I finished DA Carson’s book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. As always I find him thought-provoking and his analysis penetrating. There will be a review of the book on the other page (along with Powlison’s Seeing With New Eyes).
Here are Carson’s main complaints, which I cannot deny.
1. Their critique of modernism is superficial. It is quite reductionistic. There are problems with modernism, and they have distorted the church’s view of itself and its mission. But it was not all bad.
2. Their analysis of postmodernism is superficial. They focus on it effects, not one the fundamentally flawed theory of knowledge. They push us into a false antithesis which undercuts the notion of truth.
3. Their most vocal spokespeople are doctrinally fuzzy at best, and heretical at worst (the last part is my assessment). I’m thinking that if you deny the substitutionary atonement, you have missed the essence of Christianity. You have substituted another religion in its place. Sorta like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. McLaren, for one, has done this.
So, while I have great sympathies for the Emerging Church, I can’t buy into it. I agree with many of their critiques of contemporary Christianity (though not all). I share many of their longings for authentic community where lives are transformed and we aren’t afraid of the past. But I can’t go all the way. This makes me sad. Not because I want to be all trendy. But this hope for a more authentic church is currently mired in trendy worship, fuzzy/heretical teaching and is just as much captive to culture as the contemporary/modernist churches they despise. It is the product more of their biases than biblical teaching.
[originally from my previous blog]
Update: Carson is primarily critiquing the Emergent Church which is the most radical of the Emerging Churches. He is actually quite influential among what Mark Driscoll calls the Relevants.