While on vacation in Gatlinburg, TN, I spent an entire morning in a large bookstore. Though the Christian books’ section was quite small and largely undeserving of my attention, I did find a few gems for $3-6. Among them were Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Churches, Five Perspectives.
I have wanted to get a broad view of the Emerging Churches for some time and this book provides just that. The contributors are Mark Driscoll, John Burke, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward. I have just concluded the late Robert Webber’s fine introduction to the book. The introduction offers a short sociological study of history. According to William Strauss and Howell, history’s seasonal rhythms are: growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction. Based on this rhythm, Webber develops a sort of ecclesiastical history, and concludes that the 20th century is the century of transition. The Emerging Church is “the first gasp of evangelicalism in the postmodern world (9).”
Central to the concern of the Emerging Churches is the unfortunate separation between theology and practice. In fact, Webber notes that the “emerging church reflects a growing concern to bridge the gap between theory and practice (18).” Throughout the different perspectives one can expect to see this point made again and again. The question, of course, is how does this marriage occur and how is it fleshed out in each emerging context? The Emerging Church is a reaction (whether good or bad) to the modern church, which is marked by a rational worldview, propositionalism, and evidential apologetics. The “self” is replaced by the “we” and “certainty” is replaced by “mystery.” These five authors, according to Webber–though affirming mystery in some things– all subscribe to the creedal words of the Nicene Creed, yet, all are attempting to contextualize the gospel in a new age. I hope to offer my observations and summaries as I read through the book.