Emergent Church Overview – EC and Communication Style

There are three words related to communication which are a part of the EC landscape: they are “dialectics”, “diapraxis” and “missional.”  Dialectics can be defined as the combining of opposing or contradictory ideas (thesis and antithesis) to create a new idea (synthesis).   The word diapraxis is actually the combination of “dialectical” with the word “praxis” (i.e., putting an idea into action or practice). Diapraxis is then the application of dialectics or better stated the dialectical method to achieve a consensus among people, to become united toward a common goal, and that goal becomes the “mission” that will be undertaken or put into action, with the overall approach termed “missional.” 

It should be noted that the EC is not the only place where the diapraxis is found; its use is widespread, especially where there is a desire to change the thinking of a group of people to a new view, and then putting that new view into action.  Consider how television programming has changed (for the worse) over time: diapraxis got us there.

In the more revisionist EC literature, sermons and videos, the dialectical method is often used in a manner to deconstruct and /or re-cast some long-held view or belief.  At its most basic level it includes two exaggerated extremes, where a “thesis” is usually proposed as a departure from the norm which would be too extreme for the reader/listener, while the antithesis is usually a caricature of a traditional viewpoint or doctrine.   In this way, a false tension is established which creates the felt need for resolution.  The writer/speaker then proposes a “synthesis” which is actually a departure from the now supposedly discredited traditional position, but thankfully to the reader/listener not as far as the thesis position.  Hence the reader/listener is often moved to the synthesis position, and feels good about this change.  

What actually has taken place is manipulation.  Simply google the term “diapraxis” and you get titles such as “Facilitating Creative Collaboration”, and, “What is Diapraxis? Why are some people against it?”  Consider this quote from a proponent of Christian-Muslim dialog:

“Dialogue only becomes meaningful when rooted in a common praxis. Dialogue is disclosed in ‘diapraxis’. It is only by sharing our lives, struggles, and pains together, by working together creatively and changingly that we can deal with our theological differences meaningfully.”  (ref)

 The above quote assumes that the “facilitators” of the dialogue will be using the dialectical techniques to change your mind, at least those of you who (according to the facilitators) need to adopt a new outlook.   Diapraxis is usually subtle, and nearly always at its core coercive in moving people to become missional in some new way.

This is not to imply that the word “missional” always indicates something sinister, but when that word does surface, you need to carefully consider what the “mission” is, as well as the underlying logic that defined that mission in the first place.  Be Berean about it.

One other remark about communication style: often writers/speakers refer to the EC phenomena as a “conversation”.  At the surface, this seems rather gentile and pleasing.  A conversation implies conviviality, cordiality, with no rough edges.  People engaged in “conversations” ordinarily don’t shout, cuss, or act in a confronting manner.  Rather, other points of view are listened to, perhaps remarked upon, and all participants feel as equals in the exchange.

This is all well and good, unless the “conversation” moves into areas of critical concern, for example where objective truth or error is at stake, or where something patently false is proclaimed.  Perhaps in a comprehensively post-modern setting, there is by definition no such entity as objective truth, although one might get an argument or two from the once-respected scientific community on matters in their domain.

Bottom line, when one encounters the term “conversation” in regards to EC and similar matters, an alert icon should start to blink in your mind: why is the discussion referred to as a conversation?  To ensure encapsulation of the ideas into a post-modern domain, where all ideas are equally valid, and perhaps even contradictory concepts considered to be “true” and accepted?  Does a “conversation” inhibit dissent?  Is it “not nice” to believe in objective, propositional truth?

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