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Aug 31, 2009


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David Opderbeck

Michael, what's his "third way" take on differences between Emergents and Traditionalists over Biblical inerrancy?



Thanks for the tip on this book. I'll definitely give it a read. As someone who is also from mainline circles, I have trouble finding a place to land in this emerging conversation. There are times when I feel comfortable in any of the three typologies and times when I do not. Part of the problem is the fluidity between these typologies. There are times when being relevant appropriately prevents throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Yet there are also times when our ecclesiology needs more than a facelift, it needs to be rehabbed. And changing the way we do Church often changes our theological understanding and how we communicate it publically. It's difficult to just stay in one camp, or see one camp as the "preferred" way.

I also feel the Hauersian Anabaptist crowd can get a bad rap. Part of the problem with their theological perspective is that it needs to be more informed by people who must live it out and make sense of it in the local church context. That's partly why I follow with interest Will Willimon's work as a Methodist Bishop in Alabama. It's a chance to see how someone who was intimately invovled in the Hauerwas "camp" translates postliberal concerns into church life.

Travis Greene

I'll be interested to read this, but I've not found this trifurcation helpful where I've come across it in the past. Partly, that's because it tends to presuppose what "traditional theology" is...which of course can mean very different things depending on who is talking. And partly because stacking a list like a gradient in that fashion inevitably smuggles in a value judgment (aka, relevants are okay, revisionists are trouble). I find Scot McKnight's 5 streams more useful: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/february/11.35.html

The strength of emerging for me (coming out of an SBC-evangelical background) is a return to tradition--as in, tradition that goes back more than 200 years. It's about finding a third way forward between theological conservatism (read: evangelicalism) and liberalism (read: mainline). So to need to find a third way now between emerging and "traditional" is odd to me.

Michael W. Kruse

David, Belcher doesn't lay out a particular formula. He has seven chapters dealing with truth, evangelism, gospel, worship, preaching, ecclesiology,and culture. He gives pointers on what each of these might look like in Deep Church.

With truth, for example, he talks about bounded-set, centered set, and relational-set thinking. You're probably familiar with the first two. The third is the idea that truth emerges almost entirely from within the community, led by the Spirt. He argues for a centered-set ... wants to avoid both foundationalism and anti-realism. To paraphrase U2, things have to be believed to be seen. Talks about the hermeneutical circle. He also champions "multiperspectivalism" that holds a centered-set with humility and embraces the validity of many views.

When he talks about evangelism he stresses the importance of belonging before believing. We welcome people into community and walk with them toward belief.

Maybe that gives the gist. I don't recall him distilling the idea down to one thought other than to become centered on mere Christianity ... that which all Christians hold in common.

Michael W. Kruse


I like Scot's article two. One of the best short summaries. I think you would find that Belcher is clearly attuned to the dilemma you are describing.


I think Belcher was fair in his treatment of the different expressions of emerging church. Tony Jones, for one, gives it a thumbs up, at least in terms of being a fair treatment. So don't let my brief summary discourage you from reading it.

I agree about the going back more than 200 years. What Belcher captures well is that there is more agreement about the critique of church than about the response.

I didn't raise it here, but in the past I've complained about the "Third Way" language. There are always far more than three ways.

It often implies a continuum between two poles on line. I think a better analogy is of two poles on the globe and there are 360 degrees of ways you can move away from either pole. It isn't finding gray between black and white but rather a rainbow between the absence of color (black) and the presence of all colors (white.

David Opderbeck

So what does he use as the plumbline for Mere Christianity?

Michael W. Kruse

I think he would say the Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed. He writes about two tiers:

"The top tier matches the creeds of the early church that have historically and universally defined orthodoxy. The bottom tier corresponds to the distinctives of each individual church body." (60)

Top tier is mere Christianity. Bottom tier is very diverse.

Travis Greene

I sometimes have a semi-crackpot theory that "mere Christianity" might actually be found in the distinctives--that is, the RCC is right about Eucharist, the Baptists about baptism, the Pentecostals about the Spirit, Methodists about discipleship...

Or maybe I just dig ecclesial eclecticism.

Michael W. Kruse

I like it. It fits my suspicion that a great many things that divide us are more about elevating our proclivities to dogma rather than having actual differences of significance.

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