Dan Kimball just posted some reflections on his experiences at the National Outreach Convention. During the convention, he hosted a session called “Emergent: Friend or Foe?” in which there was considerable discussion about emergent/the emerging church.
What fascinated me about Dan’s post was a list of questions that came at the end . Dan says these are the typical questions that he is getting these days. They are also the sort-of issues that I tend to run into when people direct questions or comments at me about emergent.
So, since – as far as I can tell – most of my readers are not emergents, I’m going to devote a series of posts to providing my own responses to these questions.
Here are the first two:
1) What is the difference between the “emerging church” and “emergent”?
When I use the term “emerging church,” I am referring to a larger phenomenon that is being experienced across almost all denominations, in which Christians are struggling with what it means to be “church” in the presence of postmodern culture. The church that is surfacing out of that struggle is the “emerging church.” It is “emerging” because the form that it will take is not yet fully developed. It is still taking shape.
While there are a few churches that would call themselves “emerging churches,” the “emerging church” is also something that is surfacing within more longstanding denominations. In that sense, it is more aptly described as a reformational experience within existing churches.
“Emergent” and “emergents” are descriptions of a particular group of people who are having an ongoing conversation about the “emerging church.” The “emerging church” is much bigger than this group of people, and there are a lot of people who would never call themselves “emergent” or associate themselves with the emergent conversation who are nevertheless involved in what emergents would describe as the “emerging church.”
2) Do you believe in absolute truth?
Yes. I believe in absolute truth, but…
1. I’m not arrogant enough to think that I’ve got it all nailed down.
2. I don’t think genuine truth can be reduced to propositions.
3. I think the most important truths are experienced, not “known” – those experiences are generally found in community with other people and with God.
4. In that respect, I believe you can learn as much (or more) truth from art, music, poetry, film, and literature as you can from a thick book on theology.
5. In any event, I think being in loving relationship with other people is more important than proving I’m right and they are wrong.
For these reasons, you generally won’t her me, or most other emergents, spouting absolute certainty in our particular theologies or convictions. In other words, we try to adopt what is often referred to as a “generous orthodoxy.”
Questions yet to come, most of which will have similar “yes” and “no” answers…
3) Has Brian McLaren gone too far?
4) Do “postmoderns” want to hear apologetics?
5) Can a modern contemporary church have an “emerging” ministry and worship gathering in it and not have conflict with the senior pastor and emerging leader?
6) Does being “emerging” mean you don’t preach or teach the Bible but only use experiential and contemplative prayer in a worship gathering?
7) Does the emerging church believe in hell?
8 How many “emerging churches” are there? Is this a fad or something growing?