Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To Emerge or Not To Emerge?

The Emergent Church. It's a diverse movement of Christians that has both been a Godsend to the many questioning the current state and role of "traditional church" and a repellent to many traditionalists wary of open-ended questions, embracing of mystery, and call to change. Some call it a necessary and healthy progression of active faith, reaching out to our very own culture, time, and place. Others deem it a dangerous faction spiraling downward the slippery slope of universalism and moral relativism. The fact is, because The Emergent Church has an affinity for mystery and grey areas, refuses to settle for pat answers concerning the more complex dilemmas of life, encourages questions and ongoing conversations between diverse viewpoints about faith, the bible, and how a Christian should live out his or her life, it is tough to nail down a precise black and white creed of must-have beliefs. This frustrates some and encourages others.


I committed the ultimate critical-thinking sin and listened to the criticism of outsiders of the Emergent Church, before finding out about the Emergent Church from those in it, developing it, and living it. Recently I've interacted with quite a few Emergents and experienced how faithful and committed they are to furthering the kingdom of God and how very similar their beliefs are to my own. That's why I read this book, "An Emergent Manifesto of Hope," to give a fair listen to a group of Christians that yearn to transform the world through the foolishness of the cross: with love, humility, and sacrifice.

Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, two prominent leaders of the Emergent Movement, compiled a variety of short essays on various topics from key leaders in the Emergent community. Contributing writers include: Brian Mclaren, Dan Kimball, Sally Morgenthaler, Will Samson, Tim Keel, Barry Taylor, Samir Selmanovic, Karen Sloan, and Ryan Bolger. Topics covered in this book include: importance of community and relationships, personal experiences of becoming emergent, parenting, postmodernism, existing church and emergent church matrix, social justice, environmentalism, how the biblical ideal of hope translates to today, and biblical interpretation.

One of the main tenets of the Emergent Church is to go out among the people and be the hands and feet of Jesus in one's own community. The old structure of getting the people to come to "church" is scrapped, and Emergents seem to be dedicated to go out to the people, meeting their needs on their turf. The concepts of "missional living," "the Kingdom of God," and "incarnational lifestyles" are cornerstones of the Emergent perspective.

Chapter sixteen: "The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness: Finding our God in the other" is an imperative chapter that expresses some of the fundamental differences between the mindset of traditionalists and emergents concerning the differences between Christianity the religion and the kingdom of God. It gave me MUCH to think about.

Regardless of what conclusions you arrive at about the Emergent Church, give Emergents an honest chance to explain and live out their viewpoint of faith in Christ and what it means to be His follower in the context of the time we live in.

This is a great intro to the Emergent Movement and the various viewpoints within it.

20 comments:

musicmommy3 said...

"Regardless of what conclusions you arrive at about the Emergent Church, give Emergents an honest chance to explain and live out their viewpoint of faith in Christ and what it means to be His follower in the context of the time we live in."

Totally agree with that statement. Finding out a person's heart and true motivation for something can change how you look at situations. Even if someone disagrees with the movement in general they can look at the people with clearer eyes instead of just judging them from a distance.

Good post.

kevin said...

I don’t know much about the emergent church**mainly b/c they are so shady about their agenda**but I do know that it is full of liberals, secular progressives, and dirt worshippers who evoke the name of Jesus and twist his message to manipulate real christians with some sort of fake moral authority. They may have fooled you, but they ain’t fooling me. The emergent church is a cult.

THE KING'S SHEPHERD said...

I would definitely like to learn more about the emergent church. My husband did a little research on it recently and there was definitely some things I was encouraged by as he shared them with me. I totally agree with what both you and musicmommy3 above said.
Thanks for writing on this.

from Christy Fritz said...

great post...i need to pick up a copy of the book.
i'll be passing this post onto my homegroup.
thanks for talking about it.

Tia Lynn said...

Kevin, judging by your sweeping generalizations and blanket statements, I suspect that you haven't met any emergents or done any honest evaluations of the Emergent movement. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether you agree with them or not, and should be treated with kindness, patience, and respect. Tackle issues, not people. If there are aspects of the Emergent movement that you dislike or are opposed to, then name them, deconstruct them logically, and be willing to engage in a real conversation about them. Don't just write off an entire group of people because you have yet to discover what they're all about.

"Ma" said...

hey T

just to let you know, if the Barry Taylor affiliated with this is one and the same from So Cal that i knew, then the hairs on the back of my neck are raising as i type. let me say i knew him & his church and his parishoners from a somewhat inside perspective and his name attached to any movement would immediately color my opinion. we'll have to talk.
love you!
happy almost thanksgiving!
giving thanks to God for you & Will.

Tia Lynn said...

I can't remember which chapter he authored in the book or where he is from. I just lent it to a friend, but I'll look him up. What kind of church was your barry taylor apart of?

Tia Lynn said...

I just googled pastor barry taylor and few other variations of that and there are about a million pastors/church leaders that exist with that name...so I have no idea if he's the same dude...I'd like to know though!

kevin said...

Emergents do not hold the same beliefs as me and I believe in proper orthodox theology. So, they are not my brothers and sisters in Christ, but wolves out to destroy that orthodox theology. They can't be dealt with by "conversing." We know they are wrong and they must be kept at bay, so they do not threaten the church with heresy. That's straight up biblical admonishment.

Tia Lynn said...

Kevin, you posted before that you don't even really know anything about the emergent church. Before you start burning people at the stake, do some honest research man.

Charles said...

I've spent the better part of two years reading and researching on the emerging church. While the "emerging" movement is very diverse, the "Emergent" movement is not. I've been underwhelmed by the theological ambivalence and ambiguity of the Emergent Village and those associated with it. I think it's less about embracing mystery and more about muddying the waters so that anything goes.

My main problems though, are (1)the Emergent reappraisal of the priorities of the faith, and (2)the unwillingness to allow any certainty in theology. Brian McLaren has elevated right practice far above right belief, when, Biblically, right practice should flow from right belief. And Doug Pagitt is pretty clear in Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches that any one who expresses certainty at any level in their theology is no friend of the EV. He even chastises a fellow writer because his theology hadn't changed since he met him. Why is that bad?

In reading Emergent writers and trying to understand what's going on, many have already embraced some heretical teaching, and have refused to proclaim Christ as Lord of All, and simply give him credit for being one of many. I'll keep reading though, hoping - for the good of the church - that I've either misinterpreted or that someone will turn it around.

Makeesha said...

First of all, I come from a conservative evangelical charistmatic upbringing and have about 10 years of ministry experience in that setting. I've been researching and reading emerging/Emergent stuff for almost 5 years and have personally met most of the more prominent voices and attended a few of the "biggie" conferences and congregations....so that's my background.

Brian McLaren is not THE VOICE of emerging and he's not even technically an Emergent Village guy. That's a big misunderstanding. Not that it makes much of a difference to me because I like McLaren.

Also, this is a main difference in EV versus denominations or other Christian groups, EV is NOT a denomination - it's better to think of it as a coffee shop where people enter and exit at will engaging in conversations about various things. So to say EV "believes" something would be like saying a coffee shop believes something. the PEOPLE who are there believe stuff. Just because one particular person says something as part of the conversation doesn't mean they speak for the whole - no more than a person in a coffee shop speaks for the whole.

Let me address a few points.

The biggest offensive statement made about emerging/EV is that no one proclaims that Christ is Lord of all. This is an egregious mis-charicterization. If you go to my blog and click on beliefs you can find a statement made by the EV leaders that addresses some of the worst accusations. But i can tell you as someone who is part of the conversation, I have heard very little that opposes the fundamental tenets of Orthodoxy.

I know Doug personally and I can tell you that he DOES INDEED believe one can have certainty but he is concerned that with that certainty, Christians often lack humility and an ability to admit that we cannot KNOW, we can HOPE and HAVE FAITH but we cannot KNOW until all is revealed to us by God...right now we see through a mirror dimly. Emerging folks believe strongly in a humble apologetic, it is one thing that unites us.

"Biblically, right practice should flow from right belief."

the one should inform the other actually - BIBLICALLY SPEAKING. Emergent folks as a rule do not endorse a false dichotomy here. There is a mix of emphasis on praxis or doxis depending on who you talk to but everyone I know would say that they should inform each other.

"I'll keep reading though, hoping - for the good of the church - that I've either misinterpreted or that someone will turn it around."

This is where I get frustrated with these discussions. "for the good of the church"? seriously. THIS is the sort of hubris that the church needs less of.

You can be or not be part of the Emergent conversation, it's neither here nor there to me. Studying emergent is really missing the point. This is not something to be studied (and this is where moderns just cannot make the leap), this is something to engage. Dialog, find a cohort, talk to people, LISTEN. If you don't think it fits your beliefs or practices then so be it, let it go. But theologically, EV is just as orthodox as anything I've ever experienced - just because it's not your particular theology doesn't make it heretical (or a cult - that's a new one I haven't heard yet, and so errant it's laughable)

Tyler said...

I really like Dan Kimball and some of his takes on the emerging church. Take a look at some of them if you want some more reading. He has more of a conservative theological stance so I really value his mindset because I think he shares a lot in common with a traditionalists' theology.

Tia Lynn said...

Thanks Mak for weighing in. The coffee shop analogy for Emergent Village was especially helpful.

Tyler, I'll check out Dan Kimball, I like to hear other perspectives. Thanks for the recommendation.

Charles said...

Makeesha -

I don't have a lot of time right now, so I'll be brief as I can:

I didn't say, or imply that McLaren is "THE VOICE" of emerging. I said "the 'emerging' movement is very diverse." It's pretty obvious I don't think there is any one voice. And he may not be an official EV rep, but he's closely aligned with Pagitt and Jones.

I know that EV is not a denomination. But it is also not just like a coffee shop. There is not one unified position, but there is plenty of theological affinity. I did not say that "the EV 'believes' something". I cited specific leaders and their positions. And while they don't speak for the whole, the leaders of EV are no just people in a coffee shop. They are the primary (not only) voices, and they are such because so many of those involved agree with them.

Now to address your few points:

I did not say "no on proclaims that Christ is Lord of all". I said "many", but that was probably a poor choice. What I meant is that the prominent voices are all to willing to say that Jesus is just one path or voice or savior among many. McLaren's statements about encouraging people to remain Hindu or Muslim while following Jesus are an example. And while I respect your opinion, I have to say that I've heard quite a bit that "opposes the fundamental tenets of orthodoxy."

What does it mean to have certainty if "we cannot KNOW"? If we cannot know, we must always doubt. Which is the opposite of certainty.

What do you mean by "one should inform the other", if something other than {right belief -> right practice}?

I don't believe it's hubris to look at the theological content of the EV/Emergent movement and feel that it will do the church harm.

As far as dialoging, we're doing it right now. This conversation and the others that I've had at other sites makes me part of the Emergent conversation, doesn't it?

Makeesha said...

this is where we come to an empass - you refuse to believe what I'm saying about a movement I am a part of and instead of you say things like "no, they ARE saying that Jesus is only one path to many" - - when I have spoken to them and say they are NOT saying that. So you are not engaging, you're saying what you think and have no intention of listening to someone who actually knows from the perspective of being a part of this.

so that's cool - emergent is not for you, God bless your journey:)

"ma" said...

Hey T
This is the Barry Taylor I knew. See if you can find if this is one & the same affiliated with this book.
I'll see if i can findd any articles, etc.documenting that which i know of him that i mentioned. i'll send those to you directly.

"Bennett told Wooding that he needed a Western co-host who spoke Russian and would appeal to the youth of the USSR. Wooding said, “I suggested Barry Taylor, a founding board member of Assist and a former roadie with the rock band, AC/DC. Barry had become a Christian on the band’s US ‘Highway to Hell’ tour and was discipled by another former roadie. (He) then became a pastor of Lake Arrowhead Christian Fellowship in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.”"

Tia Lynn said...

I'll check it out...I don't remember they guy in the book mentioning (or sounding like) a former rock and roll roadie....but who knows? I'll do some searching...

What was your problem with this dud anyway?

donnav said...

Hey Tia Lynn....had some time and wanted to check out your book reviews...this one caught my eye as my pastor and her husband wrote I think it was Ch 17...I keep giving away my copy of the book and can't even look it up! Might give you a bit more perspective of where I am coming from!! Since that came out The Bridge had what I call a "love child", HomePDX is led by Ken and is geared for homeless kids...

Tia Lynn said...

very cool!!! I loved this book.