Lets try and approach this question in a different way. Its clear that I’m conservatively evangelical in theology and much of emergent stuff is not…that my main problem. We could discuss that til the cows come home. (Interestingly, I’ve heard that emergents are generous to everyone about everything except conservative Christans and their theology) :o)
Here is another question I’d like to invite as many people as want to to respond to:
What is it about emergent church that means that it needs to re-write classical evangelical theology? Why can it not emerge with classical theology?
Answers on a postcard (or hey, save paper and use the comments function!)
I guess we will either sum up that there is not reason as to why it can’t, or it will hang itself in the processs….but..lets see!
17 thoughts on “A Different Approach…”
One simple question – what makes your theology classic?As someone who identifies with emergent, I know what you mean – too much is said so have a go purely at one school of theology. The reality is that an awful lot of those emerging are people who have been badly hurt by conservative evangelicals…hence their reaction to their ‘abusers’. People rage against the mainstream system of the day…I personally would never seek to pull down. I want to ask questions of where I’ve come from and where I’m going to.
I’m talking of what is clearly identifiable as evangelical biblical theology…you know what I mean.Why does emerging into new forms of being church and authentic community involve a divorce from evangelical theology? What I see happening is a turning away from what the bible calls sound doctrine to follow what tickling ears want to hear. (2 Tim somewhere) I don’t believe that all ’emerging church’ comes from woundedness or offense, nor do I believe it has to move away from sound doctrine (see my post 16th Jan)Thats why I ask the question why can new ways of community not emerge with sound theology…why does it have to push the boundary to the dangerous extreme? Pretty every heresy there is to commit has pretty much been commited in the world, our job is to spiritually discern right from wrong.
The problem we face is that ‘theology’ is a liquid concept. Each different tradition has a theology that they can argue extremely well from a Biblical standpoint. The ‘right-wing’ of the conservative evangelical theological church believe that the Bible supports their aggressive stance on the death penalty, the war against terror, etc.The Catholic and Orthodox churches disagree on numerous theological viewpoints, and I have heard some extremely learned theologians from those traditions run rings around conservative evangelicals (and liberals) in the Anglican/Episcopalian church and support it all from their interpretation of the Bible.There are many who say that we Salvationists have turned our back on orthodox Christian teaching by our stance on the Lords Supper and Baptism when they are seen by almost every other denomination across the theological spectrum as at the very least ordinances. That could easily be seen as pushing beyond boundaries of orthodox Christian teaching that even those in the Emerging Church wouldn’t cross.So we are faced with the question of who is right? Each new group claims that they have the totality of truth, yet each have areas of their theology where there are some fundamental flaws.Martin I think has a valid point. Many of those seeking in the emergent school of theology have been hurt by conservative evangelicals. And by hurt I mean deep grievous hurts that have almost cost them their faith and have little to do with the real Gospel.Personally, I think there is much to be learned from talking together, but as long as those who shout loudest against new thinking are the people who hurt those doing the thinking, it will be difficult to gather round the table and discuss things rationally.Some of the most unChristlike tirades I have read about our fellow Christians from other confessions, have been from those who place themselves firmly in the conservative evangelical mainstream. They talk of a loving God, yet show themselves to be far from loving in their dealings with anyone who disagrees. At the same time I’ve heard some pretty damning comments of other traditions from across the denominational spectrum.Andrew, I praise God for people like you who whilst not agreeing with the position of others; whilst holding firmly to what you believe; at the very least treat others with respect and in love.If only all those who claim to be Christian’s dealt with others in the same way, we could talk rationally and heal the divides that have stricken the church from almost the beginning.
Still not answering the question folks :o)You’d make good politicians :o) (or corps officers)
Plus….I’m not talking about denominationalism…
Here is my $0.02…In answer to your original question in your post, It could very well, give it the freedom in the spirit to emerge as God wants and lets see I think you’ll find most are a mix of old and new. As it in Scriptures, “behold I am doing a new thing”.Also I must say “classical” theology is a heavily loaded term as the question is when does classical begin/end, is Paul to Luther? Luther to Booth? Or is Christ and Christ alone, which should be our one and only model for theology not any human framework or ideology? If it is then that opens a whole new world of questions.Oh and just be controversial (how unlike me :)) since you brought up doctrines (a side issue from theology, although linked) our doctrines have a flaw (excluding the massive one about being written by man), they do not expressly state the resurrection of Christ which is a kinda key part of our faith.
Andrew, its about interpretation of the Bible. What you call classical evangelical theology is part of what the Emerging Church is questioning. They are asking questions about what is of God and what is of man.Let’s not forget that classical evangelical theology was birthed out of the questioning of the theology of the time. In the history of the Church it is still a relatively young theology, when you consider classical Catholic theology or Orthodox theology.I think that denominationalism is relevant to the discussion as it is illustrative of what is happening now. You are asking a question that has been asked every time there has been a major divergence of theology in Christian history. Some of these have led to heresy, some have led to the schism that have created the plethora of mainstream Christian denominations we have today. The majority of which sit within the mainstream evangelical wing of the Church.The major difference between the emergence of new Christian thinking in the past and today is the very public arena in which it is set. Always in the past it has been born in the minds of a few and gradually spread. Today the few write books and everyone gets a chance to add their own thoughts.
(I wrote this last night but wasn’t able to get online to post it…it’s supposed to come before Lurch wrote, but I think will fit in wherever) I have to say that I think Graeme has hit the nail on the heal…and that’s basically what I was trying to say!In many places Emergent is deeply orthodox in its theology, in some it’s not. It could be that what you’ve encountered the extremes of emergent, in the same way that there are extremes in every school of theology.To answer the question, emergent doesn’t have to diverge from ‘classical’ evangelical theology, but where it does those who are emerging truly believe they are being faithful to scripture and to the leadings of the Spirit.You may disagree with where they go, but they would ask what gives you permission to say your theology is right and theirs is wrong…but, as Graeme points out, Orthodox and Catholic theologians would say exactly the same to evangelicals…Basically, emergents are asking questions that they believe need to be answered. Sometimes that may mean moving beyond the realms of evangelical thelogy, and embracing other Christian traditions on the way (this is where ‘generous’ comes in).As I’ve said in another comment, theology is not a stable subject area. There are constant developments as we understand more, as God (through the Holy Spirit) reveals more of himself to us. I would still describe myself as evangelical, and hold to the basic doctrine of the evangelical movement, but am just the kind of person who longs to explore…whether it be history, foreign languages or theology. Again, theology becomes a being and doing, not just academic certainties.Finally (honestly!), sadly, evidence goes to say that the majority of emergents come from a conservative evangelical background. Whether it be from something extremely bad happening, or a sense of being led by the Spirit, or just asking ‘there must be more than this’, they’ve decided that they wanted to live on the frontiers of their faith, not in comfortable little boxes.I’m not suggesting that’s where I am…just something of my reflections on emergent as I’ve been learning.Sorry – said more than I though I would when I started writing…
Thanks…all interesting.I’m a ‘sola scriptura’ sort of person. What I see in the like of Bell is not just a different interpretation, or looking at passages in a different light, but bad interpretation. If your interpretation of scripture doesn’t match with the rest of scripture, then you’re having troubles. But Martin, you answered the question that I was asking. Ermergent churches don’t need to go to dangerous extremes to emerge.We’ve had an intersting journey here at Pill. There is a genuine looking for something else, Pill could be described as emerging in a sense because we’re certainly out of the mould of regular corps.What I have discovered though is that the theology we have, when expounded and unpacked to the fullest extent does not create the sort of unrest you are discussing. In fact, in unpacking what I’m calling typical theology, its the stuck in their way folks who can’t really deal with it but yet we’re exploring to the full the fundamental elements of Christian belief and doctrine.Know what I mean?Out of interest…do you all come from Salvation Army families? I know youdo Adam. What about you Martin and Graham?
I’m 5th generation Army and my parents were officers. For most of my adult life I have been frustrated with the Army I have grown up in.This has led me to go on a journey of my own, which will be ongoing. I pray that my future officership will be shaped by leading those around me into a deeper faith and understanding.
Only 4th Gen here…Any particular reason you’re asking?
yeah…I’ve been silently noticing for the last 3 years of this blog, that when it comes to ‘discussions’ it seems to be multi-generational salvationists who are a)tired with the Army b)generally more liberal with their theology c)have a generally different perspective.They are, of course, sweeping generalisiations. My perspective, of course, is from a totally heathen background. Do you think that because you’ve been brought up in a ‘dry’ period of Army history that it may be producing the kind of dissatisfaction you all feel?I mean, I’ve been a Salvationist ten years and I’m certainly tired of regular salvationism…tis why I tend to be a bit more enthusiastic about primitive salvationism because for me it expresses raw passion, authentic discipleship and something worth signing up to.What do you think?
Just for reference… I’m a 3rd generation of my mums side (her parents were Salvationits) and a 2nd on my dads as only he was a Salvationist (technically).My dissatisfaction is not just with the Army I believe the entirety of Christendom could do with a wake up call about effective witness in the modern world… however this response must be suited to the individual circumstances the churches find themselves in.Your passions and experiences have led you to the primitive salvationism, mine has led me to find my true nature in Christ unique (in some aspects) from those around me, neither is more right than the other for at their heart is the only truths that matter and that is that through the death and resurrection of Christ is hope, grace, and forgiveness for the who-so-ever.In closing, remember that a generalisation is another way of saying “I assume”, and we we all know what that makes 🙂
Even though it’s a bit of a generalisation I think you may have a point. Many of my generation, and I’m closer to 40 than 30 now, have done one of 3 things: Left, fell into nominalism or searched for a better way.I’m in the latter area and although in some ways see myself as having some primitive tendancies, I struggle with some of the language that is used because of the negative overtones from my youth. I do think though that there are some fundamentals that make us Salvationists and I try desperately not to lose sight of those in my journey.BTW When I say 5th that’s my Mum’s side. Its only 3rd on my Dad’s.Hope you managed to get some sleep in the end Andrew, and look forward to hearing the appointment. Thoughts and prayers are with you all.
nope….still awake! Tried sleep, no use. Will have a nap later when my mind will stop buzzing!
Interesting thought Andrew – although as I guess you are aware my disatisfaction has in recent days become practical as well as purely thought based.If I can I’ll respond to each of your points:a) I’m tired of the Army…yes, indeed I am, but by choosing to move on I lose the right to make any comments regarding the Army’s position other than reflecting on my own storyb) interestingly, I was one of those who was decently discipled at the Army – although I had to put a lot of effort in to make sure it happened. My theological ‘wanderings’ have only happened in the period that I became an officer as I met a wider breadth of the church than ever before.c) I guess those of use who’ve been around for ages know that most of the Army’s focus as been split two fold – on slapping our backs on how wonderful our social services are (I make no comment here – the Army does incredible things!) and focusing on music – so that our heroes were no longer Brengle and Railton but Bearcroft and Cobb! This has come at the cost of mission…It my be disatatisfaction with growing up in a dry period, but in reality, that dry period is outweighed by my concerns with deeper things within the Army that I personally cannot agree with anymore. That’s as much as I can comment, really!Hope it helps!
Yeah, its sort of half confirmed my theory. I’m not one, as you know, who looks at the Army and sees roses.Totally agree with you, not sayin that I agree with you leaving…I so wish you had stayed with us a while longer, but I agree that the focus is way too wrong. But it has to be righted.blessingsAndrew