The Emergent Village

According to the website, emergentvillage.com/about/, the "Emergent Village is a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ."  Under the History heading, it says,

"Emergent Village began as a group of friends who gathered under the auspices and generosity of Leadership Network [link removed] in the late 1990s. We began meeting because many of us were disillusioned and disenfranchised by the conventional ecclesial institutions of the late 20th century. The more we met, the more we discovered that we held many of the same dreams for our lives, and for how our lives intersected with our growing understandings of the Kingdom of God."

As of Dec., 2007, its board of directors1 includes Brian D McLaren, Joseph R. Myers, Ivy Beckwith, Diana Butler Bass, Rudolpho Carrasco, Tony Jones, Tim Keel, Heather Kirk-Davidoff, Mark Oestreicher, Christ Seay, Karen Ward, and David Robertson.  It is gaining in popularity.

Offerings from the site

The website has a section on cohorts.  These are the "localized and incarnational way that Emergent Village works. Around the U.S., friends of Emergent Village meet of their own accord, at their own time and place, and discuss what they choose. What binds the cohorts together is a common desire to be in robust and respectful conversation about things that matter."2 It has various sections:  Emerging Women Group; a weblog, podcasts, press kit, and much more.  In short, it is designed to help coordinate and expand emergent ideas.

Emergent Village Statement of Faith

I did a search on the emergent Village website for the phrase "statement of faith".  I couldn't find one.  That was not good.  But I did find this:

"We believe in God, beauty, future, and hope – but you won’t find a traditional statement of faith here. We don’t have a problem with faith, but with statements (read more here) [link removed].   Whereas statements of faith and doctrine have a tendency to stifle friendships, we hope to further conversation and action around the things of God."3

Does that disturb you as much as it does me?  It disturbs me a lot.  "We believe in God, beauty, future, and hope"?  Really?  What does that mean?  Are we to put friendships above doctrinal truth as revealed in the Bible?  Am I reading this wrong or does this sound like a milquetoast excuse to hold hands while we happily skip into the abyss of doctrinal ignorance -- as long as we don't stifle any friendships on the way?

I can't help but wonder if they have any problems with the faith of Muslims, or Satanists, or Mormons, or Jehovah's Witnesses, who all deny the very basics and essentials of the Christian faith.  After all, those people have faith, right?  Only their faith is in something false.  Avoiding doctrine so you don't "stifle friendships" is dangerous.  Without doctrine (Trinity, deity of Christ, atonement, salvation, resurrection, etc.,) you don't have Christianity.  It is like saying, "I'm going to avoid truth so I can be your friend."

One of the purposes of a statement of faith is to affirm what is true and deny what is false. This is done in Scripture itself and if the Emergent Village wants to faithfully represent Scripture, it had better get its act together and take a stand on what is true and what is false -- as Scripture itself does.  This does not mean it should brow beat people with doctrines.  But it does mean it needs to proclaim the truth of the faith, once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

It's nice to want to be friends with people.  It's a very good thing to want to help them and to not beat them to death with doctrine.  We need to use friendship evangelism and in many cases, live the truth before we speak it. The Scriptures tell us to develop relationships with people just as Jesus did.  The emerging church movement is to be applauded for this intention and focus.  But, we cannot sacrifice doctrinal truth in order to keep friendships.  Jesus was the greatest relationship maker in history.  But he also taught very strict doctrinal truths such as that found in John 8:24 when he said, "Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins."  Jesus wasn't worried about stifling friendships with such a statement, so the Emergent Village shouldn't be worried about it either.  It needs to stand on truth, not on compromise so as to make Christianity more palatable.

Values and Practices

In the immediate quote above if you were to follow the "read more here" link on the original site, you'd be taken to another webpage called Values and Practices.4  I'll summarize it for you.  It mentions living by the Great Commandment to love God and love your neighbor -- good stuff.  It states that the gospel is to be centered on Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God -- unfortunately, it does not define what the gospel is.  It says that Emergent Village affirms the historic Christian faith -- but it does not articulate what that faith is (how can it without a statement of faith?).  It says they "embrace many historic spiritual practices, including prayer, meditation, contemplation, study, solitude, silence, service, and fellowship, believing that healthy theology cannot be separated from healthy spirituality" -- I shudder to think what these "spiritual practices" might mean, especially since I've encountered some pretty bad examples in my research on the Emerging Church.  The Values and Practices page seeks to "to understand the gospel in terms of Jesus’ radical, profound, and expansive message of the kingdom of God".  The problem is it doesn't define the Gospel as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as is clearly stated in 1 Cor. 15:1-4.  It admirably advocates that we learn from one another in conversation -- but it does not seem to be truly Christ-centered in its motivation.  It advocates making an "annual pilgrimage to an Emergent Village gathering" and to "self-identify with Emergent Village where appropriate" - though this isn't wrong in itself, it makes my cult-detection nerve twitch.

Basically, there is little substance to the Values and Practices page.  It sounds nice but doesn't have any real meat. Its too fluffy, too non-committal, too ambiguous.

Conclusion

There is a lot to look at on the Emergent Village Website.  On the surface it doesn't seem to be that large, but its links lead to other links and other links, ad infinitum.  So, it has a lot to say.

Whenever I examine a group or a movement, I try to find out what its basic beliefs are.  I figure that the foundational doctrines of the group need to be examined first because from those foundations flow their teachings and practices.  Since the Emergent Village website is short on doctrine and long on relationship, I would expect that the broader message it promotes will likewise be short on substance and long of feelings. It always makes me nervous when the truths of Christian theology are relegated to side notes among the main body of a let's-just-get-along theology.

As an apologist, I am wary about the Emergent Village, or any group that claims to be Christian and yet avoids advocating basic Christian theology. The site/organization lacks true substance and I must, unfortunately, view its teachings with great caution.

 

This article is also available in: Español

  • 1. emergentvillage.com/about-information/board-of-directors.
  • 2. emergentvillage.com/cohorts.
  • 3. emergentvillage.com/about-information/faqs.
  • 4. emergentvillage.com/about-information/values-and-practices.

 

 

 

 
 
CARM ison