Friday, November 21, 2008

Looking For A New Gospel?

More and more I am beginning to think the primary problem with the emergent movement is that it asks the wrong questions, even silly questions. I imagine this stems from a driving need many emergents have to break out of what they see as an oppressive modern worldview and find new, irenic and inviting ground. But, in their critique of the last wave of theology, they have swung the pendulum to an extreme the other way and have unchained themselves from reason altogether (to paraphrase a famous syphilitic).

In the land of deconstruction the questions are no longer posed in terms of the relevance of the Gospel to this or that culture, it is the question of whether the Gospel needs to be new and remade. The cultural shift has gone so deep, so the argument goes, the old ways of defining doctrine and the Gospel have been exposed as unsalvageable. We now know we didn’t know anything back in those crazy halcyon days of the Enlightenment.

The latest set of silly questions comes from the Emergent Village blog. In this rather navel-gazing post, the author wonders about the emergence of a new gospel altogether. And in what is becoming standard fare, he sets it up with some straw man burning.

I wonder if post enlightenment overemphasis of Logos (as the written) has not resulted in the Modern inability to appreciate conversation, mystery and metaphor, and ultimately grace?

If anyone conversant with theology over the last 500 years thinks Protestantism has under-appreciated grace, they need to have their libraries examined. In addition, if anyone has pressed a Calvinist lately on the matters of predestination and free will, then they will have a much better sense of how appreciated mystery and metaphor are in our modern theological world. To say that grace and mystery are finally being grasped by the emergent movement is to be naïve and disingenuous.

But all that is set up for a couple of questions.

And whether blogging is not an expression of a need to return to some of the pre-modern ideas of “The Word”.

What limitations with the written are not overcome by the blogging paradigm? Are we repeating our mistakes?

If the gospel is both message (content) and medium (form), how is it “incarnating” into socially networked online culture? Is it in fact possible to “become flesh” in a virtual, non-physical environment?

The last pair of questions have real potential for reflection, but the author’s worries about blogging being significant in reforming the Gospel are a little silly. I don’t think that the activity of blogging is a matter for concern—the wondering question of whether blogging in the emergent universe will help bring a new gospel “incarnated” in a virtual world, is.

Let’s wrestle with communicating the Gospel with new media and figure out how to do it well. In fact, let’s communicate the free grace of God to whomever will click-on and read. Let’s not look forward to a day when we have altered the grace of God because we have found a new medium that communicates differently from the last new medium.

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