This morning I read David Aikman’s interesting article on Christianity Today called Attack Dogs of Christendom. Of course the emerging church movement is quite blatantly on the firing line as you well know. Pastor Ken Silva gets a mention from David as the man “leading the charge against alleged ecumenicists”, which might actually be true -Ken’s daily postings have gained him a lot of search engine cred and authority for his bark. I don’t believe Ken is the nastiest or the meanest. In fact, we have exchanged emails on occasion and I find him quite approachable and accountable. If he is critical that the emerging church re-appraises Reformation assumptions then he is correct. Many of us no longer believe the Roman Catholic Church is the most accurate representation of the Whore of Babylon. For that, we start by looking inside ourselves, which btw is a lot more dangerous than sticking with the anti-Catholic view of 17th Century Reformers under threat of losing their land and their power to Rome. Maybe there is a bit of Babylon in all of us.
Regarding criticism of the emerging church, I think I was one of the earliest or perhaps the first [Dennis MacCallum was actively critical but had not yet published anything] to publish something critical (Postmodern Church Time-Capsule, 1999) but this was written as an insider and probably used too much humor to get a serious reading. And although my tone was satirical, I was presenting it as a correction and tongue-in-cheek encouragement rather than a mean, exaggerated dismissal. But since then, there have been many others. More recently, Don Carson and John MacArthur have written books to criticize the movement and there is a daily list of criticisms that emerge in my RSS reader. In fact, sometimes a search for “emergent” yields mostly critical responses and very few positives. Anyway, I don’t propose to solve the whole thing today . . .
As for ecumenicism, I see the modern ecumenical movement as a viable one as long as it retains its original link the the missiology that birthed it (Edinburgh, 1910) and not a weak theological compromise. The word itself οἰκουμένη (oikoumene) is used in the Bible as “the whole inhabited world” which should be in the sights of every one who claims the name of Christ. Jesus’s desire for oneness among his followers was made very clear and certain (John 17) and is not an option for us. We need to learn to get along, even with those who disagree with us. Ken, who is well-known for his anti-Billy Graham articles, sees the emerging church movement as bringing Protestants back to the Roman Catholic Church, who are somehow behind the ecumenical thrust.
I disagree. [Hi Ken!]
I believe the modern ecumenical movement was initiated by Protestants in the first part of the 20th Century and the Catholics did not warm to it until mid century. I also believe it was the charasmatic movement [thank you Chuck Smith] that achieved much of the present ecumenicism that the RCC now enjoys with Protestants rather than any emerging church attempts. In fact, there is much in the emerging church movement – such as decentralized leadership [priesthood of all believers?] – that Roman Catholic leadership still struggle with. Obviously there is much to do before the world is reconciled with God and itself . ..
How does the word “ecumenical” sit with you?
Related on TallSkinnyKiwi:
– The Skinny on Emergent Criticism (2004)
– Watchdog sites and emerging church criticism
– Cats and dogs at The Missional Church: Reformed Heritage?
– My experience with the Charasmatic Catholics