Unproductive Criticism


Unproductive Criticism


This might be a little bit of a rant but I’ve grown tired of the unproductive criticism of the Emerging Church. There are a couple of ways in which most of the criticism falls short.

Most of negative stuff in the Emerging Church is just as true of evangelicalism as a whole.

To illustrate this point I’m going to use Dash’s list. I’m not implying that Dash’s criticism was unproductive. I just need a list and I don’t think he would mind. Dash posted the following list of weaknesses in the EC: Angst, poor doctrine, imbalanced Gospel, fear of tackling difficult issues and weak at critiquing culture. I think what he says is true but it is also applicable to evangelicalism as a whole.

How many evangelicals live in some constant anger over the liberal media, liberal judges or what is on TV? Doctrine? Anyone read the Prayer of Jabez or Left Behind? The gospel? How is that coming to faith in Christ used to have something about becoming a new creation and now it is almost entirely about avoiding eternal BBQ ? Fear of Tackling difficult issues? How often do we hear sermons on eternal judgment or sin in general? Critiquing culture? Hasn’t the evangelical church adopted the values of capitalism and consumerism?

I don’t think it is unfair to point some of these things out but let us be honest. Most of the problems in the Emerging Church didn’t start there. Perhaps a lot of the criticism of the EC is just a convenient deflection away from the serious issues that impact us all.

Criticism that is fair of one section of the EC is not true of another.

I’ve been to Australia, I’ve been to an “Emergent” conference and I’m part of Resonate. There are some huge differences out there. Sooner or later I’m going to encounter someone who is steadfastly opposed to my church planting efforts because they think I don’t believe in any objective truth, ignore the bible, swear a lot and do yoga in my spare time. What the critics don’t realize is that by making sweeping generalizations you condemn perfectly legitimate expressions of the kingdom of God. It is like doing brain surgery with a chain saw!

If someone has issues with McLaren they have issues with McLaren. Why can’t people leave it at that? I have seen some criticism that starts out acknowledging the diversity in the EC but then completely focus on the voices they find objectionable.

The Emerging Church is just a label and it is just about as useful as the evangelical label.

When you have people like Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Rick Warren and Tony Campolo all fitting under the same banner what exactly does that banner mean? Would it be fair to criticize all of evangelicalism based on the actions of Pat Robertson?

I really wonder what productive criticism would look like.

  1. #1 by Kenny on May 12, 2006 - 11:16 am

    LT, I feel the same way often. I too wonder what productive criticism might look like, and why all criticism seems to be negative rather than dialogic. And I hope that the EC can be part of the answer to that question, rather than falling victim to the same old, same old.

  2. #2 by Michael on May 12, 2006 - 2:28 pm

    This is certainly NOT a steadfast rule, but generally the more the religious Church attacks something, the closer to God’s purposes it is.

  3. #3 by Darryl on May 12, 2006 - 3:07 pm

    Good post, LT. I think when we evaluate we need to spend lots of time on what we can learn as well.

  4. #4 by scotty on May 12, 2006 - 4:59 pm

    Great stuff LT.

  5. #5 by Gil on May 13, 2006 - 10:16 am

    Brain surgery with a chain saw… nice metaphor for a very prominent phenomenon.

  6. #6 by andrew jones on May 19, 2006 - 8:14 am

    right on! most criticism is very general and can be applied anywhere . . and on both sides

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