Emerging Church – Distinctive Teachings and Goals

Pages In This Entry:
  1. Postmodernism and the Emerging Church Movement
  2. Emerging Church - Distinctive Teachings and Goals
  3. Emerging Church - Methods
  4. Emerging Church - Standard Communication Strategies
  5. Emerging Church - The Church’s Proper Role in Postmodern Culture – Light of the World
  6. Emerging Church - Some Leading Figures in the Emerging Church movement
  7. Emerging Church - Some Leading Voices Opposing the Emerging Church movement
  8. Emerging Church - Glossary of Emergent Terms For Those New to the Conversation
  9. Emerging Church - Conversation versus the Bible And Non-“Emerging” Christians: Truth
  10. Emerging Church - Conversation versus... : Scripture
  11. Emerging Church - Conversation versus... : Faith
  12. Emerging Church - Conversation versus... : Doctrine
  13. Emerging Church - Conversation versus... : Lifestyle
  14. Emerging Church - Conversation... : Ministry
  15. Emerging Church - Web Sites
  16. Emerging Church - Recommended Books
  17. Emerging Church - Footnotes

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  • The world is radically changing and the church must radically change with it
    Emergents believe postmodernity represents a dramatic break with the past and that only an extreme transformation in the church can keep the church relevant and effective in this environment. What is needed, they say, is not just a change in methodology. We need a new kind of Christian.
  • Since the Church has been culture bound for so long we must reexamine and question every belief and practice in the Church, finding new ways to define and express these
    Visiting emergent blogs, one will find that absolutely any doctrine or moral standard can be questioned. It seems at times that emergents are engaging in a complete reinvention of Christianity accompanied by a radical redefinition of Christian terms.
  • We have no foundation for any beliefs, therefore we cannot know absolute truth
    Critics of the Emerging Church movement insist that emergents misrepresent epistemological foundationalism (the belief that we do possess some knowledge that serves as a basis for further knowledge) as requiring “bombproof certainty,” something contemporary foundationalists insist they do not hold to. What contemporary foundationalists do believe is that we can possess real knowledge that is so certain it requires extraordinary evidence to refute it. [13] D. A. Carson points out that emergent postfoundationalism is based upon yet another of their false antitheses, saying “In effect the antithesis demands that we be God, with all of God’s omniscience, or else forever be condemned to knowing nothing objective for sure.” [14] Additionally, emergents fail to consider the scriptural teaching of faith as something God-given which does possess supernaturally certain knowledge (Mt 21:21, Eph. 2:8, Heb 11:1). Emergents do not seem to realize that critiquing secular foundationalism is not the same as critiquing Evangelical foundationalism. In A New Kind of Christian McLaren’s fictional altar ego, Neo, says even Scripture is neither authoritative (in a “modern” sense) [15] nor a foundation for faith. [16]
  • Since we cannot know absolute truth, we can only experience what is “true” for our communities
    Postmodern philosophers and theologians insist that truth is only known and validated within communities (“There are no Metanarratives only local narratives”). While this implies that truth is culturally relative and that true cross-cultural communication is impossible (those outside a community must first join a community before they can understand the community’s ideas), postmodern authors communicate to people of various communities simultaneously, apparently expecting them to all equally understand their intent.
  • Since we cannot know absolute truth we cannot be dogmatic about doctrine
    Emergents see orthodoxy as “generous,” [17] that is, inclusive of many beliefs Christians have historically thought of as aberrant or heretical. Many leading emergents echo McLaren’s refusal to assert Christianity’s superiority to other world religions.
  • Since we cannot know absolute truth we cannot be dogmatic about moral standards
    Absolute stands on issues such as homosexuality are viewed as obsolete. Activities such as drinking, clubbing, watching sexually explicit movies, and using profanities are seen by some emergents as opportunities to show those who are not part of the Christian community that postmodern Christians do not think they are better than them through any false sense of moral superiority. [18]
  • Since we cannot know absolute truth, dogmatic preaching must give way to a dialogue between people of all beliefs
    Emerging Christians do not posture themselves before the world as though they were the light and the world were in darkness. Instead of “preaching” to the “lost” they join in “conversation,” with people of various beliefs. Conservative Evangelicals seem not to be truly welcome to contribute their distinctive content to this conversation since they represent the old, rotting corpse of “modernism.”
  • Since propositional truth is uncertain, spiritual feeling and social action make up the only reliable substance of Christianity
    Emergents consider propositional truth a “modern” (and thus outmoded) fascination. Postmoderns think and communicate in narratives. [19] Since the pursuit of truth is portrayed as a never ending journey with no solid starting point, they consider the only legitimate measuring rods of Christianity to be experience and good works. Without a solid footing in revealed truth, however, emergents have no firm foundation for knowing which experiences are valid and which works are good (something they do not seem to notice).
  • To capture a sacred feeling we should reconnect with ancient worship forms
    Trappings such as burning candles and events such as silent retreats are popular in the movement. Embracing these premodern forms further breaks their connection with “modern” Christianity.
  • Since sublime feeling is experienced through outward forms, we should utilize art forms in our worship
    Many participants in the movement see appreciating art for art’s sake as a spiritual experience.
  • Through conversation with them, “outsiders” will become part of our community, and then be able to understand and believe what we teach
    The postmodern approach is not to try to persuade people to believe, it is to try to befriend people into joining. This is commonly expressed as Robert Webber does when he says “People in a postmodern world are not persuaded to faith by reason as much as they are moved to faith by participation in God’s earthly community.” [20] There is a false antithesis in such statements, however. We do not have to choose between a purely cerebral attempt to talk others into believing correctly on the one hand and offering an open, unqualified invitation to our group on the other. The Bible teaches us to proclaim the gospel message with reliance upon the Holy Spirit to empower, illuminate, and convict (1 Co 2, 1 Thess 1:9). When such proclamation is absent, as it is in the Emerging Church movement, there is no prophetic voice coming from the church calling sinners to repent and believe the Gospel (Ac 2:38, 16:30-32).
  • All are welcome to join the “conversation” as long as they behave in a kind and open-minded manner.
    Emerging believers reject any posture which hints at exclusivism. Dogmatic Evangelicals, however, are not treated as kindly in the conversation as others are (something many emergents admit).
  • The ultimate goal is to make the world a better place
    The Emerging Church movement envisions a utopia in which the oppressed of the world are free, the poor are no longer impoverished and the environment is clean. This paradise is achieved through social activism. Many emergent leaders think it is selfish folly to live for the return of Christ.

The accomplishing of all of the above is seen by those in the movement as evidence that the Church is emerging to reach the culture, adapting to it. Critics of the movement see these things as signs that the Church is submerging into the culture, being absorbed by it.

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This post was last updated: Feb. 13, 2013