How to be a Popular Evangelical Writer

Take notes… The Constructive Curmudgeon


1. Write on a controversial topic with little understanding of it.
2. Be autobiographical.
3. Luxuriate in metaphors you don’t understand.
4. Take potshots at “foundationalism,” “propositional truth,” and “modernism,” without defining, explaining, or actually arguing against them.
5. Chose a clever title for your book like, “Plastic Jesus” or “Velour Bono,” or “Red like Rock.”
6. Make the book short, with plenty of graphics.
7. Make a video to go with the book. No, make a series of them.
8. Write in incomplete sentences. Like this.
9. Use plenty of one sentence paragraphs, like this:


10. Advocate something historically rejected by Christians in the name of “tolerance” or “freedom” or “postmodernism” or “authenticity.”
11. Be sure to “reinvent,” “deconstruct,” “reimagine,” “reconceive,” and “emerge.”
12. Pose in on your yoga mat for the back cover, smirking.

Interesting Statements from Emergent Folks


Fourth, we respect the desire and responsibility of our critics to warn those under their care about ideas that they consider wrong or dangerous, and to keep clear boundaries to declare who is “in” and “out” of their circles. These boundary-keepers have an important role which we understand and respect. If one of your trusted spiritual leaders has criticized our work, we encourage you, in respect for their leadership, not to buy or read our work, but rather to ignore it and consider it unworthy of further consideration. We would only ask, if you accept our critics’ evaluation of our work, that in fairness you abstain from adding your critique to theirs unless you have actually read our books, heard us speak, and engaged with us in dialogue for yourself. Second-hand critique can easily become a kind of gossip that drifts from the truth and causes needless division.

Sixth, we would like to clarify, contrary to statements and inferences made by some, that yes, we truly believe there is such a thing as truth and truth matters – if we did not believe this, we would have no good reason to write or speak; no, we are not moral or epistemological relativists any more than anyone or any community is who takes hermeneutical positions – we believe that radical relativism is absurd and dangerous, as is arrogant absolutism;

No Easy Task

I had read John Franke recently at Barnes and Noble in the introduction to McClaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy. I found a couple of his quotes stimulating:

“In the context of this debate, it is important to remember that postmodern theory does not support the rejection of rationality but rather supports rethinking rationality in the wake of modernity. This rethinking has resulted not in irrationality, as is often claimed by less informed critics of postmodern thought, but rather in numerous redescriptions and proposals concerning the understanding of rationality and knowledge. These postmodern ideas produced a more inherently self-critical view of knowledge than modernity.

“Foundationalism refers to a conception of knowledge that emerged during the Enlightenment and sought to address the lack of certainty generated by the human tendency toward error and to overcome the inevitable, often destructive disagreements and controversies that followed. This quest for certainty involved reconstructing knowledge by rejecting ‘premodern’ notions of authority and replacing them with uncontestable beliefs accessible to all individuals. The assumptions of foundationalism, with its goal of establishing certain universal knowledge, came to dominate intellectual pursuit in the modern era.”

It seems to me that Franke is missing the point here. Descartes didn’t establish his ergo cogito sum because he was a skeptic but because he was a Catholic seeking common ground to argue with an increasing number of atheists. The pre-modern assumption that God’s knowledge was the basis for all true knowledge was already on its way to being discredited (see link).

He continues:

“This conception of knowledge also significantly influenced the church as Christian leaders and thinkers reshaped their understandings of the faith in accordance with its dictates. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the foundationalists impulse produced a theological division between the “left” and the “right” among Anglo-Americans–liberals constructed theology upon the foundation of an unassailable religious experience while conservatives look to an error-free Bible as the incontrovertible foundation of their theology. But in spite of all their differences, we can see that while liberal and conservative Christians appeared to be going their separate ways throughout the twentieth century, both were responding in different ways to the same modern, foundationalist agenda.”

Which leads me to say, “Oh that’s why the church started believing the Bible!…”

To continue down this path, Dr. Myron Houghton pointed this one out to me. Helm provides clear insight into understanding the issues involved in the foundationalist vs. non-foundationalist battle.

This is a fascinating point:

Perhaps Franke, following Westphal, is committed to this: If someone knows (but does not Know), then such knowledge ‘inevitably leads to forms of oppression and conceptual idolatry’? Now consider Jesus. He is God the Son who has assumed human nature. He is situated in a context, first century Palestine. Does he know, or Know? If he merely knows, then such knowledge leads inevitably to forms of oppression and conceptual idolatry. Not the sort of result we want, I take it. But if he Knows, then it seems that Franke will have to say that Jesus did not have a context, or was somehow able to neutralize its epistemological effects. I leave the reader to sort out this tangled web. Whether or not these knots can be untied, I take it that Christians (including Franke) want in the main to say that claims to knowledge, if they are from the lips of Jesus, are not simply claims to knowledge but are rather more than that, but that they are not at all oppressive claims to power. But it’s not clear how, under Franke’s auspices, we are allowed to say this.

Great read, click to read it. It’s a long article and very difficult read, but it’s worth it. If you take the time to read it, let me know your thoughts in the comments. 🙂

It does strike me however that Helm and Franke really aren’t speaking on the same level and Franke is really speaking non-sense. Franke says that a non-foundational approach will still be distinctively “Christian” (Dr. Myron would say “blick,” his word for a meaningless word). And Helm calls him a foundationalist because of this claim, although Franke really doesn’t mean “Christian” as Helm understands it so the conversation is useless… or does he really mean “Christian”?

And this quote:

On this basis, Karl Barth concludes that the focal point and foundations of Christian faith, the God revealed in Jesus Christ, determines that in the work and practice of theology “there are no comprehensive view, no final conclusions and results. There is only the investigation and teaching which take place in the act of dogmatic work and which, strictly speaking, must continually begin again at the beginning in every point. The best and most significant thing that is done in this matter is that again and again we are directed to look back to the center and foundation of it all.”(81)

Barth’s ergo cogito sum (his “foundation”) seems to be the person of Jesus Christ, but on who’s authority does Barth know Jesus Christ? How much does he really know about Jesus Christ? Isn’t that at least a “weak foundation” (see Plantinga on “weak foundationalism” here)?

After all is said and done doesn’t Franke really just desire the deity of the community in establishing meaning. Modernism and liberalism colide and we are left with the struggle for man’s sovereignty in the cotext of a million different voices and it remains to be seen what their soveriegn consensus will be. What I do know is that Franke will probably call it Christianity and Helm will probably not.

Understanding the Postmodern Mind and the Emerging Church

This is a very helpful article if you haven’t read it. A couple interesting quotes to whet your appetite:

Again, it must be stressed—for this is where great misunderstanding exists—soft postmodernism is not built upon the denial of truth itself (a metaphysical concern), but with our ability to know the truth (an epistemological concern).

As well, soft postmodernism has brought focus back to our method of doing theology. With its distrust in tradition, it has made the church look with suspicion upon unfounded traditions. Fundamentalism started as a good thing and then became pharisaic with convictions preached from the mountain tops that are not found in Scripture. “Don’t drink,” “don’t go to movies,” “don’t smoke,” and “don’t dance” became what being Christian was all about. Postmodernism unmasked these negative aspects of the fundamentalist church. Postmodernism is in rebellion against traditionalism, and this is not such a bad thing.

In sum, hard postmodernism should be seen as a threat. It is not possible to be a hard postmodernist and be a Christian. Soft postmodernism on the other hand presents the church with many lost virtues of grace and irenics (theology done peaceably). For this we can be thankful. But we must guard the truths of Scripture with the conviction that the evidence has presented. Our traditions may or may not be wrong, but that is for the evidence to decide. There also are non-essentials that need to be spoken about with conviction, even if we might be wrong in the end. In short, let us be balanced in our understanding of the issues on the table and let us not lose the conviction that the truths of Scripture produce.

Tony Jones on Orthodoxy

(ht: Justin Taylor)

Tony Jones recently gave a paper on “orthodoxy” at the 2007 Wheaton Theology Conference. A book will come from the conference, but the editors decided not to include Tony’s paper, which Tony is not so happy about.

So he’s posted the notes to the paper online. Denny Burk provides a few outtakes:

“While Vincent exhorts us to hold fast that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all, you’ll have about as much luck finding that elusive thing as you will be hunting Jackalope in South Dakota. No such universal, a-contextual orthodoxy exists” (p. 15).

“Orthodoxy is a happening, an occurrence, not a state of being or a state of mind or a state-ment” (p. 20).

“There is no orthodoxy out there somewhere, only here, in me and in you and in us when we gather in Christ’s name” (p. 23).

“There is no orthodoxy without orthopraxy. It doesn’t exist. People may talk about it, but they also talk about unicorns” (p. 24).

“There is no song until it’s sung—it’s just words and notes on paper. There is no strike until it’s called by the ump—’It ain’t nothing till I call it.’ And there is no orthodoxy until it’s lived. It is an event that happens when we gather to worship, when we change a diaper, when we read a book, when we present a paper” (p. 24).

Read on