According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, 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
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Morphing of the Emergent Church

I wandered unto the templed mountains of Thy holy hills and there found My Redeemer...

In light of the Emergence Christianity 2013 conference that met in Memphis, Tennessee, this past January, a few evangelicals have proclaimed Emergent Christianity dead and its birthright to a second Protestant Reformation not to have happened. Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt were its hosts, providing a short Q&A on the eve of the event. And later this fall, the AAR is hosting an Open and Relational Theology conference around the theme of Emergent Christianity. To which Homebrewed Christianity is likewise calling for papers from all walks of life to this same conference. Add to this John Caputo's conference in April in Springfield, Missouri, re postmodernism and the church and it seems that Emergent Christianity is doing quite nicely with its lower profile. Mostly because I suspect that many Emergent Christians have been quietly absorbing what Jesus' message and mission must mean to them, their church, and community.
Around West Michigan, Cornerstone University is hosting a conference on creation and Scripture, which doesn't mean that they have changed their position on 7-Day Creationism so much as they have felt the necessity to revisit the issue of what evolution and science means to the church theology today. And though Rob Bell has left Mars Hill Church for a breather from the evangelical flames of diatribe and rhetoric, Mars Hill itself is still progressing along the courses set for it a decade earlier - living out a Jesus faith, serving others, and ministering to the poor and needy.
After two decades of emergent passion and output one would expect a movement to pause, regather itself, and probe through the many directions and meanings of its past self, images and identity. And it is this sort of pause that is allowing non-emergent believers and churches to catch up and begin absorbing what the emergent movement has been focusing on these past many years. So that, rather than remaining as a loose movement of emergent affiliates, emergent Christianity is morphing into a generalized emergent attitude of contemporary Christian thought and action. And given the choice between being a nationally recognized (or global) movement - or that of living out a Jesus faith - I believe we would all hope for the latter course as an investment of minds, bodies, energy and prayer.
Consequently, the article I've included today, though written by a Dallas Seminary group of editorialists (Dallas, TX) believing the Emergent Christian movement is dead and gone, has quite thoughtfully pointed out to us the many helps, twists, and turns, that Emergent Christianity has brought to Evangelical Christianity from all walks of life. And rather than brushing it off as another "I told you so" mindset, am actually believing it to have helpfully shown Emergent Christianity's significant spiritual impact and legacy to date.

For many Christians, Evangelicalism is the religion that is dead, not their faith in Jesus, nor their belief that the contemporary church must be more affective in its outreach, ministries, and witness. And I suspect that Satan and his leagues are now having a harder time than ever before in extinguishing the Jesus flames of repentance and commitment when compared to the state of the Christian church at the end of late Modernism (1980s - 1990s). Under the mighty hand of God, and by His Holy Spirit, the secular modern church has been scattered. And we should not despair of holding to a past movement and tradition that must die and be put away. Including yesteryear's denominationalism. For it is to the mind of Christ, and to the attitude of unity and fellowship, that the postmodern church of today must join itself to. Not to a felicity of program, media supremacy, and ideological might and muscle.

We are servants of Christ, and the reformation presented by another kind of Christianity - that of Emergent Christianity - has been used mightily of God to remove the hardness of hearts, and delusion of religious faith for that of a truer Jesus faith. I have nothing but thanks to express towards all past emergent Christians who have prayed and laboured for the Son of Man raised to the right hand of our Creator Redeemer. These faithful have been the brave, martyred, believers willing to question Christian tradition and ideology against that of a nonliving, unconfessing faith. Now let us build upon this foundation laid by building wisely, humbly, in grace and fellowship, regardless of name or labels to come, that we be one in the body of Christ, in His Spirit, and by His Word.
R.E. Slater
March 7, 2013
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What Happened to the Emerging Church?
by Michael Patton
January 14, 2013

What happened to the emerging church? I don’t know.
For many years, it was the talk of the town. From its advocates to its antagonists, the emerging church gave everyone fodder for conversation. Bloggers knew every day what they were going to blog about. Revolutionists always had a distinguished place in the world. Revisionists had many friends who would take up the same rifle and shotgun. Deconstructionalists all held their distinguished hammers. If you were an emerger, you were not alone.
However, today things have changed. No one blogs about it. No one claims the name anymore. No publisher would dare accept a book about the emerging “thing” that happened in the forgotten past. Why? because around the year 2009, the identity of the emerging church went silent and many (some enthusiastically) put a gravestone over its assigned plot. In fact, I even paid my respects.
What happened to the emerging church? Which emerging Church?
Defining the “emerging church” is as difficult today as it was in the bygone days. No one ever agreed. It touched so many issues: ecclesiology, soteriology, epistemology, anthropology, and sociology. You could ”emerge” with any or all of these issues. In general, the emerging church represented a disenchantment with the traditional methodology and beliefs, primarily within the Evangelical church. It was an ununified movement of deconstructing. Many deconstructed theology. Some deconstructed liturgy. Others deconstructed truth altogether. The key unifying factor was that people were disillusioned with the folk religion they had been given, and were willing to stand up as reformers in whichever area housed their ensuing bitterness. But there was not much unity with regard to their beliefs. They just did things differently. They believed differently than their parents.
What happened to the emerging church? Who was involved in this?
The “movement” claimed advocates as diverse as Mark Driscoll, Scot Mcknight, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and Dan Kimball. For many of these, it was their only claim to “fame.” Now that it has died out, many of us cannot even spell their names. Some were reassumed back into their parental fold of Evangelicalism, others continue their crusades without much fanfare or publicity.
What happened to the emerging church? Emerging what?
Well, maybe I do have a good guess. The emerging church never unified and, therefore, was never a movement at all. It was doomed from the beginning. Those who were percieved as leaders rarely agreed with each other. Some just wanted to change the way the Lord’s Supper was handled; others wanted to redefine the atonement of Christ. Some simply wanted to identify with the culture and get a tattoo here and there; others wanted to get rid of Hell. Some wanted to distance the church’s identity from politics; others wanted to change the church’s stand on issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Some wanted to have incense burning in their church building; others wanted to get rid of the church building altogether.
In 2006, people began to distinguish between the “emerging church” and the “emergent church.” Internally, I think many thought this would save the emerging church from being identified with its more radical and liberal representatives who were teaching doctrines that fell outside of the historic Christian faith. These more radical representatives, such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, were called “emergent.” The more orthodox brand was labeled “emerging.” However, this rebranding did not help. Eventually, everyone disassociated with the name altogether (at least as far as I know).
What happened to the emerging church? No landing gear.
I suppose one could say the plane never landed. The emerging church asked Christians to re-think their faith. They asked us to deconstruct our beliefs. They asked us to doubt everything. They asked us to take a ride in the emerging plane and fly for a bit. This was to gain some perspective and let us know that we Evangelicals are not the only ones out there. They asked us to look at Christianity with new eyes. Many of us jumped on this plane with great excitement. Many of us were already on a plane very similar to this. We all wanted to gain some perspective. However, the emerging plane never landed. It soon became clear that there was no destination. There was no runway on which to land and the emerging plane did not even have landing gear. The deconstruction happened with no plans of reconstructing. The emerging journey became an endless flight that did not have any intention on setting down anywhere. Many people jumped out, skydiving back home. The rest, I suppose, remained on the plane until it ran out of gas.
What happened to the emerging church? It is still around.
There will always be reformers needed in the church. In fact, the Great Reformers said that the church is reformed and “always reforming” (semper reformanda). Every one of us must go through a deconstructing process, questioning our most basic beliefs. This can do nothing but make us more real to a world who believes we are fakes. Therefore, in some sense, many in the emerging church were reformers who served the church well. Others were part of a more radical reformation and suffered from their complete detachment from the historic Christian faith.
But certian aspects of the ethos of the emerging church should be within all of us. We should never be satisfied with the status quo. We should always be asking questions and bringing to account our most fundamental beliefs. We need to identify with the culture at the same time as we hold on to the past. I believe Robert Webber, though never really called an emerger, was a great example of our continued need to reform. His Ancient-Future Faith was a great example of how we can hold on to, respect, learn from, and identify with our past, yet push forward into an exciting future.
The name “emerging” became tainted by the radical reformers associated with the movement. But the “best-of” the emerging church lives on. Indeed, the ethos of the emerging church never dies, as the church is reformed and always reforming.

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