This past month was a huge conference in Chicago called the Gospel Coalition. It was a huge gathering of pastors and leaders from all kinds of Reformed churches. From John Piper to Tim Keller, Don Carson to Mark Driscol the who’s who of the New-Calvinist were there.
I however, was not.
To be clear, this was because I didn’t have the money to go. I had to make a choice between this and another conference that my wife and children could attend with me in June.
Oh yeah, and my wife was in the hospital.
A few years ago when I attended the conference, I think the thing that struck me the most was the amount of young people. The eyeball estimate put half the crowd of thousands under the age of 40. This movement of the young and Reformed has been chronicled from Time to Christianity Today. The influx of young men and women to the Reformed church has been led by a number of superstar Pastors from huge churches. Many of these Young Calvinist (which is probably the most accurate description; the ecclesiology of the Reformation can be pretty divisive among them) asked Jonathan Edwards into their hearts because they were attracted to the ministry of the men speaking at the Gospel Coalition.
So while the throngs of the Young Calvinist gathered in Chicago, I paced around a hospital room. Thankfully, I came equipped with my iPad and the hospital came equipped with Wifi. I was toying around with a new app called Instapaper, which I was quickly falling in love with. It functions like Pandora for blogs and articles from the internet. The program turned me onto the blog of a young woman who was about my age and had a some strong similarities to my faith story (particularly some the fundamentalism stuff). She wrote a post I found interesting and told Instapaper I liked it.
Life moved on.
A few days ago, my Instapaper (which really looks like a newspaper, by the way) delivered a post by Rachel Evans promoting the idea of a week dedicated to restoring unity. Right next to it was an article by DG Hart about the Gospel Coalition and the awkward unity it creates. You can read it here.
So what are we to do with all of this unity, all of this disharmony. Let’s be honest, everyone is in favor of unity. It falls on the list right below motherhood and apple pie. But at the same time, the idea of every Christian joining hands and giving the world a great big hug doesn’t seem realistic.
I am a cessasionist, mostly out of lack of experience. Some other Christians would disagree, which they have every right to do. Meanwhile, some of my best friends believe in a strongly hierarchical ecclesiology. I don’t. Certainly unity means getting passed all these things, right?
So after 500 words, what am I getting at? No one, at least I can’t imagine anyone, wants a mealy-mouthed uniformity so we can say we have unity. We will never all agree when we get to a tough passage like Hebrews 6 on what God is saying, or how we are to even approach scripture to ascertain what/if God is speaking for that matter.
I think unity comes through understanding boundaries and relationships. We all have neighbors, friends and family.
Our neighbors live near us and we do our best to enjoy them. Every once and a while, we’ll even have a block party. But some of our neighbors are different than us. We have Azaleas, they plant gardenias. But at times, our differences are more superficial than our choice in topiaries. They let their kids watch movies I don’t. They have different values than we do. But they are still my neighbors. I like them. We wave at each other when we walk our dogs; we talk about things, especially when the weather is nice. We live in the same place, but we are different. And that’s OK. We aren’t trying to be best friends.
While we know our neighbors, we also have friends. Our friends are not as geographically close to us as neighbors (most the time, anyway), but we have deeper relationships with them. We have more in common with them and do more things. We often vacation with them and have them over for dinner and Parcheesi night.
Finally we have our family. We have our deepest connections to our family. We have some of our hardest fights within our family. And we receive our greatest encouragement from our family. We love them above even our friends. We celebrate holidays the same way. Christmas and Easter are family holydays.
And maybe, just maybe, that is the way we should have unity in the Catholic church; by understanding that we all agree on some central (read:Creedal) issues. Lets celebrate that with block parties and cordial friendship. Some of us share deeper connections than that. Let’s partner together. And finally some of us are a part of the same family (read:faith tradition). Let’s keep our fights in house and not judge our friends and neighbors by our family values. By the same token, it would be weird to treat our neighbors like our family.
So in my continuing analysis of the Emerging Church, I have decided to assign scientific names to 5 different categories of the movement. I have heard that Mark Driscoll has done the same thing. I haven’t heard his lecture on the subject, so anything found here is no reflection or purposeful subversion of his categories.
Type 1: Emergentus – Destructicus
This first genus-species of the emerging church is one of the earliest forms. This category includes the early emergent thinkers who first began to see the need for change. Many, if not most, of these thinkers have a decent knowledge of philosophy and began to apply the postmodern rubric to the then modern church. They looked around and said, “everything must change”. Their early work was met with considerable hostility as they sought to take their congregations on a spiritual journey. Brian Mclaren is probably the prototype for this group. The previously reviewed ANKOC is their banner. On the positive side Emergentus Destructicae tend to emphasize the discontinuity between the American evangelical church and the church of the first and second century. The problem is that their solution is less than satisfying. The closest they have come to putting forth a theology is A Generous Orthodoxy which is in the end, gobbly-gook. It says nothing constructive and does not affectively push towards a solution. These are the nay-sayers, the doomsday prophets of the evangelical movement. This group sells unrest and mistrust in the system.
Type 2: Emergentus – Savvae
This second group is by far the savviest of the crowds. Included in this classification are the ermergent folks with good hair-cuts and decent theologies. This crowd tends to be at least a decade younger than Emergentus Destructicus and are far better looking. Rob Bell is the archetypical Savvae. The leaders of this crowd have a degree of education much like the Destructicae, but tend to spurn their degrees. Many of these pastors are seminary grads who were disenchanted by the process. They are the strongest theologians of the Emergentus genus. Their theology, though, tends to be deeply influenced by late 20th century post-liberal and post-conservative writers. There is a touch of N.T. Wright, Hauerwas, and even Jurgen Moltmann. They have a bit of the ideas of corporate justification and liberation theology. This causes them to be some of the most socially conscience of the Emergenticae. They combine style (of which they have a ton) with a skewed sense of substance. This substance is very fluid and can quickly devolve into relativism. It is difficult pin these leaders down. What would they die for? What would they change their haircut for? They tend to sell cool as well as an intellectualism that has difficulties at the core of their beliefs.
Type 3 Emergentus – Megas
This third group is an odd development. This group has taken all the trappings, theologies, and methodology of the mega church movement and given it cooler clothes. They have moved their service from Saturday night back to Sunday night. They still have the goal of getting as many people as possible into the doors of the meeting place. (They wouldn’t like the word Sanctuary or even Worship Center). Dan Kimball is the clearest example of Megas. This group has style but is completely devoid of substance. They like to think of themselves as Savvae but are in fact poor parodies of the others. The focus is completely on the weekly worship service and nothing more. They sell cool and just cool.
Type 4 Emergentus – Shruggus
Next we have before us the least vocal and active of the Emergentae. This groups is part of non-emergent churches and is simply sympathetic to the plight of the rest of the genus. They read emergent books and still go to traditional or seeker churches. They would change churches, but don’t really fell like. It as if they say, “But I’m le tired…” Donald Miller fits tis category nicely. They are taking the “We’ll outlive the rest of our church, so lets just wait until then to do anything” approach. This group looks at the plight of evangelicism and shrugs. They sell a nonchalance and low level cool.
Type 5 Emergentus – Paedius
This last group is the scariest of the Emergentae. They are the children of the revolution. Many of the leaders of this crowd have no theological training or very little. They simply didn’t like the church of their youth and wanted a cool church. These church are youth groups who have never grown up. They attempt to recreate the buzz of a youth group with all the feelings of a “big people” church. They completely lack depth but love the idea of depth. They are socially active, because they see their Savvae cousins are socially active. Everything they do is mimicking one of the other Emergentae. They are the little brothers trying dearly to fit in. Unfortunately for all involved this church causes the most danger. They lack theological training and accountability. They are a law unto themselves and are in danger of trampling the sacraments under foot. (I know I show a bit of my bias with that statement) They sell style above all, yet the lack the depth of Savvae and the thought-out shallowness of the Megas. I have purposefully omitted a picture here to avoid overly vilifying any one person or church.