February 19, 2020

Riffs: 04:21:08: The Emergent Village Statement of Values and Practices

Tony Jones sent me his new book The New Christians, and I’ve been looking at some of the resource material on Emergent Village. I’ve been very encouraged the the Values and Practices Statement from Emergent Village. In my own journey to create a Jesus-shaped spirituality, I was particularly challenged by the first section: Commitment to God in the Way of Jesus. It says:

1. Commitment to God in the Way of Jesus:

We are committed to doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God. In the words of Jesus, we seek to live by the Great Commandment: loving God and loving our neighbors – including those who might be considered “the least of these” or enemies. We understand the gospel to be centered in Jesus and his message of the Kingdom of God, a message offering reconciliation with God, humanity, creation, and self.

We are committed to a “generous orthodoxy” in faith and practice – affirming the historic Christian faith and the biblical injunction to love one another even when we disagree. We embrace many historic spiritual practices, including prayer, meditation, contemplation, study, solitude, silence, service, and fellowship, believing that healthy theology cannot be separated from healthy spirituality.
PRACTICES:

* As Christ-centered people, to understand the gospel in terms of Jesus’ radical, profound, and expansive message of the kingdom of God.
* As people seeking to be formed spiritually in the way of Christ, to learn historic Christian spiritual practices (disciplines), and to use them for the development of character, integrity, and virtue which flow from true communion with God.
* As participants in the historic Christian faith, to be humble learners, to stimulate learning in others, and to give priority to love over knowledge, while still valuing knowledge.
* As lovers of God and God’s truth, to seek wisdom and understanding, which are the true goal of theology, and to engage in respectful, thoughtful, sacred conversation about God, world, and church.

The tendency with the emerging church is to find the weirdest fringe practice or rhetoric and camp out there, but it’s hard for me to not see all kinds of good in this statement.

I think we all know that the statement about the Gospel is controversial: We understand the gospel to be centered in Jesus and his message of the Kingdom of God, a message offering reconciliation with God, humanity, creation, and self.

The Gospel is God centered, but the Gospel is God’s declaration of salvation to human beings. It has the capacity to be both God-centered and to place each one of us, in relation to God, in a “center” that integrates our lives into the loving purposes of God.

It is the invitation to not separate reconciliation with God and the message of the Kingdom of God that gives me the most encouragement. The war between Pauline statements of atonement and the “Kingdom of God” teaching of Jesus in the gospels is completely unnecessary. Continuing to speak of the emergent emphasis on the Kingdom as alien to Christianity is simply dangerous to the truth we read in the Gospels.

In himself, Jesus is reconciler, mediator, Lord and King. We are reconciled to God and we live out the message of reconciliation. The LAST thing we need to be doing is rejecting the message of the cross or the Kingdom as somehow polluting the purity of the Gospel.

There are probably many things about Emergent Village that would give me pause, but I’m grateful that they affirm someone like me in my own quest to recover the significance and model of Jesus in ALL of his Gospel manifestations: mediator, Lord, teacher, Savior, King and Prophet.

Every conversation I am in regarding Christianity seems to hinge on whether we can allow the Gospel to speak to us- in Jesus- at ALL of the levels of our lives and existence, or whether we will force the Gospel to be one-sided and shallow. A message of Christ, Cross and Kingdom solves this dilemma. You can see it everywhere in the New Testament if we listen to all of it, and don’t carve it up to defind our favorite preferences.

Jesus had a much deeper kind of spirituality than we typical present. He is the lamb of God, but he is also teacher, master, servant and King. We are, as Clarence Jordan said, a “demonstration plot” for the Kingdom of God. We show what a reconciled community looks like as we work toward the coming new creation.

Read the whole statement. The section on the church is also very encouraging as well.

Comments

  1. The more I think about it, the gospel is all about reconciliation. Growing up it was about freedom from sin, but that never got hashed out in a way that didn’t sound like a list of do’s and don’ts. I think it is the fullness of reconciliation that is at the heart of the gospel and gospel preaching.

    Glad you blogged this. It makes me like EV a little more than I already did. I am glad to see this commitment taking a more orthodox stance too.

  2. Not bad.

    I would have shortened it a bit.

    “Love God and your neighbor as yourself.”

  3. Michael, are you going to review “The New Christians”? I’d love to hear your take.

  4. There is a lot of good stuff in their statements. However not much about the place of Scripture, and their gospel is the kingdom variety and no mention of the death, burial, and resurrection variety.

    I read a great deal of humanitarian targets but I did not see where conversion fits into the scheme, if it does. The overall doctrinal nebulousness I assume in intentional. Fast forward 50 years and imagine the updated version.

    I never thought that actual conversions as understood in the Great Commission would so quickly disappear in any missional “practices”. If the “way of Jesus” is doing good to the poor and oppressed, then many religions have the way of Jesus. But if the way of Jesus is doing good to the poor and oppressed while preaching His gospel and suffering persecution because of His name, then I would agree.

    I am not sure people hate you when you do good to them, it’s Him that brings the hatred. Jesus said they will hate you because they have hated me. We don’t seek hatred, but the cross will elicit hatred all on its own, just ask Paul.

  5. >…their gospel is the kingdom variety and no mention of the death, burial, and resurrection variety.

    I’d urge you to notice that this is a values and practice statement, not a theological confession that trys to speak for everyone. Not every network of Christians expresses their union in the same terms. That’s why this isn’t the final word on belief for those involved, but a statement of a limited list of values and practices.

    The statement does say that the Kingdom message starts with reconciliation to God. I’d be quite surprised if that means something other than by way of Jesus as mediator.

    But doesn’t it feel a bit odd to read Mark 1:14-15 and then speak of the Kingdom Gospel as something to be suspicious of? Why doesn’t the Gospel of the Kingdom include Jesus’ death and Rez?

  6. Rick,

    If a bunch of us assembled together to spirit a doctor across a mountain pass and into enemy territory, and the meeting was filled with talk about provisions, routes and the avoidance of enemy patrols, what would you make of the participant who offered the criticism that he doubted the competency or sincerity of our endeavor because we never mentioned the surgical credentials of the doctor?

    If there is such a thing as irreducible “historic Xianity”, then oughtn’t we give them the benefit of the doubt and believe they mean what they say when they affirm it?

  7. I have been fooled before by someone using code and come to find out they don’t mean what I thought. They say we commit, we embrace, and we understand, all of which I interpret as “we believe”.

    I am suspicious of the “kingdom” terminology when an emergent leader called the cross false advertising for Christianity. No mention of the cross either.

    Gal.6:12,14 – As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumscised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

  8. Using “emergent leader” in that manner has no credibility whatsoever. Emergent isn’t a denomination and you’re using the worst possible citation- without a specific reference of course- to question something in a document that says nothing remotely resembling what the “emergent” leader said.

    A leading _____________ once said “______________.”

    If that’s not a pure propaganda tactic I’ve never seen one. Fill in the religious, political, racial or religious group of your choice.

    If Mark 1:14-15 doesn’t mean Jesus preached a Kingdom Gospel, then what is the Secret Message of Jesus?

  9. The leader was Brian MacLaren, I did not use his name in deference to you but since you’ve suggested I was propagandizing here is the quote from the interview.

    On the Bleeding Purple Podcast, Leif Hansen did an interview with Brian MacLaren. They spoke about hell and here is the statement I was referencing. (Jan.2006)

    Brian: This is, one of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of the this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God.

    *************************

    That is why I suggested that not everyone’s terms means the same. You said the gospel of the kingdom muct contain the death and resurrection, and I agree. However not everyone sees it that way. I meant to slander no one.

  10. Do you really believe that you need to say ON THIS WEBSITE that Brian Mclaren is a poor theologian and not someone I ever endorse or recommend? Did I not say that some of the emergents- like some Calvinists- say things that I do not endorse? Do you really believe that a values and practice statement endorses everything said by every pastor who agrees with the statement?

    This is so typical of where this consistently goes. Emerging= the worst things Mclaren ever said.

    Why don’t I find the worst things/most stupid things ever said by any Calvinist and then interrupt every discussion by Calvinists with the reminder that Pink said John 3:16 doesn’t mean God loves _____________. (Insert name here.)

    I’m glad you told us why you don’t care for the statement. And I’m glad you reminded us that Mclaren is sometimes out in left field. Now we’re done with that. And probably done with any reasonable discussion of this post because we had to resume the usual spitting contest between Mclaren and everyone who wants more bloggers to know he’s not orthodox.

    Glad that’s over with.

  11. Hey MS, I would be happy to provide you with entire volume of the stupid things Calvin ever said, except I fear for my life. 🙂

    I appologize for pushing a button, I’m still feeling my way around the emergent thing – no signs and almost everyone (maybe the EV) quotes MacLaren as a somebody.

  12. Michael:

    Good post. When contrasted with the current state of Christless evangelicalism, several things begin to glisten within the emergent community.

    Whether left or right of center, Christians tend to address the kingdom in terms of external powers forcing external change on the world. And isn’t that what the Jews wanted Jesus to do: take back the Promised Land from the Romans by force? But Jesus taught them that the kingdom is born within us. It is leaven in a loaf. It is a giant tree growing out of a tiny mustard seed. It is seed sprouting from good soil to bear precious fruit. It works in such hidden ways.

    Many writers, like Thomas Merten and Orestes Brownson, talk about action bursting from contemplation. But for evangelicals, contemplation is a devilish work of crystal-worshipers or pietists with their heads stuck in the sand, so we are always trying to act and change without God first acting and changing in the hiddeness of our hearts and weakness through the seed of the gospel. The result is fascist architecture: incredibly impressive, crumbling facades.

    John said we love because God first loved us. Paul preached because the love of Christ compelled him. Christians defend the poor, because we were once poor without Christ. There’s nothing political about that. In fact, it is impossible for politics to accomplish that. It’s not earning God’s favor or tickets to heaven. It’s just what faith, born out of the gospel, does to a person.

    All of that is not to meant to detract from your comment about being God-centered people. That really says it best. Thanks again.

  13. Sir,

    What on earth is a “Jesus-shaped spirituality”?

    And why are you on a “journey” to “create” such a thing?

    Is there any Biblical/historical precedent for such an endeavor?

    I’m new to the site and I’m very confused right now.

    herbert

  14. A Jesus-shaped spirituality is what life is like when Christ is being formed in you.

  15. Herbert, I really haven’t started unpacking the Jesus -Shaped spirituality thing yet, but I am wanting to explore a spirituality that is rooted in Jesus as we see him in his incarnational humanity and as he speaks to us in our humanity.

  16. Hey Dumb Ox,

    Your comment on how we bring the Kingdom is probably one of the best things I have read in a while. Do you mind if I steal it and put it on my own blog?

  17. George C:

    I think I was paraphrasing from what I have been taught about the kingdom parables. I’m sure someone said it first. It may have been Paul Kretzmann:

    “The yeast may be hidden by the process of kneading, but it will not be long before its strength will become apparent, and the whole mass be leavened. Thus the Word of God, which builds the Kingdom, also exerts its leavening power in case of individuals as well as in that of whole communities and nations. It has the inherent strength to change and to renew the heart and the life of men and to fit them ever more thoroughly to be true members of the kingdom of God.”

    (Popular Commentary on Matthew 3:33).
    http://www.kretzmannproject.org/MAT/MAT_13.htm

    Paul Kretzmann’s Popular Commentary is in the public domain. You may be safer quoting from him. I’m either just a hack or a heretic.

    Mega-kudos to iMonk for letting us use his blog to hash out thoughts. He really gets the creative juices going.

  18. (Correction: Matthew 13:33.)

  19. Well, I’m here a year late, and there doesn’t seem to be a “recent comments” list on the blog’s front page, so this will probably be read by nobody. Still, I feel compelled to say this.

    Rick Frueh writes: “…an emergent leader called the cross false advertising for Christianity. No mention of the cross either.”

    It turns out to be Brian McLaren, but when we read the quotation, it’s obviously McLaren’s point to be saying exactly the opposite thing!!! He’s saying that if a certain doctrine (the “traditional” understanding of hell) were correct, then the cross would be false advertising. It’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t mean to be saying that the doctrine is correct, and so the cross really is false advertising; but rather that, since the cross isn’t false advertising for Christianity, the doctrine should be rejected.

  20. keith,
    I am a year late also….but I am still lost in your comment. What is the traditional understanding of hell? Is there a new version of hell or something that I missed in class? It exists but not really? We had it wrong all along??

    Michelle

  21. Joe White says

    Brian McLaren’s statements would have little meaning if he were just a minor player who doesn’t represent the EC.

    But nearly would agree that he is a major influence in the founding and ongoing EC.

    Until they find out what he really believes, that is. Then some ECs try to put some distance between McLaren and themselves.

    But, like a battered wife, they still can’t seem to leave him.

    It’s an odd phenom, for sure.