Reformation 1: Scot McKnight at Westminster (updated)

Update: Heres Scot McKnight’s audio to download [thanks Gideon]. Scot speaks on why Don Carson’s book failed to describe the emerging church, why emerging church is different than emergent, why Steve Chalke is not a part of the emerging church, and what the emerging church is all about . . .  in their own words. Its a superb speech – maybe the best I have heard from an American. Well done, Scot!! I look forward to hearing Michael Horton also.

Original: Reformation Day is coming up (Tuesday 31st) and I am giving some thought to the Reformation – past and present. I was raised in a Presbyterian church in New Zealand and i owe my first hearing of the gospel to the Reformed folk. I still tap into a lot of Reformed thinking but find it helpful to step back and take an more objective look at the reformed influences in my thinking today.


A series on the emerging church will run all weekend at Westminster Theological Seminary and it might be worth keeping track of. Scot McKnight, blogger and professor at North Park University,  spoke last night. A summary of his talk called "What Is the Emerging Church? & Misnomers Surrounding the Emerging Church" is on Sacred Journey. and Mark of FoolishSage has a LOT of notes [thanks mark]. Art has some good notes and Emerging Mistake? on Seeking Canaan is worth a read. Denise may post yet.

Scot wrote the excellent article "Future or Fad: A look at the Emerging Church Movement" (pdf), a document that I handed out to missions professionals and Foundation leaders a few months ago in Tennessee, along with the same book that Scot mentioned last night by Gibbs and Bolger called "Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Communities in Postmodern Cultures"

The Skinny? Read on.

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I thought Scot’s message was brilliant and superb and accurate. And Scot is right – the emerging church movement is NOT a theological movement. As for being too harsh on the Reformed, as someone suggested, I felt he might have been too soft and gentle. Many people in the emerging church conversation have brought sharp criticism against Reformed theology and historical blindspots but this didn’t really come across, and the WTS folk still seem to sit in the judges seat concerning the emerging church rather than the defendants seat.

Maybe we should all just sit together on a couch????

As for my name being dragged into the conversation, (just a book recommendation, actually – not a brilliant theological discovery) I am actually quite honored. I have heard much of WTS over the years. When I studied at at WA Bible College in Australia, my church history professors were all Americans from WTS. Except one Aussie, also a Wessie Pressie who ran the Westminster book shop and was responsible for my impressive collection of Banner of Truth labels on my bookshelf. My church administration class was also taught by a Wessie Pressie (Westminster Presbyterian in Aussie-slang) and i am still puzzled as to how he was able to use the Bible to support a highly hierarchical, single-pastor model and to stress it with so much certainty. Nice guy, though.

Speaking of which, I will be preaching on Sunday at the local nursing home where many of the residents are not yet senile. I will be bringing my big black Bible, and NOT my projector and VJ software [digital storytelling in a nursing home is NEITHER contextual nor missional] but i will talking about the Scottish Covenanters and their message. I may even preach from some of the texts that James Renwick used before his death as the last of those who died violently for their beliefs.

More to come.

Related: The Missional Church: Reformed Heritage?


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.


  • Andrew,
    I am very pleased that you found my blog reports on the conference and honored to have you link to them. I will endeavor to do my best today to continue to as fairly as possible represent the speakers as they would want to be presented.
    In regards to your comments about WTS, it is interesting that much of the buzz I heard around campus after Scot’s talk was that in his harshest criticism he might have been guilty, to some degree, of the very thing he was pleading with us not to do concerning emerging church. That is, not allowing those you are critiquing to define themselves.
    Both you an Scot might be quite surprised at the number of WTS students (and even a few professors!) who, to varying degrees, are sympathetic with emerging church. While we certainly have differences on the theological level with this or that representative of emerging, many of us are sympathetic or even quite supportive of much of what emerging is trying to call the church toward, many of the same things Scot brought forward in his talk. The chief difference, as I perceive it, is that we don’t think it necessary or even wise to so de-emphasize theology. Some of us even believe that our Reformed theology, at its best, drives us to be more missional, or at least it should! You might also be surprised at the growing number of churches within the conservative Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) who are seeking to live out and practice many, if not all, emerging values.
    Perhaps our blogs may begin to serve as that couch on which you were wishing we could sit and chat so as to better understand each other. I look forward to conversing with you further, and am glad that this conference has served to bring us the chance to do so.
    Mark Traphagen
    Westminster Theological Seminary student

  • Blogging the WTS Emerging Church Forum

    Already overnight some good takes on the first day of Westminsters forum on the Emerging Church movement haveum.emerged.
    Fellow WTS student Art Boulet has his own notes on McKnights first lecture,…

  • andrew says:

    thanks mark. glad i found you. i also believe the reformed heritage has a lot of connection with both missio dei and the emerging church. i blogged about it once under “The Missional Church:Reformed Heritage?”.
    keep blogging and i will keep reading.

  • Intentional Mixture of Oil and Water

    (HT: Tall Skinny Kiwi)
    Westminster Seminary is doing an emerging church series over the weekend, and they had Scot McNight speak. I hope they come away with a good look at what the emerging conversation is really about without falling into the EC=McLar…

  • chad says:

    Admitting to reformed heritage. Dangerous in some circles. I have late come to terms and even embraced it. It really sucks that the arguements from that first 100 years have stayed with us, and instead of trying to continue with the work of Christ, we try to uphold the confessions that we agree with and spend a great deal of effort in defense.
    So H.T. to you Andrew. Thanks for what is always a great deal of honesty and integrity

  • Danny says:

    Hi Andrew. Just a quick question that we in the german ec scene are discussing: is the emerging church movement a theological movement or not? What are your thoughts on this?
    Greetings from Germany

  • a missiological movement, in my opinion, with an impact on theology.
    a logical sequence to the mission thinking from the 50’s and its interaction with the cultural movement that kicked off in the 60’s.
    what do you think?

  • Simon says:

    Interesting. But wouldn’t you say that missiology is a branch of theology (maybe recently a neglected one)? How could mission thinking be un-theological?
    I would think that most movements within Christianity started with a focus on a certain branch within theology (be it christology, ecclesiology, eschatology or you name it). And those movements that had a major impact were those in which this new paradigm was then able to transform all branches of theology (in word and deed).
    So I would have described Emerging certainly not as a confessional/demoninational, but as a theological movement.

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