The whole idea of an ‘emerging theology’ is nebulous, which is probably unavoidable and probably a good thing. But every now and again I feel the need to sketch some boundaries, contours, intentions, commitments - if only to help us keep in view the stated purpose of this site, which is to ‘assist the development of a transparent, community-driven theology for the “emerging church”’. There have been good discussions along these lines in the past: ‘Outline of an emerging theology’, ‘What is the relationship between emerging and evangelical theologies?’, ‘The marks of a renewed theology’. This is simply another personal attempt to give some definition to the phrase ‘emerging theology’.
So here, very briefly stated, are what I feel to be some of the leading characteristics of an emerging theology. It reflects my biases and blindspots. If people want to suggest corrections or additions, I would be happy to take them into account and republish the list as a more collective statement.
- A theology for a community that is in self-conscious continuity with the biblical people of God and the calling of Abraham to be blessed and be a blessing to the nations of the world.
- A theology done under the lordship of Christ.
- A theology that gives priority to narrative in order both to define its core and to contextualize the content of biblical teaching.
- A theology that seeks to understand the intimate relationship between text and historical narrative.
- A theology that at its heart is a reading of scripture.
- A theology that as a matter of methodological commitment celebrates, reinforces, and exploits community: an emerging theology is strongly relational, conversational, interactive.
- A theology that is strongly aware of, and responsive to, the locality in which these conversations take place.
- A theology that attempts to resist certain distortions of modernism.
- A theology that is broadly but not slavishly postmodern in its epistemology, wary of absolute formulations, tolerant of diversity and plurality, sensitive to the social manipulation of texts.
- A theology that places a high value on intellectual and critical integrity - ‘integrity’ being, I think, the ‘postmodern’ word in that sentence.
- A theology committed to the renewal of its own discourse, understood not only as speech but as the whole spectrum of means (artistic, communal, activist) by which we communicate.
- A theology that fosters an open, inquisitive, probing mindset.
- A theology that endeavours to integrate rather than dissociate modes of thought, analysis, and practice, that draws on the mind of the whole community of faith.
- A generous theology that is inclined to discover meaning and truth outside of itself.
- A theology with an eschatological orientation towards the renewal of creation - humanity within a comprehensive ecology; therefore a public rather than a private theology.
See also Ian Mobsby, ‘Is there a distinctive approach to theologising for the emerging church?’