emergent church? In a nutshell, it's a young and growing post-modern, post-evangelical, post-liberal, even post-denominational movement that started in the 1990s. Some of the emergent movement today is rooted in deconstructive postmodernism (especially influenced by the negative/apophatic theologies of Peter Rollins and John Caputo), some are post-liberal/Hauerwasians/anabaptists, while perhaps a very small minority are engaged in Radical Orthodoxy. I am not attracted to any of these options myself, though I continue to learn a great deal from all of them. I have a hunch that many persons in the emergent church today are moving (or have already moved) in yet other directions.
deconstructive or constructive postmodernism. True, the beginnings of 'the great emergence' was characterized by a lot of deconstruction in its first decade, but it seems to me that in the last few years we've seen a lot more constructive approaches growing in the movement (many have remarked that Brian McLaren's latest book is his most constructive to date). While it was a necessary phase, some of us got tired of the constant wrecking balls of Derrida and started rebuilding...some of us traded our deconstructive 'hermeneutic of suspicion' and moved on to a constructive 'hermeneutic of humility.' I would argue that for those in the constructive postmodern stream of emergence (I count myself here), there are two standout older theologians that we should be listening to alongside other younger emerging voices. In short, these two theologians matter for emergent Christians because they both manage to move beyond the simplistic evangelical/liberal divide.
|John B. Cobb, Jr.|
I have argued that while the emergent conversation obviously won't find all their answers in Cobb or Moltmann, they will indeed discover deep wisdom in these two experienced thinkers (and as I argue in my thesis, deep wisdom for the ecological crisis in particular). I myself can't get on board with everything either one of these thinkers say, but I consider them to be key theological dialogue partners for my own evolving theological vision. While many have been looking to biblical scholars like N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg as the contrasting options for progressive/emergent thinking Christians today ("Are you with Wright or with Borg?" some Christians tend to ask), I think that we need to turn to theologians like Moltmann and Cobb as well - in fact, I think these theologians have better options than the Wright/Borg (false) dichotomy offers. Again, we absolutely need more diverse voices in a post-modern age, but both Moltmann and Cobb have been emphasizing this point for decades.