Saturday, March 10, 2007

Shepherds' Conference Journal - Phil Johnson Part 2

Well, I have to head for home tomorrow. But that will not be the end of entries from the Shepherd's Conference. Simply too much material to post in one sitting. This is part two of my notes from Phil Johnson's seminar on the impact of postmodernism on the culture and the church.

We left off where Phil was discussing Scot McKnight's review of a book by Spencer Burke, "A Heretic's Guide to Eternity." (Sola's aside - now THAT"s a title. Unfortunately, it's quite accurate.) Phil aptly described Burke as a heretic, and it's no accident that his book has Emergent guru Brian McLaren as the writer of the forward. Burke, it seems, denies the personality of God and takes a universalist position. Might as well deny the Gospel as well. Phil points out that it is important to see how dangerous the so-called "fringe" of the EC is. Scot McKnight is sympathetic to the aims of the EC, and while he expresses concern for Burke's radical departures from orthodoxy, he needs to deal with the serious errors of the movement rather than deconstructing the movement's critics. The problems with Emergent theology are softpedalled while the strengths are grossly exaggerated. McKnight defines five tributaries of the movement, with McLaren and Burke at its radical end, and people like Mark Driscoll and Dan Kimball on the other more conservative end. Of those historically involved with the EC, Driscoll is considered the most doctrinally conservative, and in fact Driscoll has distanced himself from the McLaren stream of the movement. Phil expressed appreciation for this, but also rightly said that Driscoll needs to stop identifying with them completely. Cleaning up his language wouldn't hurt either.

In the rest of his comments, Phil nailed something that I think has bothered all of us who have expressed concerns about the influence of the Emergent Church. So many of them wear worldliness on their sleeves and cultivate a "bad boy" image as if somehow that's supposed to be appealing to non-believers. This approach affects your witness and ignores Scriptural admonitions toward pursuing sanctification. The EC philosophy is a misguided attempt to contextualize Christianity to the Seattle-type grunge crowd. Phil mentioned Dan Kimball briefly, saying that Kimball doesn't seem to want to deal with doctrine very much, not wanting to go beyond the Nicene Creed. He then went into a bit of church history, showing that the Nicene Creed came into being about 325 A.D. in response to the Arian heresy and some of the other controversies going on then. Later on came the issue of the hypostatic union and related creeds, but in Kimball's mind (Phil's comments) nothing post Nicene is worth fighting over. (Sola's aside - if this is indeed Dan Kimball's view, it is surprising because he has expressed to me his love of apologetics. You can't love apologetics and duck doctrinal issues)

Phil then discussed how the EC movement seemed to be praxis-oriented - right behavior over right doctrine. There also seems to be a significant affinity for the political left in the EC movement. They don't like the evangelical alignment with the GOP at all. In summation, Phil stated that:

1. We need to remember why we are not modernists.

2. We need to recover the teaching role of the church with priority to Scripture.

3. We need to insist on the certainty of revealed truth.

4. We need to reinstate holiness as a priority.

5. Regain a true missionary emphasis as opposed to "missional." (Sola's aside - the term "missional" is not necessarily bad in and of itself. However, the EC loves a certain twist to it, and that is what must be drawn out i.e. what do people who use this term mean by it)

I enjoyed Phil's seminar as always, and it was good to hear this one in person for a change. Thanks, Phil, for time well spent and for all your hard work. And thanks for the time you spent with Kevin and I on the radio program.

More entries from the Shepherd's Conference 2007 later. You can get all of the seminars at the Shepherd's Conference website for a reasonable cost, and I recommend it highly.

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