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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Entering the Fray

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Ok, so I haven't talked a lot about the emerging church, or the Emergent Church a whole lot over the years.  It finally feels like time for me to engage at a higher level.  I've been moving around in the emerging church world and postmodernity for a long time - thinking, reading, praying, writing - but haven't really stepped out and engaged with others on a very high level.  For whatever reason, it feels like time to do that.  Maybe I feel a little more comfortable in my own skin and now that I'm 35, feeling like some of things I'm thinking bear sharing, conversing about, or engaging with.  So, just for autobiographical reasons, let me share a couple of things about my history:

  • I grew up in a strong evangelical Christian sub-culture and knew a lot about Jesus, but didn't know him.
  • Starting in 1990 I began my journey into philosophy which lead to a pretty deep entry into postmodern philosophy. Much of my intellectual formation from 1990-1994 came through interactions with the following people: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Pascal, Lyotard, Vattimo, Habbermas, Heideger, Derrida, Fish, Rawls, Marx, Engels, Foucault, Rorty, among others.  Deconstruction was a huge part of my personal journey, and was also helpful in understanding Scripture and Jesus more clearly.  It was in the middle of this journey through postmodern philosophy that I actually met Jesus.   

Now, that might sound strange to some of you because so many Christians tend to lament the rise of postmodernity and see it as a dangerous threat to Christianity.  Well, it can be, and whether that's a good thing or not depends on how it's a threat.  Deconstructing the things that have been added to what God intended can be a very good thing.  Deconstructing what is biblical and true about God and about humanity can be a terrible thing.  (more on this in later posts).  Anyway, I think since that time, I have understood the Bible, my relationship to God through Jesus Christ by his Holy Spirit, my understanding of the narrative of history, my understanding of what God has done, is doing, and will do, my understanding of the place of individual Christians and the church in culture, my understanding of the development of theology, my frustrations with systematic theology (particular the merging of secular philosophy with biblical theology to create something extra-biblical), my understanding of issues of justice, restoration, the marginalized, incarnation, and much more.

From 1994 to 2005 I was involved in college ministry, starting several new ministries to college students and then pastoring a church that could probably be described in some ways as borderline emergent.  I always described it as reaching out to the de-churched and trying to be a church that took God and the Scriptures seriously while, as our slogan said, "Ask questions worth answering; seek answers worth believing."  We loved dialogue, struggle, and the communal aspects of the faith journey.  We had people who were part of the community from far left, far right, and somewhere in the middle socially and  theologically  Recently I've been serving in a leadership position in a larger, more conservative small mega-church that is fairly mainline as far as larger community churches go. 

I've always felt intimately tied to evangelicalism, and yet have always felt like an outsider as well.  I was raised in a church plant in the reformed tradition with a former missionar as a pastor.  I've never really been purely a reformed calvinist, either, although I have many calvinist tendencies and beliefs and did attend Calvin Seminary for goodness' sake.

Anyway, all that to say that I'll be trying in upcoming posts to engage some of the issues at a higher level, like the strains in the emerging church (Emergent Church, Emergence Theory, emerging church and the differences), the positive sides of deconstructionism informed by Christian faith, how Kierkegaard and Christian existentialism fits into my own journey, and more.  I'd like to actually talk a bit about what McLaren talks about in his book Everything Must Change, which I promised awhile back, but haven't gotten to, along with multiple other books I've read lately.  Then, if all goes well, I can get into a couple of people who are "on the scene" and some of the issues at hand.

Anyway, we'll see if I have time.


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