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Wheaton Theology Conference - Jeremy Begbie

I had told myself that I would only blog on one talk per session, but both talks were so good that I had to break my own rule. Begbie's talk was about the strange relationship between the emerging church and NT Wright. Why would the emerging church like a churchman so much? Begbie proceeded with much pastoral insight by marking out what attracts emergers to Wright, what they still need to learn from him, and finally what Wright could learn from the emerging folk.

A couple of the attractions of Wright's theology are that the church is intrinsic to the purposes of God and to salvation and a 'reverse ecclesiology.' The central work of God in the world is forming a community through the work of his son. Eccelsiology and soteriology cannot be separated. You are saved into a community. Wright gets there in part because he works in reverse. He looks at the final product, the new creation and works backwards to understand what the church should be doing to carry out God's mission and embody new creation now.

At the same time there are a couple of critiques from Wright's theology that the emerging church needs to hear. The biggest in my opinion is the need for catholicity. First we need qualitative catholicity. Too many emerging churches only go after people just like themselves. The people of God transcend social boundaries and our churches need to do that too. We need to love people who are nothing like us and that we would never want to hang out with if it weren't that they were also part of the body of Christ. We also need extensive catholicity that transcends spacial separation. Institutionalism is necessary and it isn't evil. It's too easy to avoid institutionalism as a way to avoid the pain of unity. This is a gospel issue, we are one world wide family and we need to express that.

Finally, he closed with what the emerging church can teach Wright. Many people are in the emerging church movement because the institutional church hurt them. Wright needs to do a better job of pointing out the frailness and proneness to corruption of institutional authority in his own denomination.


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