I am currently working on my thesis which will be on the Emerging Church. I have written extensive articles and reviews on the movement because I feel that they represent one of the biggest threats to Biblical Christianity in the Church today. They are wolves in sheeps clothing.
Tickle's thesis is simple: every 500 years the Church goes through a fundamental shift and the Church is now experiencing one of those shifts. This shift is labeled the Great Emergence. The previous shift was the Great Reformation preceded by the Great Schism, Gregory the Great, and other movements. The basic question that is asked during these fundamental shifts is simply, "where now is the authority?"
Tickle begins to trace the historical shifts and how this, and other, questions have led to the fundamental shift. The most recent shift, the Great Reformation, helps us understand where the Church is going next. The Great Reformation answered the question regarding authority as Sola Scripture, Scriptura Sola, meaning "Scripture only, only Scripture."
This reflects, the author argues, the change to modernism where truth was determined by propositions. Therefore, the Reformers cry for Sola Scriptura made sense. Culture was tired of placing authority on Scripture, the Pope, and Tradition.
The authority, however, is no longer on Scripture alone. Why? It is apparent, and here is the proposition of my thesis, the answer to that question is one word: culture. The Great change is the result of change in the culture. Tickle writes her longest chapter on the changes of culture and those who affected that change. Persons like Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, and others along with things like the automobile and Alcohol Annonymous have led to the Great Emergence.
We have and are moving from modernism to postmodernism. Therefore, the Church will follow suit. This change reflects the asking of the fundamental question: where now is the authority? Tickle concludes her book by answering that question for us. The athority is now in both Scripture and Community. This should not surprise us.
Postmodernism questions propositions and truth itself. Therefore, no one community has the complte truth. And if no one has the complete truth, then authority cannot be in Scripture alone. The Reformers help, but they are not sufficient. God has revealed Himself, but apparently not all of Himself. Apparently, He has left something out. And what is missing can be found and experienced in the community.
Thus the cry for conversation (which is how she defines the Emerging Church), dialogue, social justice and aid, and other aspects come into play. The issue is authority. Authority is not just in Scripture, but also in each other. Therefore, we must be open an honest conversation about issues of faith, culture, truth, God, religion, Christianity, Christ, Scripture, morality, and everything else.
Herein lies a major problem with this thesis. I believe that Tickle is correct in her thesis. She has rightly given the background and definition regarding the Emerging Church, but I do not believe that this Great Emergence is a move forward, but rather a move backward. How so?
The Great Reformation was about the issue of authority, but the issue of authority was not about authority of Scripture and the Pope. Rather, it was regarding the authority of man being equal to that of God. The Reformation was a cry that God alone was authoritative.
The Emerging Church is a return to what the Reformers were reacting against. The Emerging Church doesn't place authority in the Pope, but like the Catholic Church on the eve of the Reformation, the Emerging Church has given equal authority to both God and man. And like the Catholic Church before them, the Emerging Church will end up putting the word of man above that of God and we are already seeing fruits of this. They are drastically redefining what Christianity is. No longer do they proclaim the gospel, but rather they proclaim a social gospel with compromised convictions. They have used culture and postmodernism as idol in which they define who they want God to be rather than let God define Himself as He has in His Word.
To the postmodern Emergent, I sound like someone stuck in modernism; someone stuck in the past. But to such I person, I would respond: why repeat the same mistakes of the past? Man is the problem. And if man is the problem, why place authority in man. Why not trust the infallible, the perfect, the eternal, and the Omiscient God? Why repeat the mistakes of the past?
Rather than changing directions, maybe we should return to where we started and keep traveling on that road?