What is a prophetic voice?
I won't comment on the theology; my concern lies deeper -- and, as it happens, ultimately closer to home. His webpage begins with a list of the great things other people have said about him: "One of the church's most important and provocative thinkers." "One of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America" "No church leader understands better how to navigate the seas of the 21st century." "A writer of vast imagination, poise and charm." What is so depressing about this is how absolutely antithetical to the mind and spirit of Christ it is. It is, in effect, anti-Christian. Now, all publishers in the business of selling books will put blurbs of praise on the covers of their products. But it is a foolish man who chooses to believe them rather than be embarrassed by them; and it is an even more foolish man who then parades them on his own webpage as a means of attracting others. And foolishness is the essence of pride: it occurs when we begin to think we are something special and lose sight of the fact that we are what we are, neither more nor less, only through grace, and that obtained by the one described in Philippians 2 whose attitude we are commanded unconditionally to cultivate within ourselves.
But it is easy to throw brickbats at others. `I thank you Lord, that I am not like other men; even this Emergent guy.....'. The issue actually cuts closer to home. How does any Christian leader or organisation pitch itself in the public marketplace? How do we attract others to what we have that is good without drawing attention to ourselves rather than to Christ? To describe ourselves in any sense as the greatest, the soundest, the most faithful or, most self-defeating of all, the most humble, is surely to rob ourselves of the very thing we should have in this world and culture: the prophetic voice, the voice of the cross, the voice that exposes the values of this world by bringing them into collision with those of God's world, the world of the kingdom that is not of this world. In promoting ourselves, we too often give up the spirit of Christ for the spirit of this age.
We can be Emergent and puff ourselves as the church's most trendy and influential thinkers; we can be Reformed and puff ourselves as the world's greatest and most eloquent preachers; we can be confessional and puff ourselves as the soundest and most theological church leaders around; but in doing so, indeed, in the very moment we do so, we can be sure of only one thing: we are not what we claim to be; rather, we are in fact the very opposite.