Monday, January 23, 2006

Listening or Labeling?

Up to this point, the emerging movement has grown mostly under the radar screen. It is now beginning to catch the attention of church leaders. Marc Driscoll shares his thoughts after meeting with Ravi Zacharias and hearing Ravi's cautions about the emerging churh movement. Marc's complete post can be read here.

The result of the growing investigation and critique of more prominent Emerging church leaders and their teachings could be either positive or negative.

The leaders he is referring to are the leaders of Emergent, who are described as being on the theologically liberal side of the emerging movement.

Aberrant leaders may prove humble enough to receive correction and maintain sound Christian doctrine, in which case the greater church of Jesus Christ would be best served. Or, aberrant Emerging church leaders could become more entrenched in their erroneous teachings.

While this process could be helpful, the conclusions will depend on the person judging sound doctrine and where they draw their line in the sand.

This could lead to a fracture in the evangelical church that forces a doctrinal debate similar to that of a previous generation, which also wrestled with such things as the inerrancy of Scripture, truth, sin, atonement, inability of other religions to save, women in ministry, gender roles, masculine names for God, and the nature of authority in the church.

These can be interesting discussions, if we are willing to agree to disagree. I would much rather see effort put toward identifying the essentials that we agree on, rather than debating everything else.

My fear is that these Emerging church leaders will only see their support base of new monastic community, labyrinth-walking, jolly-blogging, new kind of Christians grow...

Well, that was kind of catty. the disgruntled children of evangelicalism declare heresy to be hip.

And this just isn't true. How many of you that have joined into the emerging conversation have decided that heresy is hip? Raise your hand.

Just what I thought. Nobody I know.
(You can put your hand down now.)

It would be nice if we could be taken seriously as mature Christians, who love God, scripture, and church, but have legitimate concerns about how evangelicalism in its current form is impacting the kingdom of God.


rich said...

the deeper i have gone into the conversation i have found more than a few pockets of folks who are on the verge of heresy or already there. i enjoy the conversation and have learned much, but i think i fall more on the driscoll side of things. one of the more difficult parts of deciding if someone is espousing heresy or not is the ambiguity that so many have, especially bian mcclaren. i can point you to blogs that are making the point of those outside the conversation, but i betting you already read those.

i am with you though, we all need to be mature and be willing to disagree. we just can't let the essentials go...

grace said...

I agree that we don't want to let the essentials go. However in discussing the essentials, we have to come into the conversation with mutual respect.

I actually agreed with the first half of this paragraph by Marc. However, I tuned him out when he chose to label those in emerging with stereotypes and with a broad brush, accuse them all of heresy.

I don't understand why we have seen so little critique of the emerging movement without attacks on character.

Honestly, I am probably on the conservative side of things theologically. I see no reason to deconstruct the basic Christian beliefs. However, I am also aware that I define those beliefs according to my understanding of scripture.

My involvement in the emerging conversation has more to do with our methods of doing church. The people I am listening to and following are not necessarily the well-known leaders of Emergent.

There are others in whom I see the life of the Spirit, who are living out new ways of ministry. These are the people that I watch and listen to.

Sorry about the long-winded answer. Really, I'm mostly just disappointed in the lack of respect. As I would say to my kids, "Can't we just all be nice?!"

Pam Hogeweide said...

I have read some of the critiques of the so-called emerging church movement. Last year I interviewed a publisher here in my area who is devoted to debunking the EC ( There are a lot of passionate people who feel that the ECM is steering people away from the truth about God and His word by compromise and deception. I predict that the storm of controversy will get bigger and hotter.

I think it's important to not get into futile debates and mud slinging. I agree with you Grace, the labeling is so junior highish (apologies to any middle schoolers reading this!)

I want to be like Jesus in regards to criticism and not let it get to me. We can learn from our critics, forgive them for misunderstanding us, and get on with it. Jesus did not live offended and he was constantly maligned and misunderstood.

Bruce said...

I think the EC movement (conversation) is growing because of such a large unhappiness with the way "church" is being done, and always been done. What concerns me about the EC is the slow swing (by some, not near all) to heresy and liberal theology - all in the name of openness and search for new "truth." Don't get me wrong, I'm becoming a big fan of doing things differently, of opeing our minds so that God can work in new ways. I'm tired of keeping God in the traditional box. I really do wish for a new kind of Christian. But I personally am not a "jolly-blogger."


Pam Hogeweide said...

Jolly blogger, hm, sounds like a new kind of Christmas carol.

Aj Schwanz said...

Ah, what a breath of fresh air your post is. I was just reading a blog called "Emergent What?" which has multiple authors posting questions and observations about the emerging movement. And MAN - are some of them critical!! The Christ I've read about in the Bible didn't talk like that. He could've whomped up on lots of people, like the woman at the well, but instead he spoke light and life to her. Instead of focusing on what God is doing in our daily lives and how He's shaking the world, our attention is drawn towards trying to define and manage a "movement" - we're looking at the wrong thing - makes me sad.

fr'nklin said...

Hey Grace,
Thanks for the post. I always enjoy your take. I think the emergent church is great at DECONSTRUCTING the modern church but she seems weak when it comes to CONSTRUCTING a more faithful model. So, while I resonate with the deconstruction...I'm not sure where it finally leaves me. Does that make any sense?

Bruce said...

fr'nklin - I don't know about Grace, but thanks for putting into words what I couldn't get my thoughts around. You've pretty much summed up where a lot of us are.


Kelly said...

i have such a high respect for ravi zacharias, and the work that he does through RZIM. the quote does hurt, but what got me most was just how WELL he described many individuals in the emergent church movement: labyrinth-walking, jolly-blogging...

he was obviously referencing a stereotype, but i think we have to be extremely careful about the ways we practice, continued study tempered with action, and not merely talk.

grace said...

I'm sorry it wasn't clear, but the quote was from Marc Driscoll.

I hope that the emerging movement is held accountable in their theology by the wider body of Christ. I'm not very familiar with Ravi Z., but perhaps he is one who can bring that kind of wise accountability.

I agree that we will have to accept being misunderstood as part of this journey out of the box and learn to deal with that misunderstanding with maturity and love.

The reason we're even having this conversation is because of legitimate concerns about how church is being done. I agree that we don't have to automatically leap into heresy.

I loved your comment about keeping our focus on what God is doing in our daily lives and how He's shaking the world. It's a great reminder to keep first things first.

You know as well as I do that none of it makes any sense. :)
It will be interesting to watch the construction of a new model. However, I think that God is busy constructing more faithful men and women.

Thanks for all of your insightful comments!