Thursday evening at Baker's Book House's main store here in Grand Rapids, there was a forum about "the emerging church". John Frye, Michael Wittmer, Andre Daley and Steve Argue along with moderator Sarah Cunningham made it a worthwhile evening and presented something of a clear look at what emerging churches are all about and the criticisms leveled at them.
You have a number of people and churches whose roots are primarily evangelical, but whose theology has been upended and hopefully (I say) will never be the same again. Some six years ago, N.T. Wright's The Challenge of Jesus changed my theology in that way. I believe the gospel, while definitely including personal faith in Jesus Christ is inclusive of God making right all of creation by judgment and grace in Christ.
The emerging church sees the gospel as revolutionary for all of life, not just to get one saved so that some day they can go to heaven. It sees the importance of ministering in a post-modern culture in a way that connects with others, yet would take them to more of a pre-modern early Christian view into the story we find in Scripture.
There is plenty to say about all of this. I don't think most people who write books and critique the emerging church are fair. But I don't think the emerging church (a big umbrella, and people in it different in theology and practice) is foolproof either.
This is related to the reality that Christian orthodox theology is much bigger than we Americans often make it out to be. If you begin to study the theology of just the Protestant church back to the Reformation, you'll see this clearly enough. Take that back to Augustine, and then from there to the earliest church fathers, and you'll be "taken back" on just how true this is.
Of course we all need to understand this, not just the critics of the emerging Christians, or those of us like myself who in one way or another identify ourselves in some sense among emerging Christians.
One recent book that makes my point here, I think, is Scot McKnight's A Community Called Atonement. You'll find yourself challenged to the hilt to see Biblically and theologically a much bigger and better picture of what the atonement of Jesus is all about. This is among the best of what emerging Christians are all about.
In the end, I don't care to be labelled as anything except a Christian. I happen to be something of an orthodox Protestant evangelical and yes, anabaptist Christian. And emerging in the sense that I want to see how better to live in the story we find in Scripture that is ongoing today in Jesus together in this world.
By the way, we're all in this together. None of us will see eye to eye on everything, though certain essentials remain as orthodox Christians. Let's not forget that, and let's be better listeners to each other. Let's above all, look to God and his grace to bring us into the unity of the Son by the Spirit as we seek to live out his grace, life and truth in this world.
Link: Jesus Creed: Weekly Meanderings