Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Emerging/Emergent -- What's the Church Coming too?

There are new voices emanating from the church -- some on the Evangelical side and some on the so-called "Mainline" side. We call this emerging or emergent, though what and who that is one can't easily defined.

Tony Jones is Coordinator of Emergent Village -- he's at least to some degree Evangelical and he talks about Emerging Church stuff. Marcus Borg also talks about emerging Christianity. The word is the same, but the meaning may not.

I just finished listening (finally) to the Emergent Conversation at the recent AAR meeting that included Tony, Diana Butler Bass and Scot McKnight. You can find the podcasts at the Emergent Village site. Here is the link for part 1. There were some fireworks -- but nothing like Obama and Clinton last night -- over the Mainline and its future. Tony doesn't have much faith in our survival, but Diana begs to differ. He's right in parts, but I think Diana has the best insights on this.

The Emergent Movement (Conversation) is an intriguing one. It's spokespersons are relatively young -- about a decade or more behind me. They're mostly young, white, male. They've emerged from Evangelicalism (like I have) but where they'll end up who knows.
Tony Jones has a new book coming out with the title The New Christians. That's an audacious title, but the question will be -- what's new about it? I've not read it, but I asked Mike Leaptrott to review it for the March issue of my journal -- Sharing the Practice . Mike has done what I've asked and posted a version of it on his blog -- Progression of Faith.
Here is an excerpt focusing on the relationship of Emergent to more Progressive theologians/biblical scholars:

I suspect that this Emergent conversation may be the first glimpse into modern mainline theology for many Evangelicals. It might be fair to suggest that these young Evangelicals are just now catching up with scholars like Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Walter Brueggemann who have been willing to tackle tough theological questions and create dialogue for a long time. There is ample evidence of that trend. His friend and fellow Emergent author Brian McLaren, credits both Brueggemann and Crossan in his latest book “Everything Must Change”. However, Tony Jones is a bit critical of these scholars. He suggests that Borg, in particular, has missed the mark by rejecting orthodox beliefs in the resurrection and interpreting the bible’s miraculous stories as symbolic parables. (p.148, p.156) I feel Tony might have been too quick to make that judgment. Mainline scholars have long been the champions of fresh theological perspectives and he might be overlooking some worthwhile advocates in the journey ahead.

It looks like an interesting book, and it's a conversation we need to have. The questions I'd like to see answered, questions raised by Diana at the AAR event, but never really answered are two:
1. What is Emergent emerging from?
2. To what is Emergent emerging?
Tony said in the podcast that once they claim to have reached the point of having "emerged" then the movement is over. That is likely true, but . . .

3 comments:

Mike L. said...

Bob,

I'm a bit confused by these movements right now. I just attended a "emerging" event with 1000 aging mainliners and I loved it. In 2 weeks I'll be attending an "Emergent" event with Brain McLaren. I spoke with Tony Jones last week about the differences and unfortunately our conversation sounded much like the spat he had with Diana Butler Bass. I felt strange being in the odd position of defending mainliners.

His criticism of rigid mainline structure and tradition is well founded. However, I'm not sure why he attacked the theology. That seems to me to be one of the things they do well.

There are problems with all sides but there is so much value to be gleaned from all these movements. I'm excited about the future of Christianity.

tony said...

Thanks for giving some attention to my book, Bob. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts once you get a chance to read it. In the book, I've been pretty explicit about what I'm emerging from (and for me, it's the mainline, not evangelicalism). What we're emerging to...? God only knows...

roy said...

abou6t a week ago C. Wess Daniels posted a good piece on typology of the emerging church at http://gatheringinlight.com/2008/01/13/the-four-models-of-emerging-churches/
it & the comments are worth a read...