Thursday, November 02, 2006

"My Introduction to the Emergent/Emerging Church"

I first heard about the Emergent Church [EC] in a conversation with a friend about 2 years ago. He asked me if I had ever heard of the movement, and I hadn’t.

I was curious about EC so after some “Googling” I ended up at Emergent Village . I listened to all the audio available from Tom Wright [I think], and a conference at Columbia college. The conference was hosted by Brian McLaren and Tony Jones with some guest speakers Walter Bruggeman and a few Reformed guys.

My honest reflection from the talks were that Bruggeman was an unhappy man who started with some good views on American consumerism’s effects on the church, but became a little misdirected in his focus and solutions. He went in a complete opposite direction from David Wells’ focus and solutions, based off of some similar sociological analysis [which concerns American consumerism’s effects on the church as well]. Bruggeman severely stumbled me from that talk for a long time [if you're curious about how ask me sometime:)]. Also, Jones and McLaren’s approach to the Reformed men, they invited to be panel speakers, was disrespectful. They treated them as presuppositionalists [In reality aren’t we all?]. Anyhow, the entire thing did not leave a good taste in my mouth.

I read a lot of the documents that they listed as sources as well [I don't own any books...I've just tried to read free stuff online]. The only one I found helpful was McLaren’s stuff on a good perspective in worship music [albeit not as helpful as some stuff that John Frame has written or Ligon Duncan III with the "distributive principle"].

At about this same time I was listening to talks regarding the New Perspective on Paul [NPP] by Sinclair Ferguson [my professor for Systematic Theology II], and had read articles by J. Ligon Duncan III [my professor For Systematic Theolgoy III] [Sidenote: I’m getting a copy of a talk that Derek Thomas gave at Dordt College last weekend regarding Luther and Calvin on the NPP]. NPP is propogated by Tom Wright and others.

So at the outset I wasn’t a fan of Bruggeman, or Tom Wright [I guess Wright wrote one of the best books on “justification” published by Banner of Truth and then after that he denied that he believes any of it]. [Here's an article if you're curious about Wright's views.] And a lot of stuff that EC leans toward theologically is by those guys [there are other theologians they look up to…but at the time this is who I was able to read that EC recommended].

Shortly after all of this I emailed Brian McLaren [his email at one time was listed on the site] to see if they had a mission statement because the beliefs section on Emergent Village [now values and practices were really difficult for me to understand. They were kind of vague doctrinally to me, and I really couldn’t get a clear idea of what they were talking about in the use of some of terms and phrases they were using. I never heard back [sidenote: almost a year later (5/4/06) Emergent posted this article on why they don’t have a doctrinal statement].

When I was in college I went through a period of time that I was against any form of the institution of the church. With my own eyes I wasn’t seeing the local church live the way I saw it living in the New Testament. God has softened my heart toward institutionalized Christianity [pretty much all existing local churches cell, home, etc. are institutions...just some smaller and some larger] and He is shaping my vision of what the local church should look like more and more.

Unfortunately for EC I believe that social action is only effective if it is grounded in good dogma and doctrine [you can read a lot more of what I think of some of this in a series of posts I did. I’ll link them below]. Therefore, it is fruit that bears from a tree rooted in good soil. Even a tree in poor soil bears fruit for a time, but it certainly doesn’t live as long [I guess the four soils would be a good example of this, only it is in regards to hearing the Word, not works]. I can understand peoples’ frustrations with the church, but a fuzzy view in some arenas and an abandonment of orthodox theological views in others is not the correct way to go in my opinion.

It’s interesting to me that some of the folks in EC are making decisions and such in a similar way that the mainline denominations made when “modernism” came on the scene. This split the church into fundamentalism and liberalism [generally speaking]. Then a third head popped up “evangelicalism” which had [very generally speaking] theology of the fundamentalists but was trying to engage culture (see Life of Carl F. H. Henry interview) [actually this head had a root in many years prior]. Read Evangelicalism Divided and Christianity and Liberalism you’ll see where I’m coming from with some of these comments [I’m sure there are plenty of other books]. Anyhow, there was a watering down of “evangelicalism” from the late 1950’s to 2000 in the ecumenical movement and this is what led to the disillusionment that we are faced with today [in my opinion]. Carson talks about this a little in the Being Conversant with the Emerging Church book. He, as Scot McKnight points out in his recent lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary, was not accurate on everything, but I think on the idea that Carson discusses about this movement having roots in the modern movement is spot on [harsh words allude to EC in a footnote used Carson’s book Conversant from his book The Gagging of God when he says, “…postmodernism [is the] bastard child of modernism: the genetic descent can scarcely be denied…” pp. 26 footnote 71]. I think much of postmodern epistemology is always with the best intentions... I just don't want to see EC lose the gospel like many of the churches did in what went down in the "liberalism" of the late 1800's to 1900's. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think conservative theology can be coupled with social justice. Maybe that's one of the streams of the "Emerging Churches" that Mark Driscoll talks about.

Anyhow, I'm still following this movement, and I am humbled...seeing the great depth of my sin as I have erroneously heaped judgment at times on brothers and sisters in Christ that are part of this movement [I'm just concerned. I guess it's another good intent that may have bad fruit]. I'm trying to learn how to be more like Christ too. I'm praying for you brothers...and I hope that God will continue to cling us to His inerrant Word, and to a clearer vision of His work on the cross, and His continued work through us...for the clear communication of the gospel to the lost in order that God may save as many has He desires. I'm sorry for any unloving judgment I have pointed in your direction, if you consider yourself a cohort of EC. It may be a sign of my lack of maturity...but I think these are dangerous waters and we must move forward extremely carefully.

I welcome any corrections or rebukes regarding the subjects that I might have misrepresented. To the best of my abilities this is how I have understood everything so far. Please let me know of any rebukes or corrections!

Thanks for listening [reading :)].

In Christ
[Below is the series of posts I did on the Emergent/Emerging Church Movement 5/8/06 to 5/18/06]

What is the Emerging Church Movement?
Emergent/Emerging Church
Part 1
Part 2
Part 2.1
Part 2.2
Part 2.3
Part 3
Part 3.1
Part 3.2
Part 3.3
Part 3.4
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Concerns Regarding The Emerging Church Movement.
Part 1
Part 1.1
Part 1.2
Part 1.3
Part 1.4
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 4.1
Part 4.2
I ended this series with this post Emergent/Emerging Church in order focus on Christ instead of concerns/criticisms of EC.

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