So, Ben Witherington has posted a rant against emerging church rants. Our “anti-ecclesial rhetoric” is gettin’ him down and killin’ his buzz.
After deigning to teach us what the word ekklesia really means, Ben writes,
Thus, when one gets to the emerging church folks, and you hear a lot of their anti-ecclesial rhetoric, it has a long precedent in Protestantism, whether it is Luther railing against the Pope, or Calvin complaining about the situation in Switzerland, or Wesley struggling with the Anglican Church, or the Free Methodists splitting off from the Methodist Episcopal Church or various Baptist groups splitting and multiplying prodigiously. And in all of this, few have stopped to ask—Is all this disputatiousness a good witness to the world? Put another way—Why should the world listen to any church group when we can’t even agree among ourselves, as we speak with forked tongues?
OK, so we’re in league with Luther, Wesley, and Calvin. And the problem is…what, exactly?
It’s “disputatiousness”! That’s our problem!
Of course, Ben seems to miss the irony that his post is the very definition of intramural disputation, being that he spends several hundred words taking his fellow Christians to task. So, wouldn’t that make him part of the problem, rather than the solution.
Further, Professor Witherington owes his employment to one of those aforementioned Reformers. As noted by several commentators, he hasn’t taken his own exhortation to unity to heart or he would — like others have done — convert to Catholicism.
But that’s not all! We’re also dumb!
One more thing. With the anti-ecclesial rhetoric has also come some anti-intellectual, and even anti-educational and anti-seminary rhetoric. Correct me if I am wrong but in a Dark Age where the culture and the church in general is becoming more and more Biblically illiterate what we surely don’t need is less training in the Bible. What we don’t need is a dumbing down of Christian college and seminary core curriculum in Bible, Church History, Theology. What we don’t need is less emphasis on learning the actual languages that the Bible was written in, and learning the historical, literary, rhetorical context in which it was given.
Since Dr. Witherington asked to be corrected, I will:
1) We do not live in a Dark Age. That is a ludicrous claim.
2) I defy him to find one post or podcast by anyone with a link to the emerging church who has suggested a dumbing down of seminary or college curriculum, the dismissal of Greek and Hebrew from syllabi, or a diminishment of the teaching of literary, exegetical methods. In fact, emergents have been rabid autodidacts, studying alone and in groups to fill in the gaps in their own seminary education. I’d imagine that Ben would be thrilled if his former students were half as engaged in ongoing theological study as my emergent friends and I are.
Of course, there’s not a single hyperlink in Ben’s post — not a scintilla of evidence of what he’s accusing us of. It’s all based on rumor, innuendo, and half-truths, something that is beneath a scholar of his stature.
In the comments, he continues his disputatiousness, demanding apologies from commenters who disagree with him. He also tells them that they should read his books. Well, Ben, here’s a little of your own medicine: Read my ecclesiology. It’s called The Church Is Flat. If you find it anti-ecclesial and anti-intellectual, I’ll apologize to you.
If not, you owe me an apology.