Monday, April 28, 2008

Typologies of renewal: Three routes, four models, five streams

This is something of a follow-up to my previous post on emergents and new Calvinists. In the comments, Claytonius linked to a post he'd written last year about three routes of escape from the pragmatic evangelical church. He observed that many young adults who leave evangelical churches tend to head to three other places (bulleted text are his words):
  • Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches. "Obviously, these are three fairly different groups when it comes to theology, practice, and culture. But, for the young, former pragmatic evangelical, they are the same. They are high church. They are rooted in tradition. They are sacramental."

  • Emerging Churches. "Again, there are lots of varieties to emerging churches, but to the former evangelical, they have a certain unifying quality to them. They are culturally-embodied. They are experiential. They are communally-oriented. They are concerned with social justice and the arts. They are open to question and change."

  • Reformed Churches. "This group of Christians, obviously, could be considered evangelical (as could many emerging and Anglican groups). But, to the children of the pragmatic evangelicals, it is a big difference. They are much more overtly theological. They are God-centered. They focus on glory and sovereignty. They also have a sense of history, at least in the Reformation era. They value the life of the mind in a way the more pragmatic side of Evangelicalism doesn’t."
I really like Clayton's typology here. I like typologies in general, because I like mapping out a landscape, organizing subcultures and seeing where people fit. And these three groups ring true to me; I myself find myself identifying to some degree with all of them, but mostly with the first, as an ancient-future evangelical Anglican. I posted earlier about evangelicalism being where the action is in comparison to other religious traditions. We could also talk about these three phenomena as drilling down into what actually is happening among evangelicals/former evangelicals.

"Pragmatic evangelicalism" is itself part of a typology that Bob Webber used in his book The Younger Evangelicals, with the traditional evangelicalism of 1950-75 (like Billy Graham), the pragmatic evangelicalism of 1975-2000 (like Bill Hybels) and the younger evangelicalism of 2000 and later. The complexity of the younger evangelicalism is that it is nowhere near as monolithic as traditional or pragmatic evangelicalism. It is far more fragmented into multiple subcultures. And several folks are trying to map out these different subcultures.

Earlier this year Wess Daniels posted "Four Models of Emerging Churches." Here's an abridged summary of his typology:
  1. Deconstructionist. Influenced mainly by deconstruction, Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault and Caputo. Much of the focus is on adopting postmodernity, and contextualizing the Gospel accordingly. Daniels places Peter Rollins, Tony Jones and Brian McLaren here.

  2. Pre-modern/Augustinian Model. Leans more towards a Renaissance-styled post-modernism that harkens back to pre-modernism, influenced by St. Augustine and St. Thomas. Includes the Radical Orthodoxy of John Milbank and James K. A. Smith.

  3. Emerging Peace Church Model (or Open Anabaptism). Focuses on non-violence, love of enemy and caring for the poor. Influenced by Wittgenstein, Barth, Bonhoeffer, John H. Yoder, McClendon and Nancey Murphy. Includes the new monasticism, Jarrod McKenna and the Peace Tree, Shane Claiborne, some Mennonites, Rob Bell’s Mars Hill, Submergent, Jesus Radical and convergent Friends.

  4. Foundationalist Model. More conservative in their reading of Scripture and modern approaches to ecclesiology while seeking to be innovative in their approaches to evangelism. Influenced by Millard J. Erickson or D.A. Carson. Includes Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus and many “emerging services” within megachurches.
Another four-fold typology is found in Tom Sine's The New Conspirators. His four streams are:

eMerging: Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt of Solomon’s Porch, Ecclesia in Houston, Mars Hill in Grandville, Michigan, Dan Kimball of Vintage Faith in Santa Cruz, California, Karen Ward of Fremont Abbey in Seattle, Rachelle Mee Chapman of Monkfish Abbey in Seattle, Mark Scandrette of the Jesus Dojo in San Francisco, Sally Morgenthaler, Chris Seay, Emergent Village led by Tony Jones, The Ooze led by Spencer Burke

Missional: The Gospel and Culture Network, the late Lesslie Newbigin, Darrell Guder, Alan Hirsch, Alan Roxburgh, Fuller Seminary, Biblical Seminary

Mosaic (or multicultural): David Park, Efrem Smith, Phil Jackson, Julie Clawson/Emerging Women, Christian Community Development Association, John Perkins, Urbana, second generation Asian churches, Eugene Cho/Quest, Mosaic

Monastic: Shane Claiborne, The Simple Way, Rutba House, InnerChange, Karen Sloan, Order of Mission, Order of the Mustard Seed, Servant Partners, Urban Neighbors of Hope, Word Made Flesh, Scott Bessenecker's The New Friars, Global Urban Trek, Mission Year

And if all that isn't enough, Scot McKnight also identified five streams of the emerging church: Prophetic/provocative, Postmodern, Praxis-oriented, Post-evangelical and Political. I won't bother to summarize the article because everybody should read it. (I think Scot is also working on a book on this topic.)

All of this is encouraging. All of these movements and ministry efforts are contemporary expressions of the church's ongoing work of reformation and renewal. Evangelical Christianity is widely diverse, with fascinating things happening in various corners, tribes and subcultures. And in an overall 1 Corinthians 12 ecclesiology, all of them are important parts of the body, doing different things to help the church be what it's supposed to be. Thanks be to God.


Anonymous said...


Micheal said...

As I read all of these ways of analyzing the emerging church "movement", I wonder if there truly is anything "new" about the emerging churches - newer than, say, the other renewal movements that have periodically swept through Protestantism. My own church tradition - Churches of Christ/Christian Churches, part of the Stone/Campbell Restoration movement - was just one of a large number of groups in the early 19th century that were dissatisfied with the then-current Protestant status quo. Depending on your perspective, this continual multiplication of reforms is either the genius or the curse of Protestantism.

Al Hsu said...

Is there anything truly new about all this? Probably not. On the one hand, there's nothing new under the sun. On the other hand, we always live out the faith for such a time as this. Semper reformanda - we are always reforming. And the church necessarily takes new forms in every era, as it ministers in every new cultural context.

I went to a Church of Christ/Christian Church college, and I remember that in one of my church history classes we talked about how the Restoration Movement eventually turned into something of a "Restoration Monument." Renewal movements have natural life cycles, and just like in human families or the animal kingdom, life continues through a continual process of birth and rebirth.

Regarding Protestantism's genius/curse, it's undoubtedly both/and. It's interesting to contrast Protestantism's endless splits and denominations with Catholicism's multiple orders and movements within it (Jesuits, Franciscans, Benedictines, etc.). It's interesting to ponder what Christianity might have looked like if instead of splitting at the Reformation, if instead Lutherans and Calvinists were more like orders or renewal movements within one, holy, catholic, apostolic church rather than separate churches.

Micheal said...

Yes - that's exactly right about the life cycles of reform movements. I have found that theological movements are in great trouble when they begin stressing fidelity to the tradition, rather than fidelity to the truth. "Always reforming" might also be combined with "always conserving," though. It seems like every great reform movement within orthodox (small "o") Christianity hearkens back to either the New Testament or to an older movement that is considered to be closer to the truth. If a movement's teaching is truly original, that's a bad sign.

I think about the "what if there was no split" question quite a bit. Protestants who think about such things are more accustomed to thinking about what was gained by the Reformation, and not about what was lost.

Anonymous said...

cool, i've seen a couple of the breakdowns... nice to have it all in one place with sources and examples cited. good work

Anonymous said...

Al -- This is such a helpful post as I have often thought about and been asked about the emerging church. Some people fear it, others question it, still many embrace it. As I seek to understand it, I can see all of these responses in my own life. But, as you have aptly pointed out, what an encouragement to see God at work in his church, preparing the bride.

Anonymous said...


What this speaks to me is the exciting time we are living in. The Holy Spirit is moving and there are fresh expressions of "church". Let us sit back and enjoy the ride GOD is taking us on.