New Christians VS. Vintage Jesus (Part 2)
Tony Jones responds.

As writer, I am always thankful for reviewers who are thoughtful and evenhanded. I'm afraid that Chad Hall is neither.

(Read Chad Hall's review here.)

Firstly, I clearly do not write that the emergent movement is the exclusive purveyor of the reformation that is currently underway in Christianity. I make it clear in the pages that Mr. Hall cites that it is the gospel that is red-hot lava, bursting through the centuries of accoutrements that have been collected by the church. It would, indeed, be the height of arrogance to suggest that the emergent movement and the gospel are one-and-the-same, but I do no such thing. Instead, I write (and believe) that there are major, tectonic shifts taking place in the church, and the emergent movement is part of that landscape.

Next, to caricature my treatment of convention and traditional Christian worshippers as "crusty old Christians" is, of course, Mr. Hall's right, but it does not accurately reflect my feelings or my writing on the subject. I am frustrated by the reified theologies of the Protestant right and the reified bureaucracies of the Protestant left - and I make no bones about that - but I refer throughout the book to my own journey through those systems and with those people. Indeed, my parents are among those people.

Speaking of that journey, I don't know that it's "condescending" and "supremely arrogant" to write negatively about a theological system of which I was a part and which I now reject, that of Campus Crusade for Christ (at least as it was practiced and taught at Dartmouth College in the 1980s). Is it similarly arrogant for a convert to evangelicalism to write about the failings of the Catholicism he left? How about for the Catholic to write about how Catholicism is superior to Protestantism? Is that supremely arrogant? (Indeed, isn't it supremely arrogant to write a review accusing an author of being "supremely arrogant"?)

And now to defend my friends in Seattle. Mr. Hall refers to them as "intellectually superior egoists." Honestly, I find this label shocking and demeaning. In that chapter, I write that the people at Church of the Apostles are working hard to find common ground on the sexuality issues that are tearing at their denominations (Lutheran and Episcopal), that they feel caught in the shadow of Mark Driscoll's imposing mega-church, and that, above all else, they have an unremitting fear: "is this possible to sustain? How long until politics or gender issues or something else tears COTA apart?" (209) And I wrote about their East Coast benefactors to show just how tenuous their little cohort really is. Seriously, how many "intellectually superior egoists" do you know who are on the dole?

July 17, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 28 comments

nathan

July 21, 2008  4:14pm

UrL, I put "Elle" in the NAME field of that last post instead of my own. I was so frazzled. I was trying to address my respone to Elle... my bad. I don't know if you can edit that or not...

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Elle

July 21, 2008  4:12pm

Ack! Ick! My apologies...I made some assumptions and we all know what that ends up making me. One of my favorite writers stated, "Worse than mistaking an enemy for a friend is mistaking a friend for an enemy". Again, my apologies. Excuse me while I open mouth, insert foot and chew...

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Elle

July 21, 2008  9:05am

Nathan, I am not so sure I asserted you were the final authority on this topic. I was making note of your comments and how I felt they summed up the issue beautifully. I apologize that my compliment somehow indicated otherwise. I will think next time before posting something similar to that. Welcome to the blogosphere were compliments get turned into critiques!

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Nate

July 20, 2008  3:32pm

I've always found that the more helpful response to an accusation of arrogance is compassion, gentleness, charity. I don't think Tony's response does much to really change the impression that self-identified 'emergents' are critical and self-serving. In other words, I would think it would be more helpful to say something like "I'm sorry that's how I came across; I was trying to tell stories of courage and hope, but perhaps I focused too much on the challenges presented by other churches." Note Mark Driscoll's response in the more recent post–he appreciates the negative criticism. I'm a self-identified 'emergent' (I've worshipped at COTA when I visit my family in Seattle) and I am continually dismayed at how many enemies we seem to be making. Perhaps we need to look harder at ourselves and whether we are really partnering with the larger American church, or just patting ourselves on the back for being cool. In some ways, we are the victims of false accusations by folks who misunderstand us. But for a bunch that believes so strongly in dialog, we seem to be doing a poor job of fostering it.

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Rick

July 19, 2008  3:56pm

good response to an insulting, condescending, arrogant and convoluted review.

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nathan

July 18, 2008  1:53pm

Elle, ummmm... Nothing I've said indicates that I think this thread should close or that I'm the final word on this whole issue. I've just indicated that I've said my peace on this Chad/Tony/Mark thing... Welcome to the blogosphere where people engage to the degree they so desire.

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nate

July 18, 2008  1:50pm

I rarely read blog arguments because I rarely find them enlightening, and I came across this one in the course of some research. It would be so refreshing, and world-changing, if we had a lot less talk and a lot more action.

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Elle

July 18, 2008  10:45am

And with that last comment from Nathan, this thread should now close, because he said it all!

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nathan

July 18, 2008  9:51am

Todd, Wow. Are you kidding me? Your Heidi Klum/racist thing isn't even in the ball park. That's 2 different statements. We're dealing with one thing from Tony. Re-read what the man wrote in his response. He's writing about people who are living in a very real space: That being faithful to their denominational identity and still being frustrated with the clearly petrified realities of those ways of doing church. YOU'VE created the either/or scenario. sheesh. Paul D., You know...you've hit the nail on the head. People don't trust Jones. Guess what? That means those who don't "trust" have the problem. Not Tony. It's not about what Tony has said and clarified. It's about other people's hang-ups. And please don't put Tony in the same ring as Driscoll. Tony's clear critiques are not personalized attacks that demean and dehumanize the character and intent of people different from him. Even at his (admittedly) somtimes snarkiest nothing compares to the adolescent attempts at lockerroom social emasculation of Driscoll and his "chickified, limpwristed", blah, blah blah ad nauseum ad infinitum. Folks, I'm all for fairness in critique, but I'm disappointed, really disappointed in some of you here. But I get it. I really do. You can have the last word. I'm done.

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Paul Dalach

July 17, 2008  5:48pm

Nathan, I have a friend who weekly tells me a strong, clear statement about WHO SHE IS (she's very fervent). Sadly, those statements all contradict. Over time, I've stopped trusting this statements. How this applies to Tony Jones? I've watched the epistemological-wars (epistewars?) over the last couple of years. From what I can see through blogs, books, and podcasts, it hasn't gotten more civil and, if anything, we are much further divided as a Christian community than when the conversation began. I for a time considered myself, if not Emergent, emerging...maybe I still do a bit. I was and am very sympathetic to the call for true, Christian orthopraxy and a reevaluation of our cultural assumptions. But at this point, people have stopped trusting the motives, intent, and truthfulness of each other's statements. Bottom line. People call Jone's clarifying statements into question because they don't trust him. Much like many on the Emergent side don't pause a moment to consider the voracity of their hatred and suspicion of Driscoll. (and yes, many of the statements by some I've heard concerning Driscoll would by even worldly standards be considered hatred). More specifically, Todd has validly expressed how most of those even nominally on the "other side" from Jones, "heard" him criticize old church institutions. The criticism wasn't for the likes of old, theologically liberal institutions like the Episcopal Church. What was "heard" was a poke at the (old or new) theologically conservative brands of christianity...those that are not "local, conversational, and temporal". From that side of things, a claim to have great affection to for the old, liberal COTA means little as a clarifying comment and seems, rather, an evasion through intentional misunderstanding. (consequently, I'm trying to take a page out of Brian McClaren's book by not showing which "side" I'm not...probably, I fear, with little success)

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