‘Sure of what we hope for…’

I was searching Amazon for a book when I came across a list by ‘Christian reader on a journey’ of ‘fave emerging church books’ to which he added the qualification ‘haven’t read them all.’ It led me to wonder how you can a have a favourite book you haven’t read. Can you have a favourite movie you haven’t seen? Or a favourite person you haven’t met?

It also led me to look at one or two emerging church titles- ‘Velvet Elvis’ immediately caught my attention. As I read the reviews the thing that struck me about the book was that the appeal of the emergent church is that it opens up the way for people to ask questions. In some ways it appears to me as being more about doubt than faith. I certainly had that sense as I read Blue Like Jazz. We of course all live with doubt if we have real faith. But the Christian journey is not about letting our doubt flap about like a wind sock. Rather it is about being built up in the faith through the teaching of God’s word, within the body of Christ, as we strive for maturity. That maturity brings with it a deepening sense of certainty.(Ephesians 4:7-16).

Whilst we all have questions the heart of the Christian faith is not honest doubt. I sense that the emergent church movement has not only come out of the post modern mindset but that it has also been swallowed by it with its ‘how can anyone claim to know the truth?’ mantra.

I also wonder does it portray a cultural arrogance. As Job says, ‘Doubtless you are the people and wisdom will die with you.’ Is there not a need to look seriously at the roots of evangelical faith and see how it ’emerged?’ Is there not a need to look at why the church with its practices has ’emerged’ and be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water ? I once heard John Stott giving a lecture where he remarked that the modern church would save itself a lot of time if it were more familiar with the battles that previous generations of Christians have already fought. We are a moment in history not the whole story.(In that lecture Stott also made a remark the emergent folk might appreciate. He said we need to learn to be more agnostic about some of the things we are dogmatic about and more dogmatic about some of the things we are agnostic about).

The emergent church will help perform a service in our generation (apart from giving us great book titles) if it stirs us from complacency to be what we ought to be as evangelicals. That is as Luther put it ‘a reformed church always reforming.’ I also hope that those who are within the emerging movement engage with the existing church rather than fragment evangelicalism further. I hope too that they find sympathetic churches and pastors who will not fuel their doubts further but feed their faith, transforming their minds and warming their hearts.

And I will read Velvet Elvis and tell you what I think.

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