UPDATE: Adrian Warnock comments on the “Phil and Monk” show. Worth reading.
The entire transcript of Phil Johnson’s Shepherd’s Conference seminar on the Emerging Church can be found here.
I’ve read the seminar twice, and here are my thoughts.
I think Phil has done a great job. A solid “A-.” Considering Phil’s position and commitments, there’s very little to complain about here and much to benefit from. I recommend this seminar to anyone interested in the Emerging Church, and especially to those interested in a fair critique. (I do not recommend the blog on which it appears. In fact, I apologize that I have to link to it.)
Sure, there is plenty to quibble about, but this is one analysis that has a generous helping of humility. Phil admits this is a hard thing to get ahold of, that it’s in transition, that it’s starting to fall out into sub-camps, and very little can be said in general about the whole movement. *Applause* What he sees and understands, he comments on with restraint and helpful criticism. Even when I disagree with him, he’s pretty much on target. Example:
And that is why some of the essential features of faith and assurance that you and I might think are absolutely essential to communicating the gospel clearly and in a strong, biblical way are sometimes actually held in contempt by people in the emerging subculture. I’m speaking of features such as authority, strong convictions, doctrinal precision, clear definitions, and candor. All of those things run counter to the values prized by postmodernists.
I would want to sort through this bag of criticisms a bit (there’s a difference between conviction and obsession with precision, for example, and “contempt” is a bit much) but I think Phil is exactly right in terms of how the EC differs from his own tradition, and I think that is helpful.
I think his concerns are the appropriate ones, and I think his commendations and applications are excellent. For the sentence that critiquing Mclaren is critiquing Mclaren I say a loud “amen.” It really improves on this, and it runs circles around the playground bully-talk one hears from some mongrel corners of the blogosphere.
Maybe Phil pulled this off because his goals are open, precise and realistic:
My goal in this hour is not to persuade people who are already sold on the emergent idea that it’s a bad idea. My aim is to help conservative pastors of established churches who are committed to biblical principles by making you aware of some of the things that are going on in the so-called emerging church movement. And I hope to explain why I believe it is worth the struggle to resist these trends. Because you will invariably be confronted with pressure to embrace some of the philosophy and style of the emergent movement in your own ministries. And judging from what I know of church history–especially recent church history–it will be a difficult struggle for some pastors to resist.
With this seminar, Phil makes a contribution to the emerging conversation that ought to be valued. Put this with Andrews Jones’ and Mark Driscoll’s admonitions to the emerging to keep the important things in view. This is the best conservative evaluation of emerging that I’ve read. Considering how difficult it is to talk about emerging, this kind of essay is major positive step forward.