Mean? . It is an absolute gem of a book(let) which is based on his inaugural lecture at University College Chester and it only costs a couple of quid.  I heartily recommend it for those who want a whistlestop tour of current hermeneutical challengers and approaches. I will leave you with a juicy quote which I found helpful about his response to some reader-response approaches to the biblical text,

readers determine the meaning….. In reply, I believe that genre is a key critical factor. Reader-response theorists have a point when we are considering what Lotman and Umberto Eco call ‘open texts’. These are often, but not always, parables, poetry, hymnic texts or psalms, and sometimes part of the wisdom literature. Lotman and Eco call them ‘productive’ texts, because they may serve to tease, seduce, and provoke the reader into active thought. But many texts in the Bible are not poetic, symbolic, parabolic or hymnic. They are prophetic, apostolic, didactic, creedal, or historic reports, and these are transmissive, communicative texts….. As in most didactic communication, the utterance is operative when the ‘receiver’ grasps what the ‘sender’ sends through the media of source, code, contact, message and receiver. (page 12)

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David J.A. Clines offers us this intersting quote,

‘If there are no ‘right’ interpretations, and no validity beyond the assent of various interest groups, biblical interpreters have to give up the goal of determinate and universally acceptable interpretations, and devote themselves to producing interpretation they can sell- in whatever mode is called for by the communities they choose to serve.’- in ‘Reader-Reponse, Deconstruction and Bespoke Interpretation’ New Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible

Sorry Mr Clines I think that your response to modernity is a bit over the top. Sit down, have a cup of tea and read about a critical realist approach to historiography.

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