Blogger Trevin Wax interviews my friend, doctoral student, and assistant Robbie Sagers about Sagers's recent writings on the emerging church. Sagers is precisely right to see the so-called "emerging church" as a more complicated issue than either the label's enthusiasts on the left or critics on the right are willing to grant.
The left wing of the emerging church has, Sagers is right, replaced the gospel with an anti-gospel. Shame about the cross of Christ, the judgment of God, and the reality of hell may be "emerging" but it is not from the church. But Sagers is also right to note that what is often called the "emerging church" doesn't fit this paradigm at all. Brian McLaren is not, I would argue, a gospel preacher. But Dan Kimball emphatically is. They cannot be said to be part of the same "movement" either by critics who would like to lump them all together to attack or by leftists within the movement who would like the "cover" of their orthodox counterparts.
Sagers is also correct to note that the criticisms of traditional conservative evangelical theology and spirituality and missiology is often on target in its diagnosis, if not always in its solution. American evangelicalism is indeed too captive to a story-less rationalism in both its academy and in its pulpits, just in different ways. The academy often seeks to replace mystery and paradox and narrative with syllogisms, true enough. Have conservative evangelicals in recent years often ignored issues of poverty, social justice, and the stewardship of the earth? Without a doubt. And evangelical churches often seek to replace story and water and bread and wine with principles, programs, ideas, and "worst of all" products to be bought and sold.
Read the interview, and let me know what you think.
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