A Rather Less Than New Kind of Christianity

Here’s my latest review for the Oooze.  You can find this review and others here.

A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (HarperOne, $24.99)

The critiques I’ve read of Brian McLaren’s new book A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith condemn it as heretical.  Key to this judgment is that they all evaluate the book based on a canon of orthodoxy that I would characterizes as a loosely post-Reformation Protestant-Evangelical-Fundamentalist theological standard.  The irony of these critiques is that it is just this standard of orthodoxy that McLaren is rejecting.  Flipping it around, though he doesn’t  use the word, McLaren is calling his post-Reformation Protestant-Evangelical-Fundamentalist critics heretics and presenting himself (explicitly) as a new Martin Luther, a as man called by God to reform the Reformation and the daughters of that tradition.

Viewed in this light, the debate about McLaren, the emergent church movement and a “new kind of Christianity” is the theological equivalent of intramural flag football.  You got a lot of guys on the field but none of them are particularly fit or skilled.  And certainly none of them play at a  professional level.

To push the analogy just one more step, the professional level that McLaren and his critics merely imitate, is the catholic tradition of theological orthodoxy of the Church Fathers and the sacramental, liturgical and ascetical practice of the historic Christian Church.  Whatever our differences, this tradition is to be found in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Unfortunately McLaren and his critics are estranged from these Churches and this matters because the further one travels from the canon of faith and practice embodied in these two Churches, the further one travels as well from the Gospel.

For all their theological differences, qwhat McLaren and his critics do share is the lived conviction that the catholic tradition of theological orthodoxy is not incarnated in any single Church.  They do not so much read the Fathers as skim them and so protect themselves from the ecclesiological conclusions that would, necessarily, undermine the notion their faith in the Church as  an invisible collect of all believers everywhere rather than an historical, visible society, with shared faith, lead by a common episcopate and which meets together in the one celebration of the Eucharist.

Whatever else McLaren and his critics may disagree about, they agree in rejecting the understanding of the Church that informed the faith and practice not only of the patristic era but the contemporary Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The judgment is not mine to make, but they are, I hope, men who love Christ and are sincere in their desire to live the Gospel.  But in the end in having separated themselves from the Church (and for the context of this argument, we can put on hold an adjudication of the truth claims of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches relative to each other), they lack the one thing needed to bring their faith to fruition.

When I was ordained to the priesthood, Metropolitan MAXIMOS told me that I must have a special care for those who love Christ and lack the priesthood.  His Eminence went on to explain that without the priesthood, there could be no sacrifice of the altar–that is there could be no celebration of the Eucharist. And without the Eucharist, without this rational and unbloody sacrifice, love, while real, would be stillborn.

It is this the cry of this stillborn love that I hear in both McLaren and his critics.

This no doubt sounds harsh.  And it sounds so because it is.  McLaren and his critics are not arguing over the Catholic and Orthodox faith but market share.  They stand within traditions that are built on the more or less intentional rejection of the normative character of the first 1,000 years of Christian Tradition, from Church Tradition.  Apart from this Tradition, however, they have no standard to adjudicate their claims relative to each other.

The tragedy of their debate, the reason I find it stillborn, is that to accept this standard, means to undermine the very thing they are debating: the post-Reformation Protestant-Evangelical-Fundamentalist vision of the Christian life.

But this is after all a review of McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity.  So let me end with a word about the book.

McLaren is not presenting us with a new kind of Christianity but simply a re-working of Evangelical Christianity.  While he claims his work is post-modern, it isn’t.  For that we should look to the works of John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock and David Bentley Hart.  Read these theologians and the intellectual and spiritual poverty of McLaren’s work and the emegent church movement is clear.

Whatever good points there might be in his re-working, in the end McLaren’s “new kind of Christianity” demonstrates the inherent and internal theological and spiritual weakness of the Reformation in general and of Evangelical Christianity in particular.  That weakness is the weakness of a merely partial faith, a faith that is not orthodox (or Orthodox) because it is not catholic (or Catholic) and not catholic (or Catholic) because it is nor orthodox (or Orthodox).

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

the debate about McLaren, the emergent church movement and a “new kind of Christianity” is the theological equivalent of intramural flag football.  You got a lot of guys on the field but none of them are particularly fit or skilled.  And certainly none of them play at a  professional level.
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  • http://saintjameskids.blogspot.com/ Fr. James Early

    Fr. Gregory,

    This post is very interesting, but unfortunately, I don’t really understand it, because I have not read the book, nor do I really understand the emergent church movement. I wonder if you would mind taking a moment to briefly summarize the main differences between McLaren’s movement and “mainstream” (for lack of a better word) evangelicalism.
    .-= Fr. James Early´s last blog ..Family (An MK Comes Home, Part 21) =-.

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Fr James,

      Thank you for your question. I think that Jason and Dana could probably answer your question much better than I could. Postmodern thought I’m good with; the emergent church movement I’m less familiar with. So I would invite Jason and Dana to offer us their insights here if they have the time to do so.

      There is a good wikipedia article on the emergent church: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerging_church.

      In my admittedly limited understanding of the emergent church movement, there was a realization–and dissatisfaction–among at least some Evangelical Christians that Evangelical theology was for all that it made use of the Scriptures was not biblical but modern. Indeed, Protestant thought in generally and Evangelical thought in particular are both the source of modernity–of the notion that we can build a life on the rejection of the past. The Catholic thinker Fr George Rutlers argues that modernity (and so Protestant and Evangelical Christianity) is the first tradition in human history predicated on the rejection of tradition.

      With the rejection of tradition, we need to find a new way of holding human life together and modern thought turns to reason. The rationalism of Evangelical thought is the religious expression of this; if I can simply lay the facts of the Gospel out before a person in a rational fashion then he will come to faith in Jesus Christ.

      While modernity does a fine job of collecting facts (think here of the advances of the natural sciences), it doesn’t, quite know what to do with the facts. In the Christian life this means understanding what God has done for me in Jesus Christ but not knowing what I am to do in response. As a Baptist friend of mine once told me, he saw clearly the twin peaks of justification and sanctification but he had no idea how to cross from the first to the second. Facts without context, information without application.

      And out of this, and as a critique of this, there arise the emergent church movement. The movement, and McLaren’s book certainly does this, downplays dogmatic theology and plays up spirituality. Orthodoxy is minimized, orthopraxis is emphasized. As a result, members of the emergent church movement tend less to feed on the Christian tradition and rather graze. So you find emergent church congregations taking bits and pieces from here and there from the historical practice of the Church. For example, there is the new monasticism movement that tries to adapt monastic life to an post-modern ethos (think monastic life without elders). Some communities will adapt traditional liturgical practices from Anglicanism or Roman Catholicism (or less frequently, Orthodoxy).

      The problem is that all of this is done eclectically and without any understanding of the tradition that gave rise to the practices.

      Unlike mainline Evangelical Christianity, the emergent church movement tends to be less interested in the traditional benchmarks of Evangelical orthodoxy and morality (McLaren seems rather pro-gay rights in my reading of him but I could be wrong). Basically, the emergent church movement relates to traditional Evangelical Christianity the way EC relates to older forms of Protestantism (as well as Orthodoxy and Catholicism), as a critique–as a self-appointed, self-anointed correction. McLaren self-consciously describes himself as a new Martin Luther, as I said in the review, as a reformer of the Reformation.

      Hope that helps. If Jason and Dana can join in that would be very helpful to me.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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  • http://saintjameskids.blogspot.com Fr. James Early

    Fr. Gregory,

    This post is very interesting, but unfortunately, I don’t really understand it, because I have not read the book, nor do I really understand the emergent church movement. I wonder if you would mind taking a moment to briefly summarize the main differences between McLaren’s movement and “mainstream” (for lack of a better word) evangelicalism.
    .-= Fr. James Early´s last blog ..Family (An MK Comes Home, Part 21) =-.

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    • http://palamas.info Fr Gregory Jensen

      Fr James,

      Thank you for your question. I think that Jason and Dana could probably answer your question much better than I could. Postmodern thought I’m good with; the emergent church movement I’m less familiar with. So I would invite Jason and Dana to offer us their insights here if they have the time to do so.

      There is a good wikipedia article on the emergent church: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerging_church.

      In my admittedly limited understanding of the emergent church movement, there was a realization–and dissatisfaction–among at least some Evangelical Christians that Evangelical theology was for all that it made use of the Scriptures was not biblical but modern. Indeed, Protestant thought in generally and Evangelical thought in particular are both the source of modernity–of the notion that we can build a life on the rejection of the past. The Catholic thinker Fr George Rutlers argues that modernity (and so Protestant and Evangelical Christianity) is the first tradition in human history predicated on the rejection of tradition.

      With the rejection of tradition, we need to find a new way of holding human life together and modern thought turns to reason. The rationalism of Evangelical thought is the religious expression of this; if I can simply lay the facts of the Gospel out before a person in a rational fashion then he will come to faith in Jesus Christ.

      While modernity does a fine job of collecting facts (think here of the advances of the natural sciences), it doesn’t, quite know what to do with the facts. In the Christian life this means understanding what God has done for me in Jesus Christ but not knowing what I am to do in response. As a Baptist friend of mine once told me, he saw clearly the twin peaks of justification and sanctification but he had no idea how to cross from the first to the second. Facts without context, information without application.

      And out of this, and as a critique of this, there arise the emergent church movement. The movement, and McLaren’s book certainly does this, downplays dogmatic theology and plays up spirituality. Orthodoxy is minimized, orthopraxis is emphasized. As a result, members of the emergent church movement tend less to feed on the Christian tradition and rather graze. So you find emergent church congregations taking bits and pieces from here and there from the historical practice of the Church. For example, there is the new monasticism movement that tries to adapt monastic life to an post-modern ethos (think monastic life without elders). Some communities will adapt traditional liturgical practices from Anglicanism or Roman Catholicism (or less frequently, Orthodoxy).

      The problem is that all of this is done eclectically and without any understanding of the tradition that gave rise to the practices.

      Unlike mainline Evangelical Christianity, the emergent church movement tends to be less interested in the traditional benchmarks of Evangelical orthodoxy and morality (McLaren seems rather pro-gay rights in my reading of him but I could be wrong). Basically, the emergent church movement relates to traditional Evangelical Christianity the way EC relates to older forms of Protestantism (as well as Orthodoxy and Catholicism), as a critique–as a self-appointed, self-anointed correction. McLaren self-consciously describes himself as a new Martin Luther, as I said in the review, as a reformer of the Reformation.

      Hope that helps. If Jason and Dana can join in that would be very helpful to me.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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  • http://jzahariades.wordpress.com/ Jason Zahariades

    Fr Gregory, thank you for this review of Brian McLaren’s newest book. Your review touches upon the reason why I ended up walking away from the Emerging Church and into the Orthodox Church. While the Emerging Church conversation provided me a valuable and safe forum to deconstruct my evangelical theology and practice, it ultimately did not help me to reconstruct my theology and practice around a healthy and historic ecclesiology. In other words, the Emerging Church conversation helped me ask great questions for which it could not supply great answers. Your comment about “stillborn love” is an apt description of my personal experience.

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  • http://jzahariades.wordpress.com Jason Zahariades

    Fr Gregory, thank you for this review of Brian McLaren’s newest book. Your review touches upon the reason why I ended up walking away from the Emerging Church and into the Orthodox Church. While the Emerging Church conversation provided me a valuable and safe forum to deconstruct my evangelical theology and practice, it ultimately did not help me to reconstruct my theology and practice around a healthy and historic ecclesiology. In other words, the Emerging Church conversation helped me ask great questions for which it could not supply great answers. Your comment about “stillborn love” is an apt description of my personal experience.

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  • Dana Ames

    I wrote a longer (probably too long) comment that seems to have gotten lost. Suffice it to say that my experience is much like Jason’s.

    Dana

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  • Dana Ames

    I wrote a longer (probably too long) comment that seems to have gotten lost. Suffice it to say that my experience is much like Jason’s.

    Dana

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=782293547 Andrew Troth

    If McLaren is postmodern it’s only by accident. He seems to have created a “reformational simulacrum”…. :)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=782293547 Andrew Troth

    If McLaren is postmodern it’s only by accident. He seems to have created a “reformational simulacrum”…. :)

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  • http://silouanthompson.net/ Silouan

    Here are some specifics about McLaren’s book and its assertions.

    As an Orthodox who was Evangelical for twenty years, I find a lot to agree with in McLaren’s criticisms of modern Evangelical thought and preconceptions. Unfortunately he hasn’t got anything to replace these things with other than what feels right to him.

    I had the same sense recently in reading Jim Belcher’s excellent Deep Church. Belcher was involved in the “emerging church” before it was even called that, and summarizes the emerging movement’s criticisms of traditional [Evangelical] Christianity:

    1. Captivity to Enlightenment rationalism. (Ironically, to assert “post-modernism,” we have to buy into modernism’s notion of progress.)
    2. A narrow view of salvation: Salvation is pardon based on Christ’s suffering; it’s instantaneous upon a confession of faith and nothing more is required to fulfill God’s will.
    3. Belief before belonging: Evangelism and membership based on propositional assertions, not on community relationships.
    4. Uncontextualized worship.
    5. Ineffective preaching. Protestant preaching is usually either exposition or motivational junk – either way the only relationship it builds is speaker-and-audience.
    6. Weak ecclesiology.
    7.Tribalism: Christendom is unwilling to engage with culture.

    Six out of those seven are critiques Orthodox Christians have been offering for years. One nice thing about the “emerging church” conversation is that it’s enabling us to assert Orthodox points of view that address these concerns.

    (About point #4 – The idol-free, gender-separated, non-orgiastic, Semitic-influenced liturgy of the Church that spread throughout the first-century Roman Empire was seeker-UNfriendly and hardly contextualized at all until after Nicea. This issue is an artifact of our consumer culture.)

    One last thought: I notice that most of the critics of the “emerging church” are Reformed. I think that’s because the Reformed are about the last Protestant group that still has any real concept of [little-o] orthodoxy.
    .-= Silouan´s last blog ..The creative process =-.

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Silouan,

      Thank you for your summary. I found it very helpful.

      You’re right about most of the critics of the emerging church being Reformed–and you are right about why they are so critical.

      What remains for me in all this however is that many in the emerging church seem more inclined to criticize than anything else. Unlike other Evangelical Christians McLaren, to take but one example, understands that the Christian tradition is older than the Reformation. While he is happy to throw out most of what came to be understood as Christian after the Reformation, he seems unwilling to actually ask the fundamental question: Did the Reformers actually bring about a reformation or did they instead deform the Church in the West? McLaren seems to want to eat his cake and have it too.

      Anyway, very helpful comments. Thank you.

      +FrG

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  • http://silouanthompson.net Silouan

    Here are some specifics about McLaren’s book and its assertions.

    As an Orthodox who was Evangelical for twenty years, I find a lot to agree with in McLaren’s criticisms of modern Evangelical thought and preconceptions. Unfortunately he hasn’t got anything to replace these things with other than what feels right to him.

    I had the same sense recently in reading Jim Belcher’s excellent Deep Church. Belcher was involved in the “emerging church” before it was even called that, and summarizes the emerging movement’s criticisms of traditional [Evangelical] Christianity:

    1. Captivity to Enlightenment rationalism. (Ironically, to assert “post-modernism,” we have to buy into modernism’s notion of progress.)
    2. A narrow view of salvation: Salvation is pardon based on Christ’s suffering; it’s instantaneous upon a confession of faith and nothing more is required to fulfill God’s will.
    3. Belief before belonging: Evangelism and membership based on propositional assertions, not on community relationships.
    4. Uncontextualized worship.
    5. Ineffective preaching. Protestant preaching is usually either exposition or motivational junk – either way the only relationship it builds is speaker-and-audience.
    6. Weak ecclesiology.
    7.Tribalism: Christendom is unwilling to engage with culture.

    Six out of those seven are critiques Orthodox Christians have been offering for years. One nice thing about the “emerging church” conversation is that it’s enabling us to assert Orthodox points of view that address these concerns.

    (About point #4 – The idol-free, gender-separated, non-orgiastic, Semitic-influenced liturgy of the Church that spread throughout the first-century Roman Empire was seeker-UNfriendly and hardly contextualized at all until after Nicea. This issue is an artifact of our consumer culture.)

    One last thought: I notice that most of the critics of the “emerging church” are Reformed. I think that’s because the Reformed are about the last Protestant group that still has any real concept of [little-o] orthodoxy.
    .-= Silouan´s last blog ..The creative process =-.

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    • http://palamas.info Fr Gregory Jensen

      Silouan,

      Thank you for your summary. I found it very helpful.

      You’re right about most of the critics of the emerging church being Reformed–and you are right about why they are so critical.

      What remains for me in all this however is that many in the emerging church seem more inclined to criticize than anything else. Unlike other Evangelical Christians McLaren, to take but one example, understands that the Christian tradition is older than the Reformation. While he is happy to throw out most of what came to be understood as Christian after the Reformation, he seems unwilling to actually ask the fundamental question: Did the Reformers actually bring about a reformation or did they instead deform the Church in the West? McLaren seems to want to eat his cake and have it too.

      Anyway, very helpful comments. Thank you.

      +FrG

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  • Chrys

    Like many of the commentators here, I spent many years in Evangelical circles – and a couple of years at a Bible Institute. While I am very grateful for what I received there, it was – in the end – a very, very mixed bag. Disconnected from a living tradition, the consequences for theology, spirituality and community are deep, systemic and profoundly distorted. Since I can’t say it better than I did elsewhere:

    When you do not have a resilient Tradition, when you are able to reshape the faith as it suits you, when you make yourself the touchstone for what is and is not true, there is nothing that can stop popular culture from swamping and sinking your group. This is the Achilles’ heal – the heart defect – of Protestantism and it is inescapable. Calvin or Wesley or Luther or Spurgeon were each brilliant in their own way, yet by dismissing what came before them (Wesley perhaps the least intentionally so), they established a self-referential starting point. (Secularism, ironically, took that starting point and merely jettisoned it’s object – the Scriptures. In that sense, modern secularism is just faithless protestantism.) This leaves protestants with no firm authority, no enduring criteria, no self-transcending process, no trans-cultural bulwark against “every wind and wave,” they are left to follow what the most eloquent speaker of the moment says, or what “the smartest people” at the moment “think.” In short, without a living Tradition that stands on its own and extends beyond “my fingerprints,” there is simply no way to transcend the corrosive effects of popular culture – which is why many simply avoid it. (Siluoan noted this same phenomena in point 7.)

    This does not mean that the challenge of modern culture will be easy for Orthodox faithful to deal with. To make the content of that Tradition present in our lives will require a demanding sacramental asceticism if we are to be even remotely effective as witnesses to the eschatological kingdom. But that sacramental asceticism – by which saints have been formed across the ages – makes all the difference. And it is the living context of the Gospel.

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  • Chrys

    Like many of the commentators here, I spent many years in Evangelical circles – and a couple of years at a Bible Institute. While I am very grateful for what I received there, it was – in the end – a very, very mixed bag. Disconnected from a living tradition, the consequences for theology, spirituality and community are deep, systemic and profoundly distorted. Since I can’t say it better than I did elsewhere:

    When you do not have a resilient Tradition, when you are able to reshape the faith as it suits you, when you make yourself the touchstone for what is and is not true, there is nothing that can stop popular culture from swamping and sinking your group. This is the Achilles’ heal – the heart defect – of Protestantism and it is inescapable. Calvin or Wesley or Luther or Spurgeon were each brilliant in their own way, yet by dismissing what came before them (Wesley perhaps the least intentionally so), they established a self-referential starting point. (Secularism, ironically, took that starting point and merely jettisoned it’s object – the Scriptures. In that sense, modern secularism is just faithless protestantism.) This leaves protestants with no firm authority, no enduring criteria, no self-transcending process, no trans-cultural bulwark against “every wind and wave,” they are left to follow what the most eloquent speaker of the moment says, or what “the smartest people” at the moment “think.” In short, without a living Tradition that stands on its own and extends beyond “my fingerprints,” there is simply no way to transcend the corrosive effects of popular culture – which is why many simply avoid it. (Siluoan noted this same phenomena in point 7.)

    This does not mean that the challenge of modern culture will be easy for Orthodox faithful to deal with. To make the content of that Tradition present in our lives will require a demanding sacramental asceticism if we are to be even remotely effective as witnesses to the eschatological kingdom. But that sacramental asceticism – by which saints have been formed across the ages – makes all the difference. And it is the living context of the Gospel.

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  • Dana Ames

    Well, Fr G, that was the substance of my whole long comment which got lost. You bring up some foundational :) issues.

    Silouan/J. Belcher gets at a lot of it. Other concerns are: holistic, integrated life/theology which gets past Gnostic dualism; ecology and good stewardship of the Earth; the place of women in the church; actively serving the poor and marginalized; loving those outside the church without having to “close the deal” to “get them saved”; a view of mission/s that begins with God’s mission to humanity, with an invitation to partner with God in that (so the term “missional”); seeing a narrative flow to Scripture, not simply as a bunch of verses; understanding that we each bring our own viewpoint to interpretation of Scripture; respecting peoples’ differences, not trying to get to the “least common denominator” as per the old ecumenism; suspicion of the institutionalization of churches, not just liturgical churches; consumerism and commodification in Christianity; seeking true community, as relationships are paramount; wanting a God who is Good and loves mankind.

    The emerging movement in the English-speaking world actually got started in England in the late ’80s/early ’90s, as a bunch of artistic Christians, influenced by postmodern linguistic theory, sought to bring their expressions of worship to churches -or, if this was not allowed, to found their own congregations. A lot of those people ended up in the “institutional church” and became ordained. It’s somewhat different here, for sociologic and theological reasons. In the US, most emerging church folk are thinking people and fairly well educated. Some just want to have a “cool” “contextualized” way to worship. Most see the real problems and are not afraid to critique, but they are intellectually/theologically committed to remaining Protestant -rejecting the Sacraments even as they discuss “sacramentality”, and eschewing Tradition- and so are kind of “going around in circles”, missing the Meaning they seek. There’s no “mouthpiece” for emerging church people, not even Emergent Village (which McLaren helped start)- no “statement of faith”- it’s not that kind of thing. (This is a source of great frustration to its critics.)

    Some authors, whose writings have substance, who have been influential for US emerging church people:
    N.T. Wright (it’s mostly because of his works that I started on the road to Orthodoxy), Lesslie Newbigin, Stanley Grenz, Peter Rollins (Britain), Phyllis Tickle, J. Derrida, Alan Roxburgh (Canada), Fritjof Capra, Miroslav Volf, LeRon Shults (who is not so well known yet, but a brilliant guy and important for the Very Academic Crowd).

    Some of us who were enthusiastically emerging have found life and answers in the historic Church and have become RCatholic/EOrthodox – more the former, as O. theology is not as well known here, even in seminaries. Others have “moved up” into more liturgical expressions of Christianity (Anglican, Lutheran). I’m very grateful for the “permission” and “space” the emerging church movement gave me to even ask my questions. We were all in that deconstructed place together, and there was a lot of acceptance and friendship.

    Dana

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  • Dana Ames

    Well, Fr G, that was the substance of my whole long comment which got lost. You bring up some foundational :) issues.

    Silouan/J. Belcher gets at a lot of it. Other concerns are: holistic, integrated life/theology which gets past Gnostic dualism; ecology and good stewardship of the Earth; the place of women in the church; actively serving the poor and marginalized; loving those outside the church without having to “close the deal” to “get them saved”; a view of mission/s that begins with God’s mission to humanity, with an invitation to partner with God in that (so the term “missional”); seeing a narrative flow to Scripture, not simply as a bunch of verses; understanding that we each bring our own viewpoint to interpretation of Scripture; respecting peoples’ differences, not trying to get to the “least common denominator” as per the old ecumenism; suspicion of the institutionalization of churches, not just liturgical churches; consumerism and commodification in Christianity; seeking true community, as relationships are paramount; wanting a God who is Good and loves mankind.

    The emerging movement in the English-speaking world actually got started in England in the late ’80s/early ’90s, as a bunch of artistic Christians, influenced by postmodern linguistic theory, sought to bring their expressions of worship to churches -or, if this was not allowed, to found their own congregations. A lot of those people ended up in the “institutional church” and became ordained. It’s somewhat different here, for sociologic and theological reasons. In the US, most emerging church folk are thinking people and fairly well educated. Some just want to have a “cool” “contextualized” way to worship. Most see the real problems and are not afraid to critique, but they are intellectually/theologically committed to remaining Protestant -rejecting the Sacraments even as they discuss “sacramentality”, and eschewing Tradition- and so are kind of “going around in circles”, missing the Meaning they seek. There’s no “mouthpiece” for emerging church people, not even Emergent Village (which McLaren helped start)- no “statement of faith”- it’s not that kind of thing. (This is a source of great frustration to its critics.)

    Some authors, whose writings have substance, who have been influential for US emerging church people:
    N.T. Wright (it’s mostly because of his works that I started on the road to Orthodoxy), Lesslie Newbigin, Stanley Grenz, Peter Rollins (Britain), Phyllis Tickle, J. Derrida, Alan Roxburgh (Canada), Fritjof Capra, Miroslav Volf, LeRon Shults (who is not so well known yet, but a brilliant guy and important for the Very Academic Crowd).

    Some of us who were enthusiastically emerging have found life and answers in the historic Church and have become RCatholic/EOrthodox – more the former, as O. theology is not as well known here, even in seminaries. Others have “moved up” into more liturgical expressions of Christianity (Anglican, Lutheran). I’m very grateful for the “permission” and “space” the emerging church movement gave me to even ask my questions. We were all in that deconstructed place together, and there was a lot of acceptance and friendship.

    Dana

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  • Subdeacon Eusebios

    Fr. Gregory,
    Father bless. An interesting and timely review. Benjamin, Michelle, Mary Ann and myself amongst others from the parish took in a “debate” if you will, last year featuring McLaren and a Malone University Faculty member at a Worldview Forum held at the University. Though the faculty member argued for a much more orthodox position, the thing that struck most of us was the utterly faulty ecclesiology that both participants espoused. It seems to me, that , though I know little of the actual “Emergent” trend, criticisms of Evangelicalism have root likely in Francis Shaeffer whose “The Great Evangelical Disaster” was published in 1984. It was likely this sort of prodding that led me towards Orthodoxy as well, though I resisted precisely due to my own faulty ecclesiology.

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  • Subdeacon Eusebios

    Fr. Gregory,
    Father bless. An interesting and timely review. Benjamin, Michelle, Mary Ann and myself amongst others from the parish took in a “debate” if you will, last year featuring McLaren and a Malone University Faculty member at a Worldview Forum held at the University. Though the faculty member argued for a much more orthodox position, the thing that struck most of us was the utterly faulty ecclesiology that both participants espoused. It seems to me, that , though I know little of the actual “Emergent” trend, criticisms of Evangelicalism have root likely in Francis Shaeffer whose “The Great Evangelical Disaster” was published in 1984. It was likely this sort of prodding that led me towards Orthodoxy as well, though I resisted precisely due to my own faulty ecclesiology.

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  • http://khanya.wordpress.com Steve Hayes

    I heard McLaren speak a couple of times, and, as you say, it was nothing new. It was New Testament 101. But to his predominantly Reformed audience (on the first occasion) it did sound new. Iy struck me that what he (and some in his audience) were looking for is Orthodoxy. Perhaps some of them will find it.

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Father Deacon,

      I think you are correct. McLaren et. al. may very well be looking for the Orthodox Church. My concern is that the emergent church movement might so muddle people’s thinking that they won’t receive what the Church has to offer.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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  • http://khanya.wordpress.com Deacon Stephen

    I heard McLaren speak a couple of times, and, as you say, it was nothing new. It was New Testament 101. But to his predominantly Reformed audience (on the first occasion) it did sound new. Iy struck me that what he (and some in his audience) were looking for is Orthodoxy. Perhaps some of them will find it.

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    • http://palamas.info Fr Gregory Jensen

      Father Deacon,

      I think you are correct. McLaren et. al. may very well be looking for the Orthodox Church. My concern is that the emergent church movement might so muddle people’s thinking that they won’t receive what the Church has to offer.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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