Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Me Emergent?

There is ever-increasing controversy about being identified as an Emergent Christian. For some Christians, they know nothing about the Emergent movement, for some they don't care, and others they have very strong feelings. I don't have strong feelings for the Emergent movement, but much of what characterizes them resonates with me. Does that make me Emergent? I don't know.

In the right-hand column is a Theological Worldview Survey I took a few months ago that identified me as Emergent/Postmodern (scroll down to view it). I was a bit surprised at the result, but upon further reflection, not so much. As it is, I don't follow much of the Emergent writers/writings, the gatherings, the conferences, the controversies. I am mostly concerned with trying to increase in understanding and skill as a pastor, theologian, Christian, husband, father, man. As I seek to understand the truth, many of my leanings, conclusions, viewpoints, convictions, and beliefs are eerily similar to what others label as Emergent. So be it.

Below is a quote from a new book out about the Emergent movement as highlighted on Out of Ur. Maybe half of the descriptions below are somewhat true of me. The list isn't meant to imply that all of these characteristics are true of every Emergent Christian, but rather that Emergents cover a wide territory, and at least some of these traits are true of Emergents.

Anyway, it's kind of long, but kind of interesting.

After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement.

You might be an emergent Christian:

if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac;

if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Frank, Walter Winks, and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem;...

if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu;

if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity;

if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage;

if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie;

if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty;

if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life;

if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant;

if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found;

if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count);

if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance;

if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naïve, and rigid;

if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic;

if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide;

if you want to be the church and not just go to church;

if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden;

if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway;

if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker;

if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way;

if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us;

if you disdain monological, didactic preaching;

if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—

if all or most of this torturously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent Christian.*

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