Emerging Church Movement

By Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer

The emerging church is a Christian movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that crosses a number of theological boundaries. What those involved in the movement mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community. - Wikipedia

"The emerging paradigm has been visible for well over a hundred years. In the last twenty to thirty years, it has become a major grassroots movement among both laity and clergy in 'mainline' or 'old mainline' Protestant denominations." - Marcus Borg

At one level the emergence church movement and the creation-centered spirituality movement have merged to become a single movement. The internationally renowned spiritual theologian Reverend Matthew Fox, who is one of the leaders of the creation-centered spirituality movement is enjoying new popularity within the emergence church movement. He has contributed to a book with emergent theologian Marcus Borg.

"Emerging churches can be found throughout the globe, predominantly in North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Africa." - Wikipedia

The core international values in the emerging church are, desires to imitate the life of Jesus; transform secular society; emphasize communal living; welcome outsiders; be generous and creative; and lead without control.

The emerging church opposes a number of traditional Christendom values. An emerging church leader Stuart Murray summarizes negative traditional Christendom values as "a commitment to hierarchy and the status quo; the loss of lay involvement; institutional values rather than community focus; church at the centre of society rather than the margins; the use of political power to bring in the Kingdom; religious compulsion; punitive rather than restorative justice; marginalization of women, the poor, and dissident movements; inattentiveness to the criticisms of those outraged by the historic association of Christianity with patriarchy, warfare, injustice and patronage; partiality for respectability and top-down mission; attractional evangelism; assuming the Christian story is known; and a preoccupation with the rich and powerful."

Emerging church leaders are endorsing the use of contemplative prayer, including centering prayers, mantra prayers, breath prayers, silence prayers and a type of yoga meditation. They are leading believers into eastern meditative prayer experiences. This is a Christianized version of Hindu prayer techniques that were introduced through Roman Catholic priests, Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, as a result of their own mystical prayer experiences.

"Teachers in the emerging church tend to view the Bible and its stories through a lens which they believe finds significance and meaning for their community's social and personal stories rather than for the purpose of finding cross-cultural, propositional absolutes regarding salvation and conduct." - Wikipedia

The emerging church rejects absolutism. Biblical scriptures are not considered to be the infallible word of God. Science has discovered that some of the scriptures are untruthful and deceptive. The emerging church believes that people who believe that all of the scriptures tell the truth and then accept all of the "essential Christian dogmas" of historic and traditional Christianity have some false "essential" dogmas. Their false dogmas are based on scriptures that modern day science has proven to be untruthful and deceptive. This is why the emerging church believes traditional Christianity has false doctrines/dogmas. And the emerging church also rejects "Christian" doctrines that contradict the values of a loving God.

Reformed and evangelical opponents of the emerging church movement are saying that the movement's shift away from traditional evangelical beliefs such as eternal punishment and penal substitution towards a reintroduction of elements of ancient mysticism is inappropriate. Emerging church "revisionists", one of three categories within the movement, are theologically liberal, and openly question whether evangelical doctrine is appropriate for the postmodern world. Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt are leaders of the "revisionists" expression of the ECM.

One of the leaders of the emergence church Ian Mobsby asserts that the emerging church is using different models of contextual theology than conservative evangelicals, who tend to use a "translation" model of contextual theology (which has been criticized for being colonialist and condescending toward other cultures); the emerging church tends to use a "synthetic" or "transcendent" model of contextual theology.

"Many people in the movement express concern for what they consider to be the practical manifestation of God's kingdom on earth, by which they mean social justice. This concern manifests itself in a variety of ways depending on the local community and in ways they believe transcend "modernist" labels of 'conservative' and 'liberal.' This concern for justice is expressed in such things as feeding the poor, visiting the sick and prisoners, stopping contemporary slavery, critiquing systemic and coercive power structures with "postcolonial hermeneutics," and working for environmental causes." - Wikipedia

Postcolonial hermeneutics: The basic assumption of postcolonial biblical hermeneutics is that most of the texts in the bible are written in the context of imperialism and are responses to the colonization. As we live in the context of new manifestations of imperialism/colonialism today, the postcolonial method of interpretation can open Christians towards new possibilities of reading the bible. - Rev. Dr. Simon Samuel

"The prefix, 'post' in postcolonial does not refer to polarity or denote 'after'. On the contrary, the 'post' refers to a spatial category: a space between colonial master and the colonized subjects. This 'third space' that emerged after colonialism provides the tools for 'dismantling the house of the colonial master'. Therefore it is an emancipatory space for the oppressed colonial subjects, i.e., the oppressed indigenous peoples. - Rev. Dr. Simon Samuel

The 'house of the colonial master' means the UN's international system, America's system and the Canadian system, etc.. It also means the organized and institutionalized churches of historic and traditional Christianity.

Reverend Matthew Fox is enjoying new popularity within the ECM. He has (as previously mentioned) "contributed to a recent book with emergent theologian Marcus Borg" and way back in 1991, Leonard Sweet, now a leading emergent and co-author with Brian McLaren called Fox one of his 'personal role models of the true nature of the postmodern apologetic'."

I believe that Reverend Matthew Fox's influence in the Emergence Church Movement will eventually lead the ECM to my visionary prophetic mission. A mission that is described in my online article UN, Natives And Hippies Unite To Save The World.

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