As I merge onto the information super-highway, my inaugural post will deal with something that has captured my attention since I first became aware of it: the emerging (or emergent) church. This is fairly recent movement that lays claim to reforming the church. Some of its adherents prefer to call it a “conversation.” It is going strong in the UK, Australia, and the US in addition to some growth in Brazil and Canada. Even a mind as keen and insightful as D.A. Carson observes it is a movement devoid of any real moorings or direction. He says: “I should stress that not only is the movement amorphorous; but its boundaries are ill-defined” (D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, 12). Perhaps this is intentional.
Brian McLaren, one of the fathers of this young movement, wrote a book entitled A Generous Orthodoxy. The subtitle: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN. What? Albert Mohler has provided an excellent analysis of the contents of the book (http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_read.php?cdate=2005-02-16). The title of the book is undoubtedly intentionally evocative. It is also characteristic of the movement McLaren has nurtured. This movement is in part comprised of people who have been disenfranchised by conservative evangelical and sometimes fundamental churches. Don’t get me wrong, some of their criticisms should be given thoughtful consideration. Some conservative churches, including Baptist churches, have too often majored on the minors. I have spent some time in these kind of churches. I know from whence they come. However, does this require throwing out orthodoxy because of poor praxis?
Their “conversations” often take place in “cohorts” or the communal gatherings where a free exchange of ideas occurs. In these settings, authenticity trumps absolutes – as if one had to be pitted against the other (cf. Mike Yaconelli, ed., Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic). As a GenX pastor, I am not afraid to rethink ministry methods. However, the faith that has been once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) is not up for discussion. It is what it is. We recently had a visitor pass through our young church plant. We ended up asking him to leave and never come back because of his desire to teach a false gospel. Not very “conversant” was it? I admit, it was a bit on the seeker insensitive side but then again, so was the Apostle Paul when it came to the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). We find ourselves in pretty good company.
As young a pastor who unapologetically adheres to the articles of faith that have defined the church for centuries, I grieve over my fellow GenX brothers. They have allowed themselves to be swept up by post-modernism and carried off into the abyss of a conversation that has a plethora of meanings and therefore no meaning at all. My fear is that God and the gospel has been lost and will never again be found in the emerging church movement. They are reforming the church into doctrinal oblivion. David Wells rightly observes that the reality of God “rests uneasily in the modern evangelical psyche” (Wells, No Place for Truth, 296). So it does in the emergent church.