Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Emergent Church and its Self-Refuting Views

This video looks at some of the self-refuting arguments and views of postmoderns and those in the emerging church.

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At Thursday, July 10, 2008 2:59:00 PM, Blogger Lane Chaplin said...

Awesome, Doug. Spot on.

At Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:11:00 PM, Anonymous Dani said...

History repeating itself. Nice work Doug.. thank you!

At Friday, July 11, 2008 5:06:00 AM, Blogger James Diggs said...

Doug, Interesting argument about how admitting that things like language is limited and subjective is therefore self self-refuting because the very confession of this type is what????????

Here is the problem. The map you have created yourself "of logical arguments" is itself limited in how it can describe the actually world. Your scenario is so "either/or" that it allows no room for acknowledging things like the limits of language or subjectivity. According to your logic we can not even admit with any reasonable assurance that language is universally subjective because if it is subjective how would we know?

The problem is that limits do exist and subjectivity is real.

This kind of argument you present is one that lives on paper and denies the larger complexities of the real world. The argument becomes a game of stated proofs that only live in the vacuum of the factors presented in the argument.

It is like me saying..."everything I say is a lie and then confessing that I am lieing." We could get lost in the paradox of that statement, but the paradox only exists in the conditions of the experiment of logic and not in the real world.

So, as you create proofs and theorems to prove your point in the vacuum of your blackboard, post-moderns are trying to figure out how to navigate the real world; and post-modern followers of Jesus are trying to figure out how to navigate the real world according to the Way of Christ.

There certainly is a lot to legitimately criticize concerning the emergent church and a post-modern framework. Post-modernity would also be extremely unwise to chuck away everything modern as something evil. However, if we are to glean from whatever wisdom modernity still has to share, it would be wise for modernity to take the log out of it's own eye so it can see more clearly to help us remove what may be obstructing our vision- whether it be log or speck.

As you read about post-modernity and the emergent church I would challenge you to grapple with the same realities that post-moderns are wrestling with rather than just dismiss them based on, well, modern arguments.

To say that all that post-modern Christians are wrestling with comes down to your mental exercise of proving how your right by showing how you can reduce these real struggles to just "self-refuting" logical experiments, misses the target of actually helping post-moderns navigate the real world according to the Way of Christ.



At Friday, July 11, 2008 10:56:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Thanks for your comment. My argument was not, as you stated “admitting that things like language is limited and subjective is therefore self self-refuting because the very confession of this type is absolute”

My argument was that the postmodern view of language is that language does not correspond to reality, yet the statement is made using language, which means that their very statement concerning language does not correspond to reality. Therefore the postmodern view of language does not correspond to the way language is in the real world.

Second, as to language being limited, you said,

“According to your logic we can not even admit with any reasonable assurance that language is universally subjective because if it is subjective how would we know? The problem is that limits do exist and subjectivity is real.”

“Universally subjective?” Isn’t this an oxymoron? :-)

Some language is subjective, such as the statement, “the prettiest color is blue.” This is subjective because the blue is not the prettiest color for everyone at all places at all times. Simply admitting that language can communicate truth about the real world in no way eliminates the subjectivity of some language, or even some of its limits. On the other hand saying that, “language is not able to communicate truth about the real world,” actually does mean you cannot talk about the limits or subjectivity of language as it really is.

Third, the statement ..."everything I say is a lie and then confessing that I am lying." is neither a paradox nor contradictory. If you say “everything say is a lie” and then confess that you are lying, it would only mean that not everything you say is a lie. Now the statement “I am lying right now” is a self-refuting statement that is absurd and is not a paradox.

Fourth, you are working from the same map of logical arguments as I, because everything you said is so “either/or.” If you somehow think that things can be “both/and” why did you not just agree with me, because both I would be right and you would be right. But instead you are disagreeing with me as if I am wrong and you are right. Kinda like it’s either/or, and kinda like you are depending on logic and the law of non-contradiction to make your point.

God Bless,


At Saturday, July 12, 2008 4:43:00 AM, Blogger James Diggs said...


I used the odd phrase “Universally subjective" on purpose, essentially asking if it was possible for us to recognize that our subjectivity is a universal condition? (more on this in a second)

Also, thanks for pointing out the flaw in the way I poorly and loosely presented a version of Epimenides' Creton paradox /or the liar paradox. Indeed, language can sometimes be even more limited when I use it. :)

The point is however, that often these type of logic exercises (paradox or not)exist in a vacuum and does not reflect all the factors of reality.

I also think it is interesting that you make a distinction in saying that "language is limited" from "language does not correspond with reality". How else would language be limited if it is not limited in the way it can corresponds with reality?

You said, "saying that, 'language is not able to communicate truth about the real world,' actually does mean you cannot talk about the limits or subjectivity of language as it really is."

This depends on how absolute you consider ones ability to communicate truth in the real world. At some point there is a difference between the map (know matter how accurate it is) and the territory you are mapping. The map is representation of the "truth" of the territory; but experiencing the map is not the same as experiencing the territory. Therefore the map does not communicate the completeness and absoluteness of the real world. This does not mean that there is not trust worthy information on the map- just that it is limited.

Finally, acknowledging when things may be "both/and" does not mean that they have to be absolutely both/and. There can be degrees in which multiple descriptions are able to better describe reality more than other ones without rendering the lesser ones completely invalid. In other words it is also possible for things not to always be completely and absolutely either/or".

To say that I can't argue where I find things may be more either/or because I want to acknowledge where things may be both/and is locking me exclusively into one particular "map of logical argument" (as you called it); as if one type of map could completely describe reality alone and could not use other kinds of maps, that when combined give us a more clear picture.

I'll restate my original point (which you don't seem interest in), that you seem to want to disqualify the emergent post-modern conversation because they are working primarily off of a different map. Granted, we post moderns do tend to spend a lot of time blasting the modern map, but I think this is only because the modern map is most often presented as absolute. In the end however, I think we will find (and most of us already know) that the modern map is far too valuable to just abandon completely.

Still, if your goal is to be a defender the modern map and argue how absolute it is in reflecting the reality of world, then you only wish to disqualify another's map. This would show that you are not interested where their map may actually have charted some territory in a way that your map is not capable of. Of course you seem to see your map as an absolute reflection of reality so you think reality can not exist beyond your map; therefore concluding that other maps are invalid.

So then, I got you. The postmodern/emergent conversation I share in should be dismissed because you consider it self-refuting under the standards of your map of reality. Because you think the most important thing is to prove oneself right from the evidence on that map; so there is no need to explore the actual territory beyond that. Like you said on youtube- "everything comes down to this" (identifying self refuting arguments according to your map) for you.

If you are only interested in dismissing the conversation then you have effectively done that for yourself. But, if you are interested in walking beside postmoderns as they explore the territory of the real world you simply can not dismiss them.



At Monday, July 14, 2008 10:45:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Regarding logic existing in a vacuum, are we in a vacuum?, because you are relying on logic to make your points. Until you stop relying on the law of non-contradiction to make every single one of your points, your “vacuum” argument holds no weight.

Regarding language being limited, I do not think that language is limited to communicate truth about the real world.

As for your map analogy, the problem is that postmodernism argues that the map cannot represent reality at all. So your analogy of comparing the map to the real world has to deny the postmodern view of “truth” because you can only “compare” if you have access to both.

You then pick and choose when you want to apply absolutes and not apply them. When it comes to logic being in a vacuum you argue unequivocally that is it is in a vacuum. Then later you argue that it all depends on how absolute you consider ones ability to communicate truth in the real world, as if you do not consider language as absolute in the real world. This would then mean that logic existing in a vacuum is not absolute, because you are saying it with language, which is something you refuse to acknowledge.

Even when you argue that some things are more “either/or” than they are “both/and” you have committed yourself to the absurdity that even that statement does not actually represent reality.

As to your point (which you think I am not interested in) that I am trying to disqualify the emergent/postmodern conversation because they are working primarily off a different map, you are incorrect. I am not disqualifying the postmodern map because it is different. I am disqualifying it because of the absurdity of its map, which I have pointed out in my argument, which you continually try to overcome by either misrepresenting or relying upon the things you are trying to disprove such as, logic, and language.

Remember, you came to me to try to argue against my view. I distinctly remember a cocky “er…. What???????” in your original comment. This does not truly represent someone who has bought into the humility of language and uncertainty. So, if all you desire to do is argue that my map is wrong then, I got you, my views on reality should be dismissed because it is different than yours. And because you think it is so important to prove yourself right from the evidence on the postmodern map (which does not actually represent reality) then there is no need (or possibility) to explore the territory beyond that. If you are only interested in dismissing the conversation then you have effectively done that for yourself.

As for walking beside postmoderns as they explore the territory of the real world, I must dismiss that idea because they have already told me that they have no access to the real world to explore. But this has been my argument from the beginning.


At Monday, July 14, 2008 12:31:00 PM, Blogger James Diggs said...

You say that, “postmodernism argues that the map cannot represent reality at all”. I think this is an academic straw man that doesn’t accurately represent what post modern/emergents actually think. Obviously what you describe is an extreme view that is as absurd as you claim. But who is saying this? Did I? Did Brian Mclaren? Did some other post modern, emergent leader spout out that it is impossible for a “map” to reflect reality AT ALL? Who is denying that reality can not even be described in the slightest way? No one is saying this, yet you say you are “disqualifying it because of the absurdity of its (post modern) map”; and your view of the post modern map takes it to ridiculous conclusions that no emergent/post modern I am aware of has ever taken it.

Secondly, I am not trying to disprove “logic” and “language”. Why does acknowledging limitations mean “disprove” to you? Of course you said that you don’t see how language is limited in conveying truth in the real world, so I guess to you if accept language as limited in conveying absolute, complete truth that means it is absolutely false. That is an odd jump in logic for someone who seems to love logic so much.

I have not dismissed logic and language or even the modern map. I only recognize that all these things have limitations in their ability to describe the utter completeness of truth; especially the Truth that is God. This does not mean that we can’t and don’t have legitimate handles to grapple with as we can wrestle with reality and even wrestle with God. But be careful, really wrestling with God often leaves one limping and reminded just how limited we are- yet it is still worth it, and a priceless blessing just to touch and interact with the Truth that is God even within the limits of our own humanity.

Here then is the great gift we have in Christ, as God himself became incarnate in the same clay jars of humanity we find ourselves in. Truth then is ultimately revealed as a divine God/Person who meets us where we are in our humanity. In Christ we have ultimate truth as a person that goes well beyond any description of him no matter how accurate it may be. Language can not describe EVERYTHING that God is, or even God as he is revealed in Christ Jesus. This does not mean that there isn’t enough information in the Apostle Paul’s “dim mirror” of reality to wrestle with truth and come to Christ, just that there are limitations in our own humanity.

Finally, I don’t see how anything I wrote here can be taken to mean that I think we don’t have “ANY access to the real world to explore.” And, again I never heard of any emergent/postmodern make such an absurd and extreme claim. To dismiss real people based on such a poor conclusion, like the one you have made, is tragic. Yet, like you said this has been your point from the beginning. It is a shame that you dismiss the idea of walking beside others if they identify with post modernity because you have made up your mind about how right you are. Not that, it is wrong to think you are right about things sometimes- but it is wrong to categorically dismiss others based on that.

If I am wrong that you were not just dismissing others based on how you weigh postmodern categories, then I apologize. But, I am not sure how else to take your initial youtube argument, and our following conversation, except for your making a case for dismissing the whole conversation, and those who take part in it, based on your misguided categories of post-modernity’s role in the emergent church.



At Monday, July 14, 2008 4:04:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Thanks for your response. It was very thoughtful in dealing with the argument. Do to the busyness of my schedule you can see that it sometimes takes me days to even get back to my blog, and for this I will thank you for letting me indulge your patience. Theological discussions on blogs, as serious and important as they can be, have to take second seat to many other things in my life as I am sure you can relate.

Regarding the straw man argument, and that no postmodernist is actually making this claim, you will find it if your read the likes of Derrida, Foucault, Neitzche (who influences many postmoderns) and Rorty.

You have Rorty arguing that that “Truths are made not found” and there is no correspondence between what we make and reality. You can read these statements in his book, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity where you will find the greater context of these statements arguing what I have stated in my video. You also have Neitzche staying things like “Truths are illusions”. And if you really want to dig into these ideas all you have to do is read some of their statements on metanarratives. Why would they argue that metanarratives are impossible if they actually did believe that someone could have access to reality and understand it? If someone actually could know “truths” about the real world (have access to it) then they would be true for everyone in all places at all times.

If you are looking for emergent types who hold these views all you need to do is turn to the likes of Stanley Grenz and John Franke who argue that “What stands between us and the real world?... language. We do not inhabit the world-in-itself; instead we live in a world of our own making” (From the book Beyond Foundationalism page 53). What they are arguing is that there is something that blocks our “access” to the real world and it is language. These sentiments are encouraged by the likes of, Tony Jones, and Spencer Burke to name a couple.

Now if you do not believe this and see it as “extreme,” I welcome your critique of this view. I apologize if I have put that view upon you when you do not actually hold it, but with your reaction to my argument it seemed to me that you were trying to defend the view. And if I have misrepresented them in some way please feel free to point that out also, but you will have to explain how something can be true of the real world but not be true for all people in all places at all times (absolute).

Again due to my incredibly tight schedule I will have to end this discussion here as the rest of my week is entirely packed. I am glad to hear that you actually do believe that language can communicate actual truth about reality. You will notice that I never said that we can know everything about God or reality; there are epistemological limitations, especially when it comes to God revealing truth about Himself. He has not revealed everything about Himself, but that does not mean that the things He did reveal are somehow less true because of it.

And on a final note, I praise God with you that the “Word” became flesh as a person and walked among us, and praise God that propositions can actually communicate truth about it to us, because when the scriptures say, that “Jesus said, 'I am the truth'.” we can know that it is actually telling us truth about reality. Praise God that He has communicated His truth to us in His Person and His Word and the two never contradict.

Though this will be my final comment on this topic, feel free to respond if you would like.


At Wednesday, July 16, 2008 8:25:00 AM, Blogger James Diggs said...


Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I concede that there are post modern philosophers that push the envelope with their conclusions. I will even concede to your point that these philosophers have influenced today’s postmoderns. I do think though you have to make a distinction between postmodernism from a strictly academic point of view and postmodernism as it has integrated with other maps and philosophies in our culture. I don’t think, for instance, that there is a swallowing whole mentality in postmoderns today concerning the works of Nietzsche or any other philosopher; postmodern and modern.

What these philosophers have done, however, is begin to question where the philosophies of modernity fall short. Now this is NOT to say that modern philosophy should be tossed aside like yesterday’s news and simply replaced with postmodern philosophy; which has its own flaws. I think these things are more valuable as they provide commentary on one another- in fact POST-modernity can not really stand on it’s own at all, but rather is simply a commentary on modernity.

I also think that the nature of “professional” philosophers is to over state things. I interpret the sentiments of these postmodern and even emergent philosophers to be speaking about our inability to know (from a possessive point of view not a relational one) absolute truth with absolute purity. In this sense reality, in all its purest and unadulterated form, is actually partially blocked from us. This can be a difficult concept to discern how this plays out in reality and difficult to convey such an abstract concept in concrete ways.

You are correct to point out though the fallacy of the argument that maps of truth absolutely do no correspondence AT ALL with reality. If the was the case we could literally “know” nothing about anything, including that very argument. I just don’t know anyone that really believes this- even if they would say that they do. I don’t really know anyone that would even say this. What they often do say is that there is some degree (how much of a degree is debatable) on how much our own subjectivity can prevent us from getting the whole unadulterated picture and complete truth in its absolute most objective and pure form.

This is why you and I can agree and both praise God because of the Word becoming flesh in Christ Jesus. This is where I would hope you might find some common ground with us post-modern leaning followers of Jesus. To know Christ is to know reality- the purest reality there can be because Christ IS Truth. There is a mystery in this kind of knowing however; not a mystery without enough trustworthy information to be confident enough in that would prevent us from wrestling with the reality of it, and not a mystery that can ever be completely solved or even completely comprehended. But we have a beautiful mystery of the infinite God that met us in our limited humanity through the incarnation of Jesus so we could know him as Truth and so we could also be known by Truth.

Doug, my hope is that you would not simply dismiss the whole emergent conversation even with its post-modern influences, because I think your participation would be mutually beneficial for all everyone. There is tension in the reality that through Christ we have been invited to KNOW a MYSTERY, and I believe we can better explore that tension in conversations like the one we have had.

I understand that you are busy, and I can relate. So feel no obligation to reply. I’ll check out some of your later posts and perhaps we can dialogue more another time.



At Wednesday, July 16, 2008 10:19:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Thanks for your reply and discussion. I look forward to future dialogue.

God bless,


At Wednesday, July 30, 2008 8:29:00 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

Thank you for that. New to your videos, and I very much appreciate the humble astuteness with which you speak. You have a gift for teaching. God bless.


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