An Interesting Take on Emergence Christianity

An Interesting Take on Emergence Christianity October 14, 2012

Dr. Steve McSwainI know nothing about Dr. Steve McSwain, but according to his Huffington Post bio, his journey from Christian minister to practicing “a new kind of spirituality” has led him to being called “the voice for the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious).”

Responding to the new Pew Research showing the continuing rise of the religious “nones” (from ~16% five years ago to ~20% now), McSwain writes about “Why Christianity Is Dying While Spirituality Is Thriving.” Ironically, his article is less about spirituality and more about the emergence he sees happening within Christianity — and more specifically, the emerging church movement itself.

I am intrigued whenever a new voice enters this conversation — someone other than “the usual suspects.” McSwain certainly sounds as if he’s been reading “the usual suspects,” however, as he quotes Brian McLaren at one point and drops the “emergence Christianity” terminology fluently like he’s Phyllis Tickle.

Here’s what McSwain writes:

“Christianity is dying. Or, to put it more accurately, the Christian church is dying while the Christian faith, in too few places still, seems to be slowly, but gratefully, morphing into something new.

“And better. …

“What I’m seeing is a new and refreshing emergence within the Christian religion itself. Perhaps, as at no other time in Christian history, except perhaps the first few decades following the death of Jesus, the church today is slowly becoming, but in too few places as yet, something that I suspect Jesus himself might actually recognize. There is within this new emergence an affinity for those matters of social and personal justice, compassion, spiritual wholeness and unity within and among all people and faiths. These were the obsessions of Jesus while here on earth.

“I regard these few churches as glimmers of hope scattered here and there.”

McSwain then proceeds to describe five characteristics of “this new emergence within the Christian religion”:

  1. “This new, emerging church is made up of people who are desperately seeking ways of understanding, and in many cases, rewriting Christian theology.”
  2. “These new churches have a healthier view of their sacred text known as the Bible.” (This is where he quotes McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity.)
  3. “These Christians no longer feel the enemy is liberalism, even ‘secular humanism,’ as it is commonly labeled in the declining and dying branches within Christianity.”
  4. “Further, I see this new evolving Christianity being birthed in the hearts of sincere and devoted Christ-followers who are open to what other religions can teach us about spirituality, too.”
  5. “Finally, but I could go on and on in my observations, this emerging new Christianity no longer interprets Christian ‘hope’ as some ‘pie-in-the-sky’ future paradise that they alone will enjoy, along with those who agree with their theology, their eschatology and their exclusivist beliefs.”

Read the whole article

What do you think of McSwain’s take on the emerging church movement?

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  • The Emergent Church lacks inspiration–but, has faith in Christ. How is that possible? You may say it is simplicity in Christ. Which is to say that salvation by professing Christ is the basics. However, the way you all might use the term is misleading; and shows that there is no such thing as simplicity in Christ. As Christ, man, and all else is complex. Not too complex–as to perplex; but not to be simplified as to dumb-down. But what do you expect from a people that attempts to rationalyze the past Counterculture’s social upheaval and its church. Remote and abstract is the postmodern in their faith. The death of history, tradition and reason is an elusion of your inordinate subjectivity and emotion. Emergents aare not traditionally non-denominational, nor are they not found in the Mainline. They are that which is popular in Christianity and society. Only a reactionary of Western piety can uphold The Church today.

  • Joe

    Steve, your article gives me hope. However could you please give some examples of gatherings that you had in mind when you wrote this article? I would love to visit them. Sadly, the “Emergent” churches I have visited – which are several – are typically secret Baptist churches (seriously) with a statement of faith that is from Augustine or Calvin himself. Ok, half joking, but you get the point.