Posted by: judy | December 19, 2009

Scot McKnight Defines and Discusses Emergent & Emerging

From Christianity Today: (Written in January, 2007)
Five Streams of the Emerging Church by Scot McKnight

As a theologian, I have studied the movement and interacted with its key leaders for years—even more, I happily consider myself part of this movement or “conversation.” As an evangelical, I’ve had my concerns, but overall I think what emerging Christians bring to the table is vital for the overall health of the church. — Scot McKnight

. . . In this article, I want to undermine the urban legends and provide a more accurate description of the emerging movement. Though the movement has an international dimension, I will focus on the North American scene.

To define a movement, we must, as a courtesy, let it say what it is. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, in their book, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Baker Academic, 2005) define emerging in this way:

Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.

This definition is both descriptive and analytical. D. A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Zondervan, 2005) is not alone in pointing to the problems in the emerging movement, and I shall point out a few myself in what follows. But as a description of the movement, Carson’s book lacks firsthand awareness and suffers from an overly narrow focus—on Brian McLaren and postmodern epistemology.

To prevent confusion, a distinction needs to be made between “emerging” and “Emergent.” Emerging is the wider, informal, global, ecclesial (church-centered) focus of the movement, while Emergent is an official organization in the U.S. and the U.K. Emergent Village, the organization, is directed by Tony Jones, a Ph.D. student at Princeton Theological Seminary and a world traveler on behalf of all things both Emergent and emerging. Other names connected with Emergent Village include Doug Pagitt, Chris Seay, Tim Keel, Karen Ward, Ivy Beckwith, Brian McLaren, and Mark Oestreicher. Emergent U.K. is directed by Jason Clark. While Emergent is the intellectual and philosophical network of the emerging movement, it is a mistake to narrow all of emerging to the Emergent Village.

Read the rest of the article . . .

 P.S.  If some of our readers agree with Scot Mcknight and along with agreeing with the theologies of those whom he lists as part of the Emergent conversation  — Why the fear of admitting to being part of this movement? Especially in the words of McKnight, “but overall I think what emerging Christians bring to the table is vital for the overall health of the church.”

CCO promotes the Emerging “conversation” with a resident of the Emergent Village, Chris Seay.

Geneva College promotes CCO & Jubilee



  1. Yeah, and I once talked to somebody who knew somebody…and I have a masters from there, and somebody who posted on your blog maybe once liked a bad book and she said something nice about a Nooma once and that person…this “degrees of separation” guilt by association game is intellectually shallow and mean-spirited, I’d say.
    By not saying much about it, it feels sneaky, like you are think it is evident that CCO and Geneva are stained.

    Does CCO promote the “conversation” if they didn’t ask Mr. Seay to converse about that? How complicit are they if they have him speak about an unrelated topic? (Yes, yes, I know that his overall view of faith comes into play, so that could be troublesome, perhaps. You could fault Jubilee for bringing in a guy you don’t trust. But to accuse the CCO of “promoting the conversation” is inaccurate, unless you can show they have asked him to converse about that conversation.) Of course the “emergent” conversation isn’t even uniform in view, and I don’t know what role Seay plays, or what he will speak about at Jubilee. I am confident that the conference planners are being thoughtful about it. It is uncharitable, and, I think, foolish, of you, to suggest otherwise, without showing any proof.

    So Geneva has a partnership with CCO but it seems evident that doesn’t necessarily mean they “promote” it. And are they, therefore, by several degrees of separation, “promoting the [emergent] conversation?”

    I don’t know to what extent Geneva, officially as Geneva, does or doesn’t “promote” the CCO, let alone “the emergent conversation” but if this is supposed to be a compelling argument, you must not have taken critical thinking 101.

    I hope your readership uses a little logic and realizes your insinuations are just hooey. Sloppy and ham-fisted. Not to be taken very seriously. Yet, sadly, I think some do take you seriously, as if you are telling the full truth. They presume that if you call yourself a Bible quoting, gospel-proclaiming, conservative critic of others, you must be solid yourself. Oh, how I wish that were true. Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, you put weights on the little ones, and in your condemnation, lead others to places worse than emergent. Read Matthew 23 and see if it might apply to your heavy-handed “ministry.”

    Are most Christian colleges willing to talk about and with some new-fangeled theologians? Sure, it is what higher education is about, learning and even learning to be civil in disagreement. Hopefully institutions governed by conservative theology, like Geneva, will do what the Bible says, and read widely (like Paul) with discernment, and learn to be engaged in the world around us. (The first few chapters of Daniel are an interesting example that comes to mind, too: he read all kinds of pagan stuff to learn to be faithful in the pagan empire. To equip youngsters to be God’s holy ambassadors in this 21st century world, they simply have to be well read, widely conversant, involved in skills of dialogue and spiritual discernment. I do not know if Geneva does that well or not, but in principle, there is nothing wrong with reading stuff that isn’t completely traditional. I hope Christian colleges read Darwin, Marx, Freud, and others, too, and like Daniel and Paul, learn to discern and live with fidelity. If they read bad stuff, doesn’t that mean they “promote” it? If they have a lecture from a less than RP speaker, is that always wrong? It’s a college Judy, not a monastery. Cults want their people disengaged with the world, but the Calvinist tradition of Geneva believes in study, reading, learning, being open, “always reforming” and so forth. It makes it sound like you don’t want them to learn or read or think or discuss anything that you don’t agree with. That is just a very, very odd view of what a college it.

    Hopefully–in my view, and I believe it is the view of the Bible and it surely is the view of the Reformed tradition—they will learn from various voices and they will see whatever can be learned from various quarters, “taking every thought captive” for Christ. So as they engage in conversations with all sorts of various views and scholars and writers and films and artists, they will help their students to think critically with Biblical fidelity and some degree of pleasant grace. I cannot say if all of Geneva staff and students do this, but the snarky little sentence at the end of your post implies that they do not, that they are just about promoting something you think is corrupt.

    Why do you do that, speak without really speaking the whole truth of the matter? I’ve said this before, Judy, and it makes me sad, but your nasty little tid-bits that aren’t fully accurate, make little coherent argument. You sound like a little girl tattle tale, just pointing the finger without much care for truth. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth and reflect spoorly on your Christian character. I would suspect you think this is a good thing, as if you are now being persecuted for Christ’s sake. I think you are just dragging his holy Name through the mud, insulting good people, rather than treating them with the respect you would wish for yourself. I am sorry to speak bluntly like this, but your less than fully honest post again misses the mark.

    I understand you have concerns about emergent folks. And you may think McKnight is too generous to talk to them, and affirm *some* of their ideas or concerns. Fair enough.

    But then to say CCO does this and Geneva does that, with such little context or nuance, you are less than fully honest, which verges on being dishonest. In plain language, that is being a liar, a sin for which one must repent.

    I maintain that “promote” is a sloppy word to use. If you are going to be a Christian blogger you have to learn to use words more judiciously and have more integrity in what you say as truth and what you imply in these snarky little asides. I have looked up the word “promote” and, again, it brings me no pleasure to say you’ve again slandered an organization with this overstated and inaccurate accusation.

    Yes, Chris Seay is at Jubilee. It remains to be seen if they are “promoting” a “conversation” about emergent stuff. That is a leap of presumption on your part, I think, and believe you don’t have any basis to really say that. Further, it is really unclear–factually and in terms of responsibility–who at Geneva “promotes” this, and who is therefore complicit or involved or compromised. You name “Geneva” without qualification or clarity. That’s low, in poor taste, and shoddy, since it has already been brought to your attention that no “one” person “is” Geneva.

    Your informing people about what Scot McKnight has written is fine and helpful. Your wanting to make connections between those at Geneva or at CCO who are perhaps influenced by this is a legitimate enterprise. I am not advising “hands off” or to not follow your convictions. I’m really not.

    But you have to do it well, you have to be fair, and you have to tell the truth.

    I hate to use such strong language, but I call upon you to repent. This is yet another example of something inappropriate and you seem to think you have the right to blast away at whatever you “feel” needs blasting, without submitting to truth. This is the sign of a loose canon, one with an unteachable spirit, perhaps someone who isn’t under the authority of a pastor or elder. Who do you think you are, making these less than honest accusations, smearing people’s reputations without evidence or documentation? It is just hubris, you taking it upon yourself not to “speak the truth in love” but to make vast generalizations and snide remarks that aren’t even fully fair or right. You should do better, without using words inaccurately.

    Promote? No. Get thee a dictionary.

  2. Byron,

    (2Jn 10:27-28) What does the phrase “do not” mean based upon the words as defined in your dictionary?

    In this context John is not admonishing entertaining people who disagree on minor points. These were false teachers who were carrying on a regular campaign to destroy the basic, fundamental truths of Christianity. NASB, JMac

  3. Judy,

    I’ll ask again if we can be clear about your intellectual/ecclesial/theological situation. The way in which you play the degrees of separation game marks you as a fundamentalist, as does the way in which you use scriptural texts (decontextualized prooftexts). (I use the term fundamentalist here without approbation or condemnation) Unless I’m mistaken, you’ve referred to yourself elsewhere as Reformed. I’m guessing Bible Presbyterian?

    If your argument about Geneva is that it undermines fundamentalist Protestantism, I’d say you’re exactly right. If your argument is that fundamentalist Protestantism is orthodox Christianity, then we have a disagreement. If your argument is that Geneva undermines evangelicalism more broadly, then your argument is, I think, in need of a great deal of clarification. It does no good to yell “heretic!” when you won’t tell us what you think orthodoxy is.

  4. Hi Adam,

    You are certainly more reasonable than Byron and I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

    I am not sure how ‘my label’ helps clarify the facts. Geneva (along with many other colleges) supports CCO/Jubilee. The Geneva College Web Site:

    “The Geneva CCO staff has partnerships with the Campus Ministries Office, the Pisgah Program and with Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea Company, an alumni-owned coffee shop near campus. The CCO team works together to bring students to the annual Jubilee conference in February, provides various programs, and offers CCO-sponsored summer leadership opportunities.”

    Does it require certain qualifications to expose that Geneva College promotes CCO/Jubilee; that CCO/Jubilee supports/promotes Emerging “conversations” as demonstrated by their speakers — their vendors, the web sites of staff?

    I still do not understand why those debating us can’t just say, Yes, Geneva is interested (a step down from promoting) in the Emergent conversation. Yes, CCO/Jubilee is interested in the Emergent conversation. Although, I would be terribly disapointed if both Geneva and CCO would make that statement but it would be truthful and respectable instead of deceptive.

    Also, please define a Bible Presbyterian as opposed to Presbyterian — I am not being sarcastic — it truly made me smile. Kind of sad isn’t it that now there is a difference between a ‘Presbyterian’ and a “Bible Presbyterian”. To satisfy some of your curiosity I have spent too many years in PCUSA, thankfully we attend a non-denominational church. This is for another ‘conversation’. 🙂

    • Judy,

      Funny – I think Byron’s been quite reasonable, considering. The reason I ask about your “label” (as you call it) is this: your accusations, to this point, have been roughly as follows. A: ‘Emergent’ folk are undermining Orthodox Christianity. B: CCO folk have been blind to/interested in/insufficiently vigilant against emergent thought. C: Geneva College has also been insufficiently vigilant, and also has ties to the CCO.

      The only part of your argument here that’s undebatable is that Geneva has ties to the CCO. There’s no need to “expose” this fact; any Geneva student knows this. It’s not a secret, let alone a conspiracy, but you insist on using yellow language to paint Geneva administrators, faculty, and students as being involved in some nefarious scheme.

      Geneva, as David Ketter has said elsewhere, is “interested” in every conversation; however, the “emergent” conversation is far from being a hot topic on campus. However, you persist in lumping people who merely disagree with you (Andy Crouch, Eugene Peterson, etc.) into the emergent group; it seems that everyone who disagrees with you is emergent.

      All that to say that the reason I ask about your “label” is to clarify where you are coming from in making the judgment that the “emergent” folks are heretical, or that Andy Crouch et al are both heretical and emergent. A Dutch neo-Calvinist, for example, might find different aspects of the emergent movement heretical than you do; a Roman Catholic might find both the emergent and the Dutch Calvinist heretical. We have students and families of both persuasions at Geneva. I have no problem with you claiming that emergent folks (or even Dutch neo-Calvinists) are heretical and problematic; my problem is with your treatment of their supposed “heresy” as a nefarious conspiracy to co-opt good non-denominational kids. There is no conspiracy; there are no secrets.

      P.S.: The Bible Presbyterians are a fundamentalist Presbyterian denomination; they’re more common in PA than elsewhere. I myself am Eastern Orthodox, so I have, as you can imagine, a much different take on these theological squabbles than you do. I’m much less disturbed by the emergent folk – who I find to be occasionally correct, but more often just as goofy as the more ‘orthodox’ evangelical suburban megachurches – than I am by unreflective, intellectually disengaged, uncharitable name-calling.

  5. Judy,

    Your snarky little comment about me being unreasonable, written to Adam, was kinda low. I’m coming to realize you are more nasty than you first let on. Hmmmm.

    You ask me these odd little questions, what does “do not” mean.

    I’ll ask you one that is clearer: what does do no lie, mean?

    I think I have reasonable shown that you have spoken untruths and I’ve called upon you to repent. This isn’t unreasonable.

    I think that my “take” on why colleges should have a diversity of opinion or why reading books is legitimate is fairly reasonable. It certainly is in the mainstream of Christian tradition, and, as I’ve cited a few verse or Bible passages, I don’t think it is wrong. You may disagree, and that is fine. But–once again–if you are going to make a sly remark in another post about me, why not have the common courtesy to say it on a post to me.

    What is unreasonable? Better, what is unBiblical?

    BUT, JUDY, I think we both know that we aren’t going to convince one another about our respective views of false teaching. I think you are woefully in error, and you think that of me.

    At this point, many who are reading along over our shoulder want to know if you are going to do one of two things that would have integrity.

    1. Refute my claim that you have sinned by saying dishonest things about others (for instance, in the above thread, about Geneva promoting the emergent conversation,** or, more urgently for me, the wildly untruthful claim that Jubilee promotes a social gospel emphasis.


    2. Apologize, confess, repent.

    What will it be. I am not the only one wondering if you can either disprove my claims that you’ve lied or if you will be obedient to what God requires.

    **you asked, in the posting to Adam, a good question: should CCO or Geneva say they are “interested” in the emergent conversation. This is clearly a step away from what you are insisting upon. I have no idea if Geneva is interested in joining the emergent village conversation, the ongoing theological conversation and movement that is largely shaped by Doug P and Brian McL and Tony J and the folks at the ooze, etc. I don’t know if CCO is, either. You said, though, that they promote it (which certainly, certainly, implies endorsing it.) THAT is what was so irritating.

    Does Jubilee show interest in it? Well, I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but it I sure am interested. It seems you are too. You’ve not “promoted the emergent perpsective” but you sure are interested.

    You wonder why people are frustrated with your accusations. It is because you are sloppy. First you say Jubilee is pro-emergent. When we cry out that that is unfair you admit that is a bit unfair so you say CCO and Geneva are wanting to promote the emergent conversation. Now you wonder why we don’t admit to be interested in it. My goodness you are slippery. You change your words each time, happily making them less outrageous, but you keep your haughty attitude as if to say “Me? I’m just telling it like it is? Why is everyone so upset?”

    If you had done a post in the beginning saying Jubilee is interested in the emergent movement that would have been fine.

    You’ve overstated vastly, then overstated a bit, and now you are beginning to nuance it enough to make it almost fair. YES, Jubilee is interested in the emergent conversation and has an author who wrote a book offering critique to the emergent perspective (Jim Belcher, author of Deep Church.) You are so silly unaware saying they are promoting it when actually they are bringing in a critical voice.

    You think I”m unreasonable? Maybe so. I think it is reasonable that you should tell the truth, and apologize when you get it wrong. You seem hardly aware that your shoddiness with the facts hurts people. I don’t know what is worse, your evident disregard for clarity and truth or your unwillingness to say your are sorry.

  6. From Byron’s comment:

    So Geneva has a partnership with CCO but it seems evident that doesn’t necessarily mean they “promote” it. And are they, therefore, by several degrees of separation, “promoting the [emergent] conversation?”

    I don’t know to what extent Geneva, officially as Geneva, does or doesn’t “promote” the CCO, let alone “the emergent conversation” but if this is supposed to be a compelling argument, you must not have taken critical thinking 101.”

    From the CCO Website:
    “Specifically, we are engaged in whole-life discipleship with students, including academic faithfulness. We promote involvement with the CCO’s annual Jubilee Conference and provide programs throughout the year which help students see the relationship of a Christian worldview with all areas of life.”

    CCO says that they promote Jubilee.

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