In Leadership Journal, in answering the question "What is the Church for" Brian McLaren makes the following claim:
Most of us have our "theologically correct" answer. The church's purpose is worship, or evangelism, or making disciples, or some combination. But deeper than our conscious answers are our unspoken, unexamined, perhaps even unconscious beliefs—four of which are especially powerful these days:
The church exists to …
- Provide a civil religion for the state
- Preserve and promote certain social values
- Provide a living for religious professionals
- Promote the satisfaction of its members.
It is on this deeper level that the emerging/missional conversation has, in my opinion, the most to offer.
While I happen to agree with many of the things McLaren bemoans in this article (slavery, racism, even some flavor of environment concern - though I would not use the personified language of "care for creation" which he chooses), it is a bit frustrating that he places beliefs in others that they may not hold. In fact, to say others have "subconscious" beliefs about what the church is for, and then to list them is facile and seems to me to be just a rhetorical device.
First, nobody thinks that Christianity is or should be the state religion by talking about a "Christian nation" - we do not have a national state church (though some of the "states" did in the early days). He is right to remind us of some of the evils perpetrated by Christians in America, but I know very few people he could be referring to (I can't think of one right now - maybe some Theonomists in Idaho?) that want an official civil religion.
Second, the church should promote godliness and holiness in its people and should propehtically call the state to justice. This I think I agree with Mr. McLaren.
Why he patronizes "theologoical correctness" I am really not sure. Other than to poke at people who care about having sound doctrine. Yes, we do not all agree on "correct" but we should all care to move towards that reality. There is incorrect theology, we ought to avoid it. This exhoration is repeated over and over in the New Testament.
I guess my overall frustration with the article is why McLaren chooses to interact with the "unstated, unconcious beliefs." This seems to me to only be the creation of a rhetorical world, to create a world in which emergent can play the hero.
My question is why does emergent have "the most to offer." Obviously it is not because it is a better view, or "more correct" - perhaps just because it is in the middle.
Finally, I want to point out how emergent consistenly uses language like "deeper" and "beyond" and "most to offer." One uses metaphors when there is no arguement offered for why a view is "better."
GK Chesterton once remarked about Nietzsche's use of metaphors (ie Beyond Good and Evil - to avoid saying "better" than good and evil) when he wrote:
Had he faced his thought without metaphors, he would have seen that it was nonsense
McLaren does this often. In his powerpoint presentation from the Emergent Convention (which is no longer on his web site as far as I can tell - I have it downloaded though) he calls us to go "beyond" relativism and absolutism. I just don't know what that means. I think Chesterton would call this nonsenese.
Full article is here Underneath the Cosmetics - LeadershipJournal.net