Many kind souls left comments on my query about Emergent, or the Emerging movement/church, and I am going to quote and respond here, hoping to further discussion in an attempt to gain understanding.
First of all, I think we have a problem in defining what we are defining. Some of your comments about worship suggest we’re just talking about a worship style, which I believe is better-described as “contemporary.” Some commenters seemed to be wondering if my critique of something I apparently find difficult to grasp is a hide-bound love for J.S. Bach and Hymns Ancient and Modern. And while I am exaggerating, my point is this: you can love the old and still appreciate the new. My objection to contemporary worship is not its lack of liturgy or the use of guitars in church. My objection is to music that I don’t personally find inspiring. If the music is not in-spiriting, it doesn’t feel like worship to me. And in that sense the overwhelming sound of the pipe organ, to someone who doesn’t care for it, is no different than the overwhelming sound of guitar and drums and keyboard to someone who doesn’t care for it. The overall effect is a noise so loud that the individual is drowned out completely. But perhaps that is the purpose—that we lose ourselves—and only musicians really care.
Emergent is not just a style of worship. Is it? Vineyard Christian Fellowship offers contemporary worship. Is that an Emergent/Emerging Church? I don’t think so. My impression, as we continue this discussion and I keep reading up on Emergent is that the leaders of the movement would like you to think they’re more liberal than the Vineyard Christian Fellowships of the world, but I’m not getting that message at all.
If Emergent is a movement, not just a style, then there must be some ecclesiology, which means an understanding of what it means to be the Church and the local church. Whether we gather by covenant, as the new church start meeting at Small Church has done, or you follow a Book of Order or Discipline, you need some understanding of what it means to be Christ’s Church, the Body of Christ. I think this means having a belief in the place of the marginalized, and in my belief that means including them. I’m not concerned if this is shocking to some. Given the number of people Jesus shocked by the company he kept, I understand my belief to be in good order.
Finally, Lorna wrote something I need to respond to directly.
There is something very appealing about it – though it’s not without danger. Does it lead to the belief that all faiths are equal and that belief in Jesus Christ is only one way to heaven. If it does, then it’s heresy and people will be lead astray.
I have no idea if that is a charge that ought to be leveled at Emergent as a movement. But it probably ought to be leveled at me, if you’re into calling people heretics. I don’t know how God sorts things out, and we will all know at some point down the road. But I’m not going to condemn people in other cultures whose native faith is different than mine simply because a human being wrote a book about Jesus making certain claims on his behalf, putting those claims in his mouth.
I commend to anyone who is interested the work of Mark Heim, particularly the book Salvations.
Mark is a professor at Andover Newton Theological School. The two semesters I spent taking Systematic Theology with him were life-altering. He’s American Baptist and self-identifies as an Evangelical. This text treats the subject of religious pluralism, and while it’s not as catchy as Rick Warren or Joel Osteen, it’s the real thing.