The Emergent Church can be a bit difficult to pin down. This is because they don’t like to identify themselves as a movement, and there are varieties of expression – various “streams” of emergent. It can be viewed be a logical “next step” of the church growth movement in transforming the visible church under the guise of meeting the needs of the culture. The purpose driven movement reached the “me” generation of consumers. The Emergent reaches the younger generation of postmodernists.
Postmodernist teachers in the emergent church are deconstructing biblical truth and denying fundamentals such as the inerrancy of God’s word, the creation account, the miracles and even the atonement from the pulpit. As Postmodernists, they believe that truth cannot be known and that it is prideful to assume to know it. They consider arrival at truth a “conversation”, where the process is more important than the goal. Some of them are professed “Christian atheists” that admit to a daily struggle to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that God is real. 1John 5 teaches Born again believers have the Spirit testifying in our spirit that Jesus is risen from the dead and God’s record concerning Him is true. This is what allows us to continue in the faith. We may doubt our salvation and right standing with God, and perhaps be sometimes demonically tormented with doubts about God himself. Being regenerated, the Spirit’s witness always brings us home. These teachers encourage a perpetual state of “questioning” that is en vogue and is considered to be a form of humility.
They openly state that there is the need of a new paradigm shift that will produce a new kind of Christian, and that the Word no longer has the answers for this postmodern generation. Once again the approach is “seeker friendly” – how do we “reach” this generation? The message of the gospel is not acceptable so new methods must be found.
They tend to be very intellectually oriented and consider themselves to be “forward” and “progressive” in their thinking. However in practice they are moving backwards toward a more medieval expression.They speak of a “New Spirituality” which they like to call “ancient / future”. They say it is the future of Christianity, but admit it is ancient in its roots. When they say ancient, they don’t mean early church – prophetic/apostolic (biblical) . They are really referring to mysticism / asceticism, such as the spirituality of the “Desert fathers” – second and third century mystics that were influenced by the pagan mysteries in Egypt and were highly heretical. They are tending to call this “contemplative Spirituality”.
Emergent expression is in many cases very sensory oriented. They believe that the ancient practices of the medieval church including the use of icons and images, prayer beads and other ceremonial practices- fused with modern media technologies –, are better suited to a “sight and sound” generation.