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DC-Area Lectures Ken is Looking Forward To

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January 08, 2006


Nicolas Nelson

This is good stuff. I had to read several parts of it several times over, to make sure I followed your train of thought accurately-- a sure sign that this is worth reading, digesting, and sharing.

I share your disillusionment with Modernism, not on strictly philosophical grounds, but more practical ones (ideas always carry implications for praxis): I think the modernist worldview in general and modernist American Christianity in particular have failed the poor, the urban poor especially. For almost ten years I knew this but lacked the words and arguments to properly express what my intuition already grasped-- then a lecture series by Kendi Howells Douglas almost exactly one year ago pulled it all together for me. (Incidentally, she describes herself as "a postmodern christian" but seemed cautious of the Emergent church movement.)

For the past year I have learned much from Erwin McManus, Stan Grenz, Dan Kimball, Jude Tiersma and by re-reading John Piper with new eyes. I hold my "christian-hedonism" calvinism and my aversion to modernism in each hand, and savor the tension there: it is the feeling of a new theological paradigm straining to be born. All you've said about "reason thesis" and phenomenology and premodernism is so helpful: it may be a step beyond the postmodern preoccupation with tearing down modernism, a step toward building something new that embraces both reason and mystery, truth and context.

So. Thank you, Ken! I look forward to others' comments on this.

Call Me Ishmael

I find myself more alienated from postmodern Christianity than from modern Christianity, although I don't always feel comfortable there either.


I persoanlly feel that modern Christianity has failed the poor but that it isn't the fault of modern Christianity but the actions of people within modern Christianity. I feel modern Christianity in the past HAS served the poor and hurting and many today are that goes unnoticed. I'm reminded of missionaries and the like who are modern Christians who help the poor AND do Evangelism. For me the philosophy of modern Christian doesn't go against the need to help the poor. I guess I feel caught in the middle but from a theological stance cannot support Emergent 100% or even 50%. I'm about 25% Emergent. It seems to me the concept of Evangelism within Emergent has a very less focus and when it does it doesn't address the status of peoples souls. For me we need to have a balance between the soul AND our lives here on earth for Christ. I feel we can do both 100% rather than it be an either/or situation or "rethink theology" that I hear so often by Emergent.

Maybe people who feel alientaed from modern Chrostianity need to rethink their alienation and at the same time modern Christianity include among their focuses the caring of the poor and hurting as well. It doesn't have to be either/or or at least it isn't like it appears as either/or. Does that make sense?


I feel alienated from post modern Christianity because modern Christianity gets a bad rap unnecessarily. Especially when people are labeled fundamentalist who are. I hear that from postmoderns who use a broader definition of fundamentalist than what was ever intended. innerancy? fundamentalist Faith in Christ alone for Salvation? fundamentalist etc. This to me is ridiculous and the original definition is one of attitude on these subjects as compared with theology.

Theophilus Punk

Thank you for some very provocative stuff. I am very ambivalent about Emergent / EC. I deeply appreciate the commitment to dialogue and openness. And I am deeply offended by the knee-jerk commitment to (politically) liberal causes and points of view: "Bush lied!" "Bush is a murderer!" "WalMart is out to eat our children!" etc., etc.

If I want to read that cr*p, I'll pick up a copy of Rolling Stone.

Mark Diebel

I appreciate the distinction that you make between the "finitude thesis" and the "reason thesis". I hadn't known about it and find it helpful. From what I can tell I support the "reason thesis" and believe that it is essential to anyone who believes that knowledge of important things... such as goodness, who do you believe, qualities, is possible. Other proponents of this view include C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, S.T. Coleridge, Henri Bortoft, Stephen Talbot.

The historicism you talk about seems to be different than that being referred to by C.S. Lewis in his essay on Historicism and the one referred to in the Redeeming Reason Conference... but I'd have to double check. Anyway, historicism is a concept with different connotations or even significance.

Great thoughts here... Thank you very much. I'll encourage local emergers read this piece.

Geoff Holsclaw


great post. Sorry it has taken so long to respond.

As I said before (over at I think the distinction between the reason/finitude thesis can be overstated and need to be in mutual tension.

First off, while certainly emergent theologians tend toward the 'finitude thesis' in rejection to the 'reason thesis', their use of finitude is seriously qualified by theological commitments, and therefore don't propriate themes committed to ontological violence (to which Heidegger and Derrida are committed). you say, "The finitude of man (which I affirm) is not rooted in any limitations in being human (as Nietzsche and Heidegger supposed), but in the always partial disclosure of Being within any period of time (which Aristotle and Aquinas supposed)." I would say the best portions of emergent theology also affirm this, but don't feel committed to the reason thesis as you outline.

I would say that the reason and finitude are on a sliding scale depending on the situation and topic under consideration. Concerning empirical objects and states of affairs, we should emphasize the everyday reasonableness of our experiences and concepts. Moving from immanent affairs to sociological/anthropological, we would begin needing a mixture of reason and its limitation (finitude), while reaching transcendance (God's inner being) we have to say that even our language and the modes of our reason are inadequate (which Aquinas affirms). Yet, there is still some sort of reason involve (indirectly) and there still is revelation to which our reason comports itself, but this does not make the situation transparent.

Of course, I need to read you paper more closely, and then tease out my affirmations/denials. I'll try to do that soon.

adrian walker

Dear Ken,

Thanks for this post---and for the good press!

I agree that the position you ascribe to Grenz and co., while aiming in the right direction, isn't enough to get us there. I just don't see how one can be historicist about reason but non-historicist about revelation. If man as man can't grasp trans-historical truths, then how is divine revelation going to change this fact---except by magic? No: gratia supponit naturam!

The search for a third way beyond relativism and rationalism continues. . .


Existential Punk

I did not understand everything you wrote here, but what i take from this and believe for myself is simply this: We can't throw the baby out with the bath water and things are not black and white, either/or. Rather, it's both/and and sifting through and finding nuggets of gold to hold on to. It's very crucial to not hold tight on anything but hold things loosely. Thanks! Adele


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