Sunday, September 28, 2008

Emerging Submerges

Who could have predicted that the term "emerging" would so quickly fall into such disfavor?

Who could have foreseen that the term would become so muddied by its own ambiguity that it would quickly become meaningless and uninformative, even in its own house?
Or that its meaning would be a moving target, defined by whomever was speaking at that precise moment, in like manner to a linguistic game of "whack-a-mole"?

"It means THIS!"

"No, it means THAT!!"
With the announcement of Scot McKnight and Dan Kimball creating a new network, reaction has ranged from people enthusiastically signing on, to others who see this as a great step backwards into the malevolent clutches of modernity, or some who think it is just a way of distancing themselves from Emergent™, and finally a few cynical predictions of just another marketing sub-category.

What I find somewhat perplexing is that, considering that postmodernism is supposed to be at least partially about removing language as power-plays -- Lyotard's meta-narratives and Derrida's binary oppositions come to mind -- there is certainly a lot of digital ink and angst being spilled over the words "emerging" and (wait for it -- it's only a matter of time) "missional".
I remember teaching a class almost five years ago at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, where I made a passing reference to two broad streams in the emerging church (pre-Ed Stetzer writing the 3 R's or Scot McKnight's Five Streams): one that had a missiological approach of contextualizing the Gospel to a foreign culture called postmodernism, and the other which appeared dedicated to creating a post-modern version of the faith.
So when I read about McKnight & Kimball's new network, it doesn't cause the mortar in my bricks to turn to jello, if I may try my hand at a metaphor.

If we truly believe that there is room at the table for a wide variety of voices, then surely that would include Scot & Dan. Without the angst, suspicion, or frantic and unnecessary marking-of-territory.