Friday, February 17, 2006

Scot McKnight on the Emerging Church (or Finally, an Objective Examination of the Emerging Church)

One of the biggest problems I have encountered in my efforts to understand the emerging church has been the lack of many good, objective studies of the emerging church. (I have Gibbs and Bolger's book on my list of books to read.) Most of those who are part of the emerging church movement (they call it a conversation, but they practice their ideas as well as talk about them) tend to be vague when they discuss its characteristics. On the other hand, many critics of the emerging church seem to caricaturize the movement, or they focus on one of its leading spokespersons and erroneously assume that he or she speaks for the entire movement. Objective examinations of the emerging church that actually deal with the real nature of the movement have been hard to find.

Today I finally read a balanced, objective article about the emerging church that actually explains the major characteristics of the emerging church and looks at both its strengths and weaknesses. Scot McKnight's article is THE starting point for anyone who wants to understand the emerging church. His overall approach is generally positive toward the emerging church, but he doesn't hesistate to address some of the potential weaknesses of the movement, particularly its hesitancy to define its theological views.

Read Scot's article and comment on it. (It's a relatively brief article.) Do those of you who are part of the emerging church agree with his observations? Why or why not? For those of you who are not part of the emerging church, what do you think about Scot's observations? What characteristics of the emerging church describe you? Which ones do you not relate to at all?


Dan Paden said...

I'd say words fail me, but they don't, not really. I see in Scot's words the same things that I've seen in just about everyone else's.

He tries to defend the Emergent Church as a whole by saying, in a nutshell, we're not all relativists,postmodernists, and supportive of statist, redistributionist economics. But that's nothing new--that's what every single person I've run across who tries to defend the Emergents says. But Dan! We're not all like that! Lots of Emergents agree with you!

I'm sure they do. But for the most part, they aren't doing the writing and speaking, and at the most influential levels--the sphere inhabited by McLaren et al--the theologically conservative Emergents who really are concerned with communicating a solid Biblical message about Christ to this culture are not really welcome.

I said not too long ago that the dominant liberal wing of the Emergent Church would drive away the theological conservatives. Within 48 hours, the pastor of Mars Hill repudiated the Emergent label. He won't be the last, Scot McKnight's assessment notwithstanding. The underlying worldviews of the differing wings of the Emergent Church are too far apart.

Paul said...

I think there may eventually be some separation as Dan suggests, but I would disagree that the conservatives aren't speaking out. In fact, you can go to the Emergent Village website and look at their theological statements. They affirm the centrality of Christ and the gospel and clearly state that He is the only hope of humanity. In addition, in what is perhaps the best known and most widely read emergent blog ( Andrew Jones regularly makes the case from the conservative end of the spectrum.

I think Scot did a great job in this article. I would agree that he has done a great job of giving a general overview of what the big picture of emergent is.

I think most of what he describes reflects my own thinking. However, I am still working and serving in a traditional church context. I agree that, for the most part, the traditional church is just left behind by the EM and it has, in many ways, become another niche in the Christian marketplace. In that respect I see how it gets identified as faddish and the next seeker movement. I think at its core, however, it is addressing issues that are much more profound than style and market share.

Thanks for the link, Tim.