Thursday, February 18, 2010

Are Emergents Creedal? West Cohort Feb. Wrap-Up

Last week Thursday, the uprooted.west cohort gathered at Gino's East back in its familiar "garage" space where, happily, there was no trouble at all hearing each other. Great to have some new folks again to join us in exploring the "frontier" of the emerging church with the help of Tony Jones's book.

I think I said at the end that we'd be discussing Chapter 3 at our March gathering, but now that I see it's on the shorter side, let's make that Chapters 3-4.

Much of our conversation last week revolved around what Jones calls at different points the "squishiness" or "slipperiness" of the emergent movement. If what emergent Christians share is indeed an "ethos, a vibe, a sensibility" (p.39), and--in lieu of membership of doctrine--the binding force of friendship (p.56), well, the question that keeps arising is: "Is that enough?"

We spent some time identifying some of the recurring emergent characteristics that connected with our own experience. Especially prominent was a penchant for eclecticism, possibly stemming from the diversity of church forms present in our own backgrounds. There is a real hunger to experience the wideness of the Church by being in touch with various expressions of it at the same time and having relationships spread across denominational/confessional lines. The lingering issue I'd love to continue to explore here is: How do we belong somewhere and to a particular community while retaining a healthy sense of this larger belonging? How do we preserve a healthy sense of restlessness, and perhaps of being misfits, without diminishing commitment to a particular people, place, and mission?

We spent a little time on the brief history of Emergent Village as recounted from Tony Jones's (by no means exclusive) perspective. Another trait of emergents that stood out here is an inability to limit a conversation about the future and mission of the church to matters of techniques, trends, generational hooks, "being relevant," etc. Sooner or later, Christians are going to talk theology and when they recognize their own biases--and the Bible's biases--in the process, things get very interesting and the commitment to friendship becomes that much more important.

Finally, I raised the question of whether, or to what extent, emergents are creedal Christians since this is something of a hot topic right now. My own take on this is simply to say that I am, and since I am not immune to doubt, I value being part of a faith community that can also be found confessing the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, among other things, to pick up the slack in my own faith. However, I am completely at ease with others in my cohort answering this question differently, or coming from communities that answer this question differently, and see no reason why an open network like Emergent Village should feel compelled to formally state its orthodoxy or lack thereof.

One parallel I am seeing just now--and this may have something to do with how hospitable the emergent movement has felt for artists and the creatively gifted--is with the longstanding tradition of discomfort among evangelicals with art, which always has trouble--you might say downright resists--proving either its orthodoxy or its efficacy as a tool for evangelism. Is the emergent church creedal? Is a painting creedal? Is the emergent church missional? Must a good novel contain an altar call?

Well, love to hear your thoughts on this here or at a cohort near you. Peace,

uprooted.west co-leader


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CaptainTux said...

Fascinating post and a very lovely description of the conversation we all had and the wonderfully quiet Gino's.

I think my answers will be based in the squishy and also from my own perspective. Is the emerging church creedal? I see a definite trend towards creeds and the reciting of creeds as a form of worship, but not all are. I see many sojourners who are still trying to find a creed they can agree with or even one they can develop. I have a personal creed that I use to help define my faith and I hope my community will share in that creed, but I want to wait until I finish our 8 week exploration into some of the concepts that Jesus and others speak about such as the gospel and mission and so forth. At the end of the 8 weeks I will present them the creed and say,"Hey, can we agree on this, is it okay to agree on this?" I enjoy having a personal creed, I have some concerns about official creeds and statements of faith because they run the risk of erecting further walls. The church is divided by differing creeds. Here, think of it this way. Christian or non Christian-right there we have a division. Substitutional atonement or not-another wall. TULIP or Armenian- another wall. With each value we assign as a core, we run the risk of creating another division and we have to be very careful as to what we decide is important to being a Christ follower. Is a painting creedal? I think a painting can express a creed if that is what is in the artists heart, and that creed through art may reflect it in more beauty than the words alone can. Is the emerging church missional? In most of the expressions I have seen, yes. However, I have also seen a community that is emerging that is very insular. They speak often in a living room and online about deep topics and they have book clubs and all sorts of thins, but there is no sense of actual mission or purpose or doing or living out. Merely a lot of talk. Could that talk lead to one taking mission on their own? I hope so. Must a good novel contain an alter call? NO! I call this Ayn Rand evangelism. I loved Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead in college, but I could not stand her 70 page exposition thinly disguised as the character's words in which she lays out the tenants of her beliefs and why anyone who does not embrace her world view is daft. The actions of Howard Roark in the Fountainhead speak for themselves and the 70 page speech in the courtroom distracts from that. If you tell a story and tell it well, truth will shine through. I fear too many Christian authors feel the need to include the Romans Road "money shot" to validate their work. All it does for me is to distract from the beauty of the story.