Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Dispatch 1 from the Emergent Frontier

Dispatch no. 1 from The New Christians by Tony Jones

"Emergents find little importance in the discrete differences between the various flavors of Christianity. Instead, they practice a generous orthodoxy that appreciates the contributions of all Christian movements."

I think I broadly agree with this, although I expect that sometimes it is the discrete differences between the Christians traditions which represent the contributions that they make, if that makes sense.

If this dispatch means recognising that the various different Christian traditions all have strengths and choosing to see the best in the other traditions, then I'm on board. I don't think this means we should try and iron out the differences between us or that it means we can't critique one another.

'Generous Orthodoxy' is a phrase I like, obviously the title of Brian McLaren's book which had the fantastic subtitle of 'Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, ... Emergent, Unfinished Christian'. To some people this might read as 'why I am confused', but personally I think it's healthy.

It also reminds me of the approach taken by Richard Foster, and the other folk at Renovaré. In particular it is the approach taken in Foster's book Streams of Living Water. This arranges the Christian traditions into 6 streams:
Contemplative - the prayer filled life,
Holiness - the virtuous life,
Charismatic - the Spirit-empowered life,
Social Justice - the compassionate life,
Evangelical - the Word-centred life and
Incarnational the sacramental life

It is apparently also what Phyllis Tickle describes in her upcoming book The Great Emergence which sees the coming together of 4 quadrants - the Social Justice, the Liturgical, the Evangelical, and the Pentecostal. At least I think they were the four that Andrew Jones mentioned in his talk at Greenbelt.

I actually think I learned something of this approach in the Vineyard. Wimber used to stress that Jesus loves the whole church, from the Roman Catholics to the snake-handling Pentecostals. It is also part of my journey into the Anglican church, which I see as deep enough to explore some historical roots and broad enough to embrace the strengths of other traditions.

So yes, a tick for dispatch no. 1


Anonymous said...

I have a problem with a some of the emergent stress on 'Generous Orthodoxy'. Of course we should appreciate things from all traditions which are beneficial to the church at large. However we should also critique distortions of the gospel. ie. Prosperity teachers offer a perverted gospel, vicars who deny the resserection should resign, Evangelicals who don't care about social justice issues need to repent....

A generous orthodoxy should still be an 'orthodoxy'. Where do the emergents draw the line? Should not the emergent community distance themselves from what appears to be unorthodox groups. http://www.ikon.org.uk/

p.s I read 'Generous Orthodoxy' and quite liked it,

Jon said...

Well, yes, that is why it is generous orthodoxy and not just generosity. I suppose it is difficult to speak of where 'the line' is for 'the emergent community' because they are a diverse group, and not a church. But certainly the 'main' players that I have read seem to be well within trinitarian, creedal orthodoxy. See here where Tony Jones challenges anyone to point out where in any of his writing he has an 'unorthodox' interpretation of scripture.

I think another way of putting it would be to say we apply a hermeneutic of love towards other traditions, and a hermeneutic of suspicion, or at least humility towards our own 'orthodoxy'.