According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Emergent Christianity - Relevancy22: Becoming an Emerging, or an Emergent, Christian


Dear friends,
Lord of the Harvest

On the last day of the year 2011 I would like to express gratitude for your support and a continuing prayer that Jesus be lifted up in our lives. This blog site is a story not only of mine own journey, but the journeys of so many others, seeking to lift Jesus up in their lives in as many ways as is humanly possible. May God bless you in your service and ministry as we proclaim the name of Jesus to all nations.

First, let me say that I am thankful for the wide spectrum of Christian fellowship that has been discovered in this journey. I have found many Christians who are as disquieted with the directions that modern day Christianity has strayed as I am. Who understand that postmodernism has brought with it a differing set of concerns, issues and topics that must be addressed. That by ignoring those concerns we do a disservice to the church at large and to our local fellowships specifically.

Secondly, in addressing a wide variety of Christian topics through this web blog I have found that God has been addressing as wide a spectrum of humanity as we could imagine in all its many lives and involvements. From scientists to liturgists. From philosophers to theologians. From humanitarians to Gospelers. From work-a-day worlds to high-level disciplines. From sports writers and columnists to poets and novelists. From disconnected communities of faith to global societies seeking greater positive communication with each other. God is providing a lens to Himself for all of humanity to see. That is being expressed in-and-through the many activities of man. And it has been exciting to behold the Spirit of God at work on so large a cosmic scale.

A Personal Story

For myself, my experience with Emergent Christianity took a long time to warm up to. About ten years altogether. At first I considered it a rouge Christian sect. Then a Gnostic sect dressed up in the postmodernism of Christian garments (for those new to this blog postmodernism wasn't the problem... gnosticism was). At times it felt overtly political and biased. Or as a new form of retrograde OT worship with its emphasis on Jewish customs, dress, calendar dates and diets. Or simply a revitalized Protestant liturgy providing a visual warmness to the stark barrenness of evangelic worship. But when any of these events occurred and ran their course God would do an amazing thing. He would always bring the discussion back to Jesus. Why? Because the people around me had their heart set on God. They were sincere. And wished to sincerely follow God wherever He would lead. And in their sincerity they veered off course from time to time. But God blessed them and moved them back into the truer Gospel of Jesus. One that could be discerned, and debated, and reasoned. They were learning to disengage and refocus back to the core of their beliefs. It was messy. It was not perfect. We had side discussions that tried to become core discussions. But eventually became seen for what they were. God was blessing this congregation of sincere followers and it was evident.

So then, Emergent Christianity's birth for me was by those who spoke it unclearly. Who were searching for this new postmodern day movement's core message. Its themes. Its character and distinctions. Who saw the parts but not the whole. Who had a limited grasp of interconnecting doctrinal subjects. Who viscerally reacted against a brand of Christianity they did not want but would only later learn to speak more fully. And in more positive terms to the brotherhood at large. In less scandalising terms of provocation. Who belatedly would emphasize community, growth, unity, wisdom and discernment. They were learning to be confident in God's love and peace rather than continuing to harshly judge the same folks who were harshly judging them. It took maturity to do this. It began with repentance. And a newer patience with people who reacted to the stings of Emergent Christianity's very different themes from their own evangelical or progressive themes. And mostly a patient trust in God's leading.

For this movement was as new to this congregation of emergents as it was for myself when it was first introduced. What we were witnessing was the birth of an unknown thing called Emergent Christianity. It was unformed and immature. It was in its stages of infancy. No one really had a clear idea of what it was. Just what it wasn't. Or didn't want to be. As an example of its many changeling forms let me speak to one of its earlier ideas....

As introduction, usually when observing something new its meaning for the Christian believer brings about a certain amount of wariness and concern, as we think critically about the teachings of a heretofore unemphasized, or unknown, perhaps popular, insight or teaching. There is at first a personal/public resistance that occurs. Along with some historic provisioning of support for - or against - the present Christian tradition or popular understanding of the Christian faith. Too, its newness might simply be a counterfeit truth arising from its proponents in an unbiblical direction. A direction that takes the focus off Jesus and puts it onto some other aspect of worship or intermix of religious dogma with pagan beliefs. Rather than being a positive, directional change in attitude, foundation or theme of Christian doctrine, it could also be a negative, misdirectional change that had lain dormant within, or beside, Christianity until now. For 2000 years Christians have reacted to cultural and historic events by adapting their faith to these type of events. To changes that may later become cultural tradition that would last century after century. Or that may last no longer than the lifetime of its proponents.

Because of Emergent Christianity's relative newnessmistaughtmore personal, inside knowledge of God. His truths. And His teachings. And in the case of this fledgling movement that I found myself unsuspectingly in the middle of, I beheld a form of early Christian Gnosticism that claimed a freshness of insight that would revitalize personal worship. "All well and good!" I thought, until seeing that its adherents were claiming a level of secrecy or mystery about themselves (and of Jesus himself!) that the rest of us more common followers of Christ seemed unable to obtain for whatever reason. Apparently we weren't privy to a certain knowledge; or did not act in a certain way; or believed certain things. Largely it was an excluding form of faith and worship warmly performed by various mystical followers believing they had the inside track to God. It was a gnostic form of what these untrained laymen were claiming to be "Emergent Christianity." It threw me off at first and made me very wary of "Emergent Christianity." But later I was to discover that it was the teachers, not Emergent Christianity itself, that had gotten it wrong. In their fervency to discover God's mysteries and wonders these brethren had added a gnosis of understanding to the Gospel which the Gospel did not need nor require.

And so I waited. Patiently. Praying for God's leadership and discernment. Seeking illumination from the Holy Spirit to guide me in my thoughts and heart. Participating where possible. Listening. And interacting. Attempting to discern the many nuances that were being presented to me by a wide variety of people. It took time. Lots of it. About ten years before I could make a reasonable decision on how to interact with the material that I was being given and digesting.

The Start of a New Story

But at the last I finally decided on what the Emergent message was (or at least should be). And decided to become a self-proclaimed spokesperson for this movement to friends, family and any who would listen. I came to this decision in the spring of 2011 when listening to hasty Evangelical messages of judgment and condemnation made upon Rob Bell's book, Love Wins. God's love didn't seem to be winning at all, I thought. It was only serving to create hard-and-fast boundaries between Christian brothers and sisters. I was ashamed. And embarrassed for my faith. How could a book on God's Love so divide so many assemblies of believers as to shout out harsh sentiments that caused so many to scratch their head and wonder why?

And it was from those self-same speeches, sentiments and articles that a whole new world opened up to me of  mankind. I now better understood the Emergent Christian message. And better knew where I should go with it. The heated Christian rhetoric and dissension was moving me from a place of neutrality towards a discriminatory position that would actively seek to re-construct my historical faith in postmodernistic terms. It was a good place to be. It seemed like the first place where we had once begun with God at rebirth when all things were new and possible. I liked that place. And having turned to follow the Lord into this direction am glad that I have.

Now whether Emergent Christianity is a true movement or not, or just an attitude implanting itself into the various vicissitudes of the Christian culture I don’t know. At present, I take it as a general church movement. One that is without boundaries and owned by no denomination or movement. It is a movement unto its own that is widely supported by both local and global Christian writers, theologs, pastors, and fellowships, as each explores its meaning for the revitalization of their Christian faith.

Overall, I take the position that however God wishes to use it, it’s ok with me. It’s His to use or not use. We are but God's vessels that He uses to carry streams of living water to humanity. Its basic message is Jesus. Who He is and what He would look like if He were with us today. His message and ministry is given to His followers to proclaim. It is our task, then, to resemble Jesus. To speak God's love and grace. To disciple. To mentor as many as we are given in Christ Jesus.

Moreover, it is mine own journal of discovery birthed this past spring from the confusion and affliction of words I was hearing by evangelical Christians not understanding emergent Christian concerns. Nor making any attempt to understand it. They had deemed it a threat to their traditional faith as they made it out to be. And sought to protect its religious dogmas by pulpit, by word, by printing press, news article, and digital blog. I knew then what had to be said. And it needed to be said well.

The Postmodern Themes of Emergent Christianity

In my attempt to create an Emergent Christian web blog I have had the following criteria and goals:

First and foremost it must somehow capture in writing Emergent Christianity's structure, thought processes, and arguments. As much as possible this web blog has attempted to do just that by journalizing as many emergent articles and subjects as possible for future referential material.

Secondly, this blog will attempt to be open to new emergent discoveries. Especially when pertaining to postmodern discoveries. To be open to self-examination while reviewing past church traditions and historical interpretations of Scripture. To allow irenic debate and discussion. And examining all models of church, doctrine, worship, and ministry against the newer postmodern models as they arise.

It will not argue for one way or another. One style or another. But remain upon to a multitude of ways as can be adapted by followers of Jesus. Consequently there is no wrong way of apprehending Jesus to humanity. It is as wide as we are imaginative. There are no restrictions so long as God's love and grace are received and dispatched.

But it will also argue its idea of Emergent Christianity against other more conservative, or more radical, ideas of Emergent Christianity. Overall, it will seek to be faithful to Scripture without abandoning Scripture's relevancy or authority for the Church today. But it will not pretend to cling to church dogmas and traditions should those efforts not reflect the same singularity of purpose. It will be critical (in a positive sense) of those interfering humanistic structures as they are found and discovered.

Too, this blog was developed as “An Emergent Christian web journal for contemporary doctrinal expression and theology with web links to authors, speakers, institutions, and organizations.”

As such, the lowest common denominator I will use when writing is the expression of God's love demonstrably seen in service of people to one another. Who exampled Christ in their lives and considerations regardless of their faith distinctions.

It should also be partly academic, partly devotional. Academic to re-teach Christians their living faith. Devotional to keep us humble before God.

In it I intend to communicate what I know while exploring things I don’t know. It’s my own spiritual journal that I wish to share with both followers of Jesus and with those who don't know Jesus.

But it is also a reference site. As such, when I blog on a subject I may go back and re-edit it until I feel I have it right as I think about it in later hindsight as an evolving discussion. Or as a series of discussions.

And because it is a reference site I will try to compact large topics into a single blog space. This may make for longer blogs - though I try to keep these within reason. For most readers anything beyond a couple of paragraphs will be too long. But there are better blog sites for this type of reader that I have listed as helps for daily input (see the Blogger Link List along the sidebar).

At times newer sidebars will be created to re-filter past topics with newly discovered topics that I've found in order to help streamline research efforts.

Jack awakening in the first and last
moments of LOST
Within the blog itself I try to provide direction. Not answers. And if answers, then baseline discussions that instill further exploration and discoveries. If you’re a LOSTIE (used of followers of the TV show LOST) you’ll know what I mean. The Christian faith seems to raise more questions than it provides answers. God is that large. And so is humanity.... But I firmly believe that the answers must come through us. We just need better questions.

Sometimes I must un-teach what Christians think they know. At other times I must better teach what we all assume that we think we know.

I use mine own words along with the words of others. Mostly, they are from emergent speakers and writers, theologs and preachers, as I can find them. They will be posted either without comment or with comment. But always with a correspondent link to the site or blog being reviewed. This is the journal side of this blog.

Generally I try to speak lucidly about the distinctions of the Emergent Christian faith with other faiths to the right or left of Emergent Christianity.

Because it is an emergent Christian journal of exploration it asks modernistic Christianity to lay down its own modernisms and to recover Christianity through postmodernistic discovery. This affects both language and the linguistic mechanisms behind that language to better help widen the scope of our conception of God. Of His Gospel. Of our place in this world. Consequently it may feel unfamiliar. Different. Odd.

It intends to be radical. To be provocative. To unsettle readers. To broaden the basis of contemporary discussion in a fast-paced world networking with dissimilar faiths and beliefs. I make no apology for this.

It requires deconstructing the Christian faith as much as reconstructing the faith (most think emergent Christianity is simply the first idea!). My gifts lie in the latter. Others the former. I try to include both.

Working towards a Christianity that works

It is asking for another way. One that untangles itself from the verbiage of Catholic and Protestant statements built-up over 2000 years of church ideologies. It is meant for recovering Calvinists and for Latinists both! It is meant as a help. A guide. A new line of thinking beyond our parochial understandings given to us by our parents. Our teachers. Or the hard lessons we have received from life's over-eager and broken hands.

The Global Themes of Emergent Christianity

It is a blog whose task must be global. That is missional to all religions and faiths of the world by declaring Jesus to all nations. To the philosophies of man. To his private theologies. And to his myopic belief structures.

It is one that tries to see beyond Western Civilization’s judgments upon the Gospel. To de-Westernize it. To de-Americanize it as much as is possible. But with an attitude of thanksgiving to the hosts of legacies given to this same task over the many centuries behind us. From these legacies we can and must improve!

To uncover and declare cultural and national missional outreaches through global perspectives, ministries, and writings, as they are performed and enacted.

To globalize doctrines that were not meant for exclusive cultural consumption. It is the right of the Gospel to do this. Emergent Christianity wishes to recognize that right and not limit the Gospel by our cultural, or personal, biases.

As such, Christianity needs to find ways to talk to Muslims, Hindus, and Oriental cultures. Jesus came to all humanity. Not simply our own American, Westernized, Christianized societies. He is not our own. Jesus belongs to all men everywhere. It must be so.

Offering streams of living water
to all nations
Globalizing the understanding of the Gospel by Emergent Christianity is a very necessary task. It is integral with the uplifting of Christianity in general. Evangelicalism has done a lot in this regard. But it has also delimited the Gospel by its own regional and popular dogmas. Emergent Christianity wishes to build upon these efforts and proclaim Jesus to the Nations beyond popular folklores and sentiments.

Emergent Christianity must allow for global input. And for global assimilation. But this does not mean that Christianity gives up its fundamentals of the faith when assimilating Christ to the Nations. It simply means that we do a better job of expanding the Gospel of Christ to the Nations. Of unhooking it from its many local, regional, and societal preferences and religiosities.

Some Concluding Thoughts

Additionally, this web blog is focused on contemporary theology. My academic background is in biblical theology but my concern is speaking the bible’s passages into contemporary thought and actions.

There are other blogs which can provide more extensive biblical dissertations than this one. But if a strict biblical section were to be added it would occur as a whole other sidebar that would run parallel to the one that is already present. And it would be labeled as "biblical theology” providing word and contextual studies; more focused biblical narrative/story development; and tying all these subject matters into the larger meta-narratives of the bible.

Consequently, other websites can provide biblical passage denouement and explanation. Mine is to take those sites’ discoveries and relate them back into the real world. As contemporary theologies. With an emergent focus.

The ancient Greek Titan Atlas
holding up the heavens before
St. Patricks Cathedral, NYC
This blog seeks to lend direction to the Emergent Christian faith. To provide a sense of continuity from modernistic Christianity to postmodernistic Christianity. To give followers of Christ a more relevant faith in sync with the world at large without losing its “saltiness.”

It is wholistic. Intending to meld together the many separate discoveries of the Christian faith into one Theistic whole of ideologies and practicums.

It is imperfect. It is subjective. It is specific in its interests and focus. It is limited in its subject matter. It is limited by myself. And in my understanding. And by my spiritual gifts. And by my makeup as a person with specific interests, perspectives, and desires.

Because of these imperfections I have conjoined my thoughts and insights with other emergent blogger's thoughts and insights in hopes of providing a fuller space of ministry to a wider-range of audience and issues than I alone can hope to provide.

It also proves that there is a community of writers, thinkers, doers, and activists, who are likewise investigating these similar Emergent truths and themes with myself. That it is not a solo effort by an elite, mostly ignored,  movement of people charged with the oblique tasks of re-righting Christianity's ponderous oversights and neglects. But one showing a community of effort from many differing realms and avocation's. And hopefully one providing a wisdom of unity and accountability as it is being worked out. Studied. And put into action.

It is therefore my hope that in the telling of this new story of Christianity - an Emerging story - that some of its qualities and uniqueness may be better understood. Thank you for your support in these efforts and your willingness to consider new territory. And through it all may Jesus Christ be proclaimed as Lord and Saviour to all men everywhere. May God's peace and blessings follow you through the remainder of your days.

R.E. Slater
December 31,1 2011

http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/

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For further follow up please go to this next article that identifies everything that we have been talking about here. (It's short, by the way!) - Emerging Church, Version 2.0