When the emerging generation of Christian thinkers and leaders claims that it is “post-evangelical” and “post-modern” and “post-liberal” and “post-fundamentalist,” in fact “post” a lot of things, it means among other things the following:
First, it does not necessarily mean that is is “anti” any of those things in a radical sense. I can’t speak for anyone else and especially for “all” of any group, but my sense is that the “post” of the emerging conversation is the protest within the family rather than the protest of those outside.
Second, it is “post” in the sense of “after” and “following.” This is very important to emerging voices: a new day, a new generation, a new perception, a new way of doing church, and a new way of conducting ourselves in our society and in our world has dawned. They want to be part of that “newness” and to be part of that “newness” they need to “move beyond” what is going on. Each of these deserves lengthy comment, but I can’t do that in this post.
Third, voices vary and ears need to be tuned in but to say one is “post” is not an arrogant claim. Some can use rhetoric that smacks of arrogance and superiority and even condescension, but such is not inherent to what I am hearing from the leaders and especially the many pastors and Christians I know. I’ve heard the same language, and sometimes I think it is inflammatory and sometimes unwise: but deep inside I see a commitment here to reach for a new way of being a Christian in our world. Who can criticize the attempt of the modern generation to live out the gospel more completely?
An image to consider: because my father was a track coach, I grew up watching track meets. And because it was part of my blood, I also competed for our high school team on the track team. I wasn’t much of a runner but I did get to run at times on relay teams (not the sprint ones!). Picture the relay team:
The first runner holds the baton, runs his or her part of the race, and then hands on the baton to the next runner, and when four have done this it is all over.
Any Christian with a sense of history knows that this is a nice image for what each generation does with the gospel: each of us is called to proclaim and perform the gospel in the generation of God’s own choosing. As we take the gospel baton from the previous generation, so we pass it on to the next generation. Each generation is “post” the previous generation: the first generation sets the race up for us and it is ours to carry on what the previous generation hands on to us but to run our race with those who race with us. The emerging movement believes that those who running with them in the race are not the same as those who ran with the previous generation (and I consider it my calling to run the race and to pass on the baton as I’m running — here the image gets a little messy, just like life). Frankly, I think they are mostly right but I think they like to assert the difference both because they sense it in a way that the previous generation doesn’t and partly because it establishes their own vocation more clearly to “name” it, but also I think sometimes it overstates the case.
At any rate, the emerging movement is conscious that it is “post” a great many things, not the least is that it “posts” a great deal of blogs that the previous generation doesn’t know much about.