Is Emerging Church a Renaissance Recapitulation?

Donatello rocked as a Ren. sculptorIs Emergent a recapitualtion of the Renaissance? The question is asked by Thomas Brown in a comment this morning. I say yes, but . . . we would have to look at Emerging Church in 3 stages . . .

i also see a lot of patterns, but to keep them clear in my mind, i would have to firstly divide Emerging Church into distinct stages, and then look at the Renaissance as it happened in stages also, because there are interesting parallels and a unique recapitulation of the part of the emerging church.

By the way, i feel the High Renaissance (1500-1530) is more parallel to the successes of modernity in the mid 20th century than to the initial efforts of Emerging Church, that i see seeded in 1968 and developing over the past (almost) 40 years, and which i see as linked to the early and late/post eras of the Renaissance. This is why i dont equate immediately the emerging church with High Renaissance, but see it as responding initally to a High Renaissance kind of Modernity.

[Blue is where i changed this. the previous description (strike-through) was too linear, suggested that all emerging churches must be deconstructive/reactionary in their journey (which is not always true) and smelled of Hegel] Emerging Church STAGE 1 (Barn Burning).
Emerging Church (Deconstructive) The Emerging Church in a deconstrucitive, suspicious, reactionary mode, is most similar to the Post-Renaissance period, or The Age of Mannerism (1530-1600) which is when much of the Protestant Reformation was happening. Mannerist art was a reaction to the perfection of the High Renaissance, and leaned towards discontinuity, extremism, and the bizarre. MTV has been called “Mannerist Art”.

Emerging Church STAGE 2 – (Dumpster Diving)
Emerging Church (Constructive) This is where the emerging churches are redicovering what they missed out on, past history, and the Other, a time of exploration and stumbing around with new forms and ways. It corresponds to the Early Renaissance (1300-1500) which was a time of rediscovery (of classical Greek and Roman architecture) and a time of small experimental steps with new methods that no one really new how to use to the fullest potential

Emerging Church STAGE 3 (Lego Land)
Emerging church (Intuitive) – a time of building with new blocks, non-reactionary, without finding identity from the past, succeeding with the new ways and methods in their recapitulated form. This partly finds its parallel with the Baroque period (1600-1750), an attempt toward harmony and grandeur, cross-disciplinary understanding (like today’s emergence theory in complexity), emotional, powerfully imaginative, but also appropriate and proper.

Anyway, I might be quite wrong in this,or perhaps i am quite right but only know half of it, but there’s some thinking out loud. Thanks again for your comment . . . and “YES” i agree with you.

Original comment – Thomas writes:
Rennaisance and Reformation… the two went together, at least in one way of thinking about it. You might say that the Reformation, with its radical liberation of the individual (priesthood of all believers, etc.) had its parallel in the artistic (and humanistic) wave of the Rennaisance. Seems to me some of what emergence is about is bringing ye Rennaisance into the fold of ye Reformation. Or, imagine it this way, the rediscovery of Scripture and the dinigty of the “laos theou” (the laity/people of God) need not have been kept seperate from Rennaisance. I ramble. In many ways those things weren’t kept seperate. Emergent is not, of course, a simple recapitulation of either Rennaisance or Reformation. But there *was* so much to aspire to in those clasic movements. Note that they happend to the whole of society, not just the church. I think what’s driving Emergent, as well as the general dissatisfaction with church in the west, has its roots deep down in the culture. Herein endeth the ramble…


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Some things I haven’t yet had the time to read…

    * “Not Reformation,” by Andrew Jones
    * “Is Emerging Church a Renaissance Recapitulation?,” by Andrew Jones
    * “Emergent Is…,” by Bill Arnold
    * “Emergent Is…pt.2,” by Bill Arnold
    * “Two sides of the same (dogmatic) coin,” by Steve Bush

  • Manic Thursday

    My full day today included working on my response to the Hauerwas paper, various appointments and errands, writing letters of recommendation (about which I try to be scrupulously honest and careful, so they take me ages), and the disputatio between th…

Leave a Reply