Sometimes I feel like I am late to the party.
And sometimes I discover that I am not late, in fact I’m very early, I just didn’t realize it was going to be a party. So has it been with me and emerging Christianity.
As I continue to dive deeper into what the emerging/emergent church is all about I am finding that there are a lot of voices opposed to much or all of the whole shebang. This is old news. These voices have been around for a long time, even decades before the term “emerging” was applied to Christianity. YouTube is full of them. Some rant, some blather, some are articulate, and some of these voices come from individuals I respect. I must consider those voices I respect. These voices include R. C. Sproul and Ravi Zacharias – who represent for me a kid of “old guard” of apologists – and Mark Driscoll, who represents a younger generation of reformed preachers. All of these men I have heard and/or read their teaching and greatly appreciate what they do and their contributions to the Church and the furtherance of the Gospel.
But I am not entirely convinced by these guys. I am interested in your thoughts as well.
Here are a couple of clips about the emerging/emergent movement from those concerned voices. This first clip is of Mark Driscoll explaining how he understands this thing called emerging/emergent, and what he sees as deeply troubling problems:
Driscoll was part of the emerging/emergent conversation a decade ago, but he split away largely over doctrinal differences. I am not entirely in his camp. I love that he is a champion for truth, but some of his doctrinal positions are ones that I have wrestled with for more than 20 years and my beliefs have subtly changed over the years and are still in flux. I do know, however, that Driscoll does his homework and is worth listening to.
This second clip is of a conversation with R. C. Sproul, Ravi Zacharias, plus Vance Havner and Al Mohle (both of whom I have not heard before):
These guys are heavy hitters in the world of Christian apologetics and evangelism. I appreciate their perspectives on the topic at hand. I have some of the same concerns as they do, but I am also concerned they may be confusing their entrenchment in reformed theology and a modernist Christianity with defending the truth of the Bible. I don’t say this lightly. Such entrenchment is one of my personal concerns and something I have been working through for a long time – and I’m still in process.
Side note: I cannot help but see four old guys in suits and ties. There is nothing wrong with that of course, but it doesn’t help quell my thoughts that these guys are from a different generation, a different era, and a different world. None of that means they don’t know what is true, but I have concerns that the Christianity they preach is a mix of Truth and the culture in which their understanding was formed.
As I said, I feel the need to take all these guys seriously and consider what they say. The fact is, I already have been taking these topics seriously for a quite a while. I am someone who became a Christian at an early age and then within several years became intellectually interested in theology, history, philosophy, the pursuit of Truth, the nature of ministry and evangelism, and in what it means to work out one’s salvation with fear and trembling. I would pinpoint my first rumblings of emerging to circa 1986. soon after I joined a community that has many “emerging” characteristics – though we’ve never used that term.
I know the guys in the clips above do their homework for sure, they love God, and they pursue Truth, but I am not convinced they have Truth cornered. One of my biggest concerns with what these guys are saying is the way they brush off postmodernism as merely another form of liberalism and truth evasion. I have begun to dive into postmodernism again, after having done so years ago in grad school. This time I am finding much more. Postmodernism, we know, is not a school of thought, rather it is a recognition that we are in an age that is beyond modernism, which opens up lots of possibilities and re-evaluations of much of what has been considered the sacred cows of Christianity (I love that expression – I just made it up).
What I am trying to do is actually look to the sources – the Bible first of course, and then some of the writers who either claim or are tagged with being emerging/emergent or postmodern. My desire in the midst of this process is a combination of open-mindedness and discernment.
Books I’m reading related to the topic:
When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome, by Richard E. Rubenstein
Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism: taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church, by James K. A. Smith
What Would Jesus Deconstruct: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church, by John D. Caputo
They Like Jesus But Not The Church: Insights from Emerging Generations, by Dan Kimball
Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives, ed. Robert Webber
Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw
2 thoughts on “>against emerging/emergent: voices of concern and opposition”
>Hi, can I recommend Gibbs and Bolger “Emerging Churches”… it’s the culmination of a period of research and tries to allow the emerging churches to speak for themselves rather than (as most other books do) telling you what the author thinks (with all their prejudices, assumptions, leanings and agendas – for or against)
>Mark, Thanks for your comments and reading suggestion. I will put it on my list.