A movement that has been recently gaining a lot of steam is the “emergent church” movement, whose belief structure is (perhaps purposefully) very hard to nail down. You might have heard of or even read Brian McLaren or Rob Bell, two of the more prominent emergent “pastors.” The movement is heavily rooted in postmodern thought, including a distrust of authority, a rejection of meta-narrative, and an embracing of salvation as a journey rather than an entity. I don’t know the future of the movement, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was (or is) the “next big thing” to happen in the history of American religion, following in the footsteps of the Great Awakenings, the liberal Protestant movements of the early 20th century, the Jesus era of the ’60s and ’70s, etc.
Because it’s so hard to define this movement and its core beliefs, I wanted to link to two posts with the title of “You Might Be Emergent If…” I laughed out loud at both of them. The first is a quotation posted on Challies.com. You can read it here. The second is a pictorial representation here.
While I do identify with some of the listed demographics (I use a Mac, I don’t like big business or Left Behind Christianity, I like Sufjan Stevens), I do not identify with the emergent movement as a whole, I believe truth has been revealed and can be known, I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and I am not into mystical Christianity. I tend to lean heavily toward the “new-Calvinist” movement much more than the emergent movement.
While many twenty and thirty somethings might be gravitating toward the emergent movement, I have noticed a trend (in my very limited sphere of influence) of young Christians moving toward biblical, reformed teaching. Both movements could very well be reactions against the mega-church, CCM, “big box” Christianity movement, just in two different directions.
This interesting trend has been picked up by Collin Hansen, the youngest editor at Christianity Today, in his new book Young, Restless, Reformed. The book looks promising as a “voyage of discovery, learning how our restless youth are discovering anew the great doctrines of the Christian faith. Weary of churches that seek to entertain rather than teach, longing after the true meat of the Word, these young people are pursuing doctrine and are fast becoming new Calvinists.” You can read a review here.
While on the subject of books, here is another similar one: Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be (review here). I probably would resonate with the concerns brought up in this book. As a twenty-something white male who is disenchanted with American consumerism (and who owns a Mac), I fit the stereotypical emergent demographic, but find trouble identifying with the movement’s fluid (flaky?) nature.
I am reminded of Paul’s charge to the Ephesians to mature in the Gospel, not following after the next new “fad” or “movement,” but striving to attain unity and knowledge of Christ:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” -Ephesians 4:11-14 (emphasis mine).
Doesn’t really seem like Paul is advocating a rejection of meta-narrative or an acceptance of truth as an unfolding mystery.