John Bohannon Responds to My Review at Jesus Creed

John Bohannon has taken to Scot McKnight’s blog to respond to a critical review of his book that I posted there last month.  Here’s a taste:

First, why should McLaren be exempt from a work that analyzes the preaching within the Emerging Church? Yes he has retired from the full time pastorate, but does this mean that he has stopped preaching and teaching altogether? Does this mean that a historical analysis of his homiletical practices is no longer valid or that his influence has ceased? Like player cum Coach Ozzie Guillen, his change in roles did not lessen his impact on the game. If anything, it heightened it.

via Saturday Afternoon Book Review: Bohannon Responds to Tony Jones | Jesus Creed.

I think the weaknesses in his retort are obvious, and several have already been pointed out by commenters.  Therefore, I don’t plan to respond.  I will note, however, that paragraphs full of rhetorical questions are among my least favorite writing gimmicks.  Don’t you agree? ;-)

  • carla jo

    Here’s where he loses me:
    “But here is the catch; you may not get the chance to interview these sluggers in person or see them pound out a hit or homer in their home stadium. What should you do? Does the possibility of no home field interview or edge of your seat ball park experience remove all hope of accurately capturing and assessing the hitting beliefs, philosophies, and practices of these players? Would it be a fatal flaw to even attempt such a task?”

    The answer to his list of rhetorical questions is that yes, it does remove all hope of accuracy. Any journalist worth his or her salt knows that you dig for the story and if you can’t get access to what you need to tell that story accurately and well, then you need to tell a different story. Maybe he shouldn’t have written a book about preaching if he wasn’t committed to seeing his subjects in the act of preaching or talking to them extensively about their thoughts on preaching. If he didn’t have the chance to do that, then he needed to write a different book.

  • carla jo

    I forgot this was his dissertation, not a book project. Seems to me that makes the lack of primary research even more problematic.

  • http://marginaltheology.wordpress.com Annie

    Wow. This is a pissing contest, isn’t it?

    I think it’s fair to discuss how well an author achieved what s/he intended to achieve before (or better, rather than) condemning the entire project as fatally flawed. That criticism seems pretty unhelpful and if the purpose of critical commentary is to improve understanding, then the review is a failure.

    The comments on the post (and the ones here) call into question whether this was good enough PhD work trouble me, too. Maybe I’m too close to my own PhD work to hear that objectively but from here, it just hurts.

  • John Edmonds

    You are so savvy, Tony. You are the bomb. The way you write is so cool Tony. (His response was so lame in the way he wrote, he doesn’t even deserve a response).

    Your profession in books, articles, or whatever is written or spoken is enough to study to make a definitive evaluation of your doctrinal position.

    The baseball analogy is weak. As a person teaching the Bible your baseball bat, ball, and whatever else is words written and spoken. Also, if Bohannon didn’t site a live preaching, doesn’t mean he didn’t catch an MP3, or a sermon on Vimeo. There is plenty of criticism that you have leveled, and I bet you never even went in the doors of the church you complain about.

    If I go around writing that Jesus Christ is actually Felix the Cat, you don’t have to attend one of my church services to make some pretty key decision about my professions and doctrinal beliefs.

    I haven’t read the book, but from the response it seems like someone got there ass nailed to the floor, and others don’t like it. And if it is from a weak Ph.D dissertation then it seems that your pretty easy to defend against.

  • nathan

    @John Edmonds:

    Just my two cents in this conversation…

    I don’t think Bohannon’s conclusions are really relevant to me. I do understand the questions about rigor and standards. Just like if Tony puts himself out there and is subject to analysis and critique (a fact he knows well and understands), Bohannon is subject to the same interrogation.

    My concern is that not only the apparent lack of thoroughness, but the content itself doesn’t seem appropriate for a PhD.–regardless of his conclusions. If he wrote a shining, sycophantic endorsement of all things “emerging” there would still be concerns, for me, about his methodology and subject matter. He’s not writing on Augustine or Cyprian where texts are all he has to go on…there’s real live people in play, most of whom have not written or spoken extensively about their views of preaching. (Pagitt being the exception.) Furthermore, just because somebody preaches/speaks in public doesn’t mean they have a thorough going, full fleshed “view” on preaching. It’s too early to argue that anyone can definitively declare what the “emerging church’s” view of preaching is…and considering the tenor and tone of the disagreements over the past few years, it’s understandable that some people might see this as just another political potshot dressed up as serious academic endeavor. (Not saying it is, just saying how it seems to look to some people I’ve read and talked to…)

    Ultimately, in my view, this dust up is more significant for evangelicals in the SBC and over at Jesus Creed, than it actually is for Tony, “the emerging church” or the wider Church as a whole.

    Furthermore, all this raises my concern about how the Christian community is perceived with respect to our academic standards/achievement, etc.

    Then again, this also just reaffirms to me that not all PhD’s are created equal.

    Thanks for listening…