We’re writing a study/discussion guide at my church, for Jim Belcher’s book Deep Church–an examination of the “emerging church” controversy. I was writing my contribution, and since my blog has been lying fallow for a couple weeks, I thought I’d post it.
The author is trying to present both sides fairly on each area of the controversy, and lay out a balanced, faithful approach to each issue. Someone summarized the book as:
- There are problems in the English-speaking church.
- There are fair criticisms of the church.
- There are faithful solutions to those questions.
If you’re interested in some reviews, check out: (1) A thorough summary & review by Kevin DeYoung (notice the comments left by Jim Belcher). (2) A review from a hard-nosed conservative, Frank Turk, explaining what’s so good about this book, even though it’s too nice sometimes. (This one includes an mp3 of a interview featuring both Turk and Belcher on a radio show.) (3) A negative review from 9Marks. (4) A response from Belcher, and a response from Frank.
I was assigned to make the summary & discussion questions for the chapter on epistemology–”Deep Truth”. Here goes!
By the way, if you have any suggestions for more discussion questions, I’d love to hear ‘em.
Chapter 4: Deep Truth
The discussion has centered on “epistemology” & “postmodernism”–having to do with the nature of knowledge & certainty, and how we know what we know. But people often work from different definitions of “postmodernism”, or they emphasize & focus on different aspects. Talking past each other has made it hard to reach a common Biblical balanced perspective.
To traditionalists, “postmodernism” equals the individualistic relativism that flowed out of modernism. But emergers have focused on postmodernism’s valid critique of modernism–the quest for invincible certainty through rational argument built on unshakable foundations, with all the stereotypes of fundamentalism: Triumphalism, arrogance, closed-off-ness, and dismissing questions. Some emergers have been too quick to embrace postmodernism’s alternative: Truth is discovered (or constructed) by each community, without accountability from the outside. But they have not always explained how to avoid relativism.
The deep church stands in humble “proper confidence”–not an unassailable certainty we achieve by our individual, perfect, unbiased study, but confidence in the Spirit’s work to bring us into the truth of the biblical story. God’s revelation gives us confidence that we substantially know the reality he shows us outside ourselves. Our knowledge is real without claiming perfect sight that never needs to learn from others. The deep church’s deepest concern is not guarding the fences that mark the outer boundaries of orthodoxy. We know & proclaim the Well of life at the center: Christ, drawing thirsty sinners to him through the Gospel.
- We seek to avoid the stereotypes of both relativism and fundamentalism.
- We are humbly confident in God’s work to reveal himself, always learning, always gracious.
- Our central focus & confidence is in the Well of life: Christ, drawing thirsty sinners to him through the Gospel.
- How are you used to hearing the word “postmodernism” used? Have you seen it as a good or bad thing?
- If the Bible says things like “so that you may know” or “the certain knowledge”, how can someone object to the idea of invincible certainty? Has the quest for certainty ever been a bad thing, or manifested in bad ways?
- Where do we get our confidence? Where can we be most confident, and why?
- How do we balance humble grace and confident proclamation?
- Update: How should we connect Bible study & theology with community? Should our Bible study be done in community? Solely in community? Primarily in community? What about local community vs the broader community of historic Christianity?