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The Great Emergence
by Estee in

I'm currently reading a book by Phyllis Tickle called "The Great Emergence." The central argument is that every 500 years, the church goes through a giant "rummage" sale. Things are cleaned up, thrown away and revitalized with new purpose. For example, roughly 500 years ago was the Protestant Reformation -- people (like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli) "protested" the corruption of the Catholic church and from this emerged the Protestantism that we know today. 500 years before that, the "Great Schism" happened, splitting the church into Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodox. Think that there was something 500 years before that too? Well, as a matter of fact, the Roman Empire fell and the church took over the empire. And if you can count, then you'll notice that roughly 500 years before that was Jesus. And he was a big deal, you know.

So, according to Tickle, we are undergoing a "rummage sale" right now, 500 years or so after the Reformation. An emergence is due, but it is a gradual thing. Tickle writes that you can see contractions of the birth pangs in the impact of Darwin, Freud, Marx, and of course, the internet. 500 years ago, the invention of the printing press made a huge difference on Christianity as they knew it. Printed copies of the Bible were available for many more people, which co-opted the authority of priests who were formerly the sole interpreters of scripture.

Similarly, modern ideas and innovations are leading us to rethink authority in our context. In our globalized world, what value do we find in the Christian claim of exclusivity? In this age when I can write my own definition on wikipedia and post my wandering thoughts for all to read on my blog, how do I believe in one and only one interpretation of Scripture?

I'm only half-way through the book, so I don't know what her conclusion is. But where she's headed is making me excited and anxious at the same time. The church that I love is changing, and despite all its problems and challenges, I'm human and instinctively would rather have the devil I know than the devil I don't know.


Jason said...

Are you calling the church the devil?

I think the devil I don't know is far more exciting than the devil I do know. Perhaps that might underscore our differences in minstry?

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