Yesterday, Tony Jones posted at the Emergent–US site yesterday the issue regarding whether or not Emergent needs a doctrinal statement.
The post was written by professor and scholar F. LeRon Shults. At the last Emergent Conference in San Diego I was unable to attend the workshops with Shults, but he was a huge draw as he is a brilliant thinker and writer. Shults has a long post, but here is an excerpt:
Such a move would be inappropriate. Various communities throughout church history have often developed new creeds and confessions in order to express the Gospel in their cultural context, but the early modern use of linguistic formulations as “statements” that allegedly capture the truth about God with certainty for all cultures and contexts is deeply problematic for at least two reasons. First, such an approach presupposes a (Platonic or Cartesian) representationalist view of language, which has been undermined in late modernity by a variety of disciplines across the social and physical sciences (e.g., sociolinguistics and paleo-biology). Why would Emergent want to force the new wine of the Spiritâs powerful transformation of communities into old modernist wineskins? Second, and more importantly from a theological perspective, this fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces all finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.
I’m sure this discussion will be heavily posted and discussed. I know that my friend Brent Thomas finds Emergent confusing, especially in regards to the issue of defining terms and language.
Personally, I have enjoyed attending two of the Emerging Conferences over the last few years. I have enjoyed interacting with “emerging church” communities, thinkers, pastors, writers, etc. Though many people find Emergent confusing and want more defined rules and structure, I personally find my engagement in the emergent community as a breath of fresh air. It is one of the few opportunities that I have had and that I know others have had to truly engage in important discussion without automatically being excluded from discussion because of where one may reside denomintionally, theologically, politically, etc. I have never viewed Emergent as a denominational movement, but rather a collection of people who gather together to openly discuss various theological issues, without having to necessarily nail down statements, visions, purposes, confessions, articles, etc. Not everyone likes that, but many embrace it. I don’t think it is neither good nor bad if Emergent doesn’t come up with a doctrinal statement, because that never seemed to be the intent of their gatherings. Whatever happens I am going to continue to enjoy my interaction and relationships with many in those communities.