Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, pt. 3

the second author in this book is John Burke, the founding pastor of gateway community church in austin, texas. in reading this book, particularly Burke's chapter on incarnational theology, i find it helpful to recall something Webber wrote in both the introduction, and again in the conclusion. in the intro, Webber writes:

These five contributors are not scholarly theologians, but practitioners. All are currently engaged in ministry at the local church level. The question of this book is, "What kind of theological reflection motivates your ministry?
and in the conclusion, repeats the thought by saying:
First, and very importantly, the contributors to this book are pastors, not professional theologians. They are not called to the classroom, but to the pulpit. Therefore, we must read them as pastors reflecting on how theology forms and shapes their ministry. We should not look for insights into biblical, historical, philosophical theology, but for applied theology.
in light of Webber's words, Burke's chapter fits in perfectly.

Burke has found that in his ministry setting, he faces many questions regarding the exclusivity of christianity and about the differences between christianity and other religions. these sorts of questions shape his ministry and the way he communicates the gospel.

three things that Burke emphasizes are how we represent Jesus, the veracity of scripture, and acknowledging commonality with other religions. he points out that christians "proclaim that Jesus is the only way and the right way. . . yet following Jesus makes no difference whatsoever in the way these so-called Christians live and treat people, except that it makes them more judgmental and hypocritical." thus, Burke says, "We need a new job description as the church. . . we're misrepresenting Jesus if the world hears our message as a message of judgment."

for Burke, the prophecies fulfilled in scripture stand as proof of its truth, and scripture serves as an authority and anchor to theology, though "we must subject our interpretations to a broader community."

in writing about other religions, Burke balances a respect for other belief systems while holding to the uniqueness of Christ. he explains, "Some truth can be found among the religions of the world. . . . [but they] do not say the same things about God's identity." like the apostle Paul when in Athens, Burke emphasizes truth in various religions as arrows pointing to the truth of scripture and the gospel.

key ideas from the responses to Burke:
  • Mark Driscoll: Driscoll disagrees with Burke's interpretation of how christianity interacts with other religions in light of a transcendent moral law. "But Jesus stands against religion and morality as enemies of the gospel because, as Martin Luther said, religion and morality are the default mechanisms of the human heart to pursue righteousness apart from him." and ". . . all religions do not have in essence the same morality."
  • Dan Kimball: "I really don't disagree with anything John wrote. I can only admire his missionary zeal. But more than just having zeal, John then puts this zeal into action as he is involved in lives of people outside the church. And. . . has been forced to grapple with the[se] theological questions. . . [and] admit that we need to do some deep theological thinking."
  • Doug Pagitt: "John makes a persuasive argument for making important the uniqueness of Scripture and Jesus. But i wonder if that emphasis is not a result of a culture that finds value in distinction, thinking "We are better because we are different from the other.""
  • Karen Ward: ". . . I especially appreciate his acknowledgment and willingness to take on and examine the problematic tendencies of evangelicalism (harboring parochial cultural perspectives, seeing divine truth as totally knowable and "locked in" by human beings, and clinging to forms of unexamined biblicism that often come off as arrogant and patronizing).


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