When I first heard of the Emerging Church, it was not good. I was told that it wants to subvert the preaching of the Gospel and a true worship of God with trendy options, activism, and in style gatherings ministering to felt needs. I am a not a fan of that. At the same time, I am very frustrated with the traditional Conservative Church. The frustration does not stem from its orthodoxy; rather, I am at wit's end because I find it going out of its way to confirm what the Left has to say about it.
There are three basic criticisms I have heard from the Left regarding the traditional Conservative Church. First, this church is an institution of indoctrination to facilitate contentment with the status quo and compliance with the demands of wealth and power. This can be shown in two ways. The first way is that the conservative Church, for the most part, whitewashes American history along with America's use of the military and Capitalism. If it does not praise them as being exceptional, then it refrains from listing the necessary specifics of sinful policies, exploitation, and military interventions.
Second, the traditional Conservative Church has been preaching a gospel of "me." They have reduced the gospel call on people's lives to the question, "Do you know where you are going when you die?" And almost any other question or issue is squelched and deemed divisive because, in the Church, there are a variety of opinions. Such a focus has led many Conservative Christians to wear their crosses rather than to bear them. That is because since we are saved by grace alone, there is no need to bear one's cross. Rather, we are taught to enjoy life and be righteously selfish. And all of that is promoted when the only question Christians ask themselves is what happens to ME in the afterlife.
Finally, the traditional Conservative Church creates a culture of fear. And this fear is used to direct its followers to circle the wagons to avoid any exposure from the wild heathens from the Left. One fellow Conservative Christian told me that he doesn't even read nonChristian authors because he wants to avoid the eventual humanistic worldview of the author. It is as if the traditional Conservative Church is tragically fulfilling what Martin Luther King said about the West in saying that it has "everything to teach" but nothing to learn. The arrogance of such a position is both implicit and in your face. Of course there is a reason for all of this. It is to prevent nonChristians from gaining credibility. Because once a nonChristian source becomes an accepted authority, whatever else they have to say, especially anything that could contradict what Christian writers have said, could be too easily believed.
In his article, Five Streams Of The Emerging Church ( Emerging Church ), Scot McKnight presents five themes of the Emerging Church that acts as streams feeding a lake. These five streams consists of: Prophetic, Postmodern, Praxis-oriented, Post-evangelical, and Political. One can summarize the movement as saying this is a Christian, Post-modern engagement with the world. Here, we need to explain Post-modern a bit. Post-modernism is a denial of the use of absolute truth, whether that truth comes from Modernity's Science or Pre-modern's faith, to conquer and colonize others. Here, absolute truth can be regarded as collateral damage as mankind's history of violently domination was targeted. And while Conservative Christians complain about the collateral damage, they overlook and under-appreciate the rejection killing and subjugating others.
From the beginning, McKnight wants to emphasize that he has his own criticisms of the movement to which he belongs. In addition, McKnight wants to distinguish the Emerging Church, which is a broad, widespread movement, from the Emergent Church, which is a specific group that is located in the U.S. and the U.K. and revolves around certain leaders.
The first of the five themes is the Prophetic. This immediately reminded me of Cornel West's article, The Crisis In Contemporary American Religion, where West complains that, regardless of the religion, it is has lost its prophetic voice in America. To West, being prophetic means to have a clear vision or direction and to have an adequate understanding of morals and their place in America. My experience in the Conservative Church tells me that the only morals worth preaching are personal morals especially governing one's sexual behaviors. However, the Conservative Church places the violence of both poverty and military action as being outside their concern.
What McKnight is referring to when mentioning the Emerging Church's prophetic theme is how those in the movement speak. To be prophetic is to be provocative in one's speech. In addition, orthodoxy is being reexamined here. The Emerging Church is no longer content with the old view of beliefs, it is telling us that we need to be in the world in a different way. According to McKnight, the Emerging Church emphasizes mercy. However, he then cites Brian McLaren, from the Emergent Church, in saying that Jesus would not hang with the traditional Church. The merit of this statement lies in the fact that Jesus did not often associate positively with the rich and powerful of his day. In fact, in His parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus identified with the invisible people of the world (Matthew 25:31-46).
Here we must note how the traditional Conservative Church has failed. For even when it provides for the immediate physical needs of the those in need, it never challenges the system that puts so many in need. This kind of challenge is the charge that Martin Luther King put before us (Declaration of Independence). Of course this is an anathema to those who have been bought out by wealth and power, by the traditional self-exalting view of America.
McKnight notes that part of this prophetic voice is that it can be abrasive and loud. Of course this only gives those who are content a reason for ignoring what is said.
The next theme McKnight discusses is Post-modernism. Though his description of Post-modernism is a bit lacking, his assertion that Christians can embrace parts of it could not be more right. Of course, such a charge challenges traditional Christians and their adherence to American Exceptionalism. The parts of Post-modernism anyone who claims to follow the Suffering Servant must accept is a rejection of any claim of one group to rule over another.
On the other hand, McKnight points out the fatal flaw of Post-modernism: moral relativity. Certainly moral superiority must be rejected. Unfortunately Post-modernism takes that to mean that no set of morals can be viewed as superior to another set rather than no person can claim to be morally superior to another. In addition, McKnight reports that the limits of propositional truth come to the forefront. This is a necessary discussion because an over-reliance on propositional truth does more than to make truthful statements prominent; it makes the God and Gospel we describe finite and less personal.
So far, we have introduced the Emerging Church and two of its five major themes. We will finish describing McKnight's description of the Emerging Church next week.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10