Friday, June 06, 2008

[THO] It's a Western thing...

The debate over the emerging church is very frustrating for me. I continually feel that those attacking postmodernity fail to realize that simply pointing out the dangers of postmodernity will not dispell the changes we see in popular and academic culture. Just because there are changes does not mean we need to characterize or even demonize the changes, any more than we should blindly embrace every wind of change that blows across our landscape. I do get what is at stake epistemologically, however, I don't see much that really makes me want to return to even a moderate foundationalism as Scott R. Smith has suggested. I just don't think that truth is the issue here. (I also think that Smith fails to grasp the implications of the realization that we are a symbolic species, but his suspicion of evolution already reveals his bias. See Truth and the New Kind of Christian.)

What I am more and more convinced of is that we are in a liminal time, and likely will be for at least my generation. There will be and should be churches that are attractional, highly propositional, missional, incarnational and whatever-else-inal that our God given imaginations can concieve as long as these churches represent the important paradigms of thinking of people God desires to reach. Personally I think that the postmodern condition is the opportunity we need to shake up all that can be shaken in the church. At the end I expect that the Church will emerge stronger than ever, but I don't pretend to think it will necessarily look anything like it does today. It might be a small comfort to folks like Carson and Smith that they will only see rumblings of the future in their lives. Me, I'm just a bit more impatient, but I'm a realist. As a practitioner, leading a church into an emerging form, I know how deeply engrained modernist thinking is in people. This is the challenge of ministry in our day. For me I'd prefer to rise to the challenge.


One of Freedom said...

Steve's comment:

After reading your post I went looking for a review of the book you mentioned "Truth and the New Kind of Christian"

This guy seems enamoured with Smith.

In this chapter he makes a grave error if you ask me.

"His critique is balanced and respectful. He admits that a number of evangelical Christians have erred evangelistically and have promoted legalism. These errors need to be addressed by the application of scripture not by rejecting the organized church of today"

Isn't it the application of the scripture that have lead these Christians to Err evangelistically? By this I hope he is including the Ray Comforts of the world.
You can't win with them using scritpures since they are absolutely convinced that their interpretation of the scripture is correct.
Also, I fail to see how the Emerging church is rejecting the organized church of today. If anything it is seeking a way to bring it back into a place balance and understanding.
The unfortunate outcome will be the creation of new denominations as oppose to correction to what is there already.

One of Freedom said...

Smith is respectful and I hasten to add well read. That quote is interesting because I don't really find Smith saying the emerging church is rejecting "the organized church of today". Rather Smith is saying that the emerging church has bought into postmodern philosophies that he feels are incompatible with Christianity. I'm just not convinced by Smith's arguments.

Your second question though is debatable. I think that there are some aspects of the emerging church that do reject church as we know it - structurally, epistemologically, methodologically, etc. But I suspect you see these moves as a restoration of balance, those deeply embedded and committed to existing forms of will feel threatened.

What do others think?

steve martin said...

Change in the church might be a good thing, and then again, it might be a bad thing.

The bad part is that so much change is centered around and upon 'the self'.

There is nothing to be gained by giving in to culture with respect to the mission of the church. When it comes to the things of God, the culture always gets it wrong.

Too much 'me' and not enough Christ,.
Too much'do'. and not enough 'done'.
To much'emotion', and not enough sacrament (objective Word from outside of ourselves)

'Ourselves' is the problem.

Too mush of this pop-Christianity stuff revolves primarily around the self under the guise of Christian faith.


- Steve Martin

One of Freedom said...

I think there is a real danger of a pop-religion. In fact one of the things that I've read several emerging church authors lament is the fad seekers who are merely trying to imitate the emerging church. This is one of the reasons that I agree the emerging church is best as a conversation and not a movement.

But the relationship between church and culture has never been simple. I am not convinced getting it right is really that relevant, at least not to the culture. The church that divorces itself from culture loses its dynamic role in this complicated relationship. But if we enter into a dance with culture we can both learn how to navigate its intricacies and better we can have an influence on culture ourselves.