The Emerging church movement (if you want to call it by that name) raises some good questions, and give the question “What is the Church?” new life. For this I really appreciate the Emerging movement. Though it suffers from the unfortunate problem of being wrong, it has — much like the Reformation — the virtue of reacting against something that deserving of reaction. While the reaction is against the standard Ol’ Megachurches in particular, at its root the reaction is against Protestant ecclesiology.
Observe the battle between Reformed Protestant Megachurch leader (though in some ways “Emergent” himself) Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill church (author of “Vintage Church”) and Frank Viola and Co. and their recently published “Pagan Christianity”. A fun, quick read of this is a review that Driscoll commissioned.
The aforementioned review refers early and often to Methodist NT scholar Ben Witherington’s responses, which are certainly worth the read. He aptly takes on many of the falacious and provocative claims of the book, and replaces them with (gasp!) the historical truth that the ancient Church was a kind of institution. As an Orthodox Christian, I have nothing else really to argue for; Witherington has done the heavy lifting for me. Viola and Barnes have stirred up the curiosity, and to those who do their homework the question is posed: What do I do next?
…in an effort to bait you into reading Witherinton’s responses…
My point in the above critique is simply this— calling more high church worship ‘pagan’ is not only a tragedy which impoverishes the soul. It’s a travesty. And saying over and over again that there is not a shred of Biblical evidence for sacred buildings, particularly church buildings reflects both historical myopia and bad theological analysis of a theology of holiness and worship. Such a view is narrow where the Bible is not narrow, and it fails to grasp the great breadth of ways in which God can be truly, and Biblically worshipped and served, and is indeed worshipped and served around the world every single week. We do not need to be liberated from holy worship—we need to be liberated in and by it, in whatever form it may legitimately take. And that’s the Biblical truth.