This post from Dick Staub got me thinking, “How has my own perception(s) of the church emerging/Emergent continued to shift and change?” I’ve encountered a number of bloggers, pastors, church leaders, and thinking Christians who have come across emerging church thinkers, leaders, and writers and have strongly embraced the thinking and ethos of this strata of Christianity. For the past two and half years I have been part of a church that is no exception. The “emerging church conversation” has deeply impacted the ministry of those around me, as well as my own ministry.
In the past couple of years there have been reactions on the other extreme. As emerging leaders have continued to publish and garner a higher level of exposure some Christian thinkers have launched critiques against the underlying presuppositions which fuel emerging/Emergent churches. Criticism can most easily be found in the blogging world.
Conservative evangelicals have rallied against “postmodernism,” predominantly because of a perception that emerging leaders are abandoning some form of “absolute truth” and embracing cultural relativism. Some Christians perceive emerging Christianity as far too accomodationist, bowing to culture rather than to Christ and compromising the integrity of the Gospel. Some of the criticism has been well formulated and well reasoned, while others have careless launched a disapproving tirade in a fashion unbecoming of appropriate Christian discourse (speaking the truth in love). I’ve witnessed others who have cried foul because emerging leaders, after providing a helpful critique of contemporary Christianity, seemed to have created a void that they cannot fill. In 2006 I had the opportunity to hear Dallas Willard speak at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. After being asked about the “emerging church,” Willard seemed to imply just that critique. His perception was that the “Emergent conversation” may have successfully broken down unhealthy facets of Christian practice during our time, but lacked a gospel.
Staub, in his blog cited above, notes two opposite and opposing forces which encumberour efforts to translate the Christian faith to our culture. He see these two elements as problematic:
- a biblical, theological, historical literacy is a prerequisite for doing serious faith and cultural correlation. Many of today’s younger (and older) evangelical reformers possess a cultural literacy that far outweighs their literacy in our biblical, theological, historical legacy.
- when the culture suffers from an unbearable intellectual, spiritual, creative impoverishment produced by a soul-deadening, busy, commercialized, consumerised, marketized frenzy of activity — seeking relevance too often consists of taking on the very qualities that need to identified, confronted and eradicated, not emulated or imitated.
Simply stated, first we need to know the Bible and our roots better than we currently do. Second, we need to recognize the ways we ourselves have been corrupted by the powerful cultural forces that surround us. In other words, we have to delve deeper into the richness of our historical, biblical, and theological roots in order to resist the powers and the principalities.
I’m thankful for the ways I’ve been influenced by emerging pastors, thinkers, and leaders. I’ll continue to pay attention to some of those I’ve come to respect–including Dan Kimball, Tim Keel, and Scot McKnight. However, Ive found that I have a great deal of work to do in terms of understanding the biblical, theological, and historical roots of the Christian faith so that I might better be able to engage the world. By becoming more well versed in the Christian story, I hope to increase my ability to contribute to the community called Church, so that we might more truthfully witness to the world-transforming work accomplished by the Jew from Nazareth whose life, death, and resurrection constitute our existence.
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