Saturday, April 22, 2006

Where Emergent Goes Bad (5) - Confusion Over Homosexuality and Post-Modernism

In January of this year, a controversy surrounding the sinfulness of homosexuality erupted between Driscoll and McLaren. The first part of the issue is summarized in this posting by Driscoll on the Leadership Journal’s “Out of Ur” blog:

Well, it seems that Brian McLaren and the Emergent crowd are emerging into homo-evangelicals...

For me, the concern started when McLaren in the February 7, 2005 issue of Time Magazine said, “Asked at a conference last spring what he thought about gay marriage, Brian McLaren replied, ‘You know what, the thing that breaks my heart is that there's no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side.’” Sadly, by failing to answer, McLaren was unwilling to say what the Bible says and in so doing really hurt God’s feelings and broke his heart.

Then, Brian’s Tonto Doug Pagitt, an old acquaintance of mine, wrote the following in a book he and I both contributed to called Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches edited by Robert Webber and due out this spring:

“The question of humanity is inexorably link [sic] to sexuality and gender. Issues of sexuality can be among the most complex and convoluted we need to deal with. It seems to me that the theology of our history does not deal sufficiently with these issues for our day. I do not mean this [sic] a critique, but as an acknowledgement that our times are different. I do not mean that we are a more or less sexual culture, but one that knows more about the genetic, social and cultural issues surrounding sexuality and gender than any previous culture. Christianity will be impotent to lead a conversation on sexuality and gender if we do not boldly integrate our current understandings of humanity with our theology. This will require us to not only draw new conclusions about sexuality but will force to consider new ways of being sexual.”

And on January 23rd McLaren wrote an article for Leadership that is posted on this blog. In it he argues that because the religious right is mean to gays we should not make any decision on the gay issue for 5-10 years.[1]

Driscoll later repented of the manner and wording of his rather sarcastic rant.[2] But to my knowledge, other than one posting on the Out of Ur blog, McLaren has done little to clarify his position. In that post, he repeatedly made statements similar to this:

Please be assured that as a pastor and as someone who loves and seeks to follow the Bible, I am aware of Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and related texts. Believe me, I have read them and prayerfully pondered them, and have read extensively on all the many sides of the issue. I understand that for many people, these verses end all dialogue and people like me must seem horribly stupid not to see what’s there so clearly to them. I wish they could understand that some of us encounter additional levels of complexity when we try honestly and faithfully to face these texts. We have become aware of as-yet unanswered scholarly questions, such as questions about the precise meaning of malakoi and arsenokoitai in Paul’s writings, and we wonder why these words were used in place of paiderasste, the meaning of which would be much clearer if Paul’s intent were to address behavior more like what we would call homosexuality.[3]

In other words, he continues to refuse to make clear whether or not he understands the Bible to teach that homosexuality is a sin.[4]

Emergent’s Analysis of Post-Modernism[5]

Perhaps the most contentious area between EC folks and those who study them is determining what exactly is post-modernism. Judging by the blog comments, Carson’s treatment of this aspect of the EC seems to have received the greatest amount of flack from his opponents. I will not go into much detail on this aspect of the debate, since this work has already been done. The interested reader should examine chapter 5 of Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church and follow that with a Google search on “Carson and emergent.” You will have “links-a-plenty” to choose from. For a brief synopsis of his assessment, consider this description from Carson:

The majority view, however, is that the fundamental issue in the move from modernism to postmodernism is epistemology—i.e., how we know things, or think we know things. Modernism is often pictured as pursuing truth, absolutism, linear thinking, rationalism, certainty, the cerebral as opposed to the affective—which in turn breeds arrogance, inflexibility, a lust to be right, the desire to control. Postmodernism, by contrast, recog­nizes how much of what we “know” is shaped by the culture in which we live, is controlled by emotions and aesthetics and heritage, and in fact can only be intelligently held as part of a common tradition, without over­bearing claims to being true or right.

Modernism tries to find unques­tioned foundations on which to build the edifice of knowledge and then proceeds with methodological rigor; postmodernism denies that such foundations exist (it is “antifoundational”) and insists that we come to “know” things in many ways, not a few of them lacking in rigor. Mod­ernism is hard-edged and, in the domain of religion, focuses on truth ver­sus error, right belief, confessionalism; postmodernism is gentle and, in the domain of religion, focuses on relationships, love, shared tradition, integrity in discussion. In my view, it is this epistemological contrast between the modern and the postmodern that is most usefully explored, as it touches so many other things...[6]

[2] “I have come to see that my comments were sinful and in poor taste. Therefore, I am publicly asking for forgiveness from both Brian and Doug because I was wrong for attacking them personally and I was wrong for the way in which I confronted positions with which I still disagree. I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the way I chose to address the disagreement. I pray that you will accept this posting as a genuine act of repentance for my sin.” first published March 27, 2006 and accessed on April 1, 2006.

[4] This was verified at the Richview Baptist Church event when McLaren suggested that each local church would have to determine their view on the matter and that much of this would be based on the culture they were ministering to and that this was really for the best.

[5] Chuck Colson, in an open letter to Brian McLaren had this to say about the nature of post-modernism: “Let me clarify also what I believe can be said about postmodernity and postmodernism which you seem to think people have difficulty understanding. In one way, of course, they do, because vacuums are never easily described. But the fact is that postmodernity is not something to argue about or engage in passionate debate for. Postmodernity simply means that we have emerged, for better or worse, from the modern era and we are in whatever comes after it (which I would submit is largely an intellectual vacuum which leads to nihilism.)” accessed March 31, 2006.

[6] Conversant, 27. Ther e has been so much written on this topic already that I will not spend any more time on it here. The reader should examine Carson and those who have critiqued him.