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Emerging Church is Shaped By Modernity Rather Than Scripture

Emerging Church is Shaped By Modernity Rather Than Scripture

While the Enlightenment led to a foundationalism based on scripture, this focus on the authority of scripture actually shifted the focus of Christianity from the authority of the person of Christ to the authority of Bible. The church in History has being changing shape, being shaped by the preeminent forces of the times. In the Modern Era is the Church, rather the Emerging Churches shaped by modernity rather than scripture? In this paper I will deliberate how the Emerging Church is shaped by modernity rather than scripture.

The Emerging church movement (or the Emergent church movement) is described by its own proponents as "a growing generative friendship among missional Christian leaders seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ."  Instead of calling it a movement, those of the Emergent sentiment would rather call it a "conversation." The leading voice for the emerging church movement is the Emergent Village, which began as a group of young Christian leaders gathered under the auspices of Leadership Network in the late 1990s and organized in 2001. In their own words, they began meeting because many were "disillusioned and disenfranchised by the conventional ecclesial institutions of the late 20th century."

To prevent confusion, a distinction needs to be made between "emerging" and "Emergent Church." Emerging is the wider, informal, global, ecclesial (church-centered) focus of the movement, while Emergent is an official organization in the U.S. and the U.K. Emergent Village, the organization is directed by Tony Jones, a Ph.D. student at Princeton Theological Seminary and a world traveler on behalf of all things both Emergent and emerging.

For many within the movement, the emerging church is an umbrella that covers many diverse movements. In Jonny Baker’s (Grace, London) opinion, emerging church is a catchall term (E, Gibbs and R, K. Borger: 2006:41).
The term emerging church has been applied to a high profile, youth-oriented congregations that have gained attention on account of their rapid numerical growth; their ability to attract or retain twentysomethings; their contemporary worship, which draws from popular music styles; and their ability to promote themselves to the Christian subculture through website and by word of mouth (E, Gibbs and R, K. Borger: 2006:41). It is in its simplest form a movement that is influenced to bring the youth and the church to a new form of Christianity through a new way of thinking and expression.

The emerging churches indeed is a movement that are bringing a new aspect to Christian ministry. According to M. Moynah in his book Emerging Church (2004:11) argues that “Emerging churches” does not parachute a set model of church on to people: it is church from below. It starts not with a preconceived notion of church, but with the desire to express church in the culture of the group involved. It is church shaped by context, not by “This is how we have always done it.”

The emerging church thrust is in rethinking on how to bring life in the church and the Christian community. Hence, it advocates for doing church in a new way that suits the new cultural and technological environment. D, Kimball (2004:15) is of the same view when he populates that the emerging church realize that there is need to change how we think of the church, rather than merely change our forms of ministry.  In simple terms Emerging church catches into one term the global reshaping of how to "do church" in postmodern culture.

Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities (E, Gibbs and R, K. Borger: 2006:45). This definition is both descriptive and analytical, showing what we should expect to see as forms and nature of the emerging church and gives us an analytically view of the Movement.

Are emerging churches shaped by modernity? Modernity stands for a cultural condition, as a distinct from modernization which refers to more technical development such as means of production or transport. The two went hand in hand but the end result was greatly altered context for human belonging and human self-understanding, entailing a gradual but total break with pre-modern ways of life (G, Michael : 1997:75). Michael further argues that modernity entails a “spiritual revelation over several centuries” (G, Michael).

Modernity is a culture of being all informed, sound and open minded, understanding all aspects. The individual Christian believer now is influenced with reasonalism and liberalization of thoughts, ideology and theology. Thus, now an individual believer understands that God is not involved in their day to day.

The so-called “emerging church” is the stepchild of postmodernism. This ideology contends it is arrogant to believe that one knows the truth; instead the “truth” is that truth is only determined subjectively, being fashioned by culture, not Scripture.

Wells describes how modernity has changed the role of the pastor. We have abandoned the agrarian (and biblical) metaphor of a shepherd and replaced it with the model of a corporate CEO. The successful pastor manages people and programs. His study has been transformed into an office, and in that transformation the church has lost its capacity for theological reflection.

The world is radically changing and the church must radically change with it. Emerging churches is nothing more than a way of expressing that we need new forms of church that relate to the emerging culture and life settings (E, Gibbs and R, K. Borger. 2006:41). Emerging churches are shaped and conformed by modernity culture and life style changes so should the church transform together with the trends of times.

Modernity has brought an openness of the mind by reason of the influence of the Enlightenment Period. The Emerging churches seeks to question all aspects of faith and employ rationality as the only scientific discovery of truth. Thus the Church seeks to reexamine and question every belief and practice in the church so as to find new ways to express these beliefs and practices.  

Reason is the instrument of discovery of all doctrines and duties, whether “expressly set down in Scripture” or “by good and necessary consequence deduced from Scripture”: but their authority, when once discovered, is derived from God, who reveals them and prescribes them in Scripture, either by literal assertion or by necessary implication (Warfield, 1931: 12). The Emerging Church are shaped by modernity rather than scripture. It can be noted that the movement exhorts reason far above than scripture. Furthermore, the church seeks to be relevant in the community of faith by accepting cultural expressions that are not supported by the scriptures but are prevalent in our time. Which is a clear indication that the emerging churches are truly shaped by modernity rather than scriptures.

The emerging church believes that no one can claim absolute truth concerning anything. According to them they argued that “since we cannot know absolute truth we cannot be dogmatic about doctrine. This is one of their pivotal beliefs and practices which is streaming from a modernity flavor of thinking. “

Moreover, the emerging church rejects the absolute stands on issues such as homosexuality are viewed as obsolete. Activities such as drinking, clubbing, watching sexually explicit movies, and using profanities are seen by some emergents as opportunities to show those who are not part of the Christian community that postmodern Christians do not think they are better than them through any false sense of moral superiority. It is against this background that we can argue that emerging church are shaped by modernity rather than scriptures.

There is more than one way to ‘kill’ the Bible,” McLaren says. “You can dissect it, analyze it, and abstract it. You can read its ragged stories and ragamuffin poetry, and from them you can derive neat abstractions, sterile propositions, and sharp-edged principles (McLaren, Brian: 2001:158). From the mouth of one of the proponents of the movement it is correct to argue that Emerging Church is shaped by Modernity.

According to them, “Grenz and McLaren are not only postmodern but they are also post-Christian. Their rejection of the classical orthodox view of Scripture is sweeping. It includes a rejection of the correspondence view of truth, a rejection of objective truth, propositional truth, and inerrant truth in Scripture.” (Henard, W.D: 2009:107)

The emerging church however, can be argued that it is to some extend be shaped by scripture. It is the heart of the emerging churches to bring the Christian way of life to be more like Christ and hence are shaped by scriptures. The emerging churches finds perfect expression in the ministry of Jesus, who went about doing good to bodies, spirits, families, and societies.

 He picked the marginalized up from the floor and put them back in their seats at the table; he attracted harlots and tax collectors; he made the lame walk and opened the ears of the deaf. He cared, in other words, not just about lost souls, but also about whole persons and whole societies.

Emerging churches are there to bring a new way of thinking and doing church, however it can be noted that emerging churches are mostly shaped by modernity rather than scripture. The emerging churches depends on the modern ways of reason, theorization and ministry. Though can be argued that to some extend the emerging church also is shaped and conforms to scripture since it is after establishing and fulfilling the great commission.   

Canale, F.L., 2012. The Emerging Church—Part 3: Evangelical Evaluations. Journal of the Adventist Theological Society

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G, Michael: 1997. Clashing symbols an Introduction to faith and culture. Darton Longman: London

Henard, W.D., Greenway, A.W. and Rainer, T.S., 2009. Evangelicals engaging emergent: A discussion of the emergent church movement. B&H Publishing Group.

M, Mayonah. 2004. Emerging Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan

McLaren, B.D., 2001. A new kind of Christian. San Francisco.
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