The Future of Christianity

A lot of what I get to do is spend time thinking and writing about the future of Christianity — my preferred future, at least. And getting together with people who are interested in the same trajectories of Christianity is a big part of my life, too. Honestly, it’s the whole reason that Doug and I started The JoPa Group and produce events like Emergence Christianity: A National Gathering with Phyllis Tickle and Friends.

What I do with my part-time job at sparkhouse is distinct, but related. This fall, sparkhouse released Animate.Faith, a video-based congregational resource that opens conversations about some of the most intriguing and essential ideas of Christianity:

God | Faith Is a Quest
Brian McLaren

Religion | Spirituality is not Enough
Lillian Daniel

Jesus | The Revolution of Love
Mark Scandrette

Salvation | Abundant Life Now
Shane Hipps

Cross | Where God Is
Nadia Bolz-Weber

Bible | A Book Like No Other
Lauren Winner

Church | An Imperfect Family
Bruce Reyes-Chow

This week, we met with the talented group who will be developing the next course for us, Animate.Bible:

They are Nadia Bolz-Weber, Will Willimon, José Morales, Jay Bakker, Rachel Held-Evans, Phyllis Tickle, and Eric Elnes.

I can’t yet say what each of their topics is going to be because we just met and read through their video scripts in front of the group, but I can say that as a collective, they are articulating a vision for the Bible that is both nuanced and faithful. This is not a group of Ehrmanesque historians deconstructing the sacred text, but neither are they fideists who unquestioningly embrace every jot and tittle. Instead, they hew a middle ground that is at once challenging yet edifying.

Are these friends, and the friends who are attending Emergence Christianity, the future of Christianity? Is that too grand a claim? Possibly. But I know that if there’s going to be a future of Christianity that I’m a part of, these will be some of the most prominent voices.

 

  • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

    I don’t tend to agree with Tim Keller very often anymore, but one of his biggest critiques of “emergent” has been a lack of institutionalization. I, personally, think that emergent/progressive Christianity (whatever label works right now) would actually lose some of what makes it so attractive to me if it became more institutionalized. But, for it to become “mainstream,” I wonder how necessary that is. I would love to see the day when you’re more likely to hear Brian McLaren speaking for Christianity as a whole than Al Mohler or Pat Robertson, but I’m not sure that day will ever come.

    But, maybe…that kind of grand vision is the kind of hope that Nietzsche described as “the worst of all evils.”

    • http://winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

      Pat Robertson speaks for Christianity as a whole? News to me. I think there are a lot of people sitting in the pews mouthing the words of the Nicean Creed and wondering when they will ever update it. Of course, all they need to know is that they (the people in the pews) are them (the ones who can change it). The people in this picture know who they are and there is nothing grand about claiming that you are who you are. I encourage everyone to take the “Night Journey” that Mohammad took and claim their place among the great prophets of the ages. As long as you understand that it makes you a humble servant and not a grand inquistor, then you qualify for the title.

      • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

        I simply mean that the loudest voices in our country, those from whom our most popular means of communication get their information, are men like Al Mohler, Pat Robertson, John Macarthur, etc. NPR is much more likely to talk to Mohler than, say, Jay Bakker – unless it’s doing a story on some strange divergence from the mainstream.

      • Carolyn

        Why would ANYONE want to change the Nicene Creed. Who would even want to?!?! My God this is a travesty!

        • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

          Because it asks you to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that he descended into hell before going up to heaven. From Monday to Saturday, there are a lot of people that don’t see the world as having those three tiers.

          • Steve

            then don’t recite the creed

          • http://divinesalve.blogspot.com David Miller

            There are other ways to affirm the Creed than in mythic-literal terms. I love to say the Creed with the gathered faithful, but I don’t think it literally captures the faith any more than any other concretization could. But it does point to the sacred reality that is at the heart of Christianity. In some way it participates in that sacred reality, as well, and allows me to participate in it. Change it? No. But supplement it with other ways of expressing the faith of Christians.

  • Kevin

    So cool. When I look at the photo of those people, I imagine them as people equipped to help save people from a burning building or a sinking ship. They are wearing rescue gear, throwing lifelines, urging people forward. I know you, RHE, and JB have been lifelines for me. A lot of true hope represented in that photo. Thx for sharing!

  • brandi

    As a youth pastor at a progressive “emergent” church, this is so exciting. It is such a challenge for me and our children’s pastor to find curriculum and resources we don’t have to completely overhaul in order to use with our kids, and sometimes writing your own is just too daunting a task. (I am in the middle of adapting RHE’s Biblical Womanhood book for our senior high girls small groups.) I love that people are out there creating resources that people like us can put to use to help students frame their spirituality.

    • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

      I agree with this so much as a parent and as a sometimes Sunday School teacher.

  • Frank

    The future of Christianity will be much like the past. Some will believe and others will create their own religion and philosophies and call it Christianity. Not even the most popular apostates can kill Christianity.

    Look to the rest rest of the world to see the real Christian Church. American Christianity has become a joke.

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis
      • Frank

        That’s one of the easier ones to recognize but for some others you can look at the photo above.

        In contrast ask the Chinese, African and Middle Eastern Christians what they believe and you will see a more true Christianity.

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          You said “look to the rest of the world.” That group is in Australia.

          • Frank

            There are crazy people all over the world. I am not talking about the crazies. Its perfectly clear they don’t know what they are talking about. They are not dangerous. The dangerous ones are those that keep what they like and dismiss what they don’t. Those that redefine things and create their own version of Jesus that fits in with their own worldview.

            Ask the Chinese, African and Middle Eastern Christians what they believe and you will see a more true Christianity.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            Wait, did you say we should ask the Chinese, African and Middle Eastern Christians what they believe and you will see a more true Christianity? Oh, yeah, you did.

          • Frank

            Exactly!

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            I wasn’t sure if you meant that, since you repeated it verbatim.

        • http://jpserrano.com Jeremy

          Frank, your kidding right? Heterodox versions of Christianity exist outside of the U.S. as prevalent as within the U.S. They are everywhere!

    • Carolyn

      Amen…this is sick.

  • Jeremy K

    Aww yeah! Bring on the Animate.Bible. We had such a good time with .Faith, frankly we can hardly wait for the next instalment. Such a great series. What a great cast you’ve assembled btw.

  • Erica Billings

    Out of the 15 persons mentioned in this post (including Doug and Tony), it looks like “The Future of Christianity” and the “prominent voices” therein, will be mostly white and mostly male. Hmmm…is that really the future of Christianity?? I hope not. Sounds more like the past to me.

    Regarding gender, 10 out of the 15 mentioned are men. Got me thinking about Sister Joan Chittister’s recent address “American Women and the Women of the World: No Woman Left Behind.” http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/23/mpr_news_presents/

    • Frank

      One way we can be sure that Jesus is not working in a movement is when there is no diversity. EC fits it to a tee. Almost all white and almost all male.

      • Scot Miller

        Frank’s right on this one. Just think of all the diversity in traditional Christianity, what with all its female and LBGT pastors, deacons, elders, bishops, and popes….

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          Ha!

        • SKPeterson

          So, the future of Christianity lies in the same warmed-over mysticism that resulted in post-Aquinian Roman Catholicism? What does it matter if there aren’t enough women or minorities? What does superficial diversity have to do with it, if the Weltanschauung is all the same?

          • Erica Billings

            I don’t understand what exactly you are calling “superficial diversity.”

            And…

            To your question “What does it matter if there aren’t enough women or minorities?” – How does it not matter if the people of our society (women and minorities) are not also our leaders, “prominent voices,” game-changers, shapers, etc.? Surely you don’t think it’s because they’re either not able to or not interested in holding those roles. And if they are interested, and are able, then isn’t that a major problem that they are not more represented in these groups of people?

          • SKPeterson

            Erica – I’m saying that differences in skin color or sex are superficial markers of diversity if everyone thinks exactly the same thing. If they all think the same things, why would the surface differences matter? Should they?

            Further – is the Church equivalent to Society? I do think women are incapable of fulfilling the role of pastor. Not from a lack of mental or physical ability, but because there is absolutely no Scriptural precedent for women to be pastors in any of the passages that deal directly with the office of the ministry. I think this inability bridges all races; further, I think that most men are incapable of being pastors and that this also bridges all races. For the remaining men – of any race – they are called by God to serve and that this is not of their doing, but of God’s choosing. In the end, their interests have very little to do with it.

            And to that end, I would argue that superficial unity in diversity of appearance should not, and cannot, be held up as an ideal over against the unity of essential doctrine (use the Creeds as a useful shorthand here). The people in animate – male, female, minority, majority – represent theological doctrines at vast odds with the Biblical doctrines and practices of the historic Church catholic and represent a future of heterodoxy at best if not a rapid plunge off the cliff into outright heresy.

        • Frank

          There are plenty of women church leaders. Homosexual behavior is a sin so…..

        • Troy

          Amen Scot!! All that diversity, so many different types of white, straight, males… :)

      • Carolyn

        Hmmm because Jesus and his all male apostles were all about diversity…

        • http://cjbanning.dreamwidth.org Cole J. Banning

          Junia was female. And Mary Magdalene is often called the Apostle to the Apostles for a reason. . . .

    • Peter Forrest

      I agree with Erica 100%, does it also bother anyone that the Animate.Bible series has no Biblical scholarship present? I understand the value of the animate.faith with their ensemble – good showing (even if it was not my cup of tea), but animate.bible with no academic input from the scholarly community. But hey, I have not even seen the thing so I guess I cannot critique it… yet….

      • Phil Miller

        Will Willimon has some pretty decent academic credentials…

      • Ric Shewell

        It doesn’t bother me too much that there isn’t a biblical scholar on the list (unless you count Eric, whose PhD is in Biblical Studies from Princeton — wait, that should definitely count). You also have Willimon, a pretty big powerhouse in preaching and work with Duke. The reason why it doesn’t bother me that Koester, Fretheim, Hays, etc. aren’t on the list is because all the people gathered for Animate.Bible are really fantastic communicators and rely on the scholarship of some of the best. In a curriculum for lay people, I’d rather have great communicators than the best in scholarship.

      • http://divinesalve.blogspot.com David Miller

        Eric Elnes has a Ph.D. in Biblial Studies from Princeton. He does not work within the academy, instead using the insights of the academy on a pastoral setting.

    • Kevin

      Erica, it is relevant to keep bringing up the thorny issues of diversity, the place of privilege that men and white people in general have, and what can be done to change/equalize this, etc. I hear you. I really do. I just can’t help but think that this can be a issue where in conjunction with your criticism, one can also look at this in a positive light. I’m not objecting to your observation; I just want to add that I think a couple things can be true simulataneously: (1) the fact that the “future of Christianity” so-named by Tony in this blog has 10 of 15 men listed, and most (if not all) are white, is a SYMPTOM of a bigger problem in our church and in society as a whole and (2) the ideas, convictions, motives, and overall work that these 15 people are doing (not to mention countless others) is something that merits hope for the future and a moment of happiness for today.

      • Erica Billings

        I hear you Kevin.

  • http://achurchunbound.com Joel

    The future of American Evangelicalism maybe.

    • http://divinesalve.blogspot.com David Miller

      Not all of these people are evangelicals. Will Willimon is a retired bishop in The United Methodist Church. Eric Elnes is a pastor is the United Church of Christ. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a pastor in the Evagelical Lutheran Church in America (but “Evangelical” in this sense means what it meant in the context of the rise of Lutheranism, not what the word tends to means in its contemporary North American context). None of them writes from an evangelical perspective.

  • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

    Nope. Not happening. This is the future of heresy. It is not the future of what is legitimately called biblical Christianity. You folks are living under a rock if you seriously think that the historical faith is just going to lay down and die. It’s plenty alive and strong, and always will be, because God will not abandon His purpose for His creation.

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      I think I have been inspired by these kinds of comments to go on a random Muslim blog and start telling them how wrong they are.

      • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

        Have fun. It would be a more productive use of your time to stick around and actually discuss things, though.

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          A sphincter says what?

          I was, through the magic of humor, trying to say that I really don’t understand why folks like you – Scott – feel the need to get on blogs like this, that you obviously completely disagree with.

          Like me going on a Muslim blog.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            Rob, it’s because some people can only feel tall by knocking others down.

          • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

            You don’t understand why I feel the need? Read the Bible my friend. I for one care about truth, and the souls of others. That’s why I discuss. Because I for one understand that truth is important. The emergent movement focuses on emotion and distorting God’s Word into something that excludes all the parts that convict. It is also exceedingly arrogant and deluded in that many in this movement talk as if they think they are more authoritative in their own speculations than Jesus Christ Himself was. You cannot know God unless He reveals Himself to you. The finite cannot reach up and grasp the infinite. It is absurd to think of it. God can only be known when He graciously accommodates Himself to our level and chooses to make Himself known through revealing truth about Himself and what He has done. As soon as you bring the authority of Scripture into question, you have denied this fundamental truth, and you will be left in chaos and confusion where ultimately all that matters is what you think and feel, and not what God has actually said is true. I come to blogs to discuss with people in hopes that some might hear and be convicted of their error (and my time is not wasted; I do meet people who benefit from our discussions). If you can’t understand that, that just confirms my initial assumptions… that you do not care for truth. Which just leads *me* to ask *you*, why are *you* bothering to converse with those you disagree with? What goal could you possibly have in mind if it is not to seek to settle that disagreement in order to arrive at established truth?

          • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

            You mean like yourself, Mr. Pearson? Thank you for demonstrating your point for us by example. I might also ask you, what purpose does your comment serve? What productivity does it add to the discussion? Nothing. It only serves to knock others down.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis
          • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

            So let’s analyze our conversation here. I express my disagreement with the topic of discussion. You criticize the relevance of my being here. I explain the productive reason why I am here, and criticize your own relevance of participating in this conversation. Now, the only reply you have are juvenile remarks and internet meems? I think you just booted yourself off the balcony. You gave no response to my argument for Scriptural authority. I assume that means you either don’t care to discuss (in which case I am right to question the relevance in you responding to me, and in pointing out the hypocrisy of your own criticisms), or that you concede to that argument (in which case you are responding in the juvenile manner you have because you realize you have no productive reply to offer but don’t have the maturity either to admit to it). In either case, yes, thank you, thank you indeed, for demonstrating to all those reading the difference between those who care about truth and responsible discussion, and those who just want their way with things. The demonstration of that difference for readers may help more people than you know.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            Farts.

          • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

            Wow! What a reply! May I quote you on that?

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            The sadness with which your obliviousness doesn’t allow you to recognize that my ridiculous posts are what your “arguments” about “truth” actually sound like to anyone who isn’t deluded by the nonexistent, opiate gods of orthodox Christianity or “the Bible.”

          • Carolyn

            I think Scott is merely trying to defend the universal Christian faith from apostasy.

          • http://jpserrano.com Jeremy

            Rob, your farts comment made me laugh out loud. You are now on my regular blog reading list.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            Ha! Thanks, Jeremy.

            I was at work when I wrote that and I thought I was going to start crying.

            I have (less) issues (than I used to).

            • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

              Best Thread All Day.

          • http://tonymyles.blogspot.com Tony Myles

            I am trying to grasp your point, R. Jay – are you suggesting that the point of a blog/conversation (or this blog/conversation) is to gather around like-minded people so everyone can say what their itching ears want to hear?

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            I think we scared Scott away.

        • Frank

          Scott sometimes it’s appropriate to let fools be foolish and pray that they discard their foolishness for Gods truth before its too late.

          • John McCauslin

            Scott,

            You speak honestly when you say: It is also exceedingly arrogant and deluded in that many … talk as if they think they are more authoritative in their own speculations than Jesus Christ Himself was. You cannot know God unless He reveals Himself to you. The finite cannot reach up and grasp the infinite. It is absurd to think of it.

            The problem is you are not paying attention to your own words.

            I agree that genuine truths about God cannot be grasped but only glimpsed. But it seems to me that the truths you claim to find in Scripture are no more than that. Scripture is useful for equipping the faithful, it is not itself divine. I’m think of the Emmaus story from Luke, where the two disciples, who were being taught scripture lessons by the resurrected Jesus himself, did not discern Jesus in the teaching, but only experienced “warmed hearts.” Only in the course of the meal, with Jesus at the table, was the risen Lord finally encountered. This suggests to me that while Scripture can point the way, it cannot alone get you there.

            And the Emmaus event suggests to me that the hoped for result of the encounter is a joyful transformation during which Jesus becomes a real and genuine Presence, and not “conviction”, whatever that means. The encounter with God involves more than reading and believing the truths you think to have found on the page, no matter how genuinely inspired the writing.

            Finally, i must confess that whenever someone starts arguing TRUTH to me, I loose interest. It’s been said that “truths” are the refuge of the desperate, the fearful, or the deluded. Paul Simon wrote a lyric about a woman which I have always applied instead to God:

            And so you see I have come to doubt
            All that I once held as true
            I stand alone without beliefs
            The only truth I know is you

            And as I watch the drops of rain
            Weave their weary paths and die
            I know that I am like the rain
            There but for the grace of you go I

          • Scot Miller

            John, nicely stated.

          • Frank

            Well you can follow Paul Simon I will stick with Jesus and the Word of God. It’s not surprising that people are bothered with the word truth here. They are unable to recognize it, it seems.

  • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

    And to endorse Animate.Bible, which is being developed by a group of folks without serious training in the Scriptures or original languages, shows that the facts and doctrinal truths of Scripture is not the primary concern. There is another aim in all this stuff; a very man-focused aim, I might add. Why don’t these people just call their religion by what it is? Get your own name, instead of stealing ours. What you are advertising is not Christianity.

    • Ric Shewell

      Um, Eric has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary. That’s some serious training in the Scriptures. Willimon has been teaching worship and preaching at Duke Divinity School for years and is a prominent bishop in the United Methodist Church, one of the largest denomination in the US. That’s pretty mainstream Christian stuff we’re talking about there. Are the United Methodists not Christian? Settle down.

      • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

        Princeton? Duke? I said serious biblical training, not serious training in liberalism. Those schools teach you how to explain their philosophy of the Scriptures, not how to discover the meaning of the Scriptures for yourself.

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          Umm, “discover[ing] the meaning of the Scriptures for yourself” is itself a “philosophy of the Scriptures.” Doh!

          • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

            Did he say “training in liberalism”, I think he did. Yep, definitely he did.

        • Carolyn

          Thank you!!!!!!!!

        • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

          Welcome to my blog, Scott. Two things you should know:

          1) I have a PhD from Princeton, so if you think that’s shit, then you probably won’t like this blog.

          2) We don’t like trolls here.

          • Rich

            Unless, of course, you agree with Tony. Then you can troll all you want.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            Trolling: the art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off via the internet.

          • http://divinesalve.blogspot.com David Miller

            I’m glad you named the troll on the room. As I read this, I kept thinking, “Don’t feed the trolls.”

        • http://achurchunbound.com Joel

          Lol

      • http://www.warrantedfaith.com Scott

        And, being “mainline” has not been a good thing for the last century. That word is all but synonymous with “liberalism” now (and by “liberalism” I mean in the theological, not political sense — that is, a religious philosophy based on a rejection or at least questioning of the authority of Scripture).

        • Ric Shewell

          uuuggghh, I don’t know why I’m getting into this with you, but here goes. I wish I could just say, “No, Princeton and Duke are not liberal.” That idea is pretty laughable to most Presbyterians and Methodists, especially when they are compared to seminaries around the country. Have you read Richard Hays from Duke? Moral Vision of the New Testament will demonstrate how seriously he and Duke Divinity takes the Authority of Scripture. You’re definition of liberalism seems to be less about Biblical Authority and more about whether or not scholars agree with your conclusions. And I don’t know anything about you, so I don’t pretend to know what your conclusions are, but you seem to be fighting against some image of “emergent” that you have in your head which doesn’t really exist.

          • Phil Miller

            I was going to mention Richard Hayes as well, but, really, let’s not confuse Scott with the facts. I personally know some pretty conservative people that went to Princeton.

          • Carolyn

            The only “scholars I need are Matthew, Mark Luke and John… oh…and Martin Luther :) Post modern “conclusions” are relevancy failures…if you want REAL scholarship, simply go to the source.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            I think “Carolyn” is a fake. Good on you, whoever is playing this game.

        • http://jpserrano.com Jeremy

          Scott, you will find that some people around here don’t think being called a “liberal” or being classified with in “liberalism” as a bad thing. Especially from people who wantonly insult mainline churches.

          You should probably get some liberal friends. We take the Bible pretty seriously and hold it as authoritative. That probably looks different than you want it to though.

  • Kevin

    Stepping back and looking at the comments overall so far, I see criticisms from “the right” and from “the left.” I don’t want to make a judgement on anyone; this is just an observation. I wonder if “we” (whoever we are) will ever get past a right/left dichotomy of thinking? (ARGH I spend way too much time agonizing over comment threads…)

    • SKPeterson

      I try to leave right and left out of it, or even conservative v. liberal. The use of political terminology obscures the essence of the conversation or argument (and I hope we’re having a conversation or argument in the strictest terms). I prefer terms like traditionalist v. post-modernist, but even those terms come loaded with their own freight. I’m unapologetically in the traditionalist camp, but many of my friends in this camp theologically are all over the place politically, while some people who might have politics I agree with, occupy different theological space.

      For the most part, though, I simply disagree that this movement represents the future of Christianity, despite Willimon’s presence (was he suckered into this thing somehow?). Having McLaren or Tickle there invites a certain flaccidity of thought akin to that set forth in the squishy pietistic platitudes of Katharine Jefferts Schori or Mark Hansen.

      • Kevin

        That does seems to define it a bit better (T v. P-M). I kind of approach these conversations with trepidation, because (a) I don’t have any sort of academic b/g in theology (for instance–never heard of KJ Schori or Mark Hansen) and (b) I tend to get too emotionally invested in trying to “argue” my own point of view. My own experience, however, with the traditionalist view has been disasterous. Whether that is my own failing, whether I am not “elect,” or whatever the reason, I just can’t go back. It’s too painful. (I grew up in an evangelical, fundamentalist church.) The people above have represented, for ME, some hope in returning to a faith in Christ. I know I want change yours (or anyone’s) mind about anything; I try to converse and discuss these things to learn. Unfortunately, when it comes to discussion, the tone of traditionalists tends to make me “shut down.” (Your tone above, however, was not agressive or arrogant or anything like that, which I appreciate a lot.)

    • http://jpserrano.com Jeremy

      Kevin, Nancy Murphy wrote a book entitled Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism. I highly recommend it.

  • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

    Is it too grand a claim that the friends who are attending Emergence Christianity may be the future of Christianity? Yes. It is way too grand to claim that. It is also too grand to say that they are “prominent voices” of the future of Christianity overall. I’m not convinced there is, or can be, such a thing.

    Having said that, it is not too grand to say that they are, presently, some of the more visible faces of whatever trend within the Christian faith that they champion. In this case, it is the brand that’s come to be called Emergence Christianity. It is within that subset that they are, and likely will remain, most relevant. How that subset influences other trends/brands, only time will tell.

    • Ric Shewell

      I don’t about all of the people on the list, but many of them are mainline pastors, ELCA, Disciples of Christ, UMC, UCC, etc. So I think that their reach is wider than Emergent/ing/ence Christianity. I think the lines are blurring, which is good. I heard Tony speak in 2007, where he kind of announced the end of denominations (or at least announced their lifeless-ness). It’s interesting that there are so many “denominationed” people on this list.

      • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

        I don’t know what you’re referring to, but, I for one, hope for the end of denominational authority. I don’t think all denominations will entirely disappear. But their power over individuals and groups will, hopefully, continue to fade as the culture at large recognizes much of their cult-like (dehumanizing) behaviors.

        Wait…didn’t something like this happen like 400 years ago?

      • http://divinesalve.blogspot.com David Miller

        Eric Elnes has coined the term Convergence Christianity, a space where post-evangelicals and post-liberal progressives are finding common ground. A post-liberal progressive myself, I’m not convinced that the two streams of Convergence are ultimately going in the same direction, but I am happy to walk with post-evangelicals for as long as we are in the same general vicinity.

    • Erica Billings

      Hear, hear.

  • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

    Tony, for the past several months I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the discussions on your blog, which I have found to be a rich source of food for thought. Often times there are many differing views, and even when discussion can at times become sharp and robust (and there’s nothing wrong with appropriately energetic discourse), participants remain civil and, for the most part, respect others’ differing views.

    But with the Franks and Scotts who continue to troll on your blog with the same zero-value commentary over and over and over on almost every single post you make — and they say pretty much this: gay is evil, you are a sinner, truth is truth, everyone here is wrong; it’s always the same damned thing, every single time, and troll the same trash on so many comments in any given thread — it’s really a drag on the discussions. At least from my perspective lately.

    I’ve been diligent in not directly engaging the likes of Frank (and now Scott; not to mention another who I will not mention) for a while now, with a few exceptions here and there. But I’ve really got to say, it’s become tiresome at this point.

    So this will be my last post, and likely my last visit, for a while. I love you and almost all the regulars here (Rob Davis, Lausten, Luke Allison, Craig, Curtis, Scott Miller, et al), but I’m tired of coming to a progressive blog where I’m constantly seeing “gay is wrong, homosexuality is evil” and so on and so forth like a broken record, by the same commenters who say nothing BUT such things ad nauseam, and with unfailing predictability.

    God bless, and my warmest regards to you and everyone for a very Merry Christmas.

    • Carolyn

      Wow, since when is actual Biblical truth a blasphemy? Apparently emergent churches don’t like the Bible?!

      • http://existentialpunk.com Existential Punk

        It is YOUR interpretation of Biblical truth! HOW do you know your interpretation is correct and others are wrong? Christians like you drive me crazy and are one of the numnerous reasons that drove me from Christianity.

    • Scot Miller

      R. Jay, hope you enjoy your sabbatical. Don’t be gone for too long. It’s going to be lonely trying to ignore Frank and Scott by myself.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      R Jay, I respect your decision, and I hope you return someday. You’ve been a valued reader and commenter.

      • http://existentialpunk.com Existential Punk

        Tony,

        WHY don’t you block these trolls since they really add NOTHING to the conversations. They are why i do not come to your blog very often. It is So tiring.

    • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

      We’ll miss you R. Jay. I don’t completely agree with but certainly respect your decision. Drop by my blog sometime, it’s pretty quiet there.

    • http://jpserrano.com Jeremy

      R. Jay, I have loved your insights. Come back soon.

    • http://salamanderslam.com Dave H.

      Some days I’m busy and don’t have time to read through all the comments on Tony’s blog. On those days, I do a search on your name so that i can get right to what you have to say. I’ll miss you, and look forward to when you’re able to come back with peace.

  • Lulu

    I disregarded ALL of that article when I clicked on the individual names only to be brought to a buy and sell site. enough said. It’s disgusting at it’s best. because God really needs help to accomplish his purpose…read the bible you all yell at each other but I have little doubt not many of you actually have.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Sorry to disgust you. I almost always link authors names to their Amazon profiles. It’s just one author trying to help other authors sell books. I think books are good things.

  • Jay

    Wait…what? Isn’t Jesus himself and the good news about his life, death and resurrection the future of Christianity?

  • http://tr8s.org Doc wakefield

    The future church? Interests me, too. Please consider http://wp.me/p2nk4A-lS and the notion of convergence in Christ. While this is a bit C.S. Lewis Screwtapy, the points appear valid. I’m a college prof and am hopeful Christians can get past judging everyone while taking a pass on personal discernment.

  • Carolyn
    • http://jpserrano.com Jeremy

      I went to Highschool with Jon.

  • Rob Burke

    I’ll stick with Jesus delivered to me through the word and sacraments.

    • http://jpserrano.com Jeremy

      I’m just guessing here, but Nadia Bolz-Weber might say the same thing.

  • Jay Bakker

    I am honored to be a part of this group, I have a GED and severe dyslexia and never thought I would amount to much in my life besides being the son of a fallen Televangelist. It really pains me that so many seem disappointed by it already.

    • Scot Miller

      I sure hope I can finally meet you in Memphis! I continue to admire your great work at Revolution NYC. (Like to visit there someday, too….)

    • Kevin

      Jay – you don’t know how much of a lifeline you’ve been to me. Thank you for your hard work and for putting up with so much criticism. Take heart – I’m sure it never gets easy to hear unkind words or criticisms from people who are determined to cut down anything and anyone that don’t believe the way they believe. It’s painful, man. I hear the sounds of my own family in some of these voices, the self-righteousness and the arrogance, the idea of love and kindness nowhere to be found. I’m blabbering on. Peace to you, and thank you.

    • http://salamanderslam.com Dave H.

      Jay, your long and reflective conversation with Victoria and Doug (recorded on Doug Pagitt’s radio show) that I listened to today meant a lot to me and many of the things you said have stayed with me. Your writing and speaking have been a catalyst for thought and compassion in my life for years. I’m thrilled you and the others are part of this project, and I’m looking forward to it with joy.

      • Jay Bakker

        Thank Scott, stop by any time. Thanks Kevin and Dave!

  • http://morganguyton.wordpress.com Morgan Guyton

    Maybe this is self-serving but if you want a future progressive Christianity, don’t create an aristocracy of celebrity emergentsia gurus. Encourage and support those of us who still have tiny platforms. Maybe we have something to contribute.

    And it might be my white privilege talking or whatever, but I don’t think that you need to be too cowed by the identity politics patrol. I know this has been a common critique of emergent Christianity and I love the way that Frank the Troll joined the pile-on opportunistically even though I imagine he hates the identity politics behind the critique. I think the best you can do is make sure that you’re intentionally creating a hospitable space for non-white-male voices in a non-patronizing, non-tokenistic way.

    I see emergent Christianity as a white repentance for a white problem (perhaps even a white-male repentance for a white-male problem): namely that white evangelicalism has become a suburban bourgeois self-justification myth. The culture wars are basically an indirect backlash against the ass-whupping that Southern whites took during the Civil Rights movement. Black American Christianity doesn’t have the same issues that white evangelicalism has. Even if there’s cross-over in terms of core evangelical beliefs, the black church has not been forged as a reaction against the social gospel like the evangelical church has been. The black church has their own issues with patriarchy, hyper-moralism, and whatever else, but that’s not for white people to resolve.

    If it makes sense for us to have a reformation together, then great. If not, let’s not claim that it’s any more than a white bourgeois reformation, but definitely stop wallowing in liberal guilt over it.

    • Kevin

      I can understand the frustration with the “identity politics police,” but I do have to say that I have learned some hard lessons from just listening and reading the discussions that branch out that way. It’s hard to navigate sometimes with tone, with the red herring of “liberal guilt,” and with the other non-edifying shouting that goes on more and more in these comment threads. But, as a man, just listening to the arguments of the women on this and other comment blogs who have pointed out some of the white-man-privilege…it’s eye-opening and worth pondering further. I know it was (and continues to be) a blind spot for me. I did have a giggle at your term: “aristocracy of celebrity emergentsia gurus”! I think that’s a danger for anyone who has a platform, but I just have to say, again, in the stage of life that I am in, in this present stage of my spiritual journey, I am SO THANKFUL for these people.

      • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

        Thanks, Kevin. I can say that every one of the seven persons in that photo is a truly good human being who wants the world to be a better place. If they are to be criticized because they’ve written books or out up a website, I don’t quite know how to respond.

        • Frank

          For me I do not question any of their good intentions. I am pretty sure I would like them all personally. I question some of their misguided and made up theology. Many are deceiving people away from the Christian faith into a christian philosophy divorced from God. At best they are deceived themselves, at worst they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

          • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

            Not one of these people is divorced from God. For you to suggest they are, Frank, is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. And that, my friend, is the unforgiveable sin.

          • Frank

            Tony you are very smart guy yet you get some things so wrong. Even if we’re guilty of what you accuse me of it has nothing to do with the unforgivable sin. That sin is simply rejecting God.

            When I say divorced from God I mean that what many of them claim is not from God but from something else. Divorce may have been the wrong word.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            Hey Frank, I’ve dedicated an entire Twitter account to you. It’s been fun so far. But, I’ve had a hard time figuring out who you actually are. I’ll make you a deal: if you identify yourself in some way, I will shut that account down. Deal?

          • Frank

            Why would you think I care that you did that? That’s says much about you than it does about me. If anything its flattering. Have fun!

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            Way to dodge!

          • Frank

            What do I have to dodge from? I stand by every word that you reported I posted. What’s funny is that you think what you did was cleaver or mocking. That’s funny!

            Don’t stop now keep going. I can turn it into a book without doing any of the work. Thanks for your help!

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            Dodge from revealing your identity rather than hiding…?

            I do find it ironic that you “stand by every word” despite the fact that I am taking most of what you’ve written completely out of context. I guess everything you say/write is kind of like how evangelicals quote the Bible.

            That would actually make a pretty funny book. To wipe my ass with.

          • Frank

            Rob I officially feel sorry for you now.

            Why are you so obsessed with me? That’s what you should be focusing on.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis
          • Frank

            Speaking of dodging….

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis
          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            So, after spending more time than I probably should trying to figure out who “Frank” is…

            1. Frank has multiple times literally cut and pasted his comments on different posts on Tony’s and other people’s blogs.
            2. I’m running out of things to post on the Twitter account because he mostly just repeats himself.
            3. He might actually be Ken Silva or Chris Rosebrough.

            • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

              I have tried emailing Frank and it has bounced back. He’s putting a fake email in when he comments.

              Frank, you have until noon on Monday to contact me privately with your true identity, or you will be banned from comment — or at least your comments will be held in a queue for moderation. You can email me through my website. I will keep your identity private, but I need to know that you actually exist.

          • Frank

            Tony I exist trust me. I hope you don’t ban me but that’s your choice.

            Are you going to ask everyone to verify their identity or just me?

          • Rich

            I don’t understand the double standard, Tony. It is ridiculous to require of Frank what you don’t require of those who agree with you but are as equally vitriolic.

            • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

              Rich, I’m getting hammered from the left and the right. Even the woman who pretended to be a man a couple weeks ago to see how she was treated in the comment section put in a real email address. There are trolls on this blog to the left of me and to the right of me.

              Plus, Frank is not your normal commenter. He is nearing 1,000 comments in just a few months. That’s more than all of my own comments since 2004.

              Frank has repeatedly copied and pasted his comments onto multiple posts and has copied long passages from other blogs and pasted them in the comment section here. Other readers are repeatedly complaining about his behavior.

              If the neighbors on one side of your house played music too loud a couple times a year, you’d let it slide. If the neighbors on the other side blasted music every night until 4am, you’d call the cops. That’s not a double standard. That’s called living in community.

          • Ric Shewell

            The required email* slot assumes that you will put a real email address. Everyone who posts here is required to put in a real email. Frank, through his comments (which are so much more than disagreeing with Tony), drew attention to his false email address. But its not a double standard, we’re all expected to type in a real email address and be ourselves.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            There’s a huge difference between someone whose sole purpose is to cause problems and criticize every single point made by the author and the other participants – someone who brings absolutely nothing constructive to any conversation – and someone who disagrees but at least attempts to contribute. Like my earlier point about me going on a Muslim blog to tell them how wrong they are. That would serve no positive purpose whatsoever.

          • Frank

            There are other posters who post as much as me. Many of the posts were in response to someone asking me a question or challenging what I said. If someone doesn’t want to hear me they can ignore me. Instead I get the opposite. I mean Rob actually spent time collecting my posts, creating a twitter handle and posting them.

            You asked me to stop pasting info from other sites I did. I softened my tone out of respect for you. Just because your emails bounce back does not mean I do not exist.

            • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

              Send me your real email address. There are no exceptions to that rule.

          • Frank

            Not only that but Rob is now making up posts and tweeting them. I guess he realized that what I do post is not so damaging to me afterall so he has to try and make stuff up now. Poor guy.

          • Frank

            Maybe I don’t want you to have a working email address for me. Unless that’s a rule here and you are going to hold everyone accountable then I will continue to post without one.

            • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

              It is a rule, Frank. That’s why you’re required to enter an email address to leave a comment. I don’t require a bullshit email address. I require a real email address. For you and for everyone. Now email me or enter your real address, or you’re banned.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      I don’t quite follow you, Morgan. Things around here are just too sensitive at the moment for me to comment on the identity politics police aspect. But whatever this emergenty thing is (and several of the people in this project aren’t the least bit emergent), it seems to be touching a nerve for some, and helping others.

  • Jeff Straka

    So the future of “emergence” Christianity is “mainline 2.0″? Zzzzzzzzz…

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Jeff, you know better than that. Your recent anger toward me and what I write has been, um, interesting.

      • Jeff Straka

        I really don’t know why/how you are picking up anger in my comment, Tony. Not the case at all. And this comment was not even directed at you. I’m simply noting that the recent efforts by the emergent folks (and the new term “convergence”) seem to show an focus on stabilizing the mainline institutions. Am I off base on this observation?

        • Jay Bakker

          I grew up Assembles of God, evangelical.

          • Jeff Straka

            Hi, Jay. I’m not referring to the individual’s upbringing or background, but rather that I see a pattern forming to where the main energies of “emergent/emerging/converging is being poured into speaking to the mainline denomination churches. This is not necessarily a “bad” thing, but I just don’t see the institutions being the vehicle to really make the shift fast enough (witness the less-than embracing LGBTQ stance still held by the PC-USA and the UMC). What I really respect about what you and Vince are doing at Revolution is that you PUBLICLY DOUBT AND QUESTION and though you and Vince are “leaders”, I don’t sense ANY use of “power over” or hierarchy. The denominational institution really allows little space for either of those much-needed shifts. I think the FUTURE of CHRISTIANITY will be small communities such as YOURS where a non-religious person (or an atheist, as I am fast describing myself) can feel comfortable and engaged.

  • Tracy

    Wow, um. I just wanted to ask a question.

    I have some feel for the people in the picture, and in my imagination, there would be some healthy disagreement amongst them. (Maybe I’m just wrong, but I don’t think so.) So. . . I wonder what it means to for them to be the voice of the Christian future? Maybe that voice will not be univocal?

    And I wonder if any of that disagreement might come out onscreen. It would be kinda nice if it did — it might model how to do that, and keep us from assuming we are looking at a single systemic take. Some clear “emergent” systematic theology.

  • SKPeterson

    By the way, I am sort of passing through and checking out the neighborhood so to speak, primarily due to a blog I frequent – Cranach that is being picked up by patheos and should be coming on soon. It’s a pretty wide-open forum and covers not just theology but also culture and politics. I believe it will be on the Evangelical channel. Most of us are confessional Lutherans, but there are plenty of others from various denominational affiliations. Anyhow if you are curious as to how us mean old school Lutherans interact please stop by. I’m not sure when it will be on-site here – we thought this week – but within the next week or so I expect. I encourage you to stop in and lurk, troll or engage.

  • SKPeterson

    and you’ll notice that we often forget to close our ‘s properly. :)

  • SKPeterson

    brackets. See what I mean?

  • http://nathanjhill.com Nathan Hill

    A heads up that Jose Morales, while a friend and an amazing pastor who preached at my ordination, is in my opinion one of the best theologians in North America. His background is rich, varied, and diverse – pentecostal, evangelical, mainline, local church, and regional church. He has a deep sense of the challenges of our growing multicultural world, helping the church live into the diversity God has blessed us with. I know he spends a ton of time trying to bridge the divide between “liberal” and “conservative” wings of his denomination.

    And he’s an awesome DJ.

    I’ll buy the set just for his voice alone.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      José is amazing.

  • http://thewearypilgrim.typepad.com ron cole

    Tony, I wonder why when folks talk about a ” future christianity ” no one imagines a “churchless ” christianity. The people that talk about a “future christianity ” are still deeply embedded in it’s institutional structures. And, I wonder how courageous one speaks when there is a huge conflict of interest, ” a pay cheque “, and alienating an audience and market for your speaking engagements and book sales. Christendom is dead…and what rises out of the rubble may something, well…churchless. One can profoundly follow Jesus without church.

    • Jeff Straka

      My thoughts exactly, Ron! We will always need community, but I think the institutional church structure is fading faster than most realize.

    • http://thewearypilgrim.typepad.com ron cole

      I think I’m asking a question that is addressing an imminent reality…Diana Butler Bass comes very close to addressing the issue in ” Christianity Beyond Religion “, but retreats, and settles for a reformed but still basically in institutional structured christianity.

      • Jeff Straka

        That was the impression I took away from her book, too, Ron. I understand that these folks (and the mainlines) have a vested interest in the current model surviving, but it doesn’t change the fact that a fast-growing segment of the population is moving beyond a “god concept” (at the VERY least, a “sky-god” concept that is still implied and worshiped even among the progressives).

  • Zach Lind

    What? No Shane Hipps? Bummer.

  • http://anewleafemerginh.wordpress.com Corinne

    You know what seminaries need? Football teams. I’d pay damn good money to see a Princeton vs. Southeastern game…

  • Zach Lind

    Oh, and just one more thing……Tony and all the commenters…..simply ignore the trolls and they will go away. Any response to a troll is just added fuel to their fire. Either ignore the trolls or Tony, just delete their comments (no, not all opinions deserved to be heard) and this blog will be a much better experience for everyone, including the trolls.

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      But, Zach, that’s no fun!

      • Kim Bravo

        Rob Davis, you have a new fan. Carry on, good sir.

  • http://xjm716.wordpress.com John Mulholland

    Yep. I’m trolling.

    When you spend years lamenting the lack of diversity within American/Western Christianity, and then post a photo purporting to be of “Christianity’s future”…expect comments. But please, don’t feign offense and go on Twitter and whine about it.

    And Zach…really? “Not all opinions deserve to be heard”? Again, hardly the emergent line for the past 10 years. Stick to the kit, my good man.

    • Rich

      Brilliant, John. Well said. Be prepared for Tony to call you obscene names though. Agents of darkness really do hate the Light.

  • http://www.lansingspiritualcenter.org Jenn Tafel

    As an outsider looking in, I find the group of people gathered for Animate promising to move the conversation about Christianity forward. Not that my opinion may matter.

    My context is: white female ordained Swedenborgian minister with an M.Div.

    I find the topic of diversity interesting. As a ally minister to a queer Christian student group, I have new understandings of gender identity and sexual orientation–they are not expressed based solely on our body part. “Cis-gender” is one’s understanding of gender that is intrinsic. It is internal and may be expressed through our physical being. Therefore, I cannot judge who you are based on your external appearance–for any reason. I would ask the same of you. However, living in our culture often begs me to do the opposite. As Christians, I ask if this was one of Jesus’ teachings? If so, I don’t remember it.

    The question of the relevance of Christianity as a whole is a yet another big can of worms and while I am educated, I don’t necessarily feel fully qualified to take on this task.

  • Rich

    Haha, I was going to tell Frank that he should just give up; answering fools according to their folly doesn’t seem to be helpful here. But then I saw someone say they were quitting the blog because of Frank… apparently, he is successful after all. Kudos, Frank! :)

  • A-nony-mouse

    1 Kings 17:20-24 He (Elijah) called to the LORD and said “O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” The LORD heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

  • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

    Frank, I’ve only posted what it seemed to clearly have come from you. If there’s anything other than that, let me know and I’ll delete it.

    • Frank

      I never posted this nor pt2 of that post. Nor did I post the Frank Silva one. You realize that there are probably more than one Frank right?

      (1 of 2) I know that you’re a woman, and God just didn’t quite endow you all with the discernment that he did men…

      The problem with witch hunting Rob is that innocent people end up getting hurt.

      • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

        Deleted. Sorry if I misrepresented you at all.

        There is only one The Frank…

      • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

        I do find the (Freudian) placement of “Frank” Silva to be a bit telling…hint? I highly doubt – if you are not actually Ken Silva – that you don’t know who Ken Silva is.

  • Ken B.

    This story is hilarious in its presumption. “We have seen the future, and it is us.”

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      Umm…so you have no personal preference or hope about the future of Christianity?

      • Ken B.

        The story’s roster and accompanying photograph show a gathering of all white Mainline and progressive evangelical/emergent leaders. Such ethnic and theological homogeneity not only forgets about the majority world and majority of Christians in the world, but is not even the future of the diverse body of Christ here in the increasingly multiethnic U.S. We are currently undergoing the ‘browning of America,’ but the ‘future’ portrayed here remains all white (even if those included speak with concern for diversity). Instead, I appreciate Mark Gornik’s statement, “The global resurgence of Christianity begins with a particular body, the body of Jesus. Christianity is diverse because, as Andrew Walls offers, it is grounded in the Word incarnate, and therefore inherently filled with the possibility of new translations.” Mark R. Gornik, Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011), 7.

  • Pingback: New Comment Policy (Or, Where Is Frank?)

  • http://www.studyabroad.com/members/joke28jaw/default.aspx original URL

    Howdy! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m definitely enjoying your
    blog and look forward to new posts.


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