Scot McKnight Describes Emergent

I think Scot McKnight would describe himself as “emerging,” so it’s fascinating to see his trenchant remarks about Emergent in a recent article for Christianity Today. McKnight describes the theological trajectory of Emergents in this way:

“Very few emergent folks I have encountered have any chance of returning to a robust, traditional evangelical faith. As emergents learned and listened in their evangelical churches and institutions, they realized they could not accept much of what they were being taught. Though they remained within the comfortable confines of these institutions, their faith became ironic. Yes, they were Christians, but not quite what most people meant by that term.

“Evangelical thinkers such as D. A. Carson, R. Scott Smith, John MacArthur, and Kevin DeYoung and Ted Cluck (authors of Why We’re Not Emergent) warn of the dangers of emergents’ theological drift and draw lines in the sand. The emergents I know are numb to both the warnings and the lines; they have heard those warnings and they have crossed those lines. They are surprised by neither and are not likely to turn back. Instead, they are building a new theology that ’emerges’ from the story they find themselves in—namely, the shift from modernity to postmodernity.”

For the most part, I agree with this assessment. One feature of McKnight’s description, however, I might quibble with a little bit. He writes:

“Exposure to science in public education, universities, and personal study has led emergents to disown the traditional conclusion that when science and the Bible conflict, science must move aside. Although they refuse to give the Bible the trump card in this game, they remain committed to it, but now with a different view of what the Bible actually is. The Bible, so many emergents will openly admit, employs various literary genres and shows an ancient perception of how the cosmos works. So they are both left-wing and right-wing, committed to the Bible and open to new ideas.”

McKnight says that Emergents are both “left-wing and right-wing, committed to the Bible and open to new ideas.” Yet isn’t it “left-wing” to refuse to give the Bible the final say? Isn’t that in fact what old liberalism did? It undermined the Bible at precisely those points were it was deemed to be out of step with modern science.

In any case, you should read the rest of this one.

“The Ironic Faith of Emergents” – by Scot McKnight (Christianity Today)

9 Responses to Scot McKnight Describes Emergent

  1. Tom October 6, 2008 at 1:23 am #

    I don’t think its a left-wing idea that Genesis 1 may not be about a 6-literal day creation – and I think this is the kind of thing the Emergents are reacting to.

    They are not necessarily reacting to the Bible, but to the fundamentalist traditions placed on the Bible.

    So the Bible doesn’t have the final say on the mechanisms of creation if one is not a 6 day creationist.

    At least, that’s how I took that statement.

  2. John October 6, 2008 at 9:45 am #

    Denny,

    Is your hermeneutic so rigid that you think an ancient document matches up to all the scientific evidence we have? It sounds like you’re taking your modern standards and how you expect the Bible to behave and trumping that against those of us who take a more literary and contextualized route. “Old liberalism” – you can call it whatever, but just because I don’t like or agree with Ken Ham or Kent Hovind doesn’t mean I’m an “old liberal.”

  3. Brian (Another) October 6, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    I think the “Old liberalism” statement is simply echoing what has been seen before. It (old lib) relegates what is supposed to be authored by God and puts it into the hands of human authors. Once it’s back into human hands, it’s simply an Iliad, Republic or Catcher in the Rye*. I also would say that Dr. Burk** didn’t say “you are an old liberal if…”, but stated that the mindset certainly was at the base of old liberalism.

    Also, just on another note, does is the bible really at odds with science? I don’t mean does the (majority of the) scientific community disagree, but does nature conflict. Taking the much discussed creation account and, say, the flood. Is there no scientific theory based in that? Do those accounts (Genesis) sometimes fill in holes in theories posited by modern day science?

    *- That, I would say, is not something that you believe, but, it is at the bare minimum the easy progression.
    ** – I certainly do not believe I speak for Dr. Burk, though!

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides October 6, 2008 at 12:33 pm #

    “Evangelical thinkers such as … warn of the dangers of emergents’ theological drift and draw lines in the sand. The emergents I know are numb to both the warnings and the lines; they have heard those warnings and they have crossed those lines. They are surprised by neither and are not likely to turn back.”

    2 good results. One, at least the evangelical thinkers can say they gave loving warning. Two, the emergers can’t claim ignorance.

    It’s all good. Praise God!

  5. julie October 6, 2008 at 9:30 pm #

    Why can’t we just call them what they are? H-E-R-E-T-I-C-S

    The emergents count on us trying to be politically correct and “nice”. We are nicer than Jesus Christ himself who was willing to look people in the eye and call them what they clearly were. I don’t think Jesus would be wringing his hands and trying to figure out whether they were left wing or right wing. He would call them what so many are afraid to: False teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, deceivers and rebellious people who love darkness and won’t come into the light because their deeds are evil.

  6. Darius October 7, 2008 at 12:11 am #

    “False teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, deceivers and rebellious people who love darkness and won’t come into the light because their deeds are evil.”

    TUAD, is that you? 😉

    Amen Julie.

  7. Truth Unites... and Divides October 7, 2008 at 5:53 am #

    Denny: “I think Scot McKnight would describe himself as “emerging,”

    Julie: “Why can’t we just call them what they are? H-E-R-E-T-I-C-S

    Hi Julie, does that include people who call themselves “emerging” too?

    P.S. For folks who aren’t aware, emergers are overwhelmingly revisionist egalitarians too. In fact, I’m not aware of any emerger who’s a complementarian.

  8. D.J. Williams October 7, 2008 at 10:27 am #

    TUAD,

    Mark Driscoll.

  9. Brittany October 8, 2008 at 11:19 am #

    There are many issues that have caused Christians to revise their interpretations of the Bible – long before the emergent movement – and we’re mostly OK with that. Galileo caused a scandal in the early modern era for suggesting that the sun did not revolve around the earth – contradicting the passage in Joshua 10:13, which says, “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.” Now we know better, and the argument made by basically all evangelical Christians, including fundamentalists, was that the Biblical writer’s interpretation of events was based on a premodern view of the cosmos and that it doesn’t have to be taken literally. The Bible did not have the final say, and most of us agree that it shouldn’t have in this case. Why is this also not true of the Genesis creation accounts?

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