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You Had Me At Hillel: My Debate with J. Jacob Prasch

An invitation to a debate came in the mail yesterday from James Jacob Prasch of Moriel Ministries and I said I would post it on my blog. Here it is:

"Emergent Church/ For Moriel New Zealand web site please   Inbox Jacob/Moriel
<moriel@ntlworld.com> to me, David, Jackie, Nigel, Carol
  May 28 (21 hours ago)
From: Jacob/Moriel <moriel@ntlworld.com> Mailed-By: ntlworld.com
To: tallskinnykiwi@gmail.com
Cc: David Lister <morieldavid@yahoo.com>, Jackie Alnor <jalnor@yahoo.com>, Nigel Nicholson <moriel@paradise.net.nz>, Carol Champion <morielcarol@yahoo.com>
Date: May 28, 2006 8:49 AM
Subject: Emergent Church/ For Moriel New Zealand web site please
Reply | Reply to all | Forward | Print | Add sender to Contacts list | Delete this message | Report phishing | Show original | Message text garbled?

Why Don’t You Try Telling The Truth?

I do not know who you are, but I have read what you say regarding Chuck Smith Sr. and his statement.

Why don’t you try being honest?

1. Brian Maclaren  said & wrote ‘the church should declare a 5 year moratorium on the homosexuality issue and then decide its position’. Maclaren refused to accept the biblical position on unnatural sexuality. How can the church decide on something God has already decided? Is the bible the inspired word of the church or the inspired word of God?

2. Yes, the 7/11 choruses are mantras,

3. Yes, God does forbid the use of icons and graven images in worship.

4. No, the apostles never omitted repentance in their message, but made it the pre-condition (Acts 2:38).

5. Maclaren denies that Christianity is or ever was propositional truth. The New Testament proposes that if the death & resurrection of Jesus are not objective historical facts then Christianity is bogus (1 Cor. 15:3-9).

6. UH emergent church leader Steve Chalk says Hindus & Moslems can be saved without a faith in Christ and be ‘Born Again’ without confessing Jesus.

7. Chalk says that if The Father out our sins on His Son it would be an act of ‘cosmic child abuse’; he boasts he no longer believes in substitutionary atonement.

Andrew, whether you are a biblical ignoramus, a deceiving liar, or both – I do not know. But Emergent Church is simply post modernism masquerading as Christianity. It is not the Gospel of Jesus, but fundamentally constitutes the rejection of it.

I openly challenge you to public debate me in front of a video camera when I am next in New Zealand.

We will post this challenge on our NZ web site.


J. Jacob Prasch

My response:

Dear Jacob

thank you for your invitation to debate in New Zealand.

How can i refuse? Alan Campbell "ran scared" from a debate from you, according to Wikipedia, and I would not want Wikipedia to remember me that way.

Please go ahead and post the challenge. And I will post it on my blog for the record. I look forward to seeing my name on your NZ website. Maybe there are people there who still remember me. It has been 26 years since I left NZ - perhaps I should send you some photos of me as a child to post on the web site so that I might be better recognized?

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Can I suggest a late October date? I wanted to be in NZ then and have been looking for a way to creatively fund the trip. Perhaps God has brought you into the picture for such a time as this?

I have to admit - I am a little anxious about the debate because I look horrible in front of a camera and also because I expect to be beaten badly by you in a debate.  I suppose you will rip me to shreds. I am not an academic - just a reflective practitioner, a church-planting missionary, whose mission field is the emerging culture. And you are a world-renown scholar whose grasp on the Hebrew Scriptures must be immense. I studied Greek for a few years at Bible College but, unfortunately, did not study Hebrew. I hope I will not be too much of a disappointment.

To tell the truth, I would rather have a public chat than a debate. This will be less humiliating for me and it may be a valuable learning time for those who are doing ministry in the emerging culture. Much of your teaching (I googled around last night) would be helpful and, in fact, is already very similar to what I am hearing from the global emerging church.

I know very little about the Hebrew Roots Movement but it would be great if you could explain why believers must take it seriously and why must we reinstitute Midrash to fully understand the mysteries of our Hebrew Bible.  I understand there is much opposition to this, for which you have had your own share of controversy,  but I am open to hear your argument.

BTW - I think I am on your side in this debate. I feel the Australians were far too extreme, unfair and unscholarly in their treatment of your teaching. Like you, many of us in the emerging church have been attacked and maligned unfairly. Perhaps we can swap war stories?

You may not be aware of this but I have come across churches ministering in the emerging culture ["emerging churches"] that are employing the use of "Midrash'. Quite possibly they have received this from you. I don't know. Is anyone else preaching the necessity of Midrash for Protestants?

And it is possible that few of them in the emerging church understand the full meaning of the term. But as you have said . . . "It takes the wisdom of the ancients to really understand these things" (Link)

Perhaps we could use the time more productively to discuss the practice of midrash and its possible dangers. For me, and my conservative protestant/reformed background, it sounds like Midrash is bordering on gnosticism - but I am sure you will deal with that adequately when we meet.

We could also chat about the Reformation. I agree with you when you say "The problem with the Reformers is that they only went so far" (Link) but i take issue with you when you say . .  "Unfortunately, although the Reformers were dynamic personalities, they were not dynamic thinkers" (Link)

I was in Geneva last month where i took a tour of the Reformation buildings and saw the extent of the transformation of that city. Calvin was an incredibly bright young man in his 20's and his Institutes reflect that. And there was a balance between strong thinking AND holistic ministry that transformed the country. I feel we have moved too far towards the academic and have much to learn from the Reformation. But we can discuss that more in New Zealand.

The only thing I ask, James, is this. In order for us to have an intelligent conversation about churches in the emerging culture, I need to understand where you are coming from. I read on your web site that you are a "church planter" like me. Could you please send me the contact details of two or three churches that you have planted or have helped to plant that could be used as models for a better way of church planting. It would be helpful if these churches were planted in the emerging culture so that I can make fair comparisons and contrasts with the kinds of emerging churches we are seeing planted around the world that are bringing the gospel to emerging cultures. What I will try and do is match them with an emerging church that I know of in the same country and perhaps the same city. We can then draw some conclusions and have a scholarly discussion. Or debate if you like. This would be fair, don't you think?

Please have your secretary contact me about flight arrangements and i will give her the address to send the tickets. It has been over a decade since I have been to New Zealand and I am very excited about seeing my country of birth again. And, of course, to meet you and enjoy our debate together.


Andrew Jones


As for the the issues you brought up in your challenge, here are some knee jerk reactions so that you know where i am coming from and can best prepare for our debate

Regarding the issues you bring up:

- I am not sure what Steve Chalke has to do with the emerging church (his church in London, as far as I know, would not be considered "emerging") but I will be happy to bring the findings of the Evangelical Alliance on this issue with me and we can discuss them. You may not ascribe to the EA as I do, but I hope you can appreciate our efforts to be diligent in examining this issue. As you may know, I attended the debate with Steve Chalke in London hosted by the EA which issued the following statement - of which I affirm
"Penal substitution is still central for most British evangelicals’ understanding of the cross, and the Alliance’s own ethos reflects that. However, there is an extent to which the exact mechanics of the atonement must remain a mystery to us in our limited, sinful perception. We are very pleased that this symposium has done so much to deepen understanding of the cross of Christ, but we recognise that study and discussion on this vital matter must continue. In particular, we welcome the fact that both Steve Chalke and Alan Mann affirmed their willingness to continue creative engagement with penal substitutionary atonement, and to work alongside its proponents in the cause of the gospel. In the spirit of the symposium, we hope that others will continue to listen to their concerns." Link

- Brian McLaren suggested a 5 year moratorium?  I would be interested to know if any churches, emerging or not, have implemented such a thing. Do you know of one? Most emerging church leaders that spoke of this, despite having great respect for Brian McLaren, did not think the moratorium was a good idea.

- 7/11 choruses? You will have to explain this to me.

- Omitted repentance? Who said anything about that?

- Icons? God may have forbidden the use of graven images but the appropriate use of icons, discussed at length during the Second Council of Nicea, are given legitimacy. Even today, the cross, the table, the cup and wine are all important symbols of our faith (I speak as a protestant). But surely the Hebrews have a rich heritage of such iconic symbols also? At least, when i read of OT worship and the festivals, I see oil, olives, water, and many icons that enriched the worship of the One True God. In fact, wasn't much of it was God's idea in the first place?

But you will no doubt throw some Hebrew words at me and quote Rabbi Rosencratzenburgsteinendorf and tell me that I dont understand my Hebrew Bible because I am a Protestant and don't understand Midrash.

And, who knows, you might be right.


Brian McLaren: a True Son of Lucifer (Tapestry Faith Community)
Pattern, not just Prediction. Midrash Hermaneutics (Chuck Missler)

I sent off another letter to Jacob. You can read it at comment number 15

Moriel Ministries