Emergent Church Overview – Emergents Critique Traditionalists

Emergents Critique Traditionalists

Having narrowed somewhat the class of Christians who either would accept the label “emergent” or behave/believe in a manner that others “in the know” would identify them as emergent, what are some of the complaints or critiques of the traditional or modern version of Christianity in the first decade of the new millennium?   Here is one list:

Traditionalists/modernists are:

  • Too heavenly minded
  • Too caught up in getting saved
  • Too separate from the real world
  • Don’t understand the post-modern mindset
  • Too rigid
  • Too uncaring about the poor, disadvantaged

 What’s interesting is that the opposite of these criticisms constitute some of the expressed resistance to the EC movement. 

According to some traditionalists, Emergents are:

  • Too dismissive of the afterlife, and/or too universalistic about it
  • Too revisionist about the Atonement
  • Too inclusive of the unsaved (blurring distinctions),
  • Too worldly
  • Too post-modern, watering down doctrinal clarity
  • Too relativistic, too dismissive of objective truth
  • Too blind about the participation of traditional Christians in humanitarian endeavors, coupled with evangelism

 Here is another set of criticisms of traditionalists by Emergents:

  • Absence of genuine community, authentic relationships
  • Lack of safe place for seekers
  • Decry us-vs-them
  • Decry lack of contextualization in evangelism
  • As culture becomes increasingly post-Christian, methods and mindsets must change

 Traditionalists will respond, and say that Emergent Christianity emphasizes:

  • Experience over reason
  • Spirituality over doctrine and absolutes
  • Images over words
  • Feelings over truth
  • Earthly justice over salvation
  • Social action over eternity

 One more list (everybody’s got one!), this from Jim Belcher, in “Deep Church”.  He suggests that Emergents say that traditionalists :

  • Are captive to Enlightenment rationalism
  • Hold a narrow view of salvation
  • Require belief before belonging
  • Participate in uncontexualized worship
  • Provide ineffective preaching
  • Have weak ecclesiology
  • Exhibit tribalism

 Dr. Belcher goes on then to provide antidotes to these criticisms in what he defines as “deep church”, which takes into account the critiques of the Emergents while retaining the essential confessions and doctrines of the traditional church, adding some of what can be found in the ancient church.

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