(update – poll results)
Since yesterday’s post “The Emergent Heresy Test“, there have been at least 50 addtions to the definition of Emergent Church on Theopedia. Much thanks to Aaron Shafovaloff, the original writer who has put much hard work into refining his original definition and is asking for help. I have since stopped the comments on that post because the new definition no longer reflects our conversation or the test.
But out of curiosity, here are the results of the poll that measured how many of the 7 common characteristics described the emerging church people that took the poll. Those characteristics were “postmodernism”, “absolute truth is either non-existent or unknowable”, “narrative preaching”, “irrelevance of expository preaching”, “corporate inclusivism”, open theism and “apophatic theology”.
From the answers, 2 out of 7 and 3 out of 7 were the most common.
That was a good exercise – thanks for participating. I know it was painful for some of you to try the criticism on for size. Clearly, the hat did not fit. Clearly, what conservative Christians have been reading about the Emerging Church has not been accurate. That means we have some work to do in order to communicate better.Still much work needs to be done, mainly:
1. Presenting what the Emergent Church practices and affirms.
2. Helping out with the definitions on the other side of the hypertext links.
3. Allowing other countries to have a voice
I liked the way Bob Robinson summed it up
“This test certainly tells more about how Emergent is perceived than it does anything else.
And Andrew’s insightful and humorous post clearly indicates that emergent-types are falling way short on getting the message out as to who we really are!
I wondering where some categories of these categories are on the test:
Where’s “Emergents are Missional”?
Where’s “Emergents are Community-Centered”?
Where’s “Emergents are engaged with Postmodern Culture but are not held captive by it”?
Where’s “Emergent is willing to re-think and re-energize Christianity; they are Reformed in the truest sense of the word–ALWAYS REFORMING!”
Here is Aaron’s comment from yesterday, with some explanation of why he included those original 7 characteristics in his definition.
Sorry to pull a hit-and-run, but I can only pull a chair and chat for a little while before I return to my work.
I think much of PhilJohnson’s comment on Apophatic theology shows that the emergent church–at least as I know it–can indeed be described by it. There is a big emphasis in the emergent church of God as mystery, and not one who can be described with many helpful propositions. Now, of course this needs qualification but I think you get the point.
Regarding narrative preaching, the emergent church also emphasizes it to a point where it can be fairly characterized as parting ways from, say, the traditional Protestant Christian practice of expositional preaching. This is true to a very high degree: emergent leaders, in my line of sight, rarely ever give ANY expository sermons. Expository preaching is seen as too impersonal. The very art and practice of expository preaching runs against the warp and woof of the postmodern complaint that people think they know a lot about what the Bible means but really don’t. This isn’t very distinctive, however, as most newer church movements are going in this direction.
Regarding open theism, the emergent church is highly vulnerable to it and I think can be described as very sympathetic and disposed to it. Clear beliefs (expressed via propositions) concerning the very nature of God’s knowledge are not seen as practical or necessary for healthy fellowship or worship. I need some time to better substantiate this. I’d of course qualify by saying that some solid emergent church fellowships are even Reformed in theology. It’s like the Pharisees or Cretans: they were a diverse bunch of folks but could be described with helpful generalizations.
Regading inclusivism I’d invite you to read the following Brian McLaren quote:
“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.” —A Generous Orthodoxy
The distinctives, of course, need to be refined and naunced and corrected and substantiated (in keeping with the wiki’s writing guidelines, of course). The material is mostly provisional and will hopefully mature as more volunteers contribute.
Grace and peace in Christ, 100% God, 100% man, Lion, and Lamb,
Thanks Aaron – there might be one or two in the bunch that have a few spare moments to volunteer some time – not just on your definition, but the definitions that they link to within Theopedia. Hey . . thanks for being a good sport!!!!
I think the main thing at this point is take some of Bob’s excellent points, and others, flesh them out, and make sure that every definition includes them. We have been saying that the emerging church is MISSIONAL before it is anything, and this point needs to be driven home, or people will never really understand what follows it.