Sunday, January 10, 2010

Emergent - Post Evangelical - Post Modernism

Someone did some research and passed it along to me regarding the Labels of “Emergent Church”, “Post Evangelical”, and part of an overall “Post-Modern” Christianity. I am not certain what to make of all this labeling except to say that it appears to be a new philosophical approach in how to deal with the old Evangelicalism which is “Modern” but somehow now is old.

Anyway, it seems to be carving a new niche out on the Tent Circuit of preaching the old time religion with perhaps a few minor tweaks in the way the preaching or message gets delivered.
As a result, some in the emerging church believe it is necessary to deconstruct modern Christian dogma. One way this happens is by engaging in dialogue, rather than proclaiming a predigested message, believing that this leads people to Jesus through the Holy Spirit on their own terms… wikipedia “emergent church”
One of the leading voices of this new emergent church movement is Brian McLaren, a popular lecture circuit figure and author of “A New Kind of Christian”.

The Emergent Mystique
But A New Kind of Christian has also attracted plenty of critics. The most persistent question they raise is whether "modern" and "postmodern" can be divided so cleanly. Wheaton College philosopher Mark Talbot points out that skepticism about values like objectivity, analysis, and control was already present in Enlightenment figures like David Hume. Meanwhile, Talbot says, "the great irony is that by giving us these sharp categories of 'modern' and 'postmodern' ways of thinking, McLaren is doing the very sort of categorization he describes, and implicitly condemns, as modern."

The modern period of history, as Neo tells it, is coming to an end. We are entering "postmodernity," an as-yet ill-defined borderland in which central modern values like objectivity, analysis, and control will become less compelling. They are superseded by postmodern values like mystery and wonder. The controversial implication is that forms of Christianity that have thrived in modernity—including Dan's evangelicalism—are unlikely to survive the transition.

McLaren managed to connect abstruse concepts of intellectual and social history to a visceral sense of disillusionment among evangelical pastors. Dan's dissatisfaction with ministry, in McLaren's telling, was not primarily a faith problem, a psychological problem, or a sociological problem. It was a philosophical problem—the result of a way of thinking that was no longer adequate. Pastors who would have had a hard time seeing the relevance of postmodernism could suddenly envision it as the key to finding, as the book's jacket put it, "spiritual renewal for those who thought they had given up on church."
I would have to say that the Emergent Church concept of a so-called Post Modern Christianity is a possible rebranding of the same old product. By saying that the Bible is a human document, it is not backing off from the unerring concept but rather trying to gather a few new ears who did not get poisoned by last year’s batch of snake oil on last years marketing circuit through Rubetown. Please forgive my cynicism.

Emergent it would seem is slicker and more polished in words, approach and style. Instead of forcing a square peg (people) in a round hole (religion) – they are first trying to see how to help the individual needs first, to feel at home and stay in a new repackaged evangelical setting, before putting them to work at the work of the “new” church. That’s new?

Hardly a Holy Ghost Lite approach but judging from the failed methods of the past by pastors who did not like, got burned out, preaching the message and the sheep who did not like being constantly preached at, perhaps there is a middle ground for those who need the attention and fellowship of an established building and church.

I have to wonder at the old evangelicalism, which started with the so-called Jesus Movement of the seventies, seemed to me to be a reaction to the depiction of Jesus as human as in a Broadway play, Hit, and music of Jesus Christ Superstar.

It seemed to me from my point of view from memory, that almost as if when the reaction to Superstar happened, technology kicked in, small town radio and small town TV evangelism started growing and connecting together to the point of saturation and success.

Mega TV evangelism and mega churches were born over time and in some ways as a form of entertainment not unlike the former sports arenas they, the mega churches are sometimes housed in.

Which sort of reminds me of Fox News. Which came first, the news as entertainment or religion as entertainment? You answer that one.

Perhaps somehow that original product of the message of "Modern" Evangelicalism got lost in the shuffle of running deposits to the bank to pay the mortgages on these new Mega Churches and Mega Media Broadcast Centers.

In a way Modern Evangelicalism soon to be replaced by so-called Post-Modern beliefs is kinda like the old Arthur Godfrey Show never went off the air on CBS. The ratings are down but everyone loves Arthur (even though he is long dead). The young Turks so to speak like McLaren want to get that precious Godfrey time slot, to survive with a new updated version of entertainment now so obsolete and still on the air.

The problem may be that high definition TV (and a new show format) will probably improve the overall picture but not necessarily the quality of the product being sold.

I cannot judge what the ripple effect Post-Modern or Emergent comes to in common understanding or recognition as a real movement to be recognized within the umbrella of beliefs known as Christianity. The energy is there. It appears to be born of the human spirit and of the spirit within.


Dave said...

It seems that we have good ideas about what is wrong and doesn't work spiritually but..we are short on solutions to the problem and have not yet formulated alternative ideas to replace what doesn't work. As the main stream/mainline denominations dwindle and fade away..what do we do with all the empty church buildings?

Dave said...

I'm eager to hear what McLaren has to say up close and personal in March. The session is free and open to the public. Can we still believe and do the work but have no spiritual home to visit every week to recharge our batteries? It's possible I guess but it runs counter to all we have been taught all these long years. Are we just old dogs that can't learn new tricks?inedfa

Mike McShea said...

you sound a bit down. don't let me dampen your enthusiam. I only am going by what I read and how it all fits into my experience and memory.

All I am trying to say is "caveat emptor" - buyer beware.

Dave said...

Not down but pensive..maybe. I can clearly see what is wrong but now I have to offer something else to take its place and that is not an easy chore. A void will not get it done. I guess you can't evolve unless you get rid of the trash that is holding you back. I know where I have been and I don't want to go back there anymore. A leap of faith is required here thing is I/we are jumping into the unknown and that is a scary proposition and yet an adventure.