I’m resuming my current series of posts on challenging our thinking. This time, I’m presenting you with some folks who hold a view of faith that falls outside of traditional, conservative Christianity.
First up, and rather fitting, is Phyllis Tickle. I was first introduced to this new way of being Christian through her book The Great Emergence. It’s a fairly short work, and a quick read, but powerful in its message. Tickle describes the major periods of church history and the birth pains of each new movement that rocked the church. She declares us ready for another shift in our thinking, a new way of understanding and practicing our faith. One of the most helpful parts of the book is the graph highlighting the differences between orthodoxy (“right belief,” adherence to doctrine) and orthopraxy (“right practice,” emphasis on action). She explains the differences among Liturgical, Social Justice, Renewalist, and Conservative Christians. I had never understood what was actually behind some of the arguments among denominations, and this helped clarify. If you read one book to expand your thinking about the church this year, this is the one I recommend.
Second, in The Great Emergence, Tickle mentions several other voices of Emergent Christianity. One of those is Brian McLaren. I couldn’t possibly do him justice in this one blog post. For many years, he’s worked tirelessly to help us understand our faith in a new light. He’s taken us into his own journey of deconstruction, discovery, and growth. If you’re not quite ready to embrace emergent thought, then start with his 2011 book, Naked Spirituality. He offers very little of his most controversial ideas, instead focusing on the journey itself. When you’re ready, move on to A New Kind of Christian and its sequels. McLaren uses storytelling to convey the process of a maturing and expanding faith. If you’re ambitious, read as many of McLaren’s books as you can get your hands on. Those will be hours well spent.
In all of this, keep an open mind. I don’t mean in the sense that you are willing to embrace absolutely anything without discretion. I mean, try to read without judgment. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that emergent thinkers are “leading the flock” astray, remember that we are all on an expedition to understand God, faith, the Bible, and the message of Jesus.