Tonight I attended a special seminar that Taylor offered by a guy named Ted Kluck.  He is one of the Co-Authors of "Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys That Should Be".  I attended, expecting something phenomenal, and I was sorely disappointed.  I wasn't dissatisfied with everything, but his knowledge seemed to be somewhat lacking for someone who wrote a book on the subject. I was disturbed all the more by his statement that "after writing the book he was done with the emergent church."

There are a vast array of reasons I was less than excited by his presentation, but the biggest one has to do with a very evident contradiction in his critique of the emergent church and the way he goes about reacting to it.  One of the 9 or 10 things he heralded as "observations" (which were, in most cases, true enough) was that the emergent Church has a distinctly rebellious undertone, that this rebellious ethic is sexy (which is by the way, such a sexy word to use to use when critiquing this movement because of the obvious unrest the word causes in the mind of conservative evangelicals).  

He laid the claim that the members of the emergent church are generally those who are rebelling against problems in churches and the structures of organized religion (valid, in many cases).  He did mention (briefly) that much of what they are rebelling against is a deficiency that can be seen in the way we (as evangelical churches) do or do not engage in culture. However, he did not spend much time on that really, and focused for the most part on the distinctives of the emergent church: savvy marketing (which does not seem to be bad to me, unless it is an end in itself), "saving the world" arrogance, seeker friendly megaplexes, heavy-handed left sided theology (as if the only good Christians are right wingers), etc.

All this to say, besides presenting what seemed to a quintessential example of a "straw man" argument against the emergent church, he also fell prey (in this presentation) to the very thing he was speaking against.  With all the talk of rebelling against something being such a bad idea, he sure did his fair share.  It seems logically inconsistent for him to be so heavily anti-rebellion, when, in fact, he is doing the same thing.  Instead of responding to logical inconsistencies, postmodern relative mindsets, and widespread theological misconstruction, he seemed to slam the Emergent church at its weakest points, without giving much thought to the strengths in the things that motivated the emergent church to act (whether they did that correctly or not).

 Just like the emergent church would have done a much greater service to the cause of Christ if they had responded and reclaimed the things they saw as problematic in the church instead of rebelled, so to could Mr. Kluck have done a greater service to the cause of unity in the body if he had responded to the things he saw, reclaiming those ideas of peace and reconciliation (which are fundamental to scripture) instead of rebelled.  I am not saying that he should have said that the Emergent church is "ok," but at least given value where value is due. Perhaps by bringing up the very valuable critique that the Emergent church has put forward, and responding to their methods for dealing with that critique.

I am not emergent either, but I do think that the emergent church has emerged (if you will), with some hugely important ideas that the evangelical church has left behind, but often have wrenched them out of context.  There are many truths that they have brought back into the light that, if put in the correct context (of the historical doctrine, dogma, and theology) could be that much more powerful in extending our hand to those who are sick, hungry, thirsty, shirtless, and searching.  

And side note: He was very much Mr. Reformed, and thats fine, however, we must remember that in order to be a "reformed" evangelical, a reformation had to happen (reform and rebellion seem to be similar things, one with a less unfortunate linguistic implications than the other, but both include recognizing a problem and working against it).  Interestingly enough, there were many things that the reformers got wrong that we have been working towards fixing today. But that requires conversation and intelligent critique, not rebellion against a whole cause, but instead responses to specific ideas within a cause. Often that's MANY responses, and sometimes only a few. Either way, we must be willing to enter into conversation about this. We must be willing to see even the beauty in retrieving the often lost ideas of peace and social justice, while still maintaining that we must be adamant about placing them in the correct context--the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A funny side note: I typed this whole thing, spelling "emergent" as "emmergent".  Perhaps I am now tipping my hand, showing you my lack of book knowledge on this subject. However, I, as most, can observe, and this was one facet of my observation this evening.

A clarifying side note: I am not rebelling against Mr. Kluck, merely critiquing the points that I thought could use some help. I do think that he is doing a valuable thing in reacting, i just don't think he is doing it in the correct manner/that tonight he did it in the correct manner.

We'll see him again in chapel tomorrow. Topic: valuing church authority. Right on. But i value truth more, i think. Sometimes, historically, churches, and church authority have gotten it wrong. Thank goodness there were people to call us out on it. Thank goodness the emergent church is calling us out. And thank goodness we don't have to eat up their methods or agree 100% with one side. Thank goodness its not an either/or. 


Josiah said...

Yay! You're smart and flesh out ideas that are similar to mine and enlighten me with new ideas that I never would have thought of and do it all with a ferocity unmatched in the blogging world.

Bmill said...

O annie how i enjoy you. i love your mind and willingness to speak, its a great thing.

i am full on board with you here. not knowing a lot about the emergent church i was expecting to learn more, instead i heard mostly rhetoric out of his mouth. he as a person is a sarcastic Taylor minded guy which means he will hold on to his convictions and feel fine driving a point to the death because its what he believes.

the thing is that through his talk, like you i was even more motivated to engage with people to WORK to the middle. because we have far to often come from the country club churches who failed to reach out, failed to invest and we have seen the repercussions. but we also see the danger in not following the scriptures and not engaging in community beyond a good talk (which i know some emergents would do quite well at which is why it perks our interest)

the thing is that i often times feel we are scared to put in work to make these things happen, we are not called to sit on the sidelines or called to action for actions sake.

rebellion is no good if it does not have a base to continue on after the situation has changed. which surprisingly brings us back to the middle, wait check that, the the Word and Jesus. because he must be the center and it is his ability to match actions that were counter-cultural to an authoritative word that challenged and grew you closer to God because of its truth.

ok there ya go, mini blog by bmill :)

Christiana said...

I'm so proud of you.