Have continued reading through Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church by D.A Carson. I have continued to enjoy his work, and have felt like he has come from as objective of as a stance as he can. He obviously has some disagreement with the emerging church, but does a pretty good job allowing people to speak for themselves as opposed to twisting statements to fit into his larger plan.
Carson starts off by profiling the emerging church as a group proposing changes in our culture that lead to a need for a new church to “emerge”. He lumps emerging and emergent into the same group. (My exposure has led me to feel like the emergent church is for the most part more open, or liberal than the emerging, although there is no set profile)
Carson profiles the church as being characterized by “protest”. He points to the fact that many emerging pastors have come from a very traditional, fundamental, and evangelical background, and for one reason or another have become disillusioned with the church as a whole, or at least as they have experienced it.
The main fronts of protest are against reductionism, modernism, and absolutism. Carson makes an interesting observation when he says that many emerging church find their beliefs resonating with the mindset that would have led to the reformation. In fact, some even use the phrasing in the expression of their theology or methodolgy.
As far as the reformation is concerned, their protest, fundamentally, was was a defense of the Word of God. The emerging church does not defend or refute what the Word of God says or teaches, but refutes the way the church has been saying or teaching it. Many have not moved from their core theological beliefs, but have become tired of the way those beliefs are being communicated.
As much as I agree with the need to speak the language of our day, it seems a stretch to compare that fight with the defense of God’s grace in the plan of redemption. Upon further examination of the reformation, many protests stopped short of a full defense of God’s word. Certain beliefs were stood for, certain protests were made, but in the end many of those protests were just that…protests, not departures from false systems or teachings. (Going to make some people mad there)
The protest of reductionism is certainly one that is personally defined. I can say, as I define it, I completely agree that we need to protest how the church so easily simplifies what is fantastically mysterious about God.
Issues like the gospel, free will, the sovereignty of God, the Holy Spirit, holiness, and versions of the Bible have become rallying cries made just simple enough to isolate those of us who agree with the same, often small versions and definitions, from anyone who thinks any different than us. It is a scary thing when any man or church begins to think they know every jot and tittle of the mind and intent of God, package it according to a certain set of rules and phrases, and excommunicate any who aren’t sure, or would say it differently, as backsliders or carnal.
God doesn’t fit into my head or theology. If He did, why would I need Him?
The same and yet opposite side of this coin is the protest against absolutism. This is were I really have a hard time. When I read Generous Orthodoxy, although it was thought provoking, and a good “conversation”, I had no idea what the author really thought about anything.
There is a difference between admitting I am a flawed, ego-centric, fallen man who is on a journey, or in a wrestling match with the infinite truth of the Bible, while possessing a healthy dose of fear, reverance, and humility when it comes to speaking for God AND saying someone is not allowed to say “what I do understand God to be saying, I absolutely believe and claim.” We need to be clear that the truth of God is absolute. It isn’t liquid. It is stone.
What happens to a man who is not allowed to say “this is what is true”? Questions, and converstions, are necessary…but let’s not forget the first words of the serpent where a question, bringing in the subjective, and debated definition of what God really could have meant.
On certain issues, it is just not possible for us all to be absolutely accurate. Any assertion otherwise is ridiculous. I think, the reason many have come to the above conclusion is because we hate to see how disagreeing sides treat one another in the name of God. Rather than calling for respect, fear of God, and humilty, we try to allow everyone to be speaking truth. Should we instead respect God, His work in someone’s life, and the point of journey they are on?
It is not about me being right and you being wrong, it is about God being light and us being in darkness apart from Him. When the lights come on for someone, it is not humble for them to claim they are in the dark or confused, it is in fact worship when we exalt the one who turned those lights on.
Some really interesting and controversial ideas floating around in the church today. What a great honor to be apart of the most beautiful organism on earth today…the church of God. As I continue to read I will continue to post, and wrestle with what comes up.