DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> John MacArthur 1, Doug Pagitt 0

John MacArthur 1, Doug Pagitt 0

Pagitt? The Gospel doesn’t lead to a whole life?

6 Responses to “John MacArthur 1, Doug Pagitt 0”

  1. Wess, I absolutely agree with you. I have no problem with exercise either. I have no problem with secularized yoga-like exercise. In fact, I don’t think MacArthur does either. If I recall, I think he says as much in the video.

    I do have a problem with our North American assumption that we can take and borrow aspects of other people’s religion at any time. I think Pagitt comes across as a supporter of this sort of act because he refuses to give a clear answer to anything.

    I remember going to a big Unitarian Universalist gathering (General Assembly) where they tried desperately to bring in a member or members of a Native American Indian tribe to open the ceremony or something. The Unitarian Universalist leadership wrote to the Indians and undoubtedly explained that they are a liberal religion who like to mix and mash faiths. The Indians wrote back saying something to the effect of “No, we will not attend your event. We will not take time from our day, travel all the way there, and stand in front of you all, just to make you feel good about yourselves.”

    I think this reckless sort of mixing and mashing and straight up appropriation of other people’s faiths is mostly to make us all feel good about ourselves. Yoga - as a spiritual practice - is part of Hindu religion. I’m sure they don’t need a bunch of affluent, North American liberal religious folk “borrowing” aspects of their faith just to feel better about themselves. It hurts Christianity and other faiths.

    I really dig Hauerwas’ take on ethics and postmodernity and faith qualifiers as laid out in The Peaceable Kingdom. I really think it is a far superior approach to faith identity and authentic interfaith conversation than anything I see out there today (Unitarian Universalism and/or Emergent). The bonus is it’s thoroughly Anabaptist too. :)

    I’m with you … I have my own faith tradition that goes way back. Things like we are talking about come and go with culture … probably because they are so rooted in culture. Culture shifts like sand.

    I hear you though, brother.

  2. Hey Shawn,
    No I definitely don’t think Pagitt was “spot on” and certainly didn’t mean to suggest that I was defending him.

    Your point about Christmas etc, is a good one and I agree that it is completely secularized. But isn’t secularism in its consumer form also a faith of its own? It is certainly a worldview at its very basic core. That’s somewhat besides the point in regards to yoga though and see what you mean. I think a better point would have been for me to suggest that there are all kinds of things in our culture that have divergent pasts and influences some of which we are clearly aware of and some of which we are not.

    As we become aware of these issues we need to bring them up like you have here. And I think this does bring up very important questions about the Gospel etc. I can’t speak for Pagitt or emergent, and don’t really care too. I’m a Quaker and have my own tradition (and all its issues) to deal with, without trying to defend someone else.

    I think for me, I don’t have a problem with Yoga theologically in so far as it is used as an exercise and only as an exercise. Here’s what I mean. My wife has some “stretch cards” that show various positions for stretching and relaxing (important thing for pregnant ladies as you know). There is nothing else on the card, just the postures. So we do those stretches together (though she does them on her own much more that I do it with her) and that’s it. They are moves for stretching. I know some of them are “yoga” moves, I also know that some of them are not. If I get down on my hands and knees and arch my back to stretch it I am not (in my mind) making a theological foul. The Hindus don’t own that move. What the Hindus own is the language and theology behind how they use that move. And honestly, I have absolutely no idea what those beliefs are (and how they correspond to Yoga or what all the moves are that are in fact under the Yoga rubric). In other words, I think it’s okay to do them simply as exercises because they are good exercises and no one owns those moves just like no one owns the form in which we jog, or weightlift, or do all the varieties of stretching.

    That’s all I am saying. Now if we through the spirituality and theology and everything else into then I personally am not going to be a part that.

    Another example I just thought of is Silence and meditation. MacArthur and a number of his followers continue to denounce meditation and contemplative prayer as Eastern and thus bad. But the Eastern religions don’t own the rights to silence, meditations, and contemplation. Buddhists practice silence, so do Quakers, so did Thomas Merton, so does Richard Foster, and so do thousands of monks, priests, pastors, and general christian population in the past 2,000 years. I totally recognize yoga (as an exercise) and meditative prayer aren’t the same thing, but my point is that there are forms and practices that are similar in different religious groups but understood and interpreted differently. So long as the Christian version is interpreted differently, and in light of the Kingdom of God and Christ’s work I am okay with it. That’s why I stand by the practice of silence and mediation as a Christian practice even though a number of Christians are vehemently opposed to it.

    Ultimately this is just my “theology” on the question, I certainly don’t mind if others flat out reject the practice so long as there is some charity for those of us who see it a little differently. I think it can be supported faithfully from my perspective or the perspective that is uncomfortable with the practice.

  3. Oh, and I don’t hear MacArthur suggesting a “mind only” spirituality. I hear him saying exercise is a good thing, but why do we have to do yoga to accomplish it? I think that’s a really good question and I’m not a fan of his either. :)

    Do you really think Pagitt was “spot on” in this video? Seriously? Even if I embraced all of what Emergent stands for and expresses, I would call this an absolutely confused and muddled bomb. It barely makes sense. MacArthur and his position is at least clear and understandable.

  4. @Wess: I almost agree, but can’t. I have a few reasons that I’ll try to explain.

    First of all, I totally don’t buy into the pagan Christmas thing anymore because Christmas is so secular now that any hint of spirituality - pagan or otherwise - is gone. It’s, like you said, all about consumerism now. So, it’s a pretty big leap to associate this example with yoga, unless we are actually suggesting to totally secularize yoga like we did Christmas. I think real life Hindus may have something negative to say about the freedoms we seem to presume as regards their religion.

    This leads me to the second point. It seems those of us living in North America really think that we can just appropriate religions whenever the urge arises. This is a serious difficulty for those of us who actually want to have real inter-faith conversations with people. Yoga is an aspect of Hinduism, obviously. How do the Hindu people feel about our “taking it” and making it Christian? Do Hindus borrow from Christian practices and implement these things in their worship services? Perhaps I’m just overlooking the Hindu Temple Vinyard praise chorus sing along? This is the syncritism I’m getting at, and it has little to do with Christmas or the days and/or months of the week.

    Emergent - or at least Pagitt’s expression thereof - is looking and sounding like Unitarian Universalism more every day, Wess. I tried that, as you know, and I am very, very much aware of where such misguided thinking leads a church or organization. You shouldn’t borrow aspects of other faiths. It is disrespectful and detrimental to your own organization. Christianity is a faith that is very different from Hinduism. I’m not at all arguing the superiority of one over the other in this post (that’s another post); I’m simply saying that mixing it up like this is detrimental for everyone. It is syncritism. If this is what Emergent is, then I’ll pass.

    Oh, and Pagitt could have answered the “Is Jesus OK with Yoga” question very easily. No, Jesus was not OK with yoga … he was Jewish! He could have answered it, but he chose to go off into a discussion about suits and other oddities … which only muddled his offering and contradicted “Emergent” at it’s most basic level (i.e., culture).

    I agree that we need a physical and a cognitive spirituality. Go for a jog! Go for a mountain trail hike! Ride a bike! Do some sit ups and stretches! Do we really need to appropriate the practices of other faiths to “exercise spiritually?”

    So, I hear you and thank you for you comments. I just don’t agree with North American Christians happily borrowing the aspects of other faiths. It hurts Christianity and it hurts the faiths from which the aspects are borrowed. It sounds ridiculous too.

  5. Shawn,
    thanks for sharing the video. I don’t see a problem with Yoga, I don’t actually do Yoga, but I don’t see a problem with it for Christians if it’s done in a Christian context. I mean there are hundreds of thousands of Christians who exercise and feel like that helps them in their spiritual life. Our spirituality and physical nature are inexplicably linked together. We need both a physical and a spiritual “spirituality.”

    And MacArthur’s position is a spirituality of the mind only. Take Decarte’s philosophy and apply conservative theology to it and that’s basically what MacArthur says in his comments above. “Think hard of these verses” that will help you relax. I don’t know about you but it doesn’t help me much, I relax a lot more when I’m bike riding.

    And we are all different, and I have no doubt some people are more “in the head” then the body, but I think we need to give people more ways of being physically spiritual.

    I guess I didn’t hear anything that surprised or worries me. I don’t like the proof text, but the guy is on the spot and I know I’d never want to be asked to do one of those kinds of interviews. I think Paggit believes in a whole person Gospel, I think that’s his point about “the Jesus agenda” which is a strange way to say it.

    To me doing Yoga isn’t anymore syncretistic than celebrating Christmas (as a consumer) or not recognizing the pagan background to way we think of it. Another thing is using the names of the month and week days, again these things have their roots within pagan spirituality. Quakers, as you know, have tended to not say the names of the months and days of the weeks or celebrate Christmas because they felt like it was too syncretistic. I as a Quaker use these names and celebrate Christmas (albeit while trying to subvert the consumer side of it) because I believe that the pagan backgrounds don’t own these things. We can use them for good too. And I truly believe that things that people do, make, and practice, if they are “good” in some sense, may very take their root from God even if they don’t themselves recognize it. God is certainly in cultures that don’t acknowledge him. The job of the Christian is to rename it, and point to who is behind these practices and ultimately use them for the kingdom.

  6. PS: I’m seriously surprised that Pagitt actually tried to paint Paul as some sort of pluralist by citing (or proof texting) Philippians 4:8 as some sort license for spiritual syncritism. I have said it many times: I’m 100% behind authentic inter-faith conversations and relationship building, but I will have nothing to do with cheap spiritual syncritism. I think it causes more damage than good. Seriously, this was just a weak attempt by Pagitt. Really weak.

    BTW: Philippians 4:9 (the very next verse) actually identifies these things. It reads, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul was singularly focused and dedicated to Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

    I also can’t understand Pagitt’s attempt to equate spiritual syncritism with the wearing of suits. Seriously? Is that the argument? Is Pagitt really saying that he can’t answer the “Would Jesus be OK with Yoga” question because it is too much like asking if “Jesus would be OK with pastors wearing suits?” Seriously?!?

    Um, Doug. Suit wearing is as much an aspect of culture as is the blue shirt you are sporting in the video. Culture is the basic philosophy of “Emergent,” right? It’s all contextual, or cultural, right? So, if you can’t answer the “Is Jesus OK with suit wearing pastors” question (you said you couldn’t), then you have just pretty much wiped out the foundational platform of your movement. Well, maybe “wiped out” is a bit too strong. I think it might be more accurate to say that you can’t answer the “Is Jesus OK with Emergent” question. Unless, of course, you just try to answer the original “Is Jesus OK with yoga” question. If you do, then disregard all of the above pondering.

    No, I don’t wear suits but I can spot an implosion from three feet away. Besides, my point has nothing to do with suits; I’m pointing towards the culture that put people inside of them.

    I became a “Friend of Emergent” a few months back, with a serious caveat: If they began to look more and more like Unitarian Universalism I would check out. Well, I’m so far checked out of “Emergent” today. I’ll be canceling my small, yearly donation straight away.

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ does lead to a whole life. It is enough.

    Does this mean I cannot share authentic relationships with people of other faiths, Hindus, or people who practice yoga? No. Hardly. Do I respect people from other faiths? Absolutely! Will I go out of my way to serve them? You bet. Would I sacrifice for them? Yes. Jesus did.

    Will I dilute my faith and theirs in the process? No.

    Oh, and I am not a huge fan of MacArthur either.

    FYI: “Emergent” and “Emerging” are not one and the same. Frankly, I’m beginning to care less for either label. Living - really living - the basic Gospel is enough. Perhaps we all should simply try that for a bit?

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