Friday, October 3, 2008

More Emergent Church What-Not

It's been a very interesting thing to watch the more traditional Protestant sects line up against the Pentecostals and then see the Pentecostal/charismatic veins weaving in and out of the Emergent Church movement. Protestantism is getting more and more amorphous and, dare I say, gnostic, the more these "looser" strains dominate. If it means anything, my wife, an ex-Protestant, came to that conclusion independent of anything that I said.

This article in Christianity Today gives a great list of reasons why folks are gravitating more and more towards these areas. Sure, it limits it to the Emergents, but some of the wilder Pentecostal movements who no longer hold to Biblical inerrancy and such have similar motivating factors, I think.

A few of the reasons I've personally encountered:

First, emergents believe the epistemic foundation of conservative evangelicalism, the doctrine of Scripture's inerrancy, does not sufficiently express the truth about the Bible. Inerrancy is for them the wrong word at the wrong time, though it may have been the right word for a previous generation.

This is true even if those involved don't consciously understand that this is what they are thinking.

Second, emergents believe that the gospel they heard as children or were exposed to as teenagers is a caricature of Paul's teaching—what McLaren sometimes calls "Paulianity." The discovery of Jesus, the Gospels, and his kingdom vision creates an irony: "If we are followers of Jesus, why don't we preach his message?" Emergents I know are sometimes wearied or put off by Paul, yet enthusiastic about Jesus and the Gospels. When McLaren describes the message of Jesus as a "secret message," he speaks of the emergent discovery of the radical kingdom vision as really new. The political vision and the global concerns of emergents flower from the discovery of Jesus.

Especially when Paul talks about sin. Then he just becomes a big jerk!

Third, exposure to science in public education, universities, and personal study has led emergents to disown the traditional conclusion that when science and the Bible conflict, science must move aside. Although they refuse to give the Bible the trump card in this game, they remain committed to it, but now with a different view of what the Bible actually is. The Bible, so many emergents will openly admit, employs various literary genres and shows an ancient perception of how the cosmos works. So they are both left-wing and right-wing, committed to the Bible and open to new ideas.

I've had many friends fall into this trap.

Sixth, emergents sometimes exercise a deconstructive critique of the Bible's view of God. Sometimes I hear it in ways that are no more interesting that Marcion's old (and heretical) critique of the violent God of the Old Testament. Yet upon close inspection, the rumblings are subtler and more sophisticated, and the struggle is palpable and genuine. For some emergents, the Bible includes portrayals of God that cannot be squared with their understanding of a God of love. For a group less concerned about traditional understandings of inerrancy, such portrayals are interpreted as the way ancients talked about God, with later biblical revelation seen as clearly presenting a God who is altogether gracious and loving.

A-fripping-men. This is the group that basically says, "If I was God, I'd be different from what the Church teaches about God, so God must be more like me and less like what the Church teaches about Him." Sure, they don't come out and say it, but that's what the logical extension of their thinking is. It comes out more like "God wouldn't care if anyone did/said/tried that." What's their standard for saying such a thing? Their absolute certainty in their own subjective views of the Almighty, without any objective foundation at all. It accords with their feelings, which is what's really important.

Do these reasons sound familiar to anybody else here? I see them just about every day.

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