Emerging Church realization

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I’m reading through a book on the Emerging Church.

It’s not that I’m trying to explore some new reality. I instinctively, and unreflectively, fit within the values of this movement. Curiously, I’m realizing how my own training and experiences over the last fifteen years has placed me thoroughly within this context even without ever being part of a single emerging church community. Rather, having found myself instinctively fitting in with this movement I’m curious about the more established conversation these days and how I agree or disagree with the present dialogue.

If there’s a cause I might develop this curious training in a future post. The point of this present post is more of a historical realization.

Ray Anderson, in a comment on Ryan Bolger’s blog, notes some concern with the seeming de-emphasis on crucial aspects of theology. His thoughts should be noted and considered by any in this movement in order to quickly work through the important issues raised.

However, the difficulty with coming up with an emerging church theology is that this is not a movement primarily directed by theologians. Indeed, unlike just about any movement of most of Church history it is not driven by those with significant academic theological background or interest, though it does appropriate the thought of a number of very fine scholars, including latter day spiritual writers such as Dallas Willard and Brian McLaren.

It is a liturgically directed movement which begins where most theologies end, with a focus on ecclesiology. Rather than starting with foundations and moving into community activities which reflect these considerations, it begins with community activities which must then be assessed as to what they are saying about the other topics.

And what they are saying is profound, and indeed when developed should in fact point to a very thorough appropriation of the Holy Spirit, much more so than any church presently existent.

In this way the EC movement is a lot more akin to the Pentecostal movement, which had a very distinct theology, but has taken quite a while getting to describing it.

In my developing estimation the Emerging Church is distinctively non-Augustinian and thus seems to de-emphasize the usual categories of traditional Church theology. It doesn’t in essence but in emphasizing other aspects and our present responsibilities it drifts into a working semi-Pelagianism that seems to blend the thought of John Wesley and George Fox into a contemporary mix.

That’s why those who are entrenched in an older model of Church and very committed to more standard Christian theologies have trouble with the theological developments in the Emerging Church. Entirely different questions are being asked and answered, thus leading both sides to accuse the other of notable deficiency.

These aren’t necessarily new questions or answers, but are certainly found in the more obscure trails of Christian thought, making them seem quite new. What is new is the work of the Holy Spirit, who is always about something new and exciting, and worth watching.

Like I’ve said before, this ranks as among the most exciting times in the life of the Christian Church.

3 Responses to “Emerging Church realization”

  1. Becki Says:

    Patrick, There is an interesting book called The Shaping of Things to Come. It addresses some of the things mentioned in your blog as well as what the church of the 21st century could look like. It is very exciting to read and think about!

  2. punch drunk Says:

    I agree that this ranks as among the most exciting times.
    So many anticipated the Enlightenment being the end of Christianity. Those many couldn’t imagine thought in any other vein- ha ha, suckers. If people are recommending reads: Schleiermacher anticipates all this in a very astute and often biting way. His speeches on religion is a good collection (On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers).
    You know what else you might dig? Discovering an Evangelical Heritage by Donald Dayton. He was a professor of mine who has spent part of his career uncovering the stream of Christianity that didn’t connect with the Augustinian/Constantinian sewer. It’s a pretty deep stream, and as you might suspect, the fish in this stream are of a pretty spirited school.

  3. Patrick Says:

    Thank you both for the book recommendations! Now, I’ve a few more to add to my wish list. Becki, the book you noted is one I haven’t heard of and yet seems exactly within the context of my renewed interest in the “conversation”. I am very happy to find those who are purposefully trying to comprehend the theology at the roots of this “new” movement.

    Punch, I’ve so far navigated my way without reading too much Schleiermacher, but alas, I think I’ve been pulled in. Too many people who I like make note of him. I’ll get that one, but my fundamentalist genes will likely give me a stomach ache or a migraine or something for it.

    And the latter book seems within interests long standing, so I’ll have to pick that one up too, while recommending Mark Noll’s The Rise of Evangelicalism as another excellent look at the generally forgotten roots of our national religious attitudes.

    I have to be careful in all of my ponderings, however, as I find I describe the movement in the terms of my own theological maturing. Because it is a deep stream and I’ve been swimming down it for a number of years now, discovering whole new worlds which are oddly entirely in keeping with Christian thought, yet are presently entirely unknown or rejected by many contemporary Church thinkers.

    Of course, it’s a very sad time to be one of Augustinian persuasion, or otherwise be committed to the demands of Modern Christianity. An era is ending, and a new one beginning, with many theological battles soon to be waged.