Sunday, October 25, 2009

Expressions of Christ

It has become evident, and sadly so, that once a person has traversed to a certain point in the emergent movement, only a powerful revelation from God’s Spirit can call them out. Many become belligerent when you attempt to interact with them about critical issues of redemption that are being taught. And should you produce troubling and even disturbing teachings by an emergent preacher with whom they have some sort of allegiance, they sometimes exhibit the same hostile disputatiousness that they accuse the more conservative crowd of displaying when asked about men like MacArthur or Sproul. There is almost never even the slightest admission of concern, and when there seems to be an obvious departure from gospel teachings, those emergent adherents will refuse to believe the clear meaning of words.

When I became aware of the emergent/emerging movement I assumed that the people themselves would be gracious and accommodating even if their theology was deeply suspect. I imagined a people that were concerned with the poor and downtrodden, even at the expense of gospel preaching, but whose general spirit would be warm and cordial, and because of their projected theology of compassion, there would be a marked and undeniable difference in the way they interacted with others. In my limited dealings with people who either lean or embrace emergent thought I have found the same militancy and aggression that can be found elsewhere in more orthodox genres. The theology aside, I have been greatly disappointed in much of the tone of the discourse.

It seems almost effortless for the conversation to become antagonistic and petty, and personal attacks are not uncommon. This is particularly sad since most emergents are not rigid in their systematic theology and tout a renewed emphasis on orthopraxy and being like Jesus. But this style of interaction is unremarkable with the overall Christian community, and it reduces their particular brand of Christianity to nothing more than the brand from which they emerged. You would think that a revolution on this level would produce more observable fruit as it pertains to grace, love, and humility. In my experience the interplay is strikingly similar to many others throughout the blog world and beyond. One well known emergent pastor, when told that a minister who disagrees with him would be preaching the gospel outside the doors of his church, threatened to call the police and have him removed. It has come to that.

Let us point our attention to the teachings of Paul in Romans chapter fourteen. In this chapter and in other places the Spirit gives specific instructions about weaker brethren and causing believers to stumble in general. This is another area where emergent people seem to not only ignore, but to relish in their so called freedom and display it openly, even in the midst of those who would be offended. Using inappropriate language and words that would generally be considered cursing seems to be one area that brings much pleasure and freedom of expression to many. But even if you believed some of the tortured etymologies necessary to justify such coarse speech, you would still be bound to exhibit forbearance and a level of consideration for those brethren who you know are wounded by such language. But it seems this type of expression is necessary to “let your freak flag fly”.

Again, the interaction seemingly has no consideration for the participants, and some of the aggression is stunning. I do not suggest that they are sinners above everyone else, but what I do suggest is that the fruit that has been exhibited is inconsistent with a movement that proposes to express the teachings and the life of Jesus Christ in a new and fresh way. In many cases it’s just more of the same. So how is it that Christians cannot even speak to each other without demeaning sarcasm and even personal attacks? And even this new theological stream that touts itself as leaving the old wineskins of harsh orthodoxy and boldly moving into a more accurate expression of the Lord Jesus, resorts to the same method of interaction and communication.

So theology aside, I have found little if any difference in the communal expressions of these emergent people, especially when a Christian stranger wanders into the room. It is paradoxical to see obvious projections of self righteousness among people who suggest they walk in a new light of humility and compassion. And being self righteous concerning your compassion toward others just may be one of the more astounding and clandestine brands of self righteousness. Everyone is familiar with self righteousness as it applies to doctrine and morality, but when you unveil a self righteousness that in effect says “I care for people more than do you”, well, that is another level of hubris.

So what conclusion can we draw from this? We do not need another theology, we need a more profound and remarkable expression of the Risen Christ. We need our lives and our lips to become subservient to the Spirit and not our flesh. We as believing followers must take a painful inventory of who we are and Who we represent, and make some dramatic adjustments so that our lives are arresting manifestations of the One who allowed His face to be spat upon without retaliation; the One who was silent before His accusers; the One who offered His back to the torturers; the One who was mocked and jeered without returning evil for evil; and the One who gave everything for His enemies.

We cannot be satisfied with showing love and mercy to unbelievers while showing aggression and contempt for the brethren. And let us be honest, it seems more difficult to exhibit love and humility among the Christian community, especially when discussing and confronting serious errors that are being taught. I have found it extremely challenging to speak boldly while still retaining the level of humility that would substantiate my acknowledgment of my own intense need of God’s grace. And in full disclosure, I believe the church has lost its energy and passion for this humility, since we have not only been called to show humility, we are called to be “clothed with humility”.

I am not sure I have ever been clothed with humility, which is much different and much more profound than just being civil in discussions. Where can we find the selfless and crucified ground that contends for the faith doctrinally, but with a conspicuous love and humility that disarms enemies and makes the world take notice that we “have been with Jesus”? Too often the method we employ to defend the faith is a means by which it is deconstructed. Contentment with being doctrinally orthodox is a significant barrier to pursuing a lifestyle that is peculiar among the community of faith that often seeks its own and uses verbal force to achieve its goals. Being a servant for Christ requires more than just a theology and a grace that vanishes at the first serious test.

Being a servant of Christ must be revealed in works of love and compassion, as well as preaching the gospel, but if we cannot control the tongue by cleansing the heart, it all unravels at the most basic of levels and renders us the highest of hypocrites. Let us all resign ourselves to a deeper pattern of humility and grace, so that when we are tested and when we are scorned, we can and do respond with “sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”

If the smallest expressions of Jesus were practiced by the greater community of Christ followers, it just may construct the foundation for a mighty and powerful intrusion of light into a desperate world of darkness.


Ingrid Schlueter said...

I just re-read some of the comments you put in print about me over the last few years at I even still have an apology email you sent a long time ago because you were supposedly repentant for the cruel things you've written about me. (You resumed your old behavior within hours of me getting that email.) So when I read your plea for kindness and the love of Christ to be evident in dealing with other believers on doctrinal issues, it really rings hollow. Your personal ridicule of me, your mockery of one facet of what I did (when I used to do Slice) and your ongoing trolling for things to criticize on the Crosstalk blog ("a worthless political whine-bag" is the exact term you used for my work there)is proof that you don't practice what you preach nor set an example as an "ordained Baptist minister" for those like me. Physician, heal thyself. The day I see you leave the hate site - that's what it is - permanently, I'll know you're for real. I don't expect you to post this, but it's for you alone anyway. I know well that it's easy to see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves. You wrote:

"We cannot be satisfied with showing love and mercy to unbelievers while showing aggression and contempt for the brethren. And let us be honest, it seems more difficult to exhibit love and humility among the Christian community, especially when discussing and confronting serious errors that are being taught."

Rick Frueh said...

Happy Lord's Day to you, Mrs. Schlueter. I am glad you read my blog, and if your comment was to point out inconsistencies in me, you have not even scratched the surface.

I would suggest you resist re-reading comments that offend you since it only resurrects unproductive emotions. I have posted your comment, although I believe you did not post mine at CT.

I am not hoping that one day you will "know I am for real". God will make that assessment. You are welcome to comment anytime here at FJL.

Rick Frueh said...

For the record:

This post wasn't meant to have people resurrect a continuing martyr complex. To re-read negative comments about yourself made over a couple of years is narcissistic. And the first comment was made by a person who makes a living with the ridcule of others.

I embrace my assessment of the Crosstalk blog as a "worthless political whine-bag". My challenge is for anyone to visit that site and see how much cross gets talked about.

And in a wonderful display of classic irony, Mrs. Schlueter says:

"I know well that it's easy to see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves." (In a phrase that she loves to make, "You just can't make this stuff up!")

Mrs. Schlueter continues to be most outraged and has the longest memory as it concerns perceived slights against her. This blog thing is facinating. When we correct and reprove a person for their harsh words and judgment toward others, that is not a personal attack; that is correction, which so often is resisited by those who peruse the news wire services looking for someone and something to correct.

But I will continue to allow people to comment here regardless of their feelings toward me or their views about a certain post. I am not reticent to share my disagreements with people like Ken Silva, Mike Ratliff, and other bloggers. However Mrs. Schlueter's brand of Christianity represents to me the worst representation of the Person of Jesus Christ. Her scorched earth policy concerning even the unsaved is as unbiblical as it gets.

I feel a post coming on... :)

Ingrid Schlueter said...

LOL! Thanks, Rick, for making my point. I knew you couldn't restrain yourself. ;-) Love on, brother...You often make me smile with your stuff.

Rick Frueh said...

The blog thing is so great! What you fail to realize is that I observed enormous retsraint. I did not even go into the unbiblical practice of unordained women rebuking ordained elders.

See, restraint!

Ingrid - If I comment on your blog about some issue you posted, will you publish my comment??

Anonymous said...

Guess what idol is being worshiped when a professing believer indulges in this type of internecine squabbling so much more enticing and powerful because she (or he) is not face-to-face with the other?


"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves...." Philippians 2:3

It is very telling, Rick, that the two challenges of your last comment in which you spoke of restraint were ignored. In the spirit of Titus 2:3-5 I have interacted with Ingrid many times. When every response held either defensiveness or undisguised contempt and condescension I came to the conclusion it is best to metaphorically shake the dust from my feet and walk away.

It's all just wicked fun, I guess.

Grace and peace,

Rick Frueh said...

Kim. I am corrected and I repent.


Anonymous said...


Be blessed! Let our Lord's grace and everlasting love continually surprise you with joy. Your humility is to be emulated and brings His light to the darkness.