Tag Archives: emergent 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

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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

 

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

the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…


I’ve been following the emerging blogosphere the last days, and I notice that there has been a bit of a storm around a post from Andrew Jones (the tall skinny kiwi) whose blog post had been interpreteted as another announcement of the end of the emerging church. I didn’t read it that way, and I don’t care much about labels, so I won’t even enter the discussion about emerging/emergent being dead or emerged or going up in whatever mainstream is supposed to be or moving on to the smurf village… And My opinion wouldn’t change much either… But a lot of other people did, including the other emerging Jones: Tony

But there is another disagreement between the emerging joneses one that I want to get into. Tony has posted an article “A Call to Clergy: Stop Performing (Legal) Marriages!“. His reasoning is that “it requires the clergyperson to act as an extension of the state.” So I guess he argues the best would be to give the marriage business completely over to the state. Which Andrew did not agree with and which I do not find an interesting option at all I am affraid. Marriage is way too serious to be defined by something as trivial as the State. But I may be controversial too, or onorthodox… I think I have a more realistic view on marriage as a creation reality, and an more relativistic (anarchistic) view on the state and its right to define marriage…

Now, I do live in a secular european country where only the state can perform a marriage. You cannot marry for the church. You can do such a thing later afterwards, but it has no official meaning except for the church… And marrying to the church before you marry to the state (something I did btw) would be considered illegal.

And I do strongly believe in marriage. I do think it is an important subject as a Christian. But I do not think that ‘legal marriage’ equals ‘biblical marriage’. If we would look at the gospels, it is very significant that when the pharisees try to trick Jesus into a discussion about divorce and the law of moses, that He does not refer to that law at al, God-given as it may be. No, Jesus points to the Creation, where God created man and woman to ‘cleave to each other and be one flesh’.  So marriage is not first and foremost something any law can define, but something that has been instituted and defined in the creation of man and woman.

Marriage is contextualised differently in different cultures. And it is good that there are laws to protect it. But no state can define what is already defined within creation. When man and woman become one flesh, they are married. And it is incomplete without confirmation to society (and God), but in the end it is God who joins people, not any human authority… In some cultures and times people just went to live with each other and they were considered married and a family, in other situations there are lots of laws and regulations to be followed. But they do not say what a marriage is. ‘living together without being married but with a legal contract’ as is the norm for my generation here is just fooling yourself. A legal contract for living together is some kind of ‘legal marriage light without sing the name’ anyway, and You become ‘one flesh’ and form a family, so it is marriage, or at least it should be treated like one…. Paul even calls sex with a prostitute ‘becoming one flesh’ so the problem is not that there is no marriage, but the problem there is one, or there is something that should be one… The same problem with ‘pro-marital sex’, it may more likely be a unhealthy unbalanced ‘pro-marital marriage’ that might even get aborted before it gives birth to a family. (and it damages people, it’s sin for a reaon…)

Now to my own story… Due to some complicated situations, I have been married ‘illegally’ for a while myself before marrying officially to the state.  We made vows to each other and God in a self-invented church ceremony (with a catholic priest off-duty) with the ones present as witnesses. It was a sacred moment. Some of my Christian friends thought it was a bad idea or possibly even heresy to do it that way(but they mostly didn’t dare to tell me, and I don’t want to know what had been said behind our backs…) But to others, and especially to some non-Christians, it was really impressive, and they started thinking about the seriousness of marriage. It is not just a legal contract. Our vows were much more real. They still are.

[Btw, our ceremony was very ’emerging church’, without even knowing about the term or the ideas behind it, we had deconstructed all human constructions and reconstructed them in a way that did make sense to us -unlike most traditions surrounding marriage we knew of- and to do it together with God in a new way, even if the church wasn’t ready for it -we had asked the catholic priest and used his chapell because no-one in the evangelical churches around us wanted us to help with it-]

Half a year later we did it over again with our confirmation to the state. It was okay, but in the end it was just a legal transaction… The state has never been the one who joined us… Jesus never says anything about what the state Joins, the state can tear apart again… I still believe it was right to affirm it to the state, and if it would’ve been possible we wouldn’t have separated both. And still, I wouldn’ve done the church first, and speaking the vows in the face of God is much more real and binding than any legal contract can be.

So I would say do not mind too much about how the state defines marriage, and let the marriage be sealed with vows of 2 people with God as their witness, and the community. That includes the state too yes, but that’s just a cultural contextualisation of marriage. It has nothing to do with the essence of it. The essence is 2 becoming one flesh, one unit of life, and being serious about that in a life-long commitment. And if we as Christians can show the world around us that love is real in our marriage relationships and family , they might be touched by it more than any law or contract forced to the whole population could ever do…

Love is the first law, vive la revolucion!!!

shalom

Bram