Is Postemergent Emerging?

11:35 pm | Emergent Church

Andre Daley recently made a fascinating series of posts, the first being why I’m post-emergent, (thanks to Urban Onramps for pointing this out) in which he expressed the following concerns:

  • The conversation still looks to much like the old conversation, white, male and academic. The dominant culture still dominates.
  • The values behind the conversation aren’t readily expressed in actions. No generous orthopraxis to go with the generous orthodoxy.
  • The lexicon of the white European theological framework which still dominates. There is very little inclusion of black theologians and the theological framework of people of color. People of color seem to be included in the conversation only if they are willing to use this language and framework. It seems we all need to read NT Wright in order to have any credibility.
  • Talk, talk and more talk. My experience is we love to talk about this stuff but other than retro worship stuff we don’t get around to acting on it. Even so talk about diversity has never come to the fore. I want to be the church and act like the church not just talk like the church.
  • Ultimately its about relationships and I have made some good ones which go beyond the whole emergent (non movement) thing. So I’ll go about the spiritual practice of reconciliation through relationships with my brothers and sisters and leave emergent tag to others.

Many of Andre’s points here resonate with the problems I’ve seen in the emerging conversation. There is a lot of conversation and talk, but it seems like just a new generation inventing its own Theological terminology, trying to emphasize orthopraxis but with a limited amount being put into practice. Although I have differing concerns about N.T. Wright than Andre, I do feel that there are too many people riding on the “N.T. Wright is cool” bandwagon. Too often it seems that before you can be part of the emerging conversation, you must be fluent in whatever Theological tongue or personality happens to be the fad of the moment, or you can add nothing of value to the conversation (which is to say, you are marginalized and excluded for not being into the hip new Theology). Lastly, reconciliation as a lifestyle is something underemphasized by both Evangelicals and emergents alike - but more on this another time.

Andre’s discussion continued further into another post called post-emergent conversation continues and discussion on a web forum, prompting Andre to ask, ‘can I be emerging and post emergent?‘ Hence the tongue-in-cheek title of this post - is a new postemergent emerging, or is it just another flavor of the emergent? I can only speak for myself about how I use the term, but in my case postemergent is not ex-emergent. Coming to the point where you disagree with certain things within the emergent conversation is not the same as leaving the emergent conversation. Being postemergent does not mean that one is turning in his membership card and calling it quits.

Secondly, it would be improper to equate postemergent with anti-emergent. For example, some emergents like to define themselves as post-evangelical. This tends to bother people who identify strongly with Evangelicalism because they assume that post-evangelicalism is anti-evangelicalism. The emergent then has to come back and clarify that ‘post’ does not have the same meaning as ‘anti’. The same point applies here: a postemergent is not anti-emergent.

Along these same lines, the way I use postemergent is intended to be tongue-in-cheek. Douglas Wilson and David Wayne both noted David Wells’ comments about the fascination with being ‘post-whatever’:

“It is, in fact, this assumption of an ability to move from one plateau of achievement to another that has given us a need always to be post: we feel compelled to assure ourselves that we are post-Puritan, post-Christian, and post-modern. Our world is post-industrial and post-business. Our time is post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, and post-Cold War.” [David Wells, No Place for Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), p. 60.]

For me, to call myself postemergent is in part to poke fun at the post-happy aspects of the emerging conversation. Elsewhere David Wells explores the concept of culture being ultra-modern rather than post-modern, suggesting that cultural dynamics in the 21st century are much more diverse than even post-modernism leads us to believe.



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