Friday, July 27, 2007

the emerging church is liberal

It’s news to me, but that’s the word according to The emerging Christian Way


(I hate books with the word “The” in them. They just sound so arrogant. The simple use of the word “A” would leave room for other voices).

Anyhow, chapter one paints church history as belonging to two camps: an earlier Christian way and an emerging Christian way. The author, Marcus Borg, places himself in the later, and he also includes Brian McLaren in his camp. “Emerging” in this definition refers to time, as it comes after “earlier”. There is no mention of postmodernism or cultural change, which is a unique departure from much emerging church literature. There is also no mention of communities of practice, which so often characterise other emerging church books. Instead we have a focus on theology.

It’s a good discipline to read people who might see things differently, so I hope to review some of the other chapters in the weeks ahead.

Posted by steve at 09:46 PM


  1. Hi Steve,

    Really enjoying reading your blog at the moment. Keep up the good work!

    I couldn’t help but notice with curiosity your objection to ‘books with the word “The” in them’. Isn’t the title of your book ‘The Out of Bounds Church’? Perhaps the next reprint should include an indefinite article instead :o).

    Good point though – it does sound a bit exclusive when there are so many other important voices out there that are literally crying out to be heard.

    Cheers, Nick.

    Comment by Nicholas — July 29, 2007 @ 8:44 pm

  2. I find that many books with “christian” in the title sound rather arrogant…


    Comment by darren — July 30, 2007 @ 4:04 am

  3. Hi Nick,

    I wondered that too, and asked my partner if I was being hypocritical. She pointed out that the full title is “The out of bounds church? learning to create a [not the] community of faith.”

    So does that mix of “the/a” get me off the hook?


    Comment by — August 1, 2007 @ 4:49 pm

  4. Both Marcus Borg and Matthew Fox could reasonably be called liberals, although in Fox’s case far-left/New Age might be more accurate. As an ex-liberal Christian myself I have often been struck by the similarity between emergent and liberalism in terms of its language and in some of the ideas and arguments made on various issues. The elevation of doubt to near idolatrous levels for example. I think emergent is too diverse to label the whole thing liberal, and I think there are very positive aspects to the whole “conversation”, but I do wonder to what degree emergent is essentially acting as a trojan horse within evangelicalism for the ideology of the Christian liberal-left, especially with regards to Brian Mclaren, Chris Seay, and others who talk and sound exactly like my old liberal brethen.

    Comment by Shawn — August 2, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  5. Steve,

    Not only does the “the/a” mix get you off the hook, but you follow your presumptive THE with a ‘?’, getting you totally off the hook and throwing the hook out the window.

    I’ve read a Borg book before and, based on how very theologically he approaches life, I am not particularly surprised to hear his focus is on theology.

    I wonder, however, whether this isn’t a little bit like Borg painting himself into the picture by trying to reframe history. I mean, everybody waves McLaren’s name around with e:C stuff, but Borg?

    (I don’t know the answer to that question, it’s not rhetorical)

    Shawn, if e:C is too diverse to be labelled ‘liberal’ then isn’t it equally immune from the possibility that it is a, “trojan horse … of the Christian liberal-left”?

    I would say that e:C is to Church is what Terrorist Splinter Cells are to Organised Crime, so how can we put one label on the methodology of any one pocket of people doing theology-in-community? Why do we keep trying to?

    ~ Iain

    Comment by Iain — August 3, 2007 @ 1:23 am

  6. Iain,

    “Shawn, if e:C is too diverse to be labelled ‘liberal’ then isn’t it equally immune from the possibility that it is a, “trojan horse … of the Christian liberal-left”?”

    Sadly no. While the whole of ec is diverse at the grassroots level, at the level of influencial persons writing books it is I believe tilting dangeroulsy towards liberalism.

    The problem is not people doing theology in community, the problem is the influencial elites writing books, doing magazine articles, interviews and so forth. Ec is nogt just a conversation, it is a movement.

    Comment by Shawn — August 5, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

  7. Hi Shawn,

    since I’m an emerging church person who’s written a book on the emerging church and do interviews, I presume you’re talking about me. Where in my book am I liberal?

    And I must get around to continuing my review of the Borg book, since I think the book is quite disingenous/clever in the way it captures McLaren and distorts the ec in order to advance it’s agenda.


    Comment by steve — August 5, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  8. I agree with Steve, emerging church isn’t liberal or conservative, labelling it is a way to attempt and dismiss it. Many are real christians trying to find out how to engage with the world around them attempting to change the lives of those around them, some beleive theology needs to be changed, while others beleive that its our method (i’m more on the method end of the scale :-)) I would be as bold to say that the emerging church is the church in china, the church in africa as well, not becuase it follows our method, but its organic, filling the needs of the people around them, I think church in New Zealand needs to respond, submerge and subvert the culture around it. Anyway, theres some thoughts

    Comment by Nathanael Baker — August 6, 2007 @ 10:56 am

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