Emergence: “”Rules, or laws, have no causal efficacy; they do not in fact “generate” anything. They serve merely to describe regularities and consistent relationships in nature. These patterns may be very illuminating and important, but the underlying causal agencies must be separately specified (though often they are not). But that aside, the game of chess illustrates precisely why any laws or rules of emergence and evolution are insufficient. Even in a chess game, you cannot use the rules to predict “history” — i.e., the course of any given game. Indeed, you cannot even reliably predict the next move in a chess game. Why? Because the “system” involves more than the rules of the game.
It also includes the players and their unfolding, moment-by-moment decisions among a very large number of available options at each choice point. The game of chess is inescapably historical, even though it is also constrained and shaped by a set of rules, not to mention the laws of physics. Moreover, and this is a key point, the game of chess is also shaped by teleonomic, cybernetic, feedback-driven influences. It is not simply a self-ordered process; it involves an organized, “purposeful” activity.” (Corning 2002)”
I’ve been a part of the Emergent movement within Christianity for a while now. I have seen it moreso as a westerner in the UK flourish an grow into an influential body of people willing to ask very hard questions. And to work together to discover relevant responses. Is there a difference though between what the Emergent Conversation (EC) offers now to what it first offered when it realized there was more to the Christian message? Has is strayed so far that it has now returned to where it was?
It seems that Emergent Christianity is beginning to morph into the very things it doesn’t stand for.
It seems there are more cliques in the Emergent movement than there are in a traditional Church body. Hipsters who stick together and hardly interact with others. Philosophers and theologians who do the same. Bloggers who only support other Emergent writers when a portion of the ethos about Emergence is it seeks out opportunities for different voices. Don’t me wrong, these things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but it is more about the idea of exclusion and inclusion. Are we excluding people still under the guise of inclusion? Grant it, there is a stark reality that we cannot get away from the fact that no matter what we do in life, exclusion is inevitable.
Making a choice is exclusive.
But it is about the heart of why we are excluding.
And if that exclusion is necessary at all.
I see a lot of rhetoric that sounds a lot like where most of us came from but dressed up. If the Emergent Conversation is different as it claims to be, than why aren’t we offering anything different? Some people speak of missions as hegemonic, colonial, and indoctrinatin (all of which I agree with) but than offer the word missional in its place. How is this different? All we have done is revamp a few words and localized the idea of missions which is still informed by the Missio Dei. Or what about the idea of Church which is where a lot of the disillusionment that inspired some of the thrust (not all) for the Emergent Conversation stemmed from. Or how the older models of doing a traditional service just don’t work anymore and yet again revamp a few things, throw in some candles and viola! It’s somehow different and innovative. Don’t get me wrong, I think some of these new additions aren’t bad, but are they really as different and radical as we are claiming? I also think there are a lot of good things coming out of the Emergent Conversation that we should look deeper into and there are some great contributors who are helping lead the way into a deeper (strong emergence) spirit of emergence. I think we need more of them.
What about our theology? Most of our theology has stayed the same but now wears Skinny Jeans and buys everything Apple. Who is Jesus? What is God? Is the Bible still important? Why was Jesus all about Social Justice? These seem to be some of the questions surfacing which seem so important, but in my opinion, are nothing but idols and distractions from a bigger question: Are we making a difference? Different than from what we claim we have moved on from. I know this may upset some foundationalists and fundamentalists, but we need to spend a lot of time wrestling with the very things we claim we believe lest we believe under the guise of belief.
If we claim to be Emergent, than what are we truly emerging from? I agree with my friend Phyllis Tickle who speaks so passionately about the process of Emergence aligning with Revolution and how it occurs every 500 years. I think that time is now. If we are different than what if we did something incredibly radical and lost all of the labels and trashed all the fads and begin digging deeper into the rummage sale, and maybe even venture outside of our own rummage sales to meet the very one’s we are meant to love. If we are participators in Emergence, it means the emerging doesn’t stop, and yes, even to the point of discomfort, revolution and self-offense.
I think the Emerging Conversation has a lot to offer, but not as is. It is slowly becoming some of the very things it has been criticizing. Somehow the old hasn’t gone just becase we’ve called it new. It seems we are trying to take the old wineskins and placing them in the new, which will eventually sour the wine. Yayin and Yeqeb are a couple words for wine in Hebrew.
One is about the effervescent spirit of wine, the bubbly contents that emerge of thin air. What if the EC is meant to be more effervescent and less defined by what is before or even what foundations it once rested upon? Another definition from these two words is the idea of being completely intoxicated and drunk. What happens when you’re drunk? You’re disoriented. Confused. Sometimes even lost. Helpless. Displaced.
To me these seem like the new wine for the new wineskins.
These seem like they should be good descriptors for what could be Emerging. We’re meant to be people who disorient and displace those we come into contact with into a place of newness. This new place is meant to sustain that confusion, why? Because faith emerges out of confusion, faith isnt something we’re told to believe, that is indoctrination under the name of belief.
The danger is that we end up right back where we started from.
If we stick with the wineskin analogy for a second, one thing that e-merges is that when the old wineskin bursts it is no longer in sight. The new wineskin is
with no traces of the old; sure, the wineskins were most likely made by one person, and so they do emerge from one place, but their foundations are only specific unto themselves. I know this aspect of excavation is scary, but if the one person that is making the wineskins is God than what are we afraid of?
There is more to the Emergent Conversation and it lies beyond what we have now. It lies beyond the trite theological arguments, the skinny jeans, the dressed up rhetoric and theologians. It is this more we must begin journeying into lest we only perpetrate the appearance of having moved without taking a step…