Tech CEO David Jones once famously pleaded (albeit tongue-in-cheek) for all that would send anyone who misused the term “paradigm” to jail. I’d like to begin this review of Sea Raven’s Theology from Exile: Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary for an Emerging Christianity with a similar plea:
It should be the law.
If you use the terms “emerging” or “emergent” or “emergence”
without knowing what the dictionary says they mean,
you go to jail. No exceptions.
Like many of my friends on the “progressive” side of the Church, Raven repeated misinterprets the meaning of Emerging Christianity, co-opting it to cover a wide variety of progressive theological principles (why, oh why can’t they just call themselves “liberal” and be done with it?).
Let me be clear, I don’t object to the positions, per se. Some of them – like non-violence, caring for creation, and radical inclusivity – are convictions I happen to share. What I object to is the assumption that one has to be, in effect, a card-carrying member of the Jesus Seminar to share them. It is a false distinction – a straw man argument – to suggest that the choice between conservative and liberal theological positions is a choice between believing in a personally present God who is violent, judgmental, and exclusive, and a non-theistic God who is non-violent, just, and inclusive. (BTW, I’m just as frustrated with my conservative Christian friends who insist on painting Emergence Christianity as a straw man for the latest liberal heresy.)
Let me lay my cards on the table here. I believe that the present conservative/liberal dichotomy is inherently false. And I believe it is possible to transcend it and the conflict it has engendered, but only if both “sides” commit to honest dialogue, with a willingness to clearly understand what is truly at stake for both the each other. Mischaracterizing the other’s intentions and point of view is not a good start. And Raven’s attempt to pass off her solidly liberal theological positions as representative of the Emerging Church is not helpful either. Emergent Christianity is neither liberal nor conservative, but an example of the principle of Emergent Complexity at work in the Church, in which the dominant paradigm of Church is falling and a new paradigm is starting to rise from the ashes of the old: an emerging paradigm that may well transcend our seemingly insurmountable divisions.
This is not to say you shouldn’t buy or read the book. If what you are looking for a commentary that approaches the Gospel of Luke from decidedly liberal theological lens, Theology from Exile may well be what you are looking for. It is very readable and Raven’s storytelling voice is distinctive. But if you buy it expecting an Emerging Church commentary, you will be disappointed
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.