I've looked into what is being called the emergent church and I'm a little confused by various articles that I've read about it. Do you have a simpler explanation of the Emergent Church "movement" or "discussion"? Could you also contrast modernism and postmodernism as it pertains to the church?” —Roger Hoelzel (Grand Rapids)

[Response from Joseph Harris:]

The simplest way of putting it is that it's sort of like "postmodern restorationism"; this oxymoron neatly captures some of the complexities involved. The Emergent/Emerging church (these terms are different, but we'll conflate them for the simplicity's sake) is a movement within and without traditional denominations that emphasizes being a missional people (social action; verbal, narrative evangelism), a postmodern/modern approach to theology (i.e., very loose borders; deconstructionist, postmodern and -ist [fill in the blank] approaches to biblical interpretation; openness to new meanings and significances in both theology and ecclesiology, etc).

Adherents also focus on each person actually living a life of love and service to others as Jesus did. They are usually deeply involved in understanding and living out Scriptural teachings and practices (keeping in mind the generally postmodern approach). This leads to an interesting/confusing gestalt of ancient and modern, primitive and postmodern teaching and practice. They have a strong interest in living "authentically."

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