What exactly is the emerging church? I posed the question last night and even though we didn't stay expressly on topic, the answer to the question was floating all over the room. Lots of folks have made attempts at defining it, some of the best ones by critics of the movement. And though Greg and Todd might want to smack me in the back of the head for saying so, I think D.A. Carson in fact gives a decent overview of Emergent. And if your detractors understand where you're coming from, then maybe you're doing something right. This particular paragraph from Carson's website:
The major issue is epistemology—i.e., how we know things, or think we know things. Modernism is often pictured as pursuing truth, absolutism, linear thinking, rationalism, certainty, the cerebral as opposed to the affective which, in turn, breeds arrogance, inflexibility, a lust to be right, the desire to control. Postmodernism, by contrast, recognizes how much of what we “know” is shaped by the culture in which we live, is controlled by emotions and aesthetics and heritage, and can only be intelligently held as part of a common tradition, without overbearing claims to being true or right. Modernism tries to find unquestioned foundations on which to build the edifice of knowledge and then proceeds with methodological rigor; postmodernism denies that such foundations exist (it is “antifoundational”) and insists that we come to “know” things in many ways, not a few of them lacking in rigor. Modernism is hard-edged and, in the domain of religion, focuses on truth versus error, right belief, confessionalism; postmodernism is gentle and, in the domain of religion, focuses upon relationships, love, shared tradition, integrity in discussion.
How we know things, or do not know them, is the major issue for me. I'm not even suggesting that we are unable to know things with compelling amounts of certainty, I am suggesting that even in those instances a little amount of humility goes a long way. Recently Newsweek ran an article on Billy Graham which cause a great stir among some evnagelicals because of the seeming humility Graham demonstrated in reponse to some of religions most difficult questions. Billy is far from being an emergent church advocate, but his approach to relationships seems to fit EC--friendship, conversation.
As I said to Brittany afterward, I think the emerging church is more about atmopshere and ways of relating than it is about dogma. Actually, I didn't say that to her, but it was what I was thinking when I said, "Emergent is being Christian and at the same time being kind and respectful."