When Christians despair of the upheavals and re-formations that have been the history of our faith–when the faithful resist, as so many do just now, the presence of another time of reconfiguration with its inevitable pain–we all would do well to remember that, not only are we in the hinge of a five-hundred-year period, but we are also the direct product of one. We need, as well, to gauge our pain against the patterns and gains of each of the previous hinge times through which we have already passed. It is especially important to remember that no standing form of organized Christian faith has ever been destroyed by one of our semi-millennial eruptions. Instead, each simply has lost hegemony or pride of place to the new and not-yet-organized form that was birthing.
–Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, p.26-7
If I bought the whole every-500-years change bit, then I might pay more attention to what Phyllis writes. As it is, assuming that we are seeing a great upheaval, I think she has missed what it is entirely. A few centuries down the road, it is the shift of the center of gravity in the Christian world from the West to the Two Thirds World that will shape the future of Christianity, not what is happening in a subset of American Christianity.
Good insight, Michael. For my part, I think it’s too early to judge… ask me or my heirs in another 200 years and I may have a better answer as to whether this is the “Great Emergence” and if it is, just what exactly is the most significant aspect of it. If this is it, I don’t think we’re done yet.