What did I miss?

July 24, 2007 at 10:48 am 2 comments

I received an email last week where the person called into question my affection for, and quoting of, Henri Nouwen.  It came on a day when I was ready to post a piece simply called Brennan, about a man and his writings that have affected my recent spiritual pilgrimage, who has some similarities in content and criticism as that directed at Henri Nouwen.  They wrote concerns about these men as well as a church movement called the Emergent Church.

I wondered what it was I had missed.  Brennan Manning has a singular focus, spelled out in multiple ways:  Father God loves you. He really, really does.  With all of your flaws, fears and failures, He really, really loves you.  Is that not the Gospel?  Is that not what most of us find hardest to believe about our Father? 

I have a pretty good theological and Biblical education-about 9 years, in addition to the 40 years of personal Bible study and reading in theological, devotional and Biblical  areas. My personality is not one to just swallow anything anyone says, whether they are Billy Graham, Pope Benedict, Rick Warren, Brennan Manning or Henri Nouwen.  I am well equipped to sift through a variety of sources and find truth, especially truth needed for my personal life. Isn’t that what Jesus promised all of us filled with the Spirit?  When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)

Henri Nouwen along with Brennan Manning are Catholics.  (Nouwen is deceased)  Do I believe when we take communion the bread and the wine actually become the Body of Christ as these men probably do? No. Do I believe in the infallibility of the Pope and apostolic succession?  No.  There are many Catholic doctrines that I do not find compelling or supported by Scripture but these two men have much to say about life and godliness that resonates with me.  Am I at risk to fall into error?  Probably not, because I am filled with the Spirit of truth who leads me to truth and away from error. I also have accountability relationships where any new doctrine, theory or practice would be intersected by those relationships.

I love the person who sent me the email.  They are thoughtful, caring, committed followers of Jesus and they want others to know Him and follow Him.  They care about me and I am grateful for their concern.  What bothers me is the fear they and others have that somehow the Spirit is not able to do His work.  That by reading Henri or Brennan or others who are outside their circle will cause me to slip off into the deep end of spiritual liberalism or whatever other ism might be lurking nearby.  The website they sent me to, as a way of cementing their argument against these men, was the writings of individuals who believe they know more truth than you or me and if we would just read them we would be guided into all truth.  Do these folks have anything to say of value?  No doubt they do but should they play Holy Spirit in my life or yours?

I appreciate the counsel they sent.  I am not above error nor do I have all knowledge, but what I do have is a good, solid background in the Bible and I read widely and deeply in areas of the Spiritual life and theology and more than that, much more than that, I have the Spirit of God who is in me.  A significant ministry of the Spirit is to teach truth.  I trust Him to do that work.

Here is a typical quote from Henri Nouwen from his book The Name of Jesus: The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which the world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross. … It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest.

And one from Brennan Manning: The Christ who weeps over godforsaken neighborhoods…is a man of sorrows moved in the pit of his stomach for the lostness of the sheep who do not know him. The heart of the crucified Lord of Glory does not turn away in revulsion or disgust at the wretchedness and perversity of the human condition.  There is no crime so horrible or no sin so dispicable that it was left at the foot of the cross.  “He took our sickness away and carried our diseases for us” (Isaiah 53:4).  How is this possible?  Because Jesus is God.   (Brennan Manning, A Glimpse of Jesus p.132)

What did I miss?


Entry filed under: Authority, Belief, Christianity, Church, Culture, Faith, Friendship, Holy Spirit, Institutional church, Jesus, Revelation, The Father, Thoughts.

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.5 Lee Akin progress report.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sumijoti  |  July 27, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    I have been looking into the very things your friends cautioned you about lately. 🙂 I’m familiar with the website you linked to, and personally I find the fact that they quote short passages without giving the broader context a bit offputting.

    Having said that, I myself have lots of questions about the emerging church in particular. I find the movement very diverse and hard to pin down. It is obvious that there are many, many people in the movement that are hungry for Jesus and for a real, honest walk with him…but…

    There are elements that make me wonder…there’s a fine line between being ‘accepting’ and being ‘universalist’, being ‘missional’ and having a social gospel, and looking critically at doctrine without becoming relativistic.

    There are some (definitely not all) within the emerging church that lean towards a relative, social, universalist gospel. The fact that others in the movement do not take a stand about that one way or the other is cause for concern to me. It seems to me that the EC is so intent on being seeker friendly and non judgmental that it doesn’t take much of a stand on anything, except for the one thing they strongly critisize: the institutional church.

    I am all about grace, and I hate legalism and ‘institutionalism” with a passion too. I am totally with the EC on that. The church needs to change…it needs to become the humble, in-love-with-Jesus-and-his-people place that it was meant to be from the beginning. I’m just not sure how much of the EC’s focus is on having a passionate relationship with Jesus, and how much of it is on changing the status quo. (obviously I’m generalising here)

    The origin of the institutional church (Babylon) can be taken back to the people at the tower of Babel who said ‘let us’ build, and ‘let us’ make a name for ourselves…emphasis on let ‘us’ and not let ‘God’. The institutional church has failed people because there is way too much flesh in there. Instead of selflessly ministering to God’s people it is often a place where ministers who have their own agenda steals from, kills, and destroys God’s people. (Check out that passage, Jesus was talking to/about the pharisees.)

    I am not so sure that the antithesis of the institutional church is necessarily the EC. To me the problem in the institutional church is primarily in the hearts of people who have built the church by their own power and might but not by the Spirit of God. Just a few decades after his crucifixion Jesus is standing outside the door of his own church and knocking (Rev.3:20) …it didn’t take the church long to become institutionalised and push Jesus out.

    What the church really needs is to get back to its first love: Jesus himself. Changing structures and re-defining doctrine and deconstructing the status quo is not enough. If it is a man-made attempt to build something new instead of a Spirit-led revolution of people’s hearts, all you will get is a new institution. It might look very different from the first, but it will still lack the power of God to effect real change in our inward man.

    Personally I come away from reading many emergent blogs with my mind stimulated but my spirit untouched. I find a lot of it appealing on a soulish, intellectual level but it leaves my spirit dry because there is usually more emphasis on the how-to’s and the process of change than there is on worshipping God and giving him glory.

    It just makes me wonder…

    My 2 cents for what it is worth…it was long yet there is so much that I feel I have left unsaid and don’t quite know HOW to say it. I hope this doesn’t offend you…I have come to esteem you greatly through your blog and you are right: You have the Spirit of God and he will lead you into all truth. God bless us all as we keep our eyes trained on Jesus and run this race with all that we’ve got.


  • 2. Brooks  |  July 24, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Truth is Truth whether it comes from a Catholic, Muslim, donkey, or a simpleton like myself. Christians don’t have a monopoly on it as some might think.

    these dudes(Manning and Nouwen) are two of my favorite authors Greg….and may i be so bold to suggest another author and book to you. Apostolic Foundations written by Arthur Katz

    This book is no longer in print and is hard to come by but full of meat and truths.

    Love ya brother…

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