Initial thoughts on the Emergent Church

A friend recently sent along a few links (1, 2, 3, 4) on the Emergent Church Movement(ECM). Modern Reformation also has a very good summary article (hat tip to Oldtruth). I doubt that the ECM influences the worship of most churchgoeers now. One could say the same about seeker-sensitive worship 15 years ago.

It seems from afar that the ECM was spawned by anemic contemporary worship, unstructured theology, gnostic pretentiousness, a desire to be “alternative,” and a focus on imagery instead of Biblical logic. Which sounds a lot like today’s pop culture. Don’t become Anglican, just dabble with its liturgy. Don’t adopt a structure and doctrinal framework (e.g. Reformed theology) that has summed the collective wisdom of ages past, play dilettante and invent anew. Skip the wine, get me a wine cooler.

And then there is the problem of muddled terminology. Modernism is about truth and linear thinking, whereas postmodernism is antifoundational, accepting, blah blah blah. Is this real life we’re talking about? Scads of people didn’t believe in absolutes 20 years ago. The church has always had hospitable people and good storytellers. Many of us who haven’t bought into the ECM do endeavor to humbly accept others. But the Bible is often blunt and the rubber has to hit the road. If Jesus says “No one comes to the Father except through me,” then it isn’t faithful or loving to downplay it to others. Things is the way they is. There need be no conflict between “absolute” and “authentic.”

The ECM, like the Seeker movement, seems profoundly Arminian, both in its lack of structure and its implicit need to help God by providing worship “experiences” that the “next generation” of Christians need. But God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). He could raise up people from stones instead of using us to build His kingdom (Matthew 3:9). We should worship God as He wants to be worshipped, distinguishing of course between elements of worship (prayer, Bible reading, sacraments) and circumstances (time of day, language, etc). God hasn’t changed and neither has the Bible, so why should the elements of worship? We are not called to find manipulative ways to wake the dead. We’re called to faithfully do things the way God wants it done, trusting Him to gather His flock.

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