Ok, I need your help! I am thinking about writing my term paper for Philosophy of Religion on Philosophical Foundations of the Emergent Church. I have read quite a bit of the work of important voices in the Emergent Church (McLaren, Jones, Kimball) but I am not as confident in my understanding of the philosophers and philosophies that influence folks in the Emergent Church. In my paper, I am particularly interested in looking at issues of epistemology (concerns the origins, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge). On the Emergent account, how do we come to know God? How do we go about investigating the truth claims of a proposition? Who and what have influenced emergent understandings of these issues?
My interest in this paper is not to write an apologetic, or to attack the Emergent Church movement, rather it is to seek to understand the foundations that it is built upon better.
I would be grateful if you would post any specific books that you would recommend in the comments (again, I am not looking for books by the Emergent authors like McLaren’s Everything Must Change, but books that have deeply informed McLaren and others and are at work behind the scenes in their practical theology). I would appreciate books that might provide a general introduction to postmodern philosophy that are particularly insightful to folks in emergent, and particularly important works by actual philosophers that have influenced the emergent understanding of epistemology and answering truth claims about God.
One more request: If you don’t know, but you know someone who might have ideas, I would be grateful if you would take a second to email them and mention this post and ask them to help me out. And if you happen to have a direct contact to Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, or anyone else, you get bonus points if you get them to directly respond! (Notice how I linked to their names so that they might stumble upon my post… devious, I know…)
I think this paper could make an important contribution to understanding the Emergent Church, but my ability to undertake it will depend on being able to find some starting points for getting into the material.
OK, here are my initial thoughts: Leslie Newbigin, Stanley Grenz, LeRon Shults, John Franke, Stanley Hauerwas, and John Howard Yoder might be places to begin exploring. I also think at a philosophical level, Derrida and Foucault have some critical and influential impact on the thinking of the emergent folk. John D. Caputo is one of the authors who I believe has popularized some of those deconstructionist types in emergent circles (although perhaps not in the early going).
Try contacting Michael Kelly or Ed Stetzer with Threads Media (Life Way).
Kevin Watson said:
Matt – Thanks! In my initial survey into the literature in the library I picked up Grenz’s A Primer on Postmodernism, which I think I will read first, as a good into and hopefully pointer to other things. I am interested that you point to Hauerwas and Yoder, are you pointing to them epistemically because of their emphasis on the importance of narrative? Or, can you say a bit more about why I should read them. Again thanks for your thoughts!
Dee – Thanks for the links, though I cannot find ways to contact either of them on their sites. If you no of a way to contact them you could drop me an email (deeplycommitted(at) gmail (dot) com)
Keep the suggestions coming!
I think I have their email addresses from the conference I attended.
While not a post-modern, I think Alasdair MacIntyre wrote things that resonate with and perhaps influence emergent Christianity.
His books After Virtue and Whose Justice? Which Rationality? are critiques of moderism and defense of the communal origins of systems of rationality. (Boy, that is a bad synopsis.)
Andrew Conard said:
Kevin – I do not have any suggestions for authors, but commend the work here. I think that you may be on to something that would be quite helpful inside and outside the denomination.
Kevin Watson said:
thanks for pointing to MacIntyre. In some ways, I wonder if he provides a way to think about a possible critique. At least it seemed to me in After Virtue that he is not happy with the notion that we almost can’t even communicate anymore because we don’t even mean the same thing when we say something like “I like ice cream.” (I think that was one of his examples)
Andrew – Thanks for the encouragement. This is a bit outside of my comfort zone, but I find it interesting that folks in Emergent have such a large influence, and few folks, at least in academia, seem to take their work seriously enough to critically engage it. We’ll see what happens.
i agree with matt. those are some good names. i would also add pete rollins. though he is not a primary source per se, he does provide some of the postmodern philsophical underpinnings, especially in relation to the nature of god.
if you were doing this next semester i’d get even more excited because i’m actually taking an online class with tony jones on the emergent church and i’m sure i could pick his brain for you.
Kevin Watson said:
blake – thanks for the input. Someone recommended Rollins to me today, so I requested How (Not) to Speak of God from the library… someone had the nerve to check it out already.
That is really cool that you are taking an online course with Tony Jones, who is offering the course?
it’s being offered through andover newton theological school, but i’m at BU so i’m taking it via the boston theological institute. i’m pretty excited. good luck with that paper.
Don Trivits said:
Kevin — My suggestion is to give 20-minutes of your time to a Google-search on the writings of Steve Fuller.
Just to reiterate the above, Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas are pretty big influences on a number of folks. I know MacIntyre’s After Virture is a must read for New Monastic folks, which is often thought of as a manifestation of emergent thought.
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