A few weeks ago, an associate called me and asked my opinion regarding the emergent movement. He saw a post of mine on a theological discussion board and desired clarity on the foundational beliefs.
To begin, a story: A man once encountered me on the street. He then asked me my name; I told him my name was John. He thought about my response for a moment and then replied, “no, that’s not right.”
This story contextualizes the dilema of those within the Emergent movement; there are too many assumptions being imposed upon the Emergents and with the strong and growing opposition to the Emergents among Evangelicals, they may not be getting an even break. There are so many un-substantiated innuendos that,regrettably, the opposition may be be wrong. Having a clear, informed understanding the movement is challenging because there are many facets to the Emergent movement and many theological streams; no single voice can speak authoritatively for the whole movement, though several persons have tried. This is further complicated by the radical social changes in America and the angst Churches are experiencing as they attempt to adjust. Amidst the tulmultuous flurry of social and spiritual change Pastors, Scholars and Leaders are trying to ascertain the core values of the Emergent movement and for that matter, they are also trying to validate and understand their own faith practices.
One place to begin can be found in a brief reminder of history; at one time Christians were persecuted because misunderstandings regarding their faith practices. As an example, early Christians were accused of cannibalism, to be precise eating children. There were rumors among the some in the Roman culture that Christians were eating the flesh of the child of God; this is what was people thought we meant by taking communion. Emergents may be suffering similar assumptions. I still remember m y mother warning of making assumptions; it brings calamity to everyone involved.
Another step might be to purposefully dispel rumors and suspicion by asking questions. To draw upon the analogy I used in the aforementioned story of the man asking my name, we must also believe what is being stated by those within the movement, especially when they are responding to a belief or practice of Emergent churches.
Contrary to popular belief, suspicion is not a gift of the Spirit. This is why the church would do well to adhere to biblical advice, “do not receive an accusation against a brother…” (1 Tim 5:19). We are not to receive, to consider or to even entertain rumors unless there is due cause. It is easy to pick up on a expression loosely given in an ill–thought moment and then build a case against something that does not characterize the beliefs of the whole movement.
I hope to lay out a case for what I have come to understand about the movement. In my many years of being around the movement and in my travels to many Emergent churches around the country; I can assure you, as a solid committed evangelical, that we have many good brothers in the Emergent movement.