Monday, March 06, 2006

Tony Jones in Iowa

<--tony teaching in action

I had the special privilege of listening to the Emergent-US spokesperson Tony Jones today. He was funny, provocative, and definitely sharp. I was in a room with about 50ish youth pastors, volunteer leaders, and a few innocent bystanders. I was offended at times, agreed, disagreed, and confused on others. Someday I'll blog about my thoughts on his presentation, but for now I am just offering a recap. I did enjoy the conversation at least to get my theological mind brewing.

He did a nice job of explaining the development of postmodernism within western philosophy. He quoted others with, "The Enlightenment died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz." Hinting that the Enlightenment's goals of everyone getting along and all differences being put aside and the ultimate growth of humanity (eugenics and other things implied) to something "god-like" wasn't so successful. It gave rise to the Supermen (that Nietzsche prophesied), say Adolph Hitler and Stalin. Modernity's collapse led to cynicism, despair, and eventually a new philosophy, aptly called postmodernism. Postmodernism argues that there is no truth with a capital T. Saying "absolute" truth does not make something more true . . . it's a useless qualifier (adjective) to describe truth. Either something is true or it is not. There are no "more true" ideas than others. In other words everything is questionable in postmodernism, even those things most sacred to us. Tony shared that the Emergent Church is trying to help people follow Jesus in this radically pluralistic postmodern world. Some big things that the Emergent church stress are dynamic community and the mystery of God.

Throughout his whole message, he was very humble and expressed a deep passion to know God. He did, however, venture away from the conservative evangelical theology that represented the majority of the room. Tony said he believes the Holy Spirit represents the feminine person of the Trinity, calling the Holy Spirit "she". He explained that the 2 words translated from Greek and Hebrew are not masculine nouns, thus we should not attempt to assign masculinity to this person of the godhead. The Hebrew word "ruach" is a feminine word and the Greek word for spirit, pneuma, is neuter. (His statments on the Holy Spirit made me feel quite uncomfortable, but they will challenge me to read God's Word and find out more) He also said the penal substitionary atonement of Christ is a narrow way of understanding the work of the cross. He, also, believes the inerrancy of scripture is a manmade contruct, unnecessary, and ultimately harmful to the power of the Word. He argues the inerrancy is a standard the bible does not hold itself to at all.

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