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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

doing and believing...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

'This' is a fascinating post offering some reflections on Alternative Worship and Emerging Church from Kevin Corcoran, an 'outsider' (not my description) who spent time with various practitioners and communities. There's a lot in his description that rings true with my own experience and, on the whole, I think he paints a very fair and accurate portrait.

I've been thinking particularly about one of the features he identifies...

"emerging Christians tend to be theologically pluralistic and quite suspicious of tidy theological boxes. They believe that God is bigger than any theology and that God is first and foremost a story-teller, not a dispenser of theological doctrine and factoids. Theology for them, therefore, is conceived as an ongoing and provisional conversation. Emerging Christians are also allergic to thinking which fixates on who is going to heaven and who is going to hell, or on who’s on the inside and who’s on the outside. They stress the importance of right-living (orthopraxy) over right-believing (orthodoxy). What’s important, they often say, is whether you engage in God-love and neighbor-love. Or as one of our conversation partners put it, “We’re more interested in doing truth than believing ‘truths’.”"

As I read this I identified completely with it and yet on a second reading I'm left slightly uneasy! I, for one, don't want to be fixated on who's in and who's out or on neatly tying up following Jesus into a predefined theological and doctrinal package. For this reason, I am 100% behind the emerging church project (as some have described it). However, I guess my unease kicks in when I think about the parameters for Christ-led discipleship. Are there any? Is it really a journey without any givens? Is theology really provisional? If so, how do we prevent this journey of discipleship from being a completely subjective experience, once again playing into the hands of modern Western individualism - "who are you to tell me where my journey with Jesus should be going?"?!

I guess this is why the notion of community is so important to 'emerging Christians', such that "a premium is placed on togetherness, journeying with and alongside others" (Corcoran's words). But even in this community experience (and perhaps, especially in it) are there any givens or norms? Is it a case of anything goes or are there beliefs and values that define the community?

In the emerging churches I've experienced there are often very clear values and/or beliefs underpinning them. Indeed, to say that there are no theological givens is in itself a theological given! I'm convinced, given my reading of the gospels, that orthopraxy is, at least, as important as orthodoxy, but this doesn't render orthodoxy unimportant... does it?

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:34 AM


Thanks Malcolm for the "heads up" and for your own reflections. Certainly I've really appreciated the video interviews and montages they've produced.

Interestingly, I would have highlighted the same passage you have, and would have made similar comments.

I wonder if the Rowan Williams interview is going to find its way to YouTube.

commented by Anonymous Paul Fromont, 5:45 PM  

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