Monday, November 19, 2012

book review: Emergence Christianity

title: Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters
author: Phyllis Tickle
date: 2012
publisher: Baker Books

Phyllis Tickle has written her fourth book on the emergent church. In her most recent book, “Emergence Christianity”, she takes a sympathetic look at the non-movement movement, doing an excellent job of reviewing and distilling in some 200 pages where things have been, where they are, and where they might go.

Tickle suggests that we are living in the age of "The Great Emergence" across the world, where major changes are shaping not only culture but giving birth to "emergence Christianity."

Quite a bold claim, especially for one living in the middle of it! And this book seeks to describe how some Christians are adapting to it.

She argues that the current cultural and religious transformation “is an across-the-board and still-accelerating shift in every single part and parcel of our lives as members in good standing of twenty-first-century Western or westernized civilization.” Tickle draws together strands as different as the Azusa Street revival, the Greenbelt music festival, the growth of house churches, and the birth of the Emergent Village Web site/community to chart the phenomena that have made the changeing of the guard possible. In this complex and changeable context she includes groups like the “Hyphenateds” (those still affiliated with traditional Christian denominations), Emerging and Emergent communities, Neo-Monastics, and others. 

If you agree with her perspectice, you will appreciate and enjoy the book immensely. If you don't agree with her observations and are interested in the direction of church history, you will find this a worthwhile read. 

Tickle, suggests that Emergence Christianity is not in decline, but in a stage of reconfiguration or maturation. One of the strengths of Tickles book is she places the Emergent/Emergent debate within the broader flow of world history and not simply American Christianity.

Tickle summarizes Emergence Christianity in seven points (pp. 164-66):
1. Radically obeying the words and teachings of Christ.
2. Insisting there is only one story in the Bible, not two.
3. Being willingly susceptible to the power of story (as opposed to propositional truth).
4. Viewing theology as an ongoing conversation that is a means rather than an end.
5. Always opting for grace over morality.
6. Believing orthopraxy (right actions) always trumps orthodoxy (right beliefs)
7. Holding the church as part of the Kingdom of God and its citizens rather than an institution.

At the end of her book, Tickle walks through a number of challenges facing the Emergence movement These include the power struggles within Emergence communities who want to claim there are no power struggles; how do you belong in a generation that resists belonging; formative religious education for children and youth in an adult-oriented community, and the most basic question of all: where is the locus of authority in this new type of Christianity?

This book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and BakerBooks in exchange for an honest review.

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