The Emerging Christian Way, by Marcus Borg, Matthew Fox, Tom Harpur et al (LentBook #5)

Some of the writers in The Emerging Christian Way — most notably Marcus Borg, whose essay kicks off the collection — dissociate themselves from the label “liberal” in favour of talking about an “emerging paradigm” of Christianity. But that’s mostly rhetoric: this collection of essays is about what we all recognize as “liberal Christianity,” that is, Christians in the mainline Protestant denominations who question traditional doctrines such as the divinity of Christ and the authority of the Bible, yet who still find Christianity meaningful and significant.

There’s nothing wrong with this book speaking to that audience, but something in the packaging made me hope that the writers would address a broader spectrum of Christians, that there would be something here for someone like me who self-identifies as a conservative within Christianity, a liberal within my denomination, and who’s very excited by the idea of “emergent” Christianity as described by Brian McLaren. I’m interested in visions of Christianity that transcend traditional boundaries and categories, and I thought The Emerging Christian Way might present such a vision.

But it doesn’t. There’s no real interest here in building bridges with more conservative Christians; indeed, as Marcus Borg says up front, this “emerging paradigm” of Christianity is so different from the traditional paradigm that they might as well be two different religions. Fair enough; most conservative Christian writers I read aren’t that interested in building bridges to the liberal wing of the faith, either. But since there are elements of both liberal and conservative Christianity that appeal to me, those bridges are of interest to me.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with this book (which is published in Canada and, despite the presence of essays by Borg and Fox, has a distinctly Canadian slant) if you’re looking for a guide to what it means to be a Christian even though you don’t accept all the traditional doctrines. The book turned out not to be quite what I was looking for, but what it does, it does quite well.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Emerging Christian Way, by Marcus Borg, Matthew Fox, Tom Harpur et al (LentBook #5)

  1. Trudy,
    Thanks for the review. I live in Borg – country, Corvallis Oregon and always enjoy listening to the man, reading him… but he’s exactly as you say: a modern liberal. By no means is he “emerging” although he is friendly with guys like McLaren – they’ve discussed a conference circuit together, which could be great for Borg. I think his “Heart of Christianity” was an [unrecognized] attempt at reaching out to more conservative Evangelicals, but he’s still too rigid and divisive for much of the emerging crowd.

    I currently attend a very liberal United Methodist church. I enjoy and appreciate it, but hear a lot of self-congratulatory talk about “social relevance” and progressive, “emerging” Christianity.”

    There is nothing progressive about them. They are as entrenched in 1960s liberalism as my old Assemblies of God church was steeped in 1950s fundamentalism.

    Glad you’re recognizing the need for a third way.

    I just happened upon your blog – keep it coming!

    Peter Walker

  2. Anna

    I too, stumbled across this site, I admit that I’m Naive, and haven’t read this book or any other emergent literature beyond Bell and Kimball, but they all seem to say the same thing:

    1. it’s ok to question the bible, not only that, but it’s ok to assume that there may be errors or that it is all metaphorical.

    2.other Religious doctrines can be added to the mix

    3. Jesus was a great teacher, but you don’t have to believe in him as your savior.

    this is the impression I get when I read emergent material. Whether you are Liberal or Conservative, you still must accept Christ as your Lord and Savior to be a Christian and it seems that these “Scholars” offer a watered down Christ in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.

  3. Ann

    Hi,

    I recently attended a retreat based on the book, The Emergent Christian Way. What I heard was interesting but appeared divisive. The speaker, from another church, asked the group to analyze where their own church was at according to its first half of spiritual life or second. The first half refers to being inside the box and holding your beliefs in nice containers…the second half referred to if you have emerged and don’t cling to the containers anymore. I heard people accusingly say that the older people in the church were still clinging to Jesus and the belief in the trinity and I heard others say that it was a good thing to get rid of the cross during renovations so that it wasn’t the focal point but rather it was replaced by more contemporary crosses…what is a contemporary cross?

    I am not opposed to emerging Christian theology…in fact, I love that the church who loves Jesus and is being called to change to love the people in this world rather than remain comfortable inside the church…but hasn’t that the been the way it should have been all along?

    However, I do not agree with a new way that disregards the trinity, divides Christians into “old-school” versus the enlightened, and that only seems to accept God and the Spirit as truth but denies Jesus in many ways.

    This retreat sparked a renewed commitment in me to study God’s word, engage in conversation, and to live out the life Jesus calls me to but to be careful of heretical teachings.

    I am deeply concerned for what I perceive to be two-separate emerging-way theologies “emerging” and want to make sure that we are not, “misleading God’s dear servants into cross-denying, self-indulgent religion” (Rev. 2: 13).

    Faithfully,

    Ann

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