Apologetics Index

Emerging Church – Glossary of Emergent Terms For Those New to the Conversation

Warning: I'm not listening Although this is an obvious attempt at satire, the definitions provided do reflect the views [in caricature] of most of those who identify with this movement.

It is important to remember that the Emerging Church movement contains people of diverse beliefs, so no generalization about it applies to every member. Those readers who feel that satire is an inappropriate genre for theological discussion may skip this section even though you will miss some pretty clever stuff.

I hope emergents will receive this in the spirit in which it was intended since, in spite of my disagreement with emergents, I sincerely like them and have enjoyed being part of an online emergent community. — David Kowalski

Joining in the emerging church conversation can be confusing at first. The following glossary will help the novice begin to understand postmodern Christian jargon.

  • Abductive – Unstructured, stream of consciousness preaching that is more fun than boring, inductive or deductive preaching that makes sense.
  • Absolutes – A concept we must absolutely avoid.
  • Anger – Disagreement by outsiders (Oh wait, I almost forgot. There is no “inside” and “outside.” Please invent your own term for this concept.) with emerging church presuppositions (does not refer to hostile feelings within the emergent conversation toward theological and political conservatives).
  • Antithesis – The relationship between all modern and postmodern concepts.
  • Apologetics – An outmoded attempt by some misguided Christians to apply logic or use any appeal to the intellect in an effort to persuade unbelievers to believe the gospel.
  • Atonement – Theory of divine child abuse that appeals to vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood (Don’t act shocked. You know this is what McLaren teaches, so believe it already).
  • Authentic – Being one’s real, sinful, doubting self (and proud of it).
  • Bible – A book through which subjective enlightenment comes to us as we live in community.
  • Bounded-Set Theology – Narrow minded, wrong belief system in which some people are so rude as to consider others wrong.
  • Carson, D. A. – Ignorant, mistaken man who just can’t understand us.
  • Christ – An incredible, outstanding man in the Bible who left behind a valuable story that enables us to make the world a better place. Some people (including some in the emergent conversation) say he is a divine being, but this concept is subject to deconstruction.
  • Christianity – (see “social activism”)
  • Club – Place in which people drink and dance that we frequent to let our lights shine (although we don’t shove the gospel down their throats since it doesn’t mix well with vodka).
  • Cohorts – These are not subversive small groups organized online for the purpose of undermining the work of Evangelical pastors! They are simply a means to provide community and fellowship, brother.
  • Colson, Charles – Evil, evil man who is out to get us.
  • Community – A group of people who have their own reality that is meaningless to outsiders (seriously).
  • Compassion – The steadfast refusal to call anyone but conservative evangelicals wrong in what they believe or do.
  • Conservative – (see “wacko”)
  • Conversation – Equally confused people guessing what things might be “true” and guessing what “true” might mean.
  • Criticism – 1. Something to which we must be radically open when given by non-Christians. 2. Something to which we must be absolutely closed when given by conservative Christians. 3. Something conservative Christians should accept from us.
  • Deconstruction – The license to disbelieve whatever does not suit us and to redefine “traditional” understandings of biblical concepts.
  • Doctrine – 1. Postmodern philosophy (takes primacy over the Bible and creeds). 2. In Evangelical circles, it represents the beliefs of those who have been ruthless enough to win the historical battles for “orthodoxy.”
  • Driscoll, Mark – Good, cussing brother (don’t judge!) who often compromises the postmodern faith with modern thinking (OK, we can judge him for this).
  • Eschatology – The goal toward which the church is moving – the arrival of the liberal political utopia on earth. Has nothing to do with the afterlife or eternity.
  • Evangelical – 1. Generally annoying, narrow-minded people who are hung up on their rigid doctrines and strange ideas about holiness. 2. Something we sometimes claim to be (depending on the audience addressed). 3. A label we would like to hijack.
  • Evangelical Reform – Courageous effort by some emergent theologians to deconstruct the term “Evangelical,” changing its meaning to include a radical accommodation to postmodern philosophy and culture (don’t tell the traditionalists and they might not notice the change).
  • Evangelistic Preaching – Outmoded tactic employed by ignorant, radio preachers.
  • Faith – The state of being proud of one’s ignorance and confusion.
  • Fundamentalists – People we have a right to express hatred of in our blogs.
  • God – A being who is past our figuring out, except that we know he is too loving to be wrathful.
  • Grace – The license to be “authentic” (see above definition) as long as we are kind, charitable, and care about the environment.
  • Heaven – A place self-centered moderns aspire to while we create paradise on earth.
  • Hell – A word we never, never use unless we are swearing.
  • Holiness – The state in which we are zealous for postmodernism.
  • Homosexuals – People who Fundamentalists hate and exclude from the community of the faithful.
  • Humility – Emphasizing the flaws of Christians before the world, while we act as if we don’t know what we’re talking about. [24]
  • Jones, Tony – American “National Director” of the leaderless, unorganized, emergent conversation.
  • Journey – The futile process of seeking after “truth.”
  • Judgment – Unpleasant experiences we have in this life. It probably has nothing to do with eternity.
  • Judgmentalism – Other people knowing right from wrong and saying so.
  • Kind – What we are (even when we speak bluntly) and non-emergent types are not when they are mean enough to suggest we are wrong.
  • Kingdom of God – The brave new world we are working to establish that is politically correct and environmentally clean for people of all beliefs.
  • Language – That which creates reality for a given community. Although any given community’s language is nonsense to outsiders, we expect people of all communities to read and understand our books and websites.
  • Legalism – Any exhortation made by Christians other than exhortations intended to stir people to work for left-wing social causes.
  • Liberal – A term that is not useful in describing those in the emerging church conversation since we are beyond that.
  • Marginalization – Undesirable state in which the world thinks of those in the church as strangers and aliens.
  • McLaren, Brian – Prominent leader in the leaderless emergent conversation.
  • Metanarrative – The mistaken mindset by anyone outside of the emerging church conversation in which they actually believe they are right.
  • Missional – 1. Working to make the world a better place instead of focusing on the Fundamentalist concepts of Heaven and Hell. 2. Being like the world to make friends with the world.
  • Misrepresentation – Any statement about the emerging church made by unenlightened Evangelicals who do not endorse the conversation.
  • Modern – One dimensional era in human history that perverted the church of this time. Moderns only used their minds and never their hearts. They were only concerned with themselves and never with their community. There was no life or beauty in the modern era or the modern church.
  • Mystery – Pretty much everything.
  • Orthodoxy – Whatever non-Evangelicals want to believe as long as they are nice people.
  • Oversimplification – Any attempt by outsiders to describe the emerging church conversation.
  • Persecution – Meany conservatives saying they disagree with us.
  • Philosobabble – I don’t know how this word got into the glossary since it has nothing to do with us, whatever it means.
  • Postfoundationalism – Our belief that there is no reason to believe anything except the belief that there is no reason to believe anything.
  • Postmodernism – The answer to all of the ills caused by our ancestors.
  • Pride – Abhorrent condition in which conservative Evangelicals fully believe they are more right or more saved than those outside of the believing community.
  • Profanity – The way liberated, postmodern Christians speak to show the world we are cool.
  • Protest – The emerging church posture toward everything in old-fashioned, conservative Evangelicalism.
  • Relevance – Telling the world what it wants to hear.
  • Reductionism – 1. Something we are falsely accused of as we define modern Christianity. 2. Something moderns are guilty of as they preach any isolated “truth.”
  • Repentance – According to McLaren, the call to fulfill our natural potential.
  • Salvation – Really, um, this is something that would take so long to explain that it just cannot be addressed adequately in a short, simple definition. Please read all of our books to get a full understanding of this complex term. This glossary entry is not an effort to be evasive. We’re just trying to be as helpful as possible. I mean, really, we could not even begin to discuss the meaning of this word in such a brief space, could we?
  • Sin – A word that is sinful to use.
  • Social Activism – (see “Christianity”)
  • Theologian – Term of derision when used to describe moderns. Term of esteem when used to describe postmoderns.
  • Trendy – 1. A label to avoid. 2. A goal to pursue.
  • Truth – Whatever we say it is.
  • Wacko – (see “conservative”)

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Category: Emerging Church
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First published (or major update) on Saturday, July 15, 2006.
Last updated on December 13, 2014.

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