Sunday, March 2, 2008

Emergent, according to Mark Driscoll

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA recently gave a sermon that offers a bit of an "inside view" into the emerging movement. He divides it into what he describes as the "4 lanes on the highway" of the emergent church. These are listed as Emerging Evangelicals, House Church Evangelicals, Emerging Reformers (his identity), Emerging Liberals. He describes the Emerging Evangelicals as those who maintain an outlook quite similar to mainline Evangelicalism, but with some minor distinctions. They don't deviate much on doctrine from historical Christianity but are continually rethinking of new ways of doing church in more of a hip/cool way to become more "relevant" and "applicable." Driscoll renders Dan Kimball and Donald Miller, for example, as within this circle.

The second lane, the House Church Evangelicals, he describes as those who seek to remove the "style" of church as its typically known within our culture. They don't believe in large corporate buildings or Pastor's per se. Rather they feel the idea of a smaller community of believers is the more biblical way (or style) to have church. Driscoll is critical toward them on a few notes, suggesting that this method is perhaps appropriate in other cultures such as China where oppression is widespread.

The third lane he describes as Emerging Reformers, which he claims as his own position. Similar to the Emergent Evangelicals, they seek to be more culturally relevant and germane to a society that could not otherwise care less about Christianity. This group, Driscoll further explains, is devoted to the "Reformed" tradition, and identifies itself with historical giants such as Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, along with some modern individuals such as Wayne Grudem, D. A. Carson, and Tim Keller. He also makes special reference to the emphasis placed on male Pastoral leadership, separating themselves from the EE. Though one characteristic, which is not present in the historical Reformed tradition that is gaining more acceptance nowadays in churches such as Sovereign Grace Ministries with C. J. Mahaney, is the adoption of Charismatic elements such as the gifts of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, et al.

The last, or fourth, lane is what Driscoll describes as the Emerging Liberals. This lane (group) takes the inquiry of "how-to-do-church" off the highway into questioning major tenants of historic orthodox Christianity. Examples given by Driscoll are the divinity of Christ, the reality of hell, the nature of atonement, and homosexuality. He places Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt in this group, though qualifying it in a loving manner, so as not to directly offend them, by calling them caring loving individuals (here it is important to be aware of the personal history he has with these individuals, which spans back a number of years, prior to the emergent movement itself). At the same time, he does express concern regarding the content of their instruction and makes special reference to his current lack of affiliation with these individuals.

Overall, I must say that I found this sermon informative and encouraging. Its pretty clear that there are many facets to the emergent church movement and most of them can overlap from time to time. From all the blog searching I've done in the past month or so regarding the Emergent Church, I've found a common thread amongst those who oppose the movement; a failure to consistently and adequately distinguish between the "good" and the "bad" characteristics. That is, those who find fault with the different segments of this movement have a tendency to group everyone together and cast them all aside. With this in mind, I want to personally encourage individuals who contest everything associated with the Emergent Church (particularly the Reformed community) to avoid this tendency; to refrain from passing judgment too quickly and "throw the baby out with the bathwater".

Finally, I think Driscoll does a great job at "categorizing" the individuals associated with the movement while offering some insightful commentary. I believe it lined up nicely with C. Michael Patton's recent chart (seen here), and would be a nice companion to those interested in learning more.

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