May 4, 2006

Mission or Mission Statement?

Link One of the developments in the church right now that I am particularly interested in, is the emergent movement. Although I'm not heavily involved, I am engaging and being encouraged by the conversation.

One vehicle for this movement is Emergent. With leaders like Tony Jones and Brian McLaren, Emergent catches alot of crap from critics. Conversation is such an important theme for Emergent that critics often become frustrated with a lack of a clear mission statement or statement of faith. In the face this call, LeRon Shults says that such a thing would be unnecessary, inappropriate, and disastrous for the Emergent. Here's some of his thoughts,

The very idea of a "statement of faith" is mired in modernist assumptions and driven by modernist anxieties
Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

a "statement of faith" tends to stop conversation

This does not mean, as some critics will assume, that Emergent does not care about belief or that there is no role at all for propositions. Any good conversation includes propositions, but they should serve the process of inquiry rather than shut it down.

Check out the rest of what he says here.

Update: Over at Generous Orthodoxy Thinktank, this conversation continues with a contributor's response to Shult's arguments. His conclusion:

So the next time Emergent is asked to produce a "statement" of faith, why not just hand them a copy of the Nicene Creed?