Tony Jones, Doug Padgitt, and Mark Scandrette hit the road for this Emergent adventure to “preach, sing, and sell healing balm in church basements from San Diego to New York.” According to this website, the hearers “will be entertained, to be sure, but, more importantly, they will be given a vision of an alternative Christianity…of adventurous theology, passionate faithfulness, postmodern wit, and unrelenting concern for the justice and peace that God offers.”
I’ve heard Jones and Padgitt in person, and have surveyed their writings. Scandrette, not so much. I wish these three vagabonds the best. I find this campaign a bit humorous myself. Just how different, new, and critical is this “alternative Christianity” proclaimed by this trio (which they assert being “woefully lacking in today’s world”)? The more I consider Emergent’s claims to espouse a rich, helpful “alternative Christianity,” the more I suspect these leaders vastly underestimate God’s provision and activity within those seemingly “old forms” of the people of God called Church.
As I continue to read and learn I find myself increasingly surprised and refreshed by the vastness of resources for a deep, vibrant, and passionate faith in Jesus Christ which have been right under my nose–and indeed all around me. It may be true that the Christianity of my forebearers in the faith failed to notice the changes occurring in the world around them in America and failed to adapt to the challenges presented by the postmodern millieu. Padgitt, Jones, McLaren, and others like them should be thanked for their contributions in this regard. We should acknowledge, however, that a changed world is nothing new, as “The world was fundamentally changed in Jesus Christ, and we have been trying, but failing, to grasp the implications of that change ever since”(Hauerwas/Willimon, Resident Aliens, 17).