Emerging Heresy

It makes a change to be considering heresy in its original context. I mean, usually when I call someone a filthy heretic it’s because he has claimed that consoles are a better platform for gaming than PCs, or something equally worldly. (Yes, disputing Lord of the Rings as a work of genius and towering pillar of literature would also earn you that kind of label). But it’s perhaps symptomatic of the extent to which we can get caught up in the material world that such labels begin to lose their power.

Fortunately, we no longer live in a society where mob rule determines the heretical and reserves the right to burn at the stake those found guilty, but the reasons that this is a good thing are not necessarily obvious. Let me clarify – mob rule is bad, and killing people is bad. People taking their human desires and prejudices and justifying them in the name of God is definitely very bad. But taking spiritual concerns seriously enough that you are driven to rage and passion by them is not necessarily bad. Jesus didn’t sigh and shrug at the money changers in the temple, he stormed through them, overturning tables and driving them before him. (He didn’t act violently towards them either – note that restraint does not exclude passion).

On to the real meat of the question, though – what of our emergent heresy? It’s tricky to judge, really. We would be foolish to cast out and ignore two millennia of theology which pre-date us, but at the same time, there’s a fair amount of chaff (not to mention goat poop) mixed in with the wheat in the history of Christianity, so to emerge (or even diverge) from certain aspects of the established church is perhaps desirable. But I feel that the emergent phenomenon which I see around me is not one of leaving things behind, but rather embracing more. I see an increased appreciation for things which tend to fall outside the mainstream consideration – creativity, primal cultures, alternative expressions of worship and the real potential of the information age. It is not so much exclusive as inclusive.

Of course, we must be careful what we include. And there is certainly wisdom and caution required in this. Mostly, there is a need for guidance from God in this. Remaining close to God and being led by Him through the wilderness which we are now exploring, no journey can be heretical. But we need to stick close – we are in a land where many paths look similar, and only some are good to walk upon.

It’s like on the borders of the old maps, where the unknown lands were simply marked with “Here be Dragons” – there truly are dangers lurking in the intellectual wilderness. But God is the ultimate dragonslayer – stick close, and no harm shall come to you.

This post is part of a synchroblog:

Aratus – The Gender of the Creator and Face forward
Cobusvw – Conversing with the heretics
FakeExpressionsOfTheUnknown Who’s Heresy
Liquid Light – Coming out a heretic emerges
Mike Smith – Emerging Heresy
Nic Paton – The Lif Cycle of Heresy and The Blessings of Heresy
Roger Saner Towards a heretical orthodoxy
Ryan Peters – Calling the “H” word and dropping the “H” bomb
Steve Hayes Cult
Tim Victor – Confessions of a heretic

4 thoughts on “Emerging Heresy

  1. Comments from the original post (at the old site):

    April 22, 2008 8:50 AM
    Tim Victor said…


    I like the way you highlight the inclusivity of the emergents – at the heart of the tension lies a shift in the way we live in the world and what is central to our lives.

    When walking down paths with dragons, it’s great to be with friends cause one of the may be eaten instead. And you can hide behind the taller ones 😉

    April 22, 2008 10:50 AM
    nic paton said…

    Mike – a sane, clear, succinct and balanced view. (But not without a garnish of insanity to balance it.)

    “the emergent phenomenon which I see around me is not one of leaving things behind, but rather embracing more.”
    And that’s a testimony from experience rather than an abstract shot into the dark woods in the hope of slaying a dragon.

    Thanks – very useful thoughts.

    April 22, 2008 12:45 PM
    Stray said…

    Hi Mike, great post. Really enjoyed this comment : “Remaining close to God and being led by Him through the wilderness which we are now exploring, no journey can be heretical.”

    I think that is certainly a major truth – we need to remain close to Jesus. If we do this, we’ll be OK. If any teaching or idea veers away from Christ himself then it will be destructive and certainly is truly heretical.

  2. I’ve always found the emergent church something hard to get a grasp on. What exactly is it? I read things about it that seem good, and other things which seem pretty bad. I’ve read conflicting definitions, conflicting manifestos, etc. It’s all very confusing.

    • The “emerging” bit kinda suggests that it’ll elude a single definition, while providing a central thread: with Christianity no longer serving their needs, many church leaders and church goers are exploring new ways of doing church. Some expressions are healthy, others are unhealthy; some expressions deemed faithful, others not so faithful; some make a distinct break with the churches, groups and movements they come out of while others find a new expression in continuity with the community they leave.

      The kinds of trends in terms of expression is well put by tallskinnykiwi: http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2009/12/10-types-of-emerging-church-that-no-longer-upset-your-grandfather.html

    • I think timvictor is right that it eludes definition, and I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on the emerging church. The post is very much based on my personal experiences in a small house-based church which sought to explore alternative forms of worship and communion with God within a Christian context.

      The posts:
      All in agreement?
      Moving towards worship
      A Christian response to Halloween
      …recount other experiences from that same period.

      My primary contact with other aspects of the emerging church has been through the video recordings and writings of Rob Bell, which I think are outstanding. timvictor may have more of his own writings that would shed light on the emerging church, too.

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