Is RockHarbor an Emergent Church?

rockharbor-logoThe leadership of my church recently held a forum where they answered concerns about RockHarbor being an Emergent Church.  I think they did a great job of illuminating the topic and identifying a number of different camps in the always ambiguous Emerging/Emergent movement.

This is a bit of an “inside the family” conversation for Evangelicals.  But I think it will help Mormons understand more about where I am coming from theologically and it will help you understand more about this “hot topic” in Evangelicalism.

Direct link here or Video link here.  You can also read a position paper here.

13 thoughts on “Is RockHarbor an Emergent Church?

  1. Interesting paper, Tim (I only read the position paper, I didn’t listen to the audio). This emerging church business never sounded like my thing. I’m all for finding new ways to apply the Gospel to people’s lives, but I cling to my biblical inerrancy like my dad clings to his massive firearms collection.

  2. Tim — I read your handout, and I’ve read some of the writings of the “emergent” people. But I have a hard time getting a feel for where they’re coming from theologically. How different would you say “emergent” theology is from the theology of mainline Protestantism? I don’t see a lot of difference, and there seems to be a great variety in both camps, but I could be wrong.

  3. “Emergent” is a branch of Protestantism that embraces (for lack of a better word) Postmodernism. What that means theologically presents wide theological swings. Some “emergents” are just liberal Christians in hipper clothing. Some are universalist. Some are straight-line orthodox.

    The rising distinction is “emerging” – churches who are trying to contextualize the gospel to a postmodern world (with a large range of opinions on how to do that)


    “emergent” – churches or people adopting postmodernism into their theology.

    I’m cutting through a LOT of nuance but for a short description, it will suffice. The term comes from a group of pastors that formed the “Emergent Village”. Mark Driscoll from your neck of the woods was at one point a part of the conversation. He eventually left because he felt heresy was creeping in. Brian McLaren is the most outspoken voice for the emergent church. Kullervo and Katy attend (?) the church he founded (but no longer pastors).

    At the heart of the debate is whether or not objective truth can be known and how well it can be known. Clearly if you don’t think it can’t be known, that’s going to start radically affecting your authority claims.

    You should be aware that there is a postmodern movement within the LDS church as well. “Juliann” at MaDB is one of its proponents.

  4. Tim said:

    Mark Driscoll from your neck of the woods was at one point a part of the conversation.

    I left that neck of the woods before Driscoll was anywhere near as well-known as he is now. But once my younger teenager graduates from high school, I’ll hopefully be going back. It’s a great place to live.

    In any case, I don’t have much nice to say about Driscoll (and not just because of the mischaracterizations I’ve heard him make of Mormonism). In my opinion (and this may not be fair, but oh well) he’s a good example of what can happen in a church when there’s a lack of denominational oversight.
    Tim also said:

    You should be aware that there is a postmodern movement within the LDS church as well.

    “Movement” may be overstating things more than a bit. The LDS church isn’t one that suffers from a lack of denominational oversight.

  5. Brian McLaren sat behind us this morning, and we chatted with him for a bit after the service.

    Did you tell him his book didn’t make you a Christian? 😉

  6. I read stuff like page 6 of that position paper and I really, really get the feeling that the practical divide between Mormons and Evangelicals on the whole “grace vs. works” issue is paper thin at most.

  7. I stopped arguing with Mormons concerning grace v. works years ago. Seems like you can easily find Mormons who are more grace-oriented and Protestants who are more works-oriented, and I suspect there are people on the wrong track in both groups. The whole thing makes my head hurt.

  8. I jumped into that debate for a while but came away thinking that the differences are only found by people who want to find them: i.e., Mormons who need to prove that all other churches are fallen, so they pick away at “faith without works” worship; Protestants who need to prove that Mormons aren’t Christian, so they pick away at “dead works” worship.

  9. No, I think that there can be significant differences that are more than semantic. The problem is really the myth of Mormon homogeneity (and perhaps a similar if less potent myth regarding Evangelicals). Mormons believe that there is one complete truth that–at least as far as it has been revealed–is known by and taught by the leadership of the Church. There is 1) an objective truth that 2) can be known and 3) is known and taught by the Church.

    The problem is that 1) many Mormons in fact believe very different things about a number of major points of doctrine, emphasis, and gospel theme, 2) all (or at least significantly many if not most) of these Mormons are certain that their personal interpretation matches all three of the above points, i.e. that the truth as they understand it is the objective, knowable truth that is taught by the leadership Church.

    I’m not talking about peoples’ personal theories and pet ideas here–those are fairly rife in the Church as well, but for the most part, people acknowledge when they are talking about “the gospel according to [me].” But what they fail to realize is that most of their religion is the “gospel according to [them],” even the parts that they think are rock-solid. The leadership of the Church is notoriously vague in a lot of their teaching, in part because they generally do not have a philosophical and theological framework that is sufficient for them to speak clearly and unambiguously about complex theological ideas, and in part, I think, on purpose.

    The vagueness itself is not bad, in that it can facilitate an inclusive “big tent” approach that defines unity in terms of orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy. The problem is that the Church and its members perpetuate a myth of orthodoxy. Everyone hears what they want to hear, and because of their beliefs about the Church having and teaching the plain and precious truths, they are certain that they and the Brethren really know what’s going on.

    So some Mormons do really believe that they are saved by their own efforts. But some don’t. And the Church’s teachings are either too contradictory or too vague to settle the question. Which again is not a problem in itself–theological diversity is not a bad thing. The problem is the myth of theological homogeneity. Mormons who have different ideas are not simply heretics who believe the wrong things; they are merely mistaken in their understanding of the gospel.

  10. But none of that has anything really to do with the issues in Protestantism surrounding the rise of the emerging and emergent church movements.

  11. I think to some degree I actually agree with Kullervo about the “myth of homogeneity.”

    I think many in the LDS Church mistake what is basically a unity of PURPOSE for a unity of BELIEF.

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