October 23, 2017

Post-Stupid?

smartthumb.jpg“I am on a post-evangelical journey, discovering what it means to be vitally connected to Jesus.”

A truly prominent, not-post anything blogger has put forward the following theory:

Those who use the prefix “post” to describe themselves are claiming to be smarter than those who don’t.

Example: A “post-modernist” is saying “I used to be mired in the darkness of modernism, but now, through my superior intellect, I have arisen from the tomb of modernism and ascended to the higher plane of post-modernism.”

Or: A post-conservative is saying, “Once I lived in the dark swamps of conservatism, but now I’ve finally used my brains and looked at what Neanderthals inhabit conservatism. I’ve packed my bags and left for the sunshine and springtime of post-conservatism.”
And, of course: A post-evangelical — such as yours truly — is saying “Those stupid, sheep-like evangelicals can’t hold an intellectual candle to the brightness of my post-evangelical insights. How truly significant and wonderful it is that I have emerged, under the power of my stupendous brain, into post-evangelicalism.

You may send your best examples in to the Internet Monk research department.

I have three responses.

First, I don’t think that’s a completely wrong analysis. Intellectual arrogance is a common sin, and I’m sure I’m guilty of it. There are other reasons a person might take pride in being “post” whatever. There’s certainly a social dimension, as people “join up” with groups and movements they feel have moved beyond other groups and movements or just have an image they want to identify with. Pride comes in many different forms and some of them are quite subtle.

But intellectual pride goes both ways. There are those who take intellectual pride in their “old fashioned” legalism and their King James Onlyism. It’s no less potentially sinful to say “I’ve never changed and never will” than to say “I’ve changed and that makes me better.” It’s prideful to say “I’m smarter than those _________ Christians, who can’t see their own flaws and apostasy in comparison to my group.”

While I agree with the prominent blogger that being “post” whatever may be evidence of intellectual arrogance, I can’t say that’s automatically true or that there isn’t just as much arrogance in the other options of where we position ourselves in relationship to other Christians. It’s all a version of “My way of looking at things amounts to a kind of righteousness.” I think not.

Secondly, the process of thinking, learning and discovery, by its very nature, takes us in the direction of being “post”-whatever we were before we thought, learned or discovered. There’s nothing wrong with being “post-ignorant” or “post-uninformed.”

It seems that some Christians want to present themselves as being “keepers of the foundational” truths, and that their “progress” has always been “back to the truth,” but not “post” anything. Ahem. So Calvinists, for example, don’t call themselves post-evangelicals, but in actual fact that’s precisely what many of them are. They are people whose journey of discovery has taken then into the world of reformation Christianity POST their sojourn among generic evangelicals.

Charismatics are usually post-cessationists. Catholic converts are post-protestants. Many reformed Christians are post-revivalists or post-Arminians. I don’t think anyone is making a claim the other camp is stupid. Just wrong, from the learner’s perspective.

If the purpose of learning, study, inquiry and discovery isn’t to transcend your previous ignorance and to move forward in your experience of truth, then what are we doing pursuing so many books. sermons, lectures and classes?

Why are we reading prominent blogs, if not to be “post” something in our own knowledge of the truth?

Third and finally, my own “post-evangelical” journey isn’t a triumphant parade of intellectual triumph over the stupid. That isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty that’s stupid, worthless and even spiritually dangerous going on among evangelicals. It’s to say that I’m intentionally moving past where evangelicals are going, to take a broader, deeper examination of their roots, their valuable contributions and their diverse options for the future. I believe that evangelicalism’s current directions are dire and portend an end to the movement as classically defined, but I believe evangelicalism “deep and wide” has hope worth stirring up and content worth keeping.

I have far more respect for evangelicals in general than those who typically criticize me for being “post evangelical.” Their pessimism exceeds mine by far. I believe there is much about evangelicalism that can be salvaged and much about it that reaches into the broader experience of truly “catholic” Christianity. My prominent critics typically find evangelicalism a train-wreck with only one hope: a wholesale rejection of all things Charismatic and catholic in favor of a kind of reformed Baptist/independent Baptist fundamentalism.

If there’s a competition for who is the most pessimistic “post-evangelical,” I can’t really run with the big dogs. Look up the people who think Rick Warren is a new age guru and Tim Keller is a mystic.

My intention is to discover what in evangelicalism presents a “Jesus-shaped spirituality.” I do not adopt the post-evangelical label as a way to say I am smarter or others are stupid. I adopt it to say that living among evangelicals must be an intentional, deconstructive journey, sorting through tradition and trend, looking to scripture for authority and being open to the work of the Spirit, even among people very different from me…and maybe even not as “smart” as me.

The warning that “post” anything can be intellectual arrogance is a good word, well heard and hopefully heeded. But at the same time, drawing a caricature of other Christians who may use the label “post” may be another version of the same thing.

There’s no immunity for any of us; just a constant need for humility, mutual respect and careful consideration of what God may be doing in those different from ourselves.

Comments

  1. I’m “post-condemned” 🙂

  2. Great read. It can be hard to identify personal belief when there is so much to be read into the labels. “Post-” does seem to be a bit of a reaction to whatever came before. I need a committee to brainstorm a better label.

  3. I definitely don’t want to place too much stock in semantics, and I agree with your point that there can be as much pride in other labels as in “post-something” labels. But I think the main criticism of those post-something labels might be that they are labels by negation – negating the old thing rather than affirming the new thing. So yes, charismatics are usually post-cessationists, but they generally use the former label, and not the latter. Because a positive label names the positive position – such as charismaticism – while the negative, post-something label only directly negates the old thing.

  4. Tony Kummer says:

    Maybe I should aspire to something lower like “pre-ignorant” or “pre-uninformed” to reflect that I’m not advanced far enough even to emerge?

  5. Michael,

    Honest, solid, thoughtful post … and one I hope many listen to. Let me rephrase what you’ve said a bit…

    1. I accept an observation that, at times, the “post” prefix can be arrogant. But, we need to be careful because:

    2. At the most common level, it is nothing more than the reflection of a journey on a map. (We all have maps and one says “I’m postconservative because they’ve moved from where they were.)

    3. Some I know in the “post” camps are genuinely humble about it.

    4. Some now are “post”posting and that, in effect, could well easily lead many to be in #1 rather than #2 or #3.

  6. Perhaps anytime we stereotype and categorize we create separation rather than unity?

  7. I read Michael’s posting above with great intrigue and much agreement for something well said.

    I have not stumbled across the blogs which he has referred to but have faced the same accusations . . . fortunately by only a few.

    Considering this question, “Does even the word ‘post’ infer an intellectual superiority if not a theological, egocentric, piety?” I would love to write a lot on this matter. However, I really don’t want to spend a pleasant, rainy, quiet Sunday afternoon (especially Easter Sunday) punching keys on my laptop nor would I think Michael would want such a long comment or his readers. So I will limit to a few sound bites, all of my humble opinion.

    First of all, I suspect, at this point in Church history that even the concept of “Post-Evangelical” is not, yet precisely defined. I believe that the term means one thing to one person and something different to someone else. I am not being relativistic here, as I do believe that all Post-Evangelicals are on the same page (as maybe defined by Dave Tomlinson). However, for some, Post-Evangelical is a cultural phenomenon and to others a theological position.

    I also believe that different people came to a Post-Evangelical conclusion via a variety of paths. Some may come to this place through quiet hours in their personal study, being surrounded by thick, old books and with hours of leisurely pondering and intellectual reflection over cups of back coffee and the smell of sweet pipe tobacco. But I can only speak thoroughly of my own, personal journey.

    In 1989 I stood in the midst of a crater of devastation (while on the mission field) with my entire Evangelical world laying in shambles at my feet. The thing that had brought down my universe was the realization that my leader, and Christian hero, was a fraud . . . and worse than that, that I too was a fraud. Like realizing that the Emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes, I saw, for the first time, that my Evangelical experience had been nothing more than a sophisticated façade.

    As I stood there I contemplated three paths out. The first was suicide, which I wrestled with for the subsequent years. The second was to return to my previous agnosticism. The last path was a humble (and extremely honest) but arduous search to understand why. I’m curious by nature so I eventually took this third step. The process took me another 15 years before I reached the Post-Evangelical place of rest.

    But my way, without being too overdramatic, was the way of Luther . . . via scrubbing the stinky floors of the monastery’s latrines. I did spend hundreds . . . more like thousands of hours in study. But my study was not a function of reaching theological or intellectual stature but a subsistence study . . . for my own spiritual sanity.

    This process has caused me to loose a lot of good Evangelical friends, positions of leadership in churches and being looked upon as a kook (or worse a liberal). Even now, as I attempt to continue living within the Evangelical world, my post-Evangelical views serve me no advantage toward gaining respect from others and certainly not a prideful target of envy.

    I do realize that after Luther, many of his successors held his same beliefs (plus some) for the wrong, spiritually-prideful reasons. This led to the disaster of the 30-Years-War and other atrocities. There may likewise be those who are “post” anything simply because they sense that they are better than their predecessors.

    Another Michael

  8. Michael —

    I think it’s somewhat sad and not very useful that the issue of prominence plays as such a high-value target here.

    However, as a very good friend of a semi-prominent blogger who makes a criticism similar to the one you have sighted-up here, let me suggest something. I think you get the either/or wrong here and it obscures the engagement on this issue.

    You know: Donald Miller makes the “post-fundamentalist” complaint and sorta doesn’t see how he’s not really doing any better today than he did then, and it impairs his criticism of his “then” attitudes.

    But what I would say, in contrast to the “I’m smarter than I was back then” observation — and I think the semi-prominent blogger in question would say — is that while I may be subject to correction, my target is still the God which the Bible tells me to believe in; the window I seek to look out of (or into) is still the Gospel which is hinged on the question of whether or not the world runs “in accordance with Scripture”; of the many voices competing for my attention, the one which I seek to hear above the others is the one which affirms, “thus saith the LORD”.

    That’s not hardly half as arrogant as you have made my friend the semi-prominent blogger out to be — and it looks a lot different than the affirmation you make, which is, “an intentional, deconstructive journey, sorting through tradition and trend, looking to scripture for authority and being open to the work of the Spirit, even among people very different from me…and maybe even not as ‘smart’ as me”.

    I think — I think, IMO — they while you count yourself as “baptist”, you reject some of the real intellectual solvents of baptistic theology, which is its minimalism. I know that sounds ironic given that many Baptist® churches today are ridiculous circus side shows, but here’s the thing: you have substituted “deconstruction” as an intellectual value in place of the Scriptural mandate to -reject- tradition which obscures God’s word.

    Do baptists have traditions that do this? Yes, indeed, we do. But the solution to that is not “deconstruction” of the tradition to see why such-and-such a thing is done, but to see from Scripture whether such a thing is warranted.

    Yes, you also posit Scripture as “authority”, but I know you are aware that your view of this authority is referential rather than determinative — in short, Barthian. You can’t just pitch in the statement “looking to scripture for authority and being open to the work of the Spirit” without somehow admitting that you mean something different there than other semi-prominent bloggers mean when they might say the same thing.

    In the end, I think the real question here is whether the Christian life is about a meandering journey one calls a “pilgrimage” which doesn’t really have an end-point, or if it is instead (as we might say on this Resurrection Sunday) a Via Dolorosa which begins where the world rejects us and ends when we, as His disciples, are buried in His death so that we may rise in His Life. I think there are dangers in both approaches, but I think one of them wanders rather than crosses over — which is an ancient error for those who say they are the people of God.

    I have myself rambled a little here. Sorry for that. Have a nice day.

  9. So Frank, your contribution to this thread is:

    You make things look worse than they are + Spencer’s not really a Baptist anyway + but is probably a wandering apostate.

    Have you nice day yourself.

  10. Frank,

    As a decent Catholic, I am comfortable with both/and situations. So, to your question about salvation being either the Cross and the Resurrection or a wandering pilgrimage I say “Yes”. I believe that it is both.

    But, wouldn’t you say that Salvation (Cross and Empty Tomb) is different from sanctification ( wandering pilgrim)?

    Happy Easter to all.

    And as the Orthodox say: “He is Risen” “He is risen, indeed.”

  11. Wolf Paul says:

    Frank Turk writes,

    > You can’t just pitch in the statement “looking to scripture
    > for authority and being open to the work of the Spirit”
    > without somehow admitting that you mean something
    > different there than other semi-prominent bloggers mean
    > when they might say the same thing.

    I cannot be 100% sure here what exactly Frank means, but in view of his reference to the minimalist ideal of baptistic theology it sounds very much like the usual contrast between those who claim to follow Scripture alone and those who admit that they look to Scripture and Tradition.

    I do not believe that there is anyone alive in the 20th/21st centuries (or was alive in the last few centuries when this claim was becoming popular) who has any hope of interpreting Scripture without some recourse to an interpretive tradition, and I for my part am much more comfortable with those who ADMIT this (and in the process let us in on which tradition shapes their understanding of Scripture) than with those who deny it, even to themselves.

    As for post-anything, I think the appelation “evangelical” describes exactly what I want to be, so rather than changing my label I would much rather deny that much of what passes as such today is indeed evangelical Christianity, just as I deny that being physically attracted to those of my own sex would have anything to do with being gay (=joyous, happy). I guess that makes me either pre- or post-politically correct. Take your pick.

  12. Frank,

    “Do Baptists have traditions that do this? Yes, indeed, we do. But the solution to that is not “deconstruction” of the tradition to see why such-and-such a thing is done, but to see from Scripture whether such a thing is warranted.”

    But some person, at some time, came up with those traditions. Just like someone came up with the traditions of every other denomination. And I bet, that all of those other denominations believe their traditions don’t conflict with scripture either. (and the vast majority would be right).

    As reformed Christians, we do not believe in a modern day profit or an infallible Church. For this reason (and others), “post” evangelicals look to history, tradition, etc for guidance.

    When we take off our blinders, and look beyond the Bible, it is not done to supplant the word, but to put it in context. It’s also done with the understanding that those who wrote it, and those who first practiced it, were in a better position to know its meaning then someone 2000 years later starting from scratch.

    The reformation continues. The church is continually being perfected, without being perfect. And so are we.

    Happy Easter

  13. Well, let me see. I’m a post-fundamentalist. I’m a post-calvinist. I’m a post-dispensationalist. I’m a post-young earth creationist.

    As to the charge of arrogance, there is some truth in it. For example, the post-dispensationalist believes that dispensationalism is wrong. Well, DUH. Everyone believes that what they believe is correct, and hence anything that is opposite what they believe is wrong. Otherwise they would not believe what they believe. I mean picture the following conversation:

    “I am Jewish by background and I converted to Christianity.”

    “Oh, so you now believe that Jesus is the Messiah?”

    “Oh, no I don’t believe the Messiah has come yet.”

    “Then, why did you convert to Christianity?”

    “Because, I think that Christians are wrong.”

    That’s just not a conversation I think that I’ll ever hear. Do I think the things I believe are correct? Yes, otherwise I would not believe them. So, the charge of arrogance has some merit, but is pretty irrelevant also.

    By the way, aren’t evangelicals post-Roman Catholics? Does that make them arrogant?

  14. urban otter says:

    I have never before thought of “post” meaning “smarter than you,” but Michael, you make a good argument for it. My gripe with the term post-evangelical is that it doesn’t explain anything at all.

    “I do not believe that there is anyone alive in the 20th/21st centuries (or was alive in the last few centuries when this claim was becoming popular) who has any hope of interpreting Scripture without some recourse to an interpretive tradition, and I for my part am much more comfortable with those who ADMIT this (and in the process let us in on which tradition shapes their understanding of Scripture) than with those who deny it, even to themselves.”

    Unless you read the Scripture and come away with something never heard of before, you’re relying on an interpretive tradition. But if you did interpret the Bible in a way never previously seen, you’d have to wonder how it is that the Truth has been obscured for two thousand years until you came along.

    There’s no getting around the fact that no matter who you are, *you* are involved in your interpretation of the Bible. You can’t escape your own head. Like Wolf Paul, I’m more comfortable with those who admit this, or at least realize it.

    But anyway, I have a question: How could you tell when you’ve moved out of evangelicalism and into post-evangelicalism? I ask because evangelicalism has always seemed to be a moving target. How could you tell the difference between moving beyond evangelicalism and simply moving further along an evangelical trajectory?

    I do like the term pre-ignorant though. 🙂

  15. I’ve never said I’m not an evangelical. I’m a Christian, a Christian humanist, a protestant/reformation/evangelical and a catholic Christian. Post-evangelicalism is my WAY of being an evangelical but not allowing evangelicalism to determine what kind of Christian I am.

  16. Oh yeah Michael well I’m a post post-evangelical! : )

  17. I thought this was a great post, a thoughtful consideration of the realities of those who consider themselves post-anything within Christendom. As I grow in my understanding of the Word, I find myself having to leave behind some aspects of the traditions of the church world I grew up within. Not because I’m smarter, but because the Word humbles me to realize I haven’t truly grasped the revelation of God like I ought. I believe many church leaders come to the place where they realize they operate often times much more like the pharisees than Jesus. I want those things to be in my “post” pile.

    Scripture often chases me out of the safe confines of tradition and forces me to venture into the adventure that is pursing Christ. I find that the older saints in my church, God bless them, can sometimes, over a lifetime, pick up some unnecessary, and sometimes offensive churchy baggage that cuts against the grain of the very things Christ taught. A constant reminder to be willing to hear new things (within the context of His revelation) from the Lord…

  18. Michael —

    wow. So there’s no way to read what I said as a fair criticism open for discussion? It can only be read as, “you’re not a Christian because you don’t agree with me”?

    Please show me which places in that comment I said anything like that. I posted this so that there could be an open discussion about the spat here without name-calling or any of that stuff, and I think I offered a criticism here which tries to come at it with an open mind but also with my understanding of the issues laid out plainly.

    Read it again if you can, and please help me understand how your view here is not a caricature of the problem.

  19. Wow is right. I have a strong sense of deja vu when you appear.

    “Fair criticism” and “open discussion.” Uh-huh.

    “You might be Baptist, but you have a Barthian view of scripture. You might say you are deconstructing, but you aren’t judging by any true allegience to scripture. (Unexplained) Some prominent bloggers would disagree with your claim to submit to the authority of scripture. Your Christian life is a meandering journey with no end point.”

  20. Wolf Paul had a few things to say, and I have some replies.

    | I cannot be 100% sure here
    | what exactly Frank means,
    | but in view of his reference to
    | the minimalist ideal of
    | baptistic theology it sounds
    | very much like the usual
    | contrast between those who
    | claim to follow Scripture alone
    | and those who admit that
    | they look to Scripture and
    | Tradition.

    What I mean in the section you quoted, Wolf Paul, is that when iMonk says the phrase “looking at Scripture for authority and being open to the work of the Spirit”, he means something different (and let’s be clear: not definitively bad or de facto bad) than if some more-traditional baptist said the same thing.

    When I am talking about minimalist baptist theology, that’s just an observation — not a staking out of the high ground. Baptists have a long tradition (heh) of sort of abandoning anything that looks “traditional” because Scripture doesn’t explicitly say anything about it. That’s why we have such a phobia about liturgy, for example. That also doesn’t make it good or bad: that’s just what the actual theological underpinnings of baptistic thought and practice have at the bottom.

    It is itself a tradition — no question. But I mentioned it because it is a very different view of how to capture problems and root causes in the church than “deconstruction”. It has a different starting place, and a different objective.

    | I do not believe that there is
    | anyone alive in the 20th/21st
    | centuries (or was alive in the
    | last few centuries when this
    | claim was becoming popular)
    | who has any hope of
    | interpreting Scripture without
    | some recourse to an
    | interpretive tradition, …

    That’s an overbroad statement which, IMO, has two problems:

    [1] Is tradition a good thing, or not? The right answer is that it can be either depending on whether it is seen as derivative or not. When tradition is seen as derivative and therefore adaptive, it’s a good thing; when it’s seen as sacrosanct and somehow invented by God or demigod men, it’s likely bad. In that, having an interpretive tradition is in and of itself, neither good nor bad — just a fact.

    [2] It overlooks so much about the history of the Bible that it is a statement of pretty limited use. For example, how should we interpret the Laws of Leviticus and Numbers? It turns out that we have a really interesting set of lenses built into the rest of Scripture, starting with Moses’ interpretation of those commands in Deuteronomy, and then Jesus’ own lengthy discussions about Deuteronomy in the NT, and then Paul’s expositions on the Law, and then the expositions in the book of Hebrews.

    All that to say this: the Bible does a pretty amazing job of governing any reader in any age into receiving a certain message if that reader is willing to invest time in grasping what the Bible says about itself.

    Do we have interpretive traditions? Sure we do — beginning with what kind of translation we are willing to use for study. But the traditions which harm us and our relationship to the text are the ones which pretend they do not exist.

    Like the one which says that we can’t read the Bible without being something propped up by a tradition.

    | … and I
    | for my part am much more
    | comfortable with those who
    | ADMIT this (and in the
    | process let us in on which
    | tradition shapes their
    | understanding of Scripture)
    | than with those who deny it,
    | even to themselves.

    See above. Those who “admit this” usually fail to concede the deep and wide intellectual undercurrent of skepticism which prompts this “admission”. That’s way more dangerous, intellectually, than trying to read Genesis like a raw report of the events of the first 7 x 24 hours of creation.

    Thanks for thinking about this.

  21. Charley:

    I would agree that you are doing exactly what you say you are doing. I would object to calling that “reformational” in any meaningful sense.

    The foundation of the reformation was “sola scriptura”, which lead to the other 4 “solas”. If you somehow efface that doctrine, you have really ditched the reformation.

    That’s what they say at the White Horse Inn, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

  22. Readers: Let me make it abundantly clear that when Frank talks about me and tells you what I believe and don’t believe abotu scripture or anything else, you can safely assume I disagree with virtually every word, and he has no right to represent my views as anything other than a reader with an agenda.

    His calls for calm discussion with me come after a career of running my name up the flagpole of his site as fodder for traffic, starting with a major campaign to be sure everyone in the blogosphere knows I am emotionally unfit to be a minister.

    if you think he’s here for a fair exchange with me, think again. He will be quite civil to all of you, but that’s because he doesn’t know you as well. He’s studied me closely.

  23. Michael —

    Which part of your paraphase of my words does not coincide with your own description of your own journey?

    Do you not have a Barthian view of Scripture? I thought you did. If you don’t, my comments here start to lose a lot of their speed quickly. The Barthian view of Scripture reproaches 20th century liberalism, but it also wanders away from sola Scriptura because it changes the way it ascribes authority to the text — and that is my point, not that you are some kind of red-suited devil.

    Are you not “deconstructing” your experience and the church? I thought that was your mission statement or raison — I thought those were your words.

    Is “deconstruction” a historically- and theologically-Christian pursuit, or does it come from someplace else, epistemologically and philosophically? If so, how is it compatible with a Christian analysis of theological problems?

    I didn’t call anyone prominent — you did. I was careful to use your terms here.

    And if you have an objective or an end in sight (or on the map) in your journey, I will be more than happy to recant the metaphors I used. I’d certainly accept that the end of your journey is “to be found faithful”, because that’s the answer I’d give to that question — but I think we’d mean different things in saying that.

    I am honestly not trying to start a fight here. I came to see why this has got to be a big thing, and if it does, no sense doing this in your meta. If I wanted a big thing, I would have blogged you at Team Pyro or something which would have mobilized the rapid-response teams on both sides.

    Unless there’s a way to talk about this without poking each other in the eye, that’s all I have to say about it.

  24. THREAD READERS: I apologize for this type of post. The vast majority of the blogosphere that comments here can talk about what I write and not about me.

    Frank: I have a view of scripture that every church and institution I’ve worked for has found faithful. When they find out it’s somewhat Barthian, I’m sure they’ll be shocked. Do you really think I have problems expressing my view of scripture in a way that Baptists find familiar and acceptable? In Eastern Ky? Do you really think I just read my blogs posts to my congregations?

    Putting a term like deconstruction into your hands to explain…..no thanks. You did a good job deconstructing what I REALLY mean by authority of scripture and work of the Spirit, and now you’ve even given us all an idea of what the end of my journey probably is.

    Too bad I’m not a Jeopardy category. You’d do well. (And I’ve been worried about who would blog for me while I was away this summer. It was right in front of me all the time.)

    I’ll tell you what’s sad: I used to give these little overtures some credence as attempts to get beyond the inexplicable fascination with me as some kind of hillbilly Brian Mclaren, but experience has taught me that we won’t go three paragraphs before things you and I have never conversed about will be explained for me.

    I’m not going to be defined by you, no matter what the premise.

  25. Oh, the limitation of labels. One can argue that if one is a “post evangelical” then one has moved from being an evangelical to something else. What is that something else? Don’t know that we have a label for that yet.

    Michael, I would relate most with your second point. I am an evangelical, and by your definition a post evangelical too. My journey continues to convince me that there is much that is right in evangelicalism and there is much that can and should be changed. As I see it, evangelicalism is not a straight line but rather a big circle. We can grow, learn, think, and discover within that circle, indeed, we should.

    Press on!

  26. Who’s trying to “define” you? I thought I was repeating things you said, Michael.

    Please find any phrase or intention which says you’re “not faithful” in my original comment. You interjected the question of your “faithfulness”. My comment was about whether or not what’s been said so far qualifies as “engagement” — whether or not we’re talking to each other rather than around each other.

    If you want to read that as an accusation that you’re going to hell — that you’re unfaithful, that you ought to be fired, whatever — I have no idea what to say to that. That was not my intention and it wasn’t actually found in what I said the first time.

  27. Since I converted to Orthodoxy, I guess that makes me pre-Evangelical.

  28. Michael,

    I count myself as being solidly in the evangelical camp. Yet I also see myself as large agreeing with most of what you post. I am definitely post-fundamentalist as I have definitely moved beyond that. Yet I am uncomfortable with the term post-evangelical.

    Isn’t using a term like post-evangelical, when you are at heart still an evangelical, like an evangelical using the word inerrant, and then qualifying it in so many ways that it means anything but inerrant.

    In my understanding “post” means that you have moved beyond something. If that is the case I don’t see how you can be both “evangelical” and “post-evangelical” at the same time.

    Or are you defining “post” in a way that few english speakers would?

    Please help me on this one.

  29. As I’ve said before, post evangelicalism is a method with me; a way of being evangelical. It resists the attempts of evangelicalism to define itself by its latest evolution, and insists we draw the circle larger and backwards.

    Your critique of the word is solid, but I’m not trying to make a definable post evangelical as compared to an evangelical. I’m trying to be evangelical in a way that rejects much of evangelicalism’s recent developments.

  30. AM/PM = ante meridiem/post meridiem

    Does that mean I’m smarter in the afternoon than I am in the morning?

    Hmm…

  31. I know you are, but what am I??

    Lawn darts – a game invented to mirror the label game.

    I am so premillenial that I will not eat Post Toasties, I call him a “mail” man, and I call the little stick-on messages “Paste-Its”. Many times labels are helpful – many times labels are inherrantly elitist – many times labels are criticisms – many times labels are inaccurate – many times labels are mircurial – many times labels are incomplete – and many times labels are dumb(a colloquial word that indicates a deep unprodcuctive essence over which argumentation seems massively dumb)

  32. Doug the lurker says:

    Michael:

    For what it’s worth…I, too, am post-evangelical. What it means for me is this: I accept and believe in the historical distinctives of evangelicalism which were defined by David Bebbington as SCRIPTURE, CONVERSION, CROSS and ACTIVISM (called in some scholarly literature as “the Bebbington Quadrilateral” whohoo).

    I have, however, rejected the stupid, shallow consumeristic, self-centered nonsense which has become the evangelical sub-culture– it’s music, it’s art, it’s radio programs, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and Prayer of Jabez underwear. A pox on it all.

    I also hate baptists. Most baptists. Well…mostly I hate fried-chicken-eatin’, tea-drinkin’, non-creedal, baptists. And some others.

  33. I’m in neurology and we ues the term “post” quite a bit . . . like “he is post-frontal lobectomy.” Hmmm . . . are they, the post-frontal lobectomy people smarter than the pre-frontal lobectomy people?

    To make it more confusing is that there is another part of the brain called the “pre-frontal lobe.” So if it is BEFORE you have your pre-frontal lobe cut out . . . would you be a pre-pre-frontal lobectomy? Or Pre (then the 2 superscrip for squared . . . my front won’t let me do it here).

  34. Since this is a past post , I guess I am postpast. And since I was baptised in the past and now attend PCA but I am SBC, I guess I am post past baptist. But I am still credal, though fetal credal.

  35. The prominent blogger is obviously post-omniscient, as in “That stupid God guy — He says He can read the hearts of man, but look at how much He needs to know to do that. I can tell someone exactly what their inner thoughts and attitudes are by four letters and a hyphen.”

  36. Frank Turk,

    Until you learn what “deconstruction” means and how it is used when it is negative, I suggest you not use it. What is patently obvious in your comments to Michael is that you don’t know what that term means.

    “Sorry to say this, but it appears to me [that for you] it is a term of opprobrium rather than clarity.

    Let me make one point simply: “deconstruct” does not mean “being critical of.” It is far deeper than that.

  37. caplight says:

    If I could add to the “arrogance” meme. Sometimes I wonder if the “post” whatever designation comes from the American desire for the new and the novel. for some it may not be the arrogance of intellect as much as the arrogance of “new”–I’m out on the edge, I’m the future, your beliefs are so “yesterday” etc. That is a quintessential American (United States) phenomenon.

  38. Dr. McKnight —

    Someone said you had a comment for me, and I stopped by to see it. I have sent you an e-mail.

    Thanks for your concerns.

  39. In short, Frank, deconstruction is not about tearing apart or criticizing one’s past (that’s call criticism) … it is to show that ideology and particular viewpoints are nothing more than manifestations of power and justifications of power. For the iMonk to have been doing deconstruction would have been seen had he turned some theological viewpoint or theologian inside out by showing that his theology is justification for power.

  40. Dr. McKnight —

    The use of the term “deconstruction” is Michael Spencer’s description of his own endeavor, from the second-to-last paragraph of this post. My suggestion is that if the term is wrongly-applied to his blogging, it’s his choice of words which need to be examined.

    But the irony here is that I think the answer to the question of whether or not iMonk “deconstructs” anything is “yes, he does” — he just doesn’t read like Derrida or De Man: he reads like Rolling Stone magazine (which, btw, is not an insult: it’s an adaptation of the critical approach to a certain audience).

    It is from there that my criticism of him comes. Deconstruction has the minor virtue of anti-humanistic (you know: it wants to remove “man” as a metaphysical constant, take “man” out of the metaphysical equation as a remedy to Enlightenment thinking), but has the gross demerit of being anti-supernatural — it doesn’t adhere to a Christian epistemology because it refuses to reference God.

    Does he “do” deconstruction? Yes, in fact, I think he does pop-level deconstruction. I credit him for admitting that this is what he’s trying to do. Is it inside the scope of Christian theology to implement “deconstruction” on things like the church and doctrine? There’s no answer I can give to that question which will not be interpreted as calling Michael an apostate who is riding a first-class seat to the lake of fire, even if my intent is merely to tell him that his method is flawed.

    In spite of being disappointed that you didn’t want to conduct this via e-mail to avoid comment-box exscalation (as I said, you could have shared the e-mails with whoever you wanted), I’m grateful to have had a moment to my statements further. I hope they have provided you with information you didn’t have before.

  41. I must not have arrived at post-stupid yet. Seriously. Because from what Frank has written, for the most part I have no idea what he’s talking about or where he’s going with his thoughts. I-Monk’s post seemed pretty simple, straight-forward and lucid to me. If this were a debate (which in some ways it is), I would say the Monk did an excellent job responding to the post put up by the prominent blogger. And one thing I noticed in reading the post was the amount of restraint I-Monk displayed. He really did stay on the issue at hand, not making it all personal. The fact that he referred to Phil as a prominent blogger was masterpiece. How about Phil speaking for himself on the matter rather than someone else come in and carry his water?

  42. The Ancient of Days said, “Behold, I create all things new.”

  43. Re: deconstruction from Wikipedia

    Derrida’s particular methods of textual criticism, which involved discovering, recognizing, and understanding the underlying—and unspoken and implicit—assumptions, ideas, and frameworks that form the basis for thought and belief, for example, in complicating the ordinary division made between nature and culture

    I think some deconstruction needs to be done regarding Mr. Turks comments and the assumptions that cry out from between the lines upon the web page…such as:

    “it doesn’t adhere to a Christian epistemology because it refuses to reference God.”…assumption

    and earlier

    “You can’t just pitch in the statement “looking to scripture for authority and being open to the work of the Spirit” without somehow admitting that you mean something different there than other semi-prominent bloggers mean when they might say the same thing”…assumption

    “I think there are dangers in both approaches, but I think one of them wanders rather than crosses over — which is an ancient error for those who say they are the people of God.”….assumption

    It becomes necessary to deconstruct things when words cannot be taken at face value and serve as only a hint of what really lies behind them….in both positive and negative ways.

  44. Terri —

    If it weren’t for wikipedia, we’d all actually have to read Saussure, Derrida, de Man and Harold Bloom. And then where would we be?

  45. josh s blake says:

    Wow. That’s really all I can say. Thank you for the post, Michael, for all the posts, really. You say the things many others are afraid to say or can’t quite put into words. Thank you for the time and energy spent here, even if you do happen to enjoy it. Thank you for the work you do in your ministry in KY and with your family. Thank you for loving God and doing your best to follow Him. Thank you for continuing to post, regardless of critics. Thank you.
    God bless, josh s blake

  46. Terri,
    If it weren’t for wikipedia, we’d all actually have to read Saussure, Derrida, de Man and Harold Bloom. And then where would we be?

    How do I deconstruct this?

    hmmm…let’s see..perhaps the author of this comment has an underlying assumption that a quote from wikipedia is an indication that “Terri” doesn’t read or have any clue who Derrida is.

    This can be seen in his sarcastic, rhetorical question which uses the word “we” when the underlying meaning is really “you”.

    Have I deconstructed the response well enough? Did I understand that what was really meant wasn’t exactly what was said?

    Because if I didn’t understand how to “deconstruct” this comment and took it at face value, I might actually believe you were grateful for Wikipedia and considered me as part of your group as indicated by your use of “we”.

    But, then again, what do I know? I only had to read Derrida in french during my long-ago university years.

  47. ***smacking hand against forehead, wondering why I let myself get irritated by blog comments***

  48. Ah! You read it in French! That’s why you aren’t actually deconstructing my comments — only parsing them. If I was posting in French, clearly I would right now be utterly without any plays to power left.

    Ah ! non ! c’est un peu court, jeune homme ! On pouvait dire. . .Oh ! Dieu !. . .bien des choses en somme. . . En variant le ton!

  49. Je ne suis pas un jeune homme.

  50. mais…le fin mot de l’histoire?…c’est mon panache.