Thursday, November 13, 2008

The rules of the Emerging Church debate

Certain emergents have suggested certain rules for debate/conversation.

For example: According to Roger Saner in a comment on a previous post: Tony Jones, the co-ordinator of Emergent Village in the US, has said that he won't respond to any of his critics unless they've read, "How (not) to speak of God."

It is rather a bit like McLaren who said:
Brian McLaren's view on how we can “solve” the homosexuality issue within Christianity: No one is allowed to talk about it unless they have enough points:

"10 if you have considered and studied the relevant biblical passages
10 if you have actually read the six passages about homosexuality in the bible
20 if you have read other passages that might affect the way you read those six passages
5 if you have read one or more books that reinforce the position you already hold
25 if you have read one or more books arguing the opposite position
10 if you have spent three hours reading websites showing a variety of views
50 for every friend you have who’s been through an ex-gay ministry
50 for every friend who’s been through an ex-gay ministry that didn’t work
50 for every friend who’s gay and in a long-term committed relationship
50 for every friend who’s gay and not in a committed relationship
50 for every parent you’ve listened to whose child is gay
When you have 3,000 points, you can speak on the issue."
--Brian McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy Conference: The Gay Forum, 2005

There is another errant preacher out there (on the issue of 'The New Perspective on Paul') who tries to silence his opponents by saying that unless they have read all the Targum's on in the original Aramaic then they don't understand the subject and can't argue with him.

One of them came to me saying that I should not criticise his previously expressed viewpoint online without first following Matthew 18 procedure.

He also argued we should engage in 'conversation' rather than 'debate'.


My answer to all of the above is that it is an attempt to set unreasonable conditions which then allow errant teachers to spread their error, without opposition - by making it hard and difficult to follow all their conditions for engaging in debate. Basically it is a circular argument: You need to buy into a certain amount of postmodernism in order to be allowed to debate with postmoderns. No you don't.

No, one does not need to read a complete chosen book on postmodernism to be able to express disagreement with its ideas. That should be fairly simple to anyone with a basic knowledge of scripture.

McLaren's idea of counting 'experience points' before expressing views against homosexuality is ridiculous. It is plain in scripture and authority comes from scripture not your own experience. Postmodernism promotes the idea of personal experience rather than objective truth as an authority.

No you don't need to follow Matthew 18 procedure before arguing online. Once a person has gone public with their views, you can argue back publicly. Online unless in a closed forum, is public. Paul did this against Peter as an example. GAL 2:14 "When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?"

As for the non-emergent guy who wants us to read all the Targums in the original Aramaic before arguing with him, well, great strategy to silence everyone else, but our authority should be the Bible and not the Targums, which are a very loose but sometimes helpful Aramaic paraphrase.

Now as to the idea of engaging in conversation rather than debate. Sorry, but this presupposes a postmodern paradigm, which I do not share. That paradigm evades propositional statements and Yes/No, right/wrong choices. Yes, I will converse in many circumstances to better understand people, but in other instances I debate and here I debate.

I have also met this type of argument in other contexts. For example, some feminists say you can't argue on the abortion issue unless you are a woman - otherwise that proves you must be a male chauvanist.

Yes I do try listen to the other side but I believe the above rules are unreasonable.

Monday, November 10, 2008



Some 'emerging church' followers reading this blog are probably going to protest at some point and say 'you are misrepresenting me' and 'I don't believe that'. Or 'my pastor is a good Bible believing Christian and he is involved in this' - are you saying he is a heretic?

Types of emerging church leaders and participants

No. Firstly, there are many different streams in the emerging/ emergent church/ 'missional' movement. Secondly, the post-modern belief system itself encourages diversity of belief. Thirdly, different people joining the movement have mixed it in different proportions with Biblical Christianity. Some are mostly Biblical and a little post-modern. Others are mostly post-modern and a little biblical. Some fall within the boundaries of Orthodox Christianity, some do not. Fourthly, post-modern beliefs have logical implications, which will lead progressively to a straying away from belief in the Bible. New 'emerging church' followers have not realised where their new 'uncertain' Biblical interpretation method will lead them. For now most of them remain mostly biblical, but in a decade or two they will have strayed further. Future generations of 'emerging church' followers will probably slide all the way to apostasy and rejection of Christian ethics, as many modernists have done.

One must draw a very big distinction between Christians who are trying to reach ‘post-modern’ youth by adopting cultural elements of post-modernism in their style of preaching and service format on the one hand and Christians who are re-interpreting the Bible through a post-modern lens. Some of the former category, call themselves ‘emerging church’, while others do not. My big problem is with the latter category – and I would prefer if the former category disassociated with the latter type and called themselves something different.

There are some areas where Christianity does not clash with post-modernism and on these areas we can adapt without compromising on essentials to try to win over youth influenced by post-modernism. For example, post-modernists tend to prefer stories illustrating a point to abstract theory. Jesus also taught that way in his parables. The Bible is full of stories and so is your personal testimony. Secondly, one can cater for their desire for meaningful relationships. Thirdly, we can also affirm the unity of true orthodox Christians across sectarian boundaries. Fourthly, the emerging church often encourages experimenting with changing the format of the worship service, often re-including elements practised centuries ago or borrowing ideas from contemporary youth culture. While this should be done with caution, truth is sacred, but service format is not.

The issue is very similar to evangelising any culture. For example, there is good and bad in traditional African culture. For example the emphasis on the extended family is more biblical than Western culture. Nevertheless, as Christians, we can’t compromise with ancestor worship. Missionaries to post-moderns need to filter the good from the bad.
Answering the evangelistic argument

Now some orthodox, Bible believing Christians have aligned themselves with the ‘emerging movement’. For example Mark Driscoll writes “In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the Emerging Church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me. Examples include referring to God as a chick, questioning God's sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a low view of Scripture, and denial of hell which is one hell of a mistake.”

Such people often see the ‘Emerging Church’ movement as a means to reach a generation of culturally post-modern youth. A question must be asked as to why they choose to align themselves in the same group and under the same name, with a movement whose principal leaders are not doctrinally orthodox Bible believers? By doing so, do they not risk lending credibility and leading others astray to follow the heretical leaders who share the same banner? Why do they not call themselves by another name and clearly disassociate themselves from the heretical leaders and beliefs? For example, they could use the name ‘Mission to Post-moderns’. By failing to demarcate a clear boundary between evangelical Christianity and the Post-modern adaptation of the gospel, they leave the door open for false teachers who use the same label and banner. The question is which direction is the influence mostly going? Are these Christians mostly influencing Post-moderns to become Orthodox Christians or are they leaving the door open for Orthodox Christians to be seduced into Postmodernism?

To respond to the evangelism argument, I would give two responses. Firstly, the main reason why Post-moderns fail to convert is not because the gospel is not formatted in a trendy culturally appealing ‘Post-modern way’. Actually, Post-moderns are generally more open to listen to the gospel than their Modernist predecessors, but they tend to just filter the gospel through their Post-modern lens, which treats it as just another opinion – and thus evade the challenge to repent of sin. They don’t see themselves as sinners because they don’t understand the concept of sin and thus don’t see any need to repent. Thus to really reach Post-moderns with the gospel, one needs to spend double the effort emphasising the differences with Biblical Christianity – the basic themes of absolute truth, God’s absolute moral standards, sin and repentance. Similarly a new generation of weak post-modern Christians has grown up who see their feelings as more important than their holiness and right belief. To really help such Christians, one needs to bring them back to orthodox Christian basics. I argue we need a more challenging gospel presentation emphasising the differences rather than the similarities with postmodernism.

Secondly, the emergent church tends to blur the focus in evangelism from calling the ‘lost to repentance’ to ‘dialogue’ with other religions. While this may result in less people being offended by Christianity, I believe it will likely lead to a diversion of effort from evangelism to ‘dialogue’, false conversions of those who have not really repented of their sins and ultimately less people being converted to the true faith.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is there a difference? Emerging vs Emergent


Some have argued that I am being unfair in criticising the 'Emerging Church'. They draw a distinction, saying that the 'Emergent' church is different from the 'Emerging' church - with the 'Emergent' church being the more radical liberal wing of the movement and the 'Emerging' church being more mainstream.

Now to respond to this question firstly, I understand that there are different types of people within the movement, whatever you want to call it. Some are orthodox Christians and some are outright heretics, with a continuum of everything in between. One could compare it with the movement of socialism: There is a major difference between the socialism of the British labour party and that of the old Communist Soviet Union, but both use the same name 'socialist'.

The most substantial radical distinction between those in the movement is the difference between those who are 'Missionaries of historic orthodox trying to reach postmodern society' and those who are 'Missionaries of postmodernism to the church, trying to integrate it with Christianity'. Confusingly, both types of people sometimes call themselves 'Emerging'. Now I myself am also trying to reach postmodern society with the gospel and try to be culturally sensitive where this is possible without compromising, but do not wish to associate myself with the movement - but others do. And that creates confusion.

Some claim that 'Emerging' means the 'orthodox' wing and 'Emergent' means the unorthodox liberal wing of the movement. For example, read:

Now the question is whether there is any widely accepted consensus on the difference of meaning of the terms 'Emerging' and 'Emergent'? A brief internet search comes with the answer: 'No". Many leaders such as Don Carson (anti-) and Brian McLaren (pro-) use the two terms interchangably.
Tony Jones (pro-) argues no distinction and opposes all 'line drawing'.

Doug Paggit defines 'Emergence' as what is happening in society; 'Emerging' as what is happening in the church as a result of the social changes; and 'Emergent Village' as the core network of leaders within the movement.
Those leaders associated with 'Emergent Village' have tended to 'emerge' with the most eccentric, liberal and extreme theological errors, which is probably why many have extended the use of the term 'Emergent' to mean the 'liberal' wing of the movement. But I would argue that these leaders are just those radicals who are most enthusiastic in reinterpreting Christianity through a post-modern lens - and their much larger constituency of orthodox evangelical followers are the laggards slowly following in the wrong direction behind them. The longer these people immerse themselves in postmodern thinking, the further they tend to stray down the road of error. In other words it is often a distinction between the 'wolves in sheeps clothing' and the 'sheep' following the wrong way with them.

Some have claimed all successfully trying to reach postmoderns e.g. Tim Keller, a conservative evangelical, as part of the 'Emerging Church',
but Keller himself rejects the label.

Mark Driscoll is exceptional in that as part of the movement, he has distanced himself from some other emerging church leaders "In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the Emerging Church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me. Examples include referring to God as a chick, questioning God's sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a low view of Scripture, and denial of hell which is one hell of a mistake."
I think such distancing from theological liberals is commendable and I would encourage others who identify themselves with the Emerging Church movement to do the same. Driscoll sees four categories of 'Emerging Church' of which he strongly rejects the liberal category.
Others have labelled him as 'a theological misfit and no longer emergent'

I personally use the two terms 'Emerging' and 'Emergent' interchangably because that is what I see most others doing, but understand that others use them to mean different things. I personally wish that they did mean different things, because it would help me to draw a distinction between the orthodox evangelicals and the extremist unorthodox liberals. But reality is that there is no consensus on a distinction between these terms.

But if you happen to be one of those people who self-identifies with the Emerging Church, and is trying to reach postmoderns with historic orthodox Christianity without using postmodernism as a lens to re-interpret the Bible - then please understand that I am not attacking you. I personally believe it is unhelpful to share the same label as those who are spreading theological error in the church, but if you are not spreading error then I don't reject you as a Christian brother simply because of the label. But if you do wish to use this label, I would urge you to publicly distance yourself from the errant teachings being promoted by others who use the 'emerging' or 'emergent' label.

I would argue that those conservative evangelicals who want to reach postmoderns in a culturally relevant way, rather than trying to split hairs over the distinction between 'emerging' and 'emergent' should invent a completely new an different label for themselves to distance themselves from the emerging 'wolves in sheeps clothing' who are trying to reinterpret Christianity through the lens of postmodernism.

But my really big issue is actually not with those who self-identify as 'emerging' or 'emergent' - these are mostly just just the vanguard of the confusion. My issue is a concern about the millions of young Christians who without consciously realising it, have adopted the worldview of postmodernism and placed Christianity as just a minor sub-set or 'religious department' of this worldview - rather than seeing Jesus as Lord of all of life and the Bible, the word of God as authoratative for all of life. This is the 'Lost generation' of Christians who need to be brought back to authentic biblical Christianity and to use this real Christianity, relevant to all of life to reach and convert the unsaved from postmodernism to Christ.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is the Bible out of date because it condones slavery?

One of the Emergents in a comment on a previous post wrote: "This leads into hermeneutics: would it have been possible for the authors of the Bible to refer to G-d in *any other way* other than male? I don't think this possibility entered their consciousness, just like the abolition of slavery was not something which entered their minds."

Now the use of the slavery issue is a common reason used by both modernist and post-modernist liberals to advance the 'progressivist' idea that Christianity is changing and moving forward in its belief rather than being a fixed for all time set of beliefs. Others have used the argument to justify a change in doctrine on homosexuality. The real issue is not our view of slavery, but our method of interpreting scripture and the unchanging binding authority which conservative envangelicals (but not modernists or postmodernists) believe it holds.

The argument is that we believe slavery is wrong, but don't derive this view from the Bible so we more 'modern' or 'postmodern' people can derive our ethics from places other than the Bible also.

I respond to this argument as follows:

The Biblical position on slavery is more complex than on most other issues. It is important to address, because some argue that because firstly, the Old Testament law allows slavery, and we do not. Secondly, the New Testament says slaves should submit to their masters, while we don't have it in our society. Therefore, they argue that ethics are progressing from Biblical times. This argument is then used to undermine the authority of the Bible for today, because it is seen as being culturally determined - a culture which is now outdated by our 'modern' or 'postmodern' culture. Therefore, new ethical and doctrinal ideas not in the Bible can be entertained and old ethical and doctrinal ideas that are in the Bible, but which don't suit our modern context can be dismissed.

We must look at it in the context that it was practiced as a form of labour management in various forms by almost all societies throughout the world until very recently. It is still practiced in some Islamic countries such as Sudan and Mauritania. The impetus to outlaw slavery was largely driven by Christians such as William Wilberforce, who were motivated by the scriptures. It is completely illegitimate therefore, for those who do not respect the scriptures to claim his historic reason to discount the authority of scripture. Rather, they need to study more carefully what the scripture says on the subject. The scriptural response to the issue is not as simple and absolute as on some other issues such as abortion, homosexuality and adultery.
Old covenant teaching on slavery

The Old Testament law allowed the slavery of Gentiles and 'indentured service' to a maximum of six years for Jews. In the seventh year, the slaves were to be released with substantial gifts to from their master to help them start a new life (Deuteronomy 15:12; Exodus 21:2). One of the reasons for God's judgement on Israel was their failure to observe this law of 7th year release. Now, while this 6-year indentured service is referred to in the Bible as "slavery", it is not the same thing as for example slavery as practiced in the American south prior to the Civil War. It is rather more similar to the few years of indentured service that the ancestors of most Indian South Africans had to give in exchange for payment of the cost of their voyage from India to South Africa. Many poor Europeans also immigrated to America after signing an 'indentured service contract' with the ship captain, who then sold the contract on their arrival in America to farmers who were looking for a few years of labour. Many university students sign contracts to work a certain number of years for a company after graduation in exchange for that company paying their university fees. If they break contract to work for another firm, then they must 'buy their freedom' and pay back their full study loan with interest - just as Hebrew slaves had to under Old Testament law. 'Indentured service' is not called slavery in our society and we should be careful against reading the Bible this way.

Firstly, the slave trade against which Wilberforce fought would not have been tolerated under Old Testament law, because kidnapping was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 24:7). "DT 24:7 If a man is caught kidnapping one of his brother Israelites and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you." Applying this law to the 'Trans-Atlantic slave trade' of the 19th century, most of those involved would have to have been executed as kidnappers.

Secondly, the Israelite law did not respect the slave-owner rights of neighbouring peoples, thus providing the opportunity for slaves of other countries to run away to Israel. DT 23:15-16 "If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. 16 Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him." This would substantially undermine legalized slavery in the region.

Thirdly, with regard to 'indentured-service' because of debt. This could be effected when a man was sold to pay debts as a result of business errors or it could be a result of an inability to pay a fine or make the law requiring multiple restitution for theft (Exodus 22:2). We must remember that under this system the man's time of servitude was limited to six years. It helped to ensure that victims of crime were properly compensated. It also meant that in the instance of bankruptcy, the creditors would at least get something back. Also, if the 'indentured-servant' was a hard worker and could earn some extra money on the side, he may be able to redeem himself from his master earlier than this 6-year period. Furthermore, the system benefited the 'indentured servant' because unlike our modern system of sending people to prison, the servant could still keep his family with him. Thus the family was not split up by the fathers' crime. This problem in our modern society has led to a terrible cycle of crime, poverty and family break-up amongst certain communities - where children grow up fatherless. The master would in this instance help teach good work skills and good work habits to the servant, thus making him more employable afterwards. By contrast, under our modern prisons system, thieves simply mix with more hardened criminals and come out of prison knowing more about crime and having even worse work habits. In addition, the taxpayer did not have the wasted expense of having to pay to keep a thief in prison. This form of 'indentured-servitude' was thus much better for the criminal, the victim and the taxpayer than the modern criminal justice system. The main difficulty in applying it today is our economic labour surplus. Criminals would effectively be advantaged in getting 'indentured-employment' over the other unemployed poor - potentially taking jobs away from them.

When the Israelites rebelled against Gods law, they failed to release their Hebrew slaves in the 7th year, which was one of the many sins against which the prophet Jeremiah spoke against and for which God later punished the Jews (Jeremiah 34:8-20).

Fourthly, the Old Testament law provided various protections of the rights of slaves not customary in the surrounding peoples. For example, they had to be allowed to rest on the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14). There was a penalty for sexually taking advantage of a slave girl (Leviticus 19:20). The 'indentured-servant' retained the right of redemption anytime after he was sold based on the number of years left to the Sabbath year. He could redeem himself by extra work or one of his relatives could do so (Leviticus 25:47-52). If the servant was injured by his master, he had to be set free (Exodus 21:26-27). Likewise, if a man married a slave-girl, she had to be set free (Exodus 21:9). The law did not allow 'indentured-servants' to be abused and expected them to be treated similarly to other employees LEV 25:53 "He is to be treated as a man hired from year to year; you must see to it that his owner does not rule over him ruthlessly."

Apart from the 7-year limit, many of the practices of 19th century slavery such as 'slave-breeding' and the use of slaves as prostitutes would have been illegal under Old Testament law.

Thus when the Old Testament speaks of slavery of Jews, it is talking about 'indentured service', not permanent slavery.
The New Testament context

Now when we look at the issue in the New Testament context, there is a significant change. The brotherhood of Christians included both Jew and Gentile (Romans 10:12; Colossians 3:11), while the Old Testament law assumed a brotherhood only between Jews. Thus, if one applies an Old Testament law to Gentile Christians, one has to give them similar privileges to those previously reserved only for Jews. Thus the prohibition on keeping Hebrew slaves for more than seven years would now also apply to Gentiles also.

The Old Testament teaching helping slaves was repeated:

• While the New Testament does not forbid Christians to own slaves, it does instruct masters to treat them well (Colossians 4:1) and to treat Christian slaves as brothers (Philemon 1:16).
• Christian slaves were encouraged to try to earn their freedom (1 Corinthians 7:21).
• As in the Old Testament, slave trading (kidnapping) was forbidden (1 Timothy 1:10).

Then there is the question of how a Christian master would apply Jesus command 'love your neighbour' and 'do to others as you would have them do to you' to his slaves. Logically, in most cases, he would free them. This was in fact what happened in many instances. Usually not immediately, but gradually slaves were freed voluntarily by Christian masters in many slave-owning societies.

New Testament teaching carefully balances teaching on respect for all forms of human authority including slave masters (1 Peter 2:18) with responsibility of authorities including masters (Colossians 4:1) to act in accordance with Christian principles. It would not have helped slaves to gain their freedom had Paul encouraged them to rebel against their masters. It would just have resulted in a lot of conflict and in the event of a slave revolt - a bloodbath.

Looking at the issue in broader context, about a third of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. If the early Christians had started at the outset to campaign for the abolition of slavery, it would have resulted in massive social upheaval that would not have been successful. The empire was under constant threat of slave-revolts that usually resulted in massive loss of life for slaves and other citizens. It is one thing to condemn slavery, but completely another to organise a peaceful transition from a slave-owning society to a free society. There are questions to look at like: Who will find employment from unemployed freed-slaves? Who will care for aged slaves who are no longer economically productive? There are issues here beyond the scope of this article.

The historical effect of Christian teaching

The Biblical teaching of respect for authority, whilst also reforming those authorities thus allowed Christianity to operate peacefully in a society where slavery was legal, without producing social chaos, while planting the seeds of the ultimate destruction of slavery as an institution. That destruction came first through voluntary freeing of slaves; secondly through the end of enslavement/kidnapping/slave trading; thirdly through improving the rights and treatment of slaves and fourthly through making slavery itself illegal by extension of the Old Testament law against permanent slavery from Jews also to Gentiles.

Historically, the campaign against slavery by William Wilberforce in the British Empire was fuelled by the revival under John Wesley and the campaign against slavery in America by Abraham Lincoln was fuelled by the revival under Charles Finney. Both evangelists spoke out strongly against the practice and encouraged their politically minded followers to fight for abolition. It is questionable whether the political motivation for abolition would have existed without these revivals. Other Christians such as David Livingstone helped expose the evils of the trade - all of them staunch and unquestioning Bible believers - with strong respect and understanding of the scriptures.

The Christian teaching on slavery has been attacked by Islamists, Marxists and Liberals. Nevertheless, we must remember that it was Islamists who were responsible for devastating the African continent with slave raiding; laws only were passed against it a few decades ago in many modern Islamic countries and some still clandestinely practice it. Marxists and other socialists showed little or no interest in fighting for the rights of black Africans until they wanted their political support in the late 20th century. Furthermore, Marxists practiced a form of state slavery in their forced labour camps. Secular liberals, while condemning slavery today didn't do much against it when slavery was socially acceptable. It was evangelical Bible-believing Christians mainly who fought to destroy the institution.

With the rise of Christianity bringing these reforms, slavery faded away first from Europe, then the British Empire; then America and the rest of the world. Therefore, it is completely consistent for the Christian to support the apostle Paul in his context in encouraging slaves to submit to their masters and to support William Wilberforce in his context of the fight to outlaw slavery. Both of these positions can be supported by scripture and it is not necessary to diminish respect for the authority of scripture by supporting both. Therefore, those who try to use the shift in policy on the issue of slavery as justification to dismiss Biblical teaching on other issues are ill informed.

Can God be referred to in the feminine?

Can God be referred to in the feminine?

The post-modern/emergent method of interpreting scripture makes a number of incorrect postmodern assumptions and therefore leads people astray into all kinds of error. The latest example of this I found in the 'South African Emerging Church conversation' is referring to God in the feminine. Not that all emergents do this, but it is another example of how the movement leads people into error and tolerance of it.

Postmodernism and the Emerging Church assume amongst other things:
* The scripture is unclear on all sorts of issues where it is in fact clear. This leaves us free to doubt, question and speculate endlessly about even the fundamentals of theology.
* Belief is a personal and subjective opinion (rather certain truths being absolute) and we should respect eachothers opinions.
* We should refrain from saying that anyone else's opinion is wrong - meaning that errrant beliefs are not corrected.

Tim writes: "I've adopted "Godde" as it is comfortably spoken as "God" - fitting easier into language - and a suitable amalgamation of God and Goddess and being much less clumsy in writing than "God/Goddess" or "God/-ess". I retain "S/He" where it fits and also make use of both "He" and "She" in other places, according to context."

Now to respond briefly to the various arguments raised on the blog links above:

* God has revealed himself as Father (not mother) and Jesus revealed himself in human form as a man (not a woman).

* Yes, I accept the argument that the image of God is shown in both male and female as a unity (as in Genesis 1-2) and not man alone. Nevertheless, I don't believe this permits us to refer to God equally as masculine and feminine. Had this been God's intention one would have found interchangable male and female references in the Bible (which one does not).

* Yes, I accept that prior to the incarnation of Christ taking on human form, God did not have a human physical body and in that sense cannot be male. Nevertheless, this is not an excuse to refer to him in the feminine. Rather the earthly concept of gender revealed in creation is a reflection of the mysterious relationship between men (human beings male and female) and God - in which God always takes the masculine (leadership role) and we take the following feminine role (or sometimes the childl following the father role). That is the pattern of the images of God and Israel and the images of the Church (Ephesians 5).

* The feminists would probably protest that assumption of human gender roles, but that is probably why they attack the gender references to God. Nevertheless, I understand the above quoted writer says he does not base his argument on feminism.

* To respond to the argument that gender ceases in heaven because there is no marriage in heaven: Yes, true, there is no marriage between people in heaven, but there is the macro scale marriage between the people of God (the bride of Christ - female) and Christ (male). Earthly marriages are just a shadow of this great mysterious cosmic marriage. So from this perspective, the gender references to God and Christ continue to be relevant.

* To respond to the argument that Christ ceases to be male, but becomes somehow both genders after his resurrection. I don't know where you get this idea from the Bible? Jesus physical body was the same physical body he had before his resurrection. It could still eat food, talk and be touched. There was no physical body left behind in the grave. It was the same body, but now glorified. Jesus in Revelation is referred to as a king - not a queen. This idea should be dismissed.

* To respond to the argument about references to feminine characterists of God in scripture. These are all in the poetic form of a simile i.e. 'God is like'. They do not say 'God is'. As a generalisation, women are better nurturers than men and tend to be more caring etc. Nevertheless, if a man happens to have such characteristics it does not then make him female.

* All God's names in the Bible are masculine.

Nevertheless, this is only one example of an errant Emerging Church belief. There are thousands of others. But if one starts with the wrong assumptions, then one will end up with a variety of wrong conclusions. Therefore I argue that postmodernism is dangerous when used as a lens to interpret scriptural doctrine and ethics.