Tag Archives: emerging church

So why is there no ‘occult-mergent’?


A fea new kindw years ago I was interested in something I found on the internet that was called the ‘emerging church conversation’, also sometimes dubbed the ‘emergent’ movement. Being quite postmodern myself and an evangelical Christian of sorts (I still am both btw!), I learned a lot from it, and I can’t deny that some books and blogs I’ve read in that time were very important for me to become the Christian I am now. I think for example of Brian McLaren’s ‘new kind of Christian’ trilogy, and blogs that seem non-active now like Kingdom Grace, subversive influence, and the indestructible Tall Skinny Kiwi, and so on… It seemed to me that there was an interesting movement of more postmodern Christianity coming that went back to the core of what it is to follow Jesus.

But that was some years ago. And time is a train that makes the future the past, as a guy with weird sunglasses once sung… At the moment to me it seems like there’s not much left of what used to be called ‘the emerging church’, and the thing that goes on under the second name ‘emergent’ doesn’t feel the same to me. It seems like the whole emergent scene (and sometimes whatever ‘progressive Christianity’ is supposed to be too) has just become some very American kind of theological liberalism 2.0. And to be honest, it’s overall just too modern and myopically academically Western to me, and I find American ‘liberal PC’ generally just annoying. I’ve lost interest in most things under that label a while ago, approximately since the Tall Skinny Kiwi more or less said goodbye to emergent himself.  (He is back to blogging btw after a break of a year, and just wrote a piece about him killing the emergent church that’s very interesting if you get all the insider stuff…)

To me as an outsider it seems like the scene has both died out slowly and moved further from both Christianity and even postmodernism as I am able recognise them as a lost postmodern Christian myself. There’s a lot of ‘hyphenated’ – mergent groups left though, label, from anglimergent, baptimergent and the more recent charismegent group on FB, as well as queermergent and sceptimergent. The latter one (if I understand it well) being a group for people transitioning from Christianity to what’s called ‘scepticism’ in modern newspeak. (see also this for my thoughts on the state of contemporary ‘scepticism’) This is not that exceptional, it seems that for a lot of people the ‘emergence’ has not just been into ‘a new kind of Christianity’ (which is not that new after all sometimes) but also outside of Christianity into things that mostly seem to fall into new incarnations of the same old enlightenment tradition, that’s actually not new at all in any way either… Darling you’re so unoriginal… Which is not at all what I was looking for, as a postmodern Christian who is trying to broaden his scope outside of our myopic Western modernist views and who was hoping for something beyond the modern liberal/conservative dichotomies… It’s more like the opposite of what I was looking for actually… Liberal humanism isn’t very new nor exiting to me as a European either…

Anyway, there is a question that has been bothering me, and that is probably closely related to the way the whole emergent stuff ended up completely enlightenmentified. Why is there after the demise of the original ‘emerging church’ a lot of ‘neo-enlightenment-mergent’ stuff left under different names, but not for example an occult-mergent? Why if we are so progressive and open no intersections with for example neo-pagans or even buddhists? Why with a culture that goes in the direction of ‘spiritual, not religious’ no newage-mergent? Why is there talk about inclusion of muslims, but rejection of all forms of Christianity that are much less ‘conservative’ than most muslims I’ve met? Why does it all have to come down to ‘neo-enlightenmentism’ that is academically acceptable and so very purely Western (even with all the ‘white people bashing’ in certain corners)? Where is the dialogue with less Western worldviews, less materialist/naturalist ideas about the nature of, eh, nature, and people who don’t fit the zeitgeist in that way? Why does it seem like everything in the new emergent is emerging into less spiritual and more antisupernatural domains while even a lot of non-Christians aren’t going there?

Yes, my more neutral use of the word ‘occult’ in the original sense of ‘the hidden/invisible part of creation is not common and the word does have a lot of bad connotations, not without reasons even. One could think that no-one before me did ever come up with a world like ‘occultmergent’ (according to google I’m the only one to use it, as an unofficial title for a series of posts in my year of demodernisation. I wouldn’t be so stupid to use it as a nmae for a website or organisation…) because it is just the perfect bait for heresy-hunters, and that my quest for a more balanced view of the ‘invisible world’ is completely misguided and potentially dangerous, but I refuse to believe it’s more misguided than marrying Christianity to too much academically approved zeitgeist-cuddling enlightenment-thought, 21th  century edition. A lot of ‘occult’ and esotheric traditions do have more faith in God than modernist scepticism will ever have, and much more Christian influence than we’d like to see anyway. Most classical occultists and stuff like the golden dawn and a lot of other esotheric orders (and Islam) are still a lot closer to Christianity in worldview than Richard Dawkins will ever be…

The thing about a more open ‘occultmergent’ approach would be that it would be much more relevant to a lot of people I know. I know that a lot of Western people live in a completely non-magical world (I will write more about that idea later if I find the time) but the invisible world is very much a reality for a lot of people outside the Western world, and in the Western world outside of academia too. I have met and know a lot of people outside of Christianity who are interested in the invisible world and actively engaging with it, and not always in healthy ways. (same for some Christians actually) People experimenting with a lot of stuff that the ‘sceptics’ would never believe in but are still real (even if all of our human explanations and systems of thought about it are completely wrong) There is a lot of interest in the ‘occult’, and the ‘spiritual’, and there’s a lot of people into this kind of stuff.

A lot of them are not that disinterested in talking with me about it, although the black and white pentecostal demonology that I’ve inherited would completely put them off (and isn’t at all that relevant sometimes), but naturalistic enlightenmentism is also completely out of the question for anyone who has active experience with the invisible world. It’s like saying to Mr. Beaver of Narnia that animals can’t talk, and will never be able to talk. You will not convince them without destroying their existence…

And yes, even though I would like to see a more nuanced view than ‘everything outside the laws of nature is demonic’, I do know that the realm of ‘the occult’ is dangerous, especially for those who have no experience with it all. I also know that although it’s not all superstition as we moderns tell ourselves before we enter the heart of darkness and can’t deny it any longer, but there’s a lot of nonsense, exaggerations and very weird explanations of the invisible too. But in the end it’s much closer to any ‘biblical worldview’ (if such a thing exists) to accept the reality of the invisible world than to parrot our current Western ignorance on these things.

So what do you people think? What am I missing? Where am I wrong?

Bram

2014 as a year of demodernisation for me


I know I’m babelnot very active as a blogger right now, and most of my posts at the moment are older writings that I’m finishing now and finally posting after a long time of waiting in the pipeline. There’ some stuff I need to finish (about Christianity and capitalism, and about racism for example) but I don’t have the time and energy at the moment, and I’m focussing on work, children, gardening lately, and most of my writing has been fiction in Dutch, so it doesn’t fit on this blog.

(My fiction can be found at Oranderra, but most of it is Dutch. I do hope to one day continue my series of ‘the paralian priest and the acosmist nun’ though.)

I will still be writing blogposts here about a whole variety of subjects when I have the time and inspiration for it. (And there are some unfinished things that will be finished and posted too…) But in 2014 I will be starting a new project, which I call the ‘demodernisation’ of myself, which will most probably lead to some blogposts too.

So what do I mean with ‘demodernisation’? I feel it is the natural next step after my ‘postmodernisation’, that might have helped me a lot in some areas, but it did not help me much in a lot of other things…
Some years ago I found the ‘emerging church discussion’ through the internet, and learned a lot from it, or learned the right words to describe how I already saw the world, for I am a native postmodern. But I must say that the whole ‘emergent’ stuff has become more and more frustrating to me. A lot of it is just American anti-reaction to a fundamentalism that I don’t know, and acts more like a photo-negative of that fundamentalism. No-one can expect me to be interested in a photo-negative of something I don’t care about. The photo and the negative will generally be equally uninteresting to me.

And the other problem is that the more photo-negative of fundamentalism enters the picture, the more modernist Christian liberalism (the natural negative view of fundamentalism), which has never interested me at all. I think it was Scott McKnight who said that McLaren at the time of ‘A new kind of Christianity’ did not arrive at a new one at all, but an old one (referring to older protestant liberalism) that actually wasn’t old enough. Although I like a lot of McLarens earlier books and have benefited greatly from them, new liberalism just makes me lose interest, and I’ve seen that in most corners of the ‘emergent’ dicussion. (Also, I and just clueless about the American ‘liberal PC’ stuff. It’s just alien for me and feels like a new form of fire and brimstone preaching from a new corner to me.)

So, the project now, with my postmodern identity established, is to go way beyond postmodernism and Western though to reconnect with my Christian (and human) roots outside of modernity. My flirting with Eastern Orthodoxy is already part of that, and I will try to read more about non-modern, non-Western forms of Christianity, and also other religions and philosophies from everywhere. (I want to know more about native American thought systems, taoism and pre-Christian European thought for example.)

I do think that I will also go back more to my Lewisian roots, and explore Chesterton and MacDonald more for example.

(Not that I don’t value some things about modernism, like human rights and gender equality, the realisation of how serious the destruction of ecosystems and extinction are, and general growth in scientific knowledge about the natural world, and modern medics. But apart from those and other advancements, there is so much we have lost, and so much dark side to even a lot of advancements, and so on…)

My ideas on magic and the occult are part of what you can expect, but I will try do ‘deconstruct’ more  things and look from other angles than both Western modernism and post-modern hyper-enlightenment thought.

I hope to I can keep on having very interesting conversations here with all of you…

peace

Bram

 

A rant on Christian modernism and stuff…


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I just posted this on twitter (in 11 parts) as ‘a rant that might cost me followers':

I think I do know why the America-centric Christian blogosphere seems to irritate me and feels so irrelevant so much of the time. I realised just don’t even care about the fundamentalist/liberal dichotomy as both seem equally irrelevant to me as a Charismatic (as I am probably to them…) and 2 sides of the same old boring utterliky unrealistic ugly modernist coin to me. Even if I’d lose my Christian faith I’d rather follow the closest new-ager or any tribal pagan than fall for naturalist materialism anyway, which is the privilege of ivory-tower Westerners and solipsistic academics. And although I liked the ‘emerging church dialog’, where the ‘emergent’ stuff falls into some kind of liberalism 2.0 it just loses any credibility to me. I can understand liberalism as the godless capitalism it is in Europe, it is honest but evil, and I don’t care for it. Socialism, non-marxist communism, anarchism, even monarchism, whatever… Bring on organic church, neo-anabaptism, Eastern Orthodoxy, indigenous expressions of Christianity, even insights from all kinds of other religions and philosophies where the Creator has sown the seeds of Truth. But please no modern Western liberalism, ‘new atheism’ or modern Christian fundamentalism please, they all seem connected to me and don’t convince me at all. The world is already ugly enough, thank you…

Maybe I worded it too strong, but it’s how I feel…

Any pushback or questions?

peace

Bram

to the guy searching for ‘brambonius cools emerging’


(warning: just a rant full of christian theological  lingo)

Looking at my stats today I saw that my blog has been found 5 times today looking for ‘brambonius cools emerging’. Makes me wonder if anyone still uses the term ‘emerging church’, and why people would bother finding out if I (using my internet nick) have something to do with it.

To be honest, I don’t even know myself :p

I can’t deny that I’ve been following the ‘emerging church dialogue’ (even if I was quite late to the discussion.) and that I have learned a lot from it. I am a postmodern evangelical after all, so I found in it the words to explain how I look at the world; On the other hand, I think I’m too post-modern and too evangelical (once a charismatic, always a supernaturalist…) to ever fall for modernist forms of christianity, be it either fundamentalism or liberalism. Thank you very much, both are completely inconceivable for me… So if you mean some kind of ‘liberalism 2.0′ I’m not your man. I’ve found out that I’m allergic to all forms of liberalism, from liberal theology to liberal humanism and oldschool liberal politics and economics (like the stuff they call ‘conservative’ in America).

So if you mean the ‘tall skinny kiwi‘ type of emerging church, or the Shane Claiborne type of christianity, yes!: I’m in…

If you mean some kind of updated liberalism, as some seem to use the word ‘emergent’ (maybe mainly the critics, see cartoon) count me out. It won’t ever work for me. I’m a supernadoctrinemongersturalist who is quite critical towards the enlightenment.  For me that’s just the negative-picture version of fundamentalism… I will readily affirm the apostles and Nicene creed, but I will also place them alongside the sermon on the mount as foundational to Christianity. And I believe in the gifts of the Spirit for today (and the fruits), Christian non-violence and peacemaking, equality of the sexes [and egalitarianism], the priesthood of all believers, the trusworthiness of scripture (I don’t care about the modern concept of ‘innerancy’ though),  creation care and stewardsghip over nature, and the incompatibility of capitalism and christianity… I believe God works in all of His Church, even though I have no use for a lot of things in various traditions that I believe to be abominable (like double predestination, rich TV-preachers asking money from the poor, relic worship, christian materialism etc…)

To satisfy the heresy-hunters even more some labels I could wear: I’m a Wesleyan anabaptist-inspired postmodern charismatic evangelical with both orthodox and organic church sympathies, inspired by Francis of Assisi, christian mysticism and apophatic theology, who thinks Christianity is a way of life restored in relationship to God than accepting all the right theologies.

Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. In the end after the day of Judgment that’ll be all that’s left, with all evil and everything incompatible with God erased….

And as you might have noticed, I’m as non-reformed as a protestant can be…

May the Spirit lead me and bring me to the right path… May God bring His Kingdom and reveal Christ to me more and more, so that I can follow Him!

peace

Bram

An apophatic video interlude with Peter Rollins…


I’ve been talking about apophatic theology, and the limits of language earlier, and the idea will come back in some future posts. Apophatic or negative theology is a very important way of doing theology in the Eastern Orthodox church and some church fathers. The basic idea is that God the Creator does not exist like we do, and is not bound to words and ideas that are derived from what we know as created beings in Creation, so the only way to speak of God is to say what God is not…

Another tradition that is very suspicious of the preciseness of language, when speaking about anything actually, not just God, would be postmodernist continental philosophy, which is quite popular in certain parts of the emerging church. So here is for you the guy with the coolest accent and the weirdest background music in postmodern christianity, Peter Rollins himself.

And no, whatever the description on youtube says, he could actually not be further away from classical christian liberalism, and fits more between old orthodox mystic apophatic negative theology and postmodern linguistic deconstructionism… Both thought systems that couldn’t be removed further from the rationalist roots of the original Christian liberalism… And yes, some of his stuff here is just semantic wordplay probably… Some atheists would object to his definition of atheism probably, but I see where he’s coming from.

What do you think? Is Pete making sense here? Or is he just talking heresy or plain nonsense to you?

shalom

Bram

book review: Jonathan Brink – The God Imagination


Not every day you read a book that asks if we have the gospel wrong as christians, and proposes a new way of reading the bible… (Hmm, maybe there’s too much of that kind of books in some circles…) But this one called ‘the God imagination‘ by misional Church thinker Jonathan Brink more or less tries to argue for that thesis. Supsicious as a I am of people who think that they can re-invent the wheel without having it to be round I didn’t know what to expect. Especially with the esotheric-looking cover and title… But I know Jonathan Brink as an interesting Christian blogger, and if the book would’ve been new age I wouldn’t have bothered reading it.

So the book tries to look at the nature of atoment, and  to frame the problem that Jesus came te solve.Jonathan does this by thoroughly going through the whole narrative of the bible, starting with the genesis accounts of the fall, and seeing what happens. Pointing out that the problem that had to be solved was not located in God or the devil, but in the first place in ourselves. The separation we experience from God, the self, our fellow human and the rest of creation is not reality, it’s a lie that’s been rooted deeply within us. ‘The God imagination’ then is the process in which we learn to see the Truth. And Jesus came to teach that truth, and be the ultime example and sacrifice.

So where penal substitution portrays a wrathful God who needs to punish someone before He can forgive, and in the Christus Victor view jesus gives himself over to Satan in our stead, according to Jonathan the problem is located elsewhere, namely in ourselves. It’s not that God (or even the devil) needs a sacrifice so that we can be forgiven; we are the ones who need it.

The main point of the book is that we need to look through Gods eyes, with what he calls ‘the God imagination’, to restore the image of God within us, to uncover our dignity that establishes us as good. To abandon the false and limiting identities, the victim or perpetrator mentalities, idols and comparisons, and to embrace the freedom that is found in grace, the courage in loving, and the wholeness in being. And that ‘the fullness of life resides in the act of love’, which is the judgment of good, and any act that validater, holds or restores a persons dignity to wholeness. Like Rom 13:8 says.

I might not agree with everything in this book, but the overall point he makes is not one that can be ignored, and it’s an important book to wrestle with, and to sharpen ones view of the story of the bible, the atonement, Gods justice, and the condition of mankind. And in the debates about the atonement Jesus brought us on the cross, this is a voice that should be given a place at the table!

I’ll end with a quote:

a quote:
Jesus is giving us perhaps the most unorthodox idea ever presented. We often think that the way to overcome evil and death is to refuse it, to deny its power in our life and even pretend it’s not true. Our resistance to evil and death actually fuels its power over us. To deny its existence is much the same as covering it. Our primary concern is its capacity to fundamentally change us. We assume that if we experience it, it will make us evil. We cover what is true, pretending to hide it, and in doing so, partner in our own demise.

What Jesus is revealing is that the way to overcome evil and death is to surrender to the presence of it. By surrendering to the presence of evil and death, we’re destroying its hold over us. We’re calling it out and addressing it for what it really is. We’re being honest that it exists in our lives. And it is only then that we can overcome it. It is only by surrendering to the reality of evil that we discover we are not changed by it. It is only by surrendering to death that we can discover that it is not our end. (p 153)

Amazon page

shalom

Bram

Reclaiming supernaturalism: on evolutionary creationism and angels..


So I’m looking for people to help me with these questions. It might not be the most important part of theology to re-imagine in this postmodern paradigm shift, but still I’m struggling with these questions without seeing anyone who seems wantig or able to answer them…

There’s been a lot of talk on the fringes of (post-)evangelicalism about evolution lately, and in lots of other streams of Christianity the whole evolution debate isn’t even a question, evolution is combined with christianity without questions. Now I am on neither side of the debate between creationism/evolution, my position could be called something like post-modern origin agnostic creationist.  Agnostic in the sense of ‘we cannot know’ I do believe that the visible does not come from what we can see, and that Creation is something bigger than we can ever grasp, and even if we could, we don’t ahev the words and concepts in our languages to even explain what happened there; so I would not be surpised if the creation stories are just a symbolic way of telling the unspeakable, or godly baby-talk (accomodation in theological lingo)…

But I do believe that our science has the ability to say more or less meaningful things about the physical part of our universe. It has nothing to say about the invisible, and the spiritual, and whatever there is we don’t even know of, but it is in observing and describing the material world… So if we can trust science more or less about the history of this physical part of the universe, we have a history longer than 10.000 years, and there might be some kind of common descent of biological life forms. But for the sake of this quest we will go with evolutionary creationism, in which the Creator  created an ever-evolving world (the implication of free-will theology when you take it beyond humanity?) in which humans have developed from this ever-evolving life; and have been taken to a ‘higher plan’ as ‘imago dei’.

Now we go to a totally different aspect of my faith. I do believe that Christianity implies supernaturalism. I come from charismatic forms of Christianity (pentecostel as a kid, vineyard later until this very moment), and even for all the critique I have for some things in charismatic christianity I will never be able to deny the supernatural. I do believe that signs and wonders are one aspect of the Kingdom of God (one that is not mentioned that much in most of the emerging discussion about the Kingom… though the conversations about the future of the theology of the Spirit on Deep church for example are hopeful) But that’s a topic for another discussion.

There’s another aspect of supernaturalism that I can’t deny, even at moments when I doubte every explanation and theology about it that I’ve ever know. Let’s call it angels and demons, for that’s what it’s mostly called. I cannot deny them, nor can I deny exorcism, I have had some weird experiences in my life (about which I will not blog, but be free to discuss about them with via email) and I’ve heard witness reports from people I trust (and aven more from people I’m not sure of or don’t know…) There must be something like it… Nothing on earth will ever convince me of the opposite…

So here do we have a problem… What do we do with those spiritual entities in a worldview in which at least the material part of the universe is evolving?
* Are they unlike us created and do we follow the evangelical stories about angels who were created as robotlike serving spirits, of whom 1/3th rebelled and created demons?
* Do we find a way to theorise about the evolution of Spiritual entities? Are they ‘emerging properties’ of the spiritual side of the evolving world in one way? Are demons viruslike parts of damaged spirits that found ways to live on and in some way reproduce? Or are archangels beings that were create dto oversee the processes of an ever-evolving nature (of which one rebelled?)
* Do we just admit that it’s a mystery of which we will not be able to say anthing meaningful? We miss the words and concepts to explain what they are, so we remain silent? I bet we as humans won’t even be able to do such a thing…

So I want to ask if there is anyone like me, who falls broadly in the category of evolutionary creationists who believe in spiritual entities, what do you think??? (I don’t mind people saying they do believe in old-earth creationism or materialism without spiritual beings, but please do not hi-jack this discussion and be respectful…) How do we reconcile the evolution idea which tend to lead to materialism with spirit beings?

in hope of an interesting conversation…

shalom

Bram