I do not intend to write a review of Doug Pagitt’s new book, A Christianity Worth Believing. But we will see what happens…
I am reading through it write now because I got a free copy of it. And of course other reason that are explained in the tab “The Theory” at the top of this blog. For those of you who do not know Doug is a leading voice in the Emergent church movement/conversation. I have heard him speak a few times and read some of his other stuff. Overall the guy is quite brilliant and is a gifted communicator.
I enjoyed the first few chapters as he talks about his own faith journey of growing up as an unbeliever and then becoming a Christian through a Passion play. Doug details how he was quickly immersed in the Christian culture and was quickly leading Bible studies and even involved in court cases for Christian rights.
Doug goes on to talk about how he went on to Bible college and then to be a youth pastor at a large megachurch. But all along he was still wrestling with what he calls the “uh-oh” moments of his faith. He talks about how he felt stifled to explore the the uh-ohs of his faith and that faith in Jesus was explained to him as this absolute finish line moment. I relate to this as early on in my Christian life I hit a number of walls of doubt and frustration. For me though, it was because I was void of any solid theology and began to think Christianity was too simplistic for explaining life. I also intuitively knew there was a measure of understanding that sanctification was a process, that holiness and Christ-like formation was not completed at my conversion but something I needed to continue to workout. These truths explain to us that the “uh-oh” moments of our faith are quite attested to by the Biblical narrative and just part of the Christian life.
Doug then engages in the regular emergent diatribe of how it was deeply unsettling to him the truth had to equal absolute. This is a massively false dichotomy that I do not want to fully get into here. But all of us understand that while we know nothing absolutely, we can still and do know many things concretely. Just think about all the things you do in a day and how they are based on truth premises that you hold and operate out of.
From there Dough launches into how the poison of Hellenization has permeated into the story of Jesus. Doug really does not give any solid examples of this except to say that Greeks did not have a frame of reference or understanding of an intimate or personal God such as Yahweh. Given that the New Testament is written in Greek and there are plenty of words in our Greek New Testament that connotate these exact ideas I find this conclusion hard to accept. If Doug is making the point that the Biblical narrative has at points been contaminated with Platonic thought and worldviews, I would concur. but he is overstating his case to say that all church history has been asunder in Hellenization since the third century.
Truth is though I am just now getting to the good stuff. You know the reason people read and buy books like this, to see what provocative and blogworthy stuff Doug has written. Here is the first comment I came across that I am sure will have the folks at apprising ministries foaming at the mouth.
I think there are people who argue for an ‘inerrant’ authoritative understanding of the Bible to support their prejudiced feelings about homosexuals. I know they would deny it, and they have done so to me many times. They would argue that it works the other way–the Bible teaches certain ideas about homosexuality, so that’s what they believe. (p. 63)
First off who is “they?” This is classic straw man in which you rail against a faceless opponent. I am not doubting that there are indeed homophobic Christians, I have met some myself, but to say this is their higher priority over a genuine belief in the authority of the Bible is quite presumptuous. Also I just could not help of thinking how much assuming Doug is doing of their heart and true motives. How can a movement of emergent Christians claim to be generous and want conversation and then accuse those who they disagree with of being misleading and not truly saying what they mean? I will pause here and post some more thoughts as I get further into the book.