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.


Rob Bradshaw said...

Thanks for posting this - you made some very good points.

In Christ, Rob

JSc said...

It sounds like some of these people don't want to deal with anyone who disagrees with them.

TruthMatters said...

Excellent dismantling of these alleged "arguments against arguing". Of course, they know that an argument based on Scripture will always defeat their post-modern position... since they're standing on the sand, while you're on the rock, it's not a "fair fight". Don't you know you have to get onto the sand with them? ;-)

Thanks for the great post - too bad Tony Jones won't listen to you...

Roger Saner said...

This is a bit unfair, Philip. No-one has suggested there are "rules" to this debate - that's your word, not mine - or anyone else's within the emerging church. If you'd bothered to do any research you'd notice - very quickly - that both Tony Jones and Brian McLaren engaged in debate all of the time with their critics regardless of whether those critics have read Pete Rollins or have earned enough points in Brian's points system.

Of course, if no-one in the emerging church actually responded to critics before those critics did certain things, yes, I'd agree with you and say those pre-conditions are unreasonable.

That said, it would be immensely helpful if critics *did* read "How (not) to speak of God".

So, isn't it interesting that you haven't read Pete Rollins and yet here I am, interacting with you?

Roger Saner said...

Well, I find it interesting, at any rate. Even if you don't want to reply :p