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Aug 19, 2005


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Rodger Sellers

It's an interesting transcript -- and she makes some really good points -- but I couldn't help but be struck with what seemed (to me) to be her preponderance with clergy vs. laity talk. E.G. the people at her mom's church needed a "pastor" to explain Left Behind, they need the "Senior" pastor to explain eschatology, etc.

Is it just me, but is there more of the "insiders" ("Don't try this at home boys and girls, I have been TRAINED") mindset going on here? (One in which you don't qualify yourself since you don't have the "clergy" pedigree.) If we're going to use the word progressive, seems to me we ought to be serious about calling everyone to "deeper waters" and not continue the assumption that lay people don't have the sense to figure some things out without guiding clergy hands to watch over them.

Michael Kruse

I think she had some good points as well, especially about seminary reform. (Although I suspect she and I may different views on the specifics of that.)

Clegry vs. laity...Don't get me started, Rodger! *grin* I had a similar reaction to yours. For a denomination that prides itself on the heritage of the priesthood of all believers we sure have an issue with clericalism.

The other thing I noted was her statement "...mainline churches cannot ignore fundamentalists any longer..." (Why were we ignoring them in the first place? Pride? Elitism?) Then the whole rest of the article is about doing this or that action because.... why? It is our call from God? Sort of. But mostly we gotta stop those fundies! I see this from the other side of the theological spectrum as well.

Christian Boyd

At Luther Seminary's (St Paul) DMin program in Congreational Mission and Leadership, we read a fantastic vision of what theological education could be, "Reenvisioning Theological Education: Exploring a MIssional Alternative to Current Models" by Robert Banks. He talks about a marraige between the academy, the abbey, and the apostolic mission to which we are all called. The result is a beautiful and dynamic weaving of the seminaries and congregations into a rich opportunity for all who confess Christ to be called and sent. In many ways I see Dietrich Bonhoeffer's expereince with his underground seminary as the templete Banks proposes for the emergent Church. If anyone is interested in what it may look like in practice should go and talk with Drs. van Gelder, Simpson, and Bliese at Luther Seminary and see what that seminary is doing for the future Church. And the best part: the direction of a congregation's future comes from the people as they are attentive and responsive to God in their midst. That is a revival!

Denis Hancock

I was a little irked by the use of "fundamentalist" as a pejorative with her actually defining it.

Is it the Fundamentalist of the early 1920's? ("Shall the Fundamentalists Win?")

Or is it what some might refer to as the Evangelical Wing of the PC(USA)?

I suspect the latter. I have talked with too many people who think evangelical = fundie.

In any event, much of what she said was, on its face, reasonable -- yet reading deeper, a little scary.

It's almost like political debate -- control the language, define the terms, and you control the debate.

Michael Kruse

Christian, thanks for these insights! I have only become familiar with Banks in the past three years. I have "Paul's Idea of Community" on my list to read.


I found "Reenvisioning Theological Education: Exploring a Missional Alternative to Current Models" at Amazon and have just ordered it.


I also see that a book by Bliese and van Gelder came out in March called "The Evangelizing Church: A Lutheran Contribution."


Thanks for pointing us in a fruitful direction.

Michael Kruse


Fundamentalist = Anyone more conservative than I am that bugs me. *grin*

I agree. We play fast and loose with all the labels.Care to comment on the "scary" part?

Denis Hancock

Scary? She seems to view the conservative/fundamentalist/evangelical point of view as a threat that must be fought in the trenches. i.e "We gotta stop them or something Really Bad will happen." What is it that engenders so much fear?

To her, the masses lack the "training and discernment" (her words) to evaluate properly the various movements that are growing in the PC(USA).

Another area of unease for me is the general tendency to approach Scripture with the assumption that it is merely the words of men with their own axe to grind, and not the inspired Word of God. I prefer to approach Scripture as the Inspired Word of God, perhaps filtered through the cultural environment of the time. In other words, the default assumption for me is to accept the Lordship of Christ, the Scriptures and the Confessions in the way I publicly affirmed when I was ordained as an elder. (the first 4 quastions asked of all deacons, elders, and ministers). My "yes" means "yes".

Russell Smith

Here's one of the scary lines: "We also need to explain why the doctrine of biblical inerrancy produces a faith that is always threatened and frequently militant. Rejecting this false doctrine and reconceiving biblical authority in a way that emphasizes “critical engagement with the imaginative world of Scripture” opens the way to a richer, more meaningful and resilient faith."

What is scary is how the very speech itself to me presents a liberal faith that is threatened and leaning towards militancy. As a conservative evangelical, I've found myself more the minority than the majority in this denomination. And though I have quite collegial (and indeed invogorating and fun filled) relationships with many of my more liberal colleagues, I still find myself having to defend my faith against an assumed "Oh, nobody who really thinks believes those things.".

Praise God that He is sovereign over the nations, and soveriegn over our lives, and even sovereign over the PCUSA.

Russell Smith
the paleo-calvinist

Michael Kruse

Denis and Russell, thanks for these insights. I sense much anxiety, frustration, and anger in the lecture. Fact is, I get a similar sense from the more conservative side of the church as well. I am going to put another twist on this.

I am just finishing up “Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context” by Grenz and Franke. They show the roots of classical theological liberalism and conservatism to be in the Modernist mindset. The Modernist mindset is fading and something new has not yet emerged. Theological liberals and conservatives both feel something traumatic has happened and each assumes it is the other’s fault. Is it possible they are both doomed because they have become entangled with a fading worldview? Kind of like 100 years with two buggy whip manufactures in single-minded focus in competition, never noticing that strange little horseless carriages are occasionally driving past their door.

will spotts

I'm not sure what the new mindset is. So far, what I've seen of it makes it more similar to modernism, though with a few twists thrown in. Though it really depends, I guess, on how you want to define modernism.

The clergy/laity divide is not warranted in Scripture -- at least in the way that it occurs here. It is clearly not a Protestant idea. Worse, it is more of a Gnostic one -- where there are the masses, and an elite who are privy to the "real truth". It is not even an issue of education or logical argument, it is using the terms of the fashionable, trendsetting, progressive mindset that qualifies one as elite. This is noxious and offensive in the extreme.

That said, a huge part of the problem is that many of us who are not clergy do not want to actually do the work of reading the Bible and studying. We have come to regard that as a career that is someone else's problem. This makes us very vulnerable to the patronizing, being told what to think approach advocated here.

Martin Luther complained about the fact that no one read the Bible -- when it was first translated into German it generated great excitment, but soon, people just took it for granted.

The desire to take the church back from the fundamentalists, as the rhetoric goes, reflects a kind of desperation because there is, on some level, an awareness that the mainstream of Christian thought for milennia would reject many elements of progressive theology. Both Christian thought (reflected, for instance in the Apostles Creed) and progressive theology cannot at the same time be true. They know this, and therefore want to stamp out Christian thought.

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