Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Carson on authenticity

Emergent blogger Bob Robinson went to hear D. A. Carson speak on the emergent church in Akron, OH. He quoted Carson as saying, "the Emerging Church is making a plea for authenticity. That’s good. But since the Emerging Church does not use the Bible as its standard of what is authentic or not (relying more on feelings and cultural acceptability), then the authenticity has to be called into question."

This brings up a good point I've thought about quite a bit. How do we define authenticity in Christianity? And how would we recognize it in today's world? Here is where the pragmatic definition of truth runs into trouble. If we define authenticity in pragmatic terms (truth is what works for me), where do we end up? Pretty hard to say.

The notion of "working" can be pretty subjective. What does it mean when we say something "works?" Is Osteen's church "working" when he attracts 47,000 in attendance? Well, he still hasn't matched Sung Myung Moon's success. Unfortunately, while I believe results matter, in the absence of objective guidelines for what God considers success, results tell us nothing. Carson is right. Only scripture can give us the spiritual standards by which to judge results.

Christians should spend time pondering what God teaches on this question. Exactly what are we looking for when we say "this approach works?" What do others say on this? What can we get from scripture? There must be multiple answers.

This is at the heart of the question when it comes to authenticity. Authenticity isn't just a feeling we get because people are being intense. It has to mean that our service for God is real; that God is working in our midst. How would we know?


AdamK said...

I agree with you that the Bible has to be our standard of truth, but there are several measures of success in the Bible. For example, James tells us we should know our success by our fruit. Fruit in this case being people coming to accept Christ as their savior, Christians being equipped to lead others to Christ, etc. We also know that a healthy church loves one another. We should be helping the poor. I think part of what we run into is that churches may focus on one area where they are particularly strong (bringing people in and introducing them to God for example) to the exclusion of all others. A healthy, vibrant church should look at all the standards set forth in the Bible and judge their success on the whole spectrum. We should probably compile a list of the standards for success in the Bible.

Dennis said...

So, we have
1. conversions to Christ
2. authentic love in the community
3. relief and development for the poor
Are we missing anything here, or are there qualifiers that should be added?

AdamK said...

May want to include equipping the saints to do God's work.

Dennis said...

Good. What about in Eph. 4 also, we are all to grow to the fullness of the stature of Christ and not be tossed by waves of doctrine? Seems like there's an expectation that we grow in knowledge of the word and in stable, solid doctrine.
Then you could also add world missions because of the great commission.