Is Emergent the New Christian Left 2: Tony Jones takes on Chuck Colson and "true truth"

In part 2 of his post, Tony Jones addresses emerging church critic extraordinaire Chuck Colson. Colson sees the Emergent conversation as a threat to traditional Christian understandings of the "truth." Jones responds by discussing the interdependence of truth and community - the essence of the Emergent Village conversation.

I thank the many commenters for thoughtful and, generally, gracious comments, and I want to respond in a bit of a roundabout manner. If you can bear with me, I think I can speak to the concerns of many.

Yesterday I received my latest copy of Christianity Today. I look forward with some ambivalence to the even-numbered months' editions because they contain both the columns of my friend, Andy Crouch, and of despiser-of-all-things-emergent, Chuck Colson (and his amaneuensis and, it seems, proxy church observer, Anne Morse). Colson has had a burr under his saddle about the emerging church for some time - for instance, in his last column he equated the emerging church with namby-pamby praise music (as he was bemoaning how many Christian radio stations are dropping his daily commentaries).

What Colson's writing has in fact betrayed over the last couple of years is that he knows very little about the emerging church. In this month's column ("Emerging Confusion: Jesus is the Truth Whether We Experience Him or Not"), he recounts a recent conversation with a "young theologian" named "Jim" (whose name has been changed to protect the innocent). "Jim" asked Chuck to take it easy on the emergents; they're just trying to translate the gospel for postmodern folks, "Jim" pleaded. That's a noble motive, Chuck replied, but if they undermine truth, then all is lost.

In his penultimate paragraph, Colson refers to D.A. Carson, fellow critic of Emergent, who argues that objective truth precedes relational truth. Colson then weighs in with this philosophical doozy: "Truth is truth." (Why don't you read that again.)

You see, by saying that "truth is truth," Colson is essentially saying...well, nothing. That's called a "self-referential argument," or a "circular reference" and it's non-sensical; it doesn't say anything, and it doesn't mean anything. I can't tell you how many times I've been speaking and heard similar statements. I'll spend a couple hours doing my best to lay out a rather intricate understanding of truth and interpretation, only to be told by an audience member that some things are "really, really true," "true with a capital 'T'" or my personal favorite, "true truth."

May 25, 2006