Come, emerge with me

Part 1 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 2 – Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 3 – Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe


This post will be the first in a series on the so called “emerging church.” Get ready. The emerging church is scary (just look at the picture). It’s heretical. And it might just cause you to lose your faith altogether. Well, at least that’s what people say.

To get us started, here are some intriguing words from Peter Rollins about the emerging conversation.

Unlike those who would seek to offer a different set of answers to theological questions, those within the emerging conversation are offering a different way of understanding the answers that we already possess. In other words, those involved in the conversation are not explicitly attempting to construct or unearth a different set of beliefs that would somehow be more appropriate in today’s context, but rather, they are looking at the way in which we hold the beliefs that we already have. This is not then a revolution that seeks to change what we believe, but rather one that sets about transforming the entire manner in which we hold our beliefs. In short, this revolution is not one that merely adds to or subtracts from the world of our understanding, but rather one which provides the necessary tools for us to be able to look at that world in a completely different manner: in a sense, nothing changes and yet the shift is so radical that absolutely nothing will be left unchanged.

I think this notion of changing how we believe, rather than what we believe, is very important. I anticipate that much of my understanding of the emerging church will be centered on this idea.

What do you think about Rollins’ statement?

Are you scared?


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11 Responses

  1. hmmm… I don’t think much of Rollins’s statement at all. I don’t think it really says anything at all. I think I may be tone deaf–sorry.

    If our beliefs change–our theology changes. If our actions based on those beliefs changes–our praxis changes. If our reasons for continuing to believe the same things change– then our philosophy of religion changes. If our actions, beliefs and philosophy of religion are stable, but “our entire manner in which we hold our beliefs” changes–then I think we are just more bored, grumpy, happy, silly, or churlish as we do all these things compared to previous states. What else is left besides mood/psychological state?

    For me the emergent church has a different praxis, theology and certainly philosophy of religion. All three change radically compared to the normative forms of the three from which such a church emerges.

    Perhaps this is what he was trying to say? I don’t know. It is unclear to me.

  2. yeah. I’m not sure what that means, either.

    It sounds cool, and I even like the sound of it. But it doesn’t make a bit of practical sense to me. Maybe you can explain it better…?

    It sounds more to me more like a Paul Tillich way of talking… “I don’t know what I’m actually trying to say, but I’ll make it seem profound so that it sounds good.”

  3. I love Rollins, and agree with his heretical belief that how we believe is more important than what we believe. The implications of this (as it is fully explored) are staggering.

    But I’m not sure it is an accurate description of the “emerging conversation”. I will say, though, that there are certainly areas of overlap and, in a sense, Rollins lays groundwork for the “emerging conversation” to extend beyond where it otherwise might.

    But I would argue that Rollins is more broad than emergent. Whether other groups of christians would embrace his message is, however, unclear.

  4. You certainly have my attention! I’m interested in hearing more…

  5. Wow that is an amazing passage from Rollins. I love it. It really gives something to roll around in my thoughts.

    In my best Texas twang: I aint skerd

  6. No, I’m not scared.

    I don’t know if I’m ’emergent’ or not, but should say upfront I have enjoyed entering into the conversation. (from my standpoint, its a conversation, not a denomination or ‘church’ but that may just be the level I’ve engaged it on).

    For me, none of my core doctrines or theologies have changed, and yet there has been an incredible shift in my faith – in the way I think, in the way I engage people, in the way I view scripture and what it means in my daily life. And it really HAS been mind blowing – for me. I still attend my same church – which is a PCA church.

    The things that are important to me have shifted immensley. And my relationship with God has shifted ever so slightly…

    Thanks for allowing me to comment. :)

  7. I would have to agree with the first comments. It is not really saying much at all. It won’t make any sense until we get into the specifics. How are we going to change “how” we believe? I was always taught that it was through the preaching of the Gospel. Unless of course we are talking about ecclesiastical practice like a preacher standing at the pulpit and preaching. It is such an ambiguous statement I think I was left with more questions than a clear answer to your question.

    So I think it is Peter Rollin’s job to demonstrate or illustrate the “how” and explain the “what”. It is hard to be scared about something that presents itself as being superficial (or saying a lot about nothing). Hmmm. That is my opinon of course on his statement.

  8. […] the emerging church. You haven’t. And most confusing of all, you might think I’m writing a series on the emerging church. But that is not true, because the emerging church does not exist, and you […]

  9. Wow, some of you guys are throwing this out really quickly. Let’s at least think about the comments from Rollins, ok?

    I do understand that taking one quote from a book does make it more difficult to understand though. I’ll give you that for sure.

    Basically, the way I see this is that fundamentalism (as an example) is a way of believing – the particular beliefs don’t really matter. I think evangelicalism in general might be the same way. The problem with fundamentalists is not what they believe, but how they believe it. This is true of Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists, atheist fundamentalists, etc.

    So, what Rollins is saying that the revolution we need is a revolution of how we believe, not necessarily what we believe. As Christians much of what it looks like to be a Christian is changing in today’s pluralistic world. It is essential that we consider how we believe.

    I’ll be saying more about this. Does this help a little bit?

    Oh yeah, and Mark, the reason this isn’t a good description of the emerging conversation is because there is no such thing as the emerging church. Sorry to break the news.

  10. I think a big part of what Rollins is getting at is that this is a shift in epistemology more than theology. Modern epistemology dealt in certainties, in rock solid foundations upon which the rest of our beliefs were built. For the secularist this foundation was science and rationalism, for the fundamentalist this foundation was the Bible (as they interpreted it – without admitting that they did in fact interpret).

    A postmodern “emerging” Christian, on the other hand, might still believe many of the same things, but will hold them with less absolute certainty, with more epistemic humility, and therefore with more willingness to question, rethink, and consider other viewpoints. Very often these qualities will lead to a shift in theology, but the theological shift to some particular position is not the essential thing for an emergent Christian. The essential, defining characteristic is simply the willingness to rethink one’s beliefs in the first place.

    For an example of this check out this quote from a friend of mine that I led on a “postmodern” journey several years ago (she ended up leaving her fundamentalist Baptist church help us plant our new emerging church.)

    Incidentally, Tony Jones from Emergent Village also identifies epistemological humility as the defining distinction between Emergents and the Young Calvinists in his recent blogalouge at Christianity Today.

  11. Mike – couldn’t agree more. I think that’s what Rollins is saying here. I’ll be getting into that more. I also saw Tony Jones’ related comments – I hope he’s right that this is/can be/might be/will be a characteristic of this “emerging” phenomenon.

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