What Exactly Is Emergence Christianity? [VIDEO]

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  • Emergence seems to endlessly be rethinking Christian theology. Meanwhile, Emergence seems to have no hesitation about absorbing the popular and elite secular mindset. Why the disparity?

    • Phil Miller

      Is it actually possible for something to be popular and elite at the same time? Maybe Beyonce fits that description… 🙂

      • Phil, I describe modern secularism this way because it is popular among the younger people and is also the reigning philosophy of our elite institutions – the universities, media, entertainment, and government.

        While Emergence remains highly critical of the church and of the Bible, it seems to me that it is ready to uncritically absorb the secular culture.

        • Nathan

          actually, Emergence, from the beginning, was highly critical of The Church’s uncritical absorption of so called “secular cultural” values. Hence the whole “conversation”.

          Also, “elite” as a pejorative may play with the worst parts of populist/activist thing that passes for the soul of evangelicalism, but in my experience the people who actually do a ton of violence to the text and have hurt a lot of people AND have obscured non-Christian’s understanding of God is the stream of people who constantly claim ad nauseum to be the only ones that really love the Bible or value Scripture.

          They never actually mean “Scripture qua Scripture”. What they mean is they LOVE “Scripture as the particular interpretative dogma of my particular hermeneutical tradition”.

          It’s pretty arrogant. and at the same time helps them cordone off any criticism by taking the rhetorical high ground. It’s a genius rhetorical act of power. but it’s about power…not their power…and certainly not love of God.

          • Nathan

            EDIT for the last line:

            but it’s about power…their power…and certainly not love of God

          • Nathan, Evidently, our observations are quite different. Today, at least, I see little difference between Emergence and the dominant view of the university or the media.

            Regarding evangelicals: Certainly, the social tide has gone against them, even within the evangelical church. However, it seems that much of the criticism is over-the-top. Sadly, it has been so copious, that the younger evangelicals have embraced this criticism as the Gospel itself.

            Despite the problems within evangelicalism, this movement tends to take God’s Words seriously – far more so than the Emergent movement – and this honors the Lord.

            • Nathan

              It’s only over the top if a person isn’t really committed to clarity and honesty. Evangelicals generally take a cultural posture of hostility and shin kicking. But don’t like it when they deservedly get told they’re being jerks.

              That’s not a fad of youth…that’s a God honoring desire for the kind of truth that many evangelicals have a big allergy to.

              It’s the height if arrogance to say that taking Gods word seriously only happens in the context of certain a priori hermeneutical commitments and conclusions.

              If that’s honoring to The Lord, then no wonder people thankfully can be encouraged to change or leave that kind of a community that obscures the Heart of God in the name of revealing Him.

              • Nathan

                Btw, there is no “university” or “media” or “Hollywood” or whatever sinister cabal that’s out to get the supposedly inferior and persecuted true church of evangelicalism. Just like there is no “war on Xmas”.

              • Nathan, Am I taking a “posture of hostility” or are you?

                • Nathan

                  Is disagreement hostility?

                  • Disagreement isn’t hostility. However, it seems that you have some harsh attitudes and extreme global indictments against evangelicals, bordering on hostility.

                    • Nathan

                      Nope. Just going with what I see. Actual behaviors. Why can’t we name things, but evangelicals can?

  • Good interview, and I really enjoyed how you defined theology at the end there. I think I find in myself and others in the church a separation in ‘theology’ and actions. And you lay out nicely how that could not be any more wrong, that in fact theology is what I do as much as what I think/believe.

  • The Titanic has already hit the iceberg. This is not about a “course correction.” It’s about organizing the lifeboats, pulling people out of the water, and encouraging people to jump before the ship finishes sinking.

  • It seems like emergence, from the get-go, has had polarity (as evidenced: “let’s rethink how we do church” & “let’s rethink the gospel” ), while the convictions of most of reform-minded Christianity are more of a spectrum.
    I’d like to see an ‘Emergence that remains ‘highly critical of the church and of the Bible’ while at the same time avoiding ‘uncritically absorption the secular culture’.
    Some of us yearn for a Christianity that unflinchingly exhibits a “God honoring desire for the kind of truth that many evangelicals have a big allergy to” while recognizing a very real “popular and elite secular mindset” that is its own dead end.
    Just a thought, but perhaps loving embrace of that spectrum would be a better position from which to navigate those lifeboats.

    • Mary,

      While you want “an ‘Emergence that remains ‘highly critical of the church and of the Bible,” I am left wondering by what standard or criterion are you going to critique the Bible. Past renewals or revivals used the Bible to critique the church, but what more reliable standard do you have to critique the Bible?

      From what I’ve seen of Emergence, it’s generally a matter of the authority of the prevailing culture and its assumptions. Consequently, the Emergents with whom I have dialogued are virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture. So much for being the light of the world!

      • A couple of thoughts on this:

        1. Right now in the American Protestant church, the main alternative to being “virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture” is being something that is repelling many people from even associating with Christians. Remember that survey that said that the #1 thing young people associate with the church is being anti-gay? That’s got nothing to do with Jesus or his message. It’s not just the gay issue, either. More and more, to people my age, the church seems irrelevant at best and evil at worst.

        2. Speaking as a young emergent who, to you, is probably “virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture,” I find that that actually helps. Because I generally don’t judge (or, if I do, I keep quiet unless it’s something causing demonstrable harm) the things my friends do and say, no matter how wild, they can trust me more than others. People keep telling me I’m the most loving and accepting person they know. And I *do* bring up that I’m a Christian, and sometimes I’m the one (or one of very few) positive example(s) of a Christian that my friends have. By being the way I am, I have reached people and changed their minds about what Christianity looks like. By being indistinguishable from the surrounding culture, I’ve been (not so) stealthily distinguishing myself.

        I’m actually having a conversation about this with an atheist friend who, before becoming my friend, was pretty hostile to religion in general. This is his perspective: “I think progressive folks are getting the job done more than strict folks. I’ve seen more kindness from progressive people than the people who weren’t.” So, maybe we’re doing an okay job at being a light anyway. 🙂

        • Sonja, Thanks for your good, thoughtful and sensitive response. I must confess that I envy you. I wish that I didn’t have to struggle with these counter-culture conflicts and feelings of alienation.

          However, it seems that I have little choice. As a Christian, I do not have the freedom to pick-and-choose my beliefs. When I came to Christ from a Jewish background, I knew that I had to take Him entirely or reject Him entirely. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Consequently, I’d prefer to alienate the world than to alienate my Lord.

  • 2 Timothy 4:2

    I cannot believe that people cannot see through this deception. How dare we change theology. So the way people have preached the gospel over 1000s of years is wrong? That is a load of nonsense. This is liberalism packaged in a post modern way and people need to get out of it. Christians in the past have died for the gospel that you are trying to change, so what you are saying is that those Christians have died for nothing. I would rather have a gospel worth dying for than a gospel that is so full of liberalism that who would die for that.
    People be faithful to the word of God and please do not let anyone deceive you in deconstructing the Word of God. Read the Word Meditate on the Word and get it so much into you so that when things come along to draw you away from the truth, you will recognize it.

  • 2 Timothy 4:2

    We are not meant to change theology to suit ourselves or the culture around us because it is more palatable or acceptable. People are not leaving the church because the gospel is wrong, no!! people are leaving the church because churches are not preaching the truth of the Word of God, so why say that this theology is wrong because the church is declining. The world is becoming more and more secular, does that mean that our theology has to become more and more secular, so that the secular world will be able to accept the a gospel that is no gospel at all. Let us not compromise what God has written in the Bible and let us have a high view of scripture as the Bible is what we need to preach today.

  • Is Ed Young Jr. their taylor or what??;-)

  • Steve Lewis

    Too little, too late. “Emergence Christianity” really needs to be “Emergency Christianity” because traditional (Pauline) Christianity is dying. It’s head has been cut off but Pauline Christians don’t realize it. Scholars have been sawing at the neck of Pauline Christianity for over 200 years but the final stroke that has forever severed the Bible head of Pauline Christianity has been delivered by Israeli archeology, the findings of Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman at Megiddo, destroy the Bible as spiritual authority. You can’t get spiritual authority for liars and lies. So with this information now in the works, all these attempts by Pauline Christians to shore up a failed theology are doomed to fail themselves because the patient has already died.

    Only the Gnostic Christian path was valid because it was never Bible centered and now modern Gnosis has produced a brand new yet paradoxically the world’s oldest form of Christ theology. Redoing my website that has all the new information and will post links as soon as it’s done.