11 September 2009

Emergent Village Tries to Reboot

by Phil Johnson



ou probably saw the announcement: Emergent Village 2.0 (code name: Village Green: "a generative environment where missional friendships are nourished") is now open for bidness.

Evidently there are still many in the Emergent[ing] movement who hold out the hope that a phoenix will arise from the pyre of that movement's massive failure. The jargon hasn't changed. The priorities are as convoluted as ever. Notice, for example, how the "special letter" includes big categories for "Arts" and "Justice," with no mention whatsoever of Christ, Scripture, or sound doctrine. (I'm prepared to argue that Emergent types generally have no better grasp of—and no more genuine appreciation for—art and justice than they have of sound doctrine, but that's another post.)

It seems all that has really changed is the cast. Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Brian McLaren apparently became too volatile to be the movement's main spokespeople and mascots. Their names are conspicuously absent from the "Special Letter About the Future." Don't be fooled by this. The new steering committee is no more sound, no less radical, and (judging from these new announcements) no less skilled in the jargon of pomospeak than their colorful and controversial former "National Coordinator" was.

It's hard to see anything in the "new" direction that is really distinct or significantly different from what Emergent has said and done in the past, but they do a good job of making it sound like the movement really has something huge and revolutionary to look forward to, don't they?

So let's not retire the Po-Motivators® prematurely, OK?







Phil's signature

45 comments:

philness said...

Pre-School Church.

The Bible Christian said...

Hey Phil

I don't comment much. But read much on pyro. I can always count on you to help me stay focused on the issues, historical Christianity is the path we always choose.

Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'

Thank you

Reformed and Renewed said...

Hi Phil
I sit here in Sunny South Africa and soak up all the good stuff. My Pastor is a a graduate of "The Master's Seminary" and having him is like having a young John McArthur. I know too many people who are deep;y involved inthis Emergent stuff and there is nothing good about it!
Love what you are doing keep it up,

Brad said...

Ah, well... now that that's all clear... boy I'm really excited now!

greglong said...

From the announcement:

The Village Green is open for planting seeds, throwing parties, living justly, discussing new ideas, connecting with new people, creating music and art and poetry, and yes, even sitting around discussing theology.

Well, it's good to know that they will "even" be discussing theology!

DJP said...

...in that order.

Sounds like less of a "reboot" than a repackaging.

Matt said...

Hard to read the "special letter" with a straight face. Wow. Sounds like grasping at straws.

Chad V. said...

So in other words, they're just like a bunch of college frat boys. Now I finally understand the movement.

donsands said...

"... to see justice embodied in our communal life together and fostered in our individual lives, and to bring more stories of justice to the table."

What?

Maybe this is what they are talking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhKDBLklin8&feature=related But who knows?

I received a nice letter from Shane. I wrote to him about my concerns of Brian McLaren, his friend. He said, "Brian is a Christian, no doubt"; though they have differing views on politics.

Christ's true children, (though passivists perhaps, and more people-centered than Christ-centered as they need to be, and may regard the Scriptures as God's Word, but haven't that zeal and joy for truth as they should), are my brothers and sisters, and I need to love them and listen, and share my understanding of the Gospel without apology, as I lean upon, and even stand firmly upon, the Holy Scriptures as our final authority.

Thanks for speaking the truth always Christ-focused. Another good post for the Body of Christ.

Chad V. said...

Maybe frat boys isn't quite accurate, more like the college philosophy club.

Frank Turk said...

I declare a 5-year moratorium on any further revisions of Emergent village until they have really thought about what they want to say.

DJP said...

Pretty sure Turk has now made the Comment of the Day on this meta.

Citizen Grim said...

Arggh... I was just talking to someone last night about how frustrating it is when Christians (who ought to know better) use the word "justice" when they really mean "mercy." Justice means giving people what they deserve. Mercy means giving people what they don't deserve. Many people (including more and more Christians) use the two terms interchangably.

The phrase "social justice" in the secular world comes out of the leftist tradition and the inherent assumption that the wealthy got where they are by taking advantage of the poor, therefore justice dictates that the wealthy be penalized and their money be given to the poor.

The Bible, meanwhile, stands in contrast, with its assertion that justice means justice for all - rich or poor - and no favoritism for one group or the other.

Do we have an obligation to care for the hungry, the oppressed, the downtrodden? Yes! But this is mercy. This is charity, this is grace, this is love!

To call this "justice" makes a complete mess of the word, dilutes the concept, and ultimately leads to the mistaken notion that, if people deserve food, shelter, clothing because of "justice," then God also owes them salvation.

Clearly, this couldn't be further from the truth. All of us - even the poor - deserve nothing. It's because of justice that our sin condemns us. It's because of grace and mercy (and that not of ourselves) that we are saved.

Everyday Mommy© said...

"...and yes, even sitting around discussing theology"...aw, Mom! Do we gotta'?

Reformed and Renewed said...

Ok read the "special letter" it is a teeny tiney bit vague. with eternal issues on the line why dont they talk about that rather than talk about talking?

donsands said...

"To call this "justice" makes a complete mess of the word, dilutes the concept, and ultimately leads to the mistaken notion that, if people deserve food, shelter, clothing because of "justice," then God also owes them salvation" -Grim

That's helpful. Grace and peace.

David Rudd said...

Citizen Grim,

I fear that in your right response to a perversion of the gospel known sometimes as the "social gospel", you've developed an incomplete idea of justice.

While the view you've espoused here is not wrong, it's just not all the Bible says about justice.

If you're interested, check out the following verses and see if they don't point to a more robust view of justice:

Deuteronomy 16:9 and 27:19
Proverbs 29:7
Amos 2:7 and 5:12
Zechariah 7:9
Matthew 23:23

Bob said...

Sounds kinda like the 60's only with a little religious flavoring.
yuck!

DJP said...

Don't leave out the squeaking pomposity.

stratagem said...

Frank probably made the clever zinger of the day, but Citizen Grim made the major point of the day, in my opinion. Kudos to both.

I think Emergent Village had better install a firewall or it will soon be 3.0. Maybe after that they'll find out that to keep a movement alive, you have to stand for something.

"Start a movement - eat a prune."

Daryl said...

C. Grim,

Great point. Lost on the left, which of course, includes the Emergent Village Green Party...

On the Village itself, why can't they just go away?
They've done enough damage and led enough people astray already.

Stefan said...

Chad (6:00 AM comment):

Yes—they're like freshman philosophy majors!

David Rudd:

Yes. While Citizen Grim makes an excellent point, the Lord God presents a broader concept of what constitutes "justice" in the inspired Old Testament, than just His righteous judgment against sinners (although it is an extension of that). Other verses:

Exodus 22:21-27
Deuteronomy 24:17
Isaiah 1:17, 23
Isaiah 10:1-2
Ezekiel 22:7
etc., etc., etc.

Stefan said...

The imbalance happens because not so much because the emergents consider something "justice" that isn't "justice," but because while they consider right treatment of the fatherless, widows, and strangers "justice" (which it is, according to the Old Testament), they don't give due regard to the whole scope of God's justice, including the full extent of His righteousness and holiness, and what He commands of us.

Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen said...

Are Emergent Village going to spend their entire lives waffling like this, or will they get round to something concrete? I'm 18 and this is not encouraging or inspiring to me.

David Rudd said...

Stefan,

I think you're right about the inbalance on the "left" side of the scale.

I also think we do well to remember that caring for the poor is a matter of JUSTICE. If we do not do it, we are injust. This helps keep us humble.

stratagem said...

Stefan and David Rudd: You guys are seriously confused about the definitions of justice as opposed to mercy. None of the verses cited say anything that would refute Citizen's correct distinction between those two words.

stratagem said...

Douglas: My opinion is that they are the Emergent Village Idiots. Navel-gazers such as they do not ever get around to anything concrete, because that would involve work and struggle. Instead, they tend to hide in the ivory towers of religious organizations and academia.

Citizen Grim said...

David Rudd:

I think you're on the right track - in fact, I think those verses support my point, namely that justice and mercy/love are distinct, yet both are required of us.

Deuteronomy 16:9 - Don't show partiality (i.e. towards rich or poor - see below).

Deut 27:19 - Do not practice injustice towards the weak.

Proverbs 29:7 - The poor have rights.

Amos 2:7 & 5:12 - Again, don't practice injustice against the weak.

Zechariah 7:9 - Great verse (like Micah 6:8) demonstrating that justice and mercy are both commanded.

Matthew 23:23 - Same as the above. Justice and mercy are both commanded.

We are commanded to act justly (that is to treat everyone without partiality, regardless of their social standing, and to mistreat no one, weak or poor). Likewise, we are commanded to be kind, loving, and merciful (that is, to feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the downtrodden, etc.) At best, they are two sides of the same coin. But they are not the same thing. Both essential. But not synonymous.

You said, "caring for the poor is a matter of JUSTICE. If we do not do it, we are injust." The implication here is that if one isn't caring for the poor, then they're oppressing them. I think this is a false dichotomy, along the lines of "If you're not with us, you're against us."

It would be much more accurate to say, "caring for the poor is a matter of LOVE. If we do not do it, we are unloving."


See also:
Ex 23:2-3: "You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit."

Lev 19:15 "You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor."

Deut 1:17 "You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike."

Strong Tower said...

Substituting tasteless uncolored gellatin for tasteless colored gellatin that was used to replace concrete foundations, makes lots of sense to me when you want to rebuild without becoming hard and immovable.

David Rudd said...

CG,

"At best, they are two sides of the same coin. But they are not the same thing. Both essential. But not synonymous."

I absolutely agree. They are certainly two sides of the same coin.

You said, "The implication here is that if one isn't caring for the poor, then they're oppressing them. I think this is a false dichotomy, along the lines of "If you're not with us, you're against us.""

I think we're saying the same thing, but let me clarify. I don't think you're saying, "it's okay to not care for the poor", right?

To what extent one can be "inactive" without being oppressive is probably a discussion for another time.

Mike Riccardi said...

Citizen Grim,

I've really benefited from your comments so far. Thanks for teaching me this.

donsands said...

"house the homeless,"

Some homeless think they are owed a house, even though they have squandered their God given talents in their own laziness.

"Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man." Pro. 6:6-9

"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied." 13:4

"The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
he will seek at harvest and have nothing." 20:4

Stefan said...

Stratagem:

I agree that the emergents' agenda is, overall, seriously whacked out, and is in many ways a rehashing of the Social Gospel movement, which in the end had practically nothing to do with the Gospel.

I also agree the modern popular conception of "justice" is very different from the biblical conception of justice—and doesn't derive from the same absolute moral authority.

That said, however, please consider the scriptural witness. There is more than one Hebrew word for "justice," but the main one used in the Bible is mishpat (משׁפט; Strong's H4941).

This same word mishpat is used in all of the following verses (and others as well):

"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before You." (Ps 89:14)

"For the LORD loves justice; He will not forsake His saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off." (Ps 37:28)

"The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice." (Dt 32:4)

"And David administered justice and equity to all his people." (2 Sam 8:15)

"You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless." (Dt 24:17)

"Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!" (Is 10:1-2)

The Social Gospel was an error that in the end denies the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the emergents are headed down the same broad way; but let us take care to not swing so far in the other direction that we miss what the Bible is actually saying.

Citizen Grim's last comment clarifies it well.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Most troubling is this:

"For the Village Green to flourish, it needs YOU to ignite that generative energy at the local and grassroots level."

Doomed to failure. The Holy Spirit makes those decisions in response to repentance and prayer. "Generative energy" does nothing, nothing, nothing.

Stefan said...

Wow. "It needs YOU to ignite the generative energy."

Thereby denying Deuteronomy 4:24, Jeremiah 23:29, and Matthew 3:11.

olan strickland said...

"Emergent Village Tries to Reboot"

Their HDD is corrupt! :)

GotToBTru said...

Well, a "boot" is clearly what was needed but I think they may have missed the proper point of application.

candy said...

Perhaps Brian McLaren is too involved with his Ramadan fast to participate in the restructoring of Emergent.

I have worked with homeless people and unfortunately many programs do not help the problem with homelessness, but perpetuate the problem. Many homeless people are professionally homeless and know how to work the system.

Widows and orphans are a good focus I believe. Single moms who struggle with making a living and raising kids alone really need our help. I think sometimes the social justice part of liberal Christianity just enables the "entitled" to continue in the rut of their lives without consequences regarding their choices.

Solameanie said...

Didn't President Obama refer to a "reset button?" If the EC guys and gals are "resetting" or "rebooting," the only thing that will happen is that the same old software will come up even though the graphics have changed.

As an aside, I just spent a day or so in Seattle. I saw plenty of emerging things, but didn't feel particularly desirous of emerging myself.

Joshua Seek said...

Hi folks,

This is not a reboot of Emergent Village, but a new aspect to it. If anyone is familiar with the concept of Community Groups, it's similar to that. The Village Green is meant to get people involved, encourage communication and community, and be active in the world. The lack of mentioning Christ, Scripture, or sound doctrine is not because those things are not important, but because they are the source, and product, of these other things. For example, in many churches people become part of children's ministries, or in the case of Grace Community Church, maybe you're in a ministry that directs people from far-off parking lots to the sanctuary. In these cases, you just working with children or directing traffic, but the reasons you are doing is because Christ calls you to serve, and in your seemly small ministry you have the chance to have community with other, and the love of Christ and the truth of Scripture comes out in those relationships.

As for me, being involved with emergent brings many conversations about theology, doctrine, Christ and the Scriptures, all of which we take very seriously and hold in regard. I look forward to see how the Village Green concept will continue to serve those in need, whether that need be spiritual or physical.

The reason you don't see much mention of McLaren, Jones, and Pagitt, is because they've all moved on to other parts of their lives. None of them ever wanted to be the bishops of a denomination. Pagitt has a radio show in Minneapolis now, and works more on his event company with Jones, who is likely too exhausted from his doctoral work to be involved in the day to day aspects of Emergent Village. McLaren would rather write than run something. But none of them ever intended to be the head of this thing, nor should they, because they knew that taking a position of power would ruin the intent of it. They are some of the most vocal people within emergent (largely because they've been published), but they're not the only ones. There are many diverse views and voices. Heck, I disagree with most of what McLaren says, and I'm not completely on the same page as Jones and Pagitt, but I don't have to be. I've never been completely on the same page as anyone in any church or ministry I've been a part of.

All that said, I know it won't change any views about the Emergent Village. But maybe it will encourage understanding. Oh, and I think Po-motivators are pretty funny.

donsands said...

"McLaren would rather write than run something."

And make support videos for Obama seems to have been important to Brian.

"The lack of mentioning Christ, Scripture, or sound doctrine is not because those things are not important, but because they are the source, and product, of these other things."

Christ is what the Sabbath is all about. We come to worship the Father in Spirit and Word.

Seems to me the EMC are too, too people-centered and are focused on "relationship' way too much.

Just my two mites.

Habitans in Sicco said...

Joshua Seek says, ". . . all of which we take very seriously and hold in regard."

Yes. These aren't the droids we're looking for.

Stefan said...

"...or in the case of Grace Community Church, maybe you're in a ministry that directs people from far-off parking lots to the sanctuary."

Was that a jab? ;)

"...all of which we take very seriously and hold in regard."

Surely you meant high regard?

"The Village Green is meant to get people involved, encourage communication and community, and be active in the world. The lack of mentioning Christ, Scripture, or sound doctrine is not because those things are not important, but because they are the source, and product, of these other things."

This is how both mainline liberalism and fundamentalism drifted away from the Gospel. They both started out with good intentions...but by assuming the Gospel and focusing on other things, they cut their anchor and set adrift in opposite directions.

Joshua Seek said...

"Yes. These aren't the droids we're looking for."

Love it! Fair enough.

Stefan, no, not a jab (on the parking issue). The experience of someone who parked a long ways away on a few occasions when visiting years ago. But the walk was worthwhile. Plus, it keeps the laity in good physical condition!

And, to be fair, I showed up about two minutes before the service.

Err, and yes, I meant high regard.

stratagem said...

Stefan - agree, Citizen's comments are superb.
Please understand, the Left's (and thus Emergent's) confusion of the words Justice and Mercy is intentional: We are all due Justice, we are not all due Mercy.
So if they used the words correctly, they would not be able to DEMAND mercy, but they can DEMAND justice. And, they are all about DEMANDING and not at all about APPEALING. The Left is autocratic and dictatorial by nature. They are going to take the Kingdon of God by force, not by appeal.
Read "Rules for Radicals" by Alinsky for further insight.