A New Tune that Everyone can sing….

[[image:1570627401.jpg::right:0]]I have been reading a book called “A Brief History of Everything” by an American philosopher named Ken Wilber. I would have never stumbled upon this book on my own. I picked it up after a friend recommended it to me. This may be an understatement but this book has blown my mind. In short, in this book Wilber attempts to identify the course of the evolution of our universe as an “unfolding manifestation of Spirit”. It’s a surprisingly accessible look into a universe of sex, soul, and spirit, especially how it pertains to men and women and the human experience. The structure of the book is put into a conversational context, like a q. and a. written entirely by Wilber. It sounds kind of weird but it works really well. After all, this is some complicated stuff that a caveman lawyer like myself shouldn’t be able to pull together, so big ups to Wilber for putting this together in a way any simpleton can understand. (in other words, read the damn book)

As I read the first few chapters of the book, I started thinking about a few of my friends who are involved in the “emerging church”. Now, for the record, I don’t really proclaim to be a member in this “conversation” within the emergent church, as they like to call it. But I do think there are some great people doing some worthwhile thinking and musing about what is to come and how we should approach what lies ahead. In my gut I feel that all churches are emerging at some pace, whether they would like to admit it or not. Whether the destination is better or worse really remains to be seen and will surely vary from community to community.

Anyway, the reason these good people I’ve come to know have popped into my mind is because Wilber writes in this book about a course in which evolution, or “emerging” seems to take when applied to all things. One of the main themes that Wilber uses to describe this “evolutionary impulse” is the idea that if any object is to evolve to a new form it needs to transcend AND include it’s current state in order for the object to progress or move forward to a newer, more complex state. The simplest example he uses is the example of cellular structure. A cell transcends-or goes beyond-its molecular components, but also includes them. Molecules transcend and include atoms, which transcend and include particles….and so on. Additionally, in order for a cell to be a “whole” it NEEDS it’s molecular components to be, to exist, to serve it’s purpose. If a cell loses the molecules that are vital to it’s being, it ceases to exist. This theory doesn’t just apply to physical objects such as cells but it can also be applied to the progression of all things that can be found in our known universe, whether it’s biological, social, spiritual, and cultural. Another example is this: Without what we’ve learned, good and bad, from the modern worldview, we could not emerge or evolve to a post-modern worldview. If we are to literally deny and discredit everything from Modernity, then to arrive at a post-modern worldview is simply impossible. (my head hurts)

One of the things that has made me weary of the Emergent Church is the idea that in order to progress and come to a newer way of seeking God, there needs to be an “abandon ship” attitude when it comes to the current Church culture that is heavily dominated by the Modern worldview. Not all those involved in the emerging church “conversation” feel this way, but there are some fairly loud voices in the conversation that have the life jacket on tight, ready to walk off the plank into some choppy post modern waters, and the storm could very well get worse, who knows?

I think a lot of us can agree that there is something new in the air. It’s exciting, daunting, scary, uncertain….but there is something small sitting on our shoulders that is singing a quiet and new melody, it’s great right? So in a sense I identify with those who are actively trying to learn this new tune. Maybe the new tune needs a better chorus or a really great bridge with better harmonies……in my profession it’s called pre-production. We are a ways away from hitting the big red “record” button and maybe we never will but at least till then we can still sing along if we want. Important too, is that we are not the “songwriter”, we’re here to tap our foot and maybe pick up a six-string and play along if we are lucky. My main point with this illustration is that I am glad that boundaries are being expanded to include new possibilities and anyone who is chasing this tune they hear ever so slightly is a partner, a brother, a sister in this process of moving forward.

But where I scratch my head is where some of those who are seeking this new song out are saying we have to ditch the late greats, the oldies. Of course, some of these old rockers died choking on their own puke and of heroin overdoses, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t contribute to something great. I mean if it weren’t for some of the songs they played, we wouldn’t be able to hear this new tune. We most likely wouldn’t even be listening. It would sound like some weird noise that we are doing our best to ignore while we are in the express line at Wal-mart waiting to pay for some tube socks that were made by some eight year old in a sweatshop, but they were a great buy though….

Ok, maybe I’ve beaten this analogy like a dead horse, but all this to say, we need to include our current Church culture in order to transcend into a new way of seeking God in this community of spiritual risk takers in the Christian Church. Yes, many people have been burned by the current culture. And Jimmy Page probably hasn’t signed all those autographs of those fans that waited outside the club for hours. But if we are honest, we need to face the reality that whether we like it or not, those who are wholly dedicated to the emerging church culture are all products, directly or indirectly, of this modern era of the Christian tradition. We have to accept that this modern tradition has done great things for the Kingdom of God and also has caused severe damage as well, just like any future Christian tradition will do as well, let’s be honest.

So how can we begin to emerge to a newer way and then slam the door on those who are emerging a bit slower than we are? Some in the emerging church claim their modern way of practicing their faith is “broken” and “irreparable” while they forget that they themselves used the exact same rung in the ladder of the Christian experience to get too where they are now. If we are to be welcoming to all brothers and sisters to join in the discussion of what lies ahead, we can’t start by torching their current tradition. It’s simply not nice and more importanly, it discredits those who are ready and eager to “emerge”.

In order transcend or emerge to better understanding of who God is and what he wants for our lives, we need to include not only those who still hang on a bit tighter to the modern tradition, but we have to give their tradition some credit for arriving at this new door that has been slightly cracked open. After all, even though we are emerging to something new, we are products of this Modern culture in which we are moving away from. The Modern worldview by itself may not be applicable anymore but much of what it has taught us will be alive in a newer, more complex, and hopefully more complete way of seeking out who God is and what he means to us and us to him.

Wilber identifies this idea of the including and transcending of all things in the process of emerging forward as “Spirit-in-Motion”. Hopefully as this new age awaits us, it will be more clearly revealed to us how we are to take part in this “Spirit in Motion” and do it with inclusive and humble hearts. Maybe I am being unfair or off base. Maybe I’ve misunderstood some of my brothers and sisters who are part of the emerging church. If so, speak up and correct my misperception. Much love and respect to all, emergent or not, who are singing along to this new tune.

16 thoughts on “A New Tune that Everyone can sing….

  1. Wow…you were working on this one for a few days, but it was worth the wait… I’m not buying that “just a drummer” talk anymore.

    I think the thing I’ve noticed is that it’s pretty hard to draw any sort of box around what is being called the emerging church. It is dangerous to overly generalize and draw conclusions about the emerging church because I’ve run across so many perspectives within it. One thing I would say is that the generalization you have made here is fairly true — there is a lot of anti-modern feeling, but it shouldn’t all just be chucked out the window. Many who are emerging are eager to find value in what Christians were writing in the first 1000 years after Christ (and rightly so), and yet they want to discount the last 500 years.

    Perhaps the biggest mistake the modern church has made is that it reached the conclusion it had finally figured everything out, and looked disdainfully at those fools who had come before it. I pray that those with a sense of wanting something more, like you speak about (and this includes me), don’t do the same.

  2. I think it’s really scary to know about the angry people “jumping ship” to a different emerging boat. An emergent journey doesn’t solve the problems. Like Don Miller was saying in Blue Like Jazz–we all have to start with ourselves.

  3. I was at an Emergent conference a couple of years ago and the thing that struck me is that until the Emergent Church movement can define itself by what it is rather than what it is not it will never find its direction. Also, I think we need to remember that the modern church still works for the majority of the people that attend it. So to say that the whole church needs to change is to tell people that what they are doing is wrong. I’m not sure it is fair to make that jump.

  4. Great thoughts, Zach… Good work here. I have heard of this book before, but never really made any decisions about it. I’m thinking I should go find it.

  5. Good stuff, Zach.

    I have to admit that when I first started looking into the Emergent “conversation” – which started basically by reading A New Kind Of Christian – my main reason for being excited was the possibility of throwing out modernity totally and ushering the church into total postmodernity. I liken my thoughts and actions at the time to someone who becomes a Calvinist. I’m not a Calvinist, but I’ve known people who become Calvinist, and it’s like their whole universe has been turned upside down – and now they’re completely right and everyone else is completely wrong. That’s what I felt about postmodernity and the church. But, as I’ve continued to read, continued to journal, continued to seek God and struggle through all of this, I have come across the same realizations as you have.

    Good observations.

  6. My Reflection: As a church and in life, our past has gotten us here. From here we can see where we would rather be. So, our past has gotten us to see where we would rather be. Yesterday gives today desire for tomorrow. We manifest the hope of Christ as the church is pushed and tracked throughout all time. I agree very much that we ought to look back to not down on our past, even the failures. Time is a heinous adversary and we must admit that whatever we know from tradition, has lasted.

    For whatever it is worth i think that every truth that has been bought or wrought for us in tradition and practice ought to be our toolset… whether it be used tomorrow to support it’s philosophical furtheance or debase it. Either may be a valid use. The past must be held as a guide for the furture, not a limit for it. It must not be irratioinally self-sustaining for sure, and it must not be unduly crapped on as outdated wholesale. We know there are some acultural, atemporal truths and principles in us somewhere’s…

    For an example of my own, if we begin building a tower and after finishing the tenth floor can stand on our work and see that it would have been wiser to build on the next hill, then may we count it as a benefit and then regretlessly change our plot and build in the new area? Of course. I was thinking about this concept on a different focus the other day… http://www.xanga.com/Private/home.aspx?user=solipsistically
    and i’ll be done cause im not sure im making much sense…

  7. oh, oh, waiters know etymology!
    So, the condition of being God-ly-ish-like??

    See for yourself…
    Here’s a link about ‘theosis’:

    i think either you, zach, or master wilber are being given quite the complement.. or maybe quite a suggestive prescription!

  8. Your concerns about Emergent are valid and well thought-out. Traditio was the Latin word that translated the Greek “paradidomi,” which means “handing over.” Whatever the church is doing, and wherever the church goes, it must always carry with it tradition — that is, the handing over of something living. You’re wrestling with exactly what that statement means and looks like, and I commend you for it.

    A couple thoughts:

    How much might we compare the post-modern/emergent situation to that of Luther’s 95 theses? That is, how similar is our situation today to that of the man who posted his theses to the door of a church, not intending to start an anti-Roman Catholic Reformation, but who in fact did so? Many “post-moderns” are very much of your mindset — we cannot throw out the baby with the bath water. But Luther was of this mindset, and he ended up starting, well, quite a revolution.

    The difficulty, I think, will come in discerning exactly what it is about the modern church that was good. Given that one would agree with your statement that we are only standing on the shoulders of giants, and that we must learn to grow with our heritage, what about that heritage is venerable and adaptable, and what must be rejected? That’s the tough part, the part about which nearly everyone will disagree. Our success will come only when we learn how to answer that question together, and when the answers to that question do not divide us.

    Thanks for this post, Zach. You’re shedding some much-needed light on the emergent movement, and all involved in this conversation would do well to heed your good advice.

    – kp –

  9. The site Ken Wilber hosts is really interesting. That Naked thing.. i forget the name at the moment, but really cool. Another book to look into.

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