Wednesday, February 01, 2006

why I consider myself part of the emerging church

I'm genuinely curious why folks participate in the ec conversation. Last April when Will Sampson, Nick Ciske, Steve Knight, Aaron Flores, DJ Chuang and I made up the unofficial "emerging church track" of the Internet Evangelism in the 21st Century Conference, over dinner one night we did an around the room with the question: why are you in the emerging church?

What really struck me was that most of the answers were relational and not primarily theological or practical. Yet on further reflection I suppose that shouldn't be shocking. Though I answer that question primarily in theological and praxis terms, there's no question that I entered the conversation primarily through the influence of the man who had been my pastor since 1988.

Nevertheless, this relational connection is not the first thing that comes to mind when I'm asked such a question. My resonances with the emerging church movement are two:

  • My theology has segued from encyclopedia to outline.

    I've detailed this more in some comments I've made on the term "faithmaps" but the impression I walked away with from seminary was that we in the evangelical church pretty much had all of our theological i's dotted and doctrinal t's crossed. Through the years, I've come to the conclusion that our personal theologies are generally outlines, not exhaustive encyclopedias. There are known items in the outline but there's much that's not filled in.

  • I've come to embrace the transpropositional.

    It has been my observation that evangelicals - whether implicitly or explicitly - sometimes rely on information transfer as the omnicompetent modality of spiritual transformation. We could call this propositionalism. I've come to believe that spiritual change only occurs in the context of relationship - either vertically with God or horizontally with others or - perhaps usually - both. This is not, of course, an apropositional context, but it is a transpropositional context. There is something conveyed in a hug, a shared meal, the sharing of service experiences, the presence of another, that is not entirely capturable by lexical symbols.
Some may be disappointed to read that I have not found that my resonance with the ec has led to the overturning of any primary point of what I previously considered orthodoxy. And I also haven't found the ec conversation leading me to question any previous conclusion I had made on major points of morality. Sometimes, I have feared that for some these two types of changes are what for them is primary. I genuinely don't know if that is the case or not. Perhaps it is most accurate to say that I find myself embracing what is old in a new way.

And so this is where I resonate with the emerging church and why I participate in the ec conversation.

Again, I'm genuinely curious: If you consider yourself part of the emerging church - why?


Fajita said...

Well, I have always known that my tribe (Churches of Christ - American Resotration Movement) had a good thing going on some levels and something terribly wrong on many others.

When I read "Church on the Other Side" back in 2000, I had the feeling that "this is what I have been looking for." At this point I had never heard of the Emerging Church. I lived in Minneapolis at the time and heard about this church with a weird name just starting up called Solomon's Porch. But then I moved to Arkansas, Bible Belt, pre-emergent.

So I read, and learned about some similar strains in the EC that I had known in the Restoration Movment, only EC seemed to actually be doing it, not just trumpeting how they did it long age like my tribe is fond of doing.

Also, I like the space that exists in the EC for questions. There has traditionally been no space with my people for questions.

However, that is changing. I would say that EC is fast becoming one of the biggest influences on the American Resotration Movement.

EC literature has expanded my view of how philosophically postmodernism can be compatible with Christianity. That is what saved me from being an overly reactionary militant fundy.

Anonymous said...

"I've come to believe that spiritual change only occurs in the context of relationship."

Relationship seems to be important to God., i.e.e Trinity.

Think of all those years for the quest for knowledge and it all comes down to how we love one another.

Welcome to the church.

Anonymous said...

“What really struck me was that most of the answers were relational and not primarily theological or practical.”
--Good observation. No doubt we live in an age that seeks personal change of sorts and this can be largely self-driven in a self-improvement age. This cannot be a starting point and IMO, this is usually the starting point for most whether they realize it or not.
“I've come to believe that spiritual change only occurs in the context of relationship - either vertically with God or horizontally with others or - perhaps usually - both.”
--Agreed. Again, is spiritual change the starting point? I say absolutely NOT! Our lives are to give glory to the Father. It is not comfort or peace as we would like it. Let’s get really real here…most of us, me included want our lives to be good in every aspect. It is an addiction. This is not Christianity. I would embrace more of what is being said here if I heard more about how hard it is to be the one at work who does the dirty jobs or loves that unlovely person. One who serves others and struggles with it. How about truly being devoted to prayer?
“Perhaps it is most accurate to say that I find myself embracing what is old in a new way.”
--The OLD…if it was based on truth is still true…prayer, self-control, piety, service towards others, self-sacrifice, humility…etc. It comes down to one’s heart state before God. Yet, within the OLD there are those who hide behind this mask…again, it is always a heart matter…right?
Until we get to the point that we will never fool God...then nonsense will still have a dominate place in our lives.

Anonymous said...

"One does not study a map just to have a better understanding of a map. In the same way a faithmap is useless if it's not teleological."
--That was great! This thought demonstrates just how easily it is to miss the point...and at times, entirely!

How many have taken time off for a family vacation and completely miss the point in all the details--car problems, traffic, the wife being late...again...the kids throwing apple shaving out the window on the get the idea.

Baus said...

Steve, I hope you don't mind my responding. As is clear from a recent comment, I do not consider myself part of EC. However, I took your question as an invitation to put myself in your shoes (theoretically, practically, and relationally) as best I could.

Of course, the success of this exercise depends on my imaginative skills. Anyway, I wanted to share with you what I came away with.

First, I realized that if I had different (kinds of) people in my life, and was influenced in a similar way by similar people as you were, EC would all seem so much more plausible. This is what Peter Berger called "plausibility structures." There are certain givens in our lives that help certain other things seem true. Looking at your (and my own) situation from a "sociology of knowledge" perspective increased my sympathy for your views. It helped me see the plausibility of you finding EC plausible.

Second, I realized that if I were a part of EC, part of my "rationale" (not the right word) would be that I am optimistic about my own (or "our own") ability to do Christianity and Church better than other existing groups known/available to me. I thought about how arrogant this might seem, but there is no way around it. The fact is, EC folk believe (at least implicitly) that they can do it better than anybody else. But of course, this is what everyone thinks. If Presbyterians didn't think they can do it better than the Lutherans, they would simply join the Lutherans. If the megachurches didn't think they could do it better than the traditionalists, they would have done it like it had always been done. Etc, etc.

I think everyone should be very frank about both things: the "sociology of knowlege" part, and the "claim to superiority" part. There's no need to dodge or to be shy about either one. Thanks for being provocative on each point.

leviathen said...

For batter or worse BAUS you ARE part of the ec. We don't haev a huge membership ceremony, just getting involved in the conversation includes you. :)

Stephen - i think i would agree you in a lot of repsects but i think i also have had a great propensity for questions that just could not be answered in the place that i was in. Like Fajita, i had too many questions that those around me were not appreciative of. Therefore to find answer i had to move to a different thought space. I also had to allow myself to break away from much o fthe old and embrace some thign sthat were new. and uncomfortable. and yet brought peace to my soul in many ways.

i will take a second to comment that in those times that i sem to gettign a littel far away from my base, you are usually the one that brings me back to the ground. reading a faithmaps article or one of your posts, or just talking with you sometimes brings about a centering effecting, allowing me to not get to far out there. So I for one am glad that you "have not found that my resonance with the ec has led to the overturning of any primary point of what I previously considered orthodoxy". It has brought some stability to an otherwise unstable journey in the past few years.

thanks bro!!


rick said...

I really relate to your thoughts. Well stated.
However, one question:
When you say "that spiritual change only occurs in the context of relationship- either vertically with God or horizontally with others or...both", are you saying that spiritual change can occur sometimes without the verticle relationship? Isn't the verticle always needed, but sometimes done with other relationships ("both")?

Anikisan said...

I guess I find resonance with the EC because I'm "emerging" from Reformed Scholasticism. But what that means I don't know yet. I find myself intentionally liturgical and not ecclectic. In fact, I would have been at home in the old Broad Church or the German Reformed Church in the mid 19th Century. In the end, I just don't find reformed confessionalism that useful (though I affirm its truths) in the 21st Century. It feels like propositions (in archaic language) floating in space completely disconnected from the world which has changed dramatically since Britain was tearing its guts out over God and king.

scottie said...

I don't think I know enough big words to hang out with "emerging church" people. Having said that, aren't we all part of what is "emerging"? The church is one body in the end. I just don't get it, and don't know if I ever will understand the emerging church movement.