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Dale Fincher

I must honestly add to the 'conversation' by saying that I think point #5 is a cop-out. While there is much about the emergent movement that I apprciate, point #5 is hypocritical. If the writers of this article are only church practitioners, then why do they bring up the philosophical and epistemeological conversation in their articles and books? If they are only church practitioners, they they are admitting that their talk about philosophy is outside their abilities. This is the single-most disappointing thing about the emergent movement. Their is real damage being done to many I know in Southern California because of this irresponsibility.
I, personally, am trying to embrace a holistic life, as the authors claim to also do, but I think this includes being responsible to learn more epistemology (before writing about it) and then answer critics who respond to your own epistemological claims. Cowardice has often put on the face of 'church practitioner.' And to say that academic philosophers listen only to those in their 'guild' is a jab. Philosophers use as much of reason and experience as these authors claim to use, only they spend more time thinking though the implications with a conversation that is larger than these authors seem willing to share.

I, personally, would more closly identify myself with Emergent if it stopped clanging on about anti-foundationalism. For, in all the Emergent writings I've read, Emergent claims to be anti-foundaitonal explicitly, yet carry-on as moderate foundationalists in practice. This is inconsistent and I see many led astray because of a refusal to engage the philosophical conversation more. I, for one, have sought philosophical training so that I can better understand and dialogue with philosophers on these important issues. And I think the authors of this article should step up to the plate and do the same, lest they fall more deeply into the hypocritical trap they are claiming to avoid.

Dan Wilt

These are rich days we live in. I'm fascinated by the reality that we are coming to grips with historical process, instead of running away from it.

In other words, even Emergent must organize, administrate and engage itself in the mundane structures that act as a skeletal frame for the powerful muscles it flexes.

That reality should inspire our emerging movements to look with less of a "squinty-eyed skepticism" at the organized Church through the ages.

If the Church was built for speed, transcendant community meeting broken world, then we can't be afraid of planning for both the present and the future.

We ride on, friends.


I have truncated the emergent “response to recent criticisms.” Point out where I have been unfair if my diminutions misrepresent the points made. The comments and questions below certain points are my own.

1. Thanks for honest feedback.
2. We respect constructive conversation.

Is this a dialectic conversation? If not, this demonstrates its impropriety. The very nature of verbal conversation diminishes possibility; it is by nature definite. [Art however tends to increase possibility; it at least opens towards the infinite. . . in my opinion] Verbal conversation that opens to the infinite will undermine absolute truth. It will be relative. If that’s OK, then please edit point No. 6.

3. We’re sorry if we’ve been uncharitable.
4. We respect those who think we’re dangerous.

Let Christians indeed respect the consciences of others. Where, however, can one find appeals to the folks concerned with the emergent movement—appeals stated in a rationally demarcated order?

5. We’re not professional scholars. We need academic help.

Academicians generally engage in sharpening conversations—[i.e. dialectic conversations]. To label as “non-constructive” those criticisms that personally rebuke someone when they pretend to be speaking authoritatively in a field in which they are a foreigner makes this plea for academic help disingenuous.

6. We believe in truth and the ancient Christian creeds—but reject relativism.

Unabashedly define your epistemic bases for truth. Exactly which Christian creeds do you affirm? Blood has been poured out over the centuries on opposing sides of many doctrinal positions. Spill no blood, but treat the dead with respect. Please define your creed(s).

7. No one person dominates the emergent conversation.

Are there any parameters? You exclude vitriolic rebuke. Will you separate from any member of the conversation on terms of reason as well as those of comportment? That would demonstrate discernment to those who are particularly discouraged with the whole thing.

8. We consider evangelicalism our heritage, but we embrace others.

It is more of a concern that the foundations for knowledge and apologetics be clearly presented than that politics and doctrinal minutia line up across the board. If the emergent movement were to sponsor a return to reason as the requisite compliment to charity—the evangelical community would be blessed.

9. Let’s be nice.

Lets let truth and love walk hand in hand. To be relativistic about truth—at all—will make one relativistic about love. So yes. . .the truth in love. No clanging cymbals. No cuddle parties either.

10. Glad to be encouraging some people.

It is good to see a place where bruised people find a community that seeks to heal--yet without rational and doctrinal clarity the healing salve may be nothing but humbug.

a tiny canadian

In the spirit of some great and dead thinkers...aren't we all non-specialists? Kings without countries? Authors without any claims? Who on earth has ever known the mind of the Lord?

Byron said something along the lines of words being things and a small drop of ink falling like dew upon a thought, producing that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.

Specific word counts in this defense/response document (give or take):
"Us" - 30 times
"Our" - 55 times
"We" - 100 times
"God" - 9 times
"Jesus" - 2 times
"Christ" - 2 times
"Jesus Christ" - 2 times
"Lord" - once
"Spirit" - once
"spirit" - once
...and a smattering of creedal-ish statements salted with Timothy and James.

When and where did Jesus Christ ever ask you to defend yourselves...or Him for that matter? Just get on with being crucified and living cruciform.

From "my" limited perspective, what is interesting about American religious thought (the god of the nation stuff) is the subtle shift away from manifest destiny toward manifold supremacy.

"We the people" need to offer many more appologies (repent) and dismantle many more defenses (arguments/propaganda).

Gypsy Max

Tiny Canuck,

are you saying we need to offer more apolgies (defense) and spend less time in saying sorry for things?

Gypsy Max

a tiny canadian

Nice...I apologize for blowing that last line. Should have used another word.

There is a need for a humble self-emptying kenotic apologetics (like McLaren's stance and demeanor on Larry King recently).

There is the cross, which stands stalwart, repulsive, hanging an aborted Savior utterly rejected, robbed of any halo of glory (Bonhoeffer), and yet loved, embraced, and taken-up.

One of Daniel's greatest arguments against Israel and Babylon was his prayer of repentance where he identifies himself with the sin of his own people saying, "We" have sinned. That humble stuff demolishes the powers.

The line I should have ended my comment with is: "When and where did Jesus Christ ever ask you to defend yourselves?"

I confess that the remainder of my comment is ill-advised and meaningless...

root of coincidence

Just wondering why the need to defend the emergent? Why not just let the movement speak for itself. With the experiences I have had thusfar with emergent, I find much to be desired there, but I do not understand the need to argue and defend the movement in a attempt to legitimize it. Let God's light defend the movement in each one of you.

Eric Mason

Good Point root,

Very often defense becomes a spiraling attempt to define something that is reluctant to be defined. In the end we find ourselves defending a vapor. The decline of the church in western civilization makes a strong enough argument for an emerging church that looks unique, experimental, and harbors a new conversation for us. I love to hears stories about the emerging church and the situations that are urging us towards it.

I agree. THe stories of God's activity in the emerging church are a bulwark to criticism.

a tiny canadian

Sit with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and lose every argument. Modernity is built upon "unbreakable" (good movie by the way) constitutions and charters. The Post-modern flourishes in conversation... I understand the polemic "emerging" in denominations and even NGO's - any place full of resources, vision, and power.

But Jesus was crucified under such polemical powers among his own troubled people amidst the Greco-Roman construct - outside the city of God, yet still within in the borders of the land.

To wax too prophetic and a bit absolutist, the emerging church has a Elisha spirit, and the double portion is to reach back to our fathers and reach forward into the kingdom come. Far too many emerging leaders have jettisoned the modern construct for some kind of new and improved promised land.

Well, Proverbs teaches us not to move ancient boundary stones set up by our forefathers. And it's better to be a patient man than a warrior; one who controls her temper than one who takes a city. Not to mention Joshua's curse of the fallen Jericho, that anyone who attempted to rebuild it would pay the price with their first born and youngest children... But hey, what do Joshua and Elisha have to do with anything?

Neither one of them argued. And there is a great study of younger leaders honouring their fathers. Both men walked the long road to justice and they emerged in the fullness of time.

Eric Mason

But Modernism moved beyond those stones. It began to worship the idols of Enlightenment, feminism, and science. By adopting the fundamentalism of the Modernist movement, Christianity began to exist in foriegn territory. The from that construct, we attempted to use the languange and assumptions of this new land and we failed miserably. Existentialism, which had already begun to raise it's pessimistic head when we were first adopting modernism, pulled the philosopical rug out from under modernism. Quantum realities of science only reinforced that ideology and we are left trying to defend pillars that have sand under them. The emergent movement is saying, "Egypt isn't working for us...I'd rather live in the desert than in slavery. At least that way we are on our way back to the land of our forefathers."


eric, you wrote, "But Modernism moved beyond those stones. It began to worship the idols of Enlightenment, feminism, and science"

This is not a self-evident claim. Support what you are saying. Where does modernism move beyond this?

Eric Mason

I'd ageee it is axiomatic that Modernism moved beyond the faith oriented suppostions of pre-modernism. But that doesn't mean I need to feed the Modern need for proof. I think it's plain that the obsession with proof invaded the Christian faith and moved us into a place that demanded rigorous analysis and division based the details of theology. It was that Nietzsche guy who said it right?...Modernism killed God. Or sought to kill Christianity. Even Nietzsche admitted that "Modern philosophy, as epistemological skepticism, is secretly or openly ANTI-CHRISTIAN" (Beyond Good and Evil)
I just happen to agree with the guy.
Sorry, if I'm a little unworried about "self-evident claims". Most of our reality is perception anyway, so whatever proof I might offer would simply be refuted because our perceptions of the same fact would differ.
My truth is this...Modernism was damaging to our faith because it told us to prove and have proof for what we believe before it was legitimized and accepted by the people. The Modern scientific establishment of the late 1800's and early 1900s had a chuckling disdain for faith and religion. Yet we attempted to evangelize them in their language. We Crucified our mysiticism and narrative and miraculous faith on a Modern Mars Hill attempting to seem modern and enlightened. We still do it today. (Just watch the PAX channel occasionally as they tell how the miracles of the Bible were scientifically possible.) We built whole churches and even seminaries on that premise...Whole parachurch organizations to teach us how to do apologetics. But the modern facade was removed and we were standing on a foundation weaker even than sand. Turns out, we can never really know anything. We can't even know where atoms will be at any given moment. Time is relative. The universe can be warped. Space-time is only percieved reality. All the world is on a string, maybe even 11 dimensions of strings. And you can't prove to me that you exist.

We must return to an acient faith and reverence for mystery. We must rediscover our epistomological roots. How do we know anything? We know God. We know his world. We know His son. We know his word.

That to me is a reason for the emergent church, and defense enough.


your a dumbass

Eric Mason

You know,

That may very well be true, James. But is a public blog really the place really the proper context to sling poop? I have 4 girls, so we use the word "poop" around our house. I mean "dumbbutt" would have gotten your point across. Or if your meaning was different, you could have said "stupid donkey" or "stupid mule". Those are good. But since I was an English Teacher for 3 years, I couldn't help notice all of the nasty typos I had in my post, so I suppose that could lead you to think I was a "stupid donkey". But I assure you they were from my tremendously bad typing skills and not a lack of intelligence. Like "your a dumb___" should really be "you're a dumb___". Right? But all's forgiven and I had a good laugh over the comment. It's all part of the conversation. Even the disagreements. God loves us both, and if by you're comment you meant that I am totally off my nut about all this stuff...well that may be true. We need each other to spur one another on. When Peter was full of poop, Paul told him so.
So if ever you want to burst out with another...uhhh correction...just feel free to hurl it at a brother in Christ like me. For we are brothers, are we not? And we are here to help one another.

Proverbs 27:6
Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
Ephes. 5:4
Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.

a tiny canadian

A Nobel prize winning (I think Russian) poet once said that imagination can fashion the world into a homeland, a prison, or a place of battle. He said something about the invisibles determining how we view the world - that nobody lives in the objective world...only in a world filtered through the imagination.

In his literary criticism, C.S. Lewis spoke about literature being windows. People wanting to get out, and be 100 people and themselves at the same time.

We must take care in all things we write: in life, in defence, in rebuttal, in different characters to get three facets of the same point across confusing our readers to death (thank you Kierkegaard "father" of existentialism).

Glenn Marshall

How grateful I am for this statement - especially the gracious attitude with which it is offered. Thank you!


"Turns out, we can never really know anything." - How can I know this to be true, then?

"My truth is this...Modernism was damaging to our faith because it told us to prove and have proof for what we believe before it was legitimized and accepted by the people." - Apologetics has a long history in Christianity. It didn't just happen in the last couple of hundred years. I believe this "emergent church conversation" has a lot of potential to reach a lot of people and to help them follow Jesus in real ways. Why burden the conversation with criticism of something that reaches (and has a history of reaching) many people who have faithfully followed Jesus? It may be passing away in usefulness (I doubt this), but from my experience, God has moved and still moves through many who were and are involved in it. Why does my calling have to negate someone else's? Why does something that transformed me with the truth have to negate someone else's work that wasn't effective in transforming me?

hormone harry

law of non-contradiction

Eric Mason

I don't have any problem with apologetics. It is our duty to give a reason for the hope within. My struggle was with the desire of modern natives to use science to prove the Bible's truth or the miracles of Jesus at the expense of mystery.

I said, "We Crucified our mysiticism and narrative and miraculous faith on a Modern Mars Hill attempting to seem modern and enlightened. " It wasn't apologetics as a whole. I'm sorry for miswording that. Apologetics is a worthy calling. A reasoned explanation of the faith is important. I had some early exposure to creation science and dispensationalism. Those concepts along with a healthy dose of fundamentalism (which in many ways is foundationalism) has buckled in my life.

It reminds me of that exchange between Clarence Darrow and W.J. Bryan fictionalized int the play "Inherit the Wind". "How do you know it was a day. There was no sun." The Bryan character was so shaken because his foundation had been attacked by science. He was demolished from within by a flawed philosophy. Modern Science could not prove the truth of the scriptures. Modern Science was wrong about the alot of things.

None of the effects of apologetics are negated in the past, nor is there still not an important calling to apologetics. I simply believe that the apologetic must fit the age we are in. It can be a mystical apologetic, a narrative apologetic, a personal apologetic that is rooted in relationships and love, an aplogetic of action and justice rather than logic and structure. Of course there is nothing new about this. Old ideas in a new time. That to me is emergent.

But I would never cast aside the real experiences that others have had that brought them to faith in Jesus. I apologize if I worded that wrongly.


"I simply believe that the apologetic must fit the age we are in." - I think this is the same as the point I was trying to make. Those Christians (creation science advocates, dispensationalists, fundamentalists) were/are just trying to relate the gospel to the group/culture/mindset in which they find themselves (they may not even be thinking of it in those terms). The group in which you are participating is trying to do the same thing. My belief is that God is inspiring the church through these movements to recover things that have become neglected in His church and to help the church relate in each age. It seems that each movement has its weaknesses, as well, as we never seem to be perfect in the implementation of God's calling. So, I don't feel the need to disparage the efforts of the dispensationalists, for example (even though I don't agree with them), in order to present what I understand to be true about the return of Jesus. I have learned a lot from the dispensationalist writings. I think this emergent movement would be stronger if it didn't spend so much time criticizing those who were/are steeped in the "modernist" way of thinking and just get on with the task to which you have been called, revealing our mysterious and powerful God to a generation ready and ripe for the good news.


old ideas in a new day, the apologetic is the same, we are using a peice we rairly tried before due to the need.


Hey, awesome discussions... We have a ministry, homeless/postmodern in Louisville Ky. If anyone is from that area, it is an awesome bible study, but more importantly, it is a place to fulfill the WHOLE great commission.


Has anyone considered the possibility that online blogs are rarely if ever a healthy forum for this sort of Christian conversation? I didn't read but two of the comments posted here, but judging by the sheer volume of responses, I think it's apparent that this blog may be more destructive to the body than helpful. Maybe we should all just stay off-line for a bit, and hang out with a friend during that time instead. Just an idea.


As a person who spends much (too much) time in Theological discussions, I must point out a potential (and dangerous) problem with this "conversation". God has provided a GREAT deal in His Word that is not up for negotiation. These core, non-negotiable Truths (commands, precepts, promises, etc.) are to be meditated upon and obediently trusted/followed. God Himself speaks to us through these Truths!!! He desires personal communion/conversation with us, so we may obediently act upon His proddings and fall into a deeper love relationship with Him. Think about it - the emergent chuch and post-modernism have not made Christians more effective. They have accomplished the exact opposite - Christians spend far too much time in "conversations" that do not fulfill the Great Commission or the deep need that we have for communion with our Heavenly Father.

Think about it - God has provided us with enough simple Truth to last us for the rest of our lives! For instance, how much time do you think you could spend loving your neighbor as yourself, or feeding the poor, or visting the sick, or praying for your enemies, etc. When we meditate on God's Word and DO His will, we grow close to Him! It has been my experience that "conversations", no matter how interesting/fun they may be, do not draw us closer to our Lord ;-(

Do you honestly think that we should be spending time trying to discover some new theology/doctrine? God warns us about this when He says:

1 Cor 3:10-11 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay afoundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. NASU


1 Tim 6:20-21 20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"-- 21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.
Grace be with you. NASU

Lance S White

In response to ssh or NASU.

I think that if you took the time to get to know the core people in the emerging church conversation you would find people that are passionate, loving, caring, careful theologically, adventurous in romance, and willing to take a step forward when everyone else seems to be happy kicking back in safety.

I haven't heard anything from the hundreds of friends I have in the emerging conversation, anything anti God or anti Scripture or anti whatever. Many of us have theological backgrounds and educations. We read deep books that you would never find somewhere like liberty university. We actually don't need to be told what to think anymore and we are at the place where we either know or are growing in our abilities to think about ideas and manipulate the truth in a different light that our colonial/modernistic society may feel threatened by.

My invite to you is to find someone that is part of the conversation and is putting their passion into practice and just have some coffee with them and ask them a bunch of questions.

Contrary to what Mr.Carson insinuates, we are not the enemy, we are not a cult, we are not crazy's. All of those things are what Satan, the Great Deceiver would love for people to think and evidently he has made some headway in that area according to some things written from the most conservative of critics.

I also want to mention that when I mention the Enemy I do not do it lightly or without knowledge or experience. I am a spiritual warfare counselor and a former Satanist of 7 years before coming to Christ.

Hugs and many mocha's with great atmosphere to you! :)


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