Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Predictable Collapse

My old friend Drew Collins commented on FB on this article. The article is insightful and very helpful. When some have asked me how the emergent thing 1) got started and 2) it's future, I've repeated some comments several times but until now have never written them. With this helpful article in print today seems a good day to add my humble comments to this phenomena.

Before Emergent existed, some (mostly younger) folks felt Boomer evangelicalism (typically contained in megachurches that more resembled malls than churches) was shallow, lacking the spiritual depth church should involve. This resulted in a fork in the road.

To the left (and yes, the direction chosen here is purposeful) was a fork that ended up in Emergent. To the right was a fork that ended up in young, restless, and Reformed.

Combating shallowness, which results in a sense of disconnectedness from God, is the design of taking either of those forks. Emergent types thought evoking ancient practices that weren't content focused would help them connect with God. Instead it has only heightened their focus on "this world" and increasingly removing God and His Word from view except to evoke guilt.

The collapse of emergent into something which quite closely resembles early 20th century Protestant Liberalism was somewhat predictable to those with a historical perspective. As J. Gresham Machen made clear nearly 100 years ago in Christianity and Liberalism, liberalism in any form is really another religion. Dr. Peter Jones for the past 20 or so years has been documenting the resurgence of oneism (if you haven't seen Mark Driscoll explain oneism yet, you should) in traditional mainline Protestant churches and more recently in the emergent movement.

On the other hand those who chose the fork to the right (young, restless, and Reformed) are among the shining lights in not only American evangelicalism but evangelicalism worldwide. Instead of seeking to reconnect with God through content free practices, this fork in the road embraces deep Biblical and theological reflection centered on the gospel and its implications. The recent Together for the Gospel conference with 7000 attendees indicates this fork is taking the American evangelical scene by storm with positive results. Passionately twoistic, God and His Word is central among the young, restless, and Reformed crowd.

One might wonder though if those who took the fork to the right are doing any good in this world. Interestingly enough, they are. Rooted in the Scriptures which teach of a Jesus who was "mighty in deed and word" (Luke 24:19, ESV), these churches are as passionate to proclaim Jesus as the sole savior of mankind (thus showing concern for the 40 billion years - and that's just the prologue - of life that will follow ones short earthly life) as they are to bear the fruit of the Spirit through loving their neighbors (near and far, personally and institutionally) in practical ways. Thus the fork to the right produces two fruit: vibrant passionate connectedness to GOd AND genuine practical deeds towards men.

Published in 1920, Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken (while variously interpreted) seems helpful to conclude this analysis/commentary. For the past 40 years of American evangelicalism (some would say 100 or more!) the well worn path is the one the Emergents have taken with the well bent grass of experience at the forefront. But without any content to root the experience, the grass is dying on that path.

The young, restless, and Reformed crowd likewise seek an experience of God but one that is rooted in content. Well fertilized and watered, deeply cultivated and richly seeded, that road is less traveled but ultimately honors God and blesses people. May it become increasingly the well used path that doesn't wear as it is rejuvenated, stays green, and is increasingly resplendent by the outpouring of God's Spirit on His church.


At 11:55 PM, Blogger Aquatiki said...

The positive impulse behind the negative "emergent" movement is indeed good. (Driscoll began that way, but would later distance himself from the label, when he saw what they were about.) The allure of post-modernism is it's refutation of modernism. Too many evangelicals said, "if we think hard enough and long enough, we'll solve this theology thing." We must never claim absolute knowledge (only analogical), nor total relativism (God defines objectivity). I appreciate your balanced path in the end.


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