Monday, May 24, 2004

Casualties of Emergent

It's been said by people far smarter than me, but I can see it as well -- postmodernism is no more faith-friendly than modernism. The problems with (the uncritical, wholesale capitulation to) a modernistic version of Christianity are different than the problems of (the uncritical, wholesale capitulation to) a postmodern version of Christianity, but one thing they have in common is that both are ultimately foreign territory to Christianity.

The first casualty of emergent approach could be evangelism. This is not meant as a sweeping generalization -- it's meant to be a caution of a potential trap. The generally admirable sense of rediscovering the depth of a personal walk with Jesus, as found in many web & blog sites' inclusion of "vespers" and "lauds", and ancient creeds as theological markers, could just as easily indicate of a self-absorbed, individualistic approach to the faith.

Community is important, no question there, but there is a potential trap when our focus is on creating authentic community, with emphasis on the spiritual disciplines and the ancient/future nature of our faith walk. Unintentionally, to be sure, this could become 'busy-work' that we immerse ourselves in, and fail to notice that outside of our little Christian communities, we haven't had much impact or possibly even much interaction.

This would make us acceptable in a postmodern society, where "tolerance" is held as one of the highest values (ie. no-one can claim that their way is the 'right' way -- Francois Lyotard's oft-quoted  'incredulity towards metanarratives'). Something that many emergent Christians have in common with the modernistic Christians is that both want to be 'cool' in the eyes of everyone -- so any claims to a metanarrative as being Truth (with a capital "T") are avoided.

Generally, I think it's good that we all avoid the attitude of some smug, self-righteous, know-it-all Christians; such an attitude is, and has always been, foreign to the Gospel. However, if emergent people and communities are unwilling to state that they believe that the Bible holds a true metanarrative -- that God is actually in control and it matters how we relate to Him -- it would be a fair question to ask, as Jesus does in Matthew 5:13, "...if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?".

It's potentially a problem for all of us, and while our individual answers and reactions to this will vary, the question the Jesus asks is one emergent people dare not avoid grappling with.

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