An Emergent “Statement of Faith”…not to be


I was recently asked in a conversation with a friend about the beliefs of those in the emerging church conversation/movement.  He wanted to know what exactly emerging church type folks believed.  A difficult question given that many in this conversation hail from different Christian traditions.  If there was a statement of faith, I told him, it would have to be one that is 'catholic' and 'creedal'.  Meaning that it looks to the creeds, traditions, and practices of the catholic body of Christ over the past 2,000 years.  A statement of faith would be as long and as diverse as the various Christian bodies represented in this movement. 

On the Emergent-US blog a 'statement of faith' has been side-stepped in order to keep the conversation going.  I believe this to be a good move.  As I told a friend I don't want people of different Christian stripes to stop being faithful to their particular tradition.  If you come to this conversation as an Anabaptist or as a Pentecostal you should feel compelled to stay true to your ecclesial home. 

LeRon Shults offers his thoughts as to why a 'statement of faith' would be an unwise move.  

There is also a great conversation surrounding this issue taking place at Generous Orthodoxy ThinkTank.  Especially comments by James K. A. Smith.

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16 thoughts on “An Emergent “Statement of Faith”…not to be

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  1. I’m with you on this one brother! Perhaps the creeds were meant more to “hold” us together as we unpack how in our own uniqueness we seek to reflect and practice our faith here and now with continuity with the past and also connection with the wider CHURCH.

  2. Hey man,

    Wish you were in your old backyard of Bham today…This is what we are discussing at our Emergent Cohort this morning. Let us know next time you come in.

  3. Nothing special going on at DF ( just normal life in the week)…but if you are in town-lets try to hook up. Let me know if you guys decide to come in that weekend.

  4. I think statements of faith are important for local churches (not necessarily Emergent or other prarachurch org.) to define what a local body both affirms and denies theologically and ecclesiastically, for both seekers and members. This seems obviously important in such a spiritually pluralistic culture.

    btw ant, i have linked your blog from mine. im sure we dont agree on a whole lot, but i enjoy your blog.

  5. I agree about Emergent’s deferring a statement of faith being a good thing. The confirmands at my church presented their statements of faith to the congregation yesterday; this was after they presented them to the board of elders earlier this month. The kid I sponsored, if I were to place him according to his statement of faith, would be a Christadelphian, but now he’s officially Presbyterian. Not sure what purpose these statements of faith served in our case, other than to force the kids to think about what they believe and then open a dialogue between them and the classic creeds and confessions of the church. Of course, now that I’ve typed that out, it sounds pretty worthwhile.

  6. David,

    I do not believe a statement of faith to be a bad thing. As a matter of fact I think it is vital for local churches and their catachumens.

    I am with James K. A. Smith in that the creeds are probably better suited for such an ecumenical/catholic organization/para-church ministries such as Emergent. Such as the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds. There are different Christian traditions represented at Emergent that coming up with a singular statement of faith would be very difficult.

    They already have something creedal as a point of unity.

    You already have people involved with Emergent who are a part of particular Christian traditions that have already gone through their denomination’s or tradition’s specific process of catachesis and affirmation of faith/doctrines.

    The local Emergent Cohort I am a part of here in Charlotte has Catholics, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Southern Baptists, Charismatic, etc.. They already affirm their particular tradition’s statement of faith. I couldn’t even imagine trying to get the people in my cohort to sign on with a particular statement of faith…they’d probably stone me!

  7. I wished we returned to the first creed .

    …back in the pre-theology days when there was still no distinction between the “way of life” and the golden rule…the brief dogma of those who called themselves the Way.

    In short:

    CREED of Christianity, c. 100 ad:

    1) Love G-d. 2) Be ye charitable.

    …which incidentally, they named it as Jesus put it: “the Way of life”, “the narrow gate” (Matt 7:12-13).

  8. Eric,

    there is no such thing as “pre-theology days.” theology is an extrabiblical moniker for something (study of God and His nature) that has existed likely since the beginning of created man and certainly no later than the advent of Mosaic Law.

    Also,”the Way of life” and “the narrow gate” do not appear in Matthew 7:12-13 at all.

    In short: you misquoted the bible.

  9. Dear Gavin,

    You’re right, I hsould just say “Jewish days”. =)

    I have the quote off my head, let me check the verses.

  10. You’re right, vs. 14 is also a part of it.

    Here is Jesus:

    Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

    The Jewish “Two Ways” document, and general Jewish commentary (in such writings as the Testament of Abraham) support the definition of teh “way of Life” as the golden rule. This bears from reading the opening of the Didache…call it early Church doctrine. I like it, though I can’t say I would define salvation just as that.

    On the matter of the Didache and Jewish “theology”, see this magnificent work:

    The Didache
    Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity
    Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum – CRINT
    by Huub van de Sandt and David Flusser

  11. eric,

    i tried the link in your original post, as i was intrigued by it, but it took me to a “page can not be displayed” page.

  12. Anthony,

    This from you- is, I think, the clearest, most concise good reason I’ve heard for there being no emergent statement of faith. From my perspective, I fully agree.

    There needs to be a sense of essential oneness without throwing overboard our identities.

  13. i too went last to see the movie . . . quite frankly i didn’t think that all the hype was warrented . . . of course the movie is not a “recommended” source for church history lesson . . . true enough but its a movie not a seminary textbook . . .

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of people have read and will watch the new movie The Da Vinci Code, as an experience in shared frustration with a religious status-quo, a mostly male-dominated, power-oriented, cover-up-prone organized religion. That is as difficult to write as it is difficult to read. But there is on some level difficult truth in this statement. The Da Vinci Code can only gain traction in a nation where careful explorations of challenging concepts like the virgin birth and the deity of Christ have been exchanged for mere motivational speeches, and where “easy steps to better living” sermons dominate the landscape of our pulpits.

    If we are truly “Christian” it’s important that we honestly ask ourselves why the vision of Jesus portrayed in Dan Brown’s book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to some people than the vision of Jesus they hear about in church. Is it possible that, even though Brown’s fictional version misleads its audience in many ways, it at least serves to open up the possibility that the church’s conventional version of Jesus may not do Him justice? I’m afraid that’s true.

    For all the error in Brown’s book, (and there is plenty!) I think the reaction to what he’s doing is suggesting that the dominant religious institutions have created their own “caricature” of Jesus. And I think “John Q. Pew” has an unspoken sense that that’s true. It’s my honest feeling that anyone trying to share their faith in America today has to realize that the air is polluted with inaccurate assumptions that the church has created. The name “Jesus” and the word “Christianity” are too often associated with something judgmental, hostile, and angry, that’s not to mention the hypocritical, negative, and even defensiveness we all too often perpetuate. Many of our churches, even though they feel they represent the truth, are actually upholding something that’s distorted and false. Again, those are difficult words to type and hear, but I believe that they are true too.

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