Emerging Church Posters

Emerging Church

Phil Johnson and company at Team Pyro have launched a series of motivational posters about the Emerging Church Chaos. You can see theme at Phil’s website or in their original context at Team Pyro.

Update: It seems that the Relevant Magazine podcast took notice of these posters. Phil and Frank defend themselves at Team Pyro

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32 Responses to Emerging Church Posters

  1. It was helpful to know that Phil admitted that these were caricatures. While I understand the humorous aspects of the posters, I am afraid that there is much left to be desired.

    I am not in the ECM and not an advocate of it, but I have seen uncharitable and unhelpful caricatures and even been on the receiving end of them. Unfortunately, this stuff will do much to fuel the rigid fundamentalism of folks like Slice of Laodicea and Ken Silva and little to address the issues in a substantive manner.

  2. Tony Kummer says:

    Timmy,
    They are definitely satire, but caricatures are so attractive because they offer enough correspondence make a point.

    You wrote, “I have seen uncharitable and unhelpful caricatures and even been on the receiving end of them.”

    I hope your still not upset about this?

  3. Tony,

    No, I am not upset. I was called worse things than “babyface” (ahem, hello “sunshine”). :)

    I just know how such posters are going to be fodder for fundies who haven’t the slightest understanding of or appreciation for being missional or contextualization (for example).

    Perhaps if Ergun Caner made a poster saying “Calvinists are Worse Than Muslims”, people would believe that it is a legitimate point-of-view.

    Well, at least Andrew Jones said he likes them.

  4. Trevin Wax says:

    I wouldn’t classify myself as part of the Emerging Church movement either, but I have little respect for the guys who lampoon fellow believers in this way. How would we react if a set of those caricatures was directed toward those “SBC calvinists”?

  5. Mr. Wax may I point out that caricatures of “SBC calvinists” are made all the time when people distort what they hold to be true and instead propound errors in their name.

    Phil Johnson on his blog has demonstrated multiple times the errors promoted by the “emerging church” and like Elijah with the prophets of Baal sometimes you need to rub their noses in it for them to see the truth.

  6. Paul Cable says:

    What was the goal of these?

  7. Trevin Wax says:

    I don’t believe anyone in the Emerging Church would look at these caricatures and say that they accurately reflect their beliefs. Even Phil admits they are “caricatures.”

    My question is: what is the purpose of caricatures in Christian discourse? Why would we be offended at “caricatures” of Reformed theology, but think that caricatures of the Emerging Church are okay?

  8. Tony Kummer says:

    Tevin,
    I think you are asking the right question. Does satire and caricature promote meaningful dialog?

    I would answer no. It isn’t really speaking the truth and it doesn’t seem motivated by love.

    So why do we all laugh at them?

  9. Paul Cable says:

    I think we’d be offended at charicatures of Reformed theology because they would be misrepresenting views that we hold to be vitally important to our understanding of the gospel. We would feel like our view, which we believe to be truthful and correct, is not being given a fair chance to convince people. Our honest efforts at preaching the truth, in our minds, would be being sabotaged.

    The value of these hypothetical Reformed caricatures, however, would be the insight they would give about how we appear to the non-Calvinist. These emergent posters certainly provide folks in the EC or EV with that insight, but I think that they already know how they are perceived by folks not in the EC movement and that they don’t expect approval from them. I don’t think it makes anyone think twice about the truthfulness or faithfulness of a worldview, it just makes a (very funny) joke, which, in the long run, is not helpful in itself. Just more fuel for an already raging fire, not a helpful solution for it.

  10. I would also add (to the good commentary here) that caricatures do much to suppress thoughtful interaction about the issues. Labeling is a power play. If you can caricature something and label it, you dominate the discourse.

    Is this not what we have seen with the world “Calvinism?” We have to parse “five point Calvinism”, “extreme Calvinism,” “hyper-Calvinism,” “consistent Calvinism,” “historic Calvinism,” and “strict Calvinism” because it has been defined or labeled to connote certain meanings.

    When Phil Johnson makes a poster about missional, he is not talking about the same thing many missional guys I know use it. The same goes for contextualization (which for some reason has become a dirty word and synonymous with compromise in some camps). I understand the tactic that proponents in the ECM who offer the retort, “You just don’t understand what I am talking about.” However, when caricatures become the most popular understanding out there, it kind of makes sense.

  11. Did any of y’all click on the posters as they were originally posted on the Pyromaniacs blog and check out the articles that prompted the caricatures?

  12. Ann Addison says:

    I didn’t care for the posters and am glad to see this thoughtful discussion.

  13. McDowell says:

    Timmy, before you said that, I hadn’t thought about the appropriateness of the posters. I’d only thought they were funny. I might just have to make some self-depracating Calvinist caricature motivational posters. If only I could think of humorous Calvinist caricatures.

  14. Tony Kummer says:

    I’m sure google could help

  15. Tony Kummer says:

    Update: It seems that the Relevant Magazine podcast took notice of these posters. Phil and Frank defend themselves at Team Pyro.

  16. For a different and more charitable response, go here:

    http://emerginggrace.blogspot.com/2007/07/more-generous-view.html

    While I do not agree with every by-line, I think these posters offer an alternative and albeit more graceful take.

  17. I’m glad Timmy linked the “Emerging Grace” posters. If these were reflective of the entirety (or even clear majority) of the ECM, then we would not be having this discussion. “Emerging Grace” shows that there are some people thoughtfully working through these concepts from a biblical standpoint. [Or at least a more biblical standpoint than some within the ECM- I don't know much about "Emerging Grace."] However, her take on the key words of the ECM does not invalidate the fact that there is an all-too-prominent and often unchecked element to the ECM that truly warrants the satire intended by the Pyromaniacs’ posters. Just listen to Dr. Russell Moore’s recent interview with Tony Jones on albertmohler.com or read the articles linked to the Pyromaniacs’ posters as they originally appeared on the website. Those who identify themselves as Emergent or Emerging cannot just offer there own definitions of the slogans put forth by Jones, McLaren, and others; they must be willing to forcefully state that the no-absolutes, no-substitutionary atonement “gospel” of these and other prominent figures is no Gospel at all.

  18. I don’t know anything about “Emerging Grace” either, but Andrew argues my point precisely. The emerging church movement and Emergent are terms connoting the same reality. There is a diversity and significant differences within the movement. The second set of posters reflect a more conservative, biblically faithful segment of the ECM that either gets overlooked or uncritically lumped into the McLaren/Jones/Padgitt camp.

    As I said earlier, I am no supporter or defender of the ECM, but I am a supporter of charity and truthfulness in conversation. I felt that the first set of posters, while they are accurate to one particular group of the ECM, were unfair and unhelpful.

    Consider the hyperbole that Westboro Baptist Church became the storefront representatives of conservative evangelical Christianity, and nonbelievers made posters about Christians that were directed mainly towards the “God hates fags” group. You know and I know that would be totally unfair. On a more realistic level, consider some of the people like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Rick Warren becoming the new faces of modern evangelicalism. Now, were the secular world to make caricatures and posters of them, they would probably be accurate. Of them. But not us. And we would want to provide an alternative point-of-view as a result.

    Consequently, walls and objections are built up as we seek to evangelize and reach the lost because we have to explain to them what Christianity is NOT as much as what it actually IS. This, in my opinion, is the same types of walls and objections that come when truth is obscured.

  19. Michael Spencer says:

    Defend themselves?

  20. Tony Kummer says:

    Maybe “explain” would be better.

  21. Dave Crater says:

    Phil Johnson added a couple more posters to his list. Check them out. All the posters are funny because they are dead-on accurate, and there is nothing the least bit uncharitable or ungracious about them, just as there is nothing uncharitable or ungracious about John MacArthur’s (with whom Phil Johnson ministers) bold preaching or about Elijah’s taunting the prophets of Baal. All who here have said otherwise have themselves been ungracious and uncharitable toward a great man of God and owe Mr. Johnson an apology. Brother Brister, those other posters are “alternative” but they are not “more gracious” – they are just another feel-good restatement of the ECM ethos. This kind of lack of discernment is what led Southern Seminary into outright liberalism in the 70’s and 80’s. Here is what the ultra-gracious John Piper said about the Emerging Church movement: “(T)he post-propositional, post-dogmatic, post-authoritative “conversation” is post-relevant and post-saving.”

  22. Paul Cable says:

    Another great Piper quote. I don’t think, though, that a (mildly) negative reaction to Mr. Johnson’s posters means we disagree with his (or Piper’s) criticism of ECM. The issue is over the method of Mr. Johnson’s criticism. I like Piper’s better.

  23. Dave,

    No one has directed anything “uncharitable or ungracious” to Phil Johnson. The entire conversation is about caricatures and whether or not they are helpful. Your conclusions are unwarranted and guilty of the very thing you are projecting on others–namely that we are doing something that we are not (which I find ironic).

    Furthermore, I do find it quite objectionable if not insulting that you can find such a conversation lacking discernment and representative of what leads to “outright liberalism.”

    Sir, you are entitled to your opinion and are certainly welcome to share your convictions. However, you are sorely mistaken and quite wrong in your assessment. Neither I or those commenting here need to defend our attempt to have a non-inflammatory, intelligent discussion over the topic brought up in this post. Perhaps we are not dogmatic enough with our rhetorical flourishes. Regardless, if there is anyone who owes an apology here, I am afraid it would be you.

  24. Dave Crater says:

    Brother Brister: You owe Mr. Johnson, who has spent his entire adult life defending the biblical gospel, an apology. Here is a list of attributes assigned to Mr. Johnson in this strain of posts, using direct quotes, in chronological order, several of them from you. If anyone deserves this kind of criticism, it is the ECM crowd which Mr. Johnson has so capably satirized.
    – “uncharitable and unhelpful”
    – “this stuff will do much to fuel rigid fundamentalism”
    – “such posters are going to be fodder for fundies who haven’t the slightest understanding of or appreciation for being missional or contextualization”
    – “guys who lampoon fellow believers in this way”
    – “what is the purpose of caricatures in Christian discourse?”
    – “Does satire and caricature promote meaningful dialog? I would answer no. It isn’t really speaking the truth and it doesn’t seem motivated by love.”
    – “Just more fuel for an already raging fire, not a helpful solution for it”
    – “caricatures do much to suppress thoughtful interaction about the issues. Labeling is a power play. If you can caricature something and label it, you dominate the discourse”
    – “I didn’t care for the posters and am glad to see this thoughtful discussion” (!!)
    – “For a different and more charitable response, go here”
    – “I am no supporter or defender of the ECM, but I am a supporter of charity and truthfulness in conversation. I felt that the first set of posters, while they are accurate to one particular group of the ECM, were unfair and unhelpful.”

    And to top it off:

    – “No one has directed anything ‘uncharitable or ungracious’ to Phil Johnson”

    This is indeed exactly the sort of discernment-less opinion that gradually overtook Southern Seminary prior to 1993, which couldn’t distinguish the authentic gospel from the counterfeit, and which Dr. Mohler and company had to fight and suffer so much to root out.

  25. Paul Cable says:

    I still don’t see, per that last paragraph, the link between taking issue with a brother’s method of criticism and being unable to distingush the true gospel from the false.

  26. Trevin Wax says:

    Because we question the spiritual value of caricuratures, we are undiscerning liberals who are opening the door to Southern’s old days? I don’t think so, Dave. Check out the blogs linked to from this site. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the evidence of discernment among the student body.

  27. Dave,

    This is the last time I am going to respond to you.

    The line of argumentation you have established is untenable. In this conversation, various viewpoints have been offered and disagreements have been made (including yours). However, you have come to the conclusion that anyone who disagrees with Phil owes him an apology. No one has attacked his character or tossed ad-hominems his way. For your conviction to hold, everyone who ever disagrees would have to offer an apology. In effect, if a person has a different conviction is to apologize for having expressed it.

    I respect your opinion, and as an editor here at Said at Southern, I ask that you respect others as well. You do not have to agree, but you do have to be willing to listen, discuss, and interact without simply calling people out with whom you disagree.

    There is a type of discernment that is wrong-headed and unhealthy. Dogged fundamentalism is just as much a threat to the gospel and Christ’s Church as rank liberalism. I do not think that Southern Seminary is currently being directly threatened by either of these two realities, and I am grateful for that. Neither our school nor this blog is monolithic, and while we hold to our confessional identity and essentials without wavering or compromise, we encourage intellectual inquiry and healthy theological discussion. Your comments do not reflect this commitment either in tone or in content. Perhaps this blog is not the place for you. In the event that you should decide to participate in respectful and intelligent conversation, I humbly ask that you reconsider your approach. Thanks.

  28. Dave Crater says:

    Paul: The issue behind an exchange like this is not simply a disagreement about method. Satire is a perfectly acceptable method of discourse for Christians. Spurgeon was a master of it. The issue is the lack of discernment that points us to an emerging church blog (“Emerging Grace”) filled with pro-EMC posters, and calls this “more gracious” and “more charitable,” while saying a faithful man like Mr. Johnson has been uncharitable, hasn’t told the truth, has lampooned his fellow believers, is fueling rigid fundamentalism, hasn’t been motivated by love, and is perpetrating a power play and attempting to dominate discourse. This is calling truth error and error truth, and I can just hear confident liberals strolling the SBTS campus in the 1970’s saying exactly these things about heroes of faithful American Christianity. And when somebody suggests this is wrong and perhaps deserves an apology, he gets told this classic kind of confusion about the nature of the true Gospel has nothing to do with Southern’s past experience and “perhaps this blog is not the place for you.” This is exactly what liberals do: we are allowed to criticize faithful men however we want, but if you challenge us, we don’t like your tone and perhaps you don’t belong here. Count me with men like Johnson every time.

  29. Tony Kummer says:

    Allow me to play the peacemaker on this one.

    I appreciate the tone of most of what has been said. But it seems like we are moving more toward excessive rhetoric rather than humble conversation.

    So here is the warning for everyone to re-read our “User Agreement” before this escalates into a comment brawl.

    Here is what I understand to be helpful questions:

    1. Does the use of satire and caricature provide means of criticism that is consistent with Christian discourse?
    YES – NO – WHY and WHY NOT?

    2. Is it helpful to generalize when criticizing specific flaws in the ‘emerging’ church movement?

    I appreciate Dave’s willingness to defend Dr. Johnson and company. It is an honorable thing to speak up when brothers appear to be slandered. I can see how our comments may have been unclear in their design. I do not believe any of our readers intended to discredit Dr. Johnson. I believe you have misunderstood. Most of us are big fans of Team Pyro.

    We should discuss the issues raised by these posters. Both the issues I raised above and the issues they raise about the ECM. But let’s keep the balance between truth and love.

  30. Dave Crater says:

    Tony: I appreciate the gesture, but I don’t think I’ve misunderstood the very direct and clear quotes above. I think if we get one fundamental thing right, this little joust will quickly fade into history because the moral outlines of the underlying issue will be clear. That thing is this: the emerging church movement is dangerous. It is not faithful to God, to Christ, or to the Bible. Yet it uses enough Christian language to deceive people both on the inside and outside into thinking you can be part of their movement and be faithful to God, and only right-wing caveman “fundies” would object. They are, as Johnson points out in his satire, unbelievably harsh and arrogant in their judgment of orthodox believers and those who defend biblical faith against their compromises (if you doubt this, listen to their podcast Johnson links to on the Pyro site where they respond to the posters), but when they are confronted on this, either propositionally or visually, seriously or satirically, they assume the posture of a victim and publish nice, sweet, soft, humanitarian pictures like the ones on the Emerging Grace site that make everyone feel guilty for having criticized them. The abandonment of the truth of God is bad enough, but the machinations and deceptions and soothing talk they use to attempt to cover their bad faith are what have drawn such strong words from the likes not just of Johnson, but Piper, MacArthur, Mohler, Sproul, and a bunch of other greats. Piper’s verbal satire of the ECM I quote above is only different from Johnson’s visual/verbal satire in its brevity.

    Life is too short and the faith too precious to go through it defending the bad guys and pillorying the good guys. Let’s have some real discernment and stand with those who are faithful to God, and who, like Elijah, have no hesitation in using both proposition and satire to reveal the ugly truth about those who, with their religious waywardness, threaten the souls of men, women, churches, and nations.

  31. Dave Crater says:

    Johnson has posted a couple more great Emerging Church posters.

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