Friday, September 14, 2007

Emerging Blog Posts

No one else seems to be posting, and we can't let this site lie stagnant for that long. Time for me to step up to the plate.

Sadly, I don't have much to say, but the Emerging Church discussion (conversation!) is always a good one. I found some interesting articles here...

I haven't read very many yet, but they may be worth a look.

While I find some aspects of the "Emerging Church" interesting, I don't completely identify with them. And that's mostly because 90% of what you read about the Emerging Church really doesn't state any real beliefs, like an actual denomination. They just say they are current! and postmodern! and they engage in conversation! Yeah, okay, that's nice, but what does any of that mean?

I think our society just likes labels too much, honestly. Label something enough, and it becomes institutionalized, just like the very thing that I'm trying to avoid.


Joe B said...

Great stuff at that link. Sort of vast though!

I read a great article on Emergy-ism by a prof at Bethel Evangelical Seminary that identified some "distinguishing characteristics" of Emergies.

1. Incarnational -- how you BE. A Christians communally and individually are to be the embodiment, the manifestation, the incarnation of God in the Earth. Just like Jesus was (John 20:21).

2. Missional -- how you DO. Replaces te "come to church" invitation with a "go to them" ethic. Seeks to tranform culture through engagement rather than through creating an alternative Christian subculture.

3. Narrative theology -- how you THINK. Replaces apologetic, reductionistic, analytical interpretation scheme with a "big picture first" approach. Resists fragmentation (dispensationalism, e.g.) and sees continuity. Sees scripture as a unifying force vs a battleground. Meaning first, apologetics last.

4. I can't label the last thing, but it's about how you worship. It looks to ancient worship practices AND to post-contemporary, home-spun, spontaneous forms.

My take on Emergy-ism? It is a revival in the part of the church that went to the left when the fundamentalists went to the right, coupled with a rejection of the exceses of the right by a new generation. It is a healing of the great, bloody, disgraceful divorce that shattered the church at the beginning of the 20th century. In that sense it is good, the work of God.

But just like a marital reconciliation, there are a lot of things that need to be worked out.

Joe B said...

I just cracked open Gibbs & Bolger's "Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures." It's a research piece intended to identify patterns found in 120 interviews with Emergy church pastors in the US & UK. They define Emergent as follows, and identify nine characteristic practices:

"Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures." They:

1, identify with the life of Jesus; 2, transform the secular realm; 3, live highly communal lives. Therefore they: 4, welcome the stranger; 5, serve with generosity; 6, participate and producers; 7, create as created beings; 8, lead as a body; 9, take part in spiritual activities.

Note how non-theological these patterns are. They do not note that thse folks are nearly all non-evangelical, post-evangelical, or evangelical gadflies. Even if their confession is not in theological opposition, their focus on practice of faith ("following Jesus") is markedly different than the evangelical focus on attainment of positional righteousness ("being saved").

scott said...

That's some great stuff. Where do you find time to do all this reading?

I like the "distinguishing characteristics." Much more helpful than anything on Wikipedia. And I actually DO identify with all of those things.

Darn, maybe I'm a lot more emerging than I thought.

Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

I agree that it's nearly impossible to put consistent labels on anything that is labeled, "emerging". However, I have issues with the postmodern way of thinking and I just don't buy into it. I think there IS "true truth" (as Francis Schaeffer would have put it--a MODERNIST) out there and that we can strive to know it. We won't figure it all out, but it's ok for us to try. Furthermore, I think Paul asserts us to try. In other words, the quest for truth IS important. While I do agree that there is too much fighting in the church, a postmodern approach is not the answer. I honestly don't believe that this movement is a revival, as Joe stated. With some of the stuff that I've read, there's a disregard for many things that you and I believe to be true and worth arguing over.

scott said...

True dat. I think there is "true truth" too. I was just saying that I identify very much with the distinguishing characteristics Joe mentioned from the books he read.

Do you see a problem with any of those specific points? I'm assuming #3, the Narrative Theology, might cause you some concern? I can't imagine people being bothered by the majority of those things... It seems more like an issue of "how we live" rather than "what we think."

To tell you the truth, the "modern/postmodern" issue is often just too abstract for me to deal with. I like me some specifics.

Joe B said...

That brush is way too broad, especially if Bolger & Gibbs descriptive schema is at all on target. Is there anything in it that anyone would argue against?

Joe B said...

Yeah, the postmodern label is just about meaningless in discussions about the Church. These guys (Mohler, MacArthur, Colson, and I guess Carson?) popularize this idea that it means denying the existence and relevance of objective truth, as Shummy-Doof echoed. They'll quote some atheist to prove their point. But will they quote Luther or Augustine who made the same anti-authoritarian arguments? These guys use words like pluralism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, etc in the same sense as "murder, idolatry, and adultery." I don't mean to take a swipe at anybody, particularly not Robo. But the truth is that NONE of these people, Schaeffer included, show a basic understanding of epistemology. They do polemics, not philosophy. They begin with the conclusion that she is a witch, then they put a nose on her. The people saying you must be converted from postmodern thinking to have a Godly worldview have NO justification for it, scriptural or philosophical.

Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

WOW! So many things to comment on and so little time. I'll do my best...

Joe b said,
"But the truth is that NONE of these people, Schaeffer included, show a basic understanding of epistemology."

This is Francis Schaeffer we're talking about, right? You've read Francis Schaeffer and you still think that he doesn't have a based understanding of epistemology? I cannot let that one go.

Now, as for the broad brush idea, I totally agree. There is so much variation in the "emerging" movement that you cannot label all as one. But you cannot deny that some of the self-appointed leaders use the word, "postmodern" quite often when talking about the world we live in and, as a result, the way the church needs to function. And like I said, I don't by that.

Narrative Theology is troubling in that it opens the door for too much interpretation. I was reading one example (and I understand that it doesn't mean that it applies to the whole movement) where they totally missed the point of the passage because of this. So, tell me, WHO has trouble with epistemology?

D.A. Carson is no MacArthur. He understands the movement pretty well and is careful not to paint with a broad brush.

Joe B said,
"But will they quote Luther or Augustine who made the same anti-authoritarian arguments?"

I'm not sure how you're referencing Augustine, but I THINK I know what you're saying with regards to Luther. To say that the emerging church is another reformation in the same way that Luther worked to reform the church is flat out wrong. Luther was a modernist who understood the role of scripture--sola scriptura. He was upset with the Roman church for not recognizing this. If anything, many of the emergents are going back to some of the ways of the old church. No, they're not resorting to penances or anything like that. They're more likely to light candles or use pieces of art in their worship (and I have no issues with that). I've read some emerging leaders who state that there's a lot of history in the church before Luther and it should not be ignored.

It's a slippery slope, fellas. You have to be careful with the postmodern mindset. It's one thing to understand it and to figure out new ways to reach people, but it's another thing to pander to it.

Joe B said...

Good thoughtful remarks. I'll try to be brief because the more I talk the less I say. (I'll say a bit about Schaeffer, whom I truly like, in a separate comment below.)

I did not compare the Emergent movement to the Reformation, did I? But I DID say that the Emergent Movement represents a revival of faith in the part of the church long enmired in theological liberalism. Are we against that somehow?

Narrative Theology:
Narrative Theology is really about leaving the text intact rather than deconstructing it, and about preaching so that the hearer is placed into the story to face its implications. (Like Acts 2:15-36.) Remember, the gospels are written in narrative form, not as doctrinal statements. You do not have to be postmodern to interpret scripture badly--Martin Luther managed to derive whole books worth of anti-semitic diatribe from the bible.

I’m sure nobody would ever pander to a Modernist mindset. And if they did it would be okay, since Modernity brings forth only flowers and singing birds.

You know, I won’t talk any more about epistemology – it is a very difficult matter, and who cares what I say anyway? But let me share a little story:

I invited a ThD dude to lecture my Sunday School class about verbal inspiration and infallibility. He began to talk about Truth, and he presented four basic theories of Truth: Correspondence, Coherence, and Pragmatism, and Relativism. Amazingly he proclaimed that the “right” theory is Correspondence, and the other theories are the work of Satan. Then he proceeds to support his assertion using arguments based on what? You guessed it! Consistency, and Pragmatism, and Relativism. He was smart as a whip, but ignorant as a blind coot. He had no understanding whatsoever that these theories do not tell you how you SHOULD think, they describe how people DO think, and speculate toward what manner of thought is the essence of knowing.

Joe B said...

Schaeffer was a lightweight with a sweater and a pipe. (Okay, I'm just tweaking your nose.) Look, Schaeffer was an evangelist, not a scholar. He was not schooled in these things, maybe even less than me. I know he sounds heady, and he was a brilliant social critic. But when it comes to epistemology, he was NOT the real thing. For a gentle trashing of Schaeffer's grasp of epistemology by his hero (Bahnsen) paste in this link:
For his education, click here:

Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

I quit.

Joe B said...

No, I'll quit. I should have gone to bed about 3 hours earlier. Too late now, huh?

Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

Joe, there are battles in the reformed camp regarding epistemology--you probably know that. But your comments made suggested that Schaeffer was some sort of a lightweight, which he is not.

Oh, I guess this means that I un-quit.

Anyway, Schaeffer is the kind of guy that post-modern emergents would love with regards for how he lived his life. He was a lover of the arts and philosophy and he believed in living out his faith. The difference is that he believed in orthodoxy and was willing to stick his neck out for it.

Ironically, his son Frank is now a Greek Orthodox. Oh well.

Joe B said...

I really really was teasing you when I said he was a lightweight. He was brilliant. And he was definitely a sorta-Bohemian. But his presuppositional apologetics would have been unimpressive to those he was argued against (they knew nothing about him because he never did anything generative--he was a critic.) But it all sounded very cool to church folks back home, and he validated Christians in their stand against the crashing tide of atheism in the 70's.

Atheism is subsiding precipitously now (Dr DJ Kennedy had a lecture on that Tues. Gallup finds only 9% claiming Agnostic or Atheist, down by half since 1990). You know why? The Modernists are dying off, being replaced by a new generation of thought that is MUCH friendlier to faith, and much more guarded against ideology (granted, they are also also much more casual about denying faith, and much more resistant to religious authority claims.)

It's funny that people lump Schaeffer and Lewis together since they were like the only popular Christian intellectuals of the era. (Sorry Josh McDowell.) In fact Schaeffer was, as you said, a Modernist extraordinaire. Lewis was a postmodern apologeticist, arguing from context and experience toward faith, a very literary approach. Both great minds and great witnesses for Christ.

Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

Lewis, a post-modernist? Hmmm. I see what you're getting at, really. You'll need to give me some specific examples so I can instantly refute them and we can get into a pissing contest (I can pee farther!!!).

Heh. Heh.

p.s. Scott is a dork.

Joe B said...

It has to be true. NT Wright said so, and they're both Anglicans.

I think they even ate crupets together.

Joe B said...

Lewis was a Sci-Fi writer. His trilogy is all about "The Man" trying to dehumanize the world. He exposes the "Eldils" behind the evil plots and, of all things, he resurrects the mystical figure Merlin to save the day using his God-given knack for exerting spiritual force, this time as a Christian. The people are now free to live in freedom according to their conscience. He resorts to the ancient ways to solve the ills of Modernism. This, dudes, is post-modernism at its finest. If you read The Great Divorce you'll see his thesis that the essence of evil is alienation. Hell is a monstrous suburbam sprawl where the people have all they want, but are eternally discontent because they want to move a little bit farther out so they will not have to deal with the nuisances of neighbors. Yes, he is an early postmodernist (though not as early as HG Wells and some others, including every existentialist back to Kierkegaard and Doestoevsky. Crime and Punishment 1860-ish goes straight to the throat of Modernist ideologies and proposes the remedy of faith and fellowship with God.)

scott said...

No, you guys are dorks, cuz you talk in big words about books I've never read.

Do I seriously have to brush up on my Doestoevsky and Kierkegaard to play a part in these conversations? Geez, I've barely even read any Francis Schaeffer.

Joe B said...

I never said I'd READ any of it. I just pull titles out of the air that I feel pretty sure nobody has ever read, then I act like an expert.

Did I say HG Wells? That's not who I meant.