The Devangelical, Demergent Church

One of the great problems with devangelical postmodern, post-Christians is that when it comes to the text of Scripture, they are tone deaf. They make a great dither about things like narrative and poetry, but do not understand the most basic elements of the scriptural narrative. That is, they are like someone reading a detective novel who thinks it is a sonnet, or an epic poem thinking it to be romantic bodice-buster purchased at Safeway. They totally miss the atmospherics. One of the central bugbears in their private closet of horrors is certainty, any manifestation of which they identify in their glib and facile way with the idolatrous certainties of various Enlightenment johnnies. Consider and compare the following quotations from Scripture with one taken from McLaren, and I am not asking that any of them be taken and arranged into a syllogism. Just listen for the differences in tone, which can be summed up as confidence on the one hand and envious resentment of confidence on the other.

“He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47).

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son” (1 John 5:10).

“And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (1 John 3:19).

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12).

“And the more sure he seems, the less I find myself wanting to be a Christian, because on this side of the microphone, antennas, and speaker, life isn’t that simple, answers aren’t that clear, and nothing is that sure” Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian

Lyotard defined postmodernism as “incredulity toward all metanarratives.” I myself, if I ever become a postmodernist, will gravitate toward that deeper form of it which would be “incredulity toward all sentence or phrases that have nouns or verbs in them.” And I will display uncertainty about everything except for my own petulance, I mean to say, my own reverse Cartesianism. Dubito ergo vagio. “I doubt, therefore I whine.”

In other words, the postmodern “emergent church,” as some like to call it, has all the styrofoam gravitas of a women’s study course at your local community college. The Christian church has confronted many dangers and threats throughout her history — from lions in ancient Rome to jack-booted Nazis. But this postmodern thing may be the first time we have been confronted with death-by-sludge. The breathless excitement that follows around after these vaporings is simply inexplicable. Nothing is more irrelevant than a lust for relevance, but those in the grip of such lust think themselves interesting people because they can see are their own obsessive interests. After all, it interests them! But they are not interesting at all, and if their handling of Scripture got any more pedestrian they would have to grow another leg. They are the bland leading the bland. A new Reformation? Huh. Try something else. I am not sure we have had anything like this since Irenaeus made fun of that Gnostic cucumber.

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