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The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth (part 2) June 2, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

It seems that the biggest grind some people have against the emerging chruch is that it is not hostile against postmodern philosophy, that it does not get all crazy and bent out of shape when skepticism about absolute truth arises. It is almost as if these critics know and approve of only one way to respond to claims that there is no truth, skepticism about absolute truth, or that some things held up as truth deserve critique – and that one way to respond is to attack.  

They want to know why emering church types don't go for the jugular when truth is doubted. They are confused when people who claim an allegiance to Jesus don't crush the heresies when they find them. They fear that because there is no attack, no setting straight, no trounsing of the "enemies" of Christ with a dominating argument and straightforward, logical apologetics, that means that these emerging Christians are confused, deceived, or even dangerous.

Confused? Maybe. Deceived? Probably Somewhat. Dangerous, yea, but trying hard not to be. But the case could be made for anyone being confused, deceived, and dangerous – but let's not go there, shall we not? 

The fact the emerging church folks don't get all twisted out of shape when truth is in doubt has more to do with a theological perspective that privileges how people relate to one another, (primarily how a Christian relates to a non-Christian) than it does using truth to hammer straight "wiggly" people. This perspective understands and is commited to a belief that friendship is more persuasive than an accumulation of facts, that a commitment to a relationship between people is more authoritative in a person's life than ancient documents, that engaging in conversation among people with diverging beliefs is ultimately more convincing than criticizing nonconforming views.

Look, I'm not saying that this perspective is perfect, but it is nicer. Furthermore, a case could be made that it is more Christ-like than is the approach those who use truth as a stick with which to beat the world.

What might be so scary for some of these people who get so unconfortable with truth not being defended the way they want it to might have something to do with how they came to know Christ, get saved, obey the gospel…etc They were convinced through logic, facts, the authority of scripture, syllogisms, and linear thinking. Since they got to where they are by those means they believe everyone else needs to get there by those means – "Narrow is the way," "I am the Way…" They think way has something to do with how truth is delivered.

God "made" believers out of people in the old and new testaments in some very interesting ways. Jesus didn't quote a lot of scripture or make a ton of logical arguments when he gathered his disciples. He asked them to follow him. He told stories. He ate with people. He cared for people's infirmities. He took religious leaders to task when they were using God for their own selfish gain. He met people in the middle of the night. He forgave people. He crossed cultural barriers.

Ah sure, Jesus never waived truth in order to get a relationship, but he never used truth as a stick againt the nonreligious, either. He didn't see truth and relationship as mutually exclusive. In fact, it seems Jesus saw that relatioship was the conduit through which truth naturally traveled.

Jesus seemed to have truth set in its proper place. If anyone ever had the authority to lay down the law and impose truth on people it was Jesus. However, Jesus understood how genuine and generous authority works. It is not imposed, it is beautiful. In a very real sense, people gave Jesus authority. It's not that he didn't have it to impose, but there is a difference in compliance as a response to power and action as a response to desire. Jesus wanted to be chosen.

When he did impose authority it was over religious people (and not really even then, he was just stern), over demons, over illness, over weather, and over death. He used his extravagant power over things and problems, but not over people. Jesus never compelled anyone to do anything by his almighty power.

So, in sum, the emerging church types are unlikely to use truth the same way that their critics do, even if they have the exact same understanding of truth (which they probably don't anyway, but at the same tie might be closer than anyone thinks). In some sense, the argument about truth is not even about truth, but about how truth is used between people.  



1. David Underwood - June 2, 2006

Deep stuff, my brother! Good stuff too! I like your new blog set-up. When are you coming to Searcy? Mark Moore and those guys are going to be at Camp Tahkodah the last week of June and the first week of July. Maybe you can come down and hook up with them for an hour or so.


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