The third defining characteristic among emergents is a hope-filled orientation. Emergents generally view the future with optimism, in stark contrast to the large number of American Christians who decry the present state of affairs, confident that Jesus’ imminent return hinges on disasters, wars, and evil. The hope of emergents is not an Enlightenment-influenced hope in human progress but what theologians call ‘‘eschatological hope.’’ That is, they interpret the Bible in such a way that Jesus brought good news (a.k.a. gospel), and there’s more good news to come, even on Judgment Day. In an emergent church, you’re likely to hear a phrase like ‘‘Our calling as a church is to partner with God in the work that God is already doing in the world—to cooperate in the building of God’s Kingdom.’’ Many theological assumptions lie behind this statement, not least of which is a robust faith in God’s presence and ongoing activity in the world. Further, the idea that human beings can ‘‘cooperate’’ with God is particularly galling to conservative Calvinists, who generally deny the human ability to participate with God’s work. This posture, however, is too passive for most emergents, who see the Bible as a call for us to contribute to God’s purposes.
The New Christians: Excerpt of the Week