Friday, July 14, 2006

Guest Blogger: Dr. Ray Anderson on his new book, "An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches"

I had several classes with Dr. Ray Anderson when I was at Fuller. He is an able theologian who gets to the heart of the matter. Anderson is heavily influenced by Barth and Boenhoffer so it is no surprise that he takes a strong Christiological approach to an emergent theology. He brings out a very relevant point, if we strive to be post modern and culturally relevant but lose sight of who Christ is have we developed another gospel?

Timely questions, and important in light of where some of the emergent ideas seem to be heading.

Ray S. Anderson

The modern attempt to integrate the secular academy with a religious worldview took the form of the question--What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? Tertullian (160-225 A.D) was the first one to use the formula, in a negative way, and it has been replicated in a hundred different ways in our modern quest for assimilation, if not integration, of faith and reason. In my recent book, An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches, I argue that, for the apostle Paul, the seminal issue was not the debate at Athens but the debacle with the leaders of the church at Jerusalem. The geographical distance between Jerusalem and Antioch could be measured in miles; the theological distance was, as Kierkegaard once put it, and a point that Barth later adopted, the 'infinite, qualitative distinction between God and man.' The church at Jerusalem was held captive by the religion of Moses (Ishmael); the church at Antioch under Paul's leadership was inspired by the creative and eschatological vision of Abraham (Isaac). Thus, for Paul, the question became--What has Antioch to do with Jerusalem?

In arguing my thesis I do not intend to disparage the Christian community at Jerusalem. It was the source of an incredible spiritual force that resisted attempts to suppress and even destroy it. When those who were dispersed due to persecution fled to other cities, including Antioch, they carried with them the gift and power of the Spirit along with the message of a crucified and risen Messiah. When I contrast Antioch and Jerusalem it is for the purpose of sharpening the focus on the content and direction of the emergent theology uniquely envisioned and proclaimed by the apostle Paul. In reading the growing body of literature coming out of the emerging church movement, I worry that a postmodern philosophy has too easily become a hermeneutical criterion in which attempts to make the message if the gospel culturally relevant is in danger of presenting 'another gospel.' I argue, instead, that the contemporaneity of Christ is not established by attempts to make the historical Jesus relevant to our culture, but is the result of the eschatological 'moment' (chairos) of the resurrected Christ occurring through the Holy Spirit in our time as a proleptic manifestation of the Kingdom of God. While Barth held that the Word of God becomes contemporary through the preaching event, Bonhoeffer argued that it is Christ himself who is contemporary through the church--'Christ exists as community.' I take this to be more in line with Paul's view of the emerging church at Antioch and through the mission out of Antioch, that Christ, not merely the message about Christ, is the essential content of the gospel and the formative character of the church. Read More.

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