John MacArthur is an American christian with a significant radio ministry, 'Grace to you'. He is currently critiquing the emergent church and you can see part 1 and part 2 here. I have mentioned before that I think christians should welcome critique from within and without but it does raise some Qs as to how to respond when the feeling that the critique is more like criticism, which is unsubstantiated/un-evidenced/unexperienced/general in nature etc...
Dan Kimball, responds very graciously to some of the points raised by MacArthur in this post: Please don't stereotype the emerging church
When I read John's comments I think here is someone who is trying to be helpful in good intentioned but bad researched ways - seriously I think this dude is trying to help, is probably confused, puzzled, worried that these emergent types are drifting off from theirmoorings or busy dismantling their foundations (from reading part 1 it would seem he has similar concerns with those who don't agree to inerrancy, charismatics and seeker services).
The former conservative in me knows that one of the callings/charge almost of anyone with any authority in the modern conservative church is to stop people straying from the heard, to keep on the straight, narrow and true and that means agreement with structures/forms/theology that has arisen during modernity. To move away from these forms can therefore look distinctly like a move away from God, the faith etc, afterall if these forms are now symbolic of our christian identity to change them is I guess in his eyes, maybe, like renouncing them.
I also think there is a problem in terms of language, mystery for instance is the room for me to admit that God is God and I don't understand, know all the answers etc. That to someone else can look fundamentally flawed, heh we've got the bible, it tells us the answers, or at least the answers that we see through the interpretation grid we use. Language therefore becomes something of a problem, not just the words but the understanding of those words.
Now I don't want to make this about polarisation, I am not saying modern bad, post-modern good, mystery good, insight/answers bad... cos that would be just dumb - major HT to neo conservative evangelicals and their whole engagement with apologetics for instance, what a great model of really trying to engage with the philosophicals at the time using the grid they had to use...
So what I guess is my response:
1) avoid fighting ire with ire - can we be loving to this guy, let's not start up any new divisions, any fresh attacks on personalities, grumbles about how we're better etc - let's just say some of what he says is probably true to some degree for some of us at some times in some places. I liked Dan's post, it was not about attacking John but trying to deal with some of the issues he raised and provide evidence/examples from his own experience of emerging church.
2) an excuse to engage in dialogue - we could all drop John a line, say heh thanks for your thoughts, i appreciate you caring but this is my good experience and these are some of my worries about EC. In other words we have some common ground in that we have no doubt at some stage thought/wondered about EC, the good, the bad and the fluff :).
3) examine ourselves - just what our those EC flaws /blindspots- we ain't perfect so this is a good chance for us to examine ourselves and say, for example, hmmm maybe we just aren't very good explaining ourselves (perception is reality)? Maybe we are too enamoured with x but not with y, maybe we grumble hear about this or react against that instead of learning/building/reconstructing? It might be a faulty critique but it doesn't stop us asking with the Psalm writer for God to search us, God to shine in his light and reveal darkness within us, mistakes we are making, etc
4) practice forgiveness - some people will i am sure fine this critique hurtful/personal/annoying etc. It would be easy to dislike/disassociate ourselves from this person and grumble about dinosaurs/dictators/dipsticks and why they should shut up or ship out to their own religion... or we could recognise that we are all brothers and sisters in christ, all pretty dumb and as part of this great big God family are called to bare the marks of suffering servanthood, love and compassion. That might mean forgiving people who don't know what they are doing, even if they haven't asked for it and are infact trying to kill us off...
5) Deeper church not just broad church - as Dan suggested here is a chance to live beyond our fears and invite each other to share our spaces - we need a deep church, one that encompasses ancient, medieval, modern and post-modern, we need to practice differences within a common. tradition not conformity. As God does new things we should not forget the old things, we need both doctrines of immediacy and mediation.
That's what I think, but I'd love to hear from you..?