While I was on vacation Al Mohler decided to put up two consecutive articles on the emerging church: part one and part two. I think he was trying to slip them past me. :) My responses are intended to be reflections on what I read, not a response to him or a rebuttal.
As others have noted, Mohler spends most of his time rehashing much of Don Carson's book on the emerging church (ec). That's fine, and much of what Carson says is helpful. But in Mohler's articles, like in most anti-ec stuff, it comes down to what McLaren says vs. historic Christian doctrine. That's a bit unfair. There's room for a discussion on McLaren and doctrine, but let's just not imply that McLaren speaks for the ec.
I guess what I'm thinking is that for Mohler and Carson all their critique of the ec is based on their critique of postmodernism, as if the ec is about a wholesale commitment to being pomo. I understand the idea of being ec as being aware of postmodernism in culture and communicating clearly in their vernacular. I could be wrong, and am happy to discuss this. I also know that not all ec'rs have the same convictions on this.
So Mohler will say things like...
By denying that truth is propositional, Emerging Church theorists avoid and renounce any responsibility to defend many of the doctrines long considered essential to the Christian faith.
I'm happy to admit that some in the ec have greatly downplayed propositions, but mostly in response to an evangelicalism that wrongly has made propositions the truest truth. The Bible is the truest truth we have and proposition are a way of verbalizing theology as we study the truth. More on propositions in a bit.
I am constantly confronted by young pastors who identify themselves with the Emerging Church movement but deny that they associate themselves with the aberrant theological impulses and outright doctrinal denials that characterize the writings of the movement's most well-known and influential leaders.
I completely agree with D. A. Carson when he reflects: "I would feel much less worried about the directions being taken by other Emerging Church leaders if these leaders would rise up and call McLaren and Chalke to account where they have clearly abandoned what the Bible actually says."
I think the issue is that Mohler and Carson take everyone sympathetic to the ec and make them McLarenites who must deny the heresies of their highly exalted leader. Who says you can't be sympathetic to the ec and disagree with McLaren? Mohler and Carson have worked hard to broadbrush here, but I just don't see it. They want clean lines at all times dividing the good and bad, the true and false. But the Reformation included some fuzzy boundaries for a while, didn't it? We need to be aware that it's okay for things to be fuzzy for a while on some things (not all) for real change to happen. And even Mohler admits that evangelicalism needs to look at changing. More coming on that below.
Let me say that it would be nice to hear Mohler rejoice that some ec'rs are happy to reject what's wrong with some theology the ec. Why not give these young leaders credit? Why not be excited that there is evidence that bad theology isn't just being swallowed by ec'rs? Why not see this as evidence that Mohler and Carson's determinations on the ec as this postmodern, truth-denying, proposition-denying, foundation-denying community is not exactly what they thought? I would think this would make Mohler take a fresh look and wonder if his initial assessment of the ec is less than right on.
Mohler finishes the final post with....
The real question is this: will the future leaders of the Emerging Church acknowledge that, while truth is always more than propositional, it is never less? Will they come to affirm that a core of non-negotiable doctrines constitutes a necessary set of boundaries to authentic Christian faith? Will they embrace an understanding of Christianity that reforms the evangelical movement without denying its virtues?
This is the first thing Mohler has done that I know of where he actually seems to want an answer. I hope that is his intention, because until now I think he has worked so hard to scold that he is losing any influence he had. Here I think he is more helpful. I think the questions are good.
At the same time, the tables must be turned. Will evangelicals be willing to direct hard and honest critical analysis at our own cultural embeddedness, intellectual faults, and organizational hubris?
Fantastic. Finally the concerns of the ec are being addressed by one of the most eloquent spokesmen of the evangelical world. With that, I think Mohler's articles deserve to be reread and reheard and reseen with a little more openness because he is taking the pointing finger of judgment and turning it at least a little bit inward on evangelicals.
Shoot, more like this and we may actually get somewhere. This is the best of Mohler we have on the ec to date.