Emerging...and Conservative?

To some, the title is an oxymoron. To the majority in both camps, linking the two is abhorrent. But I suspect that I am not the only one who holds myriad emergent tendencies in tension with a conservative doctrine. I recommend Robert Webber's excellent book The Younger Evangelicals below, because it is the fairest, most thorough and compelling portrayal of the species of emergents to which I belong. I may be wrong, but if I was a betting man, I'd be willing to bet that a majority of those attracted to the emergent conversation are, at worst, former conservative evangelicals from a variety of denominational backgrounds, and some of them professing evangelicals at present.

I, for one, am growing increasingly weary of the attacks from the extreme Religious Right on emergents, and attacks from the Far Left on Biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It seems as if I have "no place to lay my head", like another misunderstood rebel I know (Jesus). On one side, Jesus got in trouble for talking about "kingdoms", because the civil authorities saw it as a threat to their political power. On the other, he was attacked by the religious elite for undermining the Law. He was guilty of neither of these. Nevertheless, he went on saying, "the Kingdom of God" and "You have heard it said...but I say."

Does anyone besides me see a desperate need for doctrinally conservative emergents to unite with some sort of common voice? Andrew Jones has voiced this concern, and in his travels far and wide, he has no doubt encountered a great many of these rumblings. Must incarnational ecclesiology be at odds with orthodox propositional doctrine? Many of us vigorously deny it. In fact, we believe that orthodox doctrine is hypocritical at best, and worthless at worst, if not joined with biblical ecclesia. James says it succinctly enough: "Faith without works is dead." A conservative-emergent translation of this might read, "Right doctrine without authentic community and social justice is dead."

It is true that the Word of God is what transforms. But it is equally true that God has chosen a particular medium through which this Word is supposed to be communicated to the lost. No, it's not the Bible. (GASP!) It's us, the Church. The Church depends on the Bible as the foundational content of its message, without a doubt. No amount of right actions can make up for the absence of proclamation of Scriptural dogma. But it is equally evident that verbal proclamation alone is neither sufficient to "make disciples of all nations", nor is this biblical.

Maybe one of these days I'll muster up the nerve (and scrape up enough time) to organize a conservative-emergent network. For now, let this blog suffice as a voice of those who reject the false dichotomy of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and a meeting place for dialoguing about just what exactly that means.

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