Wednesday, February 18, 2004

whats the internet point

I have wandered into another evangelical canon, over here. I am “pandering to pagans”, and “driven by culture”, and “same as the Catholics.” [Quite a mix really!]

So a complete stranger has got something off their chest by flaming me. It is so bizarre reading someone else’s interpretation of your website and realising how little you have in common. If there was some common ground we could probably start a dialogue and I could do some learning and growing. Instead, flaming the chaff results in a scorched earthed policy. Oh well, I hope they are feeling better.

Posted by steve at 05:07 PM


  1. Hi Steve – I read the entry that flamed you and I can understand your disappointment. I’d hate to read the same sort of thing about me – I reckon it would be hard to know how to react thinking to myself that I don’t know the guy and his journey, and also that he’s following the same God I am.

    Thanks also for linking to the alternate point of view that the site represents. I have enjoyed your blog and reading your insights (like “I Need a Life”) and hearing about “emerging”. Thanks.

    Comment by Thomas Williams — February 18, 2004 @ 6:15 pm

  2. I suppose it’s easier for you to dismiss my criticism as ‘flaming’ than it is to actually deal with it. You don’t need to know me to understand what I’m saying, and either agree or disagree. I’ve been called an awful lot of things by folks wearing your mantle, and yet I take the time to actually read a good deal of material from your point of view before commenting. But I didn’t say anything about YOU. I said something about your beliefs and teachings. This isn’t personal, much as you apparently feel the need to make it personal.

    Pandering to Pagans = incorporating Maori symbols into Christian worship, as well as Celtic concepts of cosmology. They are pagan concepts, pagan symbology, and you can’t fellowship with God and devils at the same time.

    Driven by culture = Just look at what you write about- Piglet, DJ’ing, Coupland, Romeo and Juliet. Now I write a lot on my blog about pop culture, but I don’t use it as the basis for theological tracts. Other “Emergent” folks’ main concern seems to be social justice, sweatshops, and where their clothes came from.

    I’m 30. I’m “Gen-X”. I’m sick and tired of being pandered to, being treated like a statistic or a demographic. You say I ‘got something off my chest’, as if what I said was just driven by personal problems, rather than deeply held belief. You say I’m a ‘complete stranger’, as if that had anything to do with the validity of my views. Because that’s how Gen-X is, right? We don’t reason, we don’t engage in logic- it’s all about relationships. But I bet you don’t know Douglas Coupland, and yet you’ve got about every one of his books on your reading list.

    I didn’t flame you. I disagreed with the characteristics of the movement you identify with, and questioned how Biblical it was. I quoted other sites besides yours. This isn’t about you. If you want to make it personally about me, and get your feelings all hurt, that’s fine. Just keep talking to people who agree with you. Nobody said you had to agree with me, or even refute me. But it’s just lame to use personal attacks (even if subtle ones) to shield yourself from having to actually deal with what I said. The very phrase “evangelical canon” is just a convenient code word for “stuff I don’t want to deal with”.

    Comment by Matt Powell — February 18, 2004 @ 8:28 pm

  3. Ouch!

    Your critic (who doesn’t seem to have comments) says ‘Christianity isn’t about taking stuff out of the culture and reinterpreting it in a Christian fashion.’ I’d like to know what St Paul was doing on Mars Hill, then.

    Comment by maggi — February 18, 2004 @ 9:29 pm

  4. hey matt, i don’t know you and i disagree with you.

    your comments on here and on your blog are based on a weird caricature of postmodernism and post-moderns, and you seem to have got the emergent church [whatever that might be] tangled up with a concept of gen-x which [and i think that we’re in agreement here] is an empty label [and when coupland wrote the book, he clearly wasn’t trying to define a generation]

    your contention that steve and others are merely trying to dress-up church in trendy new clothes is wrong, [in steve’s case, you’re really very wide of the mark] and if you’d read enough of steve’s posts with an open mind you would have realised that. he’s not driven by culture any more than you or me [and i could question how much you’re being driven by your church-culture, but that’s a whole other argument…] but he’s trying to engage with it and to seek what god’s doing there.

    i was interested to see that you chose to focus on the small issue of the maori symbols in steve’s earlier post, but completely failed to remark on the wider ceremony of baptism that that particular post was celebrating…

    if you approach the emergent in defensive mode, trying to protect a set of pre-defined assumptions about what church is and should be, then you will never get what the emergent thing is all about. engage openly and, yes, critically, with emergent church people, enter into a dialogue, and try to find out what we’re about and why we believe that our take on church is equally valid [not necessarily better, just a better of doing church for us, where we are] and i think that you’d be pleasantly surprised about what god is doing out here…

    Comment by si smith — February 19, 2004 @ 12:25 am

  5. (Pop) Culture

    In a moment of coincidence I read Steve’s posting e~mergent kiwi: whats the internet point at the same time as I found (Pop) Culture: Playground of the Spirit or Diabolical Device? by Stanley Grenz. He writesFor a large and growing…

    Comment by Greenflame — February 19, 2004 @ 12:27 am

  6. er… that last sentence should have read ‘…a better way of doing church for us, where we are…’

    Comment by si smith — February 19, 2004 @ 12:27 am

  7. Maggi,
    Paul didn’t bring the idols into his worship. I’m all for understanding culture and using it to communicate effectively. But it doesn’t redefine the church.

    And Si, if you’re looking for more content-
    Incorporating the concept of ‘thin spaces’ totally destroys everything that Baptism is all about. Baptism is God’s sign to us about redemption, that it comes only through Jesus Christ by the remission of sins. Christ came to us because there was no way we could ever get to God on our own. The Celts, along with all the pagan religions, believe that through ceremony or ritual we can reach heaven, by creating these ‘thin spaces’. Like the Egyptians with their pyramids. So by using that symbology, Baptism is turned into an empty shell, just another substanceless ritual whose main aim is to create a certain religious experience.

    And just because we’re on the same side doesn’t mean we can’t disagree, even sharply. Paul ‘rebuked Peter to his face.’


    Comment by Matt Powell — February 19, 2004 @ 3:29 am

  8. hi matt, i’m disagreeing again.
    i guess that we are destined not to see eye to eye on anything much. i suspect our minds are well and truly made up.

    but for what it’s worth, here’s my take on the ‘thin spaces’ thing.
    it’s a way of talking and thinking about us in relation to our creator god. it’s picture language. poetry.

    it doesn’t necessarily signify a belief in a pagan cosmology. and as far as i know, steve does not intend to build a pyramid in his garden.
    not yet anyway.

    Comment by si smith — February 19, 2004 @ 4:26 am

  9. Matt: if you read again, you will see that taking the elements of pagan worship, recognising within them the cry of the human heart for God, and subverting them to point people towards the greater truth, is precisely what he did.

    Comment by maggi — February 19, 2004 @ 6:43 am

  10. matt, thanks for making the comment. this is quick response to let you know i have heard, and am reflecting upon our cyber meeting.

    i am carrying a very heavy load at the moment; lecturing, marking, induction as minister, 1st service as minister, phd oral defense. i will try and respond over the next days but my blog is a priority juggled among a range of other commitments.

    can i make one plea, please may any discussion of baptism be done with the awareness that it involves a real person who on Sunday made a courageous decision to follow the risen Christ. May any verbal exchanges serve to enhance a vital and growing faith.

    the chaffed steve

    Comment by steve — February 19, 2004 @ 6:53 am

  11. Good point, Steve. I too rejoice at the expression of faith. My criticism is of the methodology, and what I see as syncretism. That’s not to say the expression of faith is not genuine, or that it’s not welcome.

    Comment by Matt Powell — February 19, 2004 @ 8:47 am

  12. Matt – I want to respons to one part of your comments – about taking symbols/understanding of a culture to explain/represent the truth of God’s relationship with us in redemption. Because when it is all boiled down, that is what it is all about.
    We are all humans, and God created us to live together. In doing so, we have created cultures around our lives to explain the truths of life, to create meaning, and to establish ways of interacting with each other. There are many, many cultures in the world today – and one of the realities of living in a globalised society is that in some ways the cultures have merged – Pop culture and modern communications have seen to that. But in other ways, highly individual localised cultures have emerged.
    Not all parts of culture are “Pagan” – a term I interpret as meaning involved in the worship of idols, demons and false gods. Some Maori carvings were, and are dedicated to “pagan” use, others are personal expression of creativity, symbols an family connections.
    The first Century Church experienced the first cross-cultural clash in spreading the good news of Jesus – when the Gentiles were first accepted as a part of the Church. This created waves then in the church – remember Peter and Paul stood head to head on this. What were their decsions?

    Firstly, the original culture of the Church – the Jews were told NOT to impose a cultural requirement on another culture – circumcision. This was a cultural symbol that went to the very heart of the Jews claim to a special relationship with God – and they were not to impose that onto another culture. I believe this tells us that no matter how important a cultural symbol is to one culture, and its worship of God, it is NOT to be imposed as a pre-requisite to faith in the SAME God on another culture. (Acts 15)

    Secondly there was discussion as to whether the Church could forbid the cultural activities of Christians in another culture – the issue of eating meat offered to idols. The elders in Jerusalem made a ruling not to do this, or eat strangled meat or blood, or indulge in sexual immorality. But Paul in 1 Cor 8 even brings into question on whether it was totally wrong to eat meat offered to idols, but to consider the conscious of others who believe it is.

    I believe this tells us that one culture cannot forbid Christians in another culture participation in their cultural practices – except where those practices and articles have been dedicated to the worship of demons/idols/false gods and where they directly oppose God’s law – eg sexual immorality.

    If bringing cultural relevance into Christian worship was against God’s plan, then we would ALL be living as first century Jews did – because that is the ONLY culture that can claim to be the one that established Christianity. All the rest of us have, in one way and another, made cultural choices in expressing our faith.
    There is NOTHING sacred about western culture that makes it the correct expression of Christianity. And there certainly is NOTHING sacred about the USA culture as the only way of expressing faith. But it is such a dominant culture in today’s society, sometimes we can lose sight of that.

    Comment by Janet — February 19, 2004 @ 10:09 am

  13. I am kinda glad I’m part of a religion that can incorporate things from other traditions and yet make them inherently Christian. Since the faith has lasted over 2000 years and spread across the globe, I’d be really surprised if it didn’t pick up a few things here and there, like symbols, practices and traditions.

    But then, maybe it’s because of my age. I can accept “thin places” because I’ve experienced them. I can appreciate symbolism because I remember what symbols are — ways to remember something using a visual sign to represent it, a tradition that goes back for hundreds and hundreds of years. I remember that just as our cultures have grown and expanded over the intervening millenia, so has the faith and how that faith is seen and experienced. We don’t live in 1st Century Palestine, and, like any organism that is alive, it has grown and matured.

    But that’s what’s so great about it. It’s not stuck in time and place. Now that’s cool.

    Comment by Mumcat — February 23, 2004 @ 9:36 am

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