I suggested in a recent column at Adventist Today that the “emerging church” is characterized by diversity of approach; while I have serious theological differences with some people associated with it (especially under the “Emergent” brand), I think there is much we can learn from the movement.
The two writers associated with the “emerging church” I most appreciate are Mark Driscoll and Dan Kimball. They believe that doctrine matters–that we cannot compromise Christian confession in the face of the metaphysical mush of postmodernism.
Driscoll’s latest book, written with Gerry Breshears, is a manifesto for this strain of the emerging church. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Crossway 2010) affirms that doctrine matters; that the Triune God reveals himself to us by speaking, and we can understand what he says. Doctrine is thus an apologetic for the belief that propositional revelation makes even more sense in today’s postmodern world. But it is also a catechism, a synopsis of Christian faith, and how it relates. And it is a dialogue with the postmodern world, showing how Christian belief gives answers to postmodern questions and longings. And–as we should expect from Driscoll–it is a polemic against the Emergent advocates of pluralism and doctrinal and moral indifference.
I like much about the book–most of all this firm stance that what we believe makes a difference. I especially like the way it articulates the doctrines of the Trinity, Revelation, Creation, Covenant, the Cross, the Church, and Worship. I’m going to have some quibbles along the way, of course–I understand some Bible teachings differently (the writers assume the immortality of the soul without trying to prove it from Scripture; they dismiss the Sabbath as part of the ceremonial law, without even dealing with the Calvinistic tradition on the question). I am particularly disappointed that the Second Coming of Jesus, so fervently proclaimed by the New Testament writers, is scarcely alluded to.
But when you say doctrine is important, as Driscoll and Breshears do, you thereby encourage study and invite debate. You prioritize those points that are central to Christian faith, and you allow that some items are secondary, and still others, tentative; and by so doing, you don’t fall into relativism, you don’t invite laxity, you instead underscore the importance of conversation–a conversation that is informed by the Word, and aims at understanding God’s Truth. Thanks to them for initiating that kind of conversation.