I have spent considerable time lately reading about the “Emergent Church”. There is much to read, too much. What one may ask is the Emergent Church? Based on my reading Emergent [it goes by this part of the formal name to distinguish itself from the "Emerging Church"] is a “conversation” about the refusal of the hierarchical evangelical church to meet the demands of postmodern man and what must be done about it. It is the latest effort by the “all about me” community to remake The Gospel in its image. What puzzles me is that so many see this movement as something new and take it so seriously. Emergent is nothing more than the extension and updating of the revolt against form, doctrine, and propositional truth that began in the sixties when Father Tim first took his Martin to Mass.
The Emergent conversation begins with the premise that The Age of Reason [modernism] beginning from The Enlightenment of the 18th century, has passed away. Postmodernism has arrived, an age in which there are no absolutes and objective reality does not exist - a sort of updated, intellectualized “Free to be You and Me”. The thoughtful postmodern will not be reached it is said, by arguments from doctrines that order all creation under a singular universal authority.
Postmodern thought offers a worldview, actually a non world view claiming that every pretense to reality is culturally informed and one culture's perspective is no more or less valid than another's - though it may be antithetical! It is an anti-philosophy that precludes knowledge at all. Emergent proposes to adapt Christianity to these ideas. I am at a loss how one one might merge ultimate truth with nonsense and produce anything but rubbish.
Young postmoderns the Emergents insist, will not respond to the “exclusive” “arrogant” and “intolerant” message of the traditional church. If it is to survive the 21st century, Christianity must be stripped of its hard-edged dogmatism and rigid, confessions. God's precepts must give way to “poetry” “community” “affections” and “mystery”. In other words, The Church must surrender truth and embrace emotion if it is to be palatable to these young Hegelians. The message is clear. Unless the gospel is post-modernized an entire generation will be lost and perhaps The Church as well.
Save that this movement has a smokey smell and will surely lead many astray it would be unworthy of thoughtful consideration. It is derivative, vapid, self- indulgent and intellectually dishonest. The Emergent Church proposes its own anti meta-narrative to answer the questions of a world rejecting all meta-narratives. It offers its own non dogma to a society that denies all dogma. The Emergent conversation prescribes incoherence to a culture dying of incoherence. It would replace an ancient edifice built up in service over centuries on the blood of martyrs and standing on the "shoulders of giants" with an amorphous accretion of free form ,leaderless "faith communities" and house churches, un-guided by un-thinking fresh faced, neo hippies.
The visible church is not infallible, nor is it always warm, loving, accepting or authentic. She is made up of hypocrites, idolaters, drunks, adulterers and every other type of malefactor one can name. St. Augustine is quoted as saying of The Church “she’s a whore but she’s my mother”. She has persevered through a never ceasing progression of persecutions, heresies, corruptions, inquisitions and scandals. She has survived Rome, Marx, Nietzsche and unbelief. Until abandoned by Her betrothed, She is the face of Jesus' Bride.
The Church is slow to learn and slow to turn. She is by nature and necessity a conservative establishment. She must also be organized and functional. The apostle Paul set forth the hierarchy and qualifications for leadership and church discipline in his letters to the New Testament churches. The Church is called to do all things properly and in good order and to hand down the gospel and tenets of the faith to its children. This task requires structure and continuity. Emergents pillory the late 20th century churches for failing in just that mission. I suggest that failure to the extent it is failure is the result not of the constitution of those churches but of abandoning truth reverence and tradition in fearful pandering to whining and demanding children. Emergent offers more of the same poison as cure for the first.
Jesus said,"I am the truth”. How do these new age spiritualists plan to season that clear assertion of universal and exclusive truth to the tastes of multiculturists? He also proclaimed Himself The Son of God and that only through Him may one be reconciled to His father. To all who believe on Him He offers eternal life. To those who don’t He promises Hell. How does Brian McLaren or Rob Bell soften these “hard edged” absolutes?
The entire New Testament teaches the exclusivity of Christianity. Can Christo-Buddhism be true? What about Christian-Satanism? I read recently a progressive believer declare that a Muslim-Christian may acknowledge both Jesus as Savior and Allah as God. Would Allah then be Jesus' father? How can this be? Allah’s word expressed in the Koran denies the deity of Christ. Accommodation with other “equally valid” faiths demands just this sort of syncretism on a massive scale. Be it syncretism or 21st century gnostic mysticism, The Emergent Church preaches something but not the revealed Word of God.
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”.[Hebrews 4:12] -
“So shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it”. [Isaiah 55:11]
So the Bible says and it still is news. The common thread in all the movements or conversations to make Christianity more "relevant" is the disregard for the timelessness and power of God’s Word and the sweetness of The Gospel. The Apostles preached, “Christ and Him crucified” to a cultural milieu thoroughly Jewish and pagan. With fearless audacity, they proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection. They built Christ's Church in a militantly, antagonistic environment. The Great Commission commands “spread The Gospel to all nations”. For nearly two thousand years, this message in its pure and unadulterated form has proven relevant enough to win the hearts of Kings and Emperors, sustain The Church and add millions of vastly diverse citizens to The Kingdom of God.
The wise of this world proclaimed God dead, Jesus a fraud and The Church an anachronism - in the 1960's. Oddly since then, Jesus has continued to call His sheep, they have continued to recognize His voice, come to Him and be added to His Church. S0 it was in the 1st century, so it is in the 21st, so shall it be until He returns.