Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be is a sturdy but cordial critique of the Emergent Conversation. It is a critique that may just prove to be the final straw that breaks an increasingly unpopular and self-contradicting camel’s back. Why we’re Not Emergent is a really good read. I highly recommended it to anyone who wants to take a closer and deeper look at the emergent church movement.
I’ll be posting commentary on each chapter, beginning today. I thought a bit of back-story would be prudent before I begin my commentary on the book’s chapters.
I have had some interaction with more than a few participants of the Emergent movement, and I have actually donated a few dollars to Emergent Village. I have nothing but love for the people who camp at the Village, but I don’t resonate at all with their philosophy, theology (or lack thereof), or expression of the faith. I was never completely comfortable with declaring myself Emergent because I suspected it too be a little too close to the Unitarian Universalism I checked out while I was in seminary. Needless to say, I got the hell out of there (Unitarian Universalism) and had zero desire to align myself with anything remotely similar. The Emergent conversation looked - and still looks - a lot like Unitarian Universalism. In fact, more than a few Unitarian Universalist aficionados have blogged positively - even glowingly - about emergent, added emergent leaders to their blogrolls, and have joined local emergent cohorts, as Unitarian Universalists. There is also word of a few Unitarian Universalist “Emerging Church” church plants. Strange bedfellows? Perhaps not, and therein exists a very, very serious problem. So, I never became too comfortable with the Emergent expression, and never completely embraced it. I investigated it, and carefully so.
I do appreciate some of the questions being raised by the Emerging Church (e.g., community, caring for the poor, loving Jesus, etc.). Incidentally, the Emerging Church is not the same thing as Emergent Village, regardless of what anyone tries to say now (now being the key word). The two began as different streams of expression, with Emergent becoming a sub-expression of the Emerging Church Conversation, though Emergent leaders are now trying to own the title “Emerging Church” as their own and recast it as representative of their own (Mark Driscoll was/is representative of the Emerging Church but won’t touch the Emergent wing, for example). Personally, and at this point, I say let them have both. Who really cares? Both words are so loaded with controversy that they serve no edifying purpose at all anymore. The mere mention of either word is accompanied by too many presuppositions and assumptions to count. Their mention only leads to unfruitful polemic wrestling that is meaningful only to believers who have knowledge of all the insider language upon which it is all built. The words “Emerging” and “Emergent” have slowly sunk into a Christian echo-chamber that contradicts any realistic expression of missional living. So, let them have both words, I say. It’s all insider garb at this point anyway. My non-Christian neighbors have no idea what the words even mean or represent.
That said, I am not emergent, and never claimed to be. I do have some sympathy for the “Emerging Church Conversation,” and have used the word “Emerging” on occasion, but I’m not sure that the conversation occurring there can’t be found elsewhere in the church, so I’m not sure a separate conversation is at all necessary. And given the baggage contained by the word “Emerging” - and “Emergent” - I’m not sure self-identifying as either is even a good idea anymore. The “Emerging Church” movement has forced us all to ask bigger and more important questions over the past few years. That’s a good thing! That’s a prophetic call! So, maybe we have heard the call and are now in the process of engaging that call and living out its imperatives in our local settings. If this is the case, then the Emerging Church has fulfilled it’s purpose. Well done! But it just may be time to admit that its role was a limited one and it’s now time to go home and live out what was proclaimed. The “Emergent” wing of the conversation is another story completely. It may unfortunately be little more than a rogue vehicle that refuses to bow to its larger - and already fulfilled - purpose. Maybe?
So, I’ll be going through Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s book, chapter by chapter, offering commentary and thoughts. Feel free to read it along with me and bring your own thoughts, questions, and concerns. I think it will prove to be a very worthwhile read. See you all for chapter one soon! Peace.
Work Cited: Deyoung, Kevin, and Ted Kluck. Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008.