An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches

Ray Anderson, IVP, 2006

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        For Anderson, the question of being the church is which church will should be the recipient of our energies; the choices for him are the church in Antioch and the church in Jerusalem.  ‘Jesus launched a movement that was supposed to begin in Jerusalem but was intended to spread outward from there to Judea and Samaria.  It was to begin in Jerusalem but it couldn’t be contained by Jerusalem.  When Jerusalem-centred Christians tried to limit the movement’s daring expansion into and constructive engagement with other cultures, to prune back its continuing emergence.

        Antioch has been the new centre from which the movement could expand (p 4).  The Christian community that  emerged out of Antioch constitutes the original form and theology of the emerging church as contrasted with the believing community at Jerusalem.  The difference between Antioch and Jerusalem is essentially a theological difference (p 56).  ‘Emerging churches are apostolic when they seek to define and make clear the apostolic work of Christians in the present century rather than in the first century (p 38).

        Emergent theology looks toward the ‘final century’, as normative and apostolic, not the first century.  An example of this is the expanded and expanding role of women in the church.  The emerging theology is a theology of the Holy Spirit, of revelational theology (not just historical theology).  Emergent theology is the identification of new directions; emergent theology looks to the structures of the future for inspiration rather than repeating the past.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.