World View Forum reflections…


this past Monday, Malone University hosted a World View Forum on the emerging church conversation.  they had two great proponents in Brian McLaren (author, pastor, activist) & Bryan Hollon (theology professor at Malone) who did an admirable job of presenting their thoughts and disagreeing in a respectable, Christ loving way.  for a great summary of their thoughts take a look at my friend, Bob Robinson’s blog.  he did a four part reflection on the conversation.  i won’t waste my time recapping what has already been said elsewhere in worthwhile fashion.  but i would like to make two observations that i think were perhaps the most profound & probably overlooked moments of the evening.

first, was a quote from McLaren that i don’t believe was meant to be particularly compelling, but was.  a question was posed, and though i don’t remember the exact question, it was requested that the proponents answer as they think the other person would.  this was a bit of a silly proposition, seeing as Bryan/Brian had only met that evening and so they both refrained from answering it in that way.  but before McLaren shared his thoughts he said “there’s a difference between responding to a question and answering a question.”  what a thoughtful statement.  what’s more, i think this offers some definition to the approach that different people take when approaching Christianity.  those that find themselves in the emerging conversation are less convinced that there are black & white answers to all of the questions that are raised by the intersection of our life and and faith.  they are very much interested in figuring out worthwhile ways of responding to these situations, though.  i don’t think it’s necessarily right or wrong to “answer” or “respond”, but i do think this is a large part of the difference between the modern & the post-modern conversations…the difference between answering and responding.

the second theme that helped me understand the evening were the two different approaches to presenting that the proponents took.  both totally embraced their personal worldview in their presentation style, a move that didn’t appear to be observed by those asking questions or by many of the people i’ve had conversations with since the forum.  Brian McLaren told a story.  the story of how the emerging church conversation began and evolved over time to cover the various topics that it has engaged with.  Bryan Hollon shared a series of areas & disagreements with the approach of the emerging church.  he was interested in addressing specific issues and areas and in deciding what was right and wrong about the emerging church.  McLaren was more interested in sharing a story and considering the implications of the themes of that story.  Hollon was more interested in dissecting the particulars and lining them up as truths or untruths.  i don’t intend to say that one or the other is right or wrong, and i hope that is apparent, but that they are two very different approaches.  and this is part of the reason why there is such distinct disagreement between the two “camps”…even the very way that they present their thoughts is in opposition to each other.

neither of these thoughts are fully developed & i’d be interested to hear others thoughts and responses on these particular moments in the evening.


23 Responses to World View Forum reflections…

  1. Brent Barger says:


    Good points here, I would have to agree. Hollon made great points but from a very different mindset. I just think Hollon came from an academic standpoint, he is after all a scholar while McLaren is an author/artist who loves theology and flirts with academia, but that isn’t his cup of tea per say, although he can run in those circles when needed. Also great point about answering a question vs. responding. Many of those asking the questions were clearly wanting McLaren to answer questions and to answer in the way they wanted. I personally think they wanted to catch him say something wrong so they could say see he is a heretic, lets tar and feather him out of here. I loved that he refused to take the bait. And how many people there had actually read his books and had any real clue about his journey. McLaren is maybe the most misunderstood figure in the American church today, people really don’t grasp where he’s coming from. Anyways, just wanted to applaud your two points here. Last week I mentioned shapevine to you, check it out. they have a great video dialogue with McLaren, John Franke, Scot McKnight, Darrell Guder, and Tim Keel that you would quite enjoy.

  2. Joel – thanks for posting this. I was certainly interested in hearing how this all went. I am really surprised to hear a) that there is a professor at malone that is against the emerging church and b) that there were apparently a number of students who are as well. You already know where I stand on these issues, and my personal commitments, etc. but I just find it fascinating that there are parts of the church that are so antagonistic towards other parts of the church.

    It also sounds like Malone may need a professor who is for a postmodern church, I know just the person. 😉

  3. Adam Lehman says:


    Brian came to speak at Taylor University on his “Everything Must Change” tour and I observed his responses to questions to remind me of Jesus in a way i had never experienced before. It seems that – in christian circles – we look up to people who have tremendous answers on what political opinion to have or how to make a ministry work. Brian did one of the most masterful jobs at dealing with questions. Brian dodged the questions and responded, hitting a deeper issue. Reminded me of jesus before the pharisees (though i don’t think mclaren is jesus nor taylor pharisaical)in how brian refused to take on labels simply to be painted in a box.

  4. joeldaniel says:

    @Brent…thanks for your thoughts…i dropped by shapevine but couldn’t find the video you were referring to. you don’t have a more direct link, do you?

    @Wess…one of the things that i love about Malone is their diversity. while it’s at times frustrating to have people all over the spectrum, i think it really helps students to be better prepared for the real world where they’ll find the same mish-mash of folks. i did really appreciate Hollon’s approach, even if i didn’t fully agree with some of his conclusions.

    @Adam…i was recently reminded by a friend that out of the 30 some odd times Jesus was asked a yes/no question, only about 6 times did he answer in such a fashion (and all six came after he was already on trial). i do find it interesting that he always tried to elevate the conversation to address bigger principles than yes/no boxes. i wonder if we’ve lost some of that in our search for evidence that demands verdicts and building cases for our faith. the Bible seems to unfold more often as an epic narrative than a courtroom drama…it looks more like Kings than CSI.

  5. Bob Robinson says:

    Your point about the differing approaches puts into a nutshell why so much is misunderstood by both camps. Modern Christians are looking for, and even demanding, a bullet-pointed propositional approach, and want their questions of Emerging Church people answered in this way. But Postmodern Christians think in story-form and are suspicious of bullet-pointed propositions.

    They both have to get over it, I think. It’s arrogant to insist on communicating only in the way that you want to, at the detriment of helping those around you to understand what you are saying.

  6. joeldaniel says:

    @BobRob…well said. you nutshelled my nutshell : )

  7. Bryan Hollon says:


    Thanks again for pointing me to Bob Robinson’s fine summary of the debate. Since I’m now following these blogs, I thought – what the hell – I’ll join the conversation.

    First, I must say it makes me chuckle to hear myself described as “modern.” Some folks may not have understood my comments at the end of the evening about the difference between modern, post-modern, and pre-modern epistemology, but I can tell you that in academia, the best people who were doing post-modern theology a decade ago are now much more interested in retrieving what is known as a “participatory ontology” and the pre-modern epistemology that goes with it. Post-modern is long-since passe. And by the way, I studied with, and remain friends with Nancey Murphy of Fuller Seminary who, along with her late husband Jim McClendon, were two of the important early voices in post-modern theology.

    The main reason I felt compelled to respond was because of the post that seemed horrified that someone on Malone’s faculty might criticize McLaren. Forgive the tone, but does anyone reading this blog seriously not think that there is much to criticize in McLaren’s work?

    This is precisely what the academy is for! (And thanks to the blogger who pointed out that I’m a professor – indeed I am) I’m very sympathetic to much of McLaren’s thought, but a debate like the other night, if the two proponents take the matter seriously, can actually lead to much less antagonism in the long run. We learn from each other in a debate, and I actually think that some of that happened the other night.

    It was a debate! And as Bob Robinson mentioned on his blog, we both treated each other with Christ-like respect.

    Now for a shameless plug – if you want to read some really excellent post-modern/pre-modern and politically subversive theology, buy my new book! 🙂 Chapter 5 will actually give you a good overview of the retrieveal of “story” in Frie and Lindbeck while also pointing out that these guys were still too modern. You can find it at and other fine locations. All other promotions don’t apply, etc. etc.

  8. joeldaniel says:

    @Bryan…thanks for joining in! it always helps to bring clarity when the actual participants participate : ). i will readily admit that my understanding of modern & post-modern is from a very general perspective…not studied or refined. what you mentioned that evening in regards to pre-modern was something new to me that i took note of and plan on looking into. maybe how i could have phrased that part of my response better would be simply to say that the difference in presentation style explained some of the difference of the substance of belief as well. i surely don’t intend to clump you in with the many other less charitable voices to McLaren who do fit in a modern construct as clearly as i can tell.

    thanks for the tip on the book & for throwing your thoughts into the field.

  9. Bryan Hollon says:

    Joel, thanks for the response. And by the way, the book tip was really meant to be humorous. The book is very technical, though it does treat issues of “postmodernity” in an in-depth way. Its not the sort of thing I would recommend to you and others. In fact, it deals with some very particular controvesies within mid-20th century Catholic theology – does that sound right up your alley?!

    I guess I felt compelled to write last night for two reasons. (1) I was finishing a sermon and stalling (2) I’ve been shocked by the response of several bloggers who obviously understood my presentation differently than I do. There was nothing “modern” in it – no foundationalist epistemology at work there at all.

    In fact I would not see myself as someone for Emergent folks to consider an adversary. I guess it seems to me that McLaren just needs some help both philosophically and doctrinally. But my criticisms were not from within a “modern” paradigm. Rather, my criticisms come from a more critical approach to postmodernity, but an approach that still believes modern foundationalist epistemology is blatantly pagan. Modern Epistemology presupposes a nominalist view of God, meaning a God who stands off in the distance – one whom we encounter like we might encounter an object.

    Modern epistemology then begins with the thinking individual and his/her ability to “know” or be certain of this God, or truths about this God, etc. The Bible, from within a modernist epistemological framework gives us lots of proof statements (propositions as Bob called them). Creation science is the obvious result of such an approach.

    Postmodern philosophy, however makes some big mistakes as well. It also presupposes a nominalist view of God. This time, however because it has a little more sophisticated understanding of language and history, it is critical of the individual’s ability to know things for certain.

    The difference with pre-modern epistemology is that it begins with God, the Trinitarian God within whom we live and move and have our being. How can you know such a God?, the premoderns would ask. Well, only from the inside. Only because Jesus Christ has brought us close to the Fathers heart.

    Thus, from a premodern perspective we can truly know God as we are drawn into the life of God. As our will is conformed to God’s will, as we take on the mind of Christ, seeing from God’s perspective, and as we learn to love and suffer in and with Christ as his disciples. We “know” God genuinely but not as we might know an object that we stand outside of. For premoderns, language and history still subsume us, but they become mediators of God’s revelation not obstacles to it.

    Scripture too plays a role. In Thomas Aquinas thinking, for example, when we learn to read scripture spiritually we are gradually drawn into the life of God and come to know “mystically.” The whole ancient tradition teaches this stuff.

    But importantly, Doctrine also plays an important role as we come to “know” God. Not by giving us “blocks” of knowledge abstracted from time and space. Rather, Dogmas and doctrines are pedagogical in the sense that they help us to avoid latching on to false idols and making Gods from objects or personal goals or nationalist agendas, etc. This is why in my presentation I spoke of Dogma and paradox. Dogmas preserve God’s mystery while also directing us properly to the true God.

    When Emergents criticize Dogma and doctrine, it seems to me that they assume these things (Dogmas and doctrines) were created by “modern” Christians. But of course, this is not true, so it would be silly to toss out these things because modern christians had them so wrong, at least when they sought foundations for them. It is preferable to consider what, for instance, The Trinity meant to those who first reflected upon it.

    And if we think Dogmas are not important and that we can just skip it and go straight to scripture, then we just don’t understand history. The Dogmas came first and were an important part of the process of the canonization of the NT. Had there been no doctrine of the Trinity, for instance, our Bible would look differently. If we claim to be biblical, then we are de facto recognizing the authority of the early Dogmatic tradition.

    Anyhow, if anyone is interested in more on the nature of doctrine in Early Christianity, then you should read Ellen Cherry’s book, “By the Renewing of Our Mind’s.” For anohter general primer, you should consider Robert Wilken’s the “Spirit of Early Christian Thought.”

    Sorry to blaber on so long, but (and this might be obviuos) I just really enjoy a good theological discussion.

    Cheers to you all.

  10. wess says:

    Joel – It’s nice of you to host a theological conversation on your blog! And I do appreciate you posting your thoughts on the evening, since I couldn’t be there, I really have no idea other than what you and Bob wrote about it. But it sounds like it was very engaging, cordial, and varied in approach.

    I am like you and have been profoundly shaped by the diversity at Malone. It is what lead me to Fuller, I wanted a school that was open to a variety of theological backgrounds the way Malone is. I think theological education needs to be open-ended in this way so that theological issues have the best chance of being challenged and provoked forward in our world today.

  11. wess says:

    @Bryan – Pleasure to make the virtual acquaintance with you, especially if you were one of Nancey’s students. Nancey Murphy is the second person on my doctoral committee at Fuller and you mentioning McClendon’s importance for your thought makes us already have much in common. I would really enjoy meeting you in person next time I am in the Canton area.
    I want to be upfront and say since I was not there for the worldview forum I cannot comment personally on what you or McLaren said and so will avoid doing so.
    I do think Nancey, and Fuller more generally, would be rather shocked to hear postmodernism is passe. She, and many others, teach classes on it and assume that it is in one way or another still “something in the air.” Now certainly she has a rather nuanced understanding of it, and it’s different from the variety of postmodernisms out there, but I don’t think you can write it off so quickly. There are a lots of brilliant scholars wrestling with the questions that postmodernism presents our church and the world. Granted, I prefer postsecularism, hyper-modernity or late-capitalism for terminology more than postmodern but saying it is passe is, I think is to jump the gun.
    While the radical orthodoxy, those interested in participatory ontology, etc., are certainly some of the best scholars around, there is no consensus on this direction in theology. And many more who hotly challenge Milbank’s crew. Yes, radical orthodoxy has it’s hearing, but so does the Yoder-Murphy-McClendon (MacIntyre) school as well as those influenced heavily by the continentals. Now with the emergence of a new group of philosophers like Badious, Zizek, Agamben and others, I think the only thing we can say is that all of this is still being debated and there are no foregone conclusions. While I personally find the radical orthodoxy position of participatory ontology helpful, I find their romance with Christendom and their lack of ability to make their theology practical for the daily life of the church at least two big faults. In other words, where are these communities engaging in participatory ontology? Something the “Peace Church school” of those mentioned above do a much better job with, in my opinion.
    I am not so much shocked that anyone would have something to criticize McLaren for, yes he has his areas just like everyone. Rather what disappointed me was that Malone was officially putting forth the position, by having one of their theology professors be McLaren’s opponent, was one that stands against the emerging church. Regardless of what was actually said at that debate the space, the position, Malone took up was an antagonistic one to a movement within the church that is seeking to renew the church within American culture. Maybe I am miss reading the situation but that was my initial response. So I hope you can see that I am not frustrated by the content of your debate but rather this bigger picture.
    For instance, Bob Robinson wrote on his blog: “The debate that evening was open to the public, free of charge. And many people came. There were protestors handing out print-outs in the parking lot listing quote after quote from McLaren that they felt proved that he is a heretic.” I am saddened by this and by the implicit role Malone had in this. I don’t think this is how the church should respond to the church, whether it is over something as simple as emerging churches or something more poignant like abortion. I also understand, on the other hand, that it was really great that Malone invited McLaren to come and speak and so obviously there is openness to him.
    I am interested to hear what you find objectionable about McLaren. Like I admitted above, I do think there are things to disagree with, as there are with all thinkers but I was wondering what your critique is? Did you walk away from the meeting feeling like he was more or less “orthodox” from your perspective?
    You wrote:
    “When Emergents criticize Dogma and doctrine, it seems to me that they assume these things (Dogmas and doctrines) were created by “modern” Christians. But of course, this is not true, so it would be silly to toss out these things because modern christians had them so wrong, at least when they sought foundations for them. It is preferable to consider what, for instance, The Trinity meant to those who first reflected upon it.”
    Yes of course, we need to think about how the trinity was first formulated but we don’t need to buy into it or accept it wholesale. Is this what you’re suggesting? There is much theology to be criticized that has been profoundly reshaped by modernity. But as you know, there was a healthy dose of dissent about any number of theological teachings long before modernity as well. My adivsor at Fuller, Ryan Bolger, is the only one to have done extensive sociological on the phenomenoma of the emerging church, and he has often said that of all the emerging communities he’s interviewed no one is tossing things out like the Trinity, and other basic “orthodox” positions. Furthermore, In all my studies, of a varitey of differing emerging church voices, I’ve never heard anyone throw something out simply because it’s modern. This seems to make a straw man out these thinkers, because they are not tossing these things but offer contextualized readings of them, or whatever the case may be. Secondly, it assumes there is a singular voice that speaks for all emerging church leaders, such as McLaren, but that’s just not true. There is no emerging church, just emerging churches.
    Again, I want to stress, I am sure from the sounds of your own theological training, that you are anything but modern and that you had a very nuanced approach to your debate with Brian. And it sounds like you probably support the emerging church or at least some of their ideas. So I really appreciated what you wrote here:
    “I’m very sympathetic to much of McLaren’s thought, but a debate like the other night, if the two proponents take the matter seriously, can actually lead to much less antagonism in the long run. We learn from each other in a debate, and I actually think that some of that happened the other night.”
    I hope you can see that my disappointment is located elsewhere.
    On a more personal note, I was shocked that this is what the worldview forums are being used for. As one of the early student president’s of the forums we used these to engage people of other worldviews, not debate those within the church over the finer points of doctrine. I don’t have any kind of right to assume this is how these forums should continue to be approached and know there is more to this decision than I know about, I understand all that completely, I just think it was a surprise that this is the setting that it was done in.
    Just a final comment that is mostly beside the point.
    You wrote “Thus, from a premodern perspective we can truly know God as we are drawn into the life of God.”
    I agree with the draw of the premodern, there is a lot to learn from it, but I am one who is convinced we can’t, nor should we want to, retrieve the premodern anymore than we would want to have a wholesale baptism of the postmodern. The church is always the church-in-mission, engaging, critique, participating in, and seeking to transform whatever culture it finds itself in. While we draw on these thinkers, Augustine is surely a hero of the radical orthodox school, and learn from them, we have to do it in our context, and in a way that makes sense for our culture, the local congregation who live out God’s kingdom and the practices that form these communities (which may or may not be premodern). It seems to me that emerging churches are one of the only groups of churches actually trying experiment with these things. I’d be interested to hear more about how you’re understanding this.

  12. wess says:

    For some reason when I copied my comment above from my text editor the spaces didn’t paste over. Sorry about that, I am sure it will make sure a long comment even more of a pain to read.

  13. joeldaniel says:

    @wess…thanks for the response…very helpful. a couple clarifications:
    Malone actually did a very good job, I thought, of not implicitly supporting one “side” or the other. In fact, the moderator (also a Malone professor) started the evening by clearly stating that Malone had nothing to do with the handouts nor did they intend to promote any specific response the ideas presented. Also, by giving McLaren the space to speak in Chapel Monday morning & to other student groups through the rest of the day (and also to RA’s on Sunday evening), they really did an outstanding job of really promoting conversation and not judgement. Bryan Hollon also did a great job, as referenced by Bob & others, at presenting his disagreements, but doing so in a respectable, Christian way. Obviously, not being there, you weren’t aware of this and so I just say this to assure you that I thought Malone did a great job at facilitating a conversation. I wish I could say that the rest of the Christian community in Canton engaged in the conversation in a similar fashion.

    In response to your question of what the WorldView Forum’s are being used for, I’m not sure I totally agree with your original understanding. During the year that I sat on the WVF Council, (which was closer to the beginning of them than it was to now, I believe), we tried to strike a balance of both engaging world views outside of the church, but also of worldviews in general, realizing that even those of us within the church approach life and Christian living from a vastly different set of presuppositions and that these are worth discussing.

    Finally, your last point is similar to what I was thinking of posting next…the idea that I don’t think our answer is to embrace modernity, post-modernity or pre-modernity. All of these systems of thoughts have their various strengths and weaknesses. What I’m more interested in is understanding where culture finds itself tilting. Currently I think many in my generation (lets place that with folks anywhere from twenties to thirties) is very much influenced by post-modernity and rejects large parts of modernity. Rather than try and lead them into a new approach, I’m interested in trying to help us think through the goods and bads of where we’re at. Which is what I think many in modernity never did…but instead just embraced their location uncritically. I’m sure that pre-modernity has worthwhile thoughts to contribute to this conversation as well and I’m interested to do some further reading on the topic.

  14. Bryan Hollon says:

    Wess, first of all, if you come through Canton, you should indeed stop by. Also, say hello to Nancey for me. We’ve been able to catch up at AAR from time to time, but otherwise I’ve not seen her in several years. I spent quite a few afternoons in her home reading Jim’s final volume while he was still in the writing stage. I was among his last students and was at Fuller when he died.

    You should know that I’m not on the Worldview forum committee and Malone in no way sponsored a particular view. They sponsored a debate. Before I was asked, I had no interest whatsoever in the Emerging Church. They primarily wanted to bring McLaren to town because several committee members were reading his books very enthusiastically. However, he was expensive, and they could not afford to bring in another proponent – so they asked me. This was absolutely not an effort to attack the Emerging church, and I can’t see how you have any basis for your concern. In fact, it just seems very strange to me, especially since the people on the committee tend to be either sympathetic to the Emerging movement or some other form of peace church tradition.

    Regarding pre-modern Epistemology, I agree with you that we do not baptize it any more than we baptize postmodern epistemology. Rather, we do constructive theology in conversation with the past. You are right to notice that I use the language of Radical Orthodoxy – my book is a sustained argument against Milbank over what it means to appropriate the work of de Lubac, whom he describes as the first truly postmodern theologian. In particular, I argue that RO remains at the abstract and theoretical level whereas de Lubac was a churchman through and through. Thus, I obviously agree with you that RO fails to engage the church and never achieves what they describe as an “ontological extension.” I also agree with you that the peace church movement is much better at this – I consider myself a part of the peace church movement, and I am extremely vocal about my pacifism here at Malone.

    Regarding the issue of postmodernism being passé, again you make a good point. People are continuing to talk about it, but the best publishing theologians (and that includes people like Hauerwas – Nancey, as far as I know, is not writing much theology (rather philosophy) these days) are doing postmodern theology in conversation with pre-modern sources. I began reading postmodern theology in the early nineties, and it was very exciting – it just felt right intuitively. But since then, there has been a very obvious progression among publishing theologians. Just look at the catalogues coming from Baker, Brazos, Eerdmans, T&T Clark, Blackwell, Oxford, and a multitude of other publishers. If you look closely, you will notice that books on “post-modern” theology are not being published. But books on the Great tradition are flying off the presses and have been for quite a while now. That is what I mean when I say Postmodern theology is passé.

    McLaren and the Emergent folks that I read are Not doing postmodern theology in conversation with pre-modern sources. They seem to proceed as if, because modernity was so bad, we must now make it all up anew. When they are right, they are merely reinventing the wheel. But very often they go off the rails when they wouldn’t if they were more familiar with the tradition. I’ve heard some of McLaren’s discussions about salvation, for instance, and about Hell. I’ve heard him say that Hell can’t be real because it turns God into a Tyrant. Now, I’m not making a claim about Hell, but this is absolutely not True. For Aquinas, for example, the suffering of Hell is 100% the result of a person’s habituation in their own sinful loves. People damn themselves and have no interest in God’s grace, though God is pure gift. C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce portrays this idea wonderfully, probably because Lewis was a classicist.

    Regarding salvation too, there are profound ways of being inclusive while remaining entirely within traditional orthodox frameworks. Read de Lubac’s Catholicism, and you will find one beautiful and very traditional approach. But Emergent Church folks seem entirely incapable of having a nuanced discussion because they don’t know the tradition. They are writing way too many books when they should be reading more.

    I’m not sure that I understand your question about the Trinity, but I would certainly say that it is non-negotiable. It makes no sense to claim the authority of scripture without embracing the criterion used in the process of canonization. If you toss out the Trinity and other Dogmas of the Patristic era, then you really must toss out the NT canon. Many radical biblical scholars are much more honest than most because they dismiss the authority of the NT canon, insisting that the Gnostic gospels, etc. are equally credible – they are simply the texts of “other Christianities.”

    And although Emergent folks don’t toss out the Trinity, McLaren (and my debate was exclusively focused on McLaren) really does relativize all doctrine. He is very typical of someone whose been burned by fundamentalism and now is not able to appreciate Dogma nor distinguish it from lesser doctrines.

    Also, I agree with you that the Emergent Church is actually doing something. One of the odd things about McLaren’s presentation here was that he insisted the Emerging Church is not a movement. However, the passion of his defenders tells me that he is certainly wrong about that. But this is fine – Evangelical Christianity, in particular, is not doing so well. However, there has never been a major Church renewal that did not entail a serious engagement with the Patristic era. I fear that unless the bar is raised significantly among Emergent folks, then this “movement” will be nothing more than a passing fad. It would be nice if it could be more.

    Well, I could say much more but I’m becoming tired of myself. I can’t imagine the effect the length of this post will have on others.

  15. wess says:

    Joel thanks for your reply. Your clarification helps to ease my concerns, I am glad to hear the atmosphere was different than it first seemed. In terms of the worldview forum that’s fine, I am just speaking to when I was doing it back in 99 and 2000 (I think?). And I wouldn’t count on my memory being exact enough to say what the mission was, I just remember we had a strong emphasis on bring people from outside the Christian tradition in. I do see the need to discuss the plurality of views even from within the church.

  16. joeldaniel says:

    @Bryan…great to hear about your promotion of pacifism. we need more of that at Malone, especially considering our roots.

    in regards to your thoughts on McLaren et al ignoring pre-modernity, i wonder if they’re currently re-engaging with some of that. it seemed to be some of what Brian was referencing towards the end of his initial presentation? did you notice this as well? (i mean that question in a genuine sense, not in a you missed it sense).

    another question i had for you was what you would say the Dogma are that must be accepted? i think this was somewhat asked that night & the general answer that i remember was that of either the Nicene or Apostolic Creeds. is this correct?

  17. wess says:

    Bryan, Thanks for your comment back, I appreciated reading your response. It sounds like your critique of the emerging movement is very much my own. I have much love for a number of emerging folks, Peter Rollins is probably my favorite and among the few who actually do dialogue with pre-modern Christians, but my critique follows yours: anything new and not rooted in tradition is simply modern-liberalism all over again (or a continuation of it). I have been thoroughly brainwashed my Nancey in believing that MacIntyre is right on this point. I recently wrote a post, it’s not really that clear enough on some points as it should be but it was supposed to be 500 words or less, on a friend’s blog where I try and make this argument from a Quaker standpoint I am attempting to argue, in my dissertation, that the only way forward for Quakerism is through a re-engagement and re-interpretation of its tradition.

    Also – You wrote: “my book is a sustained argument against Milbank over what it means to appropriate the work of de Lubac, whom he describes as the first truly postmodern theologian. In particular, I argue that RO remains at the abstract and theoretical level whereas de Lubac was a churchman through and through. Thus, I obviously agree with you that RO fails to engage the church and never achieves what they describe as an “ontological extension.” I also agree with you that the peace church movement is much better at this – I consider myself a part of the peace church movement, and I am extremely vocal about my pacifism here at Malone.”

    You are certainly a friend of mine then! If you wrote a sustatined argument of Milbank then I will surely be looking into your book! 😉 I am also really glad to hear about your vocal pacifism at Malone! My entire life and faith was changed by a very vocal pacifist theology professor at Malone.

    This made me laugh, and I think you’re largely right on this point: “They are writing way too many books when they should be reading more.”

    I currently go to the same Church as Nancey and will either see her there or at my mid-program defense next month and will relay the message to her. It’s really cool to hear you knew Jim McClendon, I love his work but wasn’t here in time to know him. You probably know my adviser or have at least seen him around, he was at Fuller at the same time.

  18. wess says:

    @Joel and Bryan – I have seen in the last couple years more emphasis on patristics from some folks in the emerging church. James K. A. Smith, whatever role or voice he has in the emerging church is certainly one rooted in this tradition. McLaren recently published a book looking at ancient practices of faith and I know Tony Jones has written on Augustine, and seems to have a decent grasp of at least some of the historical fine points of the church. So I do think there is a shift. Also, in the last couple years there has been a shift in denominations to start getting on board with some of this conversation within their institutions, I am thinking of “Fresh Expressions” (Anglican) and of course Convergent Friends (Quakers), I find this to be a far more satisfactory response than leaving and doing their own thing. Nevertheless the critique is still very important and valid for many. In order to truly do something different from the modern and post-modern we need to do better at understanding the Christian tradition and the practices that follow.

  19. Brent Barger says:


    I think you simply need to sign up for shapevine and you should be able to access the video and find it easily, click on the home button and then it’s under the title video exclusives. Don’t believe you get access unless you sign up, which is quick and painless. Also, I watched a debate last night with Tony Jones, McKnight, Kevin Deyoung, and a couple of college kids about the emerging church and it was really interesting. Here is the link

  20. Bryan Hollon says:

    Wess, you need to ask Nancey sometime about her experience with MacIntyre. She went to see him when he was still at Duke and he refused to see any connection between what he was doing and what She and others were doing. He was evidently very grouchy, as usual. And of course, these days he has become a very conversvative Neo-Thomist. He’s a strange fellow, though he is obviously brilliant. At Notre Dame he only teaches undergraduates because he doesn’t like doctoral students. What a kurmudgeon!

    Do you go to PMC? When I was there Nancey and Jim went to the Brethren Church in the same building, but it was about to die out. I’ve assumed she would join PMC. That was my church. I served as a pastoral intern there for several years under Jim Brennamen who is now the president of Goshen college.

    I like James Smith, and I know he has written a bit about Emergent Church just as he has written about RO. He is indeed a good example of someone engaged in many conversations with postmodern and premodern sources, and he also remains firmly rooted in his own tradition.

    Anyhow, I’ll read your blog post.

    Take Care

  21. Bryan Hollon says:

    Joel, I mentioned the “rule of faith.” I’ve not read McLaren’s book, I think it is titled, “the story we find ourselves in.” But books like this typically review what is known as the drama of scripture and go something like this: Creation, Calamity, Correction, Consummation. They note that the bible tells an overarching narrative. The “rule of faith” was simply a summary of this narrative and was considered widely authoritative long before the NT was canonized. If you google the “rule of faith” you’ll probably be taken to quotes from people like Irenaeus and Tertullian.

    The early creeds like the Apostles (the Old Roman Creed) and the Nicene were essentially condensed versions of this rule of faith. In other words, they helped people learn the drama or the story in concise fashion. This story and these creeds were also developed in order to refute several very specific heresies.

    Later, when the NT canon was finalized, the rule of faith and these creeds served as criteria for exclusion. In other words if a text had too low a Christology, then it was left out. Or if it did not affirm God as creator it was left out. Or if it did not affirm incarnation or bodily resurrection, it was left out. And many books were weeded out this way.

    Dogmas are a complicated matter. Certainly, all christians who know better would affirm as Dogmatic the key elements of, for instance, the Nicene Creed. These would include for example:

    Belief in the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit all affirmed (though Spirit was tacked on at Constantinople)

    Belief in Jesus’ virgin birth and incarnation
    Belief in Jesus’ suffering and death
    Belief in Jesus’bodily resurrection and ascension
    Belief in the Holy Catholic Church
    Belief in the everlasting life
    And more.

    In my view, if we want to remain Protestant, then we really must affirm the Dogmas worked out through the end of the fourth century, because these were formative of the Canon. Part of affirming the authority of scripture is affirming the process of canonization. The Dogmas are not revelation but they are like authoritative interpretations of scripture.

    Catholics continued to have councils through the middle ages and down to today. So, they’ve added some Dogmas like the infallibility of the Pope, assumption of Mary, etc. Protestants obviously disagree.

    What happened during the Enlightenment is that many protestants began raising every little doctrine (like atonement, or particular views on eucharist and baptism) to the level of Dogma and then splitting with each other and condemning each other over their disagreements. Fundamentalists do this today.

    It is therefore helpful to distinguish between Dogma, Doctrine, and opinion. Dogmas are those core beliefs that were formative of the canon and which essentially summarize the story. Then there are second order interpretations that we call doctrines (atonement, views of baptism, etc.) Then we have opinions like is there such a thing as soul sleep, etc.)

    It seems to me that McLaren at least does not distinguish between these, so he thinks that all Christian teaching changes with history when in reality the Dogmatic level remains consistent, and should if we hope to call ourselves biblical.

    Anyhow, this also could go on much longer.

    Regarding McLaren and premodernity, he did indicate to me privately after the debate that he really liked the idea of engaging premodern epistemology. But I’ve really only seen him talk about ancient christian worship practices, though this, in my view is good, since much contemporary worship must surely be a low point in church history. Worship dictated by big secular recording studios – just bizarre.

    But I’m not familiar with the other folks that Wess mentioned. If they are reading more deeply in the tradition, then this is a good thing, though it is hard work.

    Take Care

  22. Jen says:

    Hi! May I ask where you found the photo at the top of this entry? I would like to use it at my church. I would appreciate it!



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