Are You Emerging, Emergent or Neither?

In the comments for my recent post “Who Influences You?”, Steve and I had a brief exchange about the meaning of the “emerging” or “emergent” church.  At the time I used the terms synonomously however I have come to learn differently. Furthermore I have found that I myself may be emerging…a little anyway. I am still very, very evangelical in every other area.

I discovered this through a wonderful study done by C. Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen.  He wrote a very helpful five part series entitled “Will the Real Emerger Please Stand Up?”  In it he defines terms (as best as can be done considering the topic at hand–read it and you will see what I mean), busts up stereotypes and helps folks better understand our emergent brothers in Christ.   He explains that a person may be emerging/emergent ecclesiologically, sociologically, theologically, epistemologically, or politically.  You may be emerging in only one area or two.  You may be emergent in four or all of the areas.

I have never received a straight answer on what being emergent means and that is simply because there is not an easy straightforward answer.  It is a movement or a philosophy or a way of viewing the Christian life.  Calvinism is the same way. You may believe in some tenants of Calvinist doctrine but not others.  I have jokingly said I am a “2.5 Point Calvinist.”  There are some who are all the way Calvinist like there are some (like Doug Pagitt) who are all the way emergent and that determines their worldview and the way they view God, the scriptures, evangelism, sin, faith and a host of other issues.

If you are confused about the emergent church or if you want to better understand “the conversation”, then you should really take time to read Patton’s series. The version I have linked to above has all of the parts on one page so you can read right through the whole thing.  You will find that there are some things about emergents that you were right about and probably some things about them you were wrong about. Either way the article will help you better evaluate this movement.


7 Responses to “Are You Emerging, Emergent or Neither?”

  1. March 2, 2009 at 12:38 am

    There are things that attract me about the emergent movement, e.g. social justice, and things that repel me, such as not reading your bible. A book I found helpful is called “Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be” by DeYoung and Kluck. You might find it a good read.

  2. March 2, 2009 at 6:22 am

    @Philippa: It’s interesting you should mention that book. I saw it in the bookstore at last year’s Sovereign Grace New Attitude conference in Louisville, KY and I almost bought it. But, yes, I really want to read it.

    Some of the more emergent types question whether or not you can actually know truth. But Jesus, when He prayed to the Father in John 17:17 said “Your word is truth.” He also tells us elsewhere that we shall know the truth and it shall set us free.

    The social justice side of things is definitely an attractive component of the emergent movement, but as you said there are also some real theological problems there too.

  3. March 3, 2009 at 1:13 am

    I know you’ll be surprised to learn this, but after reading the series of linked posts above, I find that I am neither emerging or emergent 😉

  4. March 3, 2009 at 6:33 am

    @Heather: Color me not-surprised!

  5. March 4, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I quoted Kluck & DeYoung’s definition of an emergent Christian at my site (‘scuse the self-promotion, but I thought you’d find it interesting). http://mentalreflection.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=192


  6. March 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks, Philippa I’ll check it out.

  7. March 5, 2009 at 12:20 am

    See, I knew it’d happen. You’d post again before I got a chance to comment on this one. And I’ve really been wanting to all this time, but this is the first chance I’ve gotten. (And am even now avoiding putting the groceries away by typing this comment.)

    I guess you could say I’m emerging. Because one part of Patton’s definition of “emerging” that applied most to me was when he listed “Hesitancy about taking traditional labels such as Catholic, Protestant,Evangelical, Liberal, or even Emerger since the labels associate them
    with a systematized system of beliefs and thought”, as one of the qualities.
    I really don’t like labels. They always conjure up some mental image. Like for me,
    Emerging is to an alien coming out of something gooey and slimy, as Pentecostal is to someone basically screaming nonsense words at a person till he speaks in tongues. Neither word means what I just attributed to them, but that is what my mind sees when I hear them. That’s why even though I may be “emerging” in some areas, I could never say that I was (forget that I just said it). The things that have been attributed to emergents, those who are emerging, and the like, though many of them wrong, are not something that I want attached to my name (as with Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, etc.). I have parts of all of these things in my belief system. But to take any of these labels and say, “This is what I am” is to take on an identity that I don’t wholeheartedly believe in and don’t necessarily want.

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