Or at least on life support.

Andrew Jones suggested that 2009 represented a decisive year for the movement, and he’s been as careful observer of it as any.  Of course, people disagree with him–but then, when it comes to that conversation, everything is up for grabs, isn’t it?  Which, I gather, has been one of the central problems.

At any rate, Ben Simpson (whose blog I have been enjoying of late) pointed me this afternoon to this promise to take-down the emerging church by Jeremy Bouma, a 29-year-old participant in the movement who has grown a bit disenchanted with it.  Jeremy’s only one person, of course.  But he is an insider, and he’s not exactly going to hold back.

First, I am posting a series based on a theological examination I undertook for my Early Church Th.M class called, “Pagitt and Pelagius: An Examination of a Neo-Pelagianism.” Many have suggested Doug Pagitt is dishonest about his Pelagianism, an early church teaching that was declared heretical. I thought it would be interesting to read all of Pelagius‘ known works (including an interesting, little read commentary on the Book of Romans) along side Pagitt’s. These posts will explore their writings on human nature, sin, salvation, discipleship, and judgment. It will drop Wednesday, February 10.

Second, I will post on the soon-to-be released book by Brian McLarenA New Kind of Christianity. In it he discusses the top 10 questions facing the Christian faith. In some ways it’s a tell-all that should finally give his critics what they’ve asked and wanted for years: answers. From what I have read so far in an advance copy, this is truly going to be a line in the sand that will determine where people are in their understanding of the nature of salvation and commitment to the historic Rule of Faith, which is why I want to tackle it question by question. Along the way I will provide a theological assessment in order to understand his take on human nature, sin and rebellion, the nature of Jesus Christ, the cross and salvation, resurrection, judgment, and God. Look for this interaction at the start of March. (A friend of mine has already begun such an interaction, here.)

I’ve stood on the outer fringes of the emerging church conversation, rarely interacting with it directly but always cognizant of its critiques of traditional evangelicalism.  For evangelicals, the emerging church has moved the window of conversation the last decade by focusing our attention on the questions and problems of truth, social justice, and ‘post-modernism’.

In that sense, one way of understanding what I’ve tried to make happen at Mere-O is against that backdrop.  We have attempted to offer a different, m0re substantive remedy (see: G.K., Lewis, and the rest of the Christian tradition) than that offered by the dehistoricized, subjectivist, anti-creedal approaches of many in the emerging church, while also trying to model reflective engagement with culture and politics that is captive to neither.

But the advantage we have is that if the emerging church conversation goes away, we’ll still be around, doing our thing. Our aspirations, thankfully, don’t have to die with the original motivations for them.  They can be constantly renewed and deepened, as we continue to explore the depth and grandness of the mere orthodoxy of the classical, conservative Christianity.

“The universe,” C.S. Lewis once wrote, “seems to be sharpening to a point.”  So also the conversation about the emerging church.  A hipper, cooler form of Protestant liberalism will still be as vacuous and unfruitful as Protestant liberalism has been.

But then, I should leave those lines of direct critique to Jeremy.  But you can bet I’ll be reading with interest and curiosity as he makes his case, and with optimism and joy that a renewed, historical orthodoxy is alive and well in Grand Rapids.

(I also feel obligated to point out to readers that he has some lectures on Bioethics and Christian Spirituality by Nigel Cameron that promise to be interesting.  I haven’t listened to them yet, but Cameron is a fantastic ethicist who is worth taking very seriously.)

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Thanks for the heads-up about this. I look forward to reading what Jeremy has to say. I’ve read some of the emergent books, and while I deeply appreciate their emphasis on social justice, their embracing of some elements of postmodernism is not a good thing, in my estimation. The best critique I’ve read of the movement, though I haven’t read much, is Scott Smith’s Truth and the New Kind of Christian.


  2. Thanks for your link and kind words. I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say I’m the death nail in Emergent. I do hope I can offer a theological critique to help others move as beyond the conversation as I have moved. Likewise, my heart and passion as a pastor/theologian in G-Rap is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah, and re-root the Church in the historic Rule of Faith. By God’s grace I’ll plot toward that end…

    Anyway, thanks again! Shlm to you.


  3. […] Orthodoxy: The Emerging Church is Dead (?) by Matthew Lee […]


  4. Jeremy,

    Yah, I wasn’t thinking just of you, but partly of Andrew’s post and a few others I’ve seen saying as much. But I think you’re one of the first “insiders” that I have seen to come out as strongly against the more liberal fringes of it, which I think is a significant step….and courageously made.

    Blessings on your work in G-Rap. As you might be able to tell by our name and picture, grounding the Church in the historic rule of faith is something we’re excited about over here.




  5. As someone who converted from Pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism to the Jesus Movement in 1969 then on to a “Restorationist Movement” church, I watch the Emergent phenomenon with a bit of suspicion. I attended an Emergent “worship event” last year and gee, it didn’t look too different from the services I attended in 1969 except a few texts were added in from Church history and the music was different (psuedo-emo vs. pseudo-folk/rock). Essentially it seems to bottom out at the same place: a solipsistic reinvention of Christianity and a narcissistic focus on the reinvention of myself-in-Christ using only the tools and materials that I find interesting or emotionally satisfying. Like my Jesus movement friends and myself, it is not so much “Emergent” as “Submergent into ME”. Even in its outward looking at social issues etc. (which it seems every movement does as a litmus test of “sticking it to the establishment”), it seems they are a bit egocentric as if they are the first to consider social justice as an aspect of the Gospel, or that they are on the cutting edge of discovering that the historic Church has had a social justice agenda and they are just now bringing it back into focus. I don’t mean to sound harsh or hyper critical… I really enjoyed the time I spent with the folks at “Flood the Desert” and they are a great group of Christian ummmm… kids, but like the Jesus People of my era, in serious need of a narcissism-ectomy.


  6. […] over at Mere Orthodoxy tells the story of Jeremy, an “Emergent” who is growing disenchanted with the […]


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