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Friday, September 28, 2012

Mattingly's Unsustainable Denial

Terry Mattingly has taken time to respond to comments at his blog and since he has blocked by his own admission 20 different comments from readers, including two by me, I will take a moment here to build on my earlier post and respond to his explanation of his post. Here are Terry's words:

Folks, back to journalism.
The tmatt trio is not about McLaren. And it’s not an orthodoxy test. It’s about asking questions that yield interesting info and these questions work well in this era when covering debates in Christian denominations and groups. Other groups would require different questions.
The goal is to pay close attention to the content of the answers. That is all.
I agree that the term “evangelical” has become vague to the point of being almost meaningless. That’s part of what the post is about. And, yes, there is no evangelical pope. There is no evangelical creed. There is no evangelical body of work by the Church Fathers. Etc., etc.
I simply wanted to start a debate about how to accurately describe McLaren in the public press. I think simple references to him as an evangelical leader have jumped the shark. It’s time for more specific info, in his case. This thread has contained some helpful debate.
As for the 20 or so comments I have spiked, not so much…..
tmatt, in Kiev at the moment

What Terry has written here is unsustainable by anyone who scrolls back up the page of his comments and rereads the actual post he wrote. Terry is playing a classic game of “bob and weave” in which he clearly questions Brian’s commitment to the resurrection and then when called out on it tries to claim that the question about the resurrection was “not about McLaren”. I am going to quote for you without alteration the key part of Terry’s original post and ask how this is not about McLaren:

I always assumed that the emerging folks were people from evangelical backgrounds who had staked out new, daring, nuanced, foggy stances on the basic doctrinal questions that, several decades ago, I wrote up as the “tmatt trio.” It’s been some time since I mentioned that trio, so here is a refresher:
(1) Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this event really happen?
(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)?
(3) Is sex outside of marriage a sin?

Let me stress, once again, that these are questions that — working as a mainstream religion-beat pro — I found useful when trying to get the lay of the land on disputes inside various Christian flocks, on the left and right. The whole point to (sic) was to get information about doctrinal basics and, in our era, these are some hot-button subjects in a wide variety of groups. The goal is to listen carefully as people answered or, on many cases, tried to avoid answering these questions.

Take, for example, the Rev. Brian D. McLaren — the writer, preacher, thinker and doctrinal futurist whose picture could almost certainly accompany the “emergent evangelical” entry in the mainstream-press religion dictionary of the past decade or so. (emphasis added)

Terry has specifically singled out in this text Brian McLaren as the perfect example of someone who "avoids answering” questions about, most significantly, the resurrection of Christ. He has quite clearly offered Brian up as an example of someone who needs to be pressed on these questions but now he gives us more of his “journalism” by denying that this is what he has done. Allow me to suggest that Terry should consider a new trio of questions before he writes further about Brian McLaren:

(1)                 Have I read Brian’s work enough to merit using him as an example of someone who avoids answering questions about a core part of the kerygma, or essential proclamation, of Christianity?
(2)                 Have I spoken to Brian, ever, about how to label him as either an evangelical, emergent evangelical or “liberal mainline Protestant” of the ilk that are “foggy” about the resurrection of Christ?
(3)                 Do I equate questions about the definition of marriage with questions about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? If so, what definition of Christianity do I hold and should I share that definition with my readers?

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