Scot McKnight is perturbed.
Today, Scot began a series of three posts on Brian McLaren’s soul sort narrative, which is a specific contention Brian makes in his new book. Scot spends quite a bit of time arguing that Brian is presenting something nobody experienced. He says:
One reason I’m doing this series is that I’ve had a few say to me that they actually grew up with Brian’s soul-sort narrative. My contention is that they didn’t; nor can they find one gospel tract or one youth pastor who will ever admit to having believed in or preached Brian’s soul-sort narrative as he describes it. I’ll explain in another post why I think Brian sketches the narrative as he does.
There’s already over 23 comments, many of which are passionately for or against Scot’s argument. Scot main contention seems to be that Brian excludes Jesus from the six line narrative.
Instead, he’s got the fifth element in the Story as “salvation” and he brings in other terms like justification and atonement. What is amazingly absent here — and it’s a tragic omission — is Jesus Christ. Which conventional narrative has no place for the living, dying and ascended Jesus Christ? When Brian is actually describing this conventional narrative, and I don’t mean when he is setting up his narrative of creation and liberation and new creation (which, by the way, is a set of terms that was fashioned by theologians who believe in the six elements) that lead to Christ, there is no place for Jesus Christ in his narrative.
Scot finishes with:
Fine, but don’t call it “conventional.” There’s no “conventional” narrative that doesn’t make Jesus, as God’s redeeming Son and our Savior and our Lord, as the very center of the narrative. None. Ever.
Although I agree with Scot that the Brian’s portrayal is somewhat a caricature, I think Scot misses that this is how people perceive the issue. It may not be presented exactly that way but that exactly how people see it presented. Brian’s six line narrative is seen from the individuals perspective. Jesus gets us to “salvation”. Salvation is the transaction that is supposed to occur. It happens through Jesus but that’s secondary, even though its part of the story. I grew up with the six line narrative and the point was largely framed around the “salvation” aspect, even though we did have Jesus as part of it.
But something struck me when reading Scot’s post. “Turnabout’s fair play.” Evangelicals have spent so much time presenting a caricature of Emergence, and now that Brian has done the same thing, it has put people on the defense. If Brian did anything, he presented a caricature of the traditional evangelical view. And some would obviously not resonate with that caricature. And now they have to defend their view. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read a post about Emergence and thought something similar to what Scot said.
And to be fair to Scot, he has been very fair of Emergence. But he does present himself as decidedly evangelical so I would expect him to defend the evangelical side.
I’m also not saying turnabout is fair play. I’m suggesting there’s something to learn from it. I’m learning in my life that I can’t convince someone else about what I think. If someone says, “You believe this,” and I don’t, there is not much I can do to convince the person otherwise. And it becomes very easy to spend all of my time trying to defend my belief, rather than live my belief. I’m also learning that when someone says, “You believe this,” it means that something I said probably contributed to that idea. They believe it. So it means listening to how I say things.
Update: After I posted this, I happened to read Tony Jone’s post from yesterday that provides exactly the opposite account from an Emergent position.