Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Battle Begins?

Well my goodness, didn't I just write yesterday "the more things change..."? In reading through the comment thread at TeamPyro on this whole Pagitt/MacArthur topic, I noticed that Candy mentioned a post at Pagitt's blog that sounded oddly familiar. It wasn't until after reading it that I remembered that very post, that he has now reposted.

It wasn't but a few months into my research of the EC beginning in late 2004, that I first received an email from Pagitt. I thought the whole thing was rather odd, until further developments shined a brighter light on things.

I'm going to do a little reposting of my own here. Pagitt wrote to me in 2005 and not long after posted the above mentioned tidbit on his blog. What follows is his original post copied directly off his blog at the time, and my original comments (typos & various grammatical mistakes and all) to it, written in January of 2005. The blog Emergent No didn't even exist yet, and since so many well read and well researched brothers have taken up the cause on this one, all my old sites on this subject no longer exist.
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January 09, 2005 Wanna Be My Friend? (original post here)

About a week ago I received an email from Doug Pagitt of Solomon’s Porch. He said he was recently ‘turned on’ to my site. (I only assumed he meant my emergent page, since somehow I doubt he has much interest in Mom's Kitchen, or becoming a Titus2 Woman). His email message said he was appreciative of my thoughtfulness in regards to emergent, that he is part of emergent, and had in fact been present when the name was settled on his basement… and that he wanted to be friends.

Yep, that’s what he said.

In fact, he made reference to being my friend, 4 times, in an 11 line email message. I have to say, even though I wouldn’t know Doug Pagitt if I plowed him into a snow bank in my driveway, for all I know, he’s one of the nicest guys in the world. Nice guys are cool, the world needs more nice guys, to counteract the creeps. With that said, mentioning becoming someone’s friend, 4 times in 11 lines, did seem a bit over the top. Somewhat odd, I thought. Friendly, but kinda weird, in a nice sort of way.

I didn’t respond to his email, for no other reason than, I’ve been exceptionally busy this last week. I’d actually forgotten about it – between school, kids, housework, excellent reading material, and all sorts of other things that consume the time of a mother of 7 kids – Pagitt’s email slipped into the “I might actually get to this” file.

Over the last few days however, I’ve noticed on some of my favorite sites, some references to a few snotty comments about Steve Camp’s review of Brian McLaren’s book, A Generous Orthodoxy (as well as snotty comments about Tim Challies’ review of the same book). So what does this have to do with Doug Pagitt’s email to me? Everything… keep reading.

Through a series of links, all down on Steve Camp’s review, I stumbled onto an article written by (guess who?) Doug Pagitt, coincidentally enough, posted the same day, as his email to me. The web url of this article (blog entry, whatever) is the very same url he has in his sig file: http://pagitt.typepad.com/ (he also included in the sig: http://www.solomonsporch.com/, http://www.reimaginingspiritualformation.com/, http://www.emergentvillage.com/, and his phone number, in case I wanted to call him, I guess?)

When I first read his email I did click on 2 of the links, but oddly enough never clicked on the other 2. It all seems pretty much the same material to me, a lot of talk of being relational, generational, conversational, and a whole bunch of other words ending in “al” and a hefty dose of words beginning with the prefix “post”. Emergents indeed have their own language. So back to the article I found today. Here it is, my comments (I guess we can consider this my reply to Doug Pagitt’s email, in other words, I’m finally getting to it) are in blue, under his:

The Battle Begins - Take your battle positions

(Just reading the title of it made me feel like I just begun to listen to a really bad karaoke singer, somewhat embarrassed for him, but hoping it would get better)

A number of us have been suggesting for years that at some point the people who are not so pleased with the suggestions of theological and methodological changes people within Emergent are suggesting would start to express their opinions and start causing trouble. And that when it happened the accusations would become personal and relentless. I think it is fair to say that 2005 will be that year.

(Okay here we go, the stage has been set – anyone that is “not so pleased” with emergent, are 1. opinionated 2. troublemakers 3. personally accusatory and 4. relentless. Now remember, if you are not so pleased with emergent, this means you.)

From books and books, to websites, to conversations (imagine a link to the staff at Bethel who were so bothered by presentation there this Fall), and to presentations, (imagine a link to Duffy Robins) there is a backlash, an expectant backlash, about all this talk of new ways and new thinking. The critiques are at times well made, but most often seem shallow. Some chose to marginalize emergent as nothing much to worry about, while others claim that it is the epitome of what is wrong with the church (losing truth and the Gospel, that sort of thing).

(Critiques of emergent are also 5. primarily shallow)

But most often there is a suggestion of Emergent being "slippery", and having little or no foundation to stand on (so it is nice to hear that they are getting the message).

(I read this several times, to make sure I was getting his sarcasm, if that’s what it is? Is it me, or is he admitting Emergent is slippery and has no foundation to stand on? I hope I misunderstood that, because if not, it’s worse than I thought.)

And there is a suggestion that we are just dangerous - either out of incompetency or ill-will. The incompetency will be the most common this year, then when that falls short the ill-will will kick in.

(Funny, but from what I’ve been reading, and from what I’ve been saying, Emergent is indeed dangerous insofar as it’s just another flash in the pan, flavor of the month movement that is going to snare a lot of weak believers, and/or disgruntled believers, and introduce them to a lot of mysticism, ecumenicism, and all sorts of other things that the Scriptures never exhort us to follow after. Are they incompetent, these emergent leaders? Probably not, I think many of them are exceptionally gifted artistically, and possess some seriously sought after leadership skills – not to mention – well educated and 100% sincere in their mission. I’d hardly call them incompetent. I would call them wrong, however. The sovereignty of God in all things, is glaringly absent from most of the literature I’ve read of theirs. In nearly every case, on every blog, book promo, article, church site, etc., I read a man-centered “experience”. God’s glory and God’s sovereignty are secondary concerns, at best. Would I accuse them of having ill-will? Naw… I’d suspect those with ill-will are probably few and far between, and would be seriously rebuked by most emergents. They do appear genuinely concerned with GOOD stuff, even if they’re wrong in doctrine.)

Most of this is coming from the Radical Reformers (their title not mine), who see the reclaiming of Christian faith as the call of the church (and that means to the biblical/reformed faith) and not the remaking of it.
(Radical Reformers? So far in this article he’s made reference (via his links above) to critics as being: Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth, Justin Taylor, J. Taylor, DA Carson and Steve Camp… these guys call themselves “radical reformers”? Maybe he’s just referring to anyone who is not pleased with emergent? If this is the case, add 6. radical reformers to the list).

I have tried to make contact with a number of these people to create a friendship so we can disagree agreeably and in friendship, but to no avail. But if I saw them as dangerous I am not sure I would be so interested in being friends with them either. But then again, that is not true. I do see these circumcisers (my term) as dangerous and that is precisely why I want to be friends with them.

(Here we go, the connection, viola! I can only assume Pagitt is including me in this definition, since that’s real close to the wordage of the email he sent me, the same day he posted this to his blog. Add 7. circumcisers and 8. dangerous. I find it interesting he says his efforts to contact these dangerous circumcisers was “to no avail”. None of them responded and said “yes Doug, I realize you loathe the doctrines of grace, and the fact that I have dared to speak against emergent, but by golly, I think you’re a swell guy and I really wanna be your pal!” ?? I can’t imagine why none of them (us?) responded this way, it makes perfect sense to me.)

It seems to me that we are better served when those we are afraid of can become friends, the only other option is we view them as an enemy, and since I am suppose to love my enemy anyway, I might as well get a friend out of it.

(Okay, add 9.fear-producing and 10. ‘the enemy’)

But this face to face friendship does not seem to be in the cards in the near future. So, it is time to take up battle positions. I suggest these Battle Positions: A Smile, A Wink, A Prayer, A friendly Email, Offers of hospitality, Invitation to Friendships

(Ironic how, after listing at least 10 rotten descriptions of “critics” Pagitt seems to want us all over for a backyard bbq and a game of volleyball? Seem sorta… creepy?)

2005 looks like it might become the year the vomit hits the fan (a much worse visual to me than the classic "shit hitting the fan"). May we with all the graciousness of a personal care attendant have the grace and patients to clean it up when it comes.

(Well, isn’t that pretty? And so edifying, as well. I’m sure glad I was reading this, instead of hearing it, or worse, hearing it in the company of my young children. Such vulgar language coming from someone who claims to want to be everyone’s friend, for Christ’s sake. It’s one thing, in the heat of the moment of anger or pain, for pretty much any believer to spit out a colorful word, it’s a whole different ball of wax for one to purposefully type it, re-read it in a proof-read (assuming one does?) and hit enter. Oh wait, I bet he was expecting that response from an opinionated, troublemaking, personally accusatory, relentless. primarily shallow, radically reformed, circumcising, dangerous, fear-producing enemy. Ya know, the more I think about it, the more this friendship sounds just smashing. I think I really want to be friends with these folks – right after I slam my head off a brick wall and join a coven of super-cool wiccans.)

Blessed Be the Personal Care Attendants. Blessed be the people of Emergent.

(What? Did I just say Wiccan? How odd, since Pagitt’s sign off included the classic Wiccan parting comment, not once, but twice. Oh no, emergents are wiccans!? Naw… but it’s odd he’d use this sign off. Sure, it’s a Biblical term as well, in the King James Bible it’s used 62 times. The vast majority of which, are in direct reference to exalting the triune Godhead or His kingdom (51 times). In Wicca, the phrase is used to exalt the created – people, nature, etc. Having been online for the last 11 years, meeting people from all over the world, all sorts of backgrounds, etc., it’s pretty much a given that folks who serve the Lord Jesus Christ, who also know anything about Wicca, do not sign off or say goodbye with “blessed be”. Oh but wait… I forgot, silly me, one of the coolest things about emergent is the whole cultivating awesome things from all kinds of religions, cultures and time periods, and including them in this new and creative Christianity. Maybe there’s a connection? Naw… I’m sure it just meant “take care”.)


MY CONCLUSION?

Well, I don’t really have one, yet. I do however, have a verse of Scripture that keeps popping into my head, whenever I read the writings of an “emergent”: A double minded (divided in interest) man is unstable (inconstant) in all his ways (course of conduct, manner of thinking, feeling, deciding) (James 1:8).

I like my friends, and I also like making new friends. I don’t however, like it when someone with an agenda, with an ulterior motive, uses the guise of “becoming my friend” as a ruse, to convert me to their mode of thinking, or at the very least, use the newfound friendship to sway my opinion of their thinking. This, is pure deception. This is what cult scouts do.

No thanks… I’ll keep the friends I have, and I’ll remain standing on the word of God, especially as it pertains to how we are to live, to please Him. As one of those friends I have, said recently: “the church of Jesus Christ has been in existence for 2000 years, whatever this is, that’s emerging, ISN’T the church”.

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My conclusion nearly three years later? Pagitt's words then and now, speak volumes. May those who have an ear to hear, pay very close attention to what's being said.