Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Emerging Church Movement Theology

This came up in my Google Reader today, and I found it to be pretty interesting, and a good overview of things. What do you think?

From http://compassioninpolitics.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/emerging-church-movement-theology/

A quick overview analysis of emerging church movement theology

I worry that some in mainline Protestant churches aren’t taking the emergent church seriously–that they are dismissing them as relativistic or post-modern Christianity (without taking a deeper and more nuanced look at the issues). The emergent church is here and how we deal with that fact will shape the future of the church in profound ways:

Potential Benefits of Emergent Church Movement
1) Focus on creating a safe space for outcasts and others (theoretically a safe space for minority or heretical views)
2) Focus on conversation vs. rationalist argument
3) Focus on the role narrative over legalism
4) Focus on relationship
5) Focus on the role of community in nurturing believers (small groups)
6) Focus on other (suppressed or ignored) ways of knowing (experience, narratives, etc..)
7) Focus on context/interpretive frame for author
8] Focus on context/interpretive frame for reader
9) Focus on humility in interpretation (and life) Realize our partial perspective.
10) Care for service and post-materialism (greed and environment/creation cares). Also inspiring new forms of service and community connection.
11) Journey over finality
12) Perhaps a better truth and resolution of problems of hermeneutics (eventually)
13) Exploring new forms of church and worship. Innovation. (Creative and new wine skins)
14) Reaching the unreached. Anthropological knowledge. (although sometimes a bit pre-emptive) Missional focus.
15) The understanding of systems theory and -isms in the church.
16) Challenging/destruction of dogma. Coming to the text with new and unique eyes. A phoenix or reformation style re-birth and regeneration. (loving agonism can create progress–Hegelian dialectic) Closer to Christ–further from dogma and a false contentment with orthydoxy.
17) A re-newal of the cultural debate (opposition, cooption, etc.–which of the 5 perspectives do we take) and the role of the church.
18) Authenticity, transparency, and openness via small groups (although both mega churches and seeker sensitive churches are making this move–but they are certainly a part of this. the same goes for service and some other trends here)
19) Learning how to better deal with diversity, difference, and otherness (and how we create boundaries, identity and ultimately relationship) Perhaps loose some of the baggage that goes with exclusionary image discussed in Unchristian.
20) Hopefully less underutilized talent
21) Personal vs. corporate faith. You are responsible for your faith and relationship with God
22) A reminder that church and spirituality is holistic–it touches everything and is everything.
23) Reminded that the preacher is not the final word and current orthydoxy, although it has a history (and some degree of lived experience), is orthydoxy. (I think sorting out correct doctrine vs. orthydoxy is critical important)
24) Meaning is socially constructed or rather socially mediated [even as its in the text as well]
25) Church is to make you open minded rather than closed minded

Criticism and Risks of Emerging Church
1) Hyper-diversity and loss of identity (risk of conflict, division, and lack of commonality)
2) Risk of losing doctrine, universality, and final authority
3) A black hole of theological narcissism (how do you resolve me vs. we?)
4) Culture worship/whatever identity
5) Hyper-ecumenicalism and accusations of new ageism
6) Risk of losing everything that is modern (what do we keep? what do we give up?)
7) In terms of worship style focusing on Him and not us. (ie less ego)
8] Change is difficult. Not all change is good. Destruction and erosion of tradition
9) How to allocate resources, talents, time, and focus. (which is always an ongoing issue)
10) Too much emphasis on text and theory is debilitating intellectually and practically. Is there such a thing as being too rebellious? Or perhaps too critical? Whither meta-narratives?
11) Theory is messy, complex, and of necessity always incomplete. Interpretation is likewise messy. (this is generally a risk with modernism, however although I think slightly less so)
12) Do some of the questions better fit in another venue than the pulpit? (perhaps class or small group)

Actually many of the twelve or so challenges and risks I outlined may be re-framed as a chance to challenge, learn, and re-think our perspectives on these issues so that we are better as Christians and as a church. I think this is not the time for name calling and argument, but conversation and listening that is genuine, open, and two-way.

I find it important to point out that the individualist nature of the personal quest seems to be balanced by an equally robust value of community (both internally and externally). How this dynamic plays out to me is critical to the “success” of the Christian church in years to come.

I know labels can be bad, but they can also help us sort through clutter and confusion. It seems like a more nuanced approach to practice might provide a better understanding of what it means to be emergent.

As pointed out above, I don’t think we’re post modern yet. I think the population is 50 to 80% still modernist and even those who think they are post modern are still wedded to modern values and thought. I think however understanding that there are groups who identify with a more flexible or relativist orientation is an important insight and those people need a place to call their church home.

I personally find myself in the position of being a personal emergent in the sense of my relationship to the text–applying a critical eye (and hopefully practice) to what I hear and read. I don’t read much in Eastern religions and metaphysics, although I pay attention to critical theorists and postmodernists. I’ve been reading this material for 10 years and the more nihilistic or relativistic versions don’t fit my understandings–and as many emergents point out the question should never end up being “what would foucault do?” (WWFD) or “what would zizek do?” (WWZD) the text should have focus and primacy.

What have I left out about emergent church? What challenges does it represent? Where do you see the church and emergent in 10 years? Can we learn to get along?

*** note this analysis is limited because its only the analysis of a person who has read the theory and philosophy of some emergent churches. however, as someone who has been exposed to post modern literature outside the context of theology and as someone who find themselves in someways between the two camps (which seem to have the same ultimate mission), I think I offer unique insight. it is not an endorsement of everything they do–just a head up that they have something important to offer.

No comments: