Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Emergent church and engaging culture

Lately I have been thinking about the Emergent church and how "we" as Christians are supposed to minister to others and engage culture. I am taking a class right now called "perspectives on Christ and culture", it is taught by the Richard Mouw who is the president of Fuller Seminary. We have been talking a bit about Neibuhr, Emil Brunner, and Karl Barth and there views on Christ and Culture. I am a big fan of Barth and inspite of my Barthian bias I still agree with Barth. We are called to engage culture through the lens of the grace Jesus Christ. Christ first culture second! How can we engage culture as Christians without Jesus Christ being the center or motivation for our engagement. Neibuhr uses the paradigm Christ transorming Culture. The key here is Christ transforming culture, not one culture transforming another.
Thinking about how Christians engage culture has been very troubling to me, especially the Emergent church's view on engaging culture. I have been following the Emergent Church somewhat and what is going on in the theology of the Emergent church is really bothersome. I was on the Emergent Village blog the other day and two things that were said at a big Emergent church conference really troubled me. First, Alexi Torres Fleming was quoted saying, "When we pray for God to ‘fix’ a problem, maybe Jesus kneels and prays for us to go out and be the solution." Second, Richard Rohr said, "We must turn from a belief system to an inner experience. Know them, don’t believe them". On the Alexi Torres Fleming quote: Yes, we are called to go out and be servants in the world, but "We" cannot be the solution. Christ is the solution and if we turn from Christ being the solution to people being the solution, we not only boast in ourselves but we put the will of God into our own hands. We slowly become our own God's, willing whatever we wish and displaying ourselves as the problem solvers. This makes Christianity out to be nothing but social justice with the culmination of that justice being "man". If we are to engage culture as Christians should, we have to do it with Christ as the center, not earthly justice as the center.
Secondly on Richard Rohr's quote: When a system of beliefs is replaced with an inner experience we no longer have community. His suggestion is that we know the systems of belief, but not believe them. First and foremost I think that this statement discredits scripture, secondly it discredits the fathers of the early church, and thirdly it brings Christianity to a place of neo-enlightenment. If Christianity is boiled down to an inner experience it is nothing more than a subjective religion based on what I might believe to be right.
My point here is not to bash on the Emergent Church. I think that there are some great ideas coming out of the Emergent movement, but I also greatly disagree some others. My point is that if we want to do sound scriptural theology, Jesus Christ and scripture have to be the center. We have to have a strict system of beliefs, Christianity cannot just be an inner experience. We also have to remember that we are not the solution, Christ is the solution. Whether you agree with me or not I hope that we can agree that if Christ and Scripture are not the foundation of Christianity than we have no foundation except what man has put into place.

Andrew Esqueda