OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.

Is the 'Emergent Movement' doomed already?

The ‘Emergent Movement’ is doomed to become just another footnote in history unless and until it dissasociates itself fully with ‘traditional’ Christianity.

The ONLY doctrine preached by Jesus and the apostles was love - love of God and love of fellow humans. Not a weak, sentimental love but the meek love which is the sign of a truly great character, the only kind of love whereby it is possible to ‘love your enemies’.It was the outward revelation of this inner depth of character which demonstrated that the Kingdom of God “cometh not with observation…for, lo, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

The simplicity and purity of this teaching did not prove sufficient to the Graeco-Roman church ‘fathers’ and still does not prove sufficient today.

The minds of the said ‘fathers’ were set in the key of a different structure to that of the Hebrew apostles and the doctrines built up around the person of Jesus are a reflection of gentile theology.

The major church doctrines are ‘unscriptural’ - demonstrably so. The Trinity, Virgin Birth, and the various ‘divinity’ teachings focus completely upon the personality of Jesus and the effect which it is assumed he produced upon his contemporaries.

To accept this, is to accept that the issues for which he lived and died were issues applicable only to that time and those circumstances.

Many preachers and theologians reason that because these doctrines have been taught for so many years, they are somehow thus endowed with weight, with truth. The only truth in this view is that they have been taught long enough to become ‘traditional’. Jesus himself told the Pharisees that they made ‘void the word of God’ by their tradition. (Mark 7:13). Those who rely on ‘tradition’ to bolster their arguments stand in precisely the same position as their intellectual ancestors.

The expectancy and hope of the Israelites was that, some day, one would arise who would save them from their sins and show them the way to eternal life. The Hebrews had very definite ideas about this man and these were recorded in the books of the Old Covenant.Many Christians are unaware of what exactly the Hebrews did expect and this ignorance has facilitated the building up of the erroneous doctrines of the Christian Churches.

When the fervent Hebrew hope of a ‘messiah’ transitioned to a practical reality in Jesus, it moved John to write: “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him, not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness but the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:3-5. See also Acts 26:18)

Thus did John express his philosophy concerning the ultimate resurrection of those who lived endeavouring to emulate the righteousness of Jesus, and died “knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also with Jesus.” (2 Cor 4:14)

The emphasis today is placed upon some creed or confession of faith rather than upon this message of good tidings:

But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned from which things some having swerved have turned aside into VAIN TALKING; desiring to be TEACHERS OF THE LAW, though they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm.” (1 Tim 1:7)

Eternal life is to be found in spirit, not doctrines. Jesus’ true message, unfettered by doctrines, brings hope and a sense of human dignity to the despised and rejected of the Earth. The New Testament writers enumerate principles to follow in order that Christians living many centuries later may become one with Jesus. Where John preached the gospel of love, Paul announced redemption by a inner and spiritual identification with Jesus, with a self-imposed crucifixion and resurrection.

Church doctrines can deliver no such message. If Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth today, he would be unidentifiable in terms of these doctrines and thus it is self-evident that a great body of ‘Christians’ would be in the forefront of those shouting “away with him”!

No votes yet


All you need is love?

Vynette, I agree with much of this analysis but I would like to raise a couple of quick questions in response.

1. The biblical narrative seems to me to be unavoidably complex. Are you sure that you are not distorting things by reducing everything to the command to love? Was that really the only doctrine preached by Jesus and the apostles? What about all that stuff about the kingdom of God (which has to do with authority, not love), judgment, outer darkness, wailing and gnashing of teeth, swords, fire, justice, hypocrisy, suffering?

2. Like you I have questions about how such ‘doctrines’ as the trinity and the virgin birth are formulated and used. But the question of the relation of Jesus to God is raised repeatedly and in various ways throughout the New Testament. I don’t see how we can avoid reflecting upon it and attempting to restate in other terms. The positive reason for this, I would suggest, is that the New Testament does more than teach us to love. It teaches us how to see God, and it does so by superimposing the particular story of Jesus on the Jewish conception of one creator God. Don’t we need to talk about this redefinition if we are to worship God well?

Ah, but Andrew does the

Ah, but Andrew does the Kingdom of God really imply an authoritarian God over our hearts, or rather a loving King that was willing to give himself for his Bride and subjects and vice-versa? In fact the Shema prayer has always been decribed as being the centerpiece of the Jewish understanding and longing of/for the Kingdom of God. It implies exactly what Jesus has implied: an ever-present God and divine influence in people’s hearts and lives.

Ultimately this is love at work, both on God’s part and on our part, just as between a husband and wife. And as far as all this dark stuff you mentioned, I would put it all in the past at the fall of the temple and make the Kingdom of God a present reality.

Some basic premises



Before proceeding to discuss any of the very relevant points you raised in your comment, it would be wise to establish a set of premises.

Do you agree with any, all, or none of the following?

Of Jesus, the apostles taught:

That he was God’s ‘anointed’ who would one day sit on the throne of David and rule over the Kingdom of God on earth.

That he was ‘anointed’ with full power and authority to speak and act in the name of the Father and to perform the specific tasks spoken of by Isaiah the prophet (Is.61).

That he was the ‘son’ of God by human parentage (John 1:34, 45, 49) though not the son of Joseph as commonly supposed at the time (Matt. 1:25).

That he was a ‘god’ in the sense in which he used it himself, that is, a man “unto whom the word of God came.” (John 10:34) On his reasoning, Moses and the prophets were also ‘gods’.

That he was the ‘only-begotten’ of God because he was the only-resurrected, not because he was born to a virgin.

That his ‘sonship’ of God refers to a purely ‘ethical’ relationship.

Premises, premises!

OK, I’ll take you up on this.

That he was God’s ‘anointed’ who would one day sit on the throne of David and rule over the Kingdom of God on earth.

I don’t think the New Testament teaches that Jesus will come back to earth to reign over this kingdom. I would say that he reigns now at the right hand of the father as the vindicated Son of man who has received kingdom, etc.

That he was ‘anointed’ with full power and authority to speak and act in the name of the Father and to perform the specific tasks spoken of by Isaiah the prophet (Is.61).

That sounds about right to me.

That he was the ‘son’ of God by human parentage (John 1:34, 45, 49) though not the son of Joseph as commonly supposed at the time (Matt. 1:25).

Not sure what you’re driving at here. I read ‘Son of God’ both as a royal title and as a covenantal designation. There is certainly some sort of genealogical link with David, but I wonder if there is not also something rather subversive in the manner in which it is constructed. For Jesus to claim descent from David is almost deliberately transgressive. The relationship of Israel to YHWH as son to a father is presumably also in the background.

That he was a ‘god’ in the sense in which he used it himself, that is, a man “unto whom the word of God came.” (John 10:34) On his reasoning, Moses and the prophets were also ‘gods’.

Doesn’t ‘gods’ in this context refer to the whole people, not simply Moses and the prophets? This is another sense in which Jesus as ‘god’ or ‘Son of God’ represents in some way Israel as a whole. I would argue that God-in-Christ only makes sense on the premise of God-in-Israel.

That he was the ‘only-begotten’ of God because he was the only-resurrected, not because he was born to a virgin.

The virgin birth has nothing to do with the incarnation as traditionally understood - as a matter of ontology, God taking on human flesh. Rather it is a sign - that God is coming to judge his people and instate this child as king. But I’m not sure I would tie ‘only-begotten’ so closely to the resurrection. If Psalm 2:7 is determinative here, the emphasis is on the inheritance of the nations, the victory of Israel’s king over his enemies. As a victory over the enemy death, the resurrection is clearly central to this theme. But I would argue that the larger eschatological narrative also entails victory over the political and ideological enemies of the people of God - the concrete vindication of the suffering community in the ancient world.

That his ‘sonship’ of God refers to a purely ‘ethical’ relationship.

I disagree with this. Sonship has to do faithfulness to God’s purposes, it has to do with being the restored people of God having the Spirit that cries ‘Abba, father’, it has to do with obedience, it has to do with being in a covenantal relationship with God, it has to do with manifesting the presence of God in the world. Even a ‘purely’ ethical relationship must reveal or incarnate something of the character and being of God in the world, otherwise it is purely ethical and not a relationship.

No doctrine

Vynette’s starting premise seems to be that for 2,000 years the church has got it wrong and a cause of this is a reliance on doctrine.

Perhaps, but the solution is surely not ‘the avoidance of doctrine’. For one thing avoidance of a given path does not ensure that one will find a better one.

Simply taking the ‘heart of the gospel=love’ approach does not imply that we will understand Jesus’s gospel better and therefore does not imply that we will follow better.

I too instinctively back off from “systematic theology” and doctrine in the sense of ‘the content and limits of orthodoxy’ - that this embodies the only way that things should be thought about and that we are to think those same thoughts without attempting to really think at all, i.e. the results of our “thinking” are a foregone conclusion.

But I also think that a cause is that I have misconceived these 2k years of theologising. All of what we have thus treasured up was intended to convey the same simple gospel to the hearers of that day. It is partly our own fault that we have elevated these various writings and given them a status that is equal to or sometimes greater than that that we accord to God’s word.

Getting to ‘sonship’ and the significance of the incarnation vs resurrection. I feel that the rather hot debates on the relative importance of the two concepts is misplaced. I think that when Jesus preached the good news of the kigdom of God and when He invited people to believe that He is the Messiah, that the kingdom, and therefore the salvation of mankind, was already here in Him. The ‘historical’ Jesus is the good news.

Debating when exactly that started during His ministry is again beside the point. The angels in Luke’s nativity declare “peace on earth and goodwill towards man” or it could have “started” when Jesus rejected satan’s initial attempts at tempting Him or it could be when He read the Jubilee passage in the synagogue or even when He called each disciple and said “follow me”.

We didn’t begin to realise how much goodwill was involved until Jesus died for us and we know that His life is vindicated and His ministry on our part is completely successful because He rose again from death. Christus Victor indeed but God’s victory is here in Jesus life and teaching before the resurrection and even before it is publicly thrown open at Pentecost with the outpouring of the Spirit and the renewal of the preaching of the good news.

What I do wonder is how we manage to have church and Xtianity but ignore the gospel, starting with the very life that Jesus lived, His ministry, His teaching and His revelation of the love of God in His own actions. Is that the gospel that we preach, are His ethics “kingdom ethics” what I too follow?

Live to serve : Serve to live

Re: Premises, Premises


(Very droll, Andrew)

We can agree that the term ‘son of God’ can be used in a broader sense to designate the entire people. My intent was simply to point out that many Christians use the term to bolster the idea that Jesus is ‘co-eternal’ and/or ‘co-equal’ with God.

We can agree that the term ‘only-begotten’ refers to the resurrection (Acts 13:33) but, once again, it has been, and still is used in certain quarters to bolster the idea that Jesus is ‘co-eternal’ and/or ‘co-equal’ with God.

We can agree on the ‘anointing’ of Jesus.

There remain however, two of my fundamental propositions with which you disagree:

That the ‘spiritual’ Kingdom of God is but a shadow of the ‘physical’ Kingdom yet to be established on earth and ruled by the standard of righteousness set by Jesus of Nazareth.

That ‘anointed’ Jesus was a normal man, born in the normal fashion, with a human father and a human mother, and that the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke were towards the end of proving that Jesus had a right to be designated ‘King of Israel’ by virtue of physical descent from David.

wondering about the presuppositions this should be...

This is an interesting read. I am eager to see why the presuppositions are important to the thread.

I’ve wondered some of the same questions originally asked about the emerging church but I would never have thought to ask that set of presuppositions to make an arguement that the stripped down bare bones of the gospel is “love”. I think I would tend to agree a lot with that statement for didn’t Jesus Himself argue that the greatest commandment is to, “Love the Lord our God with all our hearts mind and strength and the second is like it, to love our neighbors as ourselves…”?

After that though I got lost in a bunch of theological mumbo jumbo a priori assumptions and was left scratching my head… I am going to be eager to see where this goes.

Is it more important to love or is it more important to have Jesus be somehow less than God? One I can go with the other leaves me empty. For love is the basis of all because Jesus is God and God is love. At least that is how I see it….Stephen

presupposing and assuming

I was quite startled to discover (quite late in life) that “liberal theologians” (nasty conservative catch-all, my apologies) were actualy a very hopeful ‘bunch’: If Jesus was just a man and God saved Him, what good news, for here is the route to salvation for all humankind. With God’s ‘saving action’ it is possible for an ordinary person to live a righteous and loving life.

It was also the work of Bultmann that brought forth into popular consciousness the fact that each one of us is prejudiced and carries a built-in package of presuppositions especially, it seems, when we read the bible. Whether then we become skeptics or optimists, or something else in our reading is largely a matter of temperament and background.

Where I see the rubs is that the liberal reading somehow implies that “I can” and that is a dangerous reading indeed. The conservative, who should be much humbler for s/he began with the confession ‘I can’t’ then goes on to become the disdainful superman “in Christ” while the supposedly more prideful liberal often demonstrates a life of love. A. Schweitzer in particular comes to mind.

So, my conclusion for the time being is that presuppositions don’t matter, salvation does.

Live to serve : Serve to live

Creature or Creator?

The Race is Run http://www.raceisrun.typepad.com/weblog/


Is it more important to love or is it more important to have Jesus be somehow less than God?”

What is most important intially is to establish just what our relationship to Jesus is. When we have a clear understanding that Jesus is a creature, just like us, then we can follow in his footsteps, preaching the gospel of love instead of “worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.”

initial importance

Hey Vynette,

Thanks for your answer. I hear what you are saying. A book was actually written back in the 1930’s along those same lines by Charles Sheldon, entitled, In His Steps. It was a very cool read and altered the way a lot of people thought about their faith back in that day. It also was the forerunner of WWJD (What would Jesus Do) That was all the craze not so long ago where I live.

OK, So now I am going to use some unfortunate labels that I intend to be value free (though they will carry tons of weight for each of us). Why does the emerging church need to take up a mantle that the liberal main line already carries?

It seems to me that your starting point is similar if not the same with many of my friends in the mainline presbyterian, methodist, baptist, or anglican churches. Their starting point often, though not always lets Jesus be mere mortal, and sets him up as a man, not unlike Ghandi, who lived a wonderful life that needs to be imitated. I, for one, am grateful that someone stepped up to the plate while Fundamentalists were busy protecting God, and actually did the work of the Kingdom, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and generally loving their neighbors.

With this starting point, why do we need and emerging church at all? Our bases are covered with the mainlines, the evangelicals, and the fundy’s. There seems to be nothing different.

As with most things I know I need correction here but how will I get it if I don’t ask the questions.


A revolution in thinking

The Race is Run http://www.raceisrun.typepad.com/weblog/

Stephen, I for one would never presume to correct anyone. I consider my role as just a provider of information. What people do with it is entirely up to them.

I would be really interested to know just what Christian denomination does not officially teach, at the very least, the ‘divinity’ of Jesus.

I realise that individuals may express the same views as myself but I’ve never yet discovered a denomination that doesn’t teach teach deity - at least not where I come from, which is fairly isolated I must admit.

As to the success of THIS ‘emergent’ movement, I don’t know, hence my original post. What I do know, however, is this: if we cannot pull together as one, gather into the same barn, then the Kingdom of God on earth will never become a reality. So, there is a ‘necessity’ for another revolution in thinking, just like the one in 30 AD.

OST and success

One of the things that I like the most about OST is the fact the a Stephen who is trinitarian and a Vynette who questions the importance of concepts like the divinity of Jesus can both have a conversation and express their views to an audience of persons with perhaps other persuasions.

If what the emergent church is doing is to hammer out a particular theology, a large part of its raison d’etre will fade away.

That’s perhaps precisely because many of us are Christians who have come from denominations that have fixated themselves into a doctrine and a cultural outlook or a theology from which they cannot now extricate themselves.

Perhaps Vynette’s definition of “success” could be fleshed out a bit more?

Live to serve : Serve to live

Gotta Love It


Thanks for naming one of the things that I love here too. I am a trinitarian. My primary mentor in life is a Unitarian/Universalist minister whom I met as my marriage was going south. (Vynette, that is not a dig at your wonderful country.) I can remember talking to him as I was driving on my cell phone on two different occasions. The first time I was complaining about something my now ex-wife was doing. In the course of the conversation he said. “You might want to try praying about it,” then he chuckled and said, “And this is coming from an atheist.” I just about drove off the road cause I was laughing so hard and I said, “David, if you are an atheist, you are a non-practicing one.” He took and adopted the phrase to describe himself for a number of years. Later, as I was driving down yet another motorway here in the States, I was again talking to him on the phone and I said, “David, isn’t it ironic after all those years of seminary training and all those years in Sunday School God would use you, a Unitarian Universalist to train this self confessed and unrepentent Trinitarian more about Jesus than I have ever learned before?” Then I added for good measure, “but if God can use an ass to speak to the Israelites, he can certainly use you to speak to me.” (My language was probably more colorful than that.)

I guess my point is that I don’t have to agree with you to learn from you. I have spent a lot of years unlearning that which I held so dear, that is why emergent is important to me.

Vynette, the Trinity is at the center of my call to love, it is not for you. And that is totally OK with me. You would love the Unitarians and probably agree with them wholly. You might even help them. As to your question about the mainlines. Many of my pastor friends of the mainlines would openly deny the deity of Christ in spite of their own church traditions. It is a pretty normal postition here in the States. As I mentioned the “liberal” church has been there for a number of years here.

My fear for the Emergent church is not that we get our doctrine straight at the get go but rather that it will become style over substance, and simply a new fad. Sociologists will tell us how post-moderns are thinking and we will change our approach to “reach them” rather than swimming ourselves in the uncertain waters of a changing philosophical shift and allowing ourselves to be changed by our Creator as we are emersed in a new and more honest albeit more dangerous epistomology.


Re: Gotta Love It

Relating back to the first post on this thread, not only is the emergent movement doomed without a clearer diassociation, but my own spirutality also.

I'm a graduate of an evangelical bible college and I took my degree in theology at an evangelical institutuion, however, I feel that unless I make a greater disassociation with my evangelical foundations then my 'emergent religion' will fail to grow into what it could become.

 I don't think that my evangelical education is the best kind of soil for the growth of emergent religion as it stands. I would need to convert this soil into another chemical type with new fertilisers, in which case it will no longer be evengelical. 

All of my christian friends are evangleical, my whole family is evangelical, all of the 'church' bodies around me are evangleical, I screwed unless I do something about this!

 Not a particularly scholarly repsonse I know, rather I felt it necessary to relate my feelings.

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