Well, certainly emergent folks like to think of themselves as breaking away from Evangelicalism, but there’s so much about their movement that’s just a new chapter of an old book. And actually, not even a new chapter, but a repeat of a lot of evangelical characterizations.
For example, first of all there’s the rejection of the establishment (which in their case is Evangelicalism) and second there’s this notion that somehow they can create a fresh a way of doing church that is somehow more biblical or authentic (which is another Evangelical assumption about the world), and third, that they’re very activist, that they’re going to go out and change the world. Now in this case, they’re not interested in evangelism as much as they’re interested social justice. But it’s very much about getting their hands dirty in the world, and doing something for Jesus. So in that regard, the emergent movement is very Evangelical. And of course, they’d be shocked and appalled to hear that, but that’s my take on their movement.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the emergent movement have pushed that envelope so far that I really can’t tell much difference between what they’re doing and nineteenth century liberalism, which led to dismal results, as far as I’m concerned, for the life of the church. I’d be happy to have a conversation with them about that.
As far as the contrast with the 1960s and 1970s, you do see this youthful idealism that says, first, there are things that are seriously wrong with the church and with Christianity as it is understood today; and second, we can do something about it.
Now, it seems to me that if a younger generation isn’t feeling those things there’s something seriously wrong with that generation. I don’t want to discourage younger Evangelicals from shaking their fists in anger at the sins of the church and their passion to want to make a difference.
What I’m concerned about of course, is the hubris that sometimes comes with that. It can make it all about us, and our reformation and our ability to make a change in the world, instead of pointing us to a couple of other realities. And the first of those realities, what we have to remember, is that the moribund, horrible, sinful, selfish, hypocritical, televangelist church, the one who is co-opted by technology and growth and all these things we find despicable is the church that Jesus died for. And it is the church that Jesus is so committed to that he is willing to have his name associated with it, with that church, with that group of people who we all find disgusting and frustrating and aggravating and hypocritical and so nominal.
Alright – so we see that Galli has issues with the Emergent Church. Would this not play into any sort of response to Rob Bell?
- I’m an Evangelical – don’t let them steal the name (gentlewisdom.org.uk)
- A Fourth Wave and A New Center? (johnthenry.wordpress.com)
- doing evangelism when working in church based ministry… (withoutashepherd.com)