looks like Scot McKnight is right on the ball and, as promised, has his first blog post on the subject up already. To further the discussion, Andrew Jones outlines a pattern for the discussion from Acts 15 and points interested folks over to Jesus Creed.
After an excellent introduction, McKnight poses four questions, which I will interact with briefly inline (remember Usenet discussion?) below. These are mostly off-the-cuff thoughts and shouldn’t be misconstrued as being a comprehensive interaction… but that’s what conversation is like. Keeping it informal.
#1: Does “emerging” refer to the postmodern culture in all its varieties, or to the church hat accompanies that shift in culture, or to the ideas that are part of that culture, or to the gospel that responds to that culture, or to the gospel taking shape in a new way in a new cultural paradigm? The answer to this question matters immensely. And I’m not sure DA Carson, or even some of the Emergent folk, are all pointing at the same “thing” when they speak of “emerging”.
Scot, you’re perfectly correct in recognizing that EC is difficult to define, and the definition is still shifting. Whether I or others agree with it totally, I think the discussion must consult the Wikipedia definition. While there are perhaps better definitions, the Wikipedia one is interesting because of the very nature of Wikipedia… here we have a definition that is designed to be peer-reviewed, edited, and updated. This very notion is hard for some to swallow… Wikipedia is not the Encyclopedia Britannica. Who are the fact-checkers? Who verifies its accuracy? How can we quote from it if we don’t know it won’t change next week?
Ah, now we start to grapple with it… these very differences are the crux of the cultural shift we’re engaged in, with the Internet playing a very large role. Perhaps this is an argument for a “loose” definition of EC… but it seems to me that a precise and authoritative one remains for now an improbability, if not an impossibility.
#2: Is the “emerging” movement fundamental a church of protest? And, if so, is the primary target of the protest evangelicalism? What are its targets?
Oh, I hope not… that’s not my intent. Reaction may be a significant component, but protest connotes in my mind something that is too strongly opposed to the “other” than what I have actually found in EC.
#3: Is the postmodernist epistemology of the Emerging folks (and one should not simply equate postmodernists and the Emergent folks) essentially affectional over against rational? inclusive vs. exclusivist? authentic vs. the absolute? is social history more significant that the history of ideas?
Wow, Scot — this right here is a lot of blogfodder to consider. I think I’d say on the comparisons you suggest, partly, but not essentially… though “authentic” really strikes a chord. Social history more significant than the history of ideas? I hate to put one above the other, but one without the other is problematic. How can we really understand the ideas without understanding the social context from which they sprang? This provides the all-important context for the ideas, and I think that this largely the relationship between postmodernism (social context) and EC (ideas). Not the same, but intertwined. This should come with a reminder that in the intertwining of ideas and culture, we need to be open to the idea that some of our ideas may need to be revised or rejected as/when culture changes.
#4: Is “emergent” or “integral” thinking superior to traditional absolutist rational thinking?
No. (Pause.) “Superior” is very slippery ground, and ground not easily maintained if ever attained. Our thinking today will come and go and be replaced by something else… I would prefer to say in this arena that “emergent” thinking is more culturally-appropriate in a postmodern context. In a modern context, “traditional absolutist rational” thinking is(was) more appropriate. I might suggest “more culturally appropriate” instead of “inherently superior.”
#5: Has the Emergent movement understood culture accurately? Does it appeal to Scripture accurately?
This one I can’t answer, at least not from this vantage point. Time will tell. Obviously we all seek accurate understandings, but I can’t say any of us arrived… that’s the nature of the journey, being willing to be adjusted along the way as we get glimpses of seeing “less darkly.”