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Blog // Thoughts
April 29, 2005

Must We Argue This Way?

I found myself wondering about the way Christians debate after reading this entry. It seems to me that some form of debate, argument and even verbal confrontation is an integral part of the theological conversation, simply because Christianity is a faith where ideas matter. Moreover, it is a faith where the relationship between beliefs and […]

I found myself wondering about the way Christians debate after reading this entry. It seems to me that some form of debate, argument and even verbal confrontation is an integral part of the theological conversation, simply because Christianity is a faith where ideas matter. Moreover, it is a faith where the relationship between beliefs and the culture in which those beliefs are brought to life is not fixed and static, but changable and dynamic.

The question of how Christians debate has been brought into focus with the recent Baptist Press article that claims the Emerging Church is a threat to the Gospel. You can read a good cross-section of responses to this on the here.

Although the emerging church scene interests me deeply, I have withheld blogging about it simply because I’m unsure about my relationship to it. I’m not a member of an emerging or alternative congregation, so I guess in one sense, I’m not part of the “club.” However, my ministry at Gordon Baptist Church in the late 90s and the SacredImages film and faith events at King’s College London in the early part of this decade were very much operating from the points of view that ones finds in emergening church literature and discussions. In fact, when I survey current writing and thought on local church mission, the emerging church outlook is the one most clearly resonant with my research on theology and culture.

What struck me about the anti-emergents in the Baptist Press article, was how clearly “game-oriented” (and familiar) their rhetoric was. What I mean is that Carson and Mohler have no interest in any conversation, but rather are seeking to subvert dialogue. This is a “game” in the sense that the objective is to triumph over an oppenent, by showing them to be wrong according to a predefined set of combative rules. Why else would Mohler, for example, conflate view on homosexuality with the possibility of a new missionary approach in one paragraph, other than to obviate the possibility of discourse? It is clearly disingenous to make this move and the only reason to do is that the emotinally potent images it invokes in readers who agree with Mohler will cause them to move more surely towards rejecting the emerging positions.

But if this is just a game, it begs the question; is it the right game and do we need to play it? I think that answer will tell us a lot about our location in this confrontation. For me the answer on both counts is no, which as you would guess begs a whole set of other questions.

[tags] Emerging Church, Carson, Mohler, Theology [/tags]

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Responses
Linea 18 years ago

We were reading McLaren’s article in our Deacon Board meeting last night. One of the things we commented on was the language used in describing the exchange of opinions. Argument and debate somehow imply that someone wins. Discussion and dialogue imply an exchange of ideas and opinions without the process resulting in one being the winner at the end.

f 18 years ago

Thanks for your comments. For sure the language is a crucial part of this. It has been eye-opening to me the way open-exchange as opposed to foreclosing of debate is so obviously a difference in blogs on this sort of topic. I tried to post the other day on a very “argumentative” blog and the reply i got from the blogger seemed to suggest they had a “win” mentality.

Roger 18 years ago

“Although the emerging church scene interests me deeply, I have withheld blogging about it simply because I‚Äôm unsure about my relationship to it…”

I am with you in this, as you read on my post. I relate and resonate, but with serious reservations…

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