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  1. #1
    Senior Member Apollonian's Avatar
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    Default The Emerging Church - Thoughts on Postmodern Christianity

    The past: Modernism

    The Christian church has encountered a considerable amount of criticism from many different sources over hundreds of years.

    The Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopalian churches have had scandals regarding the moral character and behavior of its clergy. There are many people who participate solely for the ceremony rather than the religion. Many others believe so thoroughly that they are prone to superstitions.

    The so called "Evangelical" Protestant church has been criticized for its overzealous approach to social reform, often using questionably invasive tactics to attempt to 'convert' the 'lost'.

    In the last century, science has called many traditional religious beliefs and dogmas into question, yet science itself never really answers some of the basic spiritual longings of our lives.

    Now, there is a growing group of thinkers and believers who are attempting to seek to revise and reform the Christian message in the post-modern era where the flow of information is the spice of life and people are longing for a return to spirituality without the guilt and manipulation of "institutional religion" but don't want to completely abandon the usefulness of science.

    Postmodernism

    First, what is "post-modernism"? There are many definitions of post-modernism, but put simply post-modernism is the response to the philosophies of the modern era. The modern era mainly focused on a criticism of social and religious traditional dogma in light of the ability of science to unveil truth about the natural world. Ideas shifted from unyielding belief in the beliefs of the previous generation to a scientific approach to testing hypothesis based on readily available facts and observations. However, in the last quarter century, the development of mass-communication (TV, Internet, etc) has given rise to a society saturated by scientific, economic, religious, political, and artistic ideas to the point where the individual is lost amidst the flow of information. In this sea of ideas, it is difficult to determine who or what to trust as true. People are turned off to religion which tells them what to believe without explaining why. People are disillusioned with scientific advancement which has polluted the ecosystem and often created more anxiety than an increase in standard of living. Yet, through all this, we are now able to share information and art with a much wider audience and human expression is richer for the free access. So, postmodernism often leaves people with profound questions without many readily identifiable answers, and it is often typified by people who refuse to be pinned down by belief in absolute truths but who still believe that there is such a thing as truth for us to find.

    The Response to Postmodernism

    The following article does an excellent job of explaining the movement of Christianity which is seeking to respond to this rising postmodern era.

    The Five Streams of the Emerging Church
    Five Streams of the Emerging Church | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

    In short here are the Five Streams
    - The need for constant revision of beliefs and practices
    - The need to question fundamental assumptions and discover Truth for ourselves
    - The need to connect belief with how we live and to practice the faith
    - Rejection of labels which separate "believers" from "non-believers"
    - An honest approach to social activism and seeking to change the world for the better

    Here is the Wikipedia Entry for those who don't trust Christianity Today Magazine.
    Emerging church - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    What do you think of these ideas? If you consider yourself a Christian, do you agree with them? If you are not a Christian, how do these ideas compare to your perception and experience of Christians? Do you think that this is a more tolerant, more caring, and/or more reasoned way of believing? Do you believe that these ideas are heretical or overly controversial?

  2. #2

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    I would be interested as well. I see this happening around me. But I am not a Christian, and have only distant Christian relatives, so I have little insight into what is going on.

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  3. #3
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    Each point can evoke a great deal of discussion, so I will only look at one at the moment.

    2. The need to question fundamental assumptions and discover Truth for ourselves
    As with each one of these points, there are positives and negatives; and specific implementation (not theory) is part of determining how positive this particular one is.

    The traditional church's methodoloy is to slam down the Bible and the institution in front of believers or potential penitents and say, "Here are all the answers. Memorize and follow accordingly." If one assumes they already possess the entire truth in a comprehensible fashion, then exploration of new ideas and the process of self-discovery are at best pointless and at worst the road straight into Hell. Any deviation from the established truth has to necessarily be a veer into error.

    The strength of this method is that people have the standards and simply have to memorize and obey them. There is a high potential for conformity (which in this perspective is actually positive). There is no need for arguing or dissent or confusion or ineffeciency. Just obey.

    The weakness is that, what if the original assumptions are wrong (e.g., "The Bible can be used as a literal comprehensive discourse on exactly how one is to behave and what one should believe, regardless of culture")? Another weakness: People are not machines and do not conform easily to a "Be perfect on Day #1, never question, never doubt, never make mistakes," platform. In fact, they usually need to take ownership of their beliefs over time if the beliefs are to last; being spoonfed another's belief system does not generally result in a maturing, responsible, strong person.

    So the Emerging Church can either be viewed as apostasy (because if the truth is already known, why risk it?) or as a natural part of human development or a correction for current errors in doctrine and practice. And there is no good way to "prove" which one is right. It is more a matter of the Emerging Church doing its thing while the Traditional Church does its thing, and the victor is the one that proves in the long run that it outlasts and dominates.

    However, I do not think it is as much as a battle over which one wins, as much as "When they merge into a unified faith, what traits from each will continue to thrive?" Basically, the Traditional Church has become stilted in some ways or calcified, and the Emerging Church is meant to shake things up, inject itself into the current church mentality, and bring life back to the Church movement as a whole. There will be some sort of combining at some point, most likely, and hopefully resulting in a stronger more flexible mentality.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  4. #4
    Oberon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    The traditional church's methodoloy is to slam down the Bible and the institution in front of believers or potential penitents and say, "Here are all the answers. Memorize and follow accordingly." If one assumes they already possess the entire truth in a comprehensible fashion, then exploration of new ideas and the process of self-discovery are at best pointless and at worst the road straight into Hell. Any deviation from the established truth has to necessarily be a veer into error.
    ...and with that, five centuries of Jesuit apologia, theology, and scientific inquiry vanished into the rhetorical mist...

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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    ...and with that, five centuries of Jesuit apologia, theology, and scientific inquiry vanished into the rhetorical mist...
    Apparently it's not definitive enough to prove anything, if the debate still continues.

    Not every disagreement can be blamed on "the world's lack of faith in God."

    Expound.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Oberon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Apparently it's not definitive enough to prove anything, if the debate still continues.
    Without checking Google, can you name one representative of the church at the trial of Galileo? If not, I think it rather disingenuous to blame your lack of answers on the failure of the church to seriously address the questions.

    My point is that the "traditional church," as you put it, is not uniformly fundamentalist, and to the degree that it is not your post amounts to a mischaracterization.

    I am not well-read enough to have the answers. In fact, I could not myself pass the test I set for you...but where intelligence fails, I try to be aware of my ignorance.

    Frequently I fail even at that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    Without checking Google, can you name one representative of the church at the trial of Galileo? If not, I think it rather disingenuous to blame your lack of answers on the failure of the church to seriously address the questions.

    My point is that the "traditional church," as you put it, is not uniformly fundamentalist, and to the degree that it is not your post amounts to a mischaracterization.

    I am not well-read enough to have the answers. In fact, I could not myself pass the test I set for you...but where intelligence fails, I try to be aware of my ignorance.

    Frequently I fail even at that.
    I thought it was clear the parameters of the OP were "Emerging Church" versus "The Rest of the Church." Which means obviously I was generalizing and lumping in fundamentalists with some other more open-minded branches -- since they were not the case in point, we weren't exploring the differences between THOSE groupings within the church.

    I think my point is actually the church has been seriously trying to address the issue of "proof" for years. The hardcore fundamentalists seem to fudge the data because of a priori religious reasoning. But even the evangelicals (which seem to go fundie in their sense of "science") do the same: Religious belief is the foundation, then science is tailored to fit on top of it.

    I only see things getting worse for the church in terms of proof. In regards to the whole "evolution" issue, we definitely see evolution occurring within species. I was just reading about wisdom teeth today, which seem rather useless to be part of a "divine plan" of sorts but very much expected as part of an evolutionary process. And some of our scientific research (product creation, etc.) uses evolutionary processes in development... and it works.

    Anyway, this is a derail. We can discuss that aspect of things elsewhere: This thread was supposed to be discussing the Emergent Church versus the Established Church.

    Oh, yes -- and Hans Grubelswartzen was the janitor of his church and happened to attend Galileo's trial to borrow a cup of sugar and was very indignant at being denied because of the more important proceedings. (Don't bother checking it on Google, you simply must take my word for it. )
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    There's a school of thought quite big in Anglicanism that we're now in an era of post-Christianity, where Christianity is no longer (in Europe anyway) a major force in the shaping of society.

    The "answer" (they say) is to quit working in an institutional mode which was developed for a majority-church-going society, stop thinking of ourselves as a major force or mainstream or anything and "go back" to thinking as an underground, minority movement as in the early days of the Apostles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by substitute View Post
    There's a school of thought quite big in Anglicanism that we're now in an era of post-Christianity, where Christianity is no longer (in Europe anyway) a major force in the shaping of society.

    The "answer" (they say) is to quit working in an institutional mode which was developed for a majority-church-going society, stop thinking of ourselves as a major force or mainstream or anything and "go back" to thinking as an underground, minority movement as in the early days of the Apostles.
    It seems the most logical thing, really. And IMO, it is more the natural habitat of Christianity. It is not a religion that is meant to govern like Judaism or Islaam. It is just meant to be lived and shared, but not forced on those who do not want it.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Apparently it's not definitive enough to prove anything, if the debate still continues.

    Not every disagreement can be blamed on "the world's lack of faith in God."

    Expound.
    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    Without checking Google, can you name one representative of the church at the trial of Galileo? If not, I think it rather disingenuous to blame your lack of answers on the failure of the church to seriously address the questions.

    My point is that the "traditional church," as you put it, is not uniformly fundamentalist, and to the degree that it is not your post amounts to a mischaracterization.

    I am not well-read enough to have the answers. In fact, I could not myself pass the test I set for you...but where intelligence fails, I try to be aware of my ignorance.

    Frequently I fail even at that.
    As someone who has already made his "leaps of faith" in a different direction, I find it hard to believe a lot of what evangelicals try to "prove" to me. Note: I have read some of Josh McDowell's, J.P. Moreland's books, listened to some of Ravi Zacharias' lectures, and even went to see William Lane Craig in person when he came to Stanford (he is clearly "smarter" than in his critics, but failed to make a convincing argument to non-believers).

    Still, I have gone to a youth ministry's talks about love and relationships, and found it enlightening. Attend "warehouse ministry" and charismatic church services and believe their spirituality to be real. As far as "conversion" goes, the "emerging" church is doing a better job. I wonder, however, if they are still practicing Christianity or if it is a form of Unitarianism in disguise.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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