Swinging from the Vine / 805 posts / 2,744 comments / feed / comments feed

knowledge and experience - aside 3

Catrina asked me in my comment below if I can articulate what emerging christians DO believe about the issues of homosexuality, abortion and the inerrancy of scripture. I feel ill equipped to answer this question and I have no doubt that I’m going to get flack for this but I’m going to give it a shot.

The question is very typical of why most of modern evangelicalism has a hard time with emerging/emergent. It’s not a bad question or wrong, but very representative of the modern attitude that says “tell me what you believe so I can understand you, classify you and determine if I agree with you or not”. When the very nature of emerging is that you don’t feel the need to make all your beliefs concrete dogma and put them out there so everyone knows “where you stand.”

A good answer for the request would not really be an answer, and in that, would answer the request hehe.

But I’m game so here goes.

I will talk to the broader emerging community - some of whom also affiliate themselves with the Emergent conversation. I will only speak to my experiences in conversation with the full disclosure that I speak in very broad terms and do not seek to define everyone…or even define one person for that matter.

In my experience, with a few exceptions, emerging types are typically “evangelical” or “conservative” in most areas, including those you mentioned HOWEVER, it’s how they deal with those issues practically and in the minutiae that tends to be different and why many can no longer say that they are evangelical or conservative.

(and, as an aside, a big difference between emerging Christians and traditional Christians is that emerging Christians aren’t as threatened by theologically liberal Christians and we don’t feel the need to distance ourselves from them)

Many emerging types, for example, believe homosexuality is not part of God’s original design for human sexuality (and quickly point out that many things aren’t part of God’s original design and that we are all affected in many ways by the sickness of “sin”) BUT they also don’t believe it’s something that all homosexuals “choose” and they recognize that because it’s a human issue, it’s a complex issue and one that should not be politicized or taken lightly. Many, if not most of us, hesitate to call homosexuality a “sin”, not because we’re afraid to “take a stand” on anything or afraid to offend homosexuals but because it really doesn’t speak to our true nuanced feelings about homosexuality as a general “category” of human sexuality.

We also tend not to hold up homosexuality as some sort of “super sin” and have different views on how this belief works itself out practically. Many of us also see the difference between a theological “stand” and a pastoral “application” with this and many other issues. I personally choose not to take a “position” as such and would rather embrace and love the individuals and go from there. I’m uncomfortable seeing people as “issues”.

Abortion seems to be very similar amongst emerging Christians. Most of us agree that abortion is bad, that it’s devastating to the woman and an end to a life but we also believe it’s not something to be politicized and that the answers are not as simple as just outlawing it. We believe in a holistic approach that involves love first and foremost. My guess is that the emerging community is split on whether or not they’d vote for abortion to be made illegal.

As for inerrancy, I think this issue is much more complex and less easily defined because chances are, we’d all say we agree with inerrancy but we’d put some qualifiers on that, suggesting that it’s not really an issue of inerrancy but more how we treat and use the bible. Many of us are uncomfortable with how the Bible has been elevated to a fourth member of the trinity and idolized in much of Christianity even above the person of Jesus himself. We are also unhappy with how the bible has been used as a weapon and a tool of manipulation and control within many evangelical churches.

I have found in my conversations with those who do not really like emerging/ent do not understand what’s going on in the conversation. They think we are getting together to create a new system and list of beliefs so we can all just break away from traditional christianity and be something new…just for the sake of it. They think we seek to redefine everything that makes Christianity what it is but I haven’t seen that AT ALL. They think we are trying to undermine orthodoxy and I haven’t seen that AT ALL.

Again, because we aren’t exclusive by nature, there are lots of varied voices and because of the many more “liberal” voices (theologically), people tend to think all we are is the new liberals - which is just not true in my experience.

Related posts:

  1. knowledge and experience - aside 2 So what’s the point of these recent posts? The epiphany...
  2. knowledge and experience, now what? This is part 1 of a 2 part conclusion to...
  3. my knowledge trumps your experience - part 1 Some recent experiences of mine have tied in with some...
  4. knowledge and experience, now what? the finale Ok, so I’ve talked a bit about my experiences with...
  5. my knowledge trumps your experience - part 2 The “I’ve read about post modernity, let me tell you...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.


  1. jovial_cynic — September 27, 2007 #

    Thank you for this post. I think you’re spot-on with your answer to these buzzword issues, and I particularly appreciate the distinction you make between the notion of the emergent church and the issue of liberal theology.

  2. Christy Fritz — September 27, 2007 #

    Hi…I’ve been reading here for a few weeks, since your debate broke out over at Angela’s blog. I used to live in GA, and know Tia and Catrina too. I totally missed that conversation, but have continued to be drawn to your site.

    My husband and I attend Lake Forest Church near Charlotte. lakeforest.org
    It’s a big church.. .but only really big (over 1000) since about a year ago. We heard the word “missional” about 6 months ago, when our pastor was giving some general theology talks to us…and now our bullentin’s say “missio dei”. as I read your site more I am coming to understand more of what my church is about. since it got so big so fast, and we haven’t really attended the “get to know what we’re about class” your insight has been much appreciated. we have a great home group with a few couples, where we are exploring these types of ideas more, and working things out together. i’ve shared your blog with them too. i grew up in the christian and missionary alliance…so missions is not new to me, but missional-the idea of what the church is and how it functions, is stepping outside of my box a bit. it’s been a good thing.

    I read Velvit Elvis a while ago and totally found myself going, wow, this is totally how I think… i didn’t know i was “allowed” to think this way and be a christian. my sister gave it to me to read, and is, i would say, very much post-modern in her thinking. as her older sister, and very much a middle child…i find my self wrestling more with, settling the debate about modern/post modern thinking, than embracing either process… if that makes any sense.
    this isn’t a good place for me, and your posts give me a little more to think about in terms of being “comfortable” with not having everything “answered”. i am finding confidence in the fact that God has led us to this particular community of believers, and i feel He is specifically using it for my own inner healing, through the process of “being” the church, rather than just “doing” church.

    Sorry for the life story… just wanted to let you know I’m enjoying your posts :)
    Could you give me the name of your grace mothering site?
    I’ve read alot about grace based discipline, on arms of love family fellowship (aolff.com), but am not familiar with alot of other resources. i am a mixed bag when it comes to my approach still, but have really enjoyed reading about a more grace-based, rather than punitive, approach.

  3. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    christy, thank you so much for coming here and sharing your story. I’m so glad I can offer some assistance in your journey. I completely relate to the feeling of “wow, I think this way, I just never knew I was allowed or how to articulate it”.

    I’m familiar with Lake Forest as well.

    I also understand where you’re coming from wanting to be a bridge builder and peace maker. We need those in the conversation, I’m definitely not one however ;) but I’m trying to create language that isn’t so hostile…which is a challenge because frankly, I have some hostile feelings about traditional evangelicalism as I know it.

    I know Crystal (aolff) from a board I used to be a part of. They’re much more staunchly evangelical over at her message board so quite a few years ago I decided to help start gracefulmothering.com which is a bit more ecumenical. I really appreciate Crystal and what she’s doing for grace based mothering though.

    thank you again for commenting - never apologize for sharing your stories - they’re important :)

  4. Geoffrey — September 27, 2007 #

    I guess I am still unfamiliar with the whole “Emergent/Emerging” thing, and as I am not acquainted with it, I feel a bit nervous aligning myself with it. For one thing, it seems to me to be tied up with certain discussions/disagreements/arguments with the Reformed (Presbyterian, UCC, other affiliated Reformed Churches) Churches. Being a United Methodist, I don’t see where I have a dog in this particular fight. Also, I do not come from a tradition that is either conservative or “evangelical” in the broader, cultural sense of the term. Inerrancy was never an issue for me when I was growing up, and when I encountered it, it just seemed strange. Using secular political issues as a test of faithfulness - abortion, homosexuality - also seems out of bounds, and any attempt I have made to discuss these issues usually ends up in a shouting match.

    I am sorry that you and your husband had the experience you did, as noted in the post below, in drawing the ire of authority for having the audacity to teach thought rather than dogma. I am glad, though, that you continue to follow the Spirit’s guidance. For me, the Gospel is bigger than anything we humans say about it, so keep going for it.

    As for labels in general. . . I don’t like them. I call myself “liberal” and “post modern” because otherwise I am left boring people, spending hours trying to explain what I believe and why. Yet, by so doing, I pigeonhole myself, and am left being attacked, or ignored, precisely because of labels, rather than for any substance.

    The image and metaphor for my own Christian life is Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis. That is an image I come back to time and again in my own life, and it has served me well for close to two decades now, so why give up a good thing. A Wrestling Christian?

  5. Tia Lynn — September 27, 2007 #

    Hey Mak. Glad that you elaborated on some of the beliefs found in the emerging church. I am drawn to the emergent way of thinking because there seems to be more of a freedom to question, to admit that issues and humans are complicated, to explore other solutions to horrible problems such as abortion, besides outlawing it. I myself think it should be outlawed, but do not think for a moment that outlawing it will completely solve the problem. Before Abortion was legalized in this country, statistics from 1950 show that nearly 27 percent of women were still having abortions. Legislation alone will not get rid of abortion, and the pro-life movement needs to broaden if we are serious about really eradicating abortion. We have to move towards more sacrificial means of tackling poverty and offering true support to really make a difference in the root causes of abortion. As far as homosexuality, two of my dear friends are gay, but remain cellibate because of their faith. I know they did not choose their orientation and it is abominable how they have been treated by fellow believers. So, I’m with you on being uncomfortable with making people into issues front.

    Anyway, very good discussion and lots to think about. Glad to have found you in the blogging world.

  6. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    geoffrey, I think your experience is wonderful - not to have the baggage many of us do. I think maybe that’s why there are a lot of Methodists in the conversation :) it comes naturally to you all some how.

    thank you for sharing your experience.

    oh, and I don’t like labels either, but as you articulated, they are necessary for civil conversation

  7. Anita Wright — September 27, 2007 #

    So I go to post a response then back out because i feel like an imposter, being a member of a conservative evangelical church (even though I don’t really consider myself evangelical in today’s sense of the word, and I’m sure there are just as many people who consider me conservative as those who consider me liberal, LOL).
    But I wanted to thank you Mak for clarifying your “stance” ;)
    Even though I’ve known you online for a few years now I sometimes get confused by your replies to such questions but I think this one cleared up any questions I had.
    I’ll admit that at first I thought this emergent thing was just a new bandwagon for everyone to jump on but the more I read the more I understand how different it is. I might not always agree with everything I read but there is something more that I think the rest of Christendom could take note of;)
    It truly is a sad state of affairs when harden our hearts to the person next to use simply because they struggle with something that we have been so indoctrinated to think is the sin of all sins. I know I have been guilty of this and I just pray I can change that for my children.
    That’s one of the reason’s I enjoy your blog so much. You and I are sometimes at staunch disagreement (although I think we agree more then not on many topics) but you help me stretch my comfort zone and sometimes articulate my thought before I can sort them out myself:)

  8. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    thank you Anita, I appreciate your openness to dialog :) you’re a good friend. and don’t ever feel like an impostor

  9. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    I also want to clarify this isn’t so much a “stance” on WHAT I believe as much as it is an attempt to clarify HOW some of us think about faith and spirituality.

    I was thinking about this coming back from dropping Shayel off at school and I think one characteristic of an emerging Christian is that we care more about the HOW of a belief than we do about the WHAT. It’s important to us that the WHAT effectively communicate the HOW and us young post moderns see through the bull shit of the WHAT when we see that the HOW isn’t fitting.

    For example, we often get accused of not preaching the Gospel, so then I ask “what’s the Gospel”? and they say “salvation through Christ alone”. and then I ask “do you preach the Gospel? when was the last time you told someone about salvation through Christ alone and told them they were going to hell and they came to faith?” and the bull shit gets peeled away.

    So a traditionalist might say “I care about the Gospel”
    and I might say “I care about the Gospel”

    but HOW we live that out is often radically different…or rather, I admit the reality of how I live it out where traditionalists tend to be so concerned about the dot and tiddle of the KNOWLEDGE that they can’t even admit that they’re not living out the TRUTH they so strongly cling to…which means it’s not really a truth to begin with.

    which is why I think we often talk past each other

  10. Christy Fritz — September 27, 2007 #

    how do you know lake forest? that’s cool. or is it cool?(maybe i should say) :)

  11. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    Christy - I guess I’ve just been around the church world long enough to have heard of lots of different churches … I’m actually not sure where I heard of lake forest or how I knew about them…if they were referenced in a book, that could be how…or just through a friend, I know a few people who live in that part of the country.

  12. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    Tia - yes, recognizing that we do not have perfected intellects and an openness to question, doubt, wonder and disagree is a characteristic of emerging that is very appealing to many - esp. young post moderns. We have a different perspective of truth that appreciates the tension of being “sure” and “uncertain” at the same time as well as being open to conversation in the midst of “certainty”

  13. Pingback - What’s Your Defintion Caller? « Missio Dei — September 27, 2007 #

    [...] Geoffrey, over at Swinging On The Vine, says, “As for labels in general. . . I don’t like them. I call myself “liberal” and “post modern” because otherwise I am left boring people, spending hours trying to explain what I believe and why. Yet, by so doing, I pigeonhole myself, and am left being attacked, or ignored, precisely because of labels, rather than for any substance.” [...]

  14. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    geoffrey, I wanted to address this comment:

    For one thing, it seems to me to be tied up with certain discussions/disagreements/arguments with the Reformed (Presbyterian, UCC, other affiliated Reformed Churches) Churches.

    I have no doubt that you’re seeing this but I certainly don’t. Many of the emerging people I know and respect are reformed in some form or another and there is even “presbymergent” which is a conversation within the emergent conversation made up of presbyterian clergy and laity.

    As for UCC, all I really know about them is that they’re considered one of the most liberal denominations in American and openly affirming - I’m not sure I know many UCC people personally who are in the conversation but I have no doubt there are many.

    I don’t see reformed theology inherently inconsistent with the emerging church/emergent village.

    So far I have met ELCA Lutherans, Methodists of all flavors, Episcopalians/Anglicans, Presbyterians, non denom. pentecostals, Baptists, Mennonites, Roman Catholics, people from the Vineyard, Foursquare, YWAM, United Church of Canada…and many more who consider themselves emerging and participate in the conversation by finding ways to “emerge within”

  15. Catrina — September 27, 2007 #

    Well thank you for sticking your neck on the chopping block for my inquisitiveness. I am only asked because I always wonder about people that align themselves with terms like post modern, egualitarion, (I think I butchered the sp), emerging and so on. I have been raised in the church my whole life, but they were always non-demom so I never was like “I’m a baptist” or whatever. The only terms I put on myself are Follower of Christ and conservative. Conservative meaning I am happy that you can’t buy porno at gas stations in my town, conservative in the fact that I wish abortion was illegal only for the purpose of not being a people that says it’s perfectly fine to kill your baby if you want to. I know that would not end the problem or “fix it” but it is a disgrace on our nation to have condoned it. I will humbly admit that half of what you say goes over my head, because I have never been to seminary or studied theology, and frankly your vocabulary is pretty darn good. I do however read some books once in a while when I get the chance. lol
    Luckily I am with a group of believers that are very compassionate, kind and loving people who are very real. I feel fortunate that I have not personally been exposed to much of what your complaint may be against fundamentalist. I think I might be a fundamentalist so I don’t know where I would stand with the emerging church, but on the topics touched here I agree. My home church was the east coast sister of Willow Creek. My greatest hope for the body of christ is that we don’t turn our positions into a us versus them situation I hate the disunity that is so prevalent in the body of christ. My parents go to a church where people actually say “born a baptist, dying a baptist, will be a baptist when I get to heaven” Yikes! I still have a million ?’s but I won’t impose on you any further. It would be benefical if you are interested in non emegents or non post moderns or moderns, (oh I’m confused) to put your scriptual support for some of the ideas that you talk about. Obviously not why you love your neighbor, but maybe some of the hot topics like head of household, or no physical discipline for the kiddos. Bye for now.

  16. Geoffrey — September 27, 2007 #

    Makeesha - I guess I mentioned the whole Reformed thing because my only exposure to the whole Emergent conversation has been on-line, and has been predominated, both pro and con, by people within the Reformed tradition. I am quite sure the whole Emergent Church movement is a possibility for anyone. I am only speaking of my own exposure to it, limited as it is. This is not a criticism of the Emergent community. Rather, it is just an observation.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  17. Tia Lynn — September 27, 2007 #

    Catrina and I are a part of the same church. Even though I myself have issues with many aspects of fundamentalism and regularly express my questions, doubts, and outright rejection of some of fundementalism’s leanings, the people at our church are very real and very loving, who reach out to meet the needs of each other and the community. While I wrestle with some doctrines and theology (which I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing my whole life, no matter what kind of church I am at), it’s important to see past the label of fundementalism and see the individual believers that align with either camp. THere’s good and bad on both sides, which you have noted. I really liked the way the debate on Angela’s blog went for the most part, because true unity is often diverse. True unity is not abandoning beliefs to become a uniform stepford community, but allowing eachother the freedom in Christ to be different and showing respect. It’s all about seeing past the differences in an effort to be united in the goal of growing closer to God and each other…not all being the same….Thanks for displaying that.. Peace

  18. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    geoffrey - I don’ think there was confusion, I was just sharing my experience :)

    Tia - yep, and that’s why I generally don’t like the “what do you believe” type of things. I have had very good positive experiences with individual fundamentalists but STRONGLY believe fundamentalism is dangerous as an approach to spirituality. Just like I have wonderful complementarian friends but STRONGLY oppose it as a “biblical model” for marriage.

    That’s the tension we have to live in to be in relationship with each other.

    as you said here:

    True unity is not abandoning beliefs to become a uniform stepford community, but allowing eachother the freedom in Christ to be different and showing respect.

  19. Mak — September 27, 2007 #

    Catrina - as for scripture, this is not a Bible study blog and I’m not a bridge builder or interested in attracting very conservative Christians so I generally don’t use a lot of “scripture” to “support” what I say because that’s really nothing more than proof texting in most cases. I have used Scripture where it has been appropriate and relevant.

    I generally just write off the cuff. But rest assured, when I preach, it’s all from the Bible and we use lots of scripture. :)

    I see my blog as a sort of conversation and since I don’t pepper my normal every day conversations with Bible verses I don’t force it here.

    But I will take your suggestion to heart and consider it.

  20. Kevin — September 27, 2007 #

    Good conversation Mak!
    For the most part you are right on!
    strongly emergent
    (moved beyond being theological liberal and now as a part of the emergent movement as a “neo-liberal” am joining “neo-conservatives”–or how about just made new and real in Christ without the labels in post modernity).
    Peace in Christ/Shalom

  21. Paul — September 28, 2007 #

    Hi Mak, great post and thoughtful interesting comments.

    My only observation to offer is that i have found that if i follow my emerging convictions i find i become less about having a right belief but more about how that belief affects my actions - if i really think that homosexuality or abortion are sins than what can i do not to label someone else as a sinner but to love then in a sacrificial other centred way.

    I think for me the great divorce between ethics and action is ending in reconciliation…

  22. Mak — September 28, 2007 #

    thanks Kevin and Paul -

    hey Kevin, see you in a few days :)

  23. Catrina — September 28, 2007 #

    Makeesha, Thanks for responding and being gracious, I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to change anything about the way you blog. I refuse (so far) to tackle any issues on my blog unless they relate to me, I like peoples blogs that stir stuff up I just don’t want the fighting on my front porch. My goal is not to judge the emerging church and classify it good or bad, but to find the truth in it. For I believe that in order to grow I need to be constantly seeking truth and so often God surprises by revealing himself to me in unlikely places. I certainly don’t have everything all figured out so I am enjoying the journey.

  24. Mak — September 28, 2007 #

    then you’re definitely NOT a fundamentalists hehe…seriously though, that’s a really great attitude, thanks Catrina for being part of the conversation - this one and the broader one!

  25. Kevin — September 28, 2007 #

    Hey Paul, I liked your thought of the great divorce between ethics and action. I think of the example of being in kindergarten today. The teacher doesn’t come and speak to the K-graders and say, “Okay, this is why you need to learn about math and science and here is how you are going to go about it for the next 12-16 years of schooling and leave it for the students to figure the why of learning”. Naw-it doesn’t make sense. The teacher is present to start the kids on learning the patterns of good learning habits and social interaction. To draw parallels to your thoughts of action, a lot of emphasis today in elementary and on up education is learning in group activities. The k-grader goes to different learning centers (groups) and learns to help each other learn through experiences. It’s a great way of learning. So in faith, practicing the actions and working together in experiential groups makes more sense in maturing in faith–the thoughts of “whys” can be incorporated without sacrificing walking in actions of the Way. Thanks for listening to this long diatribe.
    Peace in Christ,

  26. Tia Lynn — September 28, 2007 #

    Hey, go to the link below. I thought this cartoon would make you laugh. :)


  27. joi — September 28, 2007 #

    You did it again:) Thanks for sharing your thoughts and inviting us to think along with you about the “WHAT” we have been taught. It is always very rewarding for me to learn more and struggle with more.

  28. Mak — September 28, 2007 #

    I love those ASBO cartoons

    joi- thank you and you’re welcome!

  29. Rudy Friml — September 29, 2007 #

    how is the legitimacy of the intimate sexual acts between two human beings of the same gender, a human thing–or the issue of such relations, a human thing, –stated by mak as though it were a human thing merely?

    Is the legitimacy of the intimate, loving sexual acts between a husband and a wife a human thing, merely? Is the issue of the intimate loving sexual acts between a husband and wife a human thing merely?

    Interestingly, God has some phenomenally clear opinions on both of these issues. But, I don’t mean to sound all exclusive and all…

  30. Mak — September 29, 2007 #

    Rudy - I’m sorry that I made it sound as if human sexuality isn’t important. That’s not how I feel

  31. Rudy Friml — October 1, 2007 #

    I did not mean that it you said these were not important…but one gets the impression from some in the EC that these issues are not issues on which a Christian can be dogmatic, giving the impression that perhaps they are not important enough to God. Piety seems to be expressed in a willingness only to claim ignorance…

  32. Mak — October 1, 2007 #

    I would agree Rudy that an aversion to dogmatism is a common thread amongst emergents - probably because most of us are post moderns and feel comfortable embracing the tension of having convictions while attempting to maintain an openness to the other and to the possibility of being wrong. We tend not to find it scary whereas moderns find comfort and peace in KNOWING the TRUTH and feel threatened and fearful when those dogmas are questioned.

    do you go to Mars Hill Rudy?

Leave a comment