Is the Church still emerging?

Is the Church still emerging? September 30, 2012

This article is a response to one I poste a week ago.

What do you think? Here’s an excerpt:

This morning I was reading a post from Kurt Willems’ blog about John Piper’s comments on the Emerging Church. The post contains a You Tube clip of what Piper said and then critiques what is said within that. Willems explains why he views Pipers comments which are summed up by terms like “shambles” and “heresy”  as unfair before going on to raise questions about why so many emergent types do appear to have embraced mainline liberalism. He concludes his main body of argument by making the point that the best expressions of this movement/ conversation will have added “kingdom value” to the church in the West. Finally he poses the question “what do you think of the emerging church conversation? Will it be over in 10 years or will it evolve into something new?”

I’d be interested in responses to this question too but first of all some observations on both Piper’s comments and Willems’ response.

The first relates to who John Piper is. He is a Calvinist Baptist Preacher and theologian in the US who has influenced the thinking and theology of New Frontiers in this country. He is a conservative evangelical who along with Wayne Grudem has been one of the strongest voices theologically in that strand of Calvinist evangelical thought over the last few decades. In terms of what he believes as a Calvinist an article on his website dating back to 1998 sums it up in detail.

The majority of those who would describe themselves as “emerging” are coming from divergent points to Piper on several issues and their theology tends to be more Arminian . In English that means Piper believes that whilst all can come to faith God has pre-decided and “chosen” who will come to faith, Arminians on the other hand believe that all can come to faith and it is down entirely to our free will whether we do or not, God does not pre-decide. Thus, we have the first point of divergence.

The second point of divergence is that Piper believes in what he calls “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” which argues that there are distinctive gendered roles for men and women with men having headship over women. For a discussion on one aspect of what this means and a critique of it Dave Warnock (42) has a good recent post. The emerging church takes a different view which is based upon the equality of both genders including in leadership.

I could go further but these two points initially give indication of why Piper and the emerging church have theological differences and why Piper is never going to be their biggest fan.

But what of what he says within the You Tube video? Is there truth within it? Well, to think about this we need to identify what we are talking about when we refer to the “emerging church”. The best study of it comes from Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger who did a study of the emerging church based in the US and UK called Emerging Churches. They define emerging churches in the following way, (pp 44&45) “Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses the nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as produces, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.” READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

Any thoughts on this excerpt or the concept as a whole?

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  • mattdabbs

    The reason the emerging church conversation had the wheels fall off is because no one was defining it the same way. So you had people talking about different things but all calling it “emerging church.” It is an unfortunate name for a movement because what one person is experiencing as emerging is not uniform or transferable to other contexts. That seems pretty ironic considering that the whole thing had postmodern roots to start with. It is hard to have an objective evaluation of something that is, itself, pretty subjective. So I appreciate you laying out which “emerging church” you are talking about via the definition you gave. It is like making a blanket critique of apple pie. There are so many varieties you have to first determine if you are talking about some from a specific bakery, grocery store, or the one made by your grandmother.

    Second, as you have already pointed out, Piper is hardly objective and unbiased himself on this one. I don’t really think it is fair or helpful to broad brush and make negative generalizations a movement that isn’t uniform itself.

    • Doesn’t this describe the pale of Protestantism in general? Any “movement” that happens in Protestantism mutates and evolves until it becomes unidentifiable.

      All Protestant movements, especially the new ones comes from some problem with the previous one or some new theological insight or vantage point.

      What they soon find out is that the novel theological insights have already been defined and ironed out in Catholicism, which is like a rock, it develops for sure, but it has that pesky quality of being foundation of objective truth.

  • Michael D. Bobo

    An Emergence authority like Phyllis Tickle would say definitively yes. It’s the topic of her latest book Emergence Christianity

  • Petr

    What do you mean emergents embraced mainline liberalism? Examples needed