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.