Last night the Chicago Emergent cohort, Up/Rooted
, hosted a panel discussion on the topic "the emerging church critique of evangelicalism." On the panel were Scot McKnight
, Wayne Johnson
, and David Fitch
. The entire evening's discussion should eventually be available as a podcast and I'm sure someone with more patience than I will post a nice summary somewhere. (update - sorry no forthcoming podcast, something about it not recording and there is a decent summary here
) For now, I will point you to Dave Fitch's blog where he posted
a few of the ideas he covered last night. Scot also hinted that he will be blogging about the ideas he presented as well. Needless to say it was a stimulating discussion that did a fairly decent job of summing up most of the emerging critiques of evangelicalism. But of course the conversation didn't stop there as the presenters worked in their critiques of emerging/emergent as well.
I heard a lot I liked last night, a number of things I disagreed with, and a few things I didn't understand. I of course didn't ask any questions there, because, well, I hate asking questions in that sort of setting. One can't engage in real dialogue and the question generally gets misunderstood anyway (as evidents by the "let's see who can ask the most convoluted and confused question" game the audience seemed to be playing last night). But given the joyous freedoms on the blogworld, I can post my thoughts, disagreements and questions here and, in good emerging/postmodern fashion, engage with dialogue with anyone who is so inclined. So I'll try to post my random thoughts on this panel discussion here over the next week or so. That said, let's jump right in and talk about...
Worship. In his initial presentation on the emerging critique of evangelicalism, Wayne Johnson focused on the aspect of worship. While he thought that the EC has done a good job in it's critique of consumer, seeker driven worship, he also pointed out a few weaknesses in the EC in regards to worship. In setting up his discussion on worship, he defined the concept of worship as "our response to God's revelation in the world" (not a direct quote, but close I think). I like that definition, but not his subsequent assertion that primary forms of worship should then be the Word and the Table. Sure those are important aspects of God's revelation, but the God I worship is a lot bigger than just those two things. But I digress... What I really had issue with in his talk was his critique of the emerging emphasis on authenticity.
I know that "authentic" has become a buzz word in the EC and I fully agree that that which is trendy often has no real substance or meaning. And I fully agree that to push one idea of what it means to be authentic (informal, organic...) onto a person who is not those things to begin with kinda misses the point of authenticity. I get that. But then Dr. Johnson claimed that to be authentic is to promote an individualism that hinders the communal act of the body of Christ entering into corporate worship. If we so fine-tune our services into that which is an "authentic" worship experience for us, we run the risk of heightening ethnic, cultural, and generational divisions. We care too much about ourselves and not enough for others.
Don't get me wrong, I am all for diverse churches and I think our self centered myopic worship wars have caused more harm than good in the church; but, I'm not ready to throw out the concept of "authentic." If authentic is defined as that which is "true, real, and genuine," would not the opposite be that which is "false or a lie"? In emerging critiques of evangelical worship (and in evangelical critiques of traditional worship for that matter) there has been a lot of talk about "just going through the motions." In other words, participating in a false and meaningless form of worship - lying to God. I don't think anyone wants to promote lying in one's response to God as a good thing, but the question arises of if lying to God is justified if it helps build community. Is it okay to be inauthentic and false in how one responds to God if it helps build up a diverse body of Christ?
I honestly have no idea if that is at all what Dr. Johnson was intending with his thoughts, but it is what immediately popped into my mind. Does serving others involve making weighted moral choices like that or am I way off base here? Maybe I'm just too seeped in the evangelical definition of sin as personal choice as opposed to a wider more emerging view that involves the community as a whole. Maybe I just really have an issue with the whole concept of the submission of my will to that of other people. But I can't bring myself to say that it is okay to engage in false acts of worship solely for the good of the community. I see no problem with remaining silent and not making a scene about it if one can't participate, but I can't justify engaging. But maybe that's just me. What are your thoughts? What's your take on this whole issue of authenticity and worship?
Labels: Emerging Church, Worship