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Thread: The "Emergent Church" -- What exactly is it?

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    Professor Zymologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    I heard this term a whole lot over the past 10-15 years, but not so much lately. Was this a fad? Anybody here been a part of the "Emergent Church"?

    What exactly is it, and does it mean anything to Christianity?
    My experience with it is limited, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.

    AFAICT, it's a fad. An emergent Christian is one who asks difficult questions (sometimes very good questions), ignores the answers given by more mainstream brethren, and then abandons the orthodox doctrine wholesale purely in light of the question, which they never found an answer to anyway. (A good example of this would be the doctrine of hell (or annihilationism, since that seems within the realm of orthodoxy): they ask, "but how could a loving God send people to hell?" and then dismiss the doctrine completely, ignoring the fact that mainstream Christianity has, in fact, answered this question already.) They seem to largely eschew doctrinal statements, and it's consequently somewhat difficult to find out what they actually believe on any given point of doctrine.

    That was a little bit hyperbolic, but there's my opinion. I agree with Thoughtful Monk and RBerman. I haven't been impressed with what I've seen.
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    Oops....... mossrose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irate Canadian View Post
    We have them. Chrs just needs to work on getting them display on the profiles.


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    This may or may not be a fair observation, but I've seemed to notice an environment among people with an "emergent" bent where asking questions is encouraged (which is all well and good), but where firm answers are discouraged.

    I think the term "progressive Christianity" is being used more nowadays to mean about the same thing. I do think there are some good ideas that come from this movement. The push to apply OT principles on treatment of immigrants to modern day America's situation is one. As a whole, though, it's not a movement I would want to identify with.
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    tWebber
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    I believe "emergent Church" main concern is societal change rather than salvation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinoy View Post
    I believe "emergent Church" main concern is societal change rather than salvation.
    This came from a legitimate observation that the church at large, at least in the US, often doesn't take it seriously enough (it would be difficult to argue Jesus did not call for some level of societal change from his disciples) but the pendulum seems to swing way back too far the other way in de-emphasizing salvation/the gospel.
    For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. - Ambrose, 4th century AD

    All cruelty springs from weakness. - Seneca the Younger

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    This came from a legitimate observation that the church at large, at least in the US, often doesn't take it seriously enough (it would be difficult to argue Jesus did not call for some level of societal change from his disciples) but the pendulum seems to swing way back too far the other way in de-emphasizing salvation/the gospel.
    I agree. I seem to recall in my reading on the emergent church that I could agree with the issues they raised. I just couldn't agree with the solutions they proposed.
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    Thanks everybody, so far!

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    This came from a legitimate observation that the church at large, at least in the US, often doesn't take it seriously enough (it would be difficult to argue Jesus did not call for some level of societal change from his disciples) but the pendulum seems to swing way back too far the other way in de-emphasizing salvation/the gospel.
    I think there are a couple of Christian movements that do deal with societal concerns while holding to traditional theology.

    One that caught my eye is called Open Evangelicalism (not to be confused with Open Theism) which is mostly a UK/Anglican thing I guess. The theologian, NT Wright is an advocate of it, and Wikipedia offers this description: Open evangelicals describe their position as combining a traditional evangelical emphasis on the nature of scriptural authority, the teaching of the ecumenical creeds and other traditional doctrinal teachings, with an approach towards culture and other theological points of view which tends to be more inclusive than that taken by other evangelicals. Some open evangelicals aim to take a middle position between conservative and charismatic evangelicals, while others would combine conservative theological emphases with more liberal social positions.

    Here's a link to a blog that goes into that movement a bit more. http://bishopofwillesden.blogspot.co...elicalism.html

    The other is called Postconservative Evangelicalism. Reformed and Always Reforming by Roger Olson is a significant work on the subject. I have it, but haven't read it yet, so I don't really know what this movement fully entails. Here's a blog post that talks about it: http://michaeldefazio.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/1007/ I'm not really sure about this one. Some people have lumped it together with the Emergent Church movement, but I don't know if it really goes that far. Maybe someone with more knowledge on both can come along and talk more about them.

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    tWebber
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    My concern with the responses so far is that they are all mostly unsympathetic presentations. The one book reference was to a critique. That is not the best way to get to know someone. If you want to understand what is really going on, you're probably best to read (or watch videos by) Phyllis Tickle.

    I'm by no means an expert. I've follow McLaren and to a certain extent Bell. My impression is that they are basically recreating mainline Christianity from within the evangelical movement. At the beginning McLaren didn't even seem to realize that his theology was basically the same as the mainline. By now he does.

    Although it didn't start this way, I would say that at this point it is basically an attempt to build Christianity from the life and teaching of Jesus as we see him in modern historical Jesus scholarship, and not so much in Catholic or Protestant tradition. Those who are committed to Tradition of either flavor won't find it of much interest. I don't think it's an attempt to be popular, but is an expression of a group of people who find that kind of Jesus-centered church more convincing than theological tradition. It's not quite like the older Restoration movement, because it attempts to use as much liturgy, prayer discipline, etc, as possible from both Catholic and Protestant tradition, but supported by a somewhat different theology.

    Of course the historical Jesus movement is itself fairly wide. McLaren seems moderately close to N T Wright, who he often uses. Bell seems a bit further out to me, and not as good a theologian.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by hedrick View Post
    I've followed McLaren and to a certain extent Bell. My impression is that they are basically recreating mainline Christianity from within the evangelical movement. At the beginning McLaren didn't even seem to realize that his theology was basically the same as the mainline. By now he does.
    This is exactly right, except that I think McLaren always knew what his theology was, but for whatever reasons chose not to say so.

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