Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Solomon's Porch Video



I came across an eleven minute video about Solomon's Porch via Reformissionary. The video was originally posted at Tony Jones' blog. It is fascinating to hear about the church from the inside. I have a friend who goes to Solomon's Porch (and will hopefully comment on this post) and have heard about the church through him and other sources. So to actually see it was helpful.

I applaud the efforts of Solomon's Porch to build Christian community because evangelicalism is moving away from the intimacy of community churches to the alienation of mega-churches. Churches need to stress community, and Solomon's Porch has that at its core.

Steve McCoy asked commenter's to "do more than just react" and to "be generous." That is a helpful reminder--and one I hope I adhere to in my response.

The few things I have read, heard, and seen on the emerging/emergent church are exceedingly difficult to follow. So much of what they have to say is nearly incoherent to me. I am not at all versed in post-modernese. I don't have their vocabulary down. I simply cannot speak in broad language and brush around topics, and "converse" like they do. Maybe that is a shortcoming of mine in ministering to a post-modern culture, but in any case, I simply can't make much sense of what Doug Pagitt says in the video.

In the beginning of the video, Pagitt says that Christianity has become like a restaurant with value meals that you can't pick and choose from. He never clearly states what he means by the metaphor. So often critics of the emerging church put words into the mouths of the emerging leaders, and it is clear why this happens--they want to be able to interact with ideas, and without them, they will argue against what they believe leaders like Pagitt mean.

What does Solomon's Porch stand for as a church? If they don't have a statement of faith, what are they organized around? What is their mission and why? How ecumenical are they willing to be? These are the kinds of questions that are often asked without adequate answers.

One of my biggest concerns about church's like Solomon's Porch is the things they emphasize. Clearly and eleven minute video is not going to do a great justice to the church's vision, but I heard little about the good news of Christ in the video. The video, and perhaps the church by implication seems more concerned with differentiating themselves from other churches. Perhaps this is an unfair criticism, but were an eleven minute video made of my church, I would hope that the gospel would be a central theme.

I am concerned that those who attend Solomon's Porch and others like it bring their own ideology to their faith, rather than allowing their faith to inform their ideology. I am specifically concerned with the portion of the video where a young woman discusses the "What Would Jesus Do?" trend. She states that if Jesus were alive today he would be concerned with things like "racism, the environment, globalization, and feeding the masses." It is not that I disagree with her, as clearly those are all important issues, but this also sounds like Democratic talking points, or a Jim Wallis essay.

My last criticism is more of a quibble. The same young woman also talks about how community forces people to build relationships which expose "imperfections." Perhaps this is an emerging/emergent way to speak of sin. Perhaps more time and more thought would help her develop the idea more, but I would hope that sin is spoken of in harsher terms at Solomon's Porch rather than simply labeled as "imperfection."

The video really seems to raise more questions for me than it gives answers. That seems to me the entire ethos of the emerging church.

22 comments:

bobbydale said...

Well John - you got your wish.

The problems with a lot of these dialogues is that there are some foundational differences is basic understandings of Christianity.

One word that has a very specific meaning for many is "the gospel". I don't know for sure what "the gospel" is for you, but I am guessing that it would include the fact that Jesus was crucified and resurrected for our sins.

When we approach the concept of Gospel in the Bible, there are some things that prevent me from seeing the Good News as only being related to Christ's sacrificial death on the cross.

For example, before Jesus has been crucified both he and the disciples are preaching the good news. (Matt 4:23,9:35;Mark1:14,15; Luke 4:18;Eph2:17...)

And Paul makes it seem like there is good news that has been rejected before Jesus was even born. (Romans 10:16-21) Outside of even this one passage, it is hard to say that the only aspect of the Go

King David even proclaimed the Good news. (Psalm 40:9,96:2)

What many of those people have stated in the video seems to be inline with the gospel of Matthew 11:5 & Luke 4:18:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Based on my reading of the Bible, I cannot stand in a place and say that there is only one "Gospel" to preach, because David and Isaiah and Jesus, and Paul have all presented it in different contexts and situations outside of the death burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Hopefully that will help you understand where some of these believers are coming from.

John said...

Bob,

Thank you for responding. Your response is helpful in setting the context for the ministry of Solomon's Porch.

Your response provoked me to look at the long list of verses you referred to.

In a sense I think I understand your meaning about more than one "aspect of the gospel."

Yet I am drawn to Paul's letter to the Galatians, where he writes, "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

Paul makes it clear in this letter that there is only one gospel--the gospel of Christ. (Gal. 1:6-10)

Yes, "good news" was preached before Christ's death on the cross, but that death was the fulfillment and the reason there was good news to be preached.

David "told the glad news of deliverance"--salvation. He also says to "tell of his salvation from day to day." Salvation is of God--through Christ.

The "good news" in the gospels prior to Christ's death is all in the context of the kingdom of God that has come through Christ's advent on earth. Christ came to die, and came to bring the kingdom of God with him--this is the good news.

Have I misunderstood you?

bobbydale said...

John - I may have not spoken as clearly as possible.

There is one gospel. But it is bigger than Christ's death and resurrection. When we look at the Biblical narrative as a whole we see the vastness and pre-existence of the Good News outside of Christ.

There are two things that I want to talk about with your citation of Galatians. The first is that the term "gospel of Christ" in Greek means the same thing as "of" in English. "Of" indicates possession - such as The Bible of King James. It does not necessarily mean "concerning".

The second thing is that I want to look a little further into the book, Paul makes it clear which false gospel he is preaching against: Jews not eating with Gentiles. (Galatians 2:11-14) I don't think that eating with the outcasts would fall under many people's definition of the Gospel, but this is part of the Gospel that Paul is talking strongly against in Galatians.

We might also consider Stephen's presentation in Acts 7. When confronted with death the first martyr for Christ does not make mention of the Gospel of Christ's death and resurrection - only his death. He appeals to the depth and breadth of God's good news in the story of God's people on earth.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it almost feels like we are sitting back in Caneday's basement apartment back in the good old days. Bob, we missed you at the last pub night. Anyways, I wanted to hear more about what is included in the gospel message, besides the resurrection? I'll comment further, but I'd like to hear a little more first.

Jason

John said...

Bob,

Thanks for some clarification. I am glad that I had misunderstood you. I also appreciate your willingness to dialogue on the matter.

That being said, like Jason, I still don't think I have a very clear picture of what is included in the gospel message and what that means at Solomon's Porch.

I do think there is a distinction you're missing though to simply call the Gentiles in Galatians 2:11-14 as "outcasts." A better definition would be Gentile believers--right?

As for Stephen, his sermon in Acts 7 is more a pronouncement judgment than gospel appeal. His final statement pronounces judgment upon them--judgment that brought the wrath of the high priest and his council--and led to his martyrdom.

This all gets to my question: what does the gospel mean at Solomon's Porch, and how does it affect the ministry of Solomon's Porch?

bobbydale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bobbydale said...

Gentiles in Greek is "ethnos", and can also be translated as "nations". The function of Gentiles in Paul's story, and in the Gospels is one of people who are considered to be outside of God's chosen people - untouchable by those in the upright religious circles. Clarence Jordan, when he wrote the Cotton Patch Gospels/Epistles (the New Testament set in the South in the 50's and 60's) translated the word as "Negros" - that is where my translation of "outcast" comes from. People who are unclean - as the Gentiles were to the Jews in the first century. I believe that to be a fair translation of the word in today's context.

Also Paul is not specific that these are believers, only people eating dinner with the community.

On the other point, I am a little stuck, and confused - I have let the Bible speak about the Gospel - but for some reason, what the Bible says isn't specific enough.

Guess I don't know what else to say. We read, treasure and are guided by the Bible. This is how we understand the Gospel - through reading the Bible and trying to live out the hopes and dreams of God in the world.

bobbydale said...

Also - I am making the case that Steven's speach is meant to bring about the opening of people's eyes to God's promise and covenant. In this way, I believe that it serves to spread the Good News.

John said...

Bob,

There is certainly an aspect to Stephen's speech in Acts 7 that is meant to open eyes the eyes of the blind.

Stephen asks that their stoning of him not be held against them. That makes it clear that in speaking words of judgment, he is ultimately hoping that God would soften their hearts.

As for Galatians, I think the context of the book demonstrates that the Gentiles in chapter 2:11-14 are Gentile believers. What other reason would there be for Jews to demand Gentiles to live like Jews?

The circumcision party was demanding that Gentile believers follow Jewish laws and customs as party of joining the covenant family.

Bob, the reason that quoting Bible verses is insufficient for Jason and me, is because as you said at the beginning, we have "some foundational differences in basic understandings of Christianity."

We're trying to understand what those differences are and what that means for the Church.

bobbydale said...

That is the fundamental difference.

John said...

You're losing me, Bob.

What are those fundamental differences?

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing that the emerging/emergent (Bob, you can clarify if this is the same?) movement is a 'conversation', perhaps that is why you are a bit vague in giving the gospel more definition?

I've read quite a bit on this movement, but I haven't heard about the gospel being more than just Jesus, so I guess I'm just interested in the conversation.

I also see perceive the movement as a protest, or a departure from all the established religions who continue to make definitive statements, that feel antiquated and irrelevant to younger generations.

I sympathize with a lot of this, I'm real interested in how a gospel bigger than just Jesus fits into the whole picture? John 3:16 has always been sort of the keystone verse for christianity, from what you are proposing, at Solomon's Porch they might select a different verse. But then again, since they don't have a statement of faith, they might avoid such proclamations.

In these same circles, I've also heard talk about an attempt to listen to the Spirit's leading, instead of following age-old methods, traditions, etc. This also makes a lot of sense to me, I'm just not sure what the evolution looks like; and the 'old-skins' will always resist the 'new wine'.

As for what I think, I believe that the incarnation tells us something about God. The old testament told us something about God as well, but the resurrection is the bridge, the reconciliation between a falllen world and a holy God; that is why it is such good news. I also believe, ultimately, this 'movement' was in motion before Jesus came, since he was just the physical manifestation for us. God always had these characteristics, they were prophecied in the old testament, and through the Spirit, the movement continues through those 'called to His purpose'. The movement, perfectly represented by the incarnation, is giving of one self for others benefit, i.e. loving others, and in this love and sacrifice, dead things are brought to life.

This movement inspires people to serve in various forms, some good, some bad, some succeed, some fail. What I like about this discussion, is the ability to compare the veracity of various forms.

I believe in Truth, with a capital T, and that forms need to be judged on their ability to follow the pattern modeled by the Source.

Bob, it feels like you're holding back, and I'm used to you being controversial; so by all means, let loose!

Jason

Anonymous said...

One point of clarification:
If it wasn't clear from what I wrote, I do believe Jesus' death and resurrection was the Atonement for our sin, not merely following or demonstrating a pattern.

bobbydale said...

I don't mean to sound like I am holding back, it is more that I am thinking about what I say, so that it may be constructive and helpful. For example, it would not be constructive for me to debate whether the Gentiles in Galatians that came to dinner were believers or not. I believe that the text does not support that assumption, and John believes the opposite. I am searching for common ground so that we understand each other. Instead of debating minutia.

The fundamental difference is basically what you are pointing to Jason. I am okay with the Gospel being bigger than the Death and Resurrection - I am okay with it being larger than I could ever comprehend. Jesus preaches Good News before he was crucified, and commissions people to continue preaching the Good News in the future with out specifying the inclusion of his Death and Resurrection. I am okay the Gospel pre-existing in its fullness from the beginning of time - just as Jesus as part of the God-Head has existed from the beginning of time. I don't need the Good News to be spelled out in human terms, because I know that God's Good News is much bigger than human terms. I am okay reading the Bible and letting the many authors, times and situations expose the fullness of God's Good News.

When someone is not preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God - you know it. As you said, it is not what the people in the video are saying that is an issue, but your need to define what the Gospel is that is troubling you.

When we narrowly define God's work in the world we run the risk of missing out on all the other things that God is at work doing. We put on horse blinders and only allow God to work in the ways that God has worked before.

John said...

Bob,

As I write this, I re-read your first comment which says,

"The problems with a lot of these dialogues is that there are some foundational differences is basic understandings of Christianity."

Now I am seeing more clearly that due to the two of us holding very different foundational understandings of Christianity, a dialogue like this is full of peril.

It is difficult for me to even know what to say in response to your last comment. You speak in such vague terms that it is difficult to even have a clear understanding of your argument.

God's good news is much clearer and defined to me than you seem to want to allow for. The Bible is clear to me when it says,

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

I have a clear understanding of what Paul means when he writes that. Sure, it might not be as full an understanding as I will learn in eternity, but it is sufficient for the purpose of saving souls.

I am also willing to contend that the good news in the Old Testament is specifically related to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is that same 'gospel' that is proclaimed clearly and unequivocally throughout the New Testament.

The good news is always the same news--but once Christ was resurrected, the picture became clear as to what it meant--and has always meant.

God is making all things new--this fallen creation is being restored because God had a plan from the foundation of the world to save his creation from futility through His Son's death.

Yes, these are clear and defined statements of belief. Yet this is what the Bible teaches. The gospel writers are clear and specific in these matters.

I apologize if what I write frustrates you, Bob. My intent is not to bait you, or to anger you. I am trying to have an honest conversation--not unlike the countless others we've had before.

It is easy to warn,

"When we narrowly define God's work in the world we run the risk of missing out on all the other things that God is at work doing. We put on horse blinders and only allow God to work in the ways that God has worked before."

But what does it mean? What kinds of things are we at risk of missing out on? And why is understanding the good news as I believe it is proclaimed in the Bible concerning Christ "narrow?"

Drive-Thru Society said...

If you don’t mind I would like to get in on the conversation. The emergent conversation is just that, a conversation. All of us come to the table within the emergent conversation with different ideas and practices with the knowledge that this is ok to be different. We (I don’t speak for everyone) got into this conversation because we are trying to faith followers of God through the way of Jesus just like you are. Our conversation is not better or worse than yours, but just different.

Anytime someone, something, or in this case a some conversation takes place that suggests change people become an overnight apologists because they feel that the mere foundation of their tradition is being threatened and maybe it is. Within the emergent conversation we might be afraid as well, but non-the- less we still ask the questions seeking to faithful to our Creator.

Addressing the issue of the good news, I would agree with Bob in the fact that the good news is much bigger than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I would go as far and in saying that Jesus is just one apart of the greater good news, which is that Creator God created the creation and loved it wholly. Jesus’ part in the Creator’s narrative is that he was a continuation of how God has chosen to love the entire creation. Know this is not how everyone feels at the Porch, but this my perspective and my $ 2.50 for the day. By the way I am the bald guy in the beginning of the documentary.

John said...

DTS,

Thanks for the comment.

I am sincerely perplexed by the argument that, "Jesus is just one apart of the greater good news, which is that Creator God created the creation and loved it wholly."

To say that Jesus is "just one part," seems to place Jesus' role in redemptive history as a "supporting character."

Surely you have a great deal of study to bring you to such a belief, and I don't mean to make light of that. But I cannot understand where the biblical support for such an idea could be found.

It seems to me that Jesus is central to the Christian story. From the foundation of the world, Jesus was there and active in creation. Without him there would be no redemption, there would be no hope, no good news.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...

My question for Bob, and DTS, is are we beginning to enter into 'all roads lead to God' territory? "Jesus’ part in the Creator’s narrative is that he was a continuation of how God has chosen to love the entire creation". This sounds like we are entering material outside of the bible, is this the case?

I don't think it is overstatement to say if Jesus becomes 'part' of the good news, we begin to marginalize Him. I believe His own words would speak of the prominence and exclusivity He proclaims, demands (I am the way, the truth, the life, no man comes to the Father, but by Me)

From my last post, it is amusing to conjecture about a larger glimpse of God than we currently have. In Lewis' writings, he explored the idea of us being with God, and Him sending us out to help in the redemption of other worlds, etc. This conjecture is fine, as long as we remember it is conjecture. In this life, on this planet, with the knowlege and brains that we utilize, we have the bible to tell us what God has chosen to reveal for us here and now. If you are suggesting widening our base of material given to us, I am curious what the material is, and why it should be included?

I think this is important because of the old mormon argument, i.e. if you tell a mormon you are a christian, they say they are a christian also. But, obviously, the word does not mean the same thing to the two people using it. Same with the emerging, emergent church. If this church is NOT exclusively a 'christian' church, I believe it is the best just to say so.

Granted, I feel like John and I are demanding answers, when Bob and DTS simply want a conversation, I am just very curious. In all my readings on this movement, this gospel larger than Jesus idea is brand new to me.

Jason

bobbydale said...

Let me say what I can about the Emergent conversation and get back to my school work-

We can talk more about the Gospel some other time. I wanted only to use it to illustrate the foundational difference in how Solomon's Porch works as a community of believers that hold to many different beliefs. There are fundamentalist who come to our community (there are many here who used to go to Straight Gate) and Catholics (who are still members of the Catholic Church) and people with a sort of United Church of Christ slant. All of these people may explain the Gospel differently. That was the point of the original discussion. This is part of life together in our community.

After I watched the video it looks like it was an answer to the question of "Why are you part of this church?" So it might be hard for you to get answers to a lot of the questions you are asking of the video. People weren't necessarily asked "What is the Gospel?" or "What is the mission of this Church?" but merely "Why are you a part of Solomon's Porch?" We could get together - you could spend some time in our community or we could chat about those other questions, but those will not be answered by this video.

Most of us with in EmergentVillage (if you want the "Official Term" Jason) are rethinking the purpose and concepts of church - some might call it a bit of a reformation. We are asking questions and examining everything - with as new of eyes as we can. We are willing to challenge dogma and doctrine and look for ways God might be acting outside of the ways God has acted in the past.

Many religious people missed out on Jesus - or even killed him, and we are looking to find ways that our Christianity can support God's Kingdom and not only support that doctrine, dogma and infrastructure of our churches. We will say radical things, and we will be called heretics - as many reformers have been called in the past.

I am part of this movement because there is much growth for the church to do, and my name and my reputation are unimportant compared to the progress that the church can make and the work that we have to do as the Bride of Christ. The Psalmist was not afraid to ask difficult questions of God, and neither was Job and both were commended by God for the faithfulness.

Solomon's Porch is an experiment - some might say that it is a dangerous experiment - but it is beautiful - just like fireworks. I have no apologies for that. We have brought people into Christ's Body, and it has been amazing and beautiful. We are raising strong Christians. Some may grow up to be Baptist, and others Catholic, and others Pentecostal, and it is all the more beautiful.

Wow, I have spend way to much time crafting this response - if Lauren ever finds out, I am dead. I should have been doing some school work. Well if you don't see me on the blog for a while - you know why.

John said...

Bob,

You are correct in reminding us that the video is more about why people are at SP, than what is SP.

We clearly have a different understanding of Christianity and this comment section isn't going to clear much of anything up for either of us.

I appreciate your willingness to converse on the matter. Perhaps we can chat more in person at another pub night.

Drive-Thru Society said...

I wanted to thank you all again for allowing me to be apart of your conversation and maybe if there is room I too can join you in a pub night!

I would like re-address the issue of Jesus. Please here me say that I believe in Jesus and that I consider myself a follow of God through the way of Jesus. However, I do believe that the Christian story (which I consider myself to be apart of) is one portion of the over arching narrative of the Creator. I am not trying to dismiss the importance of Jesus, on the contrary I believe that Jesus is one of the key figures in the over all narrative that has exposed God’s ultimate love for the creation. We at times live in a broken shitty world, and because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we can as the creation be put back together again. I believe in Jesus and the restoration that he brought, he is an essential piece of the narrative: we would not have the Christian story without him. That is all I have time for now I will write more later.

Anonymous said...

Very well stated by all, I too am glad we could converse about this, if only briefly.

I like the idea of rethinking church. There is room in this world for a lot of different types of churches to feed a lot of different people.

Church is not a place where we should be waiting at the door for an unsuspecting visitor, so we can punch him in the face with our doctrine; and demand that he start towing the line or he is hellbound.

I am a thinker, so I like to talk doctrine, but I think the most important thing in a church context is how knowledge of the gospel is APPLIED. A little knowledge applied well, is much more effective than much knowledge applied poorly (or not at all)

I too would be interested in pub night, and perhaps I'll come visit SP sometime, though it's a bit of a drive. In any case, I'm interested in the continuation of the conversation.

In Christ,

Jason