July 9, 2020

IM Book Review: The Great Emergence

If I were a certain kind of preacher or Bible teacher, I might try to make some “spiritual law” out of this. As it is, I will take it as a interpretive way of looking at history that may help people of faith who are concerned about the Church discern some instructive patterns and enable us to live more faithfully in our own day. Note the pattern:

  • c. 2000 BC: The Patriarchal Era begins when God calls Abram.
  • c. 1500 BC: The Exodus of Israel out of Egypt
  • c. 1000 BC: King David rules over Israel
  • c. 500 BC: Israel resettled in the Land after the Babylonian Exile
  • c. 0 AD: The life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the beginnings of the apostolic Church
  • c. 500 AD: Schism splitting Oriental Christianity from the eastern and western Church, the Fall of Rome, the “Dark Ages,” the rule of Pope Gregory I
  • c. 1000 AD: The Great Schism between eastern and western Churches
  • c. 1500 AD: The Protestant Reformation

In her book, The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle cites Rev. Mark Dyer as saying, “about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale.” That is, about every five hundred years, the institutionalized religion of the day is shattered and new, more vital forms of the faith emerge. The previously dominant form does not disappear, but is “reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self.” In addition, this breaking, emerging, reconstituting, and revitalizing leads to a dramatic expansion of the faith into new areas of the world.

Key to understanding the contemporary significance of this observation is to note that we are at such a five hundred year mark at the beginning of the 21st century. Thus, the subtitle of Tickle’s book: “How Christianity is Changing and Why.”

One reviewer, critical of Tickle’s book observes, “the book is more like an impressionist painting than an accurate portrait,” and he is right.

I think she is correct in her intuition that we are in a time of great ferment and tumult. It has come about through incredible changes in science, technology, culture, social structures, politics, and lifestyle that will continue to have dramatic consequences for the Christian faith in America and around the world. On the other hand, whether her broad, generalized overview of how we got here and what the key changes are can stand up to close inspection and analysis is another question.

Even the overall concept of an “every 500-year rummage sale” can be pressed too hard. It might just be that our own hubris is causing us to think we live in a moment of time that approaches the significance of the Reformation. What do you think?

It also remains to be seen if her enthusiasm for certain forms of “emerging” Christianity will pan out. If, as she seems to suggest, Quaker forms of spirituality and the Vineyard churches are the wave of the future, I have a problem sharing her enthusiasm.

Nevertheless, there are some things in Phyllis Tickle’s book that resonated with me and struck me as helpful for those of us who care about the future of Christianity. The one I will mention is her “Quadrilateral” diagram. She develops it beyond the form in which it appears below, but this particular iteration of it will make my point.

In this diagram, Phyllis Tickle sets forth an analysis that arose in the 1960’s and that others, including herself, have developed over the years. It originally assessed what the state of the church might be around the turn of the 21st century. She brings this up to date with her own current insights and suggestions.

In this Quadrilateral, the church may be divided into four roughly equal categories: (1) the Liturgicals, (2) the Social Justice Christians, (3) the Renewalists (pentecostals and charismatics), and (4) the Conservatives. The lines between these groups is not always hard and fast, and various denominations and church groups have members of all types. The boxes represent where one is along a spectrum of belief and practice. I think this is a fair way of analyzing some fundamental differences in emphasis between Christians, churches, and denominations.

Next, those below the horizontal line tend to see belief (orthodoxy) as central to what it means to be a Christian, while those above the line tend to emphasize practice (orthopraxy). The vertical line represents a division in understanding about the ultimate source of authority for belief and practice. Those to the right of the line generally find their authority primarily if not exclusively based in Scripture, while those on the left would include tradition and sacramental authority (Liturgicals), and Spirit-inspired personal experience (Renewalists) in the mix.

The circles in the middle of the diagram represent something like a whirlpool that is drawing people to the center. Whereas Protestantism has, by nature, been a centrifugal force in religion, dividing, separating, moving away from a center, what is happening in The Great Emergence, according to Tickle, is the opposite. Today there is a powerful centripetal force pulling people of various traditions together toward the center, breaking down long held distinctions. An example of this is the “community” church, many of which have become “megachurches.” These congregations have attracted people from a wide variety of Christian traditions and gathered them around simple, non-doctrinaire beliefs and practices rather than the distinctives found in the denominations they left behind.

The farther one is from the center in any of the quadrants, the more of a “traditionalist” one is, reacting negatively to movement toward the center, resisting change and affirming the traditional foundations of his or her church. As one moves toward the center, one may become a “re-traditionalist” — one who stays with his or her inherited church but wants to renew its practices. Next, one may move into being a “progressive” — who not only wants to refurbish the house, but remodel it, adding on and reconfiguring the basic structure. Closest to the center, we find those Tickle calls, rather inelegantly, “the hyphenateds.” These folks are the most schizophrenic and unpredictable because they have one foot in their tradition and another in the whirlpool of emerging Christianity in the center. Some will jump in and embrace something completely new, others will leave their traditions but find a home in another, and others may step back and realign.

I find this to be a helpful template for thinking about what is happening in the church today. The “wilderness,” which we talk about here on Internet Monk so often, is the area closest to the whirlpool. It is the “no man’s land” where one feels out of place in one’s tradition (in my case, evangelicalism), and yet cannot see a path forward to something firm and promising. In my own situation, I would say I found a path that leads into the “Liturgical” quadrant (where the Lutheran church is best represented) and now I find myself a “re-traditionalist” in that place. Where would you place yourself? Your church?

The big question ultimately, of course, is where this will all lead?

Are we in the midst of the re-forming of Christianity as we have known it?


  1. Maybe the Lord will see fit to bring along another Reformation.

    Maybe this time it will stick (for the wider church).

  2. Re-forming, emerging – or imploding. Only time will tell.

  3. I think what’s missing in the diagram is a third dimension. If you’re halfway in between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, that can mean _either_ that you have only the vaguest of beliefs or spiritual practices, _or_ that you consider both very important. Being halfway between liturgy and justice could mean you care neither about tradition nor about action, or it could mean you value both, and so on. What distinguishes the megachurch model from the “emerging” model is that megachurches tend to water things down to the lowest common denominator, whereas emerging churches are seeking to take the best parts of every tradition – our best liturgies, our best experiences of God, our best theology, our best witness for God’s kingdom – and fusing them together.

    It’s very similar to the phenomenon that Robert Webber (_Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail_) and others noted several decades ago: when someone from an evangelical church switches to a liturgical church or vice versa, what they really end up with is a fusion of those two traditions, with the strengths of each: a life with rhythm and structure and spiritual formation, combined with deep faith and personal experience of God. The liturgy comes alive to an evangelical convert to liturgical worship in a way that it doesn’t for many people who grew up in that tradition. And liturgical converts to evangelicalism tend to carry with them a more balanced way of approaching Christian life, far better than the typical evangelical pursuit of one spiritual fad after another.

    That’s certainly what I hope for in the future of Christianity. There are things I love about all four of those quadrants, and right now it’s hard to find them all in one church. My hope is for more and more churches that are embracing the best that each of our traditions have to offer.

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

      Well said, Michael. I own and love Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail and would really have liked to hear Webber’s revised take on the issue almost 30 years after he wrote that. I’d especially like to hear his take on the new batch of realignment within that tradition. Sadly, he died a couple years before the realignments really bore (public) fruit and we still don’t know what kind of staying power such new groups will have.

      • Randy Thompson says

        No offense, Isaac, but given my experience of the Episcopal church, I would write a follow-up to Webber’s book and title it “Up From Canterbury” (with apologies to Frederick Douglas).

  4. Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

    I first heard about this book about a year ago when Tickle was interviewed on Steve Brown, Etc. Steve brought up a good point (albeit one that he admitted was cynical) in the course of the discussion. He said in his 50ish years in the ministry, he’s seen just about every generation (usually when they’re young and idealistic) make a similar claim but as they grow older, they end up looking like the folks they wanted to change. There’s a big part of me that expects him to be right this time as well.

    At any rate, I’d probably be considered a re-traditionalist within the Anglican tradition. While on the one hand advocating a return certain traditional foundations (classical BCP liturgy, as the big one), I want to see the tradition address issues that they have historically ignored and address new cultural and societal trends in a way that was impossible 50, 100, or 400 years ago.

    • That very well could explain how evangelicals who wanted to have distance from fundamentalists in the end still are fundamentalists. Today fundamentalism is repackaged and made more “informal” by wearing jeans, etc.. but its still as legalistic as ever… if you wanted to take a “Biblical” spin on that you could say that it verifies Ecclesiastes about there “being nothing new under the sun…”

      • “That very well could explain how evangelicals who wanted to have distance from fundamentalists in the end still are fundamentalists. Today fundamentalism is repackaged and made more “informal” by wearing jeans, etc.. but its still as legalistic as ever…”

        Please give some examples.

        • Mark Driscoll for one, I also think of the pastors of a large mega church I used to attend in the DC area. They stressed the informal dressed down nature by wearing jeans, etc.. But it was still quite legalistic in teaching,

          • “But it was still quite legalistic in teaching”

            How? Is it conservative in teaching, or legalistic?

            This is the same Driscoll that is getting hammered by many for being too lenient on sexual issues in new book on marriage? This is the same Driscoll who is hammered for his foul language? This is the same Driscoll whose network has churches that meet in bars?

          • Rick as I said Mark Driscoll is redefining fundamentalism into an authoritarian faith based system. One that denies questions, or challenges to a different interpretation. And I would also add one that subjugates and controls women and a number of other people. He’s a control freak interested in the power that comes from his possession. Narcissistic personalities are like that…

            Basically when it comes to Driscoll and sex I think he has a conclusion already in his mind and cherry picks the Bible to prove it. Anyone can twist the Bible to say whatever they want. Its probably the most abused book in the world (Koran comes in second in my mind…) and the most manipulated. That applies to Mark Driscoll, Joseph Smith, Jim Jones or David Koresh….

          • Eagle, I agree with you on Mark Driscoll. He has made it a fundamental tenet of his evangelicalism that women cannot teach or be elders. I acknowledge the biblical debate. That said, he (among others, sadly) has transformed this from a hermeneutical conversation on the subject to “I’m right, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me is a less worthy / unorthodox Christian.”

            In Japan there is a phrase “the nail that sticks up gets pounded down.” Driscoll uses the Bible as a mighty big hammer, and he is doing Christianity a mighty big disservice on this issue, as well as several others.

  5. Hmmm. As someone who has just this past yr left my 20plus yr association with Vineyard, you have my curiosity piqued. Not sure I want to spend $$ to get the book, but maybe there is some free material on it out there on the intra-net. Vineyards are, of course, wildly, and widely disparate in their orthopraxy: what’s true for one might not be even slightly true for another (in terms of worship style, emphasis on politics, ecclesiology, etc)


  6. David Roquemore says

    A fine and fair review. One problem with Tickle’s book is the timeline. Phyllis Tickle is clearly on the right track with her notion that there is some kind of cultural burping every so often, but she has the interval wrong. It is not every 500 years. Obviously a better interval is every 229 years:
    1781 Kant’s First Critique
    1552 Reformation
    1323 Renaissance
    1094 Great Schism
    865 Visio Domini Karoli Regis Francorvm published in Carolingian Renaissance.
    636 Islamic conquest of Persia, beginning of Islam’s expansion
    407 Visigoths in Rome
    178 Celsus contra Christianity
    -51 Caesar

    Each of these represents a change and a challenge to Western civilization and society. But why stop with the 229 year cycle? What about a 369 year cycle? Let’s look

    1641 Descartes Meditations
    1272 Ninth Crusade
    903 Vikings invade England
    534 Hagia Sophia built
    165 death of Justin Martyr
    I chose the 229 year cycle by looking back to Kant and subtracting. But 369 was a number pulled out of my hat. In short, historical cycles can be found anyplace one looks, if one wants to look hard enough.

    • The point , I think, is not how often but that it cycles and changes. We tend to think too much about the points and dates and not enough about the story.

    • I generally agree with your cynicism about such formulations, but in at least the OT portion of that timeline, don’t you think something is there to it? Isn’t it generally agreed upon that the Patriarchs, the Exodus, King David, and deliverance from Babylon are the greatest high points in OT history? There are many other “cycles” within that of course, like the Judges period. The death/resurrection motif, or the captivity/deliverance motif are THE great themes of Scripture, so naturally they can be found on nearly every page. I just wonder if human society (including the church), much like a single human lifespan, isn’t prone to go through changes on a roughly predictable schedule.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        I don’t dispute their being high points, but I note that “circa” serves to obscure quite a bit of hand-waving. As for the NT portions, counting the schism between the eastern and western church twice seems rather a cheat. And the pedant in me can’t help but note that the western calendar has no year zero.

  7. “These congregations have attracted people from a wide variety of Christian traditions and gathered them around simple, non-doctrinaire beliefs and practices rather than the distinctives found in the denominations they left behind.”

    Most community mega-churches I have experienced, and this is based solely on my experiences, seem to be baptist churches, without the name, less committees, and hipper music

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

      That’s definitely how it is in my corner of TX.

    • Absolutely correct. Megachurches abandon all traditional distinctives in favor of generic American evangelical mush, in which Baptist sacramentarianism is the primary theology due to the prevalence of rationalism through the culture. AoG’s give up tongues as they grow. Everyone else gives up authority structures in favor of a streamlined corporate model, and infant baptisms vanish. By the time colored lights appear, the public reading of scripture has disappeared as well. It begins to stretch the very definition of the word “church”. Introduce “crowd and core” methodology, and Jesus has left the building, exit stage right, receiving only occasional references durring the motivational speech and inferences during the musical entertainment. Christianity has now become more recognizable by its cultural trends: Emo singers with heavy makeup and weekly hotboxes masquerading as religion. I have friends who can’t go to any of the nearby large churches because they feel too much like they’re in a cult.

      I don’t know whether all the shifts will produce positive results in line with Tickle’s optimism, or in terms of Reformation significance, but one thing is sure: We’re in bad shape. We’re in greater need of ecclesial restructuring and reform than 16th century Europe was.

      • Like.

        I personally have managed to keep my hopes up- I see more and more skepticism about the “religious hotboxes,” though it’s yet to be seen what the majority of people put in its place when people abandon it. Which they will have to.

        • As long as the corrupt heart of man loves control there will always be manipulative tactics hiding behind religion. Christianity has never been able to separate itself from this. I wish I could share your optimism.

    • I find many evangelical churches to be in short quite dishonest. They’ll embrace terms like “Community”, “Bible Church”, etc.. in their church names, claim to be non-denominational but they still cling to SBC, or fundagelical theology. Its dishonest because it’s false advertising and leads people to believe they are not getting involved in a SBC church, when in reality they are.

      There’s a church I drive past each day advertising itself as a non-denom chruch in new markings. They have done it for the past 3 years. Yet they have the old Baptist sign on display as well. On top of it being schizophrenic, it also communicates to me that while they claim to be “$%^## Circle Church” they still are %^$#% Circle Baptist.

      Can’t churches be honest….?

      • You could just as easily ask “Can”t people be honest ?”. And that’s a good question to ask ourselves as well.

      • I they really are not part of the SBC, but agree with much of its theology, then I do think it is being honest. However, if they are quietly part of the SBC, but being deceptive about it, then i totally agree with you.

  8. I absolutely believe we are in the midst of a dramatic renewal of “church.” At a conference of 50 differing denominations a few years back, the arising consensus was “Our churches are dying, our people are starving and we don’t know how to feed them.” As a Contemplative Catholic I wanted to jump up and down and scream, “I know what to do…..I have the tools.” For 15 years I tried to share these tools within the Catholic church (ironically these tools came directly out of the pre-reformation Christian church)….to no avail. So now, I share these tools outside the institution for anyone who cares to learn them. In short……the tools are those that empower people to discover, cultivate and nurture the relationship with God within. It is through these tools that people find nourishment, insight, guidance, comfort and healing….and in the end, help them to remember the LOVE that they are in Oneness with God. Toward this effort, I now offer Sunday Contemplative Worship services, an inspirational blog and soon a mobilization effort that will give people these tools on a global level and empower them to share them with others. As far as Catholicism is concerned, the current structure of the Church is dying and it needs to. Something new is arising…but has not yet been revealed. And I strongly believe that whatever form the “new Church” takes, it will include a balance of the outer (religious formation, liturgy, doctrine, law, etc.) and the inner (spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, small faith communities). Amen Amen Amen….So Mote it BE!

    Lauri Lumby
    Authentic Freedom Ministries

  9. David Clark says

    This book intrigues me. What is the main focus of her analysis? By that I mean is she more concerned with theology, history, sociology, or something else? From the review I would guess all of the above and then some. For such a short book it would seem more prudent to stick with one area, but maybe that’s not possible or needed.

  10. I’m hoping we are heading toward full reunion as Christians. Heal the schisms!

    • Unfortunately, I think the pre-requisite for this is that Christians begin to universally want this. I think too many denominational purists have no interest in loosing their favorite straw-men whipping-boys. I can’t even convince some of my evangelical friends that some Catholics are saved! (…let alone the idea that all “saved” are “catholic”…)

      • This is why I always return to Christ’s prayer in John 17, that we be perfectly one, as He and the Father are one. It is unambiguous, repeated multiple times by Jesus in this prayer, and is a clarion call to us.

        One thing the Catholic Church has done is the Anglican Ordinariate. It invites Anglicans to become Catholic but retain their rich Anglican patrimony. This is a good first step, showing that we can both work to meet each other without requiring one give everything up to “return home.”

        • Devin,

          Perhaps a first step, and by my previous Amen, I hope you know I am sincere in my prayer for unity, but the Anglican Ordinariate is not the way. And Aglicans going that route are giving up quite a bit, or rather buying into quite a bit, just to hang on to their Prayer Books. But that perhaps is a topic for another day.

          My own opinion is that there will be a greater fellowship between Anglican/Orthodox groups before Anglican/Rome groups.


          • “My own opinion is that there will be a greater fellowship between Anglican/Orthodox groups before Anglican/Rome groups.”

            I agree, Austin. In fact, if not for the filioque clause and the ordination of women, I think we would be very close to a shared table.

          • I always wonder what Anglicans expect coming into full communion with the Orthodox Church would look like. I’m reasonably sure that from the Orthodox side, the expectation will be that you become fully Orthodox, albeit using the Western Rite and retaining some Western customs. That probably means a merger of your jurisdiction(s) into existing Orthodox jurisdiction(s), an end to Reformation ideas about ecclesiology and soteriology and the practice of their implications like open communion, and a lot of ecclesiastical hand-holding, at least for a while. I wouldn’t be surprised if it also precluded any full-communion relationships with non-Orthodox groups as well.

            I really have no clue if any significant Anglican groups would be willing to do this, and am generally, though sadly, not very optimistic about the Anglican-Orthodox or Roman-Orthodox divisions being healed in my lifetime. The only one I think might be is the Eastern-Oriental division, given that we’ve basically agreed that we agree on the doctrine upheld at Chalcedon, though that was 20 years ago and nothing has really officially been done about it.

          • Anglicans are further down this route than many realize. I’ve heard many Anglican theologians question the filoque, and I personally myself am not entirely dogmatic about it. I mean, the Orthodox claim that the original Nicene creed did not have it seems pretty valid to me. Also, Anglicans ordaining women are actually a minority, limited mostly to TEC and England. The majority of the communion is below the equator and very conservative. Recent BCP prayers contain both the Orthodox hymn Phos Hilaron and a prayer by Chrysostom, and some Orthodox have even developed an affinity for BCP simplicity, and produced their own version of one. They like the Coverdale psalms.

            Personally, I’m wondering what the big differences between the traditions truly are. Is it just depravity and justification in the 39 articles?

          • Well, the problem is that most of the 39 Articles are based on, or was at least written to accomodate, a Reformed view of Christianity. Unfortunately, the basic presuppositions of the Reformed and the Orthodox are so dissimilar that I think the Articles would have to be abandoned almost entirely. I scouted out Anglicanism while I was making my Escape from Evangelicalism, so I know that at least some more catholic Anglicans would be fine with this, but… yeah, I don’t know. It is hard to articulate how different of a mindset it really is (Medieval/Modern Western vs. Ancient Eastern), and I’m not sure how much of an agreement on these underlying assumptions would be expected. I have this suspicion that a lot of people would have to put down their Augustine and Aquinas and pick up Cassian and Palamas. Though, I guess if Archbishop Rowan Williams is any indication, this might already be happening (I would love to think that he is somewhat representative of a broader swath of Anglicanism from my limited exposure to him).

            In regards to the BCP and Coverdale, I think the primary interest is in seeing how the worship of God has historically been expressed in English. We’re in the process of figuring out an authentic Anglo/American way of being Orthodox anyway, and that means potentially using worthy parts of familiar Western forms (which is part of why we have Western Rite parishes and Orthodoxified BCPs). We need the Psalms especially, since much of the Liturgy, both East and West, is based on them and it would be nice to have a translation that has stood the test of time and would already be familiar to English speakers. While the simplicity of the BCP is really sort of appealing sometimes (I think we need a minimum of four books to pull off a service), I personally can’t imagine giving up all the rich hymnody that our complexity allows us.

          • Matthaus…

            For me personally, I think that the draw of Anglicanism toward the Orthodox Church lies in the idea that British (not English) Christianity has historical roots that pre-date denominations altogether, back to the time of the original Apostles. There is even legend that Joseph of Arimathea brought Christ to England as a child, and that he taught in England long before his ministry “began” at age 30.

            I agree that reformed theology poses a significant problem. The filioque is easy enough in itself to give up, as far as I am concerned…Does it really matter to me? No. For the sake of church unity, I could also give up the ordination of women (This does pain me a bit, because there are a lot of really gifted females out there…but for the sake of unity, I could concede this). Now, can we declare John Calvin a heretic? That would be tough for some. I wonder sometimes if a “Wesleyan reduction” of the articles, leaving out the predestination ideas, might be enough to bring about unity?

            Certainly, within Anglicanism, there are plenty of priests who lean theologically more toward Wesley than they do Calvin or Whitefield.

            Interesting thoughts today…

          • Jack Heron says

            That’s certainly a possibility to watch. Given that Anglicanism has for a long time maintained a commitment to breadth of views, that might imply – well, I don’t know what it would imply, actually. It would certainly facilitate the drifting of particular groups towards greater connections with Orthodoxy, but then it would also potentially hinder the establishment of Communion-wide connections since not everyone will be willing.

            The Orthodox churches in the UK – especially the Oriental Orthodox – are apparently in a bit of a flux state at the moment, so whether that leads to a renaissance or an exodus for them will possibly be an important factor.

    • Amen Devin.

    • Naw…there will never be unity. With the mindset that some of these places have that will never happen. in fundamentalism the end state will be a million + churches each convinced they have a corner on truth while each other is in a state of heresy. Some like the Mars Hills, Acts 29s, Sovereign Graces. etc… are in a state of denial about being denominations. They will be so because the moment they declare them self to be a denomination history will recycle itself and it will show that fundamentalism is just re-branded.

      • Practically speaking I think you’re right that schisms will continue to exist and even spread, but that does not stop more and more people coming into full communion with the Church, in spite of those that remain in partial or imperfect communion.

      • “Some like the Mars Hills, Acts 29s, Sovereign Graces. etc… are in a state of denial about being denominations.”

        Acts 29 works with/has churches in and out of denominations, thus Acts 29 itself is not a denomination.

        • Groups like Acts 29 and SG often serve as markers for the type of church they are. If a “community church” has links to those two on its web site, you know you have a reformed Baptist-style outfit.

          Also, publishing houses can often serve as de-facto focal points for congregational movements who see “denomination” as a dirty word.

          • They have a certain common element and theology. No doubt. But they still cross denominational boundaries.

  11. I would say that if something is going to happen in a big way with Christian theology due to some kind of cycling, it’s probably going to happen in Africa. That’s where the Christian religion is growing and appealing to people. It is also where it is meeting up with other cultural practices and syncretizing with other religions (that’s not necessarily a bad thing–Christianity also syncretized a bit as it grew up in Europe).

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

      That’s what we seem to be seeing in the Anglican world. At least on the conservative end of the theological spectrum. Much to the chagrin of the West, of course.

  12. David Cornwell says

    Thanks for reviewing this book. I read it about a year ago and immediately knew that she was attempting to describe something that is taking place. She does as good a job as anyone trying to bring some definition. It may be 50 more years before we really start to understand it better however.

    My church history prof in seminary emphasized that the wind of the Spirit will blow where it will and bring changes in totally unexpected ways.

    I struggled here to put into words where I stand, at the present moment, in all this. Since I’m having trouble putting it into words, this should be my stopping place!

  13. If the general trend toward secularization continues in Western culture, we may see the administrative and energy centers of Christianity re-center in places like China, Africa, and Latin America.
    If that happens, it could add some third world spice to Christian institutions that (one might say) have become too tightly bound in the strict rationalism passed down from the Greeks and reinserted during the Enlightenment.
    And if we’re lucky, they’ll make a point of not passing down American-style consumerist Christianity to future generations.

  14. Richard Hershberger says

    I find that quadrilateral chart deeply mysterious. Seeing “liturgical” and “conservative” as direct opposites makes it clear that she is using at least one of those words in an idiosyncratic way. Apparently both, if megachurches are judged middling on both counts.

    • Jack Heron says

      Well, you’d be surprised sometimes. Some of the most socially liberal stuff in the Church of England is coming out of the highly liturgical Anglo-Catholic lot. ‘Affirming Catholicism’, for instance, has been important in the push for women bishops and acceptance of homosexuality (though, of course, there are a fair whack of conservative ACs and socially liberal Low Churchers as well, so it’s all one big mess that doesn’t fit on any diagram).

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Sure, but the mere fact of being highly liturgical is itself very conservative: just in a different sphere than social policy. In fact, the one thing I know about a highly liturgical person is that this person is conservative in matters of liturgy.

        As for Anglo-Catholics and acceptance of homosexuality, in my experience with the American version of course they are accepting of homosexuality. I would even go so far as to say “duh!”. Anglo-Catholic parishes have provided the most fabulous examples I have ever seen of ecclesiastical theater.

  15. Charles Fines says

    Chaplain~ Good choice of book and good review. From my viewpoint the Protestant Era of the last 500 years is giving way in dominance as the Catholic Era of the preceding 500 years gave way. Obviously neither tradition is going away altogether. The Catholic Church actually reformed in response to the Reformation and there is hope the Protestant Church can do the same.

    Lauri Lumby, above, has a highly pertinent point if you allow more people into the Renewalist quadrant than Holy Rollers. I recently read William Shannon’s “Thomas Merton: an Introduction”. In the front of the book is a quote from Merton, “Whatever I may have written, I think all can be reduced in the end to this one root truth: that God calls human persons to union with Himself and with one another in Christ.” I really don’t know what else could be said if you are going for the root.

    I find N.T. Wright an extremely important part of the rollover going on. If I ever have the opportunity, I will ask him if he considers himself a Protestant. I suspect not, and I find myself growing extremely uncomfortable with that label. The Anglican Church seems mostly to have considered itself separate but alongside the Protestant Tradition. I can’t think of any other tradition other than possibly the Eastern where Tom Wright could have spoken his truth without stepping on toes. Maybe if you and he keep on hanging out in the merging of that quadrilateral, you both might eventually get used to all that hand clapping coming from the Renewers.

    • I too am a fan of N.T. Wright–reading his latest book right now–but the Anglican Communion is firmly Protestant, both historically, theologically, and morally as we see how the Communion is largely caving in to worldly pressure on same-sex issues.

      • Charles Fines says

        Devin, I imagine most people outside the Anglican community would consider them Protestant, but perhaps not all within would self-identify as such. Henry 8 and Luther despised one another. There seems to be a huge diversity within Anglicanism along with a corresponding tolerance, American Episcopalian splinter groups excepted. I think it is that atmosphere of tolerance that allows Tom Wright to do his thing, to the great benefit of the whole church worldwide.

        • David Cornwell says

          Part of the change she is talking about means that the old labels mean less and less. Evangelical, Protestant, Anglican, Reformed, Catholic, etc. mean less than they ever did. Differences are blurred and we have more trouble pigeonholing each other. In time, if this is truly a move of the Spirit, a pattern probably become clearer.

          My personal belief is that God is working in this movement with a convergence toward liturgical worship (probably expressed in divergent styles), a loose creedal consensus best expressed in the Apostle’s Creed, and with the “Our Father…” becoming the prayer moving us toward Kingdom mission.

          People aren’t as interested these days in hearing rational theology. The Story is what stirs us most. The Story i.e. with Christ as the centerpiece.

          I’m sure part of what I’m saying is based on my own partially subjective experience, so others are apt to see the whole thing differently. So be it.

    • Well, according to several of Wright’s books, I’m nearly certain he would claim to be Protestant. He pretty much claims to be continuing in the spirit of the Reformation in Justification, for example.

  16. The shattering of the religion and the new emerging forms are a macro picture of our micro Christian experience. It’s tantamount to pruning. It’s usually painful and disruptive but we get nowhere without it. It’s like a growing body – same person but changing form.

  17. I think there is a growing interest in unity. I think certain denominations, plus theological movements (ancient-future, paleo-orthodoxy, etc…) are working across the aisle and looking at what is considered “essentials”.

    • Agreed. I believe that many are looking at “pre-denominationalism” as an approach to ministry, rather than “non- denominationalism”.

      I’ve got some thoughts I wrote a while back on the direction I believe the church is headed…I would love feedback…Just click on my name!

  18. Thanks for this review. Tickle is the 2012 featured speaker at the Network of Biblical Storytellers, which I attend annually, and is addressing this very topic. I am glad to have this review and follow up discussion in my back pocket before hearing her explain in person.

  19. Randy Thompson says

    Sometime back, I used the term “Protestant Catholic” to describe myself theologically. That seems to fit right in to Tickle’s diagram, which works for me.

  20. The quadrilateral diagram reminds me of Perrow’s Quadrants and their application to military command and control as put forward by Tom Czerwinski in his book “Coping with the Bounds” (available as free download at http://www.dodccrp.org/html4/books_downloads.html ). I’ve always suspected that the “Emerging” Church movement had a connection with the concept of emergence in complexity theory and this seems to confirm that suspicion. I may have to take the time to look for parallels between Tickle’s quadrilateral and Perrow’s quadrants. Thanks for the lead.

  21. When I read the book, it seemed like she was saying “it’s been 500 years since the Protestant Reformation”, then trying progressively harder (too hard) to fit religious/cultural shifts into 500 year paradigms. I found it very ironic for someone who implies that they are so postmodern to fall back on such a modern idea as big shifts occur in regular, predictable, describable cycles.

  22. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Protestant Reformation happened around the same time as the invention of the printing press. Great access to information has always been a catalyst for societal change, and therefore for the evolution of “church.” The internet’s affect on society and church will no doubt be as significant as any change we’ve seen in church history. She may use generalizations but I think she is right; we’re living during a giant transition and 150 years from now Christianity in the west will look significantly different.

  23. I read this book a year ago and review it myself. Though Tickle is considered extremely liberal by many evangelical conservatives, I think the book had some very interesting thoughts to share.

    With the collapse of western Christendom in Europe, it is at least time over here to see some new things spring up (and also in my homeland of America!). Recently, maybe a year or two ago, I came to an epiphany (and today is Epiphany!) about how the Lord has always spoken much through agricultural aspects of life, especially right through scripture. I came to realise that the spiritual climate of western Europe is a bit like manure – Manure is a smelly, nasty product on its own. But if spread out properly across the ground, it can actually turn into a great fertilizer for new, fresh green growth. That is my prayer and heart’s desire for western Europe.

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