Theological assumptions of the Emergent church’s critics

Here’s a selection from my book-length treatment of the Emerging church: 

One day in 2010 I sat at my computer perplexed. What, exactly, I wondered, is behind all this vitriol against the emergent church?  Who, exactly, are the critics, and what are their theological assumptions?  So I started backtracking references and links on the websites out there who were against “the emerging church.”

What I found, if I understood them correctly, was that the emerging/emergent church’s critics fell into the following categories:

– hard core 5 point Calvinists – I don’t mean Calvinists who see themselves as one of the branches of the Christian family tree; I mean those who believe that if you don’t ascribe to the 5 TULIP points, you are dangerously deluded, and/or (some of them will say) aren’t actually a Christian at all. I am talking about Calvinists who don’t believe there IS any other legitimate form of Christian faith.

– 6 Day Creationists – I don’t mean the folks who simply believe Genesis 1 should be interpreted to mean 6 literal, 24-hour days; I mean folks who think that if you don’t think that, you also are not allowed to believe in Jesus, and you can’t be a Christian

– hard core anti-Catholics – these are folks who believe that Catholics are not Christians, and any appreciation for any Catholic practice or thought,  interaction with Catholics, or use of any practice pre-dating the Reformation is unchristian. Quoting a contemporary Catholic gets you ejected from the game. Quoting any Christian thinker before the Reformation is very questionable.

 -anti-mystics – to these folks, the use of any spiritual discipline, or practice such as meditation (Genesis 24:63 , Psalm 1:2),  contemplative prayer, lectio divina, the Quaker Richard Foster’s writings, … anything that sounds ‘mystical’ is Eastern spirituality/New Age shamanism and demonic.   Quoting an Eastern Orthodox Christian is probably not going to fly- they aren’t Protestant and they are mystical. Quoting a monastic from Christian history or renting a monastery for your youth groups’ retreat would mean you are  not really a Christian.  These folks  somehow fail to  see that Christianity is an eastern religion, and the bible calls us to meditate in many places. Somehow the mystical nature of  baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the presence of the Holy Spirit do not occur to them. They somehow imagine Christianity to be some unmystical, modern rational thought system.

-hard core fundamentalists – theologically and culturally: the kind who believe only fundamentalists are Christians: the King James Version is the only legitimate Scripture translation, contemporary music is bad, Karl Barth and neo-orthodoxy was a bad thing, C.S. Lewis was not a Christian, Billy Graham is out or at least questionable, discussions such as Could any form of evolution be part of God’s design, discussions of what Scripture means by hell other than a literal endless burning, the possibility of some sort of a wideness in God’s mercy for those who never heard of Christ – all these and more get you put outside the camp, as a non-believer.

These are the 5 categories of people I found who are against “the emerging church.” If you are not in one of these categories, it may turn out that postmodernism and the emergent Christians are not nearly as heretical as you’ve been told.

 I am not saying that there are no legitimate critiques of emerging churches, postmodernism or Emergent Village (as a matter of fact, there is plenty of dialogue and critique from within).  Every branch of the Christian family tree has it’s stuff that needs straightened out, including my own, of course. However, it is my contention that the outlandish accusations and claims made by many websites fail the test of Christian kindness and simply do not paint an accurate picture of emerging, postmodern Christianity. 

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