Saturday, September 27, 2008

Emergent Worship?

Recently there has been a growth of worship coming out of the migration of young people into Reformed theology. People enthralled with Piper, Edwards and Calvin are touring the nation writing and singing songs like "Indescribable," and "How Great Is Our God." Add the David Crowder Band on top of Chris Tomlin and Passion and throw in a mix of hymns being redone, and you have a recipie for a new generation of worship.

Where are the emergent worship song writers? Maybe you can point me in their direction, but I have a hunch. There probably aren't many (or even any) who are genuinely emergent, becuase there is no one to worship if emergent theology is to be believed. According to emergent leaders, there is a god who is our most important conversation partner, the great moral example to people who just need to do the right political things to be OK, and one who needs a 5 year break in talking about homosexuality, but not a transcendant and incarnate God who graciously extends His love to unlovable creatures.


The Gyrovague said...

hmm, I beg of you for further explination that you believe that emergents think there is no one transcendent God. I am emergent, I most definitely do.

What specific writings and/or books are you finding that belief in. Please dont quote Brian McLaren, he is not a cogent voice for the emergence. Have you read Tony Jones, Doug Paggitt and others?

Bradm said...

I'm curious about the writings he's talking about too. I know Tony Jones in his latest book says "The God about whom we theologize is transcendent, but our human musings about God are not" and later that "God is transcendent and immanent." And I've never read anything by people like Rob Bell and Shane Claiborne that suggests they don't believe in a transcendent God, either.

Phil Steiger said...

Thanks for your thoughts—I look forward to clarifying my position. Saying you believe in a transcendent God it a good start, but the doctrine behind that is what makes it work, and the emergents I have read and thought through don’t have a doctrine to match their assertion.

We can’t just eliminate McLaren—he is the leading and most articulate proponent of emergent thought right now. If you don’t like his views (and I hope most don’t), and you still consider yourself emergent, you have to do the work of separating yourself from his stuff. It is kind of like calling yourself Reformed but you don’t want to have to answer for Calvin.

In a nutshell, believing in a transcendent God means he gets to set the rules, tell us what to do, lay out universal principles, and the faithful are duty-bound to conform their lives and beliefs to his dictates.

Rob Bell, in Velvet Elvis, believes that the faith God wants us to have is in ourselves, not in Christ (the story of Peter walking on the water). By definition, a transcendent God who reveals himself requires faith in him and not in ourselves. Bell’s take on that passage of Scripture is a little silly and definitely within the worldview of “self-help” and not worship of the transcendent.

McLaren and Jones are quick to point out that God is transcendent but our theology is not. Fine. But how far does that go? From the very beginnings of Christian theology, our limitations have been recognized, but we also knew that they could express timeless truths about God. Jones and others are not ready to say such things. They talk often of living with each other and with God, but I have yet to read anything that flatly says God is Lord of my life. If they believed that, they would be willing to admit to God’s dictates on sexuality, the uniqueness of Christ, and may other (sometimes tough) doctrines. They don’t.

Paggitt also likes to talk about sermonizing in terms of Scripture and God being our “most important conversation partners,” and that we ought to invite them into our conversations. Again, a significant belief in transcendence leads us to some practical view of “Scripture alone” and not “scripture alongside us.” His view of orthodoxy is that “our” orthopraxy is the act of orthodoxy, putting the various communities in charge of belief. If God is transcendent, he is in charge of belief.

The latest, and best/worst, is Rollins. Amongst the other postmodern and heterodox declarations on almost every page of his short but significant book, he proclaims that their community (he doesn’t even like “church”) is creedless, because creeds exclude and judge. Again, by the very definition of this proclamation, Rollins does not believe in a transcendent God. If he did, he would have a creed, and that creed would automatically exclude all other claims to be God.

I know emergents like to use orthodox language to work at remaining within the pale of orthodoxy (actually, is that really why they do it? I don’t know!). But simply saying it or not denying it is not enough when the realities of the other things you assert do not allow for that belief in actuality. The devil is in the details.