Rob Bell and Marcus Borg…

Ken Sliva wrote this excellent piece this week.

In his book Velvet Elvis, Rob cites Borg at least twice in a positive fashion…if you are a Christian, this should trouble you!

  1. #1 by Phil Miller on March 26, 2008 - 9:44 am

    Why should it trouble me?

    I’ve recommended people read books written by non-Christians before. Not everything a non-Christian says or writes is wrong, and actually they can have some real insights.

    Ken has been beating this guilt-by-association drum for over three years now. He really needs some new material.

  2. #2 by clearly on March 26, 2008 - 10:11 am

    “Not everything a non-Christian says or writes is wrong, and actually they can have some real insights.”

    Yet again, Phil. You create an argument for me and then place it over what I have said.

    I read tons of authors, saved and not saved. That’s a given. However, I don’t read them and then positively quote them without an even a hint of a disclaimer. This is reckless.

    Furthermore, Borg is not a non-Christian writing about science, math, politics, fine arts, etc. He is a professing Christian, who is a really a non-Christian, writing to tell people about the way to God, etc.

  3. #3 by Phil Miller on March 26, 2008 - 11:05 am

    Furthermore, Borg is not a non-Christian writing about science, math, politics, fine arts, etc. He is a professing Christian, who is a really a non-Christian, writing to tell people about the way to God, etc.

    Well, so what? If people are reading Velvet Elvis as a whole, they’ll come away with a much different view than Borg’s. The way your argument is framed, you’re saying the text of a book mentioned in the endnotes is more important than the text of the actual work.

    For example, Bell comes out pretty strongly against some of the stuff Borg believes. Bell believes in an actual physical resurrection, not just some sort of spiritual one like Borg says. He’s pretty clear about this. Bell believes the Scriptures are inspired (the whole “God has spoken thing”), whereas Borg would see them as a pure product of man’s making.

    I would think that someone reading Bell’s book would be able to clearly see the distinction between Borg’s ideas and Bell’s. Borg is indeed a very liberal theologian, and seems to have gone off the deep end in a lot of ways. I don’t think Bell is ignorant of that fact, but I don’t think Bell is afraid of people coming to these conclusions on their own, either.

  4. #4 by clearly on March 26, 2008 - 11:09 am

    “Well, so what?”

    We call them “false teachers.” It is the responsibility of a shepherd to warn the flock about foes like this, not to direct them to their teachings.

  5. #5 by Justin on March 26, 2008 - 11:19 am

    “Furthermore, Borg is not a non-Christian writing about science, math, politics, fine arts, etc. He is a professing Christian, who is a really a non-Christian, writing to tell people about the way to God, etc.”

    Dave, I love how you and Ken get to decide who is “Christian” and who isn’t. I’ve got a long spill about that, but you wouldn’t even take it seriously I’m sure. But I do seem to remember something about judgment being God’s department. I think He’s the only one who can decide who is a “TRUE CHRISTIAN” and who isn’t.

    I would love to see where all this time and energy of yours (and more importantly, Ken’s) would go if you didn’t have people to attack. Calling someone who considers themselves a “Christian” not a “Christian”, simply because you do not agree with them, is a SERIOUS accusation…one that perhaps you nor Ken have the authority to decide. I’d like to point out a verse:

    1 Peter 3:13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; YET DO SO WITH GENTLENESS AND RESPECT, 16 HAVING A GOOD CONSCIENCE, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your GOOD BEHAVIOR IN CHRIST may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

    first off, I’m really not convinced that you nor Ken are truly “suffering” because there are people out there with differing views on all things “Christian” and Jewish. But I’m sure that you can find some way to justify it, thus the “defense” you and Ken put up.

    I love that the only time it speaks of “giving a defense” is when you are asked. hmm….. But honestly, even if you guys feel the need to “defend”, then are you doing so “ET DO SO WITH GENTLENESS AND RESPECT”? Calling someone non-Christian I would argue not. I completely disagree with the fruits that I see from both you and Ken, and well, I could honestly call your title of “Christian” into question. But 1) it isn’t my place, and 2) I don’t think that that is in any way Christ-like in attitude. Now please, I consider you both a Christian and a brother in Christ. Let that be said and heard.

    It seems to me that your “good behavior in Christ”, that your “gentleness and respect” should be your defense unless you are asked to give account. I’m not trying to chastise you, or be judgmental. It just scares the mess out of me that people hear what you, and worse what Ken say and think that that applies to all Christians everywhere. I want the life I live to speak of Christ far more than the words I say. The picture that you are painting of a “Christian” may not be an accurate representation of what it means to be a follower of Christ…or better translated: “little Christ”. I hope others know that when they read you and Ken.

    Sorry to sound “preachy” I don’t mean it like that… I just would ask that we all that we are representing something far bigger than ourselves, something we want people to long to be a part of. I have to ask myself every day, am I living a life that others would see me and want to join in on this journey towards the cross, and the resurrection!?!?

  6. #6 by zoecarnate on March 26, 2008 - 2:42 pm

    Nope, doesn’t bother me one bit. ‘Cause I happen to like (not agree with 100%)Borg, and I don’t believe in guilt by association.

  7. #7 by Justin on March 26, 2008 - 5:59 pm

    You’re right, this does go well with Tony’s blog post! thanks for linking zoecarnate!

  8. #8 by Nicole on March 26, 2008 - 6:07 pm

    One of my first thoughts was Matthew 24:24: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”

    We are facing remarkable times. With so many false doctrines. So many teachers who are “disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light…” (1 Cor. 11:13-15) There is so much out there that is counterfeit. And, I believe there is definately the responsibility of some, more than others, to contend for the faith. To lead people towards truth. To point out the pitfalls and dangers of others.

    I long to go back sometimes, to my naive youth – when my Dad taught me that there is such a thing as absolute truth, and that it is in the Bible. We can talk all we want about your interpretation/my interpretation – but ultimately, there is only one correct interpretation.

    “the readings they assigned that Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world… I also found the claim that Jesus and Christianity were the only way of salvation to be troublesome.”

    To teach that Christ is not God is heresy. To teach that there is more than one road to God than Christ is heresy. To deny the virgin birth, and proclaim instead that Christ was born of a lying teenage tramp, is also heresy. To lead people down these roads is to lead them down a path that leads to destruction. God is not at the end of this road, for Borg, or the people that get sucked into his teachings.

    I think the last discussion got more heated than any I have ever seen in the past on here. I believe Dave is making a concerted effort to lovingly, yet firmly preach the gospel of grace and truth – for which I am grateful.

    Re. guilty by association – Bell’s strongest push in his VE endnotes was for Wilber’s book “A brief history of everything” which he recommends one reads for three months to better understand God’s divine creativity. I bought this book at Barnes and Noble in the New Age section… why I need to understand creation as it stands in the Bible, from a Buddhist, is beyond me. I agree that there are serious dangers in using non-Christian sources to explain the Word….

  9. #9 by clearly on March 26, 2008 - 6:09 pm

    Justin, I am going to keep this short as I am swamped tonight with a grad paper.

    1. I stated that Borg isn’t a Christian. I stand by that. However, Phil Miller’s post operated under the same assumption, but yet you don’t give him a word lashing?

    2. Saying that someone is not a Christian is not slander. Borg denies the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. There’s no argument there.

    3. “I would love to see where all this time and energy of yours (and more importantly, Ken’s) would go if you didn’t have people to attack.”

    Funny you would mention that. I would estimate that my post was about 8% the size of just your last comment!

    My blog is a hobby. I serve in my church as a Sunday school teacher and junior church leader, take a full-load of grad. classes, work 50 hours a week, and enjoy a loving relationship with my wife. Sounds like wasting time to me!

  10. #10 by clearly on March 26, 2008 - 6:11 pm

    Wow, Nicole. Again, great thoughts! Sorry I haven’t been around much…

  11. #11 by Justin on March 26, 2008 - 6:34 pm


    Thanks for pointing out my flaws:

    1) That statement was a blanket for anyone. I don’t think Phil is being respectful and gentle…anyone who says that another person who label themselves “Christian” is not such…well I think anyone has the authority to say such. I think (and this is just my thoughts) we should leave some of the judgment in the hand s of God where it belongs. I am not picking on just you an Ken, I mean it without exception.

    2) there is plenty of argument there! You are saying that he does not adhere to YOUR def. of whom can and cannot carry the title of “Christian”…what if your def. is wrong?? Again, back to the sovereignty of God, not the judgment of man.

    3) touche’…it’s easy to turn that point around on me with one comment and post that is short. I meant overall. I’m not questioning that fighting others is all you do, but why don’t you spend more time doing things like your Sampson posts? Those are a lot more effective and draw more people in that these.

    I’m not trying to be confrontational, I’m asking questions. I don’t get on here to make your life difficult, I read all of your posts and I like your thoughts and teachings. It doesn’t matter if I agree with them, I enjoy reading other people’s teachings. I’m sure you’re a great person with a lot on his plate… my time and energy question was said (having been through working and grad schools myself) why you choose to do this as your “hobby”. An honest question, not a judgment!

    another honest question, just curious. how much and what of Borg’s have you read?

    good luck with your paper, I wish you well on it.

  12. #12 by Nicole on March 26, 2008 - 6:45 pm

    “touche’…it’s easy to turn that point around on me with one comment and post that is short. I meant overall. I’m not questioning that fighting others is all you do, but why don’t you spend more time doing things like your Sampson posts? Those are a lot more effective and draw more people in that these.”


    thoughts on Samson part one – no comments.
    thoughts on Samson part two – no comments.
    thoughts on Samson part three – no comments.

    The irony of course being, that even you Justin, are not drawn into discussion more with the Samson posts than with anything that borders on an EC discussion (as your comments on Tony’s page also indicate).

    I think it is part of the iron-sharpens-iron thing… I think it is easier to get our brain working when we are feeling challenged, and alive and thinking, right?

  13. #13 by clearly on March 26, 2008 - 6:48 pm

    You can run with this if you like, but I have merely thumbed through the pages of Borg — I couldn’t even give you titles! As you noted above, there is only so much time in a day.

    All I have to read is that someone denies the exclusivity of Christ as the way of salvation and for me, the decision is over. The person in question is not a teacher from whom I desire to learn. I could review one of his books and sharpen my theology a bit, but there’s only so much time…

    Question for you: the Scriptures are full of warnings about false teachers. If these texts aren’t referring to teachers like Borg, then to whom are they referring?

    Surely God knows hearts and he will have the final say in the eschatalogical judgment; maybe I will be proven wrong about Borg. For his sake, I hope so. However, until then, we can only go by what Borg tell us, writes, and teaches. If he really believes what he has written, he doesn’t know God.

  14. #14 by Justin on March 26, 2008 - 8:20 pm

    I had no comments on the Sampson posts, I felt there were no questions I had. That’s why I mention them here, I thought they were good posts. I wanted to point out the things I like about this blog! Sorry I didn’t do it every time.

    I’m not going to run with it, like I said, and honest question. I know what school is like. You will end school with a huge pile of books that you never got the chance to read, and spend the rest of your life trying to make that pile disappear while adding new stuff to it. I think you should add Borg’s “Heart of Christianity” to that list to one day read and give it a fair chance. I can’t say I agree with all of it, but it is a challenging book if one allows it to be. I would love to hear your honest opinions on it one day. Don’t just look for everything that you can mark through and disagree with, but go at it asking, what is there of value for me in this. Can God speak through someone I disagree with? Yes, I think so… I believe God uses you, and I don’t have to agree with EVERYTHING you say in order to find nuggets that make me pause and think. That is my mantra EVERY TIME I read a book…and I am not the type of person that only reads books I know I’ll agree with. I usually pick books that will challenge me, books that fall on all ends of the spectrum. I believe God is bigger than that spectrum, and thus remind myself of that each time I pick up a book or read a blog. Please don’t transpose that to be a lecture to you, I am just stating my reading rituals. I made those rules FOR ME and ME ALONE to keep me accountable to God’s continual revelation.

    as for your question, I don’t ignore those passages. But I have to ask the question to myself what is “false”? Perhaps aspects of Borg are not false. Perhaps aspects of our modern theological upbringing (I was raised a conservitive Southern Baptist, and was that way until my sophomore year of college) are “false teachings”? It’s not as clear cut as you make it seem, at least not for me. Now you can pull up the whole “but it plainly states in the Bible” line, but I don’t believe in inerancy or infallibility when it comes to the inspiration of scripture. I let go of that belief a long time back. Everything is interpretation! Even those that have a literal interpretation, still choose that way to interpret. Borg has a good section on this in “Reading The Bible Again For The First Time” (another book I would suggest). That’s why just because I disagree with you I still don’t call you a “false Teacher” I think that our definitions of what is “false” are too far apart to compare.

    As for your last statement…do any of us really “KNOW” God? Is he “Knowable” in the sense that I can know everything about him? Perhaps I only see a facet or a glimpse of him using my theology while your theology sees a different facet or glimpse. A differing perspective if you will. Perhaps God is sooooo big that we can NEVER see all of him at once. You know how the moon to us looks flat and takes on differing shapes from our perspective here on earth, yet we know in reality it is a sphere that is very complex with named seas and craters that we just can’t see from our perspective. A terrible analogy I know, but I think God is bigger than any of our personal theologies, and no one “knows” God. I could take that same statement you said about Borg and say the same thing about you and your beliefs, and you could say the same about me and mine… and we would probably all be right and wrong at the same time. I think the more accurate and fair statement is probably this: “If Borg really believes what he has written, then he doesn’t believe in the God in which I believe.”

    again, I apologize for not commenting on your Sampson posts, I thought they were insightful posts. I should have said that in one of them. please forgive me. I hope you don’t see me as a person who is just getting on here to cause you grief. If so, I will stop. That’s why I try to simply ask legitimate questions, and everything else I may say is my opinion. I would never say you have to believe what I believe or you are ______label______. I just want to clear that up.
    My purpose is understanding and conversation. I’m glad you asked me the question you did, I think it was a pertinent question. If you ask me to leave, then I will not comment any further.

    thanks again,
    hope your paper goes well.

  15. #15 by Phil Miller on March 27, 2008 - 4:30 am

    I wasn’t necessarily saying Borg wasn’t a Christian, although I see how you got that idea. I was sort using Dave’s assumption as a given. It isn’t for me to decide who is and isn’t, thankfully. I do believe that there are people who profess to be Christians, who aren’t, though. Again, it’s not my job to sort it all out.

    The one thing I will say is that I am somewhat hesitant to talk about Borg, because I have not read any of his books myself. I have seen several critiques of his work by several people I really respect, N.T. Wright being one of them, so I am pretty confident in a few things. I know Borg does not affirm Jesus’ resurrection, he doesn’t affirm the Virgin Birth, and he doesn’t affirm Christ’s divinity, at least not in the historic, Christian sense. It seems to me that with all those things, there would be a line that a person could cross where they are no longer a Christian, at least one as defined in the historic creeds of the Church. Again, I’m not the final judge, but I think we can debate the substance of Borg’s writings.

    As far as Bell goes, I have heard him affirm all the things I mentioned, several times. I don’t think referencing a book in the endnotes, even positively, is the same as saying “I agree with everything in this book”. I’ve not seen most academic works held to that standard.

  16. #16 by clearly on March 27, 2008 - 4:47 am

    “…but I don’t believe in inerancy or infallibility when it comes to the inspiration of scripture.”

    Justin, this saddens me. I could quote Scripture and hope the Holy Spirit does a work in your heart to help you believe what I believe are cardinal truths. But you already have working knowledge of the Scripture.

    So Scripture is all interpretation and God is not knowable? I wish I could explain my worldview in a more articulate fashion. I will do my best.

    Everyone interprets Scripture and everyone brings certain preunderstandings/presuppositions to the text when they read it. Some are not even aware of these pre-understandings/presuppostions and tend to read these biases into the text all the time (I believe that is what liberation theologians do, hyper-Calvinists do this often, etc). However, we are all capable of it to some extent. But, by virtue that we are having this converation, we are both proving that we are mentally aware of the fact that our preunderstanding exists.

    So presuppositions and biases are a given when interpreting the text. The Scripture, however, was written with the presupposition that from reading it, we can indeed know (notice I didn’t say exhaustively) God.

    I beg and challenge you to go back and read 1 John 1 and John 1. The whole point of God’s revelation to mankind in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ was so that the world could know Him! That’s the point of revelation – knowing God! The apostles saw the living Word, they handled him, they interacted with him, they probably cried with him, they saw the one full of grace and truth, they beheld God’s glory, or as the author of Hebrews puts it, the express image of his likeness. They had this intimate and personal encounter with God and then they claim to have accurately delivered it to subsequent believers in the text of Scripture. They say, “we declare all of this unto you, so that you too may have fellowship.” But Justin, if we say that 1. we can’t know God or 2. that the Scripture is not infallably inspired —- then, you begin to cut yourself off from the fellowship with Christ offered through the Word.

    I trust that helps.

  17. #17 by Justin on March 27, 2008 - 9:10 pm

    may I please say that I meant no offense. But I do stand behind anyone that blanket statement that none of us (from lowly me, to our pastor, to the pope) has any authority to determine a person’s spiritual and eternal status. Please don’t take offense (either of you), I was being fair in my statement.

    Also, you mention haven’t read Borg, but having read Wright…have you read their co-authored book “The Meaning of Jesus: 2 Visions”? It is a fantastic discussion between the two scholars. Thought I would suggest it if you haven’t. I think you might enjoy the contrast.

    To BOTH,
    Phil also brings up a great question when he speaks of historical creeds of the Ch. The thing about these creeds is 1) they don’t all agree with each other, so how do you pick which one? and 2) they are man-made statements of what they believe to be true. At other times in history they have been refuted or refined by other Christians…so who do we believe?? we are only human, and Ch. history (IMO) tells a fantastic and epic tale of mankind trying to understand the God that we long to serve, and the Christ that we say we follow.

    I would actually make the same argument about the Bible. For instance, John is a very different gospel, and one reason is because it is a spicific interpretation of Christ by the Johanine community. It’s the story of their understandings of their perspective of God. I thin that holds true for all of the Bible. But I’m not going to argue inerrancy/infallibility/inspiration. Remember, I used to believe that, but the SPIRIT let me away from that almost a decade ago. I don’t think that inerranancy/infallibility are a part of historic creeds, and was not a concern until the modern era. This issue is non-negotiable in my personal beliefs, although I respect your beliefs in that department and am not going to try to tell you that you are wrong.

    You are right Dave, we do both mostly acknowledge the presuppositions we bring. That’s one reason I’m enjoying talking with you. Many people I have known that seem to hold similar beliefs would not admit that (even to themselves). I say mostly because I am sure that there are presuppositions that we both are not admitting are such, and some that we do not realize/recognize them as such.

    I don’t want to drag this out, you make a great series of statements. I do want to say that I never thought you believed that you have exhausted the knowledge of God. But I wonder is this not one of the lessons of the garden story. The one tree they couldn’t eat from would give them knowledge that they weren’t supposed to have. We don’t know why they weren’t supposed to have that knowledge, but the revelation of God through scripture seems so suggest that whatever the reason, it was in their best interest. God is hidden from us to an extent. He’s bigger than any theological box we can try to place him in. He is only partially revealed to us, and has chosen to continually reveal more of himself over time. I would argue/agree that the ultimate culmination of that revelation was in Christ, but that doesn’t mean that revelation stopped. I think Tim Challies, on his blog recently, even argued that the reformation was “the last great epoch of revelation”. That seems to be the era that modern Christianity seems to lean the most on. As if God is no longer in the business of revelation. WHAT IF…and this is an honest question…what if he is still revealing himself in new ways through new ideas and people…the very people we label heretics. Just a thought.

    finally, the last statement about me “cutting myself off from the fellowship with Christ”… interestingly enough, the more I got away from my “inherited beliefs” and embraced ideas that I had originally fought against, the closer I felt to God… The better my fellowship with Christ has become. That’s not to say that I don’t have discernment, I just am willing to challenge my beliefs and am comfortable enough disagreeing with someone without having to attack them. I’m not implying anything there, just relating where I am. I don’t agree with Borg that the resurrection of Christ didn’t happen… But I would extensively explore WHY he says that, and what has brought him to that conclusion. Also, he explains why he still labels himself a “Christian”, and that is worth exploring too.

    Thanks for your response and concern Dave. I have thought long and hard about my beliefs and have read John and 1John extensively as I struggled with my beliefs on that issue…. This is simply where I came out on. It’s where I felt led, through extensive study, prayer, and conversations with my profs., friends, and many people on all sides of this issue. I guess what I’m looking for in all of this is some proof that there can be unity even in the midst of differing views. It is something that Christianity truly needs right now in order to do the important work that Christ called his disciples to do! I think, at least from my viewpoint, that our conversations are giving me that hope.

    peace and grace

  18. #18 by Justin on March 27, 2008 - 9:11 pm

    ps…that’s cool, I wish my comments section recognized and popped up links!

  19. #19 by Phil Miller on March 28, 2008 - 6:00 am

    No offense taken. I pretty much agree with you. I think that you and I are probably coming from a very similar place. I grew in a pretty conservative, near-fundamentalist environment, and I’m still unpacking some of that baggage. I’m still processing a lot of stuff myself.

    That book by Borg and Wright has been on my list for awhile. It just seems my list is getting longer and longer.

    God Bless.

  20. #20 by clearly on March 28, 2008 - 7:47 am


    I just have a second.

    I know this will probably offend you, but I still believe that it needs to be said.

    You said, “But I’m not going to argue inerrancy/infallibility/inspiration. Remember, I used to believe that, but the SPIRIT let me away from that almost a decade ago.”

    I’m not going to try to necessarily argue you away from your position. However, I do think you need to be told that the Spirit of God did not lead you away from that foundational truth. The Spirit infused the very words of Scripture; they were breathed out by God. Jesus recognizes this when he cites Psalm 110 in Matthew 23, David wrote in the Spirit. The Spirit will not contradict the Word. It doesn’t happen; it cannot happen. That would cause confusion in the body of Christ and our God is not a God of confusion. So whoever/whatever lead you away from the doctrine of inspiration was not the Spirit of God, but rather something/someone else.

    So what Scriptures are accurate, which are inspired, which are infallable? If they are not all infallable, then you yourself become the final arbitrator. Then you yourself become the authority on what is God’s true Word. That’s a dangerous place to be.

    As far as unity and fellowship go, Justin, there is no true unity in Christ apart from the gospel as revealed in the Word. All other unity is representative of the kings of this earth gathering themselves against the Lord and his annointed. You may say that my words above are destructive to unity; the Bible sees the false teachers and those who deny Biblical doctrines as those causing divisions, not people like me.

    I’m anticipating your offended response. However, I have spoken the truth in love.

  21. #21 by Justin on March 28, 2008 - 7:57 pm

    I’m not offended. I hoped for, but expected nothing different. It seems that people who believe in the “in” words can’t help but succumb to argue someone out of that. You could have saved your time. Don’t you think I know all of the arguments. I have used them myself, both in your shoes and on my own journey. don’t offend easily.

    At the same time I could sit here and list the numerous conflicts in scripture (both within the scripture as a whole, and in translation/transmission issues). I could talk about source criticism, JEPD and Q,as well as things like natural literalism and a historical-metaphorical interpretation (as well as all interp.s in between), but hopefully any good school will teach you all that. We can talk about dates and authorship…soo much we could throw back and forth… so much scripture we could quote at each other… but I am not out to change your beliefs to match mine.

    The bottom line is when you lay it all out, the non-literal, non-inerrant, non-infallibility not only is a more rich and reasonable approach to scripture, I am convinced it is a more historical approach to scripture. The idea of the Bible being inerrant and infallible is a product (mostly of modernity), but has its roots traced back to the reformation, not the early church beliefs about scripture. Yes, I know the scripture you have and will quote at me…but again, that’s your presupposition of the interpretation supporting your “foundational truth”. This has not ever been a foundational requirement into Christianity. As I mentioned, not found in any creedal statements of the Ch., and not found in other historical writings (including the Bible) pre-reformation era.

    I’m set in my beliefs and I’m sure you’re set in yours on this topic. I will say (whether you believe me or not) that my view in no way diminishes the importance, instructiveness, and inspiration of the Scriptures in our lives. Even though you may not find this believable, I hold it in just as high a regard as anyone else… and I hold it in far higher regard than I did when I was an inerrantist. To me, noting that it comes from human origins and tells the story of mankind’s struggle to understand God->Christ->Christian, connects in greater ways than it did before.

    Also, I don’t pick and choose which are infallible. All are inspired, none are infallible. I am not the final arbitrator, the Spirit, God and community are serving their functions in that respect.

    I would argue that there was unity found well before the “gospel” ever existed. I agree that Unity is found in “The Word” (I am assuming you are referring to John 1 and Christ being the word), but the early Ch. had unity before they had the “gospel” as we have it. They were struggling to figure out what Jesus meant and who the gospel was for. But even before that, Christ brought unity within his disciples; the most unlikely of groups to be unified. A tax collector and a zealot at the same table??? Never would have happened except that they both followed Christ even before they understood “the gospel” message. They loved him and followed him…even though they thought he spoke in riddles, couldn’t answer the question (save Peter) “who do you say I am?”, and then ran from his side and denied him in his final hours.

    As for “the gospel”. We can also find unity in the Gospel message. I agree with that. But what is the overall message of the gospel? We will find unity in the message of Reconciliation and Transformation (1 Cor. 5:16-21) HOPE is the overarching theme of the Bible, Reconciliation and Transformation is the Bible’s message of that hope. I think the problem comes when say your understanding/interpretation of Reconciliation and Transformation doesn’t match up with mine. Thus our unity should be found in Christ first and foremost. My understanding and view of Christ comes from the Bible just like yours, so it’s not that I worship some other “christ”… It’s that our understanding and interpretation of that Christ are different. But Christ called us to unity in him even when we didn’t understand his message, or disagreed with each other about the intricacies of that message. I’m offering an olive branch here, so that in our actions and interactions we are manifesting Hope, Reconciliation and transformation…through our unity. And Unity is NOT the same as conformity.

    I don’t know if you have spoken “the truth”…I’m confident that it is “the truth” as far as your beliefs are concerned… but I do acknowledge that it was spoken in love… Thanks for taking the time to say that, it means a lot, and Love is where all of my interactions stem. I hope that somehow translates in writing:/ I fear sometimes that it doesn’t.

    peace and love

  22. #22 by clearly on March 29, 2008 - 8:37 am

    From now on, I am requesting that comments remain on topic. I will require this of myself as well. I will no longer allow the comments section of my blog to be a platform for a theologically liberal agenda.

    Justin, we have no grounds for biblical unity.

  23. #23 by Justin on March 29, 2008 - 9:11 am

    wow…and ouch. no agenda here. I thought we were having a good conversation. But you are saying that we can only comment if we have a “theologically conservitive agenda”? Why have a comments section at all? You reference, Ken Silva… he doesn’t bother with one as not to have to converse.

    If you think this is “off topic” then please pick up some Borg and read him. I think that you will find that this is a central topic to his writings and experience.

    I’m sorry you feel we have no grounds for unity….I am actually truly saddened by that statement and your response.

    But I will respect it, nonetheless.

  24. #24 by Raquel on March 29, 2008 - 5:57 pm

    (sorry to keep this one going… I just can’t help myself)

    Justin, I wonder if there’s a difference here in the definition of unity? It appears to me as if the emergent/emerging (or whatever one wants to call itself) church tends to take words like unity, love, judging, Christian, and community to a whole ‘nother level.

    So I went ahead and checked out the greek definition of unity (from Ephesians 4) and it says, “unanimity, agreement.” It appears clear to me that you two are absolutely in DISunity. Do you not agree?

    It appears to me as if you two absolutely ARE following two different gods. If your interpretation says that God is only love (not also wrath), His Word isn’t 100% truth, ect ect ect…
    And Clearly’s interpretation says that God is both love and wrath, that the Word is true, ect ect ect;

    Those gods are two opposing gods. These aren’t just interpretations, yo. These are two different religions.

  25. #25 by Justin on March 29, 2008 - 8:08 pm

    you bring up interesting points. In order to respect Dave’s wishes, I won’t really give adequate response to a very good point… But I will say that I don’t believe it’s fair to say we are necessarily speaking of different gods, but def. differing religious structures. I think that my understanding of Unity is Biblically based, but transcends (as Christ does) any one of our religious structures or frameworks. The best analogy I can think of: we sometimes get too caught up focusing on the FRAMEWORK and not enough looking at the picture. The framework and the picture are not the same. Sorry I can’t be more spicific, I feel I am pushing my limit as it is. A good point to think on that you mention though!

  26. #26 by Justin on March 29, 2008 - 8:27 pm

    Sorry I can’t help it… Again, not exaustive, but I want to at least be fair to my expression of unity… Why can’t unity be found in the understanding of the greatest commandment…I would say that we all can be unified around “Love God, and Love Neighbor”. I know, sounds simple and naive…but Christ took the complex things of the Jewish leaders and made them simple again… So I ask myself, “have we made this way too complex again?” Perhaps something as simple (yet soo deep and complex) as “love God and Love Neighbor” is a fantastic place to start?????

    Dave, sorry.. I felt she deserved a somewhat better thought picture from me:/ please don’t find it being disrespectful to you. I hold you in high regard!

  27. #27 by clearly on March 30, 2008 - 11:50 am

    Justin, no worries. Feel free to discuss — I just don’t want a post on Borg and Bell to turn into a debate on JEDP and Q. That’s all….

  28. #28 by gbfluteman on March 30, 2008 - 7:44 pm

    Since we’re all about reading here, I believe that a wonderful book to read on this very subject (the nature of Truth, false teachers, how to respond to those teaching false truth, etc.) is John MacArthur’s book, “The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception.” You might be surprised MacArthur’s stance on:
    1) The Nature of Truth (either The Bible- all of it from Genesis to Revelation- is Absolute Truth, or we have no truth at all)
    2) Dealing with post-modernist constructivism that takes words like love, unity, legalism, etc. and strips them from the biblical, cultural, and historical contexts as found within the passages in which we see them
    3) How to respond to those who teach “another Gospel” from the one that is so clearly taught in Scripture that most 4-8 year olds can get it.

    how we should respond to false teachers (hint: it’s the way that Clearly tried to lovingly call out someone on the carpet for what they are teaching, and MacArthur takes the time to clearly show how this is completely God’s plan per Scripture).

    I figure, since you don’t like or agree with Clearly’s opinion and feel that his Fundamentalist associations are part of his biases in this situation, that perhaps seeing a non-Fundamentalist- who came to the same biblical conclusions and calls out false teachers as apostate- might be someone you would listen to and allow such conclusion to reshape your thinking (and theology).

  29. #29 by Justin on March 31, 2008 - 7:41 pm

    Thanks for suggestive reading, I always like to do that. Actually, I HAVE read MacArthur’s “The Truth War: et al.” I like talking to Clearly about his opinion better.

    I really disagree with MacArthur, and I’ve stated this several times, but it’s a very interesting story of how I came to read the book. I kept having people come to me and say, “Hey, someone is pushing this book in __________.” a for instance, “Justin, have you ever heard of this book, ‘truth wars’?” I would say yes I was familiar with it but had only read excerpts. “well a person in our sunday school class is teaching it, and when we are having discussion and several of us feel like we disagree with something that is from the book, the 2 people that are teaching it get aggressive and say that ‘this is the ‘truth’, you can’t disagree with the ‘truth’!!”. I inquired more, and had a conversation and listened always disclaiming that I had not read the book so I could only respond to what they would ask not to what the book says.

    after 10 people or so came to me irritated with this book and that it was militant towards their own theology, I decided to read it to better converse about it. That being said, I highly disagree with MacArthur (all due respect). In terms of postmodern philosophy and theology he really doesn’t quite grasp what it is in reality. He makes a lot of his comments/assessments/judgments (as do most who are critical of postmodern Christianity)under faulty assumptions/understandings.

    I respect his opinion overall, but have to say that he doesn’t have an accurate grasp on what he is attacking. He gets the WORDING right on many of his GENERAL postmodern philosophy, but 1) doesn’t accurately represent the idea as is in postmodern, or 2) makes the faulty assumption that it directly translates into postmodern Christian theology. In best words, he is attacking/defending something that he doesn’t fully grasp, and therefore misrepresents both his postmodern Christianity (more pointedly, the Emergent Church), and in relation, his own arguments that are presented. He is arguing against a set of ideals that are not the mainstream postmodern ideals.I think we saw this both with MacArthur and Piper recently. Tony Jones has an article on his blog about his talk with Piper.
    also a great discussion going on over here on sort-of this topic:

    Anyway, I’m sure Dave doesn’t want a book review on here. I have listened to and read many of those that would both criticize and critique emergent, postmodernity, post-liberalism, continue here with the labels… I don’t completely agree with the Emergent Ch., I a not easily categorized, as is the case with most people today. I try to avoid labels as much as possible unless it is for clarification, or someone has self-labeled themselves. I am not technically sure what I could label clearly if I wanted to…and Dave, I truly don’t care to do so. I do, GB, think it amusing that you call MacArthur a “non-fundamentalist” when many knowledgeable people that I know have classified him as such. I’m not saying he is or isn’t, I just think it’s interesting how people are labeled depending on the labeler’s point of view.

    Some authors that I like are Peter Rollings, NT Wright, Marcus Borg, Rob Bell (which BTW has never claimed himself “emergent” or been a part of that group… just to clarify), Frederick Buechner (personal fav.), Soren Kierkegaard, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jacques Derrida, J I Packer, Walter Breuggemann, and I am really interested in “Why We’re not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be”

    See I read people from all over the spectrum… I love books that challenge me on all sides. Helps me to think critically about my beliefs, faith, understandings, etc…

    thanks for the suggestion, but I am not convinced by MacArthur.

    I’m off to Mexico, I’ll be back in a week, but I’ll check in if anyone wants to respond again. Thanks again for the conversation.

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