Tim Challies is a conservative Reformed blogging demigod. He has a Technorati Authority rating of 1165, and every 3-5 point Calvinist, their Tulips, and their publishers read him. He’s a thoughtful and prolific guy. Most of the time, he manages to keep a pretty even keel about him, even when writing about streams in the Church he disagrees with passionately. Recently, he posted some scathing critiques of Brian McLaren’s new release, Everything Must Change, that I thought crossed some lines in terms of heated rhetoric and personal attack. This, combined with a subterranean campaign to get Tim’s review as the #1 posted on Amazon have disappointed me.
But today, Tim posted something that’s back to his usual charitably-disagreeing self, about emerging. He’s no friend of Emergent, but here are some thoughts on God’s Kingdom:
“I…began to realize that there is one issue the emerging people have been writing about a whole lot and that most traditional Protestants do not speak of nearly as often. I was thinking of the kingdom of God. Whether you are emerging or emergent, the kingdom of God plays a pivotal role in your theology. And yet it tends to be a mere footnote for most Protestants…I think if we narrow in on that one issue, we’ll be in a better spot to understand much of the appeal of this whole emerging movement.”
I think Tim is absolutely right. I want to see more Calvinist voices like Tim Keller, Joel Hunter and Steve Brown talk Kingdom, and its practical implications for life, faith, and Church. Below are my comments from the post, altered slightly–my open question/statements for Tim Challies:
Tim, I’m curious (and forgive me if you’ve written about this extensively)–what is your preferred eschatology? I grew up dispensationalist by default in my Baptist and Pentecostal years, but when I was part of a PCA church for several years that was the period of broadening my horizons to what other options were out there. Namely, I met partial preterists and postmillenialists. I am under the general impression that these are OK positions to hold in the Reformed world; how do you feel about this. Because when I read publications like the PCA’s ByFaith, I see many resonances between emerging and Reformed articulations of the Kingdom. At the very least (for the postmillenial, even the ‘conservative’ ones) we are to do the works Jesus said were part of his good news proclamation in Mark (and in Mary’s Magnificat, and Zechariah’s prayer), works that mirror eternal kingdom realities. And we are to pray daily that earth will mirror heaven…it seems odd that we’d pray for something that we don’t expect to happen, even as a foretaste. (Tim Keller has written an excellent book about this, titled Ministries of Mercy) And at the very most, the biblically-prophesied judgment has already occurred (in Preterist perspective), and the future is truly and open book with us as new creations co-laboring with God to imagine and build a new world via the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, through the church. Of course this can look like Theonomy or the mainline Social Gospel; most emerging folks I know are uncomfortable with either of these two options and wish to pave a “third way” that is faithful to Jesus and represents a harmony of God’s eternal and temporal purposes.
To Converse or Not to Converse, This is the Question
This is my take, at least. Am I wrong–or too touch-feely for the majority of you–to say “That’s where we emergers are coming from, we understand if you’re not–can’t we all just get along?” Because before 2005, you didn’t even know we exist–we were able to share our doubts, questions, and hopes more or less safely–we didn’t try to convert any of you. More than anything, we want to share the good news of Jesus, establish churches and intentional communities, and get involved in our communities and ecologies in a redemptive way. If you think you have a superior way of doing all of the above or if you have a different set of questions–wonderful! I say this with no malice whatsoever. Go out there, and be proactive doing and proclaiming it. I know that you already do. It just seems like this endless moaning about what we do and think is counter-productive. You aren’t going to change our hearts or minds, and we’ve pretty much concluded that we won’t change yours.
I can hear it now; this sounds odd coming from someone who sees himself as part of a ‘conversation’–why aren’t you welcome as a conversation partner? Well I’d say you are as individuals…we just don’t like it when you gang up on us in the name of ‘conversation,’ or shout at us from a megaphone. Typically in local gatherings called ‘cohorts,’ we have people from all kinds of denominational backgrounds. We don’t have a ton of Episcopalians or United Methodists trying to ambush the conversation and sway it–through more heat than light–one way or another. There is distributed representation, and all conversation partners agree on respect in advance as the M.O. of the whole time. Coming in with both guns-a-blazin’ seems…well, a bit disingenuous to ‘conversation.’
So I’ll put it this way: If one of you (say, you, Tim, since this is your blog and all) wants to drop in on a conversation and share your story and your convictions about God, faith, and life–please do! But you might want to lay low the first time or two so people can get to know you as a person. Similarly, I might want to drop in on a Desiring God or Together for the Gospel conference–but I’ll want to come under the cover of anonymity, not as “Mike Morrell the librarian of zoecarnate.com, the largest emerging church links directory on the Web.”
I’m not calling for a five-year moratorium on conversation. I am suggesting that maybe it should consume less of our time as we move forward on different-but-parallel tracks living out the Gospel as best we know how.