Reviewers Reviewing McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity

kinnon —  February 10, 2010

UPDATE: Brian McLaren graciously responds to this post, my previous post on Framing the Discussion and my later post where I have Questions for him (which he responds to).

I have no time today to write a substantive review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity. (As an independent producer/director, I have work that needs to get finished.) So I will point you at two reviewers that I would recommend you read and some further background for the on-going discussion.

Mike Wittmer has begun a series on the book. He’s on Question 2 right now. Of course, Mike is part of the Military Industrial Complex Theological Seminary/Church Leadership Vested Interest Group (TS/CLVIG for short) and a Kuyperian, no less. You’ve been warned. 🙂 Here are direct links to his Introduction and Question 1.

The second link is to Darryl Dash in a review that is possibly stronger and more blunt than I’ve ever heard him before. He quotes Brian on the need to rethink the whole Christian enterprise,

At some point, though, more and more of us will finally decide that it would make more sense to go back and revise the contract from scratch. And that work has begun. It is nowhere near complete, but the cat is out of the bag… [emphasis added by Darryl]

And Darryl responds,

And that cat is on a tear. McLaren attempts the impossible, essentially tossing out what you always thought was true, and starting again from scratch. The Fall of Genesis 3? That’s really a coming-of-age story. The storyline of the Bible? It’s really about the downside of progress, and about how good prevails in the end anyway. The Bible is a community library, and the violent, tribal God of the Genesis flood is “hardly worthy of belief, much less worship” – but those were early days, and our view of God is always changing. Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion, nor is Christianity the answer in itself. In short, almost everything you know about God, the Bible, and Christianity is wrong, according to McLaren. [emphasis added]

McLaren is quite upfront that his theology has been powerfully informed by Harvey Cox’s The Reason for Faith and by the theology of Marcus Borg. (He identifies Borg as a fellow emergent traveller and Cox winds his way through McLaren’s footnotes.) So you might find Borg’s BeliefNet post on John 14:6 informative – as it squares with that of Brian’s understanding of the verse in ANKoC. And this will give a little taste of the theology of Cox along with this. (I confess that I find Cox’s definition of the present “Age of the Spirit” rather bizarre – as if the Holy Spirit was incapable of doing much until now. An extremely low view of the power of the Spirit I would posit.)

As pointed to in the previous post, Jeremy Bouma has begun a series that investigates and questions the theology of the Emergent Village wing of the Emerging Church. As Brian has been and still is a key leader in the theology of EV, Jeremy’s posts are important to the discussion.

I also want to point you to my friend Sonja, blogging as Calacrian, and her post from this morning that begins with a Frost poem that has been resonating of late for me, as well.

…we’ve come to a place where there are a goodly number of people who are comfortable with the way things are (or are headed) in the emerging conversation. But there are also a goodly number of people who (for a variety of reasons) are no longer comfortable with it. Me, I feel like Robert Frost standing at the two roads diverging in the woods. Do we really have to choose?

This discussion around Emergent and ANKoC is going to be hard. Lines have already been drawn. (I hear, “nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong” echoing that last sentence.)

I was awake until 4am last night struggling with this stuff. Wondering how a conversation that had begun in part about oppression had itself become oppressive – where transparency would be talked about but not practiced. Where questioners would have shame labels hung around their necks – while the questioned would play the victim card. It has begun to feel like the Twilight Zone or perhaps what my kids once called Opposites Day.

I awoke this morning to an interlocutor suggesting I was in league with Screwtape – because I dared to ask questions – of an Emergent leader.

That is the level of dis-ease in this discussion. Which extends further and deeper than the present presenting symptoms – as stories of betrayal, infidelity and coverup are woven into the very fabric of the marketing of this new kind of Emergent Christianity.

And yes, Bob, Screwtape is laughing. But at what or whom, exactly?




A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

47 responses to Reviewers Reviewing McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity

  1. “Wondering how a conversation that had begun in part about oppression had itself become oppressive – where transparency would be talked about but not practiced. Where questioners would have shame labels hung around their necks – while the questioned would play the victim card.”

    Reminds me of Camus: “The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown. He must dominate in his turn.” Is that where it’s at?

  2. >>>>Wondering how a conversation that had begun in part about oppression had itself become oppressive – where transparency would be talked about but not practiced. Where questioners would have shame labels hung around their necks – while the questioned would play the victim card. It has begun to feel like the Twilight Zone or perhaps what my kids once called Opposites Day.

    Powerful stuff. Thanks…

  3. Bill, I am so glad you engaging in this book – many will find value in it, many will not.

    I pushed back not because you were “questioning” someone or something – that is healthy. Instead, you posted a blind item of gossip, demeaning a fellow creation of God who struggles to follow Jesus like me & you.

    For someone who praises debate, it is a sad irony that you respond by making assumptions about peoples’ faith and about their motives.

    Stories of betrayal, infidelity and coverup were present in the early Jesus followers, in traditions thru the ages, in Catholics & Orthodox & Protestant, in Evangelical & Anglican even. Peter was a human being, full of foibles, straining for holiness. So was Dorothy Day or Merton. So are the leaders you post blind items about.

    Rather than snipe & snark, Bill, in a fashion that reminded me of Screwtape’s suggestions of undermining faith – how about staying focussed on the words of our Savior:

    ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

  4. …just because one does not tell all does not mean the information does not exist. Perhaps Bill is not so blind as you might think. The trail is all over the internet, for those with eyes to see it.

    We are all human, brother, in need of love and grace and mercy. We are also called to remember all of the words of our Savior … and he had some very choice words for those he called whitewashed tombs.

    When we fail (not if), we all are to humbly confess those sins and repent and restore broken relationships. Sweeping things under the carpet is containment, not confession.

    Snipe and snark undermining faith? Well, perhaps blind faith could use some undermining now and again … which could be perceived as lovingly keeping folks from going over the cliff.

  5. Bob … do you believe that any of this “blind gossip” was aimed at you? Do you have anything to hide? If not, then why are you suddenly the doctrinal police coming to save the day? Let those with guilty consciences either clear the air or clear their souls … but that is not your job and you’re mucking around where you do not need to be.

    And … just so you don’t accuse me of doing what I’m asking you not to do, Bill asked several of us to ride shotgun on this as he is done in. Perhaps it would be very good to remember the old adage about pointing fingers.

  6. So true Peggy. Actually sweeping things under the carpet is contamination. When questions are deflected and those who ask them are made to seem the problem you can be sure that you are no longer in a healthy situation that values openness, candor, and trust. Mistrust should not be read as criticism, but rather as a barometer indicating the health of a particular relationship. Anyway, been there, and I know what it looks like.

  7. Linda … yes, contamination is the result of attempted containment, isn’t it? Well said.

  8. “Wondering how a conversation that had begun in part about oppression had itself become oppressive – where transparency would be talked about but not practiced. Where questioners would have shame labels hung around their necks – while the questioned would play the victim card. It has begun to feel like the Twilight Zone or perhaps what my kids once called Opposites Day.”

    I tend to agree with Bob. Much of this is lost on me. While I do find some of the “defenders of the (emergent) faith” that come out of the woodwork once a critique is posted online to be a bit inflammatory, that is hardly the case with Brian (granted I’m only about halfway through the book). The way the conversation has gone online and through other various networks recently is admittedly regrettable but, again, let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. I don’t find that to be Brian’s fault nor do I read him as one who is drawing a line in the sand. He is being more clear and candid about his theology, to be sure, and that should be rigorously dissected but I just don’t see him positing some sort of us/them binary. His (un)faithful defenders may be but he isn’t. If we want to have a frank come to Jesus meeting about the tone of the conversation on various blogs, etc. then lets do that. But I would submit that extrapolating and applying those failures to everyone (which seems to be the tone of many of these recent critiques) be it Brian or whomever, simply isn’t helpful or constructive.

  9. It looks like to me that the release of Brian McLaren’s latest book has happened in a historical flow of events that has led to some very real, yet unexpected, intensity and complexity. Chalk it up to providential timing, I guess — who would have foreseen this event cropping up and creating a firestorm? But it also seems like there is a whole system of contextual issues to consider that surround this book release. And I just take those as more indicators of how interconnected things and people and all sorts of other issues tend to be.

    For instance, some people want to examine the theological details in *A New Kind of Christianity,* cuz theology is their thing.

    Meanwhile, others (like myself) may be more interested in the underlying paradigm that sets the parameters of how such a theology was constructed in the first place, how that is all mediated and perhaps even commodified by a “celebrity system” where apparently Mr. McLaren Speaks For All Of Us (according to HarperOne, as I critiqued before), and why disciples from other kinds of paradigms either resonate with Brian’s theology or not.

    And some may want to use Brian’s new book as an opportunity to pyranosaurutize the entire emerging church movement while others, to call into question leftover issues of leadership from Emergent Village in specific, or maybe even to get competitive about promoting their own view of The One True And Complete Orthodoxy.

    Or is it in part just that the oh-oh decade was so crummy for so many of us that we’ve been overanxious to move forward now that we have A New Decade, and so have been processing the 2000s like crazy, and thus poor TallSkinnyKiwi really is The One To Blame for sensing a new season of emerging movements going in different directions and starting the trail of good-byes? (Sorry Andrew, I don’t really blame you, though some might …)

    Anyway, I’m more with Bill on this one, in part because I’m a systems thinker and see this all in 1D, 2D, 3D, and 4D, depending on what’s happening in the moment and how much coffee is in my own system. [Sidenote: No wonder it takes me forever to progblogsticate anything?! I’m trying to get to my own post on “Deconstructing and Constructing Movements” as soon as I can, because it seems a ripe time to interject those thoughts into the broader conversation on emerging, Emergent, missional, paradigms, *A New Kind of Christianity,* and whatever else may be lurking and in need of discussion.] But I guess in the meantime, I realize that I/we need more listen-up-ability instead of spreading liability and more perseverance with one another instead of assuming perversity. All I can suggest for all of us is to hang in there until all the apparent generalities can be laid out in specifics on the necessary issues at hand. Then maybe it won’t seem like over-extrapolating or misapplicating.

  10. Still repeating the one-sided “betrayal, infidelity and coverup” innuendo with relationship to the situation you think you know oh-so-well?


    I can’t take anything you write seriously until you seriously consult both sides of your sordid little tale, or quite pretending to want reconciliation. This stuff’s poisoning you, man, and making you weave conspiracy theories out of disparate, unrelated stuff you happen to disagree with.

  11. Brad, you’re making more and more sense. Are you blogging this over at your own blog? I’ll check tomorrow. If not, you should copy & paste the comments you’re leaving across the blogosphere, ’cause I think this is really helpful.

  12. One-sided! Coming from you Mike, that’s particularly rich. Perhaps you’d like me to share the one-sided missive I received from you recently on this very situation – and then let’s talk about disgusting, shall we.

  13. OMG, Mike! Does that mean I used to make nonsense? Thanx for the compliment!

    Hah! Yuhz set yourself up for that’n’!

    Actually, a whole lotta these concepts are already interwoven in something like a quarter million words over at my blog (only been blogging at futuristguy since autumn 2007, and expect to cease this blog this Easter). Some of the historical and interpretive stuff is too. And, as Peggy Brown (The Virtual Abbess) suggested over a year ago, helpful stuff is there, when people tire of all their deconstructing and are ready to construct or reconstruct. I’m trying to get it revamped into better “tutorials,” but it just takes time and I won’t get it perfect before needing to move on in April (I’ve been blogging at futuristguy since autumn 2007, and expect to cease this blog this Easter and either not be available for a while or starting some other thang – – don’t know what yet. It’s a providential secret where even I don’t know wazzup yet.)

    It’s kind of it’s own lil treasure hunt, eh? So, good luck with that … it’s only about the equivalent of three or four book manuscripts …

    But anyway, I may get these comments all cut and pasted and over to my blog sometime, along with posting the 2003 history I mentioned, and a new article on “Deconstructing and Constructing Movements,” about addressing entire systems and not just symptoms. But the 2006 document I mentioned is over 40 pages single space of advanced conceptual material that I don’t think is appropriate for blogging, at least not “as is” or at this time, and I don’t have time available to edit it down in language or conceptual levels. Oh well. We do what we can.

  14. Bill, I tend to think I’d agree with you on more points than not on this whole bit. But staying up until 4am over this aint a healthy sign. Gotta say, this was bit of an over dramatic post.

  15. sonja, i have no pretense of saving a day or playing police – rather, i am mucking around because people are involved, not blog posts or abstract values.

    i am curious – what does this mean: Bill asked several of us to ride shotgun on this as he is done in

  16. peggy, i am curious – who exactly are you saying has not “confess those sins and repent and restore broken relationships” ? on what are you basing that assumption ?

  17. Perhaps I am unfairly, one-sidedly biased, but there’s a crucial difference between you and I: I am not blogging my bias. If I was ever going to publicly comment about the very messy, complex private matter that you’re alluding to over and over again on your blog and others, and ‘resting your case’ about the ‘death of emergent’ on, you’d better believe I’d have extensive conversations with the other party and their friends before settling this matter in the court of my mind.

    Let’s call this what it is: Gossip and slander.

  18. Mike,
    You have engaged publicly in the discussion of this very messy matter – it’s what you are doing here right now.

    Further, you shared with me slanderous comments about the other party – for which you later said you didn’t actually have proof – but it’s what you’d heard “from people you trust.” Those talking points were designed to destroy the credibility of the other party – who you then labelled as “bat-shit crazy.” Your words, not mine.

    Public leaders who want to pontificate on what the church needs to do regarding just about everything – including marriage – don’t get a pass from having their own actions brought into the light. But it is so much easier to attack those who ask legitimate questions by name calling than it is to actually deal with the prevailing sin – so that it might be healed. We wouldn’t want to impact book sales now would we.

    Oh, and I’ve never rested my case on the death of emergent. You are ascribing other people’s words to me – just as you are ascribing other people’s motives to me. But I don’t expect you’ll stop.

  19. Bob, I prefer to allow those who are more than aware of their brokenness and their need for repentance and restoration to confess on their own … it is so much better for them. Patience with prodding may get some action…and the perfect storm around McLaren’s book (see Brad’s comments below) may actually bring things to a head. We will have to wait and see.

    These are not “assumptions” being made but suggestions based on public information available to any who are willing to find it. Many of us out here are just hinting (some more subtle than others) that something is contaminating (thanks for that, Linda!) the field and those who are in the know and on the ground with those involved should really step up and take care of it before even more damage is done.

    Life is complicated … fame only makes it more so.

  20. There is a simple yet profound difference between criticism and critique – understanding and carrying on any discourse with that difference in mind is absolutely crucial.

    Dave Fitch this morning; “…Yet this ongoing incarnational process of discerning truth contextually continues and extends orthodoxy. This extending does not happen through a few professional clergy deciding how we should discern the issues disagreed upon from the top down…”

    3 questions come to mind:

    How do we choose to disagree and have discourse that might actually extend orthodoxy?

    Whose battle are we fighting?

    And most critically,
    What is the place of discernment in all this discussion?

  21. Biill, when can we expect you taking to task in this fashion the hundreds of other public leaders who want to pontificate on what the church needs to do regarding just about everything – including marriage.

    The list is long – it includes Catholics, Anglicans, fat people, skinny people, evangelicals, emergents, Calvinists, men & women.

  22. what sensational questions, imbi – wonderfully shraed

  23. Peggy, this phrase seems more akin to celebrity gossip or American politics:

    Many of us out here are just hinting

    Somewhere, Wormwood is overjoyed.

  24. Gee Bob, maybe you could send me a list and I can get started. Since I take such great pleasure in doing this.

  25. I’m sure Wormwood is overjoyed, but perhaps not in the way you might be thinking.

    Screwtape’s favorite tactic was to sidetrack folks and keep the real issues from coming to light and being dealt with.

    This conversation actually might not really be as much about what McL’s book says as what his pastoral influence could do in the lives of broken people God has put in his path. Not the warm and fuzzy intellectual break-through moments, but the very hard, time-consuming personal accountability ones.

    …hinting need not be perceived as sinister, Bob. It can actually be a Severe Mercy.

  26. It appears you have already gotten started, based on your posts and what Sonja seemed to allude to in her comment “Bill asked several of us to ride shotgun on this as he is done in”.

    It rings false to post and comment voraciously, Bill, then indicate you take no pleasure.

    As the wise imbi asked, What is the place of discernment in all this discussion?

    The catechism at the back of the BCP helps me when I ponder discernment and God’s Spirit in that process:

    We recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and are brought into love and harmony with God, with ourselves, with our neighbors, and with all creation.

  27. …or not, brother!

    To continue in the Lewisonian thread, we accept the adventure Aslan sends … many of which had to do with doing the right thing, even if others didn’t believe you or understand why you could see Aslan and they couldn’t.

    Here’s to Lucy … the youngest, without any “authority” or “status” or “influence” … which meant, of course, that she was free to trust and obey.

    Edmund, on the other, had eaten the Turkish Delight … and was enslaved by his desire for more, as well as his desire to get back at Peter and Susan.

    Where is the Professor when we need him, eh?

  28. Because something rings false does not, in fact, make it false. This is precisely the place for discernment, Bob.

    The OT prophets did not take pleasure in their role as God’s prosecuting attorneys, but they commented voraciously. Sometimes with witheringly witty words. God does, in fact, have an amazing sense of humor. Jesus showed us that — and used “parables” instead of “hints” to get his message across to the intended hearers. Often those around him did not get what he was saying. The ones to whom he was speaking got it loud and clear. They crucified him for it.

    Life can really be quite complex.

    The Spirit is the one who convicts of sin under the New Covenant … but brothers and sisters do not love if they do not hold others accountable.

    You can rest assured, Bob … Bill is surrounded by brothers and sisters who love him and hold him accountable.

  29. Ah yes, Bill – that part of a privately-emailed line was, as I recall, what I apologized to you about. I suppose since you never wrote me back I should’ve assumed that you might one day publicly quote it – especially since you threatened me with legal action at the time.

    Of course I don’t have proof, Bill – and neither do you. We weren’t there! No credibility was destroyed; the offending quote in question was part of a hypothetical point-counterpoint about the potential credibility or lack thereof of both parties. Probably the healthiest thing to do is to consult folks who know both parties – as I have done – and (to quote you in an earlier post) to “shut the hell up” about it ’till you do. Which is something I’m trying hard to do, but you’re making it difficult.

    Public figures are subject to a greater amount of public scrutiny, and should be – but never through the mechanism of innuendo. Children of the light can live better than this.

    As to ascribing or the lack thereof,

    “That is the level of dis-ease in this discussion. Which extends further and deeper than the present presenting symptoms – as stories of betrayal, infidelity and coverup are woven into the very fabric of the marketing of this new kind of Emergent Christianity.”

    Sure sounds like a death knell to me.

  30. Peggy, Lewis and other Christian thinkers thru time have always talked of God and faithful communities as the arbiters, as the one who make very hard, time-consuming personal accountability ones.

    Unilaterally sniping and whatever you can “hinting” – severe yes, mercy no.

  31. Peggy, your model of “holding people accountable” via blind gossip items, “hints” or what ever language game you prefer, has no grounding in Hebrew Scripture or in Christian Scripture.

    All this reminds me a C.S. Lewis observation from his time, when gossip & accusations flew in the newspaper rather than the Internet:

    Gossip is when you must hurry and tell someone something, before you find out it isn’t true.

  32. Great questions, Imbi! I’d like to throw some thoughts at your third question, on discernment, and see what sticks …

    First thought cluster: The cost of critical thinking. We (meaning Christians in general) don’t seem to be so good at “critical thinking.” We don’t know how to do it, or perhaps we are too much slackers or too selfish to invest the energy required to gather information, sift facts from opinions, see what is there and what is missing, ask ourselves questions that move us from analysis of details to interpreting the events and their meaning. In short, it costs to learn how to discern. Are we willing to pay the price?

    I know this first-hand. My calling as a “son of Issachar” — trying to understand the times and be wise about what we should do — has cost me a lot of time, energy, and money through the years. Sometimes, I even have to risk the loss of relationships when it requires confrontations and/or attempts to resolve conflicts in the Body. Discernment generally isn’t easy or pleasant.

    For instance, my main blog post that outlined links and evidences on the Todd Bentley/Lakeland Revival aftermath took an entire week of writing – 30 hours. And that was after more days of it all unfolding and trying to keep up with research on it. And my post on Seven Mountains was on-again, off-again for six to eight weeks before I could finish it. And even then, it took a long time (though not 30 hours writing). My blogging in 2008 on toxic leaders and systems, and recovery from spiritual abuse, took the entire year and yielded something like 80,000 words — the equivalent of a whole book.

    Beyond the research and writing, these blog posts required me to invest my entire self. I had to endure some horrifically toxic church situations and movements and leaders. Out of those painful experiences came my critiques of missing authenticity and systems imbalances and leadership excesses, plus figuring out what I understood to be biblically sound preventions and resolutions. And in recent days, these three topics (the toxicities of the Lakeland Revival, the Seven Mountains movement, and spiritually abusive leadership/systems) are the most read on my blog. Could it be that the costs involved to me of offering something to help others find healing and transformation be part of what Jesus talked about in John 15:13? “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

    Way back, I made a commitment to become a mentor for others, because that is what I’d wanted for myself but couldn’t find. Same with a commitment not to protect toxic leaders from the consequences of their actions, because to shield them would be to add to their “body count” – and I knew from personal experience the devastation that would mean. Yup … critical thinking, discernment, and Spirit-led service all cost, but thankfully, in Christ’s Kingdom, such investments are more than just paid forward …

    More later.

  33. I’m ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ck-k-k-k!

    (Didn’t you ever want to say something like that when they ask at church if anyone else has any announcements?!) (Okay, thought not. But worth a try …)

    Second thought cluster on discernment: Communal discernment. In 2008, I blogged a three-part series on “Kingdom Leadership After Lakeland,” all dealing with very practical how-to’s of individual and corporate discernment. The following two paragraphs from Part 2 introduce the topics:

    The discipline of discernment is a sort of spiritual investigative reporting. We must do a lot of work to accomplish it. But it’s not all up to us. In biblical discernment, we rely on the Spirit to give us insight continually as we gather facts and make observations, analyze the material and develop tentative perspectives, and pray and process with others and refine our interpretations.

    Did you catch the phrase that said, “process with others”? If we consider discernment as a communal practice instead of simply an individual procedure, I think we will come up with better insights, fewer gaps in our perspective, and a more balanced and timely approach to our responses. And, since the events of the Lakeland have occurred in the public arena, they give us an opportunity to consider this as a “case study in community discernment.”

    [Sidenote: Likewise, many aspects of the emerging-Emergent-missional-etceteral movements have occurred in the public arena, giving us an opportunity — and responsibility — to consider them as a case study in communal dialogue and discernment.]

    In that series critiquing the Lakeland Revival, PART 1 covers discernment and the “costly descent into darkness.” It overviews mostly the individual aspects of “spiritual investigative reporting.” [Sidenote: This post took 25 hours to write — and I’m only noting this to indicate one of the costs involved of choosing the course of the discernment instead of ignorance.] link to

    PART 2 covers how to consider various sources. It includes a mini-tutorial on interpretation skills, and a do-it-yourself section to practice what I preached. [Sidenote: This post took 30 hours to write.] link to Also, in 2008, I blogged a more extended “Tutorial on Interpretation” that details three tribal communal discernment practices that are inclusive by GENDER (the Council does not consider an issue until both men and women of the tribe are present), GENERATION (anyone can make comments or ask questions on an issue, beginning with the youngest person present), and by the FUTURE (considering the impact of a major decision to our children, our children’s children, and so on to the seventh generation). One that Sonja [] shared with me was inclusive by TIME FRAME (considering a decision in the context of seven full years: the past three years, the current year, and what the next three years might bring).

    If you’re interested in details on discernment processes, you’ll find some important additional details and points in my TUTORIAL ON INTERPRETATION: link to You may want to click on the links in that post to the previous tutorials on observation and analysis, two processes which need to precede interpretation.

    PART 3 shares some of my conclusions on gaps, excesses, and other toxicities in the Lakeland Revival — gleaned from weeks of study and over 55 hours of prior writing. You may find principles there that are relevant for understanding comments I’ve been making here about the current evaluations of emerging-Emergent-missional movements. But be sure to read the full three paragraphs from my blogger mate down under, Celtic Son, and maybe substitute the word “movement” for “revival.” Meanwhile, here’s a sample of his spiritual heart and brilliance on the importance of discernment: “Where something is authentically Christ-centred there ought to be no fear of examination by others, nothing to hide … any lack of transparency usually indicates that what is presented publicly is not what is at the heart of the matter. Jesus suggested that we could tell much by an examination of fruit and Paul suggested that we don’t act too hastily in the laying on of hands … If what has been passed off as “revival” was allowed to pass sufficient time to bear authentic fruit, then we could determine much more clearly what is good fruit and what is not…” link to

    Meanwhile, you might even find some very practical processes in my post on “how to conduct a CULTURAL CASE STUDY,” where I riff on concrete media systems and the movie, *The Golden Compass.* Read it and hopefully the relevance of descriptions on primary and secondary materials to the current review of emerging-Emergent-missional is clear and helpful. link to

    Finally, there may be points of parallel interest in my post examining the SEVEN MOUNTAINS MOVEMENT: link to [That’s another post that took a very long time to research, meditate upon, and then finish writing.]

    I’m sure I’ve said much more on discernment in my blog, but those six posts certainly have the most content specifically on that topic. Hope that helps in response to your third question, Imbi. So … rock on, on the Rock!

  34. Spot on imbi – that’s why one of my first suggestions for first time authors is to form an accountability group consisting of people you respect and trust who represent a diversity of theological voices. This way you’re not simply hearing from “yes” men in your camp but getting some much needed pushback. This is vital so one can try to keep one’s eye on the prize and not be sidetracked from the glare of the media spotlight and other temptations that come from being in the public eye. Where I have screwed up is where I neglect to consult these voices.

    So how then do we as Christians deal with the white elephants in the room without resorting to gossip? The elephant will just keep growing and growing until it squeezes everyone out of the room. So something has to be done to shoot the white elephant but it seems in this quest we can have a tendency to either shoot blanks or shot innocent bystanders with friendly fire.

  35. Bob …

    I’ve been pondering your question about Bill all morning while I deal with some other things.

    He asked us to ride shotgun because he was tired and grumpy and unable to choose his words graciously last night. But he wanted someone around in case something troubling popped up.

    Not … ahem … that any of that is any of your business. To me it appears as if you are really becoming enmeshed (I’m using that in the psychological sense) with this.

    I am curious though … what would happen if you were to learn that what you perceive as gossip coming from Bill, is not gossip at all, but has a solid basis in fact? How would you respond to that new information? I’m curious because you seem awfully sure of yourself and I wonder what that is based on, since there are just hints posted here and I’m not sure how you’d really know what he’s talking about.

  36. thanks for the reply, sonja

    enmeshed ? nope. i take a lot of comfort in the words of dr. king: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

    idle speculation turning to hints turning to gossip in a context that is assumed to be Christian. that matters. at least to me.

    your premise – what if this were true – gets at the heart of my concern. I do not know if you know personally or are in a community with the person this post is directed at. if so, I suspect you have shared this with them 1 on 1, as sacred traditions have always suggested. If not, um, why are you enmeshed in this.

    in my experience as Jesus follower, when I wonder if something troubling popped up, I stopped. I do not press post or send or call. I stop. I pray in whatever practice that makes me aware of a connect with the Divine.

  37. Brother, it appears that you are assuming that there is no hard, time-consuming personal accountability going on behind these comments. That would be an incorrect assumption.

  38. …sorry, no one has hurried to tell anything before searching for the truth.

  39. But Mike….you never asked to hear my Emergent Story….in fact, you never even e-mailed me back.

    I don’t even know you, but know of the false claims you have proliferated, third hand, about me to cover up something really big, awful and ugly that Emergent leaders don’t want anyone to know…then you blindly write this:

    Mike Morrell said…

    “Still repeating the one-sided “betrayal, infidelity and coverup” innuendo with relationship to the situation you think you know oh-so-well?


    I can’t take anything you write seriously until you seriously consult both sides of your sordid little tale, or quit pretending to want reconciliation. This stuff’s poisoning you, man, and making you weave conspiracy theories out of disparate, unrelated stuff you happen to disagree with.

  40. Bob …

    I would ask you to go back and re-read this comment thread.

    You are the person making the supposition that this is speculation and gossip. When I asked you point blank to consider the idea that it might not be gossip, you refused to answer the question but turned it back on me. You really do not know me.

    Not to mention you took that opportunity to lecture me as if I were a recalcitrant schoolgirl. Get past it, man! Just because you don’t know something happened, does not mean it didn’t take place.

    Now, if you do have information about me that even I am unaware of, I would very much like you to post it here. Because then … then we can talk some turkey. But until then, in the words of the great Obi Wan Knobi, “You want to go home and rethink your life.”

  41. Bob,

    I have reached out to you to clarify what you think you may know; but don’t. Haven’t heard back.


  42. (Julie, I’d send this through private message but didn’t see a way to contact you so forgive the public posting here, please?)

    Julie J., I’ve seen your comments on a few other blogs. I don’t know if you’re who I think you but I’ll take a chance. 🙂 I know nothing about the situation(and rather like it that way, to be honest) but I’ve managed to piece together a few things. I don’t know “the truth” and no one owes me any further explanation. But I just wanted to say, for whatever it’s worth, that my heart is heavy and I am praying for you and your entire family. I have no wisdom, nothing to offer and I know I’m a stranger to you. But I am with you, in prayer, and praying that above all, you will feel Loved.

    May grace and peace continually surround you, sister.

  43. This blog posting came up on Naked Pastor and it really touched my heart … thought I’d pass it on.

    link to

  44. Thanks for that link, Becky. Whether using his famous (infamous?) cartoons or his heart-felt words, Naked Pastor has nailed it: when we do not move to confront, we are not loving. It puts up barriers to relationship.

    This is part of what I meant in my comment above about Severe Mercy….

  45. Bill, out of the flow of the general trend of the comments…

    I want to address your comment about the “age of the Spirit”.

    I think Cox is not far off on that. Here’s why: while we have to say that the Spirit has been particularly active throughout history, even consistently so, human systems have been particularly less enthusiastic about this work. Racism, sexism, classism, whateverism that puts institutional barriers in front of the free gifts of the Holy Spirit grieves the Spirit. If the Spirit is working through all in the church, but leadership only lets a small number of particularly shaded, particularly gendered, particularly educated people exercise this, or even be educated, there’s a pretty strong barrier.

    Couple this with the global Pentecostal explosion and the really relatively recent (last 30 years or so) interest in academic pneumatology. We really are living in an age in which the Spirit is being recognized, explored, and discussed in ways that really contrast to much of Christian history in the West. There are exceptions to be sure (such as George Fox and the early Quakers), but the trend is still curious.

    I’m not entirely comfortable with all of Cox’s conclusions, but he has had a rather good read on Christian trends over the last forty years.

  46. Patrick,
    I address this a little bit more in my review of ANKoChristianity which I'm still working on. And it is way too long. But let me suggest that the Spirit wasn't napping from the time Constantine strode on the stage until the Azusa Street Revival that began in 1906. The Wesleys (to whom I trace my spiritual heritage through my Mother's family) certainly experienced the move of the Spirit. Jonathan Edwards' stories of what happened in his meetings have been used by the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship to support their rather charismaniacal theology, etc.

    But I do appreciate the push back and your always insightful comments. Thank you.

  47. Bill, I totally agree with your comments. A very, very strong thread of the Spirit working throughout history can certainly be followed, indeed without that none of us would know Christ. I’ve personally done study of the early American colonists in this regard of the Spirit’s work, which even relates to the present conversation:

    link to

    I think my point, which may have been lost in the jumble of words, is more that society was resisting the Spirit in structures and patterns. Also, the Spirit was not really considered by theologians. There has been an explosion of such study–and Pentecostals are even realizing they have needed to expand their theology in a holistic way.

    This would also put Cox in the role of a latter-day Joachim, with his 3 ages of history corresponding to the Trinity. Moltmann has seemed to follow this in some ways, which comes out in a couple of articles and briefly in his Spirit of Life.

    This is a totally non-vital tangent, but just wanted to say the argument can be made, as long as it’s not entire or sweeping.

    I very much appreciate your comments and posts as well.