Thanks for your questions regarding Emergent's Official Response that you published there and also sent to me as an email. I said i would take a shot at answering them if no one else would and so far, they remain unanswered. My answer was too lengthy to post on that site so it is here instead.
- i am not setting a precedent and I don't expect the other signers of the document to come up with even more statements.
- I am speaking for myself and not for the group or any other group
- Other signers of the document may not necessarily agree with my answers.
I believe in working in community on theological and missiological issues and have made use of many conferences, roundtables, and work groups to hammer out ideas. It makes sense to tap into the creeds and other statements of faith that represent a very large section of the Body of Christ. I was a participant and presenter at the Great Commission Roundtable where I and others involved in emerging culture formed some strategic alliances with folk from Lausanne Movement for World Evangelisation and the World Evangelical Alliance ("a network of churches in 121 nations that have each formed an evangelical alliance and over 100 international organizations joining together to give a worldwide identity, voice and platform to more than 335 million Christians"). I have maintained my relationship with these groups and respect them very much. For this reason, I make reference to and quote from a number of globally recognized evangelical statements that i agree with, although you may not, coming from a Reformed theological background.
As an evangelical, I "affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice." (Lausanne Covenant )
I publicly affirm the statement of faith as given by the World Evangelical Alliance I also publicly affirm the Iguassu Afirmation from the Global Consulation on Evangelical Missiology, the Lausanne Covenant, the Manilla Manifesto and the Apostles Creed.
Here are your questions in blue with my answers in black
- What role do you think repentance and final judgment have in the proclamation of the gospel?
Both repentance and the announcement of final judgment played a significant role in the preaching of Paul to the Athenians (Acts 17) since the good news of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is salvation from judgment and is demonstrated by a changed life . . but I would not want to stop at an individualist and reductionist understanding of the gospel. Jesus came to seek and to save WHAT was lost (not just WHO) and God is reconciling ALL THINGS to Himself and giving to us the ministry of reconciliation. The Spirit and the Bride say "Come"
- When Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other", did he imply that those who don't love Christ really hate him?
Not sure where you got that from. In both the Matthew and the Luke passage, Jesus is talking about a choice between serving God or Money ('mammon' - as the personification/idol of money) Interesting to note that the Pharisees sneered at him because they loved money. The money issue is a big thing among the ministry of Jesus (repentance of Zacchaeus) and the emerging church as they deal with honesty, hospitality, having all things in common, sharing, and in dealing with the emerging gift economy (Proverbs has much to say)
- Do you publicly affirm penal substitionary atonement? Did Jesus take the punishment we deserve?
I publicly affirm the relevant clauses of the WEA Statement of faith:
Clause 3: "The universal sinfulness and guilt of fallen man, making him subject to God's wrath and condemnation."
Clause 4: "The substitutionary sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God as the sole and all-sufficient ground of redemption from the guilt and power of sin, and from its eternal consequences."
In 2004, I attended a public debate on the subject of penal substitution, led by Rev Dr Derek Tidball, Chair of the Evangelical Alliance Council. Steve Chalke, who was being questioned for his book "The Lost Message of Christ" made a strong case for the early believers and the disciples of Jesus not holding a similar view. Steve issued a challenge for rethinking the doctrine in light of Scripture. He pointed out that the EA’s doctrinal basis did not mention penal substitution as an article of faith, thus allowing him to remain an evangelical, and challenging the church in general to take a fresh look at our concept of penal substitution and ask, is this really what the Bible teaches or did it pick up some cultural baggage in the middle ages that perhaps should not be there. Link
As for the debate, it appeared that Steve Chalke and Anabaptist Stuart Murray Williams had the stronger argument, and i am therefore compelled to suspend judgment on penal substitution until I examine this issue further.
- Would it be correct to say that the gospel helps people escape the hate of God as described in Psalm 5:5, 7:11, 11:5?
I affirm those Psalms, they are the God-inspired songs that form part of the canon of Scripture, but I would not attempt to a extract a dogmatic theological statement in the way that you suggest and would be wary of anyone who built their theological system from the Psalms (especially the imprecatory psalms). But part of that good news (gospel) IS that we are saved from the consequences of sin - which were born on Christ on the cross. I believe that, but i just cant get it all from the Psalms.
- Paul says that "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love." What type of faith is necessary for this work of love? What does justification have to do with it?
Again, I am not sure what the controversy is. The verse seems self-explanatory. Faith not works. Justification by faith alone. A gift, not of ourselves. Yes.
- What type of authority/position do elders have over their people?
The pastoral epistles give much teaching about the character and ministry of elders. Is that what you are asking? It would be fair to say, regarding the ecclesiology of the emerging church, as i have examined it (in about 20-30 countries) that leadership is more likely to come from a multiplicity of elders, rather than a single "Presbyter" or Senior Pastor. The five fold gifts of Ephesians 4 come into play to a greater degree and in particular, the ministry of the apostle and prophet are often more dominant than the pastor and teacher, particularly in the beginning stages of a new church planting movement or apostolic network. Also, eldership is sometimes recognized by spiritual authority that is earned through experience and character, rather than positional authority that is endowed by employment or credentials.
- Do you publicly affirm eternal punishment / torment / hell?
Its tough being a Baptist in a world where the word "Baptist" links me to extremist-fundamentalist baptists like Rev. Fred Phelps (GodHatesFags.com) whose image of hell as a place full of burning gays and catholics is far removed from my own. In a sincere effort to stay Biblical and yet distanced from extremism, i can affirm what I believe the Scripture teaches about hell. I publicly affirm the The Lausanne Covenant, including article 3. THE UNIQUENESS AND UNIVERSALITY OF CHRIST which states "those who reject Christ repudiate the joy of salvation and condemn themselves to eternal separation from God."
I also affirm the final article of the World Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith which states, "The Resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life, they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. "
But again, I am hesitant in using these words on the internet in case they are re-used in other media, out of context and in support of an ungodly play of power - ie, fear, subjugation, raising money for the church, religious hate-crimes, etc.
- Do you publicly acknowledge that God has perfect definite foreknowledge?
Not sure what i am getting myself into here . . . i was taught that our omniscient God knows all things but sometimes he changes his mind so the future is not as predetermined as fatalists would have us believe. And Abraham's ability to influence the decision of Sodom's destruction tells me that there is some openness.
- What is your stance on the following Brian McLaren quote?
"I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts." —A Generous Orthodoxy
I am not sure what Brian was saying, since i haven't read that book nor seen that quote in context. I can only take a stab at it and ask Brian's apology if i misunderstand. But here goes . .
BTW- Don Richardson explains "redemptive analogies" in Peace Child or Eternity in the Hearts. Great books for starting out in contextual missiology.
We have to remember that the emerging church is missional and its theology flows from a missional base. This contrasts greatly with a fundamentalist theology that, according to Karen Armstrong, evolved from a post-civil war eschatology with a battle mindset. (The Battle for God) The missional ecclesiolgoy of the emerging church is deeply committed to a rigorous engagement with the receiving culture and seeks common ground as a starting point, much the same way the Apostle Paul began with the Athenian poets in Acts 17
America already has a large number of Messianic Jews who follow Yeshua in a Jewish way, avoiding many American or Western cultural trappings that they see as hindrances or unneccesary additions (or obstacles in the path of Jews who want to follow Jesus without abandoning their Jewishness. It is probably in this vein that Brian speaks to other cultures . . and we should be reminded that the New Testament church began with a strong Jewish culture and only after much discussion was it decided that Gentiles would be allowed full membership without becoming Jewish. Its easy for us in the West to think that the church has always been Western, but this is not the case.
As for Hindus and Buddhists (and Muslims) Brian's quote seems out of place in American society, yet is very similar to other evangelical voices around the non-western world.
"There is a need to recognize the distinctive features of Islam which provide a unique opportunity for Christian witness. Although there are in Islam elements which are incompatible with the gospel, there are also elements with a degree of what has been called "convertibility." For instance, our Christian understanding of God, expressed in Luther's great cry related to justification, "Let God be God," might well serve as an inclusive definition of Islam."
Lausanne Occasional Paper 13 Christian Witness to Muslims
"Contemporary Christian witnesses should learn humbly and expectantly to identify, appreciate and illuminate these and other values. They should also wrestle for the transformation—and, where possible, integration—of all that is relevant in Islamic worship, prayer, fasting, art, architecture, and calligraphy.
I quote from a Lausanne paper: "We recognise some historical and doctrinal similarities between Christianity and Theravada Buddhism: for example, the similarity of ethical standards between the Ten Commandments and the Buddhist sila abstentions. These moral absolutes are useful stepping-stones to lead Buddhists from where they are to encounters with the gospel. For example, the Christian evangelist might encourage the Buddhist to try keeping his ethical system fully without fault. Continuing to be contacted by the evangelist from time to time, the Buddhist would be led eventually to admit the impossibility of this task. Then the Buddhist becomes open to the gospel of grace in Christ. Other points of similarities could be researched and listed as possible stepping-stones to the gospel."
The Christian's basic concern, however, is not to compare religious systems per se but to lead men to know Christ, who is the "end of the law."
Lausanne Occasional Paper 15, Christian Witness to Buddhists
"It was inevitable, therefore, that the Chinese people identified missionaries as a part of Western colonial expansion. Thus, in their rejection of blatant Western imperialism, they also rejected Christianity. Chinese who accepted the Christian faith were often considered as traitors, and hence had to suffer alienation from their own people and nation. To this day, the Communists still use this link between colonialism and the missionary enterprise as a tool and excuse to discredit the Christian message. The lesson to be learned from history is that the gospel cannot be imposed upon the Chinese people, but it can be introduced in the context of the contribution it can make toward national interest".
Lausanne Occasional Paper 6 Christian Witness to the Chinese People
My good friend Wolfgang Simson married an Indian lass whose dad is an evangelist in India. Dr. Joseph Padinjarekura wrote "Christ in the Ancient Vedas" which is a great book on this topic.
Sadhu Challappa is a Tamil Christian Scholar who has seen hundreds of Hindus come to Christ. He is a publisher of 20 books including his most popular, 'Is Christianity Necessary?' "In the oldest Hindu scripture, Rig Veda, for example, there is evidence of the promised "Prajapathi", the God who will once come in bodily form, be born to a virgin, be called the Lamb of God, die with unbroken bones for the sins of man on a wood, be resurrected from the dead and will be giving his own flesh to be eaten by people. If any Hindu compares this promised Saviour in the ancient vedic scriptures and early poems of the famous Indian saints and philosophers with the Jesus Christ of the Bible, he will be amazed without having any doubts about the compelling evidence. "Jesus is the Prajapathi", the sanskrit name for the promised God in human body who died for the sins of mankind to redeem sinners."Sadhu Chellappa,
More Books on ministry to Hindus,
"We repent of our self pre-occupation and failure to see the Hindu as God sees him—a person created in God's own image who has every right to know who his Creator and Saviour is. Because of this failure, we have not whole-heartedly welcomed new converts into our churches. Consequently, many sincere seekers have felt rejected and have thus returned to Hinduism. We repent of our arrogance which has kept us from following our Lord's example of incarnation. Because of this, we have failed to understand the Hindu and failed to develop an evangelical theology which is true to the biblical revelation, and which meets the needs of the Hindu.
Christian Witness to Hindus
- If a Muslim rejects the deity of Christ, can he still be saved?
Missionaries have been guilty in the past of communicating a Western Jesus that is quickly rejected by Muslims. We must do a better job of communicating Jesus, or Isa al-Masih as Muslims call him.
The emerging churches that exist in Muslim countries have a simple church structure and a theology of suffering and martyrdom that is uncommon in western countries. One of the groups I have enjoyed parterning with and learning from is Frontiers. I agree with their 10 Affirmations, including number 6:
" We believe that only God can convert people. Christianity and Islam agree on this point. For many, the titles “Muslim” and “Christian” define an external, cultural identity. Instead of focusing on external labels, we invite all people, including Muslims, to an inward change through Jesus." Link
"We are well advised to research Jesus in the writings of Islam. The well-known Surah of Unity says: 'Say: He is Allah the one! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth and was not begotten.'" (Surah 112:1-3).
"It will also be necessary for us to appreciate what the Qur'an says about Jesus, in order to help the Muslim to see that the Qur'an itself gives titles to Jesus which are never given to Muhammad or any other prophet (e.g., "His (i.e., God's) Word" ... and "a spirit from him," Surah 4, vs. 171-172). Although the Muslim has his own way of interpreting such titles, they can often be used as a starting point, or even as a bridge in explaining how Jesus is related to God." Lausanne Occasional Paper 13 Christian Witness to Muslims
In the Global Roundtable for Emerging Churches that we are hosting in Germany this year (about 30 countries will be represented but the name will be changed to something German) one of the first particpant confirmations was from the underground church in the Middle East - there is much in common. And i am guessing their ecclesiology would be respected by Reformed theologians - not because it comes from a 5 point Calvinist base, because I am sure it doesnt, but simply because they have poured over the Scriptures and put their life on the line for their ecclesiology, not just their jobs or reputations.
Hope that is helpful, Aaron. I am asking no questions and no response is expected. Although if I did, I would be curious to know if you could sign your name to the affirmations that i uphold. And if not, then is it possible that I and many others in the emerging church who uphold these statements, might in fact be a majority voice rather than a marginal voice for the global evangelical church? Again - no need to answer.
BTW - I was christened a Presbyterian in New Zealand and grew up with a reformed theology. I am grateful for hearing the gospel from the Presbyterians and the beginning of my spiritual journey. In my opinion, it (not necessarily yours) was a highly paternalistic theology that excelled in understanding God the Father (Theology PROPER) and but lacked a rigorous theology of the Spirit (dealing with demons, chaos, emotions) and a strong theology of the Son (incarnational ministry, theology of the poor, relational). The minister, Rev. Pat O'Connell, was eventually fired (my mother said he went 'charasmatic') and the last time i saw him he was pumping gas to support his family. I don't think the theology of that church was equipped to deal with diversity or complexity or even different opinions. I am hoping things are much different now, as we all respond to an increasingly pluralistic world. I feel that something the emerging church has to offer Reformed theology is a trinitarian missiology, without which it will find ministry in our complex world very tough.
God bless you in the creation of the Theopedia. In years to come, people will no longer reach for books but will data-mine the large databases of information (my kids are already there) and when they do, much of your writings will form the basis of what is retrieved. This is why I am glad to answer your questions - I consider you a player and a colleague (even though you are almost half my age) and I wish you the best.