Seems like we are at it again. What’s the relation between emerging and emergent? Scot McKnight and Andrew Jones talks about it, and David Dunbar wrote the article which started it again. A while ago Dan Kimball pointed to the article by Micheal Patton in which he also tried to address this question using some cute diagrams. He in the end wrote something like six posts on this, and it had hundreds of comments on different blogs, also a lot on McKnights blog. Might do us good to remember that conversation.

Let me start out by putting this into it’s most simple form. Now, I could be wrong, but I think what’s happening is something in this line: emerging is accepted as being closer to evangelicalism than emergent. Emergents madden evangelicals more than the emerging people. Somewhere along the line the liberals are taken into the equation, because the emergents, and some emerging ones as well, describe their own attempt as finding the middle ground between the conservatives and the liberals (different labels are used for the two sides of the supposed debate, see an earlier post here). OK, and to do it justice, there is also strong voices fighting against the division, saying that the whole conversation should be held under one banner.

OK, I know this is an absolute oversimplification of the argument. But some things need be said, and I hope this summary illustrate this. The conversation is still argued mainly from the relation to evangelicalism; the relation to a certain conservative ideal of the past, or to fundamentalism. Which is closer and which is further away. The debate between emerging and emergent thus seem to me to be quite similar to the debates that have been raging all over the centuries of the church between different theological positions. Furthermore, we need to notice that the conversation is still ongoing, and many voices influence both “sides” of the conversation.

In South Africa something of this can be seen on the Emerging Africa site, which was first called Emergent Africa, but the name has changes somewhere along the line. Our own church has gotten different people to speak, from Jones to Hirsch. Everything running under any of these labels seem to be called emerging (Afrikaans: ontluikend), and accepted basically uncritically as similar. The deep running differances between them is never discussed. Could this be partly why the emerging conversation seems to be such a unifying factor? Linking people from Moreletta Park, by many considered to be the headqaurters of the evangelical tradition in the Dutch Reformed Church, and the UP theological faculty, by others considered the headquarters of the “liberal thought” in the Dutch Reformed Church, and even supporters of the NHN.

The work of someone like Nelus Niemandt seem to also point in this direction. Although you won’t easily find him using the work of people like Borg or Crossan, and being critical about people like Spangenberg, he would use the work of someone like Mclaren (who use both Borg and Crossan) in an almost uncritical fashion. Is this simply because Mclaren is considered part of the emerging conversation, which Niemandt like?

All this said, I think the emerging conversation could provide protestant Christianity with an amazing gift if it’s able to keep the conversation going without ignoring the differences. If a model for being together without necessarily agreeing can be provided within protestant circles, this might be the ultimate proof of churches who can navigate the postmodern world.

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You know what must be one of the worst things in life to do? Re-typing something! I absolutely hate re-typing! I don’t mind writing, I do that a lot, and actually like doing it. But when I loose something and have to re-do it, that’s really bad. Although usually it ends up being written better. Well, I lost this post. Saves it on a flashdisk, and I think I didn’t stop the flasdisk the last time I used it. First time I loose data this way.

So, Scot McKnight from jesuscreed.org is visiting South Africa. Attie Nel from Attie se Koffietafel got him over for Pentacost. We have a tradition in the Dutch Reformed Church to celebrate Pentacost with a series of church services over throughout the week, Mcknight is leading these in Attie’s congregation, and Attie dis the rest of us the favour of arranging a whole program full of other speaking arrangements for McKnight.

Yesterday morning I attended a lecture McKnight gave on the New Perspective on Paul. Actually it was presented to the fourth year New Testament class, Stephan Joubert’s, from e-kerk, class, but it was opened up so that the rest of us can also attend. There wasn’t a lot of visitors however, but I found it interesting to see how bloggers got together. Attie en McKnight got together, both bloggers. I visited, because of blogging. And Tom Smith also came to visit, although we didn’t talk about it, I guess also thanx to blogging.

I found out that McKnight disagree with the New Perspective, and the things flowing from it. Also with NT Wright’s idea that Paul was writing against a Roman political system, an idea very influencial in the later works of Brian Mclaren (Secret Message of Jesus and Everything Must Change). I also found it interesting that McKnight was introduced as a leader in the emerging church, this while I can swear I read McKnight himself writing that he write about the emerging church from the outside. However, I think this he does very good, do read his article on What is the Emerging Church? if you haven’t doen that yet.

Then later I had the oppurtunity to have lunch with McKnight and some other pastors from our denomination. We had some interesting conversations on the theological influences on South Africa. Someone at one stage summarized it like this: We are Dutch people, watching American television, reading German theology and talking an obscure language which no one understand. Interesting that British theology never really had a big influence on South Africa.

After I wrote the post yesterday, I had to read something from Walter Brueggemann’s Old Testament Theology. I’ve been reading parts of it for the past two years, and it’s a great book. Well, all I actually wanted to mention, was that he also use the term God-talk, when talking about Israel’s ongoing theological conversation.

I’ve been realizing more and more that we need to talk about how we view God, or maybe more, how we think this world fit together, and how we think that God fits together with it. Not an easy task, and one that we should always remember that actually we have no idea, or very little of an idea.

Please remember the previous post when reading this! This is just my way of trying to show how I see things fitting together.

Do we see God as the “being” on the outside, that comes into “this” world? Many do, and there is a lot of merrit for this, I think that big parts of the Old Testament work with this view, and I can understand that some would like this idea. In this view, we need to work with things that break the normal rules of our scientific world-view, and God is this “being” that can break this rules. Of course, this also allow a “devil” that can do similar things.

 On the other extreme, but very similar, I think, is the view that these rules cannot be broken. I struggle to grasp this view, but I do experience it from time to time. God is a reality to some people, and I truly believe this, but not a God that break the rules of this scientific world-view.

In the end, and this truly isn’t rocket science, so sorry for those of you read all the way up to this point just to hear this, but I needed to try and formulate my thoughts, I think both these views consider a modern scientific world-view to be the limiting factor, with the one seeing God as breaking these rules, and the other seeing God as obeying them (mayor over-simplification, but I’m trying).

Brian Mclaren wrote somewhere in The Story we Find Ourselves in about God as the creator of a pool table, and obviously God is playing along, or something like that. I like a worldview where we remember that there is always more to this world than we could know. Some would talk about more dimentions, others about a deeper level of matter. I like to think of God as working on at a different level, in a different dimention, but this leve, of dimention, obviously have it’s effects on the observable level of humankind. This does not mean that God is the one breaking the rules of physics, rather that creation will always work in ways that we wont understand.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this as a back door for everything that I don’t know how to motivate or explain. Or as a back door for arguments which I cannot win, or something like this. Rather, I think we can open this up so that we can have conversation between people of differnet views. Those who know that rules of physics don’t get broken, and those that know that somehow God is involved in this world, God is having an influence on our existence.

OK, battery is going, so I’m posting now. Random thoughts… maybe, but somehow I’m trying to make sense of this faith experience, theological tradition, post-modern world, and scientific world in which I’m living.

I just finished reading The story we find ourselves in by Brian Mclaren. (This was typed on Friday, but I only got round to publishing it today. Really a brilliant book.

It’s not so much the theology that I find so helpful. I remember after reading A new kind of Christian that I also felt that, although it was a good book, it wasn’t realle mind-boggling. It was just the stuff that we had to figure out for ourselves, in order to express how we are Christians in this day and age, in our context. And I felt quite the same with this book (although, with the last couple of topics Mclaren tackled, it got quite complex). But both books are formulated quite well, and is useful in helping to put into words our own experience of faith. But that’s it about the ideas Mclaren present in the book. What struck me as brilliant was something totally different.

I’ve always loved stories. And this was a great story. You get so pulled into everything, you learn to love the characters. Kerry and Dan, Neo, Carol, and all the others. I don’t wanna give the story away, so I won’t tell you about the point in which I had little tears forming in my eyes, or the things that happened that I’m so happy about. Great story.

When reading New Kind of Christian you kind of get the idea of a monologue. Neo is teaching Dan. Neo has the answers, Dan the questions, and Dan learns from Neo. In The story we find ourselves in it becomes much more of a dialog. Different characters, with different stories, different perspectives, and it’s not only Neo who contributes. A lot of times one of the other characters says something profound, and at places Dan also get a chance to try and explain the way he see things, even Carol as well. And Jess, you’ll remember her form the first book, one of Dan’s daughters, writes a statement of faith.

The best thing about the book, I think, is how Mclaren has showen us something of a new possibility or having theological conversations, more than simply what our dogma should be. The way in which things sometimes stop a conversation, and then you never find an answer, and that’s OK. The way in which different perspectives are presented by different characters, without ever knowing which one was correct. Because it’s about the conversation, the growth, the search for God, more than simply the answers. And sometimes characters make mistakes, or say things which they then change, for instance Neo at the baptism (sorry, you’ll have to read the book).

As I’ve read the book, I wondered if this might not be a great book to use in catechism with high school aged kids. Helping them to find language to formulate their faith which make more sense in the context which they are growing up in. But I’m still wondering, would like to try it sometime though.

Why do we go camping?

July 16, 2007

I had to write something for our monthly newsletter at church, and since I, again, asked myself this question while attending some camps this past few weeks, I made this my topic. But I was kind of limited on the amount of words I had, so I’m writing my thoughts out in more detail here.

I don’t know how many camps I’ve attended over the past 12 years. I’ve lost count, and most probably won’t figure it out ever again. Still, I sometimes struggle so pin-point exactly where my life was influenced through camps. But I know that I wouldn’t have been where I am if it wasn’t for the camps I’ve attended. I met some of my best friends at camps. I made some of the most important decisions of my life while attending camps.

In A New Kind of Christian Brian Mclaren wrote something about going back to ancient spiritual practices, and then said that camping is the same kind of spiritual practice we find in the monastic tradition (I really do hope I’m quoting him correctly, it’s been more than a year since I’ve read that), where we take some time of out of our daily routine to get away and focus on God, or something like that.

I’ve been paging through Mark while writing, and it’s really interesting to see what the followers of Jesus remembered, and thus what they wrote in the gospels.
Mark 1 – Jesus go to the river Jordan to get baptized
Mark 6 – Jesus is teaching a large group of people at a remote place
Mark 9 – Jesus takes 3 of the disciples with him to the mountain, where they experience the glory of Jesus in a very unique way
Mark 10 – Jesus take the 12 disciples with him beside the road and teach them

I’m not very much into the kind of “Be a leader like Jesus” or “learn the personality of Jesus” kind of stuff, if you understand what I mean. But I do find it significant that the followers of Jesus remembered all these incidents where Jesus took them out of society, and thought them, or helped them to experience something of God. I also think that we get the same kind of thing when we take kids out of there environment, that they meet God in a very special way, and also learn from each other, or from leaders at camps, about God, and about following in the footsteps of Jesus.

The way we camp may change in the years to come, but the practice of taking time out from society, breaking our routine, getting away to learn about God, and to experience God, I believe is inherently part of out Christian spiritual formation, and we mustn’t ever loose that.

O, and just a last remark. I also think that the gospels make it clear that Jesus took his disciples out of society, and taught them, simply to send them back to society, Mark 6 and 16. That we also need to remember about camps, those attending camps need to be send back, to live out that which they have experienced at camp.

Just when I was done typing the previous post, my internet account at the university ran out, so I could only publish it today. Luckily wordpress autosave posts!

I’ve been blogging about Brian Mclaren for the whole week. But hey, my week has been taken up with Brian Mclaren, and trying to get my new laptop setup. I actually still have to finalize my sermon for Sunday, but my ideas are mostly organized. I’m gonna do one last post about Brian’s talk at Universiteitsoord last night.

I met Steve last night, which I am glad about. And there was quite a number of students, which I also was glad about. Brian talked about his ideas on the Kingdom of God. If I understood him correctly he says that if he read the words of Jesus in the gospels, then he thinks that the gospel is primarily about what should happen on this world. Not that he deny the existence of heaven, but what was radical about the message of Jesus, was it’s implication for this world.

This got me thinking about the role of South Africa in the emerging church conversation. My African perspective let me wonder if the kingdom of God, as a social reality, would ever come to this earth. I don’t think we can ever amplify the importance of getting involved in the problems of society too much. But when looking at Africa, I wonder how I can preach a message of the Kingdom being here and now, to people dying from AIDS and lack of food? To people caught in racial wars. Again, I agree with him on what he considers to be primary to the gospel, I think, but I’m kind of sceptical as well, cause I can’t see how this would relate to Africa. Maybe some of you other folks that attended want to give some views on this? Anyhow, the third thing I think me could contribute is some realism as to how big the problem is, as well as keeping people in check to not get in an over-optimistic view of humanity, which I won’t say Brian does, but I do think the conversation opens up the possibility. Again,your views would be appreciated!

At the end I asked Brian a question he asked someone over the weekend. He asks a South Africa what it would look like if the Kingdom of God would come to America. I asked him what it would look like if it came to South Africa. His response was something like this:

Religion changing to, instead of contributing to, as it does at the moment in many cases, help make a difference in the problems of

  1. over-consumption. We consume more than this world can sustain.
  2. Rich-poor division. The rich get richer, and although we do some welfare programs, we should do more to get justice between these groups.
  3. Violence. Religion, also the Christian religion, are currently many times part of the cause for war, and not part of the solution.

This is an over-simplification of his answer, but he will discuss it in his new book “Everything must change”, so look out for it when it get released.

I didn’t get to a computer after I got back yesterday, and struggled with Linux the whole day after getting back. I’ve decided to try and use Linux, but couldn’t figure out much. Problem is, when using Windows you have the complete general knowledge of everyone around you (especially when living in a mens hostel), but when using Linux you are kind of on your own. So it’s a major struggle.

The last day of the conversation with Brian Mclaren was a bit more focused on South Africa. How do the post-apartheid church look. To Africa in general, the post-colonial era we are now part of. Many of the problems of colonialism still needs to be worked out. What is the role of the church in that? The role of the church in poverty?

Some questions. What is the unique contribution that we can make as South Africans to the global emerging church conversation? Maybe we should broaden it to the global theological conversation? I’ve been thinking of two things:

  1. One is how we can be church across racial and economical lines. South Africa is the country with the widest devide between poor and rich, and a country with a very long history of racial devide. I believe that our conversation on these things can really mean something to the global conversation.
  2. The theology of David Bosch is highly spoken of in the emerging conversation, although not well known. If we can become accuinted with the works of David Bosch, we can carry this into the global conversation. So, anyone with knowledge on the work of David Bosch out there?

What do you consider the unique contribution of the emerging conversation, or the theological conversation currently happening?