Friday, July 15, 2005

Looking for comments from Wednesday morning?

This past Wednesday Professor Mike Wittmer of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary joined us for a lively discussion.

I deeply apprecaite that Mike joined us for several hours. I believe that we are all better for it...

For those who joined us, what are your reflections?


Blogger Andre Daley said...

I think Mike did a great job though I'm not sure I follow him all the way down the path of some of his conclusions/assertions.

Still we have more in common thatn not so I want to continue this kind of conversation.

It was good food for thought and I think his perspective adds to the conversation immensely.


8:11 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

I really appreciated Mike's presence and his willingness to share his perspective.

Any 'movement' such as emergent runs the risk of swinging too far to the opposite extreme of that which it is rebelling against.

I think Mike did a great job of opening a discussion on the areas where we may swing too far to that extreme. Hopefully, we're big enough people to explore those areas find some balance.

Randy's Ramblings

8:43 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Hello Emergent West MI Folk:

Thanks for the great gathering and dialogue on Wed. Kudos to Dr. Wittmer for his insights, cheers, and challenges toward the emergent expression.

I walked away pondering one particular topic and that’s the inter-relationship we face in our ministries of believing, belonging, and behaving (for lack of sexier terms). It seems to me that there seems to be much discussion about which comes first and why. Lest you think I’m going “linear,” let me take this further to ask what you think the blur of these three essential elements look like in our ministries?

My observation is that many have reacted to starting with “believing” because it makes doctrine a “line in the sand” we draw and creates and in/out us/them mentality that many of us are trying to avoid. I think this leads to a slow death of ecclesiastical insulation and navel-gazing.

The challenge by Dr. Wittmer was, “why do people have problems with in/out?” Theologically, is there not some point where this distinction becomes important (in membership, communion, church discipline, etc.)? And… does not some element of “believing” give us some starting point for what our expectations are for “behaving” (ie. There are certain things I expect of a professing believer that I don’t with one who’s journey is on the fringe)?

I’m also still pondering the metaphor I threw out on Wed that, doctrine is like a song. There are some that know the song so well that they know the words while there are others that are just learning to hum the tune. I wonder if this metaphor helps us at all in thinking through the pastoral (and I use pastoral in it’s broadest sense) implications of the belonging-believing-behaving matrix. I’d love your thoughts and critique.

Thanks all. Rock on…

11:14 AM  
Blogger Andre Daley said...

I love your metaphor. It expresses spiritual truth (I hate the word doctrine) in a much more imaginative and creative way than simply thinking we are different so we need to draw hard lines of distinction.

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts as you ponder.

mosaic life

7:10 PM  
Blogger John Frye said...

I was challenged by Mike's presentation and believe his voice is very necessary in our ongoing conversation. With Andre and Steve I think we need new vocabulary that expresses both the firmness of Christian truth and yet the embracing nature of that same truth. I think "doctrine" is intended to be beautiful and inticing like a siren's song; it's not doctrine's fault that it's been used to exclude and harm others.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

I love the metaphor as well... the idea of doctrine being like a song... let's explore that one more!

I think we push against the order of believing, belonging, behaving because we were once forced to swallow that pill, but our experience doesn't line up with the order we were once taught to believe. In addition, biblical evidence doesn't support a particular order.

While we in this emergent conversation are often accused of appreciating 'experience' too much, I think we have biblical evidence that trumps the four, five, six spiritual laws in terms of linear order.

At the risk of a lengthy post, perhaps our acceptance of 'perseverance of the saints' has allowed us to want to know who is saved. Should not our lives indicate who we serve?

What if we simply asked people if they were living a baptized life (living within the story of God)? Maybe if it was a regularly asked question, then we wouldn't be startled by it, and we wouldn't have a need to draw the lines of 'in' or 'out.'

12:17 AM  
Blogger Andre Daley said...

I agree that we must act on what we believe.That is not hard to communicate because we do that all the time in everyday life.

I agree with Mike on that. However how we come to believe and what we do with those beliefs is the kicker. As you point out many have been forced in to the linear unnatural and non biblical (I think) approach of expressing belief and too often that kills true faith.

I'm not so uncomfortable pushing back on the experience thing. IMHO everyone who followed Jesus experienced him first. The experience led them to truth.

What if faith is finding ourselves in the story and doctrine is the songs we sing about that story.

That feels really powerful to me

mosaic life

9:09 AM  
Blogger John Frye said...

I really like Andre's last comment: " is finding yourself in the story and doctrine is the songs we sing about that story." Jews in Jesus' day thought the Roman empire was the real daily story and were losing faith in their own story. Jesus comes along "singing to the tune of the authentic Jewish story in its purest melody." He was inviting them in their own real story almost unconcerned with any of the others tunes of the day--the cheap variations of the Jewish story and the hard rock of Rome. So today, somebody has to be hearing the music of the kingdom of God, singing and dancing to it and shouting with joy to those tone-deaf to the melody, "Come on, join in."

9:37 PM  
Blogger Headless-in-GR said...

The song analogy is nice - really it is. I guess I just wonder if it may accidentally communicate more than you intend.

For example: If you don't like it, change the channel.

The Church claims that the doctrines are truths (though they be they incomplete and/or dimly grasped). It seems then, that to call something true would also indicate that those who accept these (Church proclaimed) truths will be better off for it (no health and wealth gospel intended here).

My point is simply this - the doctrines might have a few more teeth than the latest (sappy?) love song.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Nate Dawson said...

For so many years I have seen "doctrine" lead to division. We have been hurt or have seen others hurt - all in the name of ones own personal understanding or "doctine." I think that is why many of us are uncomfortable with the word. Those who grew up agreeing with the doctrines prescribed from their tradition usually have no problem with it, but those of us that have seen so much division - are just plane sick of the christian community fighting with each other. We could become so much more productive by not trying to prove one of us is right and the other is wrong or one is in and one is out. The point is love and unity -not doctrine and division. That's why we have 20,000 denominations in our world. We don't need another denomination. Yes, we need to claim what is true wherever we can find it but what is true for you may not be true for me. Then what? I would argue, we must bgin telling our story - because maybe in some way another person will hear it and things will begin to make a little sense.

Growing up within one extreme has forced me to seek out the other - just to get me somewhere toward the center.

8:30 PM  
Blogger John Frye said...

Hi, Headless-in-GR. I don't think anyone has sappy songs in mind. And while I am no musician or lyricist, I am of the opinion that songs have "more teeth" than doctrinal statements. Take the Philippian hymn for example in Phil 2:5-11. Incredible teeth!!

2:04 PM  
Blogger Headless-in-GR said...

Thanks John, for your comment, and I would agree with you as far as songs having the capability to have teeth. What I was attempting to say was that if you use the word "song" to describe doctrines in our culture, it would be easy to dial up "don't like it, change the channel."

It IS a great metaphor - for you and I. But metaphors depend upon the experience of those using/hearing it. For culture at large, I would think "song" is often experienced as something other than what you (we) intend - namely (to be repetitive) that they're sappy love songs that can be tuned out.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Likening the faith to a song I see as an apt metaphor not only for us in the faith, but for those outside as well.

The gospel definitely has teeth and a power of its own that is of God- of course. It is simple and profound. It is something that goes beyond rational explanation- though not irrational or subrational. Therefore I can see the song being heard in faith proclamation, in the lives of God's loved ones- throughout the world.

I like the thoughts Steve Argue has to share on this subject:
You can find this too if you click his name on this website.

3:33 PM  
Blogger John Frye said...

Headless-in-GR, I see your point about the song metaphor for doctrine. With the Ipodization of music, a song metaphor may mean my own private taste in doctrine, selected by me and for me---a direction done of us want to go. Let's use food---"taste and see that the LORD is good." Doctrine is like handing a hungry person a menu. Belief incarnate in the believing community is food. The LORD is present in his people and he is good soul food. Exegeting menu's does not feed hungry people.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Headless-in-GR knows me and I know her. So I know she doesn't mind if I see things differently or from a different slant.

Point well taken from her and John. I see either the soul food of the Lord or the song of the Lord as good and unique.

One could find the universal good "soul" (good word John) food or the universal song-- which I think the good news- and the living and proclamation of-- is like in many ways. Both seem good to me.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

I think I've fallen into that trap of wanting to be "right" and for that I'm sorry.

5:26 PM  
Blogger John Frye said...

Ted, don't be too hard on yourself. This is an ongoing conversation and all of us have a propensity "to want to be right." That's our contribution to the discussion. With that said, apology accepted. Yet, I must say that I didn't pick up any sense of you trying to be right. Thanks for your sensitivity and very stimulating thoughts.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Headless-in-GR said...

You guys are so funny!

Yes of course, soul food, by all means! Let the doctrines be soul food! Yum!

Anyway, who are we kidding? We all know metaphors/analogies are never perfect. It's always, "Such-and-Such is JUST like a whatever, except in this way and that way and this way..."

Anyway, we're all just trying to talk to one another, that's all. So songs and soul food - even 'rules' and 'life's instruction manual' - there just approximations of what we know, but can't say all that well.

I suppose the danger is in convey and/or forgetting that they're not perfect metaphors.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Headless-in-GR said...

"they're" not "there"...

I'm so smart - blah!

10:46 AM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...


8:41 PM  
Blogger Headless-in-GR said...

So, I wasn't at the meeting, but Mike did speak at our gathering the Sunday before. One thing he said that I've been chewing on was that emergent could go too far in their attempt to be humble about truth and end up essentially saying that they-we-people can know nothing about God. Mike's conclusion was that this position was effectively agnostisicm.

Originally, this struck me as very accurate, but now I'm not so sure.

I'm not sure he repeated this in the meeting, but if he did, does anyone have any comments in this direction?

1:57 PM  
Blogger John Frye said...

Headless-in-GR, as I recall Mike did say something similar if not identical. There may be a fringe of evangelical pomos who want to be so humble that they really have nothing "true" to say, but in my reading and my listening I have not come across any. In fact, in their response to critics (see, they affirm a belief in truth and that truth is knowable. So, I'm not sure who Mike has in mind. I think the uneasiness about truth comes from this factor (among many I'm sure): "All truth is God's truth." I was taught this line in seminary. Emerging conversationalists really believe and act on this statement. Other non-EC folks, while paying lip service to the statement, live by "Truth from the Bible only and ultimatley is truth." Theology always holds the "trump card" in the Rook game of life and on any discussion...evolution, women's roles in the church, etc.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

In the overall context of both that Sunday message you- headless, and I heard-- as well as the Wednesday time you John and I heard (though I arrived late) I don't think it is fair to say that Dr. Wittmer was saying that emergents are denying the existence of truth or that we can know truth. He meant, I think, that what is good could be carried too far.

For example to honor ambiguity is good (as I've seen on a blog of an emergent) if one means that while I can understand words in scripture, I will only "get it" when God by his Spirit helps me understand (my words now). Going too far there would mean I must hold on to ambiguity at all costs so as not to be divisive (a theme or at least thought that I've heard or picked up with some emergents- though not true of all- especially leaders).

I did overhear an emergent leader (who I esteem) saying afterwards that he doesn't think people are sweating epistemology.

I do think that it will be good on both sides for the discussion to continue.

3:39 AM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

"...I will only 'get it' when God by his Spirit helps me understand..."

I should add to that: by his Spirit and in community...

6:14 AM  
Blogger Headless-in-GR said...

Yes, thank you Ted. Mike was only saying that it was a *potential* problem, so he wasn't naming names or anything like that!

Sorry I wasn't clear.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Andre Daley said...

john, headless, nate and others,

As I've caught up with this thread I am struck by Nate observation that doctrine (humanly derived as it is) is no more perfect than the sappy love song at communicating truth. Some songs do that well some don't.

What appeals to me about the idea of doctrine as song is that there is something of beauty to be found in a good song that cannot be said for the way we usually communicate doctrine.

My mind immediately drifts to the classic hymn o for a thousand tongues to sings or more recent I could sing of you love.

There is truth dare I say doctrine there. So I am forced to wonder what would be able to share with the world about what we believe if all our doctrinal truth were communicated with the power and beauty of a song.

May that is why so much of the OT declares about God is done in song.

two and half cents form the penny section


10:47 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Hey all…

I’ve appreciated hearing your comments on the last session. I think for me, Andre’s last comment really sums it up for me.

If doctrine/theology as a song is just another cheeky metaphor, I’m not really interested in using it. Doctrine as song is not a top 40 hit or some that makes (god forbid) the Dove awards. It’s not a jingle for a commercial and I don’t think it can be easily ignored, though some might think they can change the channel (though that’s always an option, I suppose).

I think it feels more like an anthem. It’s something that stirs the heart and mind. It’s something that pulls from an original experience that has been shared in numerous ways and at numerous times throughout time by numerous people. It has a history… and a future.

This song’s main melody doesn’t change, but it carries many improvisations that express the message in multiple contexts.

The experts who want to dissect the song reducing it to theory will miss the melody and discourage the novices. Those who want to be part of the chorus but refuse to sing, miss the point of the melody and the chorus and have to come to grips at some point the community who sings this song is a purposeful community that is drawn to the song and inspired to live in light of it’s words and melody.

The song sounds more beautiful with actions attached to it.
The song is sung quietly alone yet also draws many together.
The song doesn’t seek to discredit other tunes, but faithfully expresses itself in the hearts, minds, words, art, and relationships of those who sing the melody.
All are welcome to sing… and all are encouraged to learn the melody.

Ironically, the song is amazingly simple for the child, yet still is mysteriously stretching to the expert.

The cry of the church echoes the call of Jesus… Come, follow me… sing with me…

11:20 PM  

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