Evangelicals of all types are taking notice of the emerging church/missional church and its variations.
Its rise to prominence is owed in part to the rejection of the evangelical church by many sons and daughters of Boomer evangelicals. At a recent Up-Rooted gathering, we talked about the real or perceived shortcomings in evangelicalism the emerging church is responding to, and the strengths and weaknesses of that response. Scot McKnight and Wayne Johnson were a part of that discussion, but here is part of my response to the question.
I believe one weakness in evangelicalism that the emerging church is responding to is evangelicalism’s excessively rationalist approach to truth and salvation that birthed a stubborn “we’re in/you’re out” mentality. There has been an impulse in evangelical fundamentalism towards
(a) an intolerant judgmental exclusivism,
(b) an arrogant, even violent, certainty about what we do know, and
(c) a hyper-cognitive gospel that takes the mystery out of everything.
Many of us grew up with this. This was most obvious in the way we made hell the selling point of the gospel. We said if you do A and B, you’ll be pardoned from sin and escape hell.
Those who do not do A or B are going to hell. We built an apologetic that defended this to prove to people outside the church they were doomed. It came off arrogant, coercive, unloving, and indeed antithetical to the very nature of the gospel. In a world of democratic pluralism, the gospel’s witness became shut off, dispassionate, and downright sectarian. It became impossible to represent such a gospel as “good news.”
Brian McLaren (Secret message of Jesus and writer of Adventures in missing the point) talks about this in New Kind of Christian when he says:If we Christians would take all that energy we put into proving we’re right and everyone else is wrong and invested that energy in pursuing and doing good, somehow I think more people would believe we are right.
What do you think?