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So, Is a “New” Christianity Emerging?

December 18, 2010

What do you think of the development (properly called a “movement”?) of Emerging Christianity (touched on in my last post)? It is clearly from within a broad range of conservative Protestants, as opposed to “Mainline” or “liberal” ones.  Is it an enduring and major reworking of what we know as Christianity?  If you’re not much familiar with it, do you see other important, either hopeful or discouraging, trends?

What about efforts toward “Progressive” Christianity, or revitalization, from the more liberal side of the faith?  Or perhaps just the inevitable evolution that occurs even via the slow wheels of larger denominations that are at least partially open (Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, some Baptists, etc.?)  Bishop Spong (retired, Episcopal) for long has been calling for major revisions in thinking and practice.  While he may be the most prominent, he is far from alone.  

Maybe you don’t know or try to see the larger picture, but you know what issues concern you, and what may be happening in your church, if you attend one.  What ARE some of those? I am looking to teach, to serve, and also to learn here, so I genuinely would appreciate your participation.  Thanks.  

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2010 8:44 pm

    The so-called Emerging Church Movement clearly began as a backlash against the growth of Calvinism and fundamentalism in the churches but it was co-opted by Calvinist authors at least a year ago. The movement is dead from a literary perspective. If it is to live it must be a sort of grass roots local movement, since the authors of the books proclaiming to be leading the movement are in fact being written now by the movement’s enemies.

    In my personal opinion, BTW, no reform will be of any value unless it jetisons Paul from the canon and puts Jesus back in the role of Son of God. For too long Paul has been considered the vicar of Christ and has been nearly worshiped as God himself. He contradicts Jesus’ anthropology which did not include the damned from birth motif, he proved himself to be a false apostle with his attacks on the real apostles Peter, James, and John in Galatians, and with his fear-mongering lies claiming “watch out for Peter, James, and John…they want to circumcise you” (as if); he was just fear-mongering because he was losing his people to the real apostles! He needs to be cast aside as yesterday’s garbage, or Christianity will continue to be the same fear-mongering crap it is today and the same old moronic fights about free-will vs. determinism will just go on forever sapping and destroying the church. Paul is causing havock to and wasting the church as much today as he did before his fake “conversion.” He was hired by Caiphas to destroy Christianity, and yes he at first sought to do it with violence, but when he saw violence couldn’t get it done he switched tactics, faked a conversion and call to apostleship, and destroyed Christianity from within. It is time to jetison him and return to a Jesus-based Christianity. Amen.

    • Howard Pepper permalink
      December 18, 2010 11:53 pm

      Rey, glad to have you reading and posting! Interesting take on what is happening with publications from and about the Emerging Church. I haven’t been following it real closely myself. But I have heard various people saying the “conversation” (they prefer to “movement”) does not seem to be building or maybe as vigorous as it once was, recently. I’m not sure the significance either way.

      My main interest is to see whether they will go further in digging about the real history, even within the Bible itself, of earliest Christianity. And if they will be honest in facing at least some of the points you are making, I have made, and many scholars who have studied this all much deeper have made. The implications are vast, but among those who are not merely attached out of family loyalty or other emotional factors, I think some will help to set the historical record straight. In doing so, they may help to correct some damaging (non-revealed) theology initiated by Paul.

  2. December 19, 2010 7:01 pm

    The “emerging church” is the hottest topic in western Christendom, particularly in assessing its value. For some it is a serious threat, bordering on heretical (especially among fundamentalists: eg., for others it’s the only future in which the church survives (see “The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why” by Phyllis Tickle). The challenge pressing on the church today is how to be missional (relevantly so) in a postmodern age. The question is what will we have to leave behind — rationalist theologies, inerrant scriptures, etc. — in order to survive.

    But the only real way into this conversation, is to have personally experienced the anxiety that this postmodern culture can bring on an evangelical faith. For me, “having all the answers” (thanks to my fundamentalistic upbringing) was no longer ‘enough.’ I had ‘answers,’ alright, but nobody was asking the those kind of questions anymore.

    I crossed the threshold while reading the book “Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church” by Robert Webber (I highly recommend all his works), and trace the path from there on my blog (above). As an Episcopalian, I have found a fellowship that embraces faith, regardless of its expression. Interestingly, Jesus still holds the center, which says more to me than any theology I’ve studied.

    Though what I’ve believed in has changed remarkably, my faith is only stronger. I have discovered that when I thought I was believing in God, what I was actually believing in was a theology, just a road map. For me, the map had become more true than the Truth, himself. It was an addiction to rationalism — to “answers.” All the while, I was ignoring reality.

    Meanwhile, among all those friends I went to seminary with, the pointless arguments continue over inerrancy, infallibility, et al , while the world struggles on and the church wonders why its no longer relevant.

    • Howard Pepper permalink
      December 20, 2010 8:48 am


      Thanks for the thoughtful, interesting comment! I’m going to get over and read some of your blog asap. I’m interested in more of your pilgrimage.

      I’m interested in how you’ve come to think that “the ’emerging church’ is the hottest topic in western Christendom, particularly in assessing its value,” assuming you mean literally “hottest” of all. I might not have guessed it quite that high, but I only dip in and out of present-time Christian discussions, readings and such. What time I have to read, it’s a lot still on Christian origins, psych of religion, or broader stuff like Cox’s latest (not read all of), “The Future of Faith.” What a fascinating life that man has had. (Can you believe, tho it came out about in my first seminary days, I’ve never read his classic, “The Secular City”?–if I recall the title rightly.)

      And I did read, over a year ago… maybe two… Tickle’s book you referred to. In fact I re-read parts of it in order to do a fairly substantial review that Rachel Held Evans was willing to post as one of her guest-posts. It’s probably still up there, and I may have posted it or a similar review on Amazon… I can’t recall. I was very impressed in some respects with her analysis and work, and not so in others. I thought particularly her every-500-years rummage sale concept was a bit weak historically, and potentially misleading. And even if valid, the circumstances in each case vary so greatly that I’m not sure what one can make of the supposed pattern.

      I also thought (and could well be wrong) that, if I recall, she tended to mix broader reform or change elements confusingly in with those of specifically the Emerging “conversation” (or movement). To be fair, maybe her point was one I’d more tend to see: that “Emerging” believers are expressing, from within conservative ranks, what are issues and themes that also appear in similar forms from all aspects of the Western Church.

      I agree with you re. key things that will eventually be left behind, at least by the vast majority. But I may go further than you, Daniel, in feeling that it is vital that Christians come to understand the ways in which Christianity’s development shares the main elements of the development of any religion. This shows great genius, but still human genius (perhaps divinely guided in some general way, but not tied to historical veracity for the Gospels and especially Acts, nor transparency of purpose–thus allowing much theological and narrative invention, vs. divine “verbal” inspiration, etc.).

      They need to grasp the nature of “biblical invention” and re-invention (as developed in depth by Donald H. Akenson in “The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds”) and see how THAT explains so much of the fantastical in the Gospels (and I’m not disallowing all miracles or demonic cleansings, etc.–not “demythologizing” in that sense). How it helps explain the major variations, sometimes on key issues, among the Gospels, and the lack of much alignment between the Gospels (espec. the Synoptics) and Paul.

      I love your point re. “addiction to rationalism.” It’s not suprising that Pentecostals/Charisimatics world-wide are the fastest growing Christian sub-group. Most of them, at least in the US, manage to retain the doctrinal/theological rationalism, yet balance it off with spontaneity, expressive worship, and such “nonrational” elements as tongues, prophesy, “slaying in the Spirit,” etc. And I don’t mean that the “nonrational” aspects are suspect for the purposes they often serve… they can have their strong benefits, as I’d experienced for a period when I was still “evangelical” in theology. And I still believe that period and one experience in particular, helped open spiritual receptiveness that I still see as valid and important, though not “christianly” interpreted now.

  3. Howard Pepper permalink
    December 24, 2010 10:52 pm

    I also got a comment on my Facebook wall about the question of this post. My friend there said “Yes.” And he elaborated that Christianity, as any religion, is always evolving. I certainly agree. I guess the question in relation to the current or recent calls for substantial change is whether we may be at the point of something beyond the slow, gradual development we always see… a kind of new “Reformation” or radical move back to the Jesus form of faith and practice? That I would consider more akin to and an extension of Judaism than akin to the direction of Paul. He took one branch, eventually the predominant one, of early Jesus-based religion into new territory, but territory familiar enough to ancient non-Jews to be appealing. If the Emerging Church or others are historically and theologically consistent and coherent, they might yet “design” and practice something truly new. It remains to be seen.

  4. John permalink
    December 26, 2010 1:01 am

    The so called emerging church is just more of the same old nonsense that has mis-informed Western and Christian religiosity for ever and a day.
    It is just the latest version of the frequent waves of “real” Christian-ISM*** that have always been a feature of USA Christianity (in particular).
    When I was young Billy Graham and his world-wide crusade was the then in vogue version of this phenomenon.
    *** Yes Christian-ISM. Which is to say that it is first and foremost an ideology or set of ideas about Reality. And like all ideologies its essentially purpose is power and control, not Spiritual Liberation or Ecstasy.

    Again it is really quite simple.
    Have any of these people ever met “Jesus” up close and personal in a living-breathing-felling human form, so that they could be instructed and guided in precise and complex detail as to how to live a spirit-breathing Spiritual Way of life?
    The answer if of course no!
    Which mean that ALL of these righteous enthusiastic dudes are talking through their self-serving hats.
    Towers of mind-created babble or babel.

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