IS THERE A DIFFERENCE? EMERGING VS EMERGENT
Some have argued that I am being unfair in criticising the 'Emerging Church'. They draw a distinction, saying that the 'Emergent' church is different from the 'Emerging' church - with the 'Emergent' church being the more radical liberal wing of the movement and the 'Emerging' church being more mainstream.
Now to respond to this question firstly, I understand that there are different types of people within the movement, whatever you want to call it. Some are orthodox Christians and some are outright heretics, with a continuum of everything in between. One could compare it with the movement of socialism: There is a major difference between the socialism of the British labour party and that of the old Communist Soviet Union, but both use the same name 'socialist'.
The most substantial radical distinction between those in the movement is the difference between those who are 'Missionaries of historic orthodox trying to reach postmodern society' and those who are 'Missionaries of postmodernism to the church, trying to integrate it with Christianity'. Confusingly, both types of people sometimes call themselves 'Emerging'. Now I myself am also trying to reach postmodern society with the gospel and try to be culturally sensitive where this is possible without compromising, but do not wish to associate myself with the movement - but others do. And that creates confusion.
Some claim that 'Emerging' means the 'orthodox' wing and 'Emergent' means the unorthodox liberal wing of the movement. For example, read:
Now the question is whether there is any widely accepted consensus on the difference of meaning of the terms 'Emerging' and 'Emergent'? A brief internet search comes with the answer: 'No". Many leaders such as Don Carson (anti-) and Brian McLaren (pro-) use the two terms interchangably.
Tony Jones (pro-) argues no distinction and opposes all 'line drawing'.
Doug Paggit defines 'Emergence' as what is happening in society; 'Emerging' as what is happening in the church as a result of the social changes; and 'Emergent Village' as the core network of leaders within the movement.
Those leaders associated with 'Emergent Village' have tended to 'emerge' with the most eccentric, liberal and extreme theological errors, which is probably why many have extended the use of the term 'Emergent' to mean the 'liberal' wing of the movement. But I would argue that these leaders are just those radicals who are most enthusiastic in reinterpreting Christianity through a post-modern lens - and their much larger constituency of orthodox evangelical followers are the laggards slowly following in the wrong direction behind them. The longer these people immerse themselves in postmodern thinking, the further they tend to stray down the road of error. In other words it is often a distinction between the 'wolves in sheeps clothing' and the 'sheep' following the wrong way with them.
Some have claimed all successfully trying to reach postmoderns e.g. Tim Keller, a conservative evangelical, as part of the 'Emerging Church',
but Keller himself rejects the label.
Mark Driscoll is exceptional in that as part of the movement, he has distanced himself from some other emerging church leaders "In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the Emerging Church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me. Examples include referring to God as a chick, questioning God's sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a low view of Scripture, and denial of hell which is one hell of a mistake."
I think such distancing from theological liberals is commendable and I would encourage others who identify themselves with the Emerging Church movement to do the same. Driscoll sees four categories of 'Emerging Church' of which he strongly rejects the liberal category.
Others have labelled him as 'a theological misfit and no longer emergent'
I personally use the two terms 'Emerging' and 'Emergent' interchangably because that is what I see most others doing, but understand that others use them to mean different things. I personally wish that they did mean different things, because it would help me to draw a distinction between the orthodox evangelicals and the extremist unorthodox liberals. But reality is that there is no consensus on a distinction between these terms.
But if you happen to be one of those people who self-identifies with the Emerging Church, and is trying to reach postmoderns with historic orthodox Christianity without using postmodernism as a lens to re-interpret the Bible - then please understand that I am not attacking you. I personally believe it is unhelpful to share the same label as those who are spreading theological error in the church, but if you are not spreading error then I don't reject you as a Christian brother simply because of the label. But if you do wish to use this label, I would urge you to publicly distance yourself from the errant teachings being promoted by others who use the 'emerging' or 'emergent' label.
I would argue that those conservative evangelicals who want to reach postmoderns in a culturally relevant way, rather than trying to split hairs over the distinction between 'emerging' and 'emergent' should invent a completely new an different label for themselves to distance themselves from the emerging 'wolves in sheeps clothing' who are trying to reinterpret Christianity through the lens of postmodernism.
But my really big issue is actually not with those who self-identify as 'emerging' or 'emergent' - these are mostly just just the vanguard of the confusion. My issue is a concern about the millions of young Christians who without consciously realising it, have adopted the worldview of postmodernism and placed Christianity as just a minor sub-set or 'religious department' of this worldview - rather than seeing Jesus as Lord of all of life and the Bible, the word of God as authoratative for all of life. This is the 'Lost generation' of Christians who need to be brought back to authentic biblical Christianity and to use this real Christianity, relevant to all of life to reach and convert the unsaved from postmodernism to Christ.