Parables For The Emerging Conversation

I am reading, simultaneously alongside my boss, Pete Rollins‘ How [Not] To Speak Of God. Although it is an amazing title for a book, it so far has left with me with the same impression as all the books I have read about the Emerging Church. That is, there is something here in the attitude (the generous orthodoxy) and in the goal (freeing Christ from Christianity) that I love but it just isn’t radical enough. If our church has become an obstacle, putting tradition between us and Jesus and if our language now fails to reach our Age, then the solution cannot be to try and be Christians without Church (capital C Church, that is) and to just buy the terms of our culture wholesale. The terms Jesus uses can’t be mapped on to any particular culture’s if they are to still challenge and shock.

So as the Emerging Guys love speaking in parables, I thought I’d share my parody parable with you. It is a parable for the Emerging church, which I call the Parable of the third Prodigal. You know the main actor. He is a father you got to know as a child when you learnt the story of how his second son said, “I wish you were dead!” and ran off to Amsterdam and squandered the family wealth on whores and drugs until life beat him up as life is wont to do and he returned, looking for a job as a mail clerk in the family business. His father would have none of it and instead, shocking everyone, especially the boardroom executives, he embraced his son back into the family fold and spent a fortune on a huge party to celebrate his return. His first born didn’t like this at all. He wished his father was dead as well but he either didn’t have the guts or he was too smart to say it. He toiled away in the accounts department filing boring tax form after boring tax form with due diligence. No one was as sickened as him by his father’s shameful lack of pride in taking the rebel back into the fold.

That is where the story ended in primary school, but it turns out there was a third son. He was a late blessing for the father and he really did lavish all the attention and love in the world on him. But we know this father from the story. He never spoilt the child. He was always available and eager to laugh and play with his youngest boy but he taught him of the proud heritage he was to inherit. He made sure the boy knew the story of his family. He had seen first hand how the path of self-discovery had ended in disaster for his middle brother and the path of self-righteousness had ended in disaster for his oldest brother. Most importantly, he had seen the lengths his father would go to to bring both boys back into his embrace.

But soon after coming of age, this youngest son went and bought an iBook. He downloaded a copy of Foucault read by Christopher Walken (oh if such a thing existed!) on iTunes and he soon surprised everyone by asserting that his father had gone missing. The boy said he had searched everywhere and his dad was nowhere to be found. When his older brothers told him where they had last seen him he scoffed and said that in this day and age no one could take such claims seriously. Sometimes the father even sought him out and called his name but the boy was too busy tending to his MySpace forums to heed the call.

Then one day, the father broke into his son’s room, grabbed the iBook and smashed into pieces. The boy was stunned for a moment. Then he said, “Of course! I understand! We will never be able to meet with him because all of our efforts are constrained by our non-fatherness. (He would have written that “a/-F(f)atherness”). Even our most beautiful words cannot describe the beauty of our father!” But he paid no heed to his father, who went away ignored.

If you don’t like this parable, I should point out now that it is because one of the following statements are true:

  • You are too narrow minded and constrained by your conservative system of beliefs to appreciate the subtlety.
  • You are locked inside a modernist viewpoint that demands every truth statement to take the form of an empirical result and so you can’t appreciate the subtlety.
  • Glad we got that sorted out. Although I always struggled with the man, I have to admit that Ian Paisley’s blog is disappointingly sectarian, even for me.

    Also, look up “clintonian” in the dictionary. After this now renowned interview it will read: adj– to be so good that you actually cause earthquakes everywhere you go.

    Your Correspondent, speculates that God did make us in corresponding shapes

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