Why I am emerging: A new way to believe

Part 3 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 2 Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe

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Now that I’ve declared the emerging church to be non-existent, I hope to explain why I am emerging and how the emerging church has saved my faith. Yeah, I know, I’m trying to have it both ways. You’re right, I’m a cheater. I believe in emerging even though it doesn’t exist. I identify with this non-reality. In fact, I find great hope in this nebulous something-or-other. Call it “emerging,” call it “emergent,” or call it nothing at all, ultimately I don’t care. I’m with you. I’m in. I’m just not going to spend much time talking about terms, or fighting for them one way or the other. I don’t plan on talking about it anymore. I’m interested in the how and not the what. I desire to be productive and constructive. From here on out this series is going to be focused on the hope I find in this new kind of Christianity and how it has helped save my faith.

To begin the discussion of “why I am emerging,” I want to return to the Peter Rollins’ quote I mentioned in the first post.

“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.”

I see this as salvation from the dictatorship of having to know with certainty. I no longer feel the need to have proof for all my beliefs and “evidence that demands a verdict.” I feel much more secure with ambiguity and mystery. Now this doesn’t mean I check my brain at the door, and there is a lot more involved in all this than I am discussing here. But ultimately this change in how I believe, rather than in what I believe, has set me free. For the last five or so years this process of changing how I believe has really brought me new hope for my own faith. More than anything else, this has been the greatest service the emerging church has done for me. And I hope this way of believing is the core theological influence the emerging conversation ends up having on the larger church.

In case this still seems somewhat murky, here’s a practical example from my own life.

Brooke and I went through a significant tragedy in experiencing the stillbirth of our first child. This really shook up our world. How could this have happened? We had gone through so much to get pregnant in the first place. God had at last heard our prayers. Everyone spoke of the goodness of God and how he faithfully answered our prayers. We were overjoyed with being pregnant, we were looking forward to the life of our son. But when we lost Zach this whole way of looking at things feel apart. If God had answered our prayers, why had this happened? Did we lack faith? Was God a scam? What about all the promises of the Bible? It was difficult (and still is difficult) to reconcile this event with our beliefs. Were our beliefs simply all wrong? I don’t think so. I still believe God is loving. I believe God hears our prayers. I believe he didn’t want any of this to happen. My beliefs have not really changed all that much. However, how I believe these things has changed considerably. What Rollins wrote has really been true for me – in a sense, nothing changed and yet the shift was so radical that absolutely nothing was left unchanged. I still believe most of the same core concepts about God, but my faith is much more open to doubt, uncertainty, and even at times, unbelief. I feel much more able to hold these seemingly opposing forces in a kind of constructive tension. This doesn’t mean I have everything figured out. Quite the opposite is true. I still don’t understand what happened or why it happened. I have a lot of difficulty with prayer. I still struggle with doubt. But I’m learning how to believe with doubt. I’m learning how to love God even when I am angry at God and do not understand him. Without this shift in how I believe, I don’t think my faith would have survived.

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9 Responses

  1. Beautifully put.

  2. so are you saying that to have doubt in God, to be not totally sure of Him at times makes a person emerging or at least partially welcomed to this movement?

    I’m not disagreeing, just trying to understand your point.

  3. No, I’m not saying that. I’m simply saying that within this conversation there seems to me to be a greater openness to uncertainty and doubt. But I don’t see any reason you would have to be that way to consider yourself emerging – not at all. I’m just looking at this from a very personal vantage point. I’m not trying to be objective and describe emerging people or anything like that. I’m not saying all emerging people are full of doubt and uncertainty.

  4. gotcha, fair enough. thanks for sharing.

  5. I have no idea how I happened upon your site, but I am glad I did. You articulated a lot of what I have been thinking about for years….although more recently I would say my doubts are outweighing my faith. I may even be an Emerging Agnostic…who knows.

    I am adding you to my links….

  6. I’m with you, Adam. Thanks.

  7. I am moved to tears. You just described the changes that have taken place regarding my own faith much better than i could. Thank you.

  8. Good series. I have been preparing some thoughts on the Emerging Movement and have received some great insight here, thanks for putting a little bit different spin out there for people to read.. this subject has become too bland.

  9. Also enjoyed your life story to go along with this!

    http://modernmarch.wordpress.com

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