Bob Webber has now edited a volume called Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (Zondervan). If you’d like to enter into the muck and rake of emerging theology, this is one place to do so — a good example of how emerging “practitioners” think. Correction: I orginally assumed in light of a comment by Driscoll in the book, that the authors were asked to address three topics (Scripture, atonement, Trinity), but I have now seen the assignment and they were given 20 questions or so and could address any of them. I have slightly edited my comments below.
What this book shows is this: if each of these five pastors is considered emerging, then emerging theology can’t be defined — it is a spectrum from the conservatively orthodox to the progressive postmodern. That is, some minister to, others with, and yet others as postmoderns. Driscoll and Burke are “to” sorts; Kimball a “with”; and Pagitt and Ward “as” types.
The book is a 5 perspectives book. Each author writes out his or her view on each topic, and then the other four interact. The five authors are:
Mark Driscoll: Biblicist theology
John Burke: Incarnational theology
Dan Kimball: Missional theology
Doug Pagitt: Embodied theology
Karen Ward: Communal theology
It is not hard to guess how this approach works out as the book strolls along — Driscoll takes on each topic with gusto and comes up looking like what he is: a Reformed emerging pastor; John Burke comes up looking like a sensitive pastor to postmoderns who is a conservative evangelical. Both are orthodox in Scripture, Trinity and atonement; Driscoll is more defined than Burke. Burke is more concerned with building bridges in our pluralistic context; Driscoll tears the bridges down [read his responses to the various authors].
Dan Kimball comes up looking like a pastor to postmoderns with sensitivity to issues while at the same time not defining specifics; he keeps theology at the basic level of common agreements in orthodoxy. He’s an evangelical in theology: inspiration, Trinity, and substitutionary atonement.
Doug Pagitt discusses at length the conversational nature of theology; Karen Ward looks at each topic in nonpropositional, communal, and ritualistic ways. Pagitt gives us a dozen or so pages of his “Assumptions” and they can be seen as a summary of how theology is a conversation-in-context, or how an emerging pastor works out theology in a local context. Here are his assumptions: theology is meant to be temporary, it is profession, it is always contextual, theology is particular and a Spirit-led practice, and it takes shape today in the midst of tremendous change. And he says theology is a song and dance between gospel and culture. Theology is for unity, not uniformity; it is participatory and Christendom is not the goal.
Then he gives us “Characteristics of My Theology”: a theology pursuing rhythm with God, a theology of integrated holism, a progressive theology, a theology that includes co-creative theology, and a theology that is evolving. And then we get some thoughts on theological questions of our day: humanity, creation at the smallest level and creation at the largest level.