The ECM and the Gospel: Renewing the Mind and the Need for Propositional Truth

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The ECM and the Gospel:
Renewing the Mind and the Need for Propositional Truth

In my last post on the ECM (What the ECM Believes About the Gospel - Part 5), I received a response from Mr. Anonymous and gave it some thought. This is my response.

According to Romans 12:1-2, it is based on the mercy of God that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I fear this phrase and the implications inherent in it are lost on the Emergent Church Movement (ECM).

The renewal is spoken of here with reference to the mind. And the mercies of God which motivate us toward that end are gospel mercies. So then, the truth of the gospel is what teaches and corrects and instructs us so that our minds are in fact renewed and our behavior changed so that we thereby offer ourselves as living sacrifices.

The goal is to not be conformed to the world, but to Jesus Christ. That is, as new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) we are to cooperate with the transformation the Father began within us. That transformation happens by renewing the mind. Yet how can any of this happen apart from the propositional nature of the truths of the gospel? By their very nature these truths are meant to propose a new way of thinking which in turn brings about a new way of living. This was the very intention of the book of Romans to begin with. Paul's desire was to provide an explanation to the Roman church for the gospel he preached and taught in hopes of gaining their support for his missionary endeavor to Spain.

Romans teaches that the gospel is truth. While the gospel is story, Paul's emphasis in that letter was not on a metanarrative, though Israel and its struggles could arguably be see in such a light. Rather, the emphasis was on the truth in which the gospel was rooted, the truth of the gospel itself, and the truth produced by it. And all of these gospel-truths are propositional in nature, that is, proposing to us a truth from God and the necessary change in behavior.

Throughout the book it becomes clear that the gospel is truth and as such it is made up in part by propositions. What is more, we are called on to believe these propositional truths. When they are believed and assimilated into our thinking, our minds will ultimately be renewed and our lives transformed. The ECM's desire to bypass or question propositional truth and its nature inherently leads one to bypass that which God has ordained in order to renew our minds and transforms our behavior.

Consequently, the transformed life which the ECM ardently desires to live in the community and around the world, can only come when that rational, intellectual, thinking part of our souls are renewed, and that by the mercies of God. Those mercies must be pointed to, made much of, and above all explained. And any attempt to explain it as it is revealed in Scripture results eventually in a conclusion that must be either embraced or rejected. So then, the ECM cannot have the transformed life impacting the world without the gospel propositional truths impacting the mind.

Further, the verse speaks of the necessity of this factor. The renewal of the mind is for the purpose of discerning God's will. And discernment comes by testing. Testing comes by learning, and learning by a standard. That standard is itself the proposition of what is right and wrong. So the overall atmosphere of the text is in fact one of utilizing truth as a measure as well as a way of life.

My prayer is that the ECM and those leading it come to recognize the futility of seeing a transformed church life that offers itself as a sacrifice to God without the renewing of the mind with gospel-propositions. My fear is that because it seems to shun the latter, it cannot exercise the discerning mind spoken of in the text.

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