I have been up most of the night and might not sleep at all. I am really disturbed after listening to D.A.Carson’s sermon series on The Emerging Church.. Carson is a well respected Bible teacher, and I am disappointed to hear so many misconceptions and misfires. I am wondering how to address his remarks without disrespect to him or disunity within the church. What i might do is write up something and have a discussion at Suddenly Seminary on September 13.
Carson has a book coming out on this topic soon and I think he will get a lot of flak from people in the emerging church who will feel misrepresented. I am also worried that missionaries overseas who are struggling with how to reach out to a postmodern world will read his book and get the wrong idea.
I don’t have time to tackle it right now and i would rather go back to sleep, but i will say a few words so that i might sleep.
To be fair to Carson, he has read a few of our books and attended an Emergent conference. I would guess that he has not visited many (any?) actual emerging churches, and is not aware of various streams of emerging church.
Regarding the [implied] accusation that emerging church people do not believe in truth or moral absolutes and that they tolerate everything, my response is this . . .
1. That is not true.
2. That is not right.
3. I will not tolerate it.
4. Because of answers 1-3, either Carson’s description of someone in the emerging church is not correct, or I am not a part of the emerging church.
Tape 1 is his description of the emerging church, which he believes is American and about 10 years old.
(I can hear the non-Americans groaning)
Tape 2 (for purchase only) lists some criticisms of what he thinks the emerging church believes. Below are a few quotes:
1. "The emerging church movement does not understand very well contemporary discussion of postmodernism. In other words, it builds an awful lot on postmodernism and I’m not sure if it always understands what it is talking about.
"Some of it is mere sloganeering" . . . and [our slogans] are manipulative
"Their analysis of where we need to go turns very strongly on their analysis of what postmodernism is about so if there are huge questions of their analysis of postmodernism, if the foundation is that weak, then how do we do our assessment of the next stage?
2. "The emerging church does not assess modernism very well.
Their analysis of where we need to go turns very strongly on their analysis of what postmodernism is about so if there are huge questions of their analysis of postmodernism, if the foundation is that weak, then how do we do our assessment of the next stage?
“. . . the leaders of the emerging church movement are responding as much to their own limited backgrounds as they are to anything else and then projecting those backgrounds on the entire evangelical confessional movement and then projecting that onto all of modernism and creating a fair bit of false antithesis.”
3. The emergent church movement needs to begin talking about where postmodernism should be confronted, not catered to.
4. Postmoderns need to recapture the sweep of biblical texts, and without fudging.
“If we shouldn’t go into the business of what is right or wrong, then of course we cant say that slavery is wrong today either. That has a nasty stinger in the tail, brothers and sisters, a really nasty one. . . .
“It seems to me that this emerging church group needs to be more careful to avoid sectarianism.“
When he [Brian MacLaren] is writing his own books, and this is true of most of the field, everything is cast so much in a them and us perspective, that in fact they are becoming sectarian. They have their own web sites, their own chatrooms, their own approved speakers their own blurbers and they are off here and everyone else is off somewhere else. That’s the heart of sectarianism. “
I can’t comment on all these right now, but the one on slavery bugs me. Last weekend at the Roundtable for Global Emerging Church, we decided to collaborate together to end human trafficking (modern day slavery) and some of the people are already working on the web site. I should really go to sleep now . . . .
UPDATE: I wrote some thoughts out here