Thursday, 17 August 2006

Ray S. Anderson: Emergent theology for emerging churches

Ray S. Anderson of Fuller Seminary will be known to many of you here at Faith & Theology – he has posted here before, and he regularly contributes to our discussions. Ray has written over 20 books, and he has kindly sent me a copy of his latest one, An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches (Downers Grove: IVP, 2006).

While the emergent discussion hasn’t always been marked by sustained theological reflection, here Ray offers a probing and passionate theological contribution to the conversation. He is deeply sympathetic with the emerging church (his own Lutheran church is both traditional and emerging), but he warns that new forms of community and worship alone are not adequate – above all, what emerging churches need is “a clear and compelling story of the gospel” (p. 86).

At the centre of this book is a contrast between two churches recorded in the New Testament: the church of Jerusalem and the church of Antioch. In a nutshell, Ray’s argument is that “[t]he Christian community that emerged out of Antioch constitutes the original form and theology of the emerging church,” so that “the emerging churches in our present generation can find their ecclesial form and their core theology by tracing out the contours of the missionary church … in Antioch” (p. 20).

With close attention to the New Testament texts, Ray develops this argument in relation to the work of the Spirit, church polity, kingdom living (the workplace is “a secular sacrament of the kingdom of God,” p. 115), biblical interpretation, an ethics of love (“grace … embraces moral and spiritual ambiguity for the sake of bringing persons to a greater dimension of human wholeness,” p. 156), charismatic gifts, mission and social justice (“Jesus came to right wrongs, not only to create righteous people,” p. 195), and the eschatological nature of church tradition.

Although I’m not involved in the emerging church movement myself, I found this book to offer an exciting and refreshing vision of the Christian church as a community empowered by the Spirit of Christ and directed towards the future of God’s kingdom.

[If you’d like a free copy of this book, stay tuned for the next post....]


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