All Jazzed Up

I have been hard at work finalizing the workshops for the next EMNR Conference titled APOLOGETICS IN MISSIONS: THE LANGUAGE OF HOPE . One of the workshop titles is “Syncretism – Historic Bad Marriages and Emerging Recurrences” and the description is:

The mixing and matching of truth with pagan false teachings is a time dishonored tradition within the People of God as seen in both Old and New Testaments. This seminar will look at other “bad marriages” that have plagued the church and how this problem is endemic in the Emerging/Emergent church’s new postmodern paradigm.

Emerging Church leaders have been prolific in their writings and this one short paragraph sums up the central issues. Works like Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything by Brian McLaren and Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller are having profound impact on many within the church. One of the reviewers of Miller’s book, Shane Walker outlines what this “bad marriage” is bringing in to the lives of many believers:

Don wants to invite the reader to authentic Christian spirituality, but he’s not really sure what it looks like. He can only report back what he’s experienced—and it’s been a confusing trip. This means that some of his readers will walk away even more confused, but more resolved to get another tattoo, another piercing, grow those dreads, attend another anarchist protest, or say another profanity. They will learn that watching South Park is not so bad, having crushes on lesbian pop stars is cool, and that smoking pot is an ambiguous moral question. Taken in isolation these are petty sins, but as a lifestyle they draw people away from Christ by confusing who he is and inhibiting the joyful freedom experienced in obedience to him.

Dr. Mark Coppenger in his review Blue Like Jazz & Berri Blue Jell-O writes:

It’s the autobiographical musings of a young man who found his way from the “fever swamps” of “fundamentalism” to the “high country” of non-judgmental relationism. It disarms with a tone of candor and self-deprecation. There are nuggets of insight and gratifying quotes here and there, and your heart goes out to a fellow in his struggles. Up to a point, that is. In the end, I found the book to be a dreadful (though canny) mess..

Unfortunately, this is very often the case for Emerging writers. There is a mad rush to disconnect from the “faith once delivered for all to the saints” but to hold on to some sense of Jesus albeit one recreated in the image of the writer’s imagination. A lovable, squeezable, non-confrontational, warmth radiating beer buddy who winks at sin. After all, in the Emerging spirituality there are no clear cut answers about one’s sexual proclivities. The only really wrong belief is held by those who are narrow minded enough to think there is anything really wrong. Even as I write this the words which John attributes to Jesus in Revelation 2:14-16 come to mind:

But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.

I don’t know. This sounds awfully anti-syncretistic, narrow-minded, absolutist and judgmental to me. Perhaps we can get a Jesus Secret Message decoder ring from Brian McLaren, grab a stool at the closest bar with Donald Miller and like the beatniks of the 1950s just be cool and simply ignore these parts of the Bible.


All Jazzed Up — 2 Comments

  1. This is my immediate reaction — for someone getting away from true, unbiblical legalism, the foggy bog of Blue Like Jazz (going by the reviews of the book, since I haven’t read it) needs some balance. These verses, from I Corinthians 6, and 10, respectively, provide that balance:

    “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them.

    Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! . . . Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

    “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”

    In our great freedom, we do NOT own ourselves — God is our owner. And the great commandment, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self is seen in the verses from I Corinthians 10.

    In our liberty from legalism, we must never forget the two greatest commandments — that we love God, and love our neighbor. We must not forget that in our freedom, we still are not the owners of our bodies, but God is.

    It is love for fellow believers which Jesus said would be the testimony by which all men know they are His disciples.

    It is a good thing to say, about legalism, that this or that isn’t in the Bible, but thinking about those verses above, just because I may be free do do something doesn’t mean it will be what pleases God — or is for the good of my neighbor.

    In our freedom we must remember God owns our bodies, and we can never throw off the constraint of the command to love.

  2. Also don’t forget, as many are, the “all things are lawful to me” is sarcastic co-option of a libertine mantra: just as “meat for the belly and the belly for meats”: if all things were lawful how could Jesus say (when time comes) “depart from me, ye workers of lawlessness”?

    The liberty we’re given is from sin first; then we’re God’s slaves, but not to be re-enslaved by ideas or voices except our own good Shepherd’s. (Though we might be slaves to masters, to which we’re obedient, we’re not to be to sin…or to so-called “liberty”.)

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