Am I Dumb?

I know I have said I am stupid, but now I think it’s worse. I think I might just be plain dumb. As in “lacking intelligence”.

There is a new blogger on the scene who visited our site and is trying to communicate the Emergent Church (EC) in the simplest of terms. I really like that idea if someone wants to tackle it. Jeff at Constantly Emerging has just started his blog for this very purpose. Welcome to the fray Jeff. Now the pressure is on.

One of my beefs with the whole EC conversation is that it seems so damn intellectual. This has been bothering me for quite some time. The “conversation” is so full of huge words and tricky language that it seems like a bunch of double-talk to me. It’s probably that I am just not that smart. But there is a condescending attitude and cerebral intimidation within many of the conversations I run across. Many times I peek in a room, read a few words, conclude that this is WAY over my head and come back to my “stupid” site. Seriously, I took Greek in school but all this EC conversation is oftentimes still all Greek to me.

Does it have to be this way… does it have to be so intellectual? Was Jesus an intellectual? The EC conversation seems so based in philosophy that there seems little in the way of reality. Isn’t that one of the reasons Luther was pissed, because the church seemed so out of touch with “real people” that the only ones that could be a part were the educated? Isn’t that a huge fallacy of the church? We use language that is exclusive, extraordinary and that cannot relate to those not “in the know”?

28 thoughts on “Am I Dumb?”

  1. Ninja, what’s your view of atonement and how do you define ‘substitutionary atonement” and why is that wrong in your eyes? Just curious…Chaddy

  2. I peeked in the room too (actually I went in and sat down) — and the intellectualism of the leaders didn’t so much bother me. The thing that struck me was a kind of intellectual competitiveness that it seemed to set off among the others. Like you have to try really hard to say something smart enough or original enough to gain admission. It’s a legitimate threat to Emergent.But the presence of the artist crowd in Emergent seems to be helping to keep some balance at this point. That element doesn’t show up well on blogs or podcasts because those are both pretty much intellectual formats.

  3. This ‘god’ you speak of IS weak and soft, because he is pliable and easily shaped/formed into the necessary function. To deny inerrancy of the Bible and Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross is to ‘free-up’ some room for reshaping god… you know, fit him into our paradigm.No, God is not weak and soft. On the contrary, God is majestic, God is loving, God is righteous. Why would I want a milk toast God? How can I rely on someone who is weak and soft? Do not confuse God’s love with softness.

  4. Ninja,I wasn’t ignoring you. I just don’t disagree with you. I think our definitions of inerrancy may differ, but I agree with your statement.maybe I need to re-define ‘inerrancy’, and it might help clear up some of my difficulties with emergent… i don’t know.My issues may be with people who take extreme liberty with biblical teachings… deciding that one scripture applies, but other’s don’t, thereby fitting convenient scriptures into the fabric of their lives instead of the other way around. Sorry if I was unclear about that…I don’t really have anything to add to your comments. I thought they were correct and insightful.Beyond that, I’m beginning to realize that I talk too much… (you know, that whole ‘two ears/one mouth’ thing??)thanks.

  5. A-F’ing-Men, Steve! The emergent crowd I used to hang out with was so hell bent on being able to quote and dissect Sarte and others that they rarely engaged themselves with real life issues.

  6. Steve, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding the so-called “conversation,” which sounds awfully exclusional and cliqueish.It seems to me that the “conversation” is not really such at all but rather a different dialect of “churchspeak.” Words like “missional,” and “praxis,” doesn’t serve anyone well except those who seek to define the “conversation.”But in defining such one must control such, which negates any meaningful “conversation.”

  7. There is a time and a place for intellectualism, but don’t confuse intellect for rhetoric. All I’ve seen is them repeating what they heard the emergent biggies saying. I read “Generous Orthodoxy” and scratched my head a little bit, but after taking some time to dig a little deeper it’s when you see there is a serious lacking of substance and no real foundation in their teaching and theology. Which is easy to hide in intellectualism.

  8. Steve, I’m gonna try and take the pressure off of you by saying I am no doubt the biggest dumb-ass here. No, seriously! I don’t even know what the hell the EC is all about. Is it a reality? Can I actually go to a service at an offical EC church? Is it a conversation? An idea? Or a conversation about an idea of what a church service or church should be?I went to an EC site and left it scratching my head wondering what the hell I just read. What I saw looked like a bunch of hippies sharin’ a doobie and waxing intellectual about their idea of Utopia or in this case, the ideal church man!If that’s what EC is all about, then keep having your conversations, I prefer to attend a church I can actually work to change. I know that sounds suicidal, but I’m 33, I’m still young and stoopid! LOL

  9. Yes, that clears it up some. It’s kind of ironic that you have your “own” definition of what you mean by “inerrancy”–kinda helps prove my point about how scripture is interpreted (or wrongly interpreted).Perhaps you should just use a different word from “inerrancy” in your argument, since that has a pretty solidly established definition amongst bible scholars and such. ๐Ÿ™‚ That would help me not get on your case in the future, anyway. I like what you said. I think taking scripture out of context or applying one or two scripture verses to any given situation (while completely ignoring other verses) or “reading your own bias” into the text is better-known as eisegesis (or however you spell it). And yes, I’m giving it its intellectual-elitist name so that you and I (and others) don’t have to keep typing out the whole freakin’ long definitions. ๐Ÿ˜‰I think Brandon has some good explanation about why inerrancy is shaky position to take over on < HREF="http://badchristian.com/index.php/2005/12/19/reformed_christianity_and_truth" REL="nofollow">his blog<>.But I don’t want to speak any more about it here, since I’m probably already in violation of the rules about commenting and just general good blogging etiquette.What were we talking about again? Why Steve is stupid? ;p

  10. <>To deny inerrancy of the Bible and Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross is to ‘free-up’ some room for reshaping god… you know, fit him into our paradigm.<>Really? because I don’t think the Bible itself makes the claim that it’s inerrant. God-breathed, yes. Inspired, yes. But not inerrant. The Bible itself says Jesus is the Word of God, so I’m gonna have to side with Luther on that one. He wasn’t an inerrantist biblicist, either. The Word of God is so much more than written words on a page (especially in English!). And substitutionary atonement is another thing I’m questioning. Because the more I try to read the bible without Evangelicalism’s filter on, the less I see substitutionary atonement written in its pages. Just because I don’t think inerrancy and substitutionary atonement are fundamentals of the Faith doesn’t mean I’m trying to make God in my own image. On the contrary, I find that the substitutionary atonement theory is very self-centered compared to some of the other theories of atonement (such as Christus Victor), and it’s very easy (and very dangerous) to take the concept of inerrancy too far, and start taking scripture out of context, misapplying it (what does this scripture say to MEEEE?–as if every word written is written to every single believer) and generally, taking the influence of the Holy Spirit out of the equation.It seems that many people are shrugging their shoulders and scratching their heads over the Emergent Movement because they don’t “get it,” or think they get it, but perhaps are putting up a straw man to tear down, declaring that Emergent is too soft, too simple, too complex, too intellectual, not intellectual enough, or not theologically or biblically sound enough. It reminds me of people who didn’t get the (first) Matrix movie, and declared it “stupid.”I don’t have enough experience (yet) to adequately critique the Emergent Movement and their ideas, but I don’t want to assume it’s theologically unsound just because I might not understand it. If Steve is right and it’s attracting really smart people and artistic types (which the modern church is definitely NOT doing), and there seems to be debate on this thread over whether they are “too intellectual” or “too touchy-feely loving and missional” (heh. missional. tee hee), then I wonder if maybe we’re all just missing the point? And I guess my point is I see a lot of people dismissing it because they “don’t get it.” (Much like my mom did with the Matrix). I don’t want to be guilty of dismissing something just because I don’t understand it. IMHO

  11. Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all. –Douglas Adams, in <>Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency<>Jeff, either you missed what I said above, or you’re ignoring what I said above. Whichever, I wish you wouldn’t throw around inerrancy and substitutionary atonement as litmus tests for someone’s intentions. Yes, if you question the “bible’s truths” you can end up with a pet theology and a mold that you put God in, but people who believe in inerrancy and substitutionary atonment are not immune from that danger, either. (yawn) but don’t mind me. Just ignore what doesn’t fit into <>your<> little paradigm. ๐Ÿ˜‰p.s. I’d be happy to discuss this with you in e-mail, or another forum, since I’m addressing something off-topic.

  12. I would imagine that a great many people had difficulty grasping Luther and Calvin as well. The same could be said of Kierkegaard, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Schaeffer and other modern theologians/philosophers. The two main differences I see between those guys and these new guys are 1) those guys had something substantial to say (whether right or wrong), and 2) the formulation of their ideas wasn’t open for input from any idiot with a computer.I don’t think you’re dumb, Steve, just a little drunk. [/grin] And I don’t really think the emergent guys are all that intellectual, but it sure helps them if they can make you think they are.

  13. Sofyst said:“Also, I am beginning a ‘conversation’ on the necessity of ‘church’. I would hope that you would pop your unchurched head in every now and then and see the progress made. If you feel so obliged to contribute, greatness. If not, at least be an onlooker.If you could invite some of your church-hatin friends that would be wondrous as well.”Is this guy for real? Why would I wanna go to a site run by a guy who thinks that coming to this site and calling us all unchurched and church haters, is a good way to attract people to his site? Yeah we have a different idea of what the church should be, our place in the church or if we even have a place in the church. Oh the unmitigated gall! Oh the audacity! How dare we! Based on what he’s said to be a part of the emergent church, at least as far as he sees it, we all just have to follow the program, not question anything and be good little soldiers for Christ. I don’t find that idea to be revolutionary. Isn’t that the attitude of the church today? Isn’t that part of the reason why some of the people on this site left the church? Is this the attitude of the emergent church? Same old shit wrapped up in a different package? Keep it up! With that kind of marketing, your numbers should swell in no time! LOL

  14. For some days now I have been taking deep breaths and trying really hard not to get angry about this whole thing (the original point that is). I think that I am nearly there; so I have decided, in a fit of stupidity, to just post and be done with it.Let me clarify first. After reading Steve’s post and the few comments that had appeared at that point, I was fuming. Not at anyone in particular mind, just at the whole situation. I went and re-read the Blog Etiquette page and felt that the advice was good. So I waited. I guess this is old news now and nobody will read it, but better that I post now with a little more measure in my tone than go off like a fool earlier.So here goes: Steve, you are not dumb. Just uninitiated into the ways, assumptions, language and shorthand that is used by the Emergent Church. (NB. I have not heard the interviews yet, but that does not matter, I am not concerned about the EC.) It is sad, but true that this is the state of affairs for any group that has its own way of looking at things. Every group – it really doesnโ€™t matter who. Everyone has a jargon. Your point is well taken though that this is exclusionary. It is probably meant to be so by some people. By others, it is an unfortunate side-effect. The bottom line is that it is difficult to enter into a discussion or critique of something that has its own language and jargon without first understanding that. YOU ARE NOT DUMB! Do not confuse the language that they use with intellectualism. It is an entirely different beast.My main concern is with the anti-intellectual undercurrent that I detected and, perhaps, have overstated in the whole thing. The worst thing that I believe that we can do is reject intellectual insights into our faith. Steve, you asked if Jesus was an intellectual? The answer is a resounding YES. Do not mistake a degree or apparently learned conversation for an intellectual insight. Do not let the language or the terminology scare you. If you wish to participate, you have to learn what they are talking about; but do not be intimidated by them. Jesus was able to debate the Pharisees and the Sadducees because he understood their internal dialogues. Go back to the gospels on this one and have a look again. Jesus was both an intellectual – inasmuch as he was able to think critically about things, AND he was educated as to his rhetorical enemies’ thinking. Not that I am suggesting that the EC is your enemy. I personally have no thoughts about them one way or another. My point here is to beseech everyone to embrace intellectualism and, to realise that Jesus, those who followed him, those who followed them and wrote many of the books we find in the New Testament and those who continued to follow and interpret were ALL engaged in intellectual arguments. Those arguments were about personal morality, public ethics, day to day living, eternal judgment, the nature of the soul, the nature, even, of Jesus himself. And the list goes on. As each new school of thinking arose it developed its own way of examining things and as a by-product of this, they also fell into developing their own exclusive way of communicating with one another. It happens. Steve & Josh. You are no fools! Do not put yourself down like that Steve. I heard more intellectual discussion from you guys in your first two podcasts that in the last ten years of sermons, small-groups, conferences and conventions combined. I do not hyperbolise and I was looking! Just because you fart into a microphone does not make you an anti-intellectual. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry about the length of this post. I blew out again. My serious drafts over the past few days have been upward of four thousand words. . . I think I’m calmer now. Merry Christmas everyone. It has just ticked past midnight here in Australia!

  15. I wouldn’t say I have my own definition of inerrrancy… more like my own understanding of the significance of the definition, coupled with my tendency to include the inevitable excesses & extremes with such approaches. And to be quite honest about it, I don’t think mine is ‘wrongly interpreted’. There are a number of ‘doctrines’ (for lack of a better word), specifically in emergent circles that cannot be discussed until the concept of ‘inerrancy’ is sufficiently debunked.Is that wrong? I don’t know. Getting back to the original intent of this post, it’s probably all over my head…

  16. Personally, i like big words. I don’t think people should dismiss something just because it seems like they are a)crazy b)soft c)full of hot air.I’ve found love to be at the center of the emergent churches that i have visited, and i like that. but at the same time, they have a lot of nice philosiphies that are quite idealistic, but then again, can you fault a church for being idealistic. Bottom line is that there are some great things and also slightly brow-furrow-inducing things happening at the core of this emergent ‘movement’ – but i think a conversation about it is the best way to approach it. As much as blogs are a flawed form of communication and written text (i have a domain name! i must know what i speak of!) i like the fact that once in a while they make me think. (SCP and others being a case in point.)

  17. <>No, God is not weak and soft. On the contrary, God is majestic, God is loving, God is righteous. Why would I want a milk toast God? How can I rely on someone who is weak and soft? Do not confuse God’s love with softness.<>Cube,You completely missed my point. I was saying that the ‘g’od they attempt to fit into their little molds and pet theologies is weak and soft. By adopting the idea that the bible’s truth is not necessarily without fault, therein lies the opportunity to further weaken their ‘g’od, as they squeeze him into their next little pet mold/paradigm.No, the God I serve is like the one you talked about. In fact, I believe His love IS His power. It’s how He accomplished everything.My statements on ‘weakness’ and ‘softness’ were somewhat tongue-in-cheek…

  18. Are you serious? I have had the opposite impression of the EC conversation. It seems that they shun the intellectual conversations and care only about being ‘loving’ and ‘missional’. They do not want theology (which I equate with philosophy or being intellectual), as they say this is too modern. Also, I am beginning a ‘conversation’ on the necessity of ‘church’. I would hope that you would pop your unchurched head in every now and then and see the progress made. If you feel so obliged to contribute, greatness. If not, at least be an onlooker.If you could invite some of your church-hatin friends that would be wondrous as well.http://sofyst.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=74awaiting the hope,Adamhttp://www.sofyst.nethttp://www.protestantpub.com

  19. <>the God they are embracing seems to me to be kind of weak and soft.<>This ‘god’ you speak of IS weak and soft, because he is pliable and easily shaped/formed into the necessary function. To deny inerrancy of the Bible and Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross is to ‘free-up’ some room for reshaping god… you know, fit him into our paradigm.imho.

  20. <>I think inerrancy is definitely something that needs to be debunked in emergent circles in order for them to be able to explain some of their positions, yes.<>my entire point. i should have just said this.

  21. Good point. It’s amazing how each new church improvement movement just gets more and more confusing and idiotic. The church we’ve been attending is this way. A bunch of twenty-something pseudo intellectuals/hippy wannabes. Where are the real people?

  22. The sad part about this whole emergent “discussion” is that they make a lot of valid points. The surface idea of emergent isn’t bad, if anything it can be quite good for the church. The problem for me lies in the wishy washy theology of the leaders of the emergent movement. There is a lack of creativity and experience in the modern church, but the God they are embracing seems to me to be kind of weak and soft.

  23. Your humility in this post is encouraging, Steve.I too have felt “lost” and a bit frustrated trying to understand this conversation. I’ve always struggled with reading retention. I could spend years reading all the great philosophers and church leaders only to forget 98% of it a year later. This post reminded me of Eugene Peterson who learned that the Bible was originally written in the street language of the day. Perhaps Jeff and others will similarily be able to interpret “The Message” of this conversation for SCPs like me.

  24. At risk of being cast in a pejorative light, I find difficulty in aligning my linguistic abilities to be commensurate with the emergent dialogue…okay that doesn’t even work!! I think the fact that emergence is so focused on ‘praxis’ over ‘theology’… wait, did I just say ‘praxis’? It means applying what you believe, doesn’t it? Then why not say that? Why not just say, “Don’t only believe it. Just do it!” (It worked for Nike…).

  25. Yup, the pressue is on. I will try to tackle this and love the thought of trying to create a “message” version.I am so tired of headiness. Of course maybe this is just me. I think that I could claim the prize for the following:Dumbest Guy with 3 degrees .. i look forward to communicating with you all.Feel free to give suggestions on what you want me to try to break down.

  26. Okay, now you’re just confusing me! ๐Ÿ™I think we’re talking past each other or something….you keep using certain words in ways that don’t make sense to me.<>I don’t think mine is ‘wrongly interpreted’.<> Your what? I think you forgot to clarify something here, or left out a noun, or something. ??I think inerrancy is definitely something that needs to be debunked in emergent circles in order for them to be able to explain some of their positions, yes.

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