20 January 2009

puking emergent

For six of the last ten years of the self-defined movement known as the emergent church I have been a cautious supporter - often specifying my distinction of enthusiasm for their invigorated approach to worship style and meaning, but less-than-enthusiastic response to their mostly absentee theology.  I felt that folks such as D. A. Carson were too quick to judge the movement, smoke-and-mirroring his condemnation of it by labeling it a 'conversation' (of course, I see this coming as this is not the first occasion he has done such).  But my reservation has been held in that small glimmer of hope that this might bud into something quite good for the church, especially those stale pieces of American evangelicalism.

So I have tried to come to grips with their approach(es) to the faith; and to see them as part of the vastly diverse but singularly united church.  And I do not intend to say that I believe that they are not true believers, nor are they insincere in their spiritual desires.  But as the emergent voices continue to speak and 'construct' (if I may use that word so early in the morning) a more complete theology, I cannot find myself supporting their cause any further.  What has become apparent is that too many of the emergent 'leadership' (if they would use that word so early in the movement) are simply going in directions which fly in the face of biblical authority, ecclesiastical commitment, and plain common sense.

I confess that much of my sickness with the current state of this discussion comes through the vehicle of politics, which I did not seek to initiate or participate.  I stand firmly as a political and social conservative, and that is one lens which colors my view of the world.  Most of the emergent voices follow American left-wing political ideals, yet act as though their reading of Scripture is not influenced by their presuppositions.  The problem is that their views clearly are being shaped around their pre-conceived notion of activism and social gospel.  From here we are seeing a Jesus which looks interesting and never heard of before, mostly because no generation was so biblically and theologically illiterate to invent such a savior.  My own politics aside, though, I see how many believers simply seek to make strong or outrageous statements about current hot-topics for the intent purpose of being heard and feeling relevant.  Yes, I do understand that the church is to be relevant to culture but am struggling to understand just how this movement is any different than the purpose-drivens or jabezes of the world.

The latest bomb came when news of 'queermergent' crossed my path today.  My first reaction was that this is a group which has self-identified as a part of the larger whole, and one which the emergent folks would have to dialogue with the aim of correcting belief.  But so far, the emergent voices I have seen (certainly not representative of the whole, I would suppose) are thinking this is a wonderful addition to the church, now having a place for those who have been 'created' homosexual to enter into the covenant community.

So it has become quite clear to me that the emergent church is, in large part, guilty of being absorbed with their own self-righteous quest(s) toward self-gratification by removing anything which might direct them on how to live.  I have no idea what the hell they think that Spirit and Law are supposed to do.  In arriving at this place these voices have consciously dismissed the plain message of Scripture, radically ignored its Jewish covenantal context, and marginalized the straightforward language given by Paul regarding such behavior.  But, other than that . . . ?!?

The emergent movement is moving on an assumed authority within evangelicalism and the history of faith.  They are free to direct those who choose to come to their events and churches.  And good for them that folks like Phyllis Tickle think so highly of them.  But we should realize that these are not the seeds of another Reformation, for many of these voices refuse to leave the shallow pool of institutional unrest to grasp hold of a larger spirituality which rises above endorsing candidates for president and bellyaching over pieces of legislation.  Or is it coincidence that those who have worked for the latter seem to be dismissed from the crowd?

At this point in my life I cannot hope that the emergent movement will succeed, for I do not believe that they are on the right path.  But I do pray and work with any who will be more committed to the Word of God, seek to be led by the Spirit, daily are conformed to the image of Christ, and build the kingdom into this world.  It seems that I have been forcing myself to swallow self-righteousness and self-accomplishment which amounts to filthy rags and complete crap.  And now I have puked up my last bit.


John C. Porier said...

This is all very well said. The line "we are seeing a Jesus which looks interesting and never heard of before, mostly because no generation was so biblically and theologically illiterate to invent such a savior" is terrific.

If I were you, I'd consider doing more with this essay. It's very publishable.

hipperken said...

One of your best yet Mic!!! Also, I like the new MacBook Wheel and looove the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer:)

tgarner57 said...

Thanks, Mike. Emergent church people sound like a passage from 2 Tim 3 scripture I heard at a recent ordination service - itchy ears wanting to hear what they want to hear - a form of godliness. I am not a theologian, but presuppositions lead to conclusions whether we want them to or not. Does post-modern theology allow for a patchwork quilt of pragmatic patterns that only hang together as long as the "quilter" says that they do?