Friday, November 16, 2012

Doug Padgitt and Re-Imagination

Doug Padgitt, the pastor of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis and a leader of the emergent movement, loves to talk about re-imagination: of preaching, of the church, of doctrines, of doctrine in general, of the Bible, of the gospel, of sexuality, of many things or perhaps everything. Over the last couple of days, I have been listening to a number of resources about the emergent church, and remembering the brief time I spent with Doug (and Tony Jones) a few years ago. 

One of the things they shared that day was that, when they were developing the ideological basis of the emergent church, they sat at the feet of the post-modern philosopher Jacques Derrida. Among other things, Derrida is famous for popularizing a literary, and philosophical, method called deconstructionism. In brief, deconstructionism is a method of "un-building" texts, ideas, and presuppositions in order to reconstruct them in various ways. The point of this method is to demonstrate that there cannot be only one meaning of a text, idea, or presupposition, but rather, that there must be an endless variety of meanings. 

The reason for this is that there is nothing outside the system of language that stabilizes the meaning of language: there is no God, there is no "meta-narrative," there is no transcendent authority that holds all things together and calls all things to account. This implies that there is an almost infinite "play," that is, "range of meaning," within words and sentences so that, in the end, the idea of meaning is meaningless, the idea of truth is a lie. 

Now, to be fair, Derrida argued that the opposite of every assertion is contained within that assertion so that the statement "there is no God" implies that there may in fact be a God, and the statement "there is a God" implies that there may in fact be no God. Absurd, I know, but this is what he taught. If you're interested in this subject I would suggest you read Derrida's famous essay entitled, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences." This brief treatise will not tell you all you need to know about deconstructionism but it will at least give you a taste thereof. 

As for Doug Padgitt and the left-wing of the emergent church (or whatever they're calling themselves these days), they literally built their system of belief and practice on the foundation of Derrida's philosophy. Tony Jones, for instance, insists in most emphatic terms that they are "doing post-foundational theology," that is, they are asserting truth about God in a universe where there is no center, no ground, no foundation, no anchor--only mystery, only free-play, only the invitation to imagine and re-imagine. 

As I have contemplated all of this over the last few years, I've come to the simple conclusion that this whole system of thought, aside from being a rejection of Jesus, is a smoke-screen for the base desire to escape the righteous, and loving, judgment of God. If there is a God, a true and stabilizing center whose speech is final and binding upon all creation, then no man or woman is truly free, in the ultimate sense of the word, but rather must give an account to him who is mercifully sovereign over all things. Indeed, as the Lord says in Hebrews 4:13, "And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." 

In this light, the following train of thought popped into my mind this evening: re-imagination = deconstruction = the desire to be free from meaning and therefore God = the desire to be God in some measure = idolatry = the worship of a false God = the rejection of the true God = revolt against  the true God = the punishment of death ("the day you eat of it you will surely die" and "the wages of sin is death"). Indeed, "There is a way that seems right to a man [or a group of emergent men and women], but its end is the way to death" (Prov 14:12). 

Those who buy into this nonsensical way of thinking will find themselves in a state of eternal hopelessness from which their "re-imagining" will not allow them to escape (see, e.g., Eph 2:11-12). This is the bad news, but the good news is that God in his mercy has made a way of escape from that hopelessness, namely, Jesus Christ. 

As Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:13-22, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." 

These words have true, eternal, stable, unchangeable meaning. And how I pray that we will all lay aside our various smoke-screens and methods of hiding from God, and simply come to him who loves us, who is our peace, who is our reconciliation with God and one another, who is actually willing to dwell in us as we surrender ourselves to him. 

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