Fads have become the engines that drive culture in the 21st Century. Corporations chase fads in order to profit from them in various ways. Corporations also create fads as a means of marketing their products. The ideal marketing program is the establishment of a cult following such as Harley Davidson has done in the motorcycle world. To understand this phenomenon see GoingFaster.com, BusinessWeek.com and TheMotleyFool.com

The latest fad to hit the church scene is known as “The Emergent Church” (Emergent Church Vocabulary). So, what exactly is the emergent church? It’s hard to tell because it is still emerging. Nonetheless, careful examination of the roots of “emergent theory” (The Concept Of Emergence) will reveal the driving spirit behind the fad.

The term “emergent” was coined by the pioneer psychologist G. H. Lewes who wrote:

Every resultant is either a sum or a difference of the co-operant forces; their sum, when their directions are the same — their difference, when their directions are contrary. Further, every resultant is clearly traceable in its components, because these are homogeneous and commensurable. It is otherwise with emergents, when, instead of adding measurable motion to measurable motion, or things of one kind to other individuals of their kind, there is a co-operation of things of unlike kinds. The emergent is unlike its components in so far as these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference (Lewes 1875, p. 412)(Blitz 1992).

…the concept behind the term has been in use since at least the time of Aristotle. John Stuart Mill and Julian Huxley are just some of the historic luminaries who have written on the concept.

Source: Wikipedia

The alert Christian will note that the sources of emergent theory are not biblical or Christian. Rather, they are Godless in nature and Liberal and/or Socialist in character. The historical roots of emergent theory reveal that it is antithetical at every point to Scripture and Christianity.

In philosophy, emergence is often understood to be a much stronger claim about the etiology (cause) of a system’s properties. An emergent property of a system, in this context, is one that is not a property of any component of that system, but is still a feature of the system as a whole. Nicolai Hartmann, one of the first modern philosophers to write on emergence, termed this categorial novum (new category).

Systems with emergent properties or emergent structures may appear to defy entropic principles and the second law of thermodynamics, because they form and increase order despite the lack of command and central control. This is possible because open systems can extract information and order out of the environment.

Emergence helps to explain why the fallacy of division is a fallacy. According to an emergent perspective, intelligence emerges from the connections between neurons, and from this perspective it is not necessary to propose a “soul” to account for the fact that brains can be intelligent, even though the individual neurons of which they are made are not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence

Source: Wikipedia

Note that this explanation attempts to provide philosophical explanation for the emergence of new categories of being, what is considered to be the creation or development novel categories, levels or entities of being where no such category, level or entity existed previously. In other words, the emergent theory is ultimately attempting to explain what the Bible calls creation from a Godless, evolutionary or materialistic perspective. It attempts to explain the origin and appearance of mind and soul without reference or recourse to God or to Scripture. The root and the goals of the emergent theory are not insignificant.

The Emergent Church

As for church, “Emergent” is a name that is being used at the moment to describe the church’s response to the current emerging culture, and the peculiar aggregation of believers being called up out of this culture to follow Jesus back into it.

“Emergent” as it is used in “emergent theory” is a name given to the phenomena (sic) of how new organizational structures progress from low-level chaos to higher level sophistication without a hierarchical command structure. Emergent theory explains how birds change direction, how slime mold moves, how ant colonies are built and how Amazon.com knows so much about us. The process involves constant communication and feedback among the lowest level of organization, pattern recognition, local action affecting global behavior, and takes into consideration the element of unpredictability in a chaotic system. Solomon was wise in suggesting that we observe the ways of the ant and be wise (Proverbs 6:6) And the emerging church has been wise in allowing the vocabulary from emergent behavior to give a window of insight to the traditional church.…

New churches among the emerging culture generally have an organizational structure that is best described as “emergent.” Emergent organizations (ant colonies, slime mold) organize from below rather than top-down, they depend on feedback for adaptation, show decentralized thinking, and respond locally in a way that affects the global situation. In writing about the “Character of the Emergent Church,” Kester Brewin sees emergent systems as being open systems, adaptable systems, learning systems, having distributed knowledge, and modeling servant leadership” (From The Complex Christ: Signs of Emergence in the Urban Church).

“Our minds may be wired to look for the pacemakers, but we are steadily learning how to think from the bottom up” (Steve Johnson, Emergence).

Emergent behavior is a good way to describe how new churches are responding to a complex world of chaotic unpredictability and multiple possibilities. One of the defining features of emergent churches is that they are usually started with no predetermined ideal of what they will mature into or what size and shape they will become, since they will be also be shaped by the culture they transform. Another word for this is “missional.” Unpredictability opens the possibility for a miraculous intervention and retooling by God during the process, as long as structures are simple, and communication is constant.

Source: LeRon Shuts Blog

PSR logo

One of the things that concerns me most about the so-called emergent church is the character of some of the organizations that are actively involved in shaping it. Consider my seminary alma mater, whose logo appears to the right.

PSR is undoubtedly the most radically Liberal seminary in America that still claims to be Christian. However, its close association with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Swedenborgian movement suggest that it has long since left any version of orthodox Christianity. PSR also hosts the The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry and has been, if not the earliest, at least one of the most significant institutions promoting the acceptance of homosexuality is society and in Christianity. These facts give me great difficulty, and my subsequent conversion to historic, biblical Christianity since graduating from PSR continue to weigh heavily upon my spirit. If nothing else, the Lord has given me through my conversion an unusual understanding of the spirit, forces, philosophies and theology of this movement.

So, what does this have to do with the emergent church? PSRs new motto is “Equipping historic and emerging faith communities for ministries of compassion and justice.” PSR has positioned itself to be a driving force in the emergent church. Caution: steep decline ahead.

The emergent church is not a new phenomenon that is arising from some advanced state of society, as if it were some sort of new evolutionary entity or institution. Rather, it appears to be more akin to Ephesian 4:14: “…tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” The appearance of what is being called the emergent church is a fruit of a particular kind of theological cascade. The nature of the theology that has given rise to it can be seen in the column to the left of this article — Emergent Evolution.

Further reading:
Emergence – Self-Organisation, Systems Theory, Power
Emergence and the Origin of Life
The Emergence of Consciousness

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