Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Adam" Just Got Older - And So Did the Regional Variance in Modern Mankind

Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought
Human sex-determining chromosomes:
X chromosome (left) and the much smaller Y chromosome.
Geneticists Discover the Oldest Known Genetic Branch of the Human Y Chromosome
March 7, 2013 by Staff 
Geneticists at the University of Arizona have discovered an African American Y chromosome with lineage that diverged from previously known Y chromosomes about 338,000 ago, pushing back the time the last common Y chromosome ancestor lived by almost 70 percent.
UA geneticists have discovered the oldest known genetic branch of the human Y chromosome – the hereditary factor determining male sex.
The new divergent lineage, which was found in an individual who submitted his DNA to Family Tree DNA, a company specializing in DNA analysis to trace family roots, branched from the Y chromosome tree before the first appearance of anatomically modern humans in the fossil record.
“Our analysis indicates this lineage diverged from previously known Y chromosomes about 338,000 ago, a time when anatomically modern humans had not yet evolved,” said Michael Hammer, an associate professor in the University of Arizona’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology and a research scientist at the UA’s Arizona Research Labs. “This pushes back the time the last common Y chromosome ancestor lived by almost 70 percent.”
Unlike the other human chromosomes, the majority of the Y chromosome does not exchange genetic material with other chromosomes, which makes it simpler to trace ancestral relationships among contemporary lineages. If two Y chromosomes carry the same mutation, it is because they share a common paternal ancestor at some point in the past. The more mutations that differ between two Y chromosomes the farther back in time the common ancestor lived.
Originally, a DNA sample obtained from an African American living in South Carolina was submitted to the National Geographic Genographic Project. When none of the genetic markers used to assign lineages to known Y chromosome groupings were found, the DNA sample was sent to Family Tree DNA for sequencing. Fernando Mendez, a postdoctoral researcher in Hammer’s lab, led the effort to analyze the DNA sequence, which included more than 240,000 base pairs of the Y chromosome.
Hammer said “the most striking feature of this research is that a consumer genetic testing company identified a lineage that didn’t fit anywhere on the existing Y chromosome tree, even though the tree had been constructed based on perhaps a half-million individuals or more. Nobody expected to find anything like this.”
About 300,000 years ago - the time the Neanderthals are believed to have split from the ancestral human lineage. It was not until more than 100,000 years later that anatomically modern humans appear in the fossil record. They differ from the more archaic forms by a more lightly built skeleton, a smaller face tucked under a high forehead, the absence of a cranial ridge and smaller chins.
Hammer said the newly discovered Y chromosome variation is extremely rare. Through large database searches, his team eventually was able to find a similar chromosome in the Mbo, a population living in a tiny area of western Cameroon in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This was surprising because previously the most diverged branches of the Y chromosome were found in traditional hunter-gatherer populations such as Pygmies and the click-speaking KhoeSan, who are considered to be the most diverged human populations living today.”
“Instead, the sample matched the Y chromosome DNA of 11 men, who all came from a very small region of western Cameroon,” Hammer said. “And the sequences of those individuals are variable, so it’s not like they all descended from the same grandfather.”
Hammer cautions against popular concepts of “mitochondrial Eve” or “Y- hromosome Adam” that suggest all of humankind descended from exactly one pair of humans that lived at a certain point in human evolution.
“There has been too much emphasis on this in the past,” he said. “It is a misconception that the genealogy of a single genetic region reflects population divergence. Instead, our results suggest that there are pockets of genetically isolated communities that together preserve a great deal of human diversity.”
Still, Hammer said, “It is likely that other divergent lineages will be found, whether in Africa or among African-Americans in the U.S. and that some of these may further increase the age of the Y chromosome tree.”
He added: “There has been a lot of hype with people trying to trace their Y chromosome to different tribes, but this individual from South Carolina can say he did it.”
The study came about by combined efforts of a private business, Family Tree DNA, the efforts of a citizen scientist, Bonnie Schrack, and the research capabilities at the UA.
Publication: Fernando L. Mendez, et al., “An African American Paternal Lineage Adds an Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree,” The American Journal of Human Genetics, 28 February 2013; doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2013.02.002
Source: Daniel Stolte, Univeristy of Arizona News
Image: Univeristy of Arizona News 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Y-chromosomal Adam
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Y chromosome in descendants of one human male
In human genetics, Y-chromosomal Adam (Y-MRCA) is the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) from whom all living people are descended patrilineally (tracing back only along the paternal (male) lines of their family tree). Recent studies report that Y-chromosomal Adam lived as early as around 142,000 years ago.[1] Older studies estimated Y-MRCA as recent as 60,000 years ago.[2]

All living humans are also descended matrilineally from Mitochondrial Eve who is thought to have lived earlier, about 190,000–200,000 years ago. Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve need not have lived at the same time nor at the same place. A 2013 paper reported that a previously unknown lineage had been found, which pushed the estimated Y-MRCA back to 338,000 years ago.[3]


Y-chromosomal Adam is named after the biblical Adam. This may lead to a misconception that he was the only human male alive during his time, even though he co-existed with other human males,[4] including, perhaps, his own father who was not the "most recent". However, unlike himself and his paternal line, each of his male contemporaries failed to produce a direct unbroken male line to all males living today.
The existence of a Y-chromosomal Adam was determined by applying the theories of molecular evolution to the Y chromosome. Unlike the autosomes, the human Y chromosome does not recombine with the X chromosome but is transferred intact from father to son. Mutations periodically occur within the Y chromosome and these mutations are passed on to males in subsequent generations. These mutations can be used as markers to identify shared patrilineal relationships. Y chromosomes that share a specific mutation are referred to as haplogroups. Y chromosomes within a specific haplogroup share a common patrilineal ancestor who was the first to carry the defining mutation. A family tree of Y chromosomes can be constructed, with the mutations serving as branching points along lineages. Y-chromosomal Adam is positioned at the root of the family tree as the Y chromosomes of all living males are descended from his Y chromosome.
Researchers can reconstruct ancestral Y chromosome DNA sequences by reversing mutated DNA segments to their original condition. The most likely original or ancestral state of a DNA sequence is determined by comparing human DNA sequences with those of a closely related species, usually non-human primates such as chimpanzees and gorillas. By reversing known mutations in a Y-chromosome lineage, a hypothetical ancestral sequence for the MRCA, Y-chromosomal Adam, can be inferred.
Determining Y-chromosomal Adam's DNA sequence, and the time when he lived, involves identifying the human Y-chromosome lineages that are most divergent from each other—the lineages that share the least unique mutations with each other when compared to a non-human primate sequence in a phylogenetic tree. The common ancestor of the most divergent lineages is therefore the common ancestor of all lineages.
The existence of Y-chromosomal Adam was confirmed by a worldwide sample of Y chromosomes that included individuals from all continents. A number of Y-chromosome lineages, or haplogroups, from Africa were found to be the most divergent from each other, and non-African lineages were determined to be subsets of a few lineages found in Africa. This suggested Africa was the most likely home of Y-chromosomal Adam.

Different MRCA's

Variable Adam
The title "Y-chromosomal Adam" is not permanently fixed on a single individual. Because knowledge of human Y chromosomes is still incomplete, Y-chromosomal Adam's DNA sequence, his position in the family tree, the time when lived, and his place of origin, are all subject to future revisions. In addition, demographic changes during the course of human evolution would have frequently caused the title of Y-chromosomal Adam to change hands.[5] The following events would change the individual designated Y-chromosomal Adam:
  • Further sampling of Y chromosomes could uncover previously unknown divergent lineages. If this happens, Y-chromosome lineages would converge on an individual who lived further back in time.
  • The discovery of additional deep rooting mutations in known lineages could lead to a rearrangement of the family tree.
  • When deep rooting haplogroups are permanently lost from the world's population, living human Y chromosomes converge on a more recent common ancestor. A Y-chromosome lineage is halted when a male dies without leaving any male offspring (although this individual may or may not have had daughters). Phenomena such as bottlenecks and genetic drift during human evolution would have caused the total extinction of several basal haplogroups. Because of these factors, the title "Y-chromosomal Adam" has changed hands numerous times.[5]

The revised y-chromosome family tree by Cruciani et al. 2011 compared with the family tree from Karafet et al. 2008

Family tree

Y-chromosomal Adam had at least two sons and two of his sons have unbroken lineages that have survived to the present day. Initial sequencing of the human Y chromosome suggested that two most basal Y-chromosome lineages were Haplogroup A and Haplogroup BT. Haplogroup A is found at low frequencies in parts of Africa, but is common among certain hunter-gatherer groups. Haplogroup BT lineages represent the majority of African Y-chromosome lineages and virtually all non-African lineages.[6] Y-chromosomal Adam was represented as the root of these two lineages. Haplogroup A and Haplogroup BT represented the lineages of the two sons of Y-chromosomal Adam.
However, a recent paper[1] places this event around 142,000 years ago. Cruciani et al. 2011, determined that the deepest split in the Y-chromosome tree is found between two previously reported subclades of Haplogroup A, rather than between Haplogroup A and Haplogroup BT. Subclades A1b and A1a-T, now descend directly from the root of the tree and now represent the lineages of Y-chromosomal Adam's two sons. The rearrangement of the Y-chromosome family tree implies that lineages classified as Haplogroup A do not necessarily form a monophyletic clade.[7] Haplogroup A therefore refers to a collection of lineages that do not possess the markers that define Haplogroup BT, though Haplogroup A includes the most distantly related Y chromosomes.
The M91 and P97 mutations distinguish Haplogroup A from Haplogroup BT. Within Haplogroup A chromosomes, the M91 marker consists of a stretch of 8 T nucleobase units. In Haplogroup BT and chimpanzee chromosomes, this marker consists of 9 T nucleobase units. This pattern suggested that the 9T stretch of Haplogroup BT was the ancestral version and that Haplogroup A was formed by the deletion of one nucleobase. Haplogroups A1b and A1a were considered subclades of Haplogroup A as they both possessed the M91 with 8Ts.[6][7]
But according to Cruciani et al. 2011, the region surrounding the M91 marker is a mutational hotspot prone to recurrent mutations. It is therefore possible that the 8T stretch of Haplogroup A may be the ancestral state of M91 and the 9T of Haplogroup BT may be the derived state that arose by an insertion of 1T. This would explain why subclades A1b and A1a-T, the deepest branches of Haplogroup A, both possess the same version of M91 with 8Ts. Furthermore Cruciani et al. 2011 determined that the P97 marker, which is also used to identify Haplogroup A, possessed the ancestral state in Haplogroup A but the derived state in Haplogroup BT.[7]
Initial studies implicated East Africa and Southern Africa as the likely sources of human Y-chromosome diversity. This was because the basal lineages, Haplogroup A and Haplogroup B achieve their highest frequencies in these regions. But according to Cruciani et al. 2011, the most basal lineages have been detected in West, Northwest and Central Africa. In a sample of 2204 African Y-chromosomes, 8 chromosomes belonged to either haplogroup A1b or A1a. Haplogroup A1a was identified in two Moroccan Berbers, one Fulbe and one Tuareg from Niger. Haplogroup A1b was identified in three Bakola pygmies from Southern Cameroon and one Algerian Berber. Cruciani et al. 2011 suggest a Y-chromosomal Adam, living somewhere in Central-Northwest Africa, fits well with the data.[7]
In November 2012, a new study by Scozzari et al. reinforced "the hypothesis of an origin in the north-western quadrant of the African continent for the A1b haplogroup, and, together with recent findings of ancient Y-lineages in central-western Africa, provide new evidence regarding the geographical origin of human MSY diversity".[8]
Time frame
The time when Y-chromosomal Adam lived is determined by applying a molecular clock to human Y-chromosomes. In contrast to mitochondrial DNA, which has a short sequence of 16,000 base pairs, and mutates frequently, the Y chromosome is significantly longer at 60 million base pairs, and has a lower mutation rate. These features of the Y chromosome have slowed down the identification of its polymorphisms and as a consequence, reduced the accuracy of Y-chromosome mutation rate estimates.[9] Initial studies, such as Thomson et al. 2000,[9] proposed that Y-chromosomal Adam lived about 59,000 years ago. This date suggested that Y-chromosomal Adam lived tens of thousands of years after his female counterpart Mitochondrial Eve, who lived 150,000–200,000 years ago.[10] This date also meant that Y-chromosomal Adam lived at a time very close to, and possibly after, the migration from Africa which is believed to have taken place 50,000–80,000 years ago.
One explanation given for this discrepancy in the dates of Adam and Eve was that females have a better chance of reproducing than males due to the practice of polygyny. When a male individual has several wives, he has effectively prevented other males in the community from reproducing and passing on their Y chromosomes to subsequent generations. On the other hand, polygyny doesn't prevent most females in a community from passing on their mitochondrial DNA to subsequent generations. This differential reproductive success of males and females can lead to fewer male lineages relative to female lineages persisting into the future. These fewer male lineages are more sensitive to drift and would most likely coalesce on a more recent common ancestor. This would potentially explain the more recent dates associated with Y-chromosomal Adam.[11][12]
The 2011 study by Cruciani et al. found that Y-chromosomal Adam lived about 142,000 years ago, significantly earlier than previous estimates, such as the 59,000 years ago estimate proposed by Thomson et al. 2000. The older TMRCA was due to the discovery of additional mutations and the rearrangement of the backbone of the y-chromosome phylogeny following the resequencing of Haplogroup A lineages. According to the study, determining the precise date when Y-chromosomal Adam lived depends on the accuracy of the mutation rate used. But the repositioning of the MRCA from the root of Haplogroups A and BT to the root of Haplogroups A1b and A1a still entails that Y-chromosomal Adam is older than previously thought. According to Cruciani et al., the much older date is easier to reconcile with models of human origins.[7]
Current Research
A 2013 paper reported that a previously unknown very distinct Y chromosome had been found, which changed the estimated Y-MRCA to 338,000 years ago (237-581 kya with 95% confidence).[3]
The discovery emerged when a relative of Albert Perry, an African American man with ancestry in the Mbo-speaking region in Cameroon[3], submitted his DNA for commercial genealogical analysis by Family Tree DNA.[13]. Perry's Y-chromosome haplogroup was named by the researchers as the A00 haplogroup (so named as it separated from other extant lineages prior to A0's separation), and later testing in Cameroon found this haplogroup also included a small number of Mbo males, though Perry's Y-chromosome was the most genetically distinct in terms of number of mutations.[3] The age of Adam was estimated from the mutations within the Y-chromosome genome (based on known mutation rates), and was found to be in excess of the estimated age of the current Mitochondrial Eve and the oldest known fossils of anatomically modern humans.[3]

 For Further Reference

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
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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.

Allowing Biblical Narrative to Rise Above Bibliolatry

Are Christian Fundamentalists actually Polytheists?
Another form of idolatry or polytheism that has emerged in Western Christianity in reaction, in part, to Enlightenment study of the Bible, and that needs also to be eschewed, is that of bibliolatry – viewing the Bible as somehow divine. God is divine, not the Bible! Hard-core fundamentalism and literalism, born in extreme reaction to contextual study of the Bible, have so idolized the Bible as to abuse it.
Canonical criticism proposes to understand the Bible as canon not as a box of ancient jewels forever precious and valuable, but as a paradigm of the struggles of our ancestors in the faith over against the several forms of polytheism from the Bronze Age to the Roman Empire. (From Sacred Story to Sacred Text, p. 5)
Maybe not the most subtle way of putting it, but Sanders makes a good point.
I resonate with a couple of things here. First, I regularly come across a phobia in Fundamentalism concerning the historical context of Scripture. The reason is that such study presents regular challenges to Fundamentalist ideology. But, a serious study of Scripture in its historical context, however unsettling at first, will sooner or later lead to a deeper, more real place.
Second, when seen in historical context, the Bible is not a collection of proof texts, like loose earrings in a jewelry box, but a canonical narrative. The Bible, despite its historical variety, is a grand narrative compiled and composed in the wake of Israel’s grand national struggle in Babylonian exile, which recounts Israel’s religious struggles throughout its history, both as they contend with the polythiesm of the other nations and with their own struggles with their own God.
From this perspective, the Bible is not a series of verses that tell you what to do or think, but a grand story that shows you what the life of faith looks like.
To paraphrase Sanders, he is saying something like this:
Put the Bible in its place and then you will see its deep religious value. If you treat the Bible as a rulebook dropped out of heaven, you will miss the purpose for which the Bible was written in the first place.
Just something to think about in this Labor Day afternoon.
[Sanders is also the author of Canon & Community: A Guide to Canonical Criticism and Torah and Canon.]