Paul Martin, who I met at the Resonate Echo Event last week, and also got to be there for his paper on Examining Emergent, has posted his paper online here. There is lots of discussion going on with it, so I thought I would comment here and there and keep it posted on this site also.
This is in response to this specific post called “Where Emergent Goes Bad: What Defines a Christian”
The paper says this:
“Just accepting all these things and repenting of them is overly simplistic and I propose accomplishes no actual good.”
I think this is a quite a loaded statement here. While I was always turned off by my home church walking to the river and throwing stones in it as symbolic as their forgiveness to the natives in the area, I think that there is a lot of good from owning sins that maybe we ourselves didn’t actually do. It’s what Jesus did on the cross. Of course, not trying to say we can atone for sins. It’s not holding up sins as proof that we continually get things wrong. It’s not focusing on the wrongs much at all but rather apologizing for the past and what happened to them and that we regret what happened and acknowledging that we want to get it right now and we will work to do so. I like what Jamie said on the issue in his comment on the post before. There are a lot of people that are deeply connected to history, probably a lot more than we are. I think it would be quite ignorant to simply push aside the past. We need to acknowledge the past actions of those who did things in the name of Christ and set the record straight as true followers of Christ (not judging and saying they were or were not, we should have no problem apologizing if they were Christians or not.)
I’d have to agree with Darryl and Jamie that it would be inaccurate to write a paper on the EC movement and have a majority of the focus on McLaren. This may sound weird, but if you want to better understand the Christianity movement, it wouldn’t be an accurate picture to focus just on Jesus, you would need to look at Paul, the early church fathers, Constantine, Luther, Calvin etc. Although the emerging church is relatively new movement, there is still more than one person to look at to have an overall better picture of what’s going on.
What I love about the emergent movement is that it is not a movement that is spearheaded by popular speakers and dictators of what the emergent movement is. Though it has gain popularity and media attention because of some keynotes. Some may get that impression because guys like McLaren are part of organizations with Emergent in the title. But a key characteristic of the movement is that it’s trying to manifest the life of Jesus today, not the words of McLaren. The emerging church is underground and exists all over the place. For instance, I met four people at the Evolving Church conference who thought ‘they were the only ones who thought like this in Sarnia.’ A week later they found themselves at a church plant meeting with thirty-five others who all were desiring something new in Sarnia for a church community. Was this movement inspired by McLaren? No, most of the people at this church plant meeting have not read nor care about McLaren or even the term emergent church.
In many ways it is impossible to critique the emergent church the way you have. It is a new movement still trying to understand where it stands on issues and trying to wrestle with the Scriptures, culture, history and their faith to truthfully stand where they need to be in culture. So while you could critique one member of emergent, Brian McLaren, you are inaccurately critiquing the other half of the movement who doesn’t hold to those values at all. You are going to have a hard time critiquing the movement right now because it is so diverse. Darryl said it right, it would be like us critiquing Bill Hybels on his Seeker Sensitive model but critiquing the entire evangelical church by those standards. Is there one statement that you could critique that would encompass the ENTIRE evangelical church besides the creeds?
All that being said, in my rambling sort of way, I think it is impossible to critique any movement. The best anyone can do is critique people in a movement. The whole point of a movement is that it is not one person but a group of people moving towards one goal, and with groups of people come groups of ideals. There will always be people or little groups inside the movement that cry out that they are not like those critiques. In fact, the emergent church in many ways is just one of those small groups crying out that they aren’t like the evangelical critiques that have been pinned on them. So I commend you on critiquing McLaren, but I don’t think you will ever be able to critique the emergent church or any movement for that matter very successfully. Your paper is not much of an Emergent Church Movement critique, and I don’t say that to be rude or anything, I just don’t believe you can critique, especially by the specifics you pointed out, a movement like this. You have successfully critiqued many weaknesses that exist in people, some in McLaren, some in other Emergent church leaders but those weaknesses also exist in Evangelical church leaders and Catholic Church leaders. For everyone one of your critiques so far, I could point out a number of emergent church people who wouldn’t adhere to those ideals at all. That is why I think your paper would be more beneficial if it was focused on ‘Brian McLaren as an Emergent’ as opposed to the Emergent Movement as a whole.