Reflecting on the "Emergent Thing" – part 1

For a couple years, I’ve been reading up on the Emergent conversation. Started when I read, New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. Continued when I heard Tony Jones at a Youth Specialties Conference, read some more books by McLaren, Jones, Dave Tomlinson’s Post Evangelical, met a couple pastors who considered themselves emergent, and next thing I knew, I was on, listening to podcasts, attending cohorts, and whatever else. You should know that I am still saved.

I’ve been reluctant to really say much on this subject partially because there are so many great sources and so many bad sources of information, I don’t want to be among the latter. So, I will tread delicately.

Coming from a conservative tradition, I can understand a little why some are hesitant to appreciate the conversation but what has surprised me has been the attack on this conversation. “IF I could say one thing to ‘those who consider themselves conservative’ world, it would be” – It’s not liberalism repackaged!

Granted, some in this conversation consider themselves to be liberal, some identify themselves as conservative and some are somewhere in the middle. If you are wondering what I consider myself, you’ll be waiting a while for a response and even then, it won’t be one of the three. And don’t label me! (I’m so pomo … but I’m not).

I think that’s my first pet peeve. Too many consider this emerging church thing either to be liberal or even more insulting … trendy. I have two theories of why this is:

1. It is typical of those who consider themselves to be conservative to break fellowship with one they perceive to be liberal. So, by process of elimination, the professing liberals end up being the makeup and impression of the “room”.

2. We from conservative backgrounds have been taught that the philosophy of postmodernism is a poor philosophy anchored in relativism and humanism. It’s fruit tends to be atheism or agnosticism, and among it’s tools is deconstructionism, and materialism (to name a couple.) People who profess this are great minds like Ravi Zacharias and Chuck Colson. People that I completely respect. (If you know me, you may have heard me say that when I die, I want to be reincarnated as Ravi Zacharias. Unfortunately, if reincarnation is true, I’m probably coming back as Jesse Jackson or worse – Joel Osteen. I know I’m not bad enough to return as Pat Robertson but I digress).

The issue is that post-modernism (from the conservative camp) is usually defined as a philosophy, which it is – but that’s not all it is. Postmodernism also refers to an age of time. So, as the conversation goes, there was the pre-modern time (the ancient time, the period before the age of enlightenment), the modern time (beginning around the enlightenment and scientific age) and now we find ourselves in the midst of another transition – the postmodern. And it hopes to combine the mystery of the pre-moderns and the science of the modern. So much more to say about this, but you can begin to see some of the confusion between the term referring to exclusively a philosophy versus also referring to an age.

Anyway, if you do find yourself reading this and have been crossed paths with this emergent, emerging church, postmodern, whatever you call this thing – I encourage you to consider the discussion.

My initial interest was about hearing how to reach out to the culture. I came away with so much more. The culture is thinking differently, it is undergoing a paradigm shift of thinking. I have not only read that but am experiencing this first hand. The Church is also changing. These are not necessarily bad and evil things. Some change is good, some isn’t. Would it not be wise to join in and help?

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