For the last couple of days, I’ve been talking about some aspects of the Christian faith in the post-modern world; notably progressive and emergence Christianity. Of the two, progressive Christianity seems easier to get a handle on, as the emergence end of the conversation is more fluid. Case in point, yesterday, I received an email from someone involved in emergent cohorts who informed that many emerging Christians he knew that started churches aren’t afraid to challenge orthodoxy and it’s understanding currently and throughout history. He also said Emergent Village didn’t really exist anymore, but that the cohorts were carrying on.Which tells me that articles on the subject only 5 years old are outdated and wrong. Five years is not that long ago. So, thanks to Jeff Kursonis for some needed perspective
At the end of yesterday’s discussion, I said today we’d look at some parallels in emergence and progressive Christianity. These two streams of post-modern faith are anything but distinct. Emerging doesn’t necessarily equal conservative just as emergent doesn’t equal progressive. Most do fall into these categories, but nothing is etched in stone. And, there is crossover between emergence and progressive Christians. The major difference between the two may be the traditions they came out of, but even though emergence came from evangelicalism and progressivism came from mainliners, you aren’t relegated to one or the other. I straddle progressive and emergence Christianity myself. My background is Methodist (nominally mainline), but I grew up in the south where the Methodist church is a weird cross between mainline and evangelical. Having a foot in both camps, I pull from both traditions. And, that may the hallmark of postmodern faith: there is no one monolithic orthodoxy anymore. And, it’s debatable whether there ever was one in the first place.
A couple of years ago, I became familiar with the autism spectrum. Autism, it turns out, isn’t a “you either are or you aren’t” kind of thing, there are varying degrees of it. Depending on behaviors, we all fall out somewhere in the spectrum. I think this is a good way to describe post-modern Christianity: it’s a spectrum with, with ultra-orthodox people such as Al Mohler and John Piper on one end and Christian atheists like Peter Rollins on the other. When it comes to the emergence spectrum, belief as much as behavior determines your position.
Post-modern Christianity could be considered the Wild West of the faith community. Not in the crazy, violent way; more in the wide-open, anything goes kind of way. While some people embrace this (me among them), it scares the living crap out of others. These are the ones you hear saying emergents are heretics and such. You know, considering what modern Christianity has come to symbolize, maybe being a post-modern heretic isn’t all that bad.
Tomorrow: Emergence and heresy.