Whatever Happened to the Emergent Church?

[This will be a lengthy multi-part post with lots of detailed data but don’t let that fool you—the thread is intended to spur discussion, observations, and reflections on the Emergent Church movement and its leaders. This might include history from the time, personal anecdotes of experiences with the movement or its churches, or observations on where things ended up. Because of the amount of detail, I will break it up between two posts with the possibility of future additions.]

Whatever happened to the Emergent/Emerging Church?
For those too young to remember or not paying attention at the time, the Emergent/Emerging Church was a concept that had a great deal of evangelical ink spilled about it across the 2000s.

I suppose the best summary I can give is to say that the Emergent movement began as a missiological theory about the current state of Western culture and the best ways for Christians to appeal to and engage with that culture as a group. It had a lot to do with the presumed distinctions between living in a “modern society” versus a “postmodern society” and what those distinctions meant for Christians. A lot of time was spent theoretically pontificating on the meaning and nature of cultures, the general ways people know and understand and communicate, and then theorizing on the best ways to apply whatever that theory was to our situation in America at that moment. Whatever else it meant to any particular individual, Emergent tended to be a critique of “tradition” and “status quo” organized religion.

The list of the main leaders who were associated with the Emergent label were Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Dan Kimball, Leonard Sweet, Chris Seay, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Ryan Bolger, Scot McKnight, and Mark Driscoll. There are others, such as Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (Thomas Nelson, 2003), whose writing encapsulated the aesthetic of the postmodern “spiritual seeker” searching for “authentic community.” Finally, there is Phyllis Tickle, whose books The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why (Baker Books, 2008) and Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where Its Going, and Why It Matters (Baker Books, 2012) worked as official history of the movement after the label had begun to fade from relevance.

There were also men like Tim Keller and Ed Stetzer, who might be seen as relevant to the Emergent discussion through their cultural commentary and missiological theories, but were never directly associated with the Emergent Church. In this vein, there were numerous church planters and Acts 29 pastors who were adjacent to and influenced by the Emergent Church through Mark Driscoll but were more doctrinally orthodox than the main Emergent leaders or just later to the scene in general so they never took the name. Likewise, Rick Warren and Bill Hybels are sometimes connected to the movement through the massive influence of their “seeker-friendly” churches and their willingness to “rethink” traditional ministry, but their connection to Emergent was not direct as far as I can tell.

There were many attempts by conservatives to understand the movement and to chart its history:

Additionally, there were hundreds of blog posts—both pro and con—that discussed, debated, and deliberated the movement and its trajectory written throughout the time. Some are lost forever while others are still active. Many can still be traced back through the Wayback Machine if a URL can be found. Because the movement came about alongside the internet, there is a pretty hefty digital trail.

Unsurprisingly, the term “emergent” was notoriously difficult to define and at some point tended to describe the theologically liberal elements of the overall group. Mark Driscoll, for instance, makes a distinction between the “emergent church” and the “emerging church,” placing himself more in the “emerging” category. Dan Kimball embraced a similar distinction. Despite this nuanced distinction, most people used the two terms synonymously. Tony Jones, for instance, thought the debates over the terms were a silly waste-of-time. However, because many evangelicals were being warned about the dangers of the Emergent movement, the nuance was embraced by men like Dan Kimball and Scot McKnight—who wanted most of what Emergent had to offer but not the full theological liberalism that increasingly went with it.

Dan Kimball defined the Emerging Church as marked by a general “rethinking” of the church. This tended to be how definitions went—describing a common trait or a feeling as opposed to any kind of doctrinal statement or goal. Even the definition of “mission” and “missional” (which came into common use during this time and often connected with this movement) were not obvious or clear, as the ideas of what constituted evangelism and preaching were diverse.

Tony Jones was only slightly more helpful, describing the Emergent Church like this:

Within Christianity, many people are rethinking the structures of Christianity (prevalent on the “left”) and the dogmas of Christianity (prominent on the “right”). So an “emergent” Christian would really be anyone who is pushing against the traditional hierarchies and theologies of 20th century Christianity.

In other words, Jones (and, with him, many Emergents) wanted the theology of the mainline church with the free-range structure of evangelicalism. This idea gets elaborated a little more by Jones in the same interview, which can serve as a helpful summary of the guiding ethos behind the Emergent Church:

I was reared in a mainline, Congregational church. The theology there was pretty progressive, but the bureaucracy was depressingly entrenched—in fact, it still is. By “bureaucracy,” I mean committees, policies, parliamentary procedure, votes, ordination, etc. Emergent Christians are likely to question all of these accoutrements as extraneous to the gospel. But many of my emergent friends grew up in evangelicalism, so it’s the stultifying theology of conservatism that they’re challenging.

So, we return to the original question: whatever happened to the Emergent Church?

As for the term, it looks like the fad wore off. Some liked the term. Others shunned it. Others embraced it for a time but ended up leaving it behind. Fashion changed. It was probably destined to have a short shelf-life as it came to define a very specific set of aesthetic traits and arguments that were popular in certain young churches in the early 2000s. Also, the movement itself began by its resistance to set labels, preferring less confining terminology. No label would last forever.

As for the ideas of the Emergent church, plenty of them are still in circulation and some have become mainstream evangelical. The pragmatism of the evangelicalism of the time hasn’t faded. The anxious desire to chase after the world’s praise or to use worldly means to grow and sustain the church have not died off. Distrust of the Bible and a reliance on human cleverness to do the work of the Holy Spirit will always be with us.

Further, the mainstreaming of the “evangelical left” is one of the lasting legacies of the Emergent church. The “deconstruction movement” has a lot in common with what the Emergent Church was seeking to do in its own way, with only slightly different language.

What might the Emergents say about their work? Mike Clawson, curator of Emergent Village cohorts, said in 2014 regarding the changing landscape of the Emergent movement:

In many ways this work has been an unqualified success. From arts, to justice, to ancient-future spirituality, to alternative forms of church, to postmodern approaches to theology — ideas and practices that were fairly unique to the emergent conversation a decade ago are now commonplace within mainstream Christianity, and continue to spread. Thousands of churches, cohorts, neo-monastic communities, and other types of faith-based collectives incorporating emergent influences have also been planted over the years. And dozens of spin-off groups and ministries have formed to emphasize one aspect or another of Emergence.

As for the leaders of the movement, most of them have seamlessly segued into full-blown “progressive Christianity,” where their hatred of God’s Word and their love of images has only grown more obvious and more commonplace. Whereas it was fashionable to claim some ambiguity about not being defined by labels like “conservative" or "liberal” in the early 2000s, the ones who have fully embraced progressive ideologies happily put themselves within the “progressive Christian” camp nowadays. So much for the limitations of labels!

Throughout the Emergent movement, many of its leaders loved to skate the line of heresy and embraced the label heretic. It was a more theologically-charged word than iconoclast. For instance, The Heretic was the title of the 2018 documentary about Rob Bell. It is quite obvious now why many did this and it seems that even the word heretic may have lost some of its bite through it all, but that’s my own perception.

There does seem to be a stream of leaders who were connected with the Emergent movement who continue to promote a mushy spiritualism devoid of doctrinal clarity. There is still a market for such teachers so I suppose they will continue to have platforms until those wells run dry.

[My next post will be an individual profile of 6 major figures connected with the Emergent Church—charting their history with the movement and concluding with their current activities and thinking.]

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Individual Profiles: Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Dan Kimball, Leonard Sweet

BRIAN McLAREN

Brian D. McLaren was probably the best known of the Emergent authors. He was the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, MD which he began in 1982 and pastored until 2006, when he left to pursue writing and speaking full time. His books A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey (Jossey-Bass, 2001) and A Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan, 2004) were two of the essential texts of the Emergent movement. His later book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That are Transforming the Faith (HarperOne, 2011) was also quite popular, though later in the Emergent Church timeline. In 2005, TIME Magazine declared Brian McLaren was one of the 25 most influential evangelicals, alongside Rick Warren, James Dobson, and Billy Graham.

In 2011, McLaren defended Rob Bell against Al Mohler’s critique of Love Wins. The Christian Post summarized McLaren as saying:

No articulation of the gospel today can presume to be exactly identical to the original meaning proclaimed by Christ and the apostles, McLaren argued. He said Christians therefore should proclaim their interpretation with “humble confidence” rather than “a naive and excessive confidence.”

McLaren’s “humble confidence” led him to deny biblical sexuality shortly thereafter. He had presumably hinted about it for years but when McLaren led a gay commitment ceremony between his son and another man in 2012, it became something he was forced to address directly. McLaren explains his shift after receiving a letter from a disappointed former admirer:

In my case, I inherited a theology that told me exactly what you said: homosexuality is a sin, so although we should not condemn (i.e. stone them), we must tell people to “go and sin no more.” Believe me, for many years as a pastor I tried to faithfully uphold this position, and sadly, I now feel that I unintentionally damaged many people in doing so. Thankfully, I had a long succession of friends who were gay. […] Over time, I could not square their stories and experiences with the theology I had inherited. So I re-opened the issue, read a lot of books, re-studied the Scriptures, and eventually came to believe that just as the Western church had been wrong on slavery, wrong on colonialism, wrong on environmental plunder, wrong on subordinating women, wrong on segregation and apartheid (all of which it justified biblically)… we had been wrong on this issue. In this process, I did not reject the Bible. In fact, my love and reverence for the Bible increased when I became more aware of the hermeneutical assumptions on which many now-discredited traditional interpretations were based and defended. I was able to distinguish “what the Bible says” from “what this school of interpretation says the Bible says,” and that helped me in many ways.

This concept of an “inherited theology” has become a very prominent talking point among “progressive Christians” and faith deconstructionists.

These days, McLaren is still a sought after endorser of “progressive Christian” literature, as his blurbs can be found in books by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, and Peter Enns. You can find him participating as a speaker on the “progressive Christian” conference circuit. He also is a faculty member at Richard Rohr’s new age mystic school The Center for Action and Contemplation and wrote the Foreword to the paperback edition of Rohr’s The Universal Christ (Convergent Books, 2021). His 2021 book Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It (St. Martin’s Essentials, 2021) looks to be a deconstruction classic that, according to his website, “makes the bold proposition that only doubt can save the world (and your faith).” McLaren’s upcoming book Do I Stay Christian?: A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned (St. Martin’s Essentials, 2022) promises to show that “there is a way to say both yes and no to the question of staying Christian.” Unlike most other authors of the movement, McLaren’s books have been translated into multiple languages and his lies spread all over the world.

He is a Senior Fellow with Auburn Seminary, has a podcast entitled Learning How to See, has 66.6k followers on Twitter, and 48k followers on Facebook.

TONY JONES

Tony Jones was another well-known leader within the movement, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier (Fortress Press, 2008) and editor of An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Baker Books, 2007). Jones was also the national coordinator of Emergent Village from 2005—2008, an organization founded in 2001 that sought “ways to partner with others in bringing about conversations, events and resources that will fund our collective theological imaginations and embody the spirit of friendship that continues to be the hallmark of Emergent Village.” His position was eliminated in 2008 in an attempt to return the group to being a decentralized collective, and some observers saw this as the waning of the Emergent movement overall. Jones ran a personal blog on Patheos from 2004—2015.

In one blog post, from February 2004, Jones gave a cogent expression of the Emergent concept of theology:

Ultimately, I don’t think we need to be writing theology in “post-modern-ese.” I think we need to “do” theology that is grounded in praxis and deals with the challenges presented by postmodern theory and the postmodern situation.

In 2008—the same year his position was eliminated from Emergent Village—Julie McMahon (Tony Jones’s wife) discovered that Tony was having an affair with a woman named Courtney Perry. A messy divorce ensued but was finalized in November 2009 with child custody taking another 5 months to settle. However, accusations emerged online from Julie that Tony had been physically and emotionally abusive and that he had filed over 35 court motions against her and left her destitute while refusing to pay child support. Most of this information came out most conclusively in a 1,000+ comment thread underneath a blog post Tony wrote about the fall of Mark Driscoll that was later distilled by Wartburg Watch and Brad Sargent/”futuristguy.” It was further claimed by Julie that Emergent/progressive leaders Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Rachel Held Evans were covering up for Tony and spreading lies that Julie McMahon was mentally ill. Evans and Bolz-Weber refused to disassociate from Tony, who’s event planning group JoPa (a partnership between Jones and Pagitt) was helping host the feminist conference WX15/Why Christian?.

Tony and Courtney announced to the world that they were getting “sacramentally married” in 2011 (by Doug Pagitt at Solomon’s Porch) but would withhold getting “legally married” until gay marriage was legal. When the laws in Minnesota changed in 2013 to allow same-sex marriage, Tony and Courtney were legally married.

These days, Tony Jones brands himself as “The Reverend Hunter,” where his website calls him an "outdoorsman, theologian, and writer.” He has written against penal substitutionary atonement with A Better Atonement: Against the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin (The JoPa Group, 2012) and Did God Kill Jesus?: Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution (HarperOne, 2015). He teaches a “Christian Spirituality Cohort” at Fuller Theological Seminary, in which he is joined by Brian McLaren. He offers a $1250 canoe trip to northern Minnesota that promises “life-changing conversations around a campfire” as well as a $3000 writing trip to Italy. He also hosts a podcast called The Reverend Hunter where he “curates conversations about spirituality and the outdoors.” His Facebook page has 6k followers and his Twitter account has 16.7k followers.

A good summary of his ethos is seen in a tweet he posted upon the passing of radical feminist theorist, bell hooks: “Very much of how I teach and preach is based on the transgressive pedagogy of bell hooks. RIP”

DOUG PAGITT

Doug Pagitt was the founding pastor of Solomon’s Porch, an Emergent church in Minneapolis begun in 2000. He wrote several books for Zondervan in the early-2000s that were important to the Emergent movement: Reimagining Spiritual Formation: A Week in the Life of an Experimental Church (Zondervan, 2003), Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith (Zondervan, 2005), and Church Re-Imagined: The Spiritual Formation of People in Communities of Faith (Zondervan, 2005). Pagitt was also the founder of Emergent Village and one of the primary shapers of the movement.

Solomon’s Porch was noted for its sanctuary being a collection of couches and armchairs laid out like a family room rather than a traditional pews or chairs focused on a pulpit. This image was a common shorthand for the aesthetic thinking of Emergent Churches. Functionally, the services operated this way too. Pagitt’s mode of “preaching” was a practice he called “progressional implicatory dialogue,” which is a fancy way of saying having a group discussion rather than a straightforward teaching presentation. He described the “challenge of preaching to postmoderns” this way:

I think it’s that postmodern-minded people, at least with postmodern sensibilities, are looking for a different outcome in their Christianity than what most preaching seeks to provide, or what most preaching could provide. So it’s almost as if what preaching can do for a person is not the most highly valued outcome that people of postmodern sensibilities are looking for.

In 2011, Solomon’s Porch started their “Yoga Sanctuary” run by Pagitt’s wife Shelley, who is still on staff as the Yoga Sanctuary Director. This was several years after the “yoga debate” between John MacArthur and Doug Pagitt on CNN.

Today, Pagitt is executive director of Vote Common Good, an organization committed to “help flip the script on faith and politics in America” by causing “faith-motivated voters [to] understand that voting for Democrats is a reasonable and even preferable choice.” The organization began in 2018 but its current talking points are still about “providing alternatives to ‘Trumpism.’” Pagitt also started Greater Things Foundation, a nonprofit that promises that through “messaging and broadcasting” and “training and advocacy” it can help Christians “leave behind the narratives of exclusion, violence, greed, sexism, exploitation and racism rooted in white supremacy, and embrace instead faith and cultural narratives of reconciliation, inclusion, nonviolence, generosity, equality, and sustainability."

Pagitt’s website bio boasts that he is “an authoritative voice on progressive evangelicalism.” His more recent books include Flipped: The Provocative Truth That Changes Everything We Know About God (Convergent Books, 2015) and Outdoing Jesus: Seven Ways to Live Out the Promises of Greater Than (Eerdmans, 2019). He has 5.2k followers on Facebook and 11.8k followers on Twitter.

SPENCER BURKE

Spencer Burke was the founder of TheOoze, a website/magazine that encapsulated the liberalism of the Emergent Church. He wrote Making Sense of the Church: Eavesdropping on Emerging Conversations About God, Community, and Culture (Zondervan, 2003) and A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity (Jossey-Bass, 2006), where Burke says, “Religion declares that we are separated from God, that we are ‘outsiders.’ Grace tells us the opposite; we are already in unless we want to be out.” Marshall Shelley, Vice President of Christianity Today at the time, had this to say of Burke’s embracing of universalism:

If Spencer Burke is a heretic, it’s not because he’s teaching dangerous doctrine, but because he asks the questions about faith that today’s sensibilities naturally raise. Spencer is a winsome walking companion for those who find traditional dogma too narrow. It’s a thoughtful conversation.

Between 2011 and 2015, Burke wrote off-and-on for Red Letter Christians where he wrote an open letter to Rob Bell during the Loves Wins controversy to encourage him by reinterpreting 1 Corinthians 13 to be about Bell’s situation. He said:

But where there are absolute Truths, they will cease; where there are persuasive arguments, they will be stilled; where there is no doubt in any theological position I take, it will pass away. For we know in part and we try our best to make sense of our world, ourselves and God, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

Burke’s current bio describes him as “a widely sought after speaker, coach, trainer and strategist in the field of spiritual innovation.” His website greets visitors with the words “If you are interested in Spiritual Innovation and want to impact your world…” before presenting the following options below: sign up for a $99 six-week Lean Faith course or “join a global hybrid learning party for spiritual innovators” called Soularize or buy a copy of his 2006 book. He boasts of the book:

I wrote a book that got me in a little trouble, offering a way of looking at God, one centered on the idea of grace. Not a God who seems more intent on condemning certain practices… A God big enough to be questioned, not simply obeyed.

He has 450 followers on Facebook and 2.8k followers on Twitter.

DAN KIMBALL

Dan Kimball was the founder of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA in 2004 and is still in active leadership at the church. He wrote The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations (Zondervan, 2003) [with foreword by Rick Warren], Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations (Zondervan, 2004), and They Like Jesus, But Not The Church: Insights From Emerging Generations (Zondervan, 2007). He seemed to be more conservative theologically but, like Mark Driscoll, also wanted to embrace the missional aspects of the movement.

According to Mark DeVine, Kimball had defended the orthodoxy of the Emergent movement on his blog by saying, “All the emerging churches I know believe in the inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, the atonement, the bodily resurrection, and salvation in Jesus alone.” This was either ignorant or naive on Kimball’s part, but he did appear to distance himself somewhat from the more stridently progressive elements of the movement. This was expressed through a new network called Origins, which was a collaboration primarily between Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Moasic Church (Erwin McManus) in Los Angeles, and Newsong (Dave Gibbons) in Los Angeles although some other people were associated with it such as Bryan Loritts, Scot McKnight, Mark Batterson, and Skye Jethani.

Today, Kimball currently serves as the director of the ReGeneration Project alongside Scot McKnight, Alan Hirsch, and others. He is a core faculty member at Western Seminary and his CV says he is ordained by ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

His most recent books sound like throwbacks to the early Emergent days: Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion (Zondervan, 2012) and How (Not) to Read the Bible: Making Sense of the Anti-Women, Anti-Science, Pro-Violence, Pro-Slavery and Other Crazy Sounding Parts of Scripture (Zondervan, 2020). His latest book includes endorsements from notable Christian apologists Gregory Koukl, Josh McDowell, Frank Turek, and J. Warner Wallace and does not include any endorsements from notable progressive authors. He does not seem to have embraced the strident theological liberalism of the other Emergents, however his dress and hairstyle look like he’s still living in the early 2000s. However, Kimball and Vintage Faith Church do approve of and promote egalitarian leadership in the church. He has 17.7k followers on Twitter.

LEONARD SWEET

Leonard Sweet was an ordained United Methodist minister who was connected with the Emergent movement early on because of his books about church in the postmodernism age: Soultsunami: Sink or Swim in New Millennium Culture (Zondervan, 1998) and Aquachurch: Essential Leadership Arts for Piloting Your Church in Today’s Fluid Culture (Group Co, 1999). He also co-wrote ‘A’ is for Abduction: The Language of the Emerging Church (Zondervan, 2002) with Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer. According to Ed Stetzer, Sweet became more critical of the liberalizing bent of the movement by 2008 (at least privately), where Sweet said to Stetzer in an email:

The emerging church has become another form of social gospel. And the problem with every social gospel is that it becomes all social and no gospel. All social justice and no social gospel. It is embarrassing that evangelicals have discovered and embraced liberation theology after it destroyed the main line, old line, side line, off line, flat line church.

Sweet’s current website describes him as “a scholar of USAmerican culture; a semiotician who ‘sees things the rest of us do not see, and dreams possibilities that are beyond most of our imagining;’ and a preacher and best-selling author who communicates the gospel with a signature bridging of the worlds of faith, academe, and popular culture.” He is currently a visiting professor at Portland Seminary where he heads up the doctoral degree program for being a “Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics, Church, and Culture” which gives students “newfound skills in exegeting biblical and cultural metaphors, narratives, and images to recognize the signs of Jesus’ work in the world.” He is also a professor at Northwind Seminary in Florida, where you can take his class on “Semiotics, Communication, & Spirit Hermeneutics.” He still works with doctoral students at Drew University and Evangelical Seminary (Kairos) as well.

Through his “Preach the Story” website, supporters can pay $9 a month for access to a private facebook group with “curated posts from Leonard Sweet” or for $49 a month you get access to his “lectionary based VLOG content.” He hosts the Napkin Scribbles podcast. His most notable newer book seems to be Giving Blood: A Fresh Paradigm for Preaching (Zondervan, 2015), which is summarized like this:

If the church wants to converse effectively with a culture, it must learn that culture’s language. Today, our culture thinks not in words but in images, stories, and metaphors. So what does this mean for preaching? In this ground-breaking resource, Sweet offers an alternative to the traditional models of preaching, one that is fitting to a new culture and new modes of thinking. This first book of its kind moves preaching beyond its pulpit-centric fixation and toward a more interactive, participatory mode of communication. Seeing the sermon as sacramental conversion experience, Sweet presents a challenge to a church struggling to maintain in an image based, media-saturated world.

He has 16.1k followers on Facebook and 35.6k followers on Twitter.

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Thank you. I was always of the impression that Progressives could be distinguished from many historic liberals, in that they (the Progressives) allowed the miraculous, in terms of the Resurrection and Virgin Birth. What they certainly do is cherry-pick the Gospels as their rule of faith, because they think that by doing so, they can avoid the many bits of Paul they don’t like.

I would have said the the progressives are the historic liberals of today (today being the 2000s).

We’re not a modernist scientific society anymore. Miracles are no problem; the authority of scripture is definitely a problem.

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Do you have any information on Andrew Jones, aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, and his involvement in this movement?

Last dude looks like an older Inigo Montoya. That is my only contribution to this thread.

Interesting information, thanks for the write up. Reminds me of several years ago when I had a friend who was becoming enamored with Rob Bell, and conversations I had with him to warn him away. I’m very thankful for God’s kindness in snatching my friend back from the fire on that one.

I am reminded of the deceitfulness of smooth speech and plausible-sounding arguments, and the need to be anchored firmly in the word of God.

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How much is the Woke/CRT stuff of today just a repeat of Emergent Church controversy? It seems this way to me.

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The same thought occurred to me when reading this, Ben, but it seems to me that Woke stuff has a far bigger grip on notionally conservative churches than the Emergent stuff ever had.

Though I note with no evidence other than anecdata that folks who were Emergent-adjacent 10 years ago are far more likely to be Woke today than folks who rejected the Emergent stuff wholesale.

It looks to me like a big chunk of what we had thought of as Evangelicalism is about to follow the UCC and the UMC and the PCUSA down the primrose path to apostasy.

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Thanks for the write-up. I have hoped the Woke movement would die out like the emergent movement. (Though maybe it hasn’t died out but not present in my church life, and I’m not in college anymore.)

But the Wokesters have more pull in society at large; mainstream media is talking about how it will be “our” next “great” export.

I was spared falling for the movement despite being in college at the time. I read Blue Like Jazz (everyone was raving about it). It felt like mushy gobbledygook to me. It didn’t seem to have a point beyond ‘don’t make a point’ (which is a point so…).

My dad was a hard-working man, a dairyman. (A great man.) He wasn’t perfect. He had almost no appreciation for ‘the arts’ (beyond literature and Anton Dvorak) and scoffed at much of it. I knew he wouldn’t care for the likes of Blue Like Jazz and the emergent movement. That was helpful to me.

I guess I say all that to say that if you keep the fourth commandment as best as you can, it will help keep you out of craziness like this.

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I think you’ve hit it.

“That you may live long in the land” is not just a promise of habitat - but of faithfulness. The land vomited out the faithless ones.

My own college experience was tempered by my (inadequate and woeful) attempts to honor my mother and father and grandparents. It kept me from the foulest thing: desertion of my God.

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Thanks, a useful comment. The move away from a modernist scientific society is definitely worth pointing out.

My own anecdata (lol) tells me that during the Emergent fad, Calvinists and Reformed people, including especially TGC, were the main targets of Emergent disgust. You could be any kind of Christian you like, just not a Calvinist. The Young, Restless and Reformed stood firm against the Emergents.

Emergent guys pioneered Christian blogging, our humble hosts here excluded. TGC was unique because it was a big blog and information site that was conservative and Reformed. They responded to them with their own technology. The Baylys and Doug Wilson started their own blogs early and got into the fray.

Today, many of the YRRs who were hated and despised for being “Together for the Gospel” now speak in the similar social gospelly turns of phrase that the Emergents once did. And T4G is closing up shop.

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I have avoided much trouble in life by avoiding things I know my father would tell me to avoid.

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Ha! Similarly, one of my friends said, “Why do all the Emergent guys look like street magicians?” He’s not wrong…

Regarding Andrew Jones:
As far as I can tell, Andrew Jones did not write any books but instead was purely a blogger. He seemed to be the most hippie-like of the Emergent group. His older blog profile lists his interests as:

Traveling around the world with my family in a 4x4 truck to see the world that god loves, to eat unusual food {but not too unusual} and to help change the world by telling stories, throwing parties, making friends and giving gifts. I am interested in spirituality and religion as it collides with new media and the emerging culture and this is the subject of my blog.

He lost his wife Debbie in 2016 to malaria and typhoid while traveling in Africa.

I scrolled through several years worth of his blog “Tall Skinny Kiwi” and he doesn’t seem as stridently liberal as guys like McLaren and Pagitt but he also doesn’t look fully orthodox either. He did officially part ways with the Emergent Village in January 2010, of which he said:

EV [Emergent Village] is a hard group to leave because its a flat structured organization and there is no one to inform that you are de-friending yourself, or getting de-friended, from this “generative friendship”. Also hard because there are so many wonderful people still involved. […] I have been watching as new theological emphases and sectarian attitudes towards church emerge and it is just not something that I can lend my name to or my time. In the early days, I joined the leadership of the Young Leaders group (that eventually became Emergent Village) because it was more about uniting churches around mission and equipping people to reach the next ‘postmodern’ generation. I hope they can shift it back again to its origins.

Clearly he didn’t leave with any kind of warning but as a very amiable “parting of company” with the acknowledgement of there being “many wonderful people still involved.”

One very troubling thing I found was the “solidarity” he wanted to show to Muslims in 2010, 2011, and 2012 by starting a tradition called “Blog a Koran.” 2012 seemed to be the last year he did that but that above link is an example of what he was getting at with that exercise.

In 2017, he had plenty of commendations to give to Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller in their assault on complementarianism. Overall, he was no fan of "New Calvinism." Most recently, he was very excited about the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast—as many of the Emergent guys who disliked Mark Driscoll have been.

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