Some of you know that I have been working with an association of Baptist churches with a focus on helping their church planting team. This job made it possible for me to attend the Acts 29 church planter’s bootcamp last week in Raleigh and to experience the latest edition of Mark Driscoll’s attempt at being the personal paraclete for the emerging church movement. I went knowing that I wouldn’t fit in with the theological agenda of Acts 29, but I guess I assumed that there would be enough room for me to breathe and learn about how they have effectively networked to plant churches. I say this because despite my rather harsh assessment of the event, I have no problem with people starting all kinds of faith communities that connect people to God even if they have a different theological imagination.
The host church, Vintage 21, in my hometown of Raleigh, is a place friends of mine worship and serve in, so I am thankful they exist. Acts 29 is an organized and effective machine, run by a group of Dudes who are passionate about their faith and network. With that said, I would like to just say that what I experienced was far from anything emerging. I have been to a bunch of minister’s conferences with Emergent leaders, those friends of Driscoll who he was slandering the next day at the Convergent conference () and who have been part of the ‘conversation’ for a while.http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
At the bootcamp we had 6 sessions of monologues that amounted to theological diatribes in which the only viable theological stance was surprisingly theirs, a compassionate conservative Reformed theology. (OK, Chan Kilgore didn’t diatribe and this doesn’t apply to him. In fact he was the only one I was thankful to have heard.) So in this two days of Reformed 2.0 rhetoric what did I learn?
* That to be ‘gospel-centered’ you have to hold to a list of theological conclusions that were not all developed and connected until the 17th century.
* That what the postmodern world needs is more white Dudes preaching hour-long exegetical sermons in which all texts mean Christ and Christ means Acts 29 Reformed 2.0 Christianity.
* That no pastor’s wife should have a job or desire ‘household duties to be divided equally between the man and woman’
* That you can insist all elders be ‘not violent’ while at the same time saying that, should a church planter deviate from the Reformed 2.0 agenda in an egalitarian way (e.g., ‘getting pushed around by a feminist’), Mark Driscoll will personally fly out to your church and ‘kick you in the throat.’
* That a bootcamp of called church planters need not include dialog until after the full 8 hours of Reformed 2.0 downloading is done (and then discussion is moderated, filtered, and nothing more than a pony show for Driscoll to say more entertainingly outlandish things).
I have a big list of things I noticed, but what bothered me most is that the Acts 29 response to our new postmodern situation is to grip a thoroughly modern Reformed theology in the Dude’s right hand really tight and then think he is better than a fundamentalist because he has a beer in his left hand. This isn’t emergent, it is demergent. This is the disgruntled indie rocker’s version of the Reformation.
There is much to learn and keep from the Reformation, a movement that was thoroughly modern, but there is reason to give pause to returning to it with a clinched fist. Right now I think the last thing the Church needs are white dudes with clinched fists, especially when what they are clenching is ‘God’s Truth.’ Throughout modernity white Dudes have had God’s truth in their hands too much, and behind them are ditches filled with God’s and\or their enemies. (This confusion is easy when you have truthtightly gripped in a fist)
The emergent ‘conversation’ Driscoll is so scared of, and the questions that many of us at the bootcamp had in our minds and couldn’t ask, are important. It may be my depravity talking, but I imagine God not scared of conversation, I imagine that truth is not dependent on myself, Doug Pagitt, Karen Ward, or Mark Driscoll, and I am confident that, as the Church finds its bearing in a new world, we don’t need any more clinched fists, for it is God’s world and God’s truth after all.