Emergent and wolves in sheep’s clothing

"Sheep's Clothing" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Sheep’s Clothing” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

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I do remember when the Emergent movement was gaining ground and speed. I remember when I started seeing books from Emergent authors being read. It was an exciting time of exploration. It was cool to see people endeavoring to think outside the box and explore new ways to think, be, and gather as Christians.

But now I think it has settled, staked its claims, drawing boundaries, building fences, and establishing its laws. It has lost its pioneer spirit.

No matter how beautiful and beneficial a movement is, and no matter how impressive and influential a person is, no movement and no person is immune from the temptations that come with any territory. Greed, ambition, selfishness, jealousy, lust, lying, favoritism, dissension, hatred, competition… you name it… all these are at the doorstep.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing! Bad-intentioned people infiltrating well-intentioned ones. Basically, it means that wherever you feel you are safe and in good company, someone there might just turn on you and devour you. The same person who loved you yesterday just may reject you today.

Personally, I think it would be wise for all those who are or used to be associated with the Emergent movement to admit where they have behaved more like wolves so that trust can be rebuilt and people can move on to healthier places. It’s good to admit where you were wrong.

For me, I am determined to trust. Oh, I want discernment. I want to be brutally honest with what I see and hear in other people… what I see and hear between the lines. But I want to trust. Most people mean well. Most people are good. This is what I choose to believe. I understand they could turn in an instant. But until then I will choose to trust and enjoy the moment.

I’m not settling. The pioneer spirit is casting me further into the wilderness again.

Anyone with me?

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17 Responses

  1. Jill says:

    Such a tangled web… and power and religious conviction are a hearty combination. I want to believe people can get Jesus’ whole message together one day. Maybe it’ll happen?

  2. Father Tim says:

    Very funny!

    I am more concerned with shepherds in sheep’s clothing than wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  3. Curtis says:

    The Emergent movement always struck me as a way to introduce mainstream Protestant theology into the Evangelical church, without all the baggage of a larger church structure and oversight. I always understood why mainstream theology was appealing, but never understood the Emergent resistance to being under the oversight of a larger church body. After the events of the last few weeks, I finally understand why they resist church oversight.

  4. wanderer says:

    I feel like the emergent movement said this: “let’s give ourselves a little more freedom from the restrictions that no longer make sense but still be in the safe ground of christianity”. In my opinion it probably served a purpose for a time, but I agree that what may have started as a sincere desire to question presuppositions now has become a place where people are about name, career, money, ego, etc. just like every other established religious structure.
    Yes, into the wilderness. Let’s not settle.

  5. What events of the last few weeks?

    My reaction to this post was remembering how excited (in the 1960’s) everyone was about neo-orthodoxy. I resisted, but not enough to flunk out of seminary. I don’t know what I was when I went into seminary, but I came out a liberal. A very cautious liberal, as I had experienced reactionary theology in my first church even before I was seminary trained. The saints believed the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was communist. It had to be because some of the first edition had a “red” cover. BAD mistake. I was ordered never to read from it in the pulpit and I obeyed. Now I don’t know what I would do. We will never know. In my next church, I was not in charge. I was in charge of the youth program. One night we tried to be friendly to our neighbors and went to a revival at that church. The message was simple: “All liberals are going to hell.” One of my youth whispered to me: “Are we liberals?” I replied, “we will talk about it later”. I interviewed the preacher privately, asking for his definition of liberal. He told me. “Liberals do not believe in Jesus”. I gently told him that his viewpoint was about as stupid as any I had ever heard and returned to my youth. We had some interesting discussions.

    After being trained, I was up against the Reader’s Digest, who indirectly suggested that all liberals were communists. People not only read such junk, they believe it. I got even. I never subscribed. I got my dosage at the doctor’s offices. Still liked the jokes.

    Now I am not a liberal. I am a progressive, but not an emergent one.

  6. Curtis says:

    Regarding the events of the last few weeks… this is about as balanced of a summary you are going to find when you are faced with a disagreement and one side refuses to speak and instead tries to actively repress the speech of the other. But we don’t really know all the details.
    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2015/01/19/what-tony-jones-should-learn-from-stanley-hauerwas-about-marriage/

  7. True Curtis, and that post all began with Julie commenting on my post back in September. Crack open a bottle of wine and take a few hours to read it: https://nakedpastor.com/2014/09/tony-jones-on-mark-driscoll-what-came-first-the-thug-or-the-theology/

  8. Annie says:

    Brad/futurist guy has also done an excellent and exhaustive write-up which just went live today.
    https://diagnosingemergent.wordpress.com

  9. Ian Johnstone says:

    Interesting how things look very different from an old world perspective. I wonder if we have even reached the stage of labelling Christians who have moved out and moved on. That said, you can usually tell when a ‘movement’ has put down roots and is ready to go public; it starts to look sound and feel like a corporate entity. The ’emergent’ ‘church’, as a lot of the neo-protestant church denominations in the last 200 years, have found favour and fuel in the disgruntled pews of America. Most of the ‘new’ theological thinking has been from the USA and seems to be in response to a more conservative type of Christianity and culture than we have here in the UK. We have watched with interest and some satisfaction at the emerging landscape and have drawn generously from this fresh well spring, without having to wrestle too much with the religious status quo. looking forward seeing where Jesus leads next.

  10. Curtis says:

    I haven’t heard any new theological thinking from the Emergent church that couldn’t be found in mainline theological seminaries ten years earlier. The main contribution of the Emergent movement was to articulate progressive theology in a manner and to an audience that wouldn’t otherwise hear it, primarily Evangelicals and youth.

    Emegents didn’t contribute much in terms of theology, but they did contribute in terms of how to communicate. Ironically, it is the Emergent embrace of and then misuse of open and free-flowing communication techniques, like the internet, as well as the Emergent refusal to participate in existing church saccountability structures, that will cause the Emergent movement to lose all credibility.

  11. Greg says:

    Thanks for posting that Mike! I hope this site, after letting Julie share her perspective, will give equal time to Tony’s side of the story.

  12. Curtis says:

    I’m not impressed. I’m sure Julie’s lawyers will produce a similar document, once she can scrounge up the legal fees. We can look for something similar from Julie before too long.

    What we have is a very large forest, and all each side wants to talk about is all the trees. Let’s back up and see what we have: Two people with clear personal issues. Both of them have displayed very bad judgement all along the way. First of all, entering into marriage without being aware of and working on their personal issues. Secondly, once the issues came to the surface in a very bad marriage, choosing to ditch the marriage, and the children, instead of seeking the support they need to keep the family together, and keep the children safe.

    Now they are talking past each other in an endless bout of he-said, she-said, with the lawyers taking copious notes on both sides along the way. They both will have a very compelling, lawyer-crafted case to present to a judge and to the public. But all of those trees don’t hide the fact that this is just one big forest that they have each failed, individually, on numerous occasions, to take responsibility for.

    The main thing I don’t understand is, if Julie is as crazy and Tony says, why does he let her be alone with the kids? A straight-thinking guy would do whatever it takes to be around the kids and not leave them with an unsafe person, even if that means staying in the marriage and getting the support you need to keep the marriage intact. But it is clear Tony’s judgement throughout has been just as bad as Julie’s.

    All I can conclude at this point, is if a person does decide to join a church, look for a Lutheran or Episcopal church. You get pretty much the same theology as the Emergents, but you have a church structure filtering out riff raff like these before it gets to a leadership position in the church.

  13. Curtis says:

    Here is Julie’s “endorsed” response to Tony, at this point. Looks like it was more crowd-sourced than lawyer-vetted. Julie probably doesn’t have the cash on hand for a lawyer.
    https://diagnosingemergent.wordpress.com/04-personal-issues-between-tony-jones-and-julie-mcmahon/

    But I still think all this back-and-forth does is use dozens of debatable facts to cloud the main issue : Both Tony and Julie need help, and all the arguing does is give them a distraction from addressing their own responsibilities in the mess they have created together.

  14. Just to clarify Curtis… Tony’s story was the authorized one. Julie finally found a place to tell hers because up until then no one would listen. Now that people are listening, Tony has re-entered the game to refortify his story.

  15. Curtis says:

    Tony has had the opportunity all along to tell his story to whomever he wants, whenever he wants. The only difference now is that Tony is lawyered up.

    And the lawyers are doing a very good job. Like reframing the issue as one of physical abuse, when that has never been Julie’s primary complaint.

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