I'd like to start off with a quote from emergent pastor Dan Kimball I found on Timmy Bristers page(link on title) He muses on whether the emerging church has over emphasized one aspect of the christian life to the exclusion of the other.
"At the same time, I wonder if because we are reacting to perhaps the over-focus on the gospel being about the after-life only, that we have gone too far in response. Do we now focus so much on the gospel and Kingdom-living in this life and what that means (which is incredibly important) but we now neglect talking about the gospel’s impact on the after-life? Perhaps it is fresh on my mind and heart, since my dad just died and my thinking has been about the after-life. But something I have a personal concern for is balance. As we adjust to making sure we teach and live out the good (great) news of the gospel and Kingdom living here and now in this life - that we still talk and teach about the reality of the after-life. That we still talk about heaven and we also still talk about the reality of hell. I honestly don’t hear too much talk about hell in most (but not all) emerging and emergent church circles. I know it isn’t pleasant to talk about. I know there is much mystery with it. I know God is the only one who knows people’s eternal destinations. I know we have used “hell” in manipulative and incorrect ways. And again, I understand fully the reality of how we neglected understanding the Kingdom of God on this earth and what that means and perhaps focused too much on the after-life only when we talked about the gospel. But at the same time, how can we forget about the reality of the after-life and not talk or think about hell and heaven?"
Having said that I wanted to share with you two books that I think speak to the situation we are in. One begins with a man who got burned out in ministry. He got tired of american christianity and felt it was because times had changed, and thus it was time to do something new with his faith. Rethink it to deal with the modern trends. Another, book, begins with a man who saw changes in his church. Bad things happening that did not comport to scripture. He chose to challenge the new ideas, to fight the establishment because he saw it was wrong and unscriptural. The first book, is "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian Mclaren. The second book is a book on reformation theology by Michael Horton "Putting Amazing Back Into Grace". As I read Mclarens book, it seemed that he only let his feelings guide him. He does mention in the intro that he talked to many people and probably read the bible, but for him the primacy was the culture causing him to rethink his faith. In the second book, Horton starts with Luther as a man who challenges the church and culture with scripture, not just experience! The minute we let culture tell the gospel what it should say, we've already become irrelevant. The reason I began with the Kimball quote, is because he echoes what I have seen as the biggest flaw in the thinking of the church: Either/Or thinking.
Last night in my polity class, we discussed some of Mclaren's ideas. My professor did a great job pointing out that in the entire book, repentance is never mentioned. I wonder if that is part of the secret message of Jesus? No repentance! As I perused through Mclarens' new book "Everything Must Change" I came across a chart that makes an interesting illustration. He had under one heading how church used to think (or how he wants it to stop thinking it would seem)and how it thinks now (or how he would want it to think now) So, under salvation, the note says that it's about getting saved and going to heaven and escaping hell. For the new way it should be, it is an invitation to follow Jesus and be a part of his plan for redeeming the world. I ask, just like the new Wendy's commercial does, why can I only choose one? Why can't it be both? As Kimball points out, they can be so focused on the Kingdom now (to be fair aren't we sometimes only focused on the not yet?) that exclude the other? More so, doesn;t Jesus call us to both? I recommend you go to fide-o.blogspot.com They have an interesting article on the good Samaritan and what we as evangelicals can do to live both aspects of the kingdom. I will do my best to review both Horton's and Mclarens books. But more so, where have you been guilty of only emphasizing one aspect of the Christian life? Kimball's words should be sobering. I might add, I don't agree with him on everything, but I know Mark Driscoll still likes him and he at least believes in hell. Time will tell where he goes on the emerging/emergent dichotomy.