Thursday, November 17, 2005

the chasm continues?

Just doing some surfing and noticed that EmergentUS have announced a deal with Abingdon to publish a Theology for the Emerging Church line. This follows a deal with Baker to publish a line of books for pastors and church leaders.

Thus the chasm of modernity continues. On my left, in the Abingdon corner, serious theology and theory. On my right, the Baker corner, practioners and church.

Ken Archer’s insightful review of Carson’s Becoming Conversant with Emergent (which I still have not got around to reading) makes the following comment:
In fact, most of those involved in the Emerging Church are pastors, not professors of philosophy or theology … A refined art of pastoral writing as I hope is being initiated by McLaren would then achieve its own legitimacy separate from theological writing, as a writing that is particularly attuned to the consequences of theological ideas.
It is a perceptive comment but it worries me. It makes it easier for the emerging church to thus dodge the theologically hard questions. “We are practioners, not theologians.”

A strange drift, given the fact that:
a) Contemporary practical theology suggests that the practices of the people of God are valid place for theological reflection. (see my PhD New Ways of Being Church and the occasional blogs of Tony Jones)
b) One of the chief urgings of much emerging thought is the priority of community as the place for theological reflection. (I’m thinking hear of Grenz and Franke’s Beyond Foundationalism)

Such approaches refuse to accept the chasm of theology and theory on one hand and ministry practise on the other. I worry that emerging book deals could continue to perpetuate the chasms of modernity.

Posted by steve at 10:41 AM


  1. Scott McKnight echoed that same thing the other day when he did a (positive) mini-review of Doug Pagitt’s book “Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God”.

    He comments that he’d like to see Pagitt write in detail on the theology of physicality in prayer. Something to get your teeth into that then complements the practice described in the book.

    More at:

    Comment by Stephen Garner — November 17, 2005 @ 12:43 pm

  2. I’d love to see something of this sort.

    I’ve recently begun reading Brueggemann; in some of his work he seems to bridging that divide in regards to Biblical Studies.

    Comment by Craig — November 17, 2005 @ 5:50 pm

  3. If this is is the case (practitioners not theologians) does it not have a profound effect on the ideal of emergent church? would that line of thought not turn the idea into one of a bunch of a bunch of hardcore charismatics?

    This from my limited knowledge of the emerging church

    Comment by Warwick — November 18, 2005 @ 10:35 am

  4. Steve, I think the world of e.c. text is going to have to tie into Eddie Gibbs’ idea of how seminary education needs to change: every class needs to be team-taught by a theorist (theologian, missiologist, ethicist, etc.) and a practitioner. Perhaps every book needs to be written by both, too. It would be lovely if all of us were dual-talented, but many people are not, and different gifts brought to the same table assist in the deepened redemption of a community. The key is that both writers (or even several writers in a single community?) need to be close-knit through the writing of communal texts and the creation of communal practice. Writing a book with someone else is a challenge, and I freely admit I’d have a difficult time doing it myself. But maybe that difficulty is a vital part of the filling in of the chasm. Maybe we ought to start by writing our solo projects only as much as we write with others… thanks for making me think about this. Very, very helpful. Best of health to all in NZ.

    Comment by britta k — November 18, 2005 @ 4:52 pm

  5. I’m also concerned about the split b/w academic and practical with Emergent’s publishing line, but there are few who are equiped to do both.

    i think one of the few people who is doing this (bridging the academic and pastoral) is Dave Fitch, esp. in his new “The Great Giveaway”. He’s a full-time church planter and full-time seminary professor. He brings postmodern theory, Radical Orthodoxy, and Hauerwas into the pews of the ordinary church. While I love Brian McLaren on the pastoral side, and Scot McKnight on the academic side, things are very different when they go together.

    Comment by Geoff Holsclaw — November 19, 2005 @ 2:36 pm

  6. Steve: Geoff is right. The split is necessitated by the way that the publishing industry is set up. Unfortunately, it’s best for Emergent to partner with different publishers according to thaie strengths rather than developing an exclusive partnership with only one publisher.

    Tony Jones

    Comment by tony — November 22, 2005 @ 9:19 am

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