I met Tim Challis on Monday at Paul Martin’s paper presentation. I have ran across his blog a few times, and have no added him to my read list, but there was one post that stood out to me that I would like to comment on. Please though, before reading this post, read his entire post here instead of just looking a few quotes and then read on.
In speaking of a song he was singing with the word ‘bold’ in it:
To be honest, I heard little of the rest of the song. I was just overwhelmed by that one word: bold. I was moved almost to tears. No, let’s be honest. I was moved to tears by that simple word. I stopped singing and just thanked and praised God for the boldness He gives. I stopped and thanked Jesus for the boldness He won for me through His sacrifice. It was a blessed moment.
In speaking of the emergent church and Brian McLaren
Throughout the evening, boldness was absent. The faith of the emergents, the postmodern faith, is a faith that is devoid of boldness before God. It is timid, angry, tentative, questioning. It is not a faith of assurance and boldness. It emphasizes the unknowability of God more than what God has revealed to us about Himself. The faith McLaren commends is a faith that always questions, always doubts.
I found this post quite interesting for a number of reasons.
1. This whole idea of the word ‘bold’ is a bit disturbing. While McLaren may dart the question, and he may answer questions with even more questions (which Jesus certainly did) I don’t think that you can make the accusation that he isn’t bold. And on that matter, lump the entire emergent movement under the lack-of-boldness heading. I think the fact that their literature is almost uncountable by now and that you would have a hard time reading everything that they are saying, because they are saying so much would say that they are quite confident in speaking out and being heard. Maybe bold isn’t the word that you should use. For instance, if we take Paul Martin’s paper where he quotes Carla Rolfe’s question “Is the written word of God, for you, in your life as a believer, the final authority in all matters of your faith, and practice?” To you I have the understanding that a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would be the bold answer. But I guess, if that is boldness where does that really get anyone? If he answers yes, then you are in agreement and you can be friends? Or you can continue the conversation? If he answers no, then you think he is a heretic and you end the conversation? I’m not sure how having a bold answer on someone’s theological system accomplishes anything. I think McLaren’s tactics here on answering questions is quite ingenious in that it he conceals his personal preference in hopes that he might push you the questioner to seek deeper for your own answer instead of just feeding it to you. Unless of course there is underlying agenda’s in the question, which my guess would be many of the people that ask him questions have, and they are usually the ones that get ticked off. I think most good teachers in university have this down pretty good. Even the verse Tim quoted was about approaching God with boldness, not other people with theological statements. The second verse he quoted was speaking of God’s ‘unsearchable judgements’ and his ‘paths beyond tracing out’ and his unknowing ‘of the mind of the Lord.’ All statements which to me seem to speak of quite a bit of mystery and uncertainty. The verses seem to work against his point, not for it.
2. I also find it odd that Tim and a bunch of his commenters on that post (94 comments, that’s a lot of talking) would be all up in arms about him not having a bible or praying during the session. The Resonate Echo event is supposed to be set up as an informal discussion time with a thinker that we think has something to say that will challenge us. Does this mean that every time he has a discussion he needs to pray first and make sure he has his bible there in front of him for him to be ‘invoking’ God’s presence in his discussion? Technically it is not supposed to be a question an answer time, but a discussion, though I admit, it wasn’t too much of a conversation. If we are honestly going to judge his entire ministry by this one instance of him not having his bible in front of him then I think we are doing ourselves quite a large disfavour. Anyone can see from his books that he refers to scripture quite a lot. His entire new book is based on Scripture (whether you agree with his interpretations or not). I think this is a poor and weak argument and it quite typical of a modern mind to simply point to the lack of bible in his hands and make such a wide judgement of it. I was judged like this all the time in church, I was looked down upon because of how little I would raise my hands or how many times I would bring my bible to church with me). Is this really a a good test for his respect for the Bible? When I asked a question to Mclaren, the first thing he said was to practice spiritual disciplines, praying, meditation, scripture reading, fasting etc. He is obviously not against it.
3. Sometimes I think that the lack of boldness in one person really frustrates the boldness of another. For some reason, bold people (not all) love to be in each other’s faces fighting statement after statement back and forth at each other. When someone isn’t bold back, or gives them no reason to react with his answers (even if it is because they don’t really answer the question), it frustrates them because it’s almost as they want something to disagree with. The only thing that Tim really pointed out that he didn’t like about McLaren was his lack of boldness. Of course he did point out his minute use of scripture which is troubling because of what I listed above and also because we simply can’t list verses to answer every question. Jesus used scripture yes, but he used story, questions and parables to get across his points also many times. Could it be that the lack of boldness is an issue simply because it doesn’t give anyone anything to disagree about except the lack of boldness itself?