According to Jim Belcher, a pastor-theologian, there is Third Way with, between and beyond the traditional and the emergent. He sketches such a Third Way in his new book, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional
One thing he has to do is define “emerging.” No small task. But he observes that emerging can’t be reduced to reaching a new culture by recontextualizing. Emerging is more theological and philosophical than that. And that is where the issues really do emerge. Belcher defines emerging/emergent by examining what “emerging” is against. What are they against? Glad you asked — seven things:
Are these the major complaints by emerging folks against traditional church, evangelicalism and otherwise? Would you find others that are more important?
1. Captivity to Enlightenment rationalism — sure, lots to say here, lots of need for nuance, but this is indeed a major protest by emerging folks. The evangelical church’s approach to all things is too rational and too much like cultural captivity to the Enlightenment’s rational approach.
2. A narrow view of salvation: Belcher nails it with this; emerging/emergent has long been dissatisfied with the evangelistic strategy — get decisions — of too many in evangelicalism. Kingdom of God theology matters.
3. Belief before belonging: the theory that one must believe all the right things before one can be a member of a group is a deep concern. There are too many boundaries.
4. Uncontextualized worship: the music and focus of Sunday services are too old and irrelevant to postmoderns.
5. Ineffective preaching: here Belcher brings in Doug Pagitt’s “speaching” and the Sunday service that focuses on one person preaching and everyone else listening; emerging wants more interaction.
6. Weak ecclesiology: emerging folks have said the traditional mode is too focused on form and not enough on mission.
7. Tribalism: emerging thinkers tend to be post-denominational in approach and deeply suspicious of institutionalization. And, there’s too much anti-culture in evangelicalism.
After sketching Ed Stetzer’s types (relevants, reconstructionists, revisionists), Belcher makes a point: traditionalist critique of emerging has found the worst case scenarios and the most extreme statements. As no Calvnist wants Calvinism reduced to burning Servetus, so no emerging leaders wants its movement shaped by its extremist ideas. And the emerging folks need to avoid the same and need to recognize the good in the traditionalist church.