Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Coherence as Community

posted by xscot mcknight

No Evangelical or post-Evangelical group believes more in the Church than does the Emergent movement, though there will be plenty who would like to resist this claim. And I do not mean at all to suggest that anyone else doesn’t believe in the Church.

All I mean by this is that Solomon’s Porch puts its entire reputation on the line, the entire reputation of their reworking of the basics of Christianity, in what everyone can see and believe and experience as they see/believe/experience the gospel through that community. The apologetic for the gospel of the Church is the witness of the Church.

This is why at Solomon’s Porch you might be hard-pressed to get a “theological statement” or a “confession of faith.” Weekly, according to Reimagining Spiritual Formation, creeds are recited in public gatherings, but the creeds change from gathering to gathering because, instead of anchoring into one creed, Solomon’s Porch wants to live out the faith in a postmodern world while standing on and moving from those historic creeds (and this is both biblical creedal statements and classical creeds like that from Nicea).

One of the issues theologians like me find frustrating is that we’d like a little more coherence, but I suspect Solomon’s Porch is not going to give us some rational systematic theology but is instead offering to us (even experimentally) a coherence that is to be found, not in theological thinking, but in the life a local community lives out as it follows Jesus and lives in harmony with the work of God on earth.

In other words, Solomon’s Porch really does believe (so far as I can tell) that the ulimate coherence of the gospel must be found in a theology that comes to life in a community, and that until that community lives it out, that theology alone cannot provide the coherence that God wants.

Perhaps never has so much been vested into the embodiment of the local church.

Next blog will be on “embodiment.”



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Rob

posted April 28, 2005 at 8:17 am


Is it just me, or does the emergent movement remind anybody else of neoorthodoxy? I don’t mean that as a criticism; personally I thought neoorthodoxy’s emphasis on the experience of the heart served as a necessary corrective to modern evangelicalism’s tendency towards the sterile intellectualism of the mind. I dunno–could be all wet on this, as I so often am, but just something I’ve been thinking a bit about lately. We are often so busy creating either/ors when its really both/and.



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Anonymous

posted April 28, 2005 at 8:52 am


Scot,did people the midwestern churches of your youth latch on to Francis Schaeffer? So many of our generation are indebted to his opening the way for us to actually be Christians and be in any church without having to check our brains at the door. Of course, the apologetic stuff was the draw- it was everything that some emergers are reacting against (modernist, linear, foundational)- it fit neatly with the “evidence that demands a verdict” outlook. That was his academic training. But he developed his apologetic through relational interaction in his personal life, and he had more to say than the apologetic stuff.I think his most important work is “The Church at the End of the 20th Century”, where he sets forth the real apologetic for Jesus: the beauty of human relationship come to full fruition in communities of Jesus-followers. (He shied away from using the word “love” because he said it had lost its meaning.) He pointed out that Jesus said the world would have the right to judge whether or not he came from the Father by the tenor of relationship in the community. This is a very public matter. Schaeffer claimed this would speak volumes more to people than any other apologetic we might offer. He had some very hard words for the church, which were so ignored in favor of the intellectual thing. Francis Schaeffer!!!! (forgive the excessive exclamations- I’m Italian, and that’s the equivalent of waving my hands at you-)He saw the issues with epistemology, ecclesiology, nihilism, Christians ignoring the environment, art as expression of culture, etc. long before anyone in the church, or he himself, perhaps, could name things “postmodern”. From what I read, he was not yet willing to grapple with the issue of church structure, but I think if he were alive he would be seriously conversing with emergent/ing folks, learning and integrating and -yes- evolving. :)Dana Ames



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Anthony Smith

posted April 28, 2005 at 4:26 pm


I do think that Emergent “theologizing” has latched on to particular neo-orthodox voices. But what were neo-orthodox voices. Voices that took serious the theology of the early Church and the Patristics. The notion that the Church’s apologetic fits well with Tertullian’s dictum long ago that says, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?” An apologetic of embodiedment of the gospel is not some new thing…its been around for millenias. It is this foundationalist, modernist gospel that’s the new kid on the block.Anthony



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Anonymous

posted April 28, 2005 at 9:37 pm


Anthony, neo-orthodoxy does not latch on to the Fathers. It rejects most of what the Father’s said. It calls itself neo-orthodoxy because it draws on the allegorical style found in some of the Fathers, but does not have the theological commitments that were handed down to the Fathers from the apostles. It is a new breed, later than the others you mentioned.



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Brian

posted April 29, 2005 at 3:38 am


I am not familiar with the Emergent movement. But after we learned the basics of christianity, and making sure that we are conservative, reformed, and not liberal, then this is what I think about theology and church life: unless in church we can love each other and genuinely live out the life that Jesus is already living in each believer, then debaring on theology and denominational differences is of no use for us.



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Mike

posted April 29, 2005 at 4:50 am


The quote is attributed to various writers (although, I think, it came from Augustine), but here it is:In essentials, unity;In nonessentials, liberty;In all things, charity.For the emergent movement, however, it seems to have been modified to:In essentials, liberty;In nonessentials, liberty;In all things, liberty.I greatly appreciated some of the corrective emphases (such as community) that the e-movement brings to an individualistic, American church. But is it necessary to jettison basic truth to accomplish this? Is it not possible to narrow the essentials – there really are only a few, core, non-negotiable issues – and to broaden the nonessentials?Love and acceptance are not difficult if there are no points of disagreement; unity within a family of opinionated people is far more – shall we say? – miraculous?Perhaps it is just the nature of dialectics to go to the opposite extreme. We are, indeed, like the drunken man on a horse – falling off one side only to remount and fall off the other side.



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Jeffrey

posted April 29, 2005 at 9:35 am


Scott,As a young (22) church planter and a product of postmodernity myself, I could not agree more with your analysis of Solomon’s Porch.Yes the “ultimate coherance of the gospel” must be a theology that come to life in community! Afterall, without authentic community, there is no church.



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ScottB

posted April 29, 2005 at 11:01 am


Mike, I’m not sure I’m tracking you here. Can you give us some specifics of the essentials that you think the emerging church is jettisoning? Could it be, as you say, that the emerging church conversation is simply defining essentials differently than you might?For example, I know of no person involved in the conversation that denies that faith in the person and work of Christ it essential. In what way it is essential may be under discussion – there may be different views of atonement, for example, than just penal substitution, but atonement itself is from what I’ve seen always affirmed.I’m just wanting some clarification so that I can understand better what you’re responding to.



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Anonymous

posted April 29, 2005 at 11:52 am


What’s interesting is that the quote, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty” which was never said by Augustine (it was wrongfully attributed to him) is what has lead to the emergent movement. The phrase was first constructed by a 16th Century humanist, who was more pietistic in emphasis. That very standard adopted by evangelicals, and now considered the “obvious” norm for the Christian community, has lead to the idea that there are some theological truths the Bible teaches and that have been held by the orthodox Church as a whole that are “non-essential.” The belief that theology can be “non-essential” and have little bearing on one’s relationship with God has simply come to fruition in the pomo era. Now very little is essential, and Christianity is redefined in mystical unity rather than overall unity in the truth/s of Christianity. This mess was made by those before us. The fathers ate sour grapes and now the children’s teeth are set on edge.



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bill bean

posted April 29, 2005 at 12:08 pm


Again, good work. I like what I’m reading, Scott. (maybe that’s why I think it’s good work)”coherence in community” makes since to me. What comes first, theology or community? I suppose that question is at least a little simplistic but what I’m getting at is that if this emerging church thing continues for some time, cohering as a community, then I would suspect that sometime in the future a systematization of emerging church theology might be doable. In the meantime some may have to leave the task of pigeon-holing to their progeny.In other words, “We’ll have to get back to you on that.”



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Scot McKnight

posted April 29, 2005 at 3:56 pm


Again, I think it would be unfair to reduce Emergent to those who think “liberty” runs in all directions.Dana,Francis Schaeffer was influential for me and for the 70s generation. I still dip into him at times, and I think he could provide fire for the Emergent folks in his critical stance over the incompleteness of the gospel among so many who are orthodox and evangelical.And wait a minute on the point that he avoided the word love: his little book of about 30 pages, called The Mark of a Christian, completely traded on love one another.And, you are very right about both his focus on ecclesiology (of a more public and authentic nature rather than a local shape) and a full gospel is also a good reminder. Dana, I read every book he wrote until just after No Little People, and then I only dipped into what he wrote after that. Bill, the idea of “waiting” is important for me in looking at Emergent — and do I need to emphasize again that the movement is diverse? I want to see what they are doing — are they producing powerful witnesses to the gospel? persons who love God and love others? persons who are holy and who seek to glorify God? do they want to live out the whole gospel with integrity and authenticity? Well, from what I see, that is a central concern.



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Fernando Gros

posted April 30, 2005 at 7:45 am


Certainly some interesting thoughts swirling around here. It was helpful that you didn’t just nail teh coherance issue but sought to move beyond it. Coherance in the sense trained systematic theologians look for is really only possible when one abstracts from the local. Emergent ecclesiology is all about the local.



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Pooh

posted May 18, 2005 at 9:09 pm


Man this is a good post.



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