Keeping the Water Clean


I am not sure that I actually remember this, but instead I think that it is more a memory of a memory. In our family’s legend and history the story has been repeated often, as we are wont to do with stories of a silly or embarrassing nature.

Many, many years ago, as a wee child, I was in the bathtub with my older sister who is older than me by only eleven months. Somewhere in the midst of our bathtime fun, my sister pooed in the tub and our bathtime fun came to an abrupt end.

S#*% happens, there’s a mess in the water, and no one comes out clean.

The aftermath of the Driscoll podcast seemed like this to me.

Mark left a “baby ruth” in the pool of the emerging conversation, the blogosphere erupted, and further misunderstanding and disagreement was generated.

Bob Hyatt is concerned about the appropriateness of winking. I agree with him that in some cases it might not be a purely motivated response. In the end, each person will have to take responsibility for their actions and motives – some will have to account for winking (Repent, ye guilty winkers!) and others will have to account for judging their brothers in Christ.

I understand the concern that we remain teachable and able to receive critique and correction with openness and humility. However, I do not believe that Mark’s podcast provided the measuring stick for proving our teachability because it was not a valid, substantiated critique. When people react to being misrepresented, it is not fair to say they are dismissively unteachable.

Honestly, I believe that valid disagreement and critique does occur both within and from outside the emerging conversation, but it doesn’t get the air time that Mark’s controversial comments have. As only one example among many, I remember Ben Witherington’s review of Rob Bell’s book “Sex God” that included valid points of disagreement in the context of a fair review.

On the opposite extreme, there are also those pools in the blogsophere, where the water is warm and yellow, that I would suggest be avoided completely. It has been proven repeatedly that genuine discussion isn’t possible in that environment. I won’t provide links, but you may have visited those pools also. Don’t swim there!

The main reason I posted on this once more is to point out that Stephen Shields has reposted his link to Theological Disagreement and the Emergent Church. There is no better summary of the standard that should be required of those who disagree with or attack the emerging church and of us in determining which are worthy of a response.

There will continue to be disagreement both from within and around the emerging conversation. It is a broad spectrum of people, backgrounds, and perspectives. There is no intention of solidifying into a single, all-encompassing, standardized statement of belief, which is why we must know how to express and handle disagreement.

I suggest we take some of the wisdom and strategy from Stephen’s guidelines and make them our standard of response:

“Understanding the other calls for imagination, because we have to provisionally assume the other may be correct – or at least partially correct – if we are to truly listen. We may have to hold our convictions in abeyance as we hypothetically consider the position of the other.”

Does this mean we must always agree? No, but it does mean that we should attempt understanding before voicing disagreement, and in the case of voicing disagreement, we must be careful to not misrepresent the other person’s point of view. It also means that it is okay to shrug off the opinions of those who have not done the work of attempting to understand.

Brian’s latest book, Everything Must Change, may provide just the opportunity for us to practice expressing different points of view about doctrine, theology, and the issues of our day. I expect that there will be plenty of dialog discussing those ideas and the areas of agreement and disagreement. There is an indepth review about the book by Alan Mann here.

Scot McKnight is also reviewing the book at Jesus Creed. I find the comments by Michael Kruse most interesting. Based on his expertise in this area, I would love to see an extensive, indepth review by him of the political, economic, and social issues addressed in the book.

Brian is not the pope of the emerging conversation, and we aren’t all expected to agree with him. The emerging conversation will not come apart at the seams when we do disagree. But agree or not, we should attempt to respect and understand the heart and motive of the person putting forth the ideas.

This video from Allelon is an interesting look at Brian and his response to critics. (ht:Bill Kinnon) I think it would be great if his critics would at least take a moment to consider Brian the person before ripping into Brian the figurehead and author.

Disagreement is and has been welcome in the emerging conversation when it is approached with an attitude of respect and a desire for genuine dialog. That is one of the trademarks and strengths of the conversation.

But don’t expect to receive a favorable response if you poo in the water.

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8 thoughts on “Keeping the Water Clean

  1. Grace,
    You’ve become an important voice in this conversation. Thanks for all the time, prayer and thought you’ve put into these posts. As Alan Roxburgh says to Brian at the end of the video, “keep writing.” I’ll keep reading (as will hundreds if not thousands of others).

  2. I will keep reading his work as well. As mentioned befoe I think that chapter 10 in the book everything must change would be a great entry point conversation on the difference views from orthodox vs. emergent.

    As was with the discussion on the podcast taking a look at the different views and discussing them may be great beneficial.

  3. Hi Grace – I just want to echo what others have said – that you are a valuable voice and I so appreciate your willingness to dive into the heavy issues. Thanks.

  4. Bill,
    Thanks, I appreciate your encouragement.

    Jeff,
    I agree that discussing the issues is more important than necessarily reaching agreement.

    Thanks Jimmy!

    And thanks Maria! As a middle-aged woman, my sanity is sometimes questionable. ;)

    Erin,
    The heavy issues? Like poo?
    Thanks for your friendship!

  5. Jeremy,
    I enjoyed your insights into the communication aspects of this critique. You might also be interested in Jonathan Brink’s latest post about this and in Robbymac’s article, Forging a Good Critique that is linked in his sidebar.

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