Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I hear people saying a lot of extreme things about the Emergent church. It's from the devil. It's the true church come to eradicate all that is wrong with the American church.

And, as is often the case, this sort of binary thinking isn't useful. It's like our evangelical community has been reduced to playing the part of "Bit" from Tron:

Any excuse for a Tron reference, I guess.

A lot of the people who have trouble with the emergent church actually have issues with the theology of specific individuals in the movement. This is a valid point... but expanding that point to include anyone who goes to a church that falls under the umbrella of "emergent" is a mistake. For the record, I have concerns about these things, too. Gerry Breshears included this link to a recent Doug Pagitt interview in which Pagitt is unable to definitively state whether he believes in Hell or not. At this point my issue with Pagitt transcends emergence/non-emergence and becomes one of heresy. I don't use the word lightly.

So that's one side of the story, right? And if that were representative of all Emergent churches, we could end the conversation right there. But it's not. On the flip side, I went to Imago Dei this week because some friends of ours were singing in the service (I looked for you, Chris... where were you? I wanted to surprise you!). And the pastor, Rick McKinley, spoke about Christ, the wisdom and power of God. It's a great sermon in which he effectively points out that yes, sometimes the gospel is offensive. And that's not a bad thing, and it should not discourage us from sharing it boldly and without apology. And some would consider Imago Dei an emergent church, too.

P.S. Part of the issue, obviously, is that the definition of what "emergent" isn't widely agreed on. People make comments that would be ridiculous in one definition and reasonable in another. It would help if there were definitional precision on that question.

P.P.S. "Bit" was the first completely computer generated character in a movie. Neat!


  1. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Yeah, that's because Pagitt is a heretic. I am sick and tired of the general references to the Emergent movement. It makes some people seem bad who aren't and prevents us from calling out wolves in sheep's clothing like Pagitt. Good stuff man!

  2. Hey, we were hiding from you. How's that for emergent?

  3. Oh yeah, the members of Imago Dei, and Rick McKinley, tend to shy away from labels like "emergent" for the very divisive, self-promoting, non-Christ-centered reasons that Paul lambasts the Corinthians for in I Cor. 1.

  4. Yeah, that's why I said some would describe it that way. But that's the problem with the label, too... for some people it's purely a stylistic thing, others see it as a theological label, others see it as something else entirely. What a mess.

    p.s. were you hiding from me because you think I'm a modernist? :P

  5. Anonymous6:04 AM

    I suppose that cuts both ways.

    Many people who consider themselves Emergent will make general references to "evangelicals," "Christians," and "Fundamentalists." (i.e. "We're cool. We discuss Jesus at our gathering, as opposed to just sitting and getting preached at in evangelical churches.")

    I'm really getting tired of all of the "Christian No More" type campaigning going on. There's pride and assumptions going on both sides.

  6. Hillary-- I absolutely agree with you. Most of the emergents I know fall very firmly in the evangelical camp whether they like it or not.


    I think you're right, too, that there's a lot of pride and assumptions being circulated.