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Thursday, April 27, 2006

In Reply...

Graphic blatantly stolen from Demerging

My dear sister, prayer partner and “Peregrine Sojo”, Kitty Cheng has been investigating the Emergent Church along with postmodernism and postmodern culture. I had previously abandoned my own pursuit of these subjects when it seemed my questions and opinions were becoming offensive to some. I have tried to enter the “conversation” on several occasions only to find that my thinking is far too “modern” to be of any value. You see I find absolutes, few though they are, I do find them and that seems to disqualify me (either that or the fact that I’m an old man, I’m not sure). So be that as it may I broke my silence in order to reply to Kitty’s current post. Kitty ask;
“So what do you think of these observations / ideas / opinions and assertions about postmodernity / postmodernism?”

There is nothing new under the sun.

It seems individuals tend to cycle in an attempt to align their head and heart and I think culture does as well. To be honest it is my opinion that until we align ourselves in Christ we’re doomed to swing like a pendulum both as individuals and as a society.

Isn’t the basic premise of deconstruction only a modern version of rebellion? I think healthy change occurs over time from within through reorganization. Unhealthy change occurs through rebellion and almost always results in civil war. In that instance the innocent suffer the greatest of injustices from both sides.

With respect to the EC the potential is great for both. Those within the EC that have adopted the postmodern philosophy will push toward rebellion. The result has already been another denomination and a further division of the body of Christ. Those who help with reorganization within their own assembly will patiently push toward unification. Historically that has been the case of all movements within the Church. Sadly the latter win too often, division occurs and a new denomination is born. When the former are successful they are never heard of again as their goal is to achieve integration.

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18 Comments:

Blogger Seeker said...

Just for fun, step into your pastor's office and tell him you have some suggestions for the church's praise team. (music ministry)

4/27/2006 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

I thought surely the goatee would put you in good stead with those guys. hehe

Deconstruction may be rebellious, but against what? I have no problem rebelling against the traditions of men, or the function-follows-form paradigm that drives the great majority of organized Christendom. And the rebellion has largely been peaceful. Can you still call it a civil war when only one side has taken up arms?

I used to think that effective reorganization could happen from within existing structures, but my experience has shown me otherwise (the dog always returns to his vomit).

CraigBob, over at Out of Fellowship podcast, talked about foundationalism as it relates to the way truth is discovered and handled. I had to listen to it a couple times, but I don't think you have to understand it fully in order to acknowledge that there's something there.

4/27/2006 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Kc, there is much wisdom in your reply. I don't claim to know anything about the EC, because I have been to lazy to study about it, but you seem to have a very balanced, unbiased approach.

4/27/2006 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Kitty Cheng said...

Kc, I totally agree that we need to align ourselves in Christ to be in balance. Hence I would propose that both deconstruction and reorganization could work if they are aligned with Christ and kingdom minded, and not out of the spirit of rebellion or control.

4/27/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Mrs Zeke said...

There is an option when change is to occur to either change for the sake of the whole, or change for the sake of self.
If change does not benefit the Kingdom it is only a view for the benefit of self and that is always going to be more destructive then constructive. Zeke and I have gone round and round a bit in regards to the whole emergent thing. To make it easy he is more emergent then I and I am more protective then he. I am extremely protective of Pastors but its based on a small view the ones I know have given there life and I mean there life to trying without a break to be a servant of God, while trying to fend of all of us and our grand idea's of how it should be. I wonder without the church if the missions of mercy in Haiti would be there, and where would the people who represent the wave of new Christians in China go for funding?

I am aware Church as it is has problems but I am willing to keep on working on them. This does not mean being emergent is wrong but I worry that in the effort for good intentions to change sometimes the baby, bathtub, plumbing as well as the water gets thrown right out the window.

Ill just catch the baby and you can be smart :)

4/27/2006 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Karen I have to admit up front that I'm totally unfamiliar with that type of hierarchy so my response will probably miss your point completely. I’m unaccustomed to the pastor, or any individual having that kind of authority or responsibility. That probably makes me an odd ball here and incapable of being able to fully relate with some of the problems others face in their own assemblies. Could you elaborate on the circumstance? My initial response is that you’d be dealing with a consequence when the real problem is either the pastor has too much authority or too much responsibility. (BTW Happy Birthday to PR and Andrea! ;-)

Dorsey, I think you have to be an acadameia nut too or the goatee is useless ;-)

You’re not rebellious, you’re argumentative and there’s a tremendous difference. Rebellion seeks control. You seek an understanding. There, now you’re straight. (hehe)

Deconstruction in the post-modern philosophical context means destruction. Now I’m not drawing a parallel between the Emergent Church and destruction by any means. I’m only saying that those within the “conversation” who embrace that philosophy are bent on destruction and I know I don’t have to give you examples. ;-)

Having only listened to that one pod cast I’m apprehensive, to say the least, to address Craigbob but I would like to respond in general terms to what I’m hearing from many that sounds similar to his dialog.

It goes like this;

“I saw what was wrong in my assembly and saw I was powerless to change it. I felt alienated because I couldn’t adhere to their [insert appropriate gripe here] but was too afraid to say so, so I just left.” Or “and when I said I thought it was wrong or didn’t participate or tried something different everyone got on my case, so I left.”

It never ends with, “so they ran me off” but always with, “so I left”. To borrow from an analogy given by a very wise man this is like saying, “my feet were eat up with a fungus so I cut them off. Now I’m ready to grow new feet” and in spite of every effort to prevent it, their new feet catch that same fungus!

The rub for me here is that there is an implied mandate for conformity. Now I know there are some denominations that do hold to a mandate and if so then they will get rid of their true believers in short order, thereby exposing themselves for what they really are. I don’t find this to be the case in most circumstances. Most have no mandate that you can’t have a bible study in your own home or that you can’t skip service to worship on the beach with other believers on occasion. They won’t withdraw fellowship if you use prayer beads when you pray or almost anything! The real problem is this, “they won’t approve of me!” Well maybe not, but if you’re seeking approval isn’t it better to concentrate on what God desires? I think most are just afraid of the controversy or of being left out and honestly I do sympathize but let us find the guts from God to stand in the face of oppression and help to heal the feet that have carried us this far. I am persuaded that nine out of ten that have left are in constant pain because of their love for their former assembly. Far too often the real issue is over control and who has it, them or us. I desperately hope we can all come together and all surrender to Christ.

And now to address the topic of Foundationalism specifically;

Let me say first that I am persuaded that any pursuit of truth that is not explicitly a pursuit of Christ is fruitless. In that respect I can appreciate the “web of truth” concept in that the truth is Jesus Christ and I think from a present perspective a web more accurately pictures all that is in Him than does a tower. On the other hand from an eternal perspective that web didn’t materialize out of thin air but was carefully constructed over time and the knots and strands that comprise it reach well beyond the present. I can’t see why it is necessary to exclude our assembly from that web. I would think the desire would be to have it more closely engulfed in it.

Not withstanding my previous agreement I must caution that our life must have a Foundationalist approach and that foundation must be Jesus Christ. Every man must build on that foundation and webbing won’t stand. The blocks must be made out of solid faith that can withstand the trials of life and of judgment.

By my count I have now mixed enough metaphors to be able to call that a suicide reply and lest I overlook it, Dorsey you know how much I appreciate being able to hash this out with you. ;-)

Kristi you’re always so kind to me and I’m grateful. To be honest I do have an ax to grind and it pertains to unity. I do try to be fair and understanding but when it reaches the point of division I get really antsy. ;-)

Kitty, my heart says we are in total agreement. I don’t even mind the word deconstruct when you say it because I know you don’t mean destroy. ;-)

Mrs. Zeke I am rapidly becoming one of your biggest fans. I hope Dorsiesm allows for the sympathy we both share. I would like to quote a comment I recently read concerning you, “Mrs. Zeke, you rock!” ;-)

4/27/2006 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Deconstruction is all about removing the centre of language discourses. It attempts to oveerthrow the basis of meaning in language. It is essentially based on an atheistic and Nihilistic philosophy.

Kitty, I find it hard to understand how one can be aligned with Christ while overthrowing the basis of meaningful communication.

Christ is the Word. We learn about Him through the inspired Word. There is no place for meaningful use of words within Deconstruction.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

4/27/2006 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Matthew I think we both know Kitty is only always looking for ways to build up the brethren but I agree that post-modern philosophy is contradictory to the Gospel message.

You stole the thunder from a planned post but probably best you did. ;-)

4/27/2006 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger jeff said...

Just for the record kc, what's mine is yours. Steal away...

4/27/2006 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Kitty Cheng said...

Kc, you know what? I am having lots of fun grappling with these issues with you, and learning from you brother.

Yes my heart also tells me that we are in agreement. I was trying to do some soul searching in regards to my understanding and the use of the concept and the term of 'deconstruction'. "Just so you'll know" hehe, you are right, when I used the word deconstruct, I certainly didn't mean destroy in the postmodern philosophical sense, I suppose the word 'revitalise' would be more what I had in mind when I used the word 'deconstruct'.

I want to confess my belief that the planting of new, culturally diverse, missional communities is the best way forward for the church that views itself in a missional context. However, I also believe that established churches can be revitalised, changing from a focus on the "insiders" to the "outsiders", does that make sense?

Perhaps an established church can plant a missional congregation within its broader church structures, others might support the planting of new congregations on their doorstep to reach those not interested in the conventional church. In that sense, there is not only no division, the church in its various forms are working together in unity to reach the world with the Gospel. That would be the ideal I reckon. Of course once again, we need to aligne ourselves with Christ in all of these. ;-)

I also agree that post-modern philosophy can be contradictory to the Gospel message (although I am not sure if it's all contradictory, I think there are certain common grounds). I think knowing these contradictions is a great start for us to be involved in mission, hence incarnating and contextualising the gospel to be relevant to the world.

4/27/2006 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger Kitty Cheng said...

Matthew, I must admit my idea of deconstruction is not the same as your definition. As I said go Kc above, my concept of deconstruction is not destroy, but revitalizing. I believe that revitalizing the established church is not the same as overthrowing the basis of meaningful communication, and it can certainly be aligned with Christ.

I agree that Christ is the Word. We learn about Him through the inspired Word. Yet Christ is also incarnational. Hence we should incarnate the gospel within a specific cultural context in order to reach the world.

4/28/2006 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Kitty, it would be helpful if you could demonstrate how the deconstruction in your mind is different from the Deconstruction ideas that originate with Derrida.

It would also be helpful if you could identify areas of common ground so as to justify your identiifcation with that methodology.

Christ is incarnate. He is not incarnational. The incarnation is Christ's becoming flesh, not His becoming whatever we want him to be.

Christ is in heaven, therefore talk about Him becoming incarnated in the world in cultural contexts makes little theological sense.

The term Incarnation is abused at will by theologians. This concept is used to justify all manner of questionable theological agendas.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

4/28/2006 03:05:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Kitty it is nothing less than an honor for me to be able to share in, not only your understanding but your hope for the furtherance of the Gospel message.

After these past months I was certain that destruction was the last thing on your mind. I think that refocusing would be an excellent habitual practice for us all. I am also persuaded that no matter where we are we need to be able to relate with others and I believe that is even more critical with missions. The idea of established assemblies working to reach in to and out of the local community seems to be something we would desire simply by virtue of our new nature. So far I would say we totally agree, though like Matthew I do question the idea there is any value in post-modern philosophy so I am anxious to gain more of your perspective on that.

Matthew I know Kitty can answer better but to explain my own agreement with her I want to clarify my own understanding. I see her use of the word “deconstruct” as it is defined in the modern context and as is required for analysis. Her definition of “revitalize” clearly speaks to her intended effort. Plainly put I understand her to mean, “purge out the old leaven”.

Again to explain my agreement, I understood her use of the word “incarnate” in a literary sense to apply to the Gospel message, not to Christ. What I read was, “making the story real” within the current culture. I really do see that as a necessity for missions much like Paul on Mars Hill.

I will be frank with you both and confess that you each have a special quality, gift or calling that I would love to have more fully developed in myself and others (but then I am a bit prejudice hehe). ;-)

4/28/2006 04:57:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jeff, thanks seriously. I really appreciate you brother and you know that goes both ways.

4/28/2006 05:03:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

(I have to get to work, so forgive me if my thoughts are disjointed.)

I wonder if our respective understandings of 'deconstruction' differ. I consider that the deconstructive 'process' (if you can call it that) that I've undergone in the last year has been more about dismantling all my assumptions about faith and especially church in order to more fully see the Truth that many of those assumptions had obscured. Sort of draining the bathtub to get a better look at the baby.

In a postmodern mindset, deconstruction does often result in destruction (rejection of erroneous elements), but that's different than having destruction as it's intent.

Your "so I left" dialogue omits what I think is at the heart of people, like myself, who aren't comfortable with the emergent label, but who see that the modern church is completely unprepared (unwilling?) to reach and minister to postmodern culture. It goes like this:

"I saw what was wrong in my assembly and thought that suggesting change would be helpful. I went to the gatekeeper, and said, 'Pastor, this is a way we can be more [insert Christlike quality here].' He smiled and patted me on the head and told me that there were things I couldn't understand about running a church because I wasn't 'God's anointed,' and that if I wanted more for our church, then maybe I should join the dood-to-door outreach mininstry.

"For many years, I worked and gave to the assembly. And, as I saw more and more inconsistencies between church and scripture, I tried to point them out, and convince people that positive, relevant change was needed, and possible. But, like sheep, everyone followed the hireling they had been told was the shepherd, not because they agreed, but because it was easier than speaking up. The status quo had become their idol. And whenever I spoke up, although I never defied leadership, I became labelled a troublemaker and a rebel.

"Then, one day, I read Mark 6:11 (and Matt 10:14, and Luke 9:5), 'Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.'

"So I left."

I come from an Assemblies of God background, and the A/G is notorious for putting power in the hands of one man. Perhaps this partially accounts for our difference in perspective.

"...I am persuaded that any pursuit of truth that is not explicitly a pursuit of Christ is fruitless.

My old testament professor once told of the time that his daughter came to him and said, "I don't believe in God anymore." Imagine her shock when he turned to her with a huge grin and said, "That's AWESOME!" He went on to explain that she had arrived at that conclusion because she was examining her assumptions and engaging in a search for truth. He told her that he was confident that, if she earnestly sought the truth, she would find it. And once she had arrived at it from honest examination, that her hold on it would be unshakable.

So whether, the truth is the center of a web, or a cornerstone upon which other truths are laid, it's important to note two things: 1) the whole web is dependent on the strength of its center and the whole structure depends on the strength of the foundation, 2) no one else can lay the foundation of my faith (not sure how the web analogy works on this point, hehe). I can't lay it for my kids' faiths, any more than my parents could put mine into place. I have to discover it for myself.

Yes, I desire above all for the assembly to be engulfed in the center of the web, but they have chosen to set up camp on a dangling thread. This is more pervasive than you might realize, and a new generation has recognized the folly of it.

One last thought (sorry to ramble so). There is a difference between an earnest search for truth and the selfish search for sufficient truth to make me comfortable or support my lifestyle choices. That's not limited to postmodernism. That's the main reason for the irrelevance of the modern church. Modernism is as guilty of manipulating truth as it accuses postmodernism of doing.

Ok, I'm late for work. I love you.

4/28/2006 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Dorsey, brother I’m so very sorry. I knew things were bad but I had no idea you had left. I know how long you’ve wrestled with this and I know you didn’t just leave in a huff. Man I am so very sorry. It literally makes me sick. I want to ask you something and you know you’re free to ignore this question or if you prefer we can Email. Are you still “connected” with the other members or is it a full break? The reason I ask is that we both know the Church exist outside of, and sometimes in spite of, the appointed meetings and I’m really hoping you still have the support of your brethren there and can continue to bless and be blessed by their fellowship. I really hope that is the case.

I hope you'll forgive me. I'm not ignoring the rest of your comment I just can't continue to talk in general terms in light of the circumstance. I love you brother and God knows I pray you're at peace in all of this.

4/28/2006 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Don't feel bad for me. It's a Tale of two Dorseys. It's been the best of times and the worst of times. But it's been a growth time, and deconstruction has been critical to my understanding.

The scenario I described was general, and speaks to the growing number of people I have met who have not left out of a lack of trying. My leaving was sparked by some specific circumstances, but
everything leading up to it was similar to what I described. The rumors and innuendo that have
wicked into people's perceptions since then have been most hurtful.

It's not a full break. In fact, I still sneak into the adult Sunday school class to keep in contact with my mentor. He's 25 years my senior and his teaching challenges the status quo (albeit not to much avail). But I no longer go to services there nor participate in any activities. While I do feel alone much of the time, I do have some contact with my church family individually, but it's difficult when the norm for fellowship is only within church activities. I generally have to initiate the contact, but I think because a lot of people (not knowing the details of the situation, only the innuendo) feel awkward trying to start a conversation.

4/29/2006 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Dorsey, thanks brother and I'm encouraged. I hope you'll accept my apology in my recent post.

In your previous comment you wondered if there was a difference in our perception on the philosophy of deconstruction and I know in my heart that is so. My understanding is the same as Matthew stated above, that within the post-modern context the philosophy is to destroy the value and meaning of all things in society as the means for achieving total liberty. This would mean the blessed name of Jesus could then mean anything to anyone and have no more value than the name of the betrayer, Judas. The philosophy condemns itself and is self-defeating by virtue of its own need for value and meaning within society and amounts to nothing more than rebellion. Historically the easiest way to gain control of a society is to create a state of confusion and insecurity within the society and then offer the solution. Deconstruction is the first step in that direction.

When I read you, Kitty and others like you use the word it is always in the modern context and is actually the basis of analysis, which by definition is the act of disassembling and idea or a construction. This is a necessary part of self-judgment and a healthy act in the life of a believer.

The leaders of the EC have either adopted the philosophy and are pursuing the destruction of the Church, or they have adopted the academic buzzwords in an effort to relate with current culture. To the latter I say press on. Language is always evolving, whether good or bad, that’s a fact. Otherwise this would all be Greek, or worse, Yiddish! (hehe). The former God will deal with, I’m sure. Not even the gates of hell will prevail against the Church.

4/29/2006 08:10:00 AM  

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