Friday, June 10, 2005

3 Practical Suggestions for the Emergent Church

UPDATE: Of course, in my haste I forgot to post the reason for my statements. Take a look at this and judge for yourself whether the Emergent Church is both/either capable of dialogue and/or acceptable to be in dialogue with Evangelicals. I think the affirmation in No. 6 is noteworthy (and what inspired my call to listen to the EC the other day), although they admit they do not yet have an academic response. The respectful and charitable language should offer some hope for more fruitful dialogue in the future.

(The wife was called away for a few minutes, so I'm sneaking in this quick post before I call it a weekend)

I continue to watch by the sidelines on the battle between the Emergent Church and the Reformers who are quick to poke holes. I am at least listening to the EC camp, although I remain in agreement with Reformed criticism of the movement. What I read and hear from EC'ers is a theology based on abstracts, an inability to speak in the persuasive language of modernism (often by choice), and occasionally a theology based solely on the dislike of the modern Church. If the EC'ers wish to start a dialogue with the rest of the Church I make these three practical suggestions. It should be noted these are made with the hope the would-be reformers understand the need to draw a distinction between post-modern philosophy and post-modern Christianity:

1. Speak our language first. In attempting to speak the language of the post-modern world, many have lost sight of the need to offer some kind of translation to the rest of us who don't speak PMese. Find the best modernistic expression for the post-modern Christian concept on the table, and maybe people won't be so quick to jump to conclusions. At the very least, find historical examples the might create a bridge over the chasm between modern and post-modern Christianity. Perhaps some might take a step towards you and attempt to learn your language.

2. Recognize the real concern of your critics. Are you taking a Biblical and historical message of Christ to the post-modern world, or are you reshaping God in a post-modern image? Does your theology drive your post-modernism, or does your post-modernism drive your theology? In the race to be relevant, are you moving in the relative, like the RCC? You should never tire of answering these questions because they're a vital defense.

3. Understand that criticism of the critic is not a defense. Stating the problems of the "modern" or Western church is not an apology for Emergent Church. It could be the beginning of one, but saying something is broken is not stating the absolute need to scratch it a start over. Stating a need is not the solution, but it can be the hopeful beginning to one.

Addressing these three items (over and over and over again) will go a long way to at least creating an audience of value (and potential support). Attempting to gain support outside of the Reformed will never offer you credibility to the Reformed.

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