Don't know if you have seen this, but flaming reformed stick in the mud Mike Horton has been talking to totally cool, cutting edge, tall skinny emergent man Andrew Jones. They had a little exchange on Andrew's blog a few weeks ago and it was completely free from name-calling, anger-spewing, invective-hurling, and accusation-mongering. Kind of disappointing for those who like a good fight. I mean, who would have tuned in to see Ali and Frazier do the "Tango in Manilla," instead of the "Thrilla in Manilla."
It all started here, where Andrew speaks about an interview that Mike did with someone on the emerging church. Apparently, in that interview, Mike was given a gun and targets with pictures of Brian McLaren and other EC types and was offered the chance to shoot at will. But ol' Mike couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger. Well, he did lob a few water balloons their way, but he apparently didn't cause much injury to the emergent types, although he did point out several areas they needed to work on, so maybe they got their sandals a little wet.
Then Andrew missed his cue, because he was supposed to respond with protestations that Mike didn't understand the emergent church, was hopellesly stuck in the modernistic age and really couldn't care less if this generation just burrrrnned in hell or something. But no, Andrew says, "hmm, maybe you've got a point, or a few good points here." He didn't agree with everything Mike said, but he listened.
By this time, according to the script, both parties were supposed to be huddling with their friends and telling their friends what evil, mean, and nasty people the others were, and oh yeah, they don't love Jesus, or mom or apple pie either. But no, Mike sends a cordial letter which Andrew posted on his blog here, and then Andrew interacts cordially, in a friendly tone of voice and he even went so far as to wish Mike a Happy Birthday!!
I'm sorry, but I just don't know how to respond to all of this, it's all very unsettling. I mean think of the precedent these two so-called "leaders" are setting for their constituents. Everyone knows a "leader"doesn't talk to the other side, leaders talk about the other side. I mean what's this world coming to? Here you've got Christian leaders from differing perspectives talking to each other, rather than about each other and crying "Happy Birthday" instead of "Heretic!" What are we in danger of becoming?
OK, enough with the poor attempt at humor. I have to say I was convicted by the cordiality of the exchange between these two. I am more on the traditionalist side of things and I have to say that when I first started reading some of the emergent stuff I was pretty troubled. And, I still am by some of the stuff. But Andrew points out that the EC movement is getting (or, has gotten) away from alot of the sloppy pop postmodernism of the past decade that caused such alarm.
But there is something else going on here that deserves some attention. The fact is that most of us don't have time to delve deeply into any particular controversy. For one thing, there are just too many controversies out there to become conversant in all of them. In the circles I run in, we have the creation days controversy, the NT Wright/New Perspective controversy, the subscription controversy (i.e. what does it mean to "subscribe" to confessional standards), the Federal Vision controversy, the TNIV controversy, and the Emerging Church controversy. And, I'm sure I'm missing a few. As a pastor I have more time than the people in the pews to delve into these things, but I only have the barest cursory knowledge of all of the aforementioned controversies.
So what happens when a controversy arises which you don't have the time to investigate thoroughly enough to form your own solid, well grounded opinion? You listen to people you trust. You depend on their opinions to form your own opinions. So, if you are in a group that thinks that N.T. Wright is a wolf in sheep's clothing, the TNIV is the devil's bible, and the emerging church is the apostate church, then by golly, it's time to form up lines and resist all of these wolves, devils and apostates. My point is that it is the opinions and actions of our trusted leaders that usually guide us in our responses to these controversies, rather than our own investigations.
When I first heard about EC, as I said, I was alarmed and started falling in line to resist it. If you read some of my earlier stuff about the EC you may have picked up a bit of a hostile tone toward them.
But, Mike Horton's interaction with Andrew Jones convicts me. Here is a leader who is much more knowledgeable than I who can have a friendly discussion with an EC leader without fear that he's being sucked into some kind of pomo-liberal black hole (I'm not calling Andrew a pomo-liberal, that's just the opinion most of us traditionalists have of the EC folks). Mike's a trusted leader whose example we can follow in this.
I think some of us have a fear that, if we dialogue (rather than preach at) with those with whom we disagree that this is the equivalent of endorsing their perceived errors, or even exposing ourselves to contamination. Some of us are very insecure in what we believe. We are afraid our beliefs won't hold up under cross-examination so we stay away from those we disagree with and talk about them rather than talk to them. I know I have been guilty of that. But I'm also of the opinion that a belief isn't much worth having if it can't stand up to examination or criticism.
And, sometimes our critics turn out to be friends after all. So, with that, I think it's safe to say that we traditionalists have permission to dialogue with the EC folks, after all, if Mike did it, so can we.