"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
August 6, 2006

The Emerging Church Needs More…

The Emerging Church needs more gatekeepers, closed shops, exclusive publishing arrangments and authorised spokespersons… …or not. What do you think? Like my last cryptic post on the Emerging church (Is the Emerging Church?) I’m thinking out loud. Part of me wants to do some extended writing on the Emerging Church, but I’m just not sure; […]

The Emerging Church needs more gatekeepers, closed shops, exclusive publishing arrangments and authorised spokespersons…

…or not.

What do you think? Like my last cryptic post on the Emerging church (Is the Emerging Church?) I’m thinking out loud. Part of me wants to do some extended writing on the Emerging Church, but I’m just not sure; maybe I shouldn’t be limiting my thoughts to the current emerging church debates. I’m not really part of the official emerging church networks and definately not being invited into the talking-shops either. However, I have been thinking about the missional, flat eccllesiological thing for over a decade now. More importantly, I’ve been doing it, trying it and playing with it for as long. I’ve run an academic reading group discussing Zizek, Baudrillard and al the usual suspects, given academic papers on theology and film, run a campus faith and film group, and so on. During my PhD research, I came to the conclusion there was something dreadfully wrong with academic theology, something analagous (but possibly more toxic) with what was wrong with the church, what was driving my peers to rethink mission and ecclesiology.

But, at the risk of sounding alarmist, there are some worrying trends in the academic end of the discussion, which is probably the area where I could contribute the most right now. A while back I speculated there would be a theological scramble this year (The Emerging Trend For 2005-06)

My guess is that there will be a theological scramble; with a number of players will competing to be seen as the “official theology of emergent.” This won’t just be individuals jostling to be seen as ‘key opinion leaders’ but also I suspect we will see thelogical “brands” emerging as well (or maybe existing brands being repackaged and relaunched).

Are the new theological “brands” simply new factions and groupings representing existing ways of doing theology? I’m not sure, but it should be easier to dismiss the claim. As things stand now, it is hard not to be cynical, really hard.

[tags] Theological Method, Ecclesiology [/tags]

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Toni 18 years ago

I have a feeling that the emergent church – the church that was emerging – has now emergend and is moving elsewhere. I’m not quite sure how or why I feel this, but to me, the ‘EC’ as it’s appeared on the net is what the methodists and Baptists and Anglicans and uncle Tom Cobbley et al created when they realised that more people came to church if you sang ‘choruses’ and used coloured lights, sound systems and powerpoint.

That comes over as desperately cynical, but just as the EC apparently embraced POMO thinking, so I’m fairly sure that the pillar of cloud had already headed someplace else. Just a feeling, but I think the EC is already a dead end waiting to become a demonination while God is doing something new. Obviously He’s not abandonning His people that are working in there, but with some exceptions, I rather think it was window dressing, rather than substance.

Don’t ask me for proof – I’ve none whatsoever.

Fernando Gros 18 years ago

Toni, thanks for the comments. Cynicism is not always a bad thing, sometimes it helps us cut through to what really matters, especially when we only have an intuition, or hunch, rather than a mass of facts.

My hunch is that despite the outward embrace of POMO, as you put it, there is still a lot of the existing structures just being replicated. I’d like to think that is more than just window dressing while new denominations, conference routes and talking shops are set up.

Geoff Holsclaw 18 years ago


I definitely think you are right that there will be a theological scramble (you can almost see it among the progressive evangelicals over at generousorthodoxy.net). And I agree that there will be much recycling of old ideas (but hey, recycling is great for the environment!) under the guise of the NEW. I many times feel that much of EC theology is merely evangelicals getting excited about protestant Liberal theology, but that is not always the case.

I too hope for and see emerging a diversity of theological perspectives, all struggling (not for position or prestige or power, but) to think faithfully, to act faithfully, within our cultural context.

Much of the EC is enamoured by deconstruction (either the philosophical type, or just the jargon of it), but I feel beyond this (and beyond the cynicism) we need to begin construction theological ideas that can support the construction of ecclessial Bodies.

Geoff Holsclaw 18 years ago


I don’t read many involved in church ministry/theology who are also ready Zizek (and who for you are the other usual suspects?). In brief, what do you think of his project and why are you reading him?

Fernando Gros 18 years ago

Geoff, I have posted on Zizek in the past and will do so again in the future. My serious reading of him starting back in 1999 when I commenced work on a PhD in hermeneutics. I lead a Graduate reading group that worked through 3 of his books and he was cited in most of the seminars I gave in those years. I was also floating a draft of a book on theology and film in 02 that went through the usual suspects (zizek, lacan, levinas, baudrillard, manovich, gadamer, lyotard, derrida, foucault and others), contrasted them with 20thc century theologians and explored their ideas with reference to major films. The book never came off, but I hope one day it might.

As far as why I am reading Zizek, well I think the nature of his project and his impact/influence makes it pretty self-evident why anyone wanting to work in theology and culture, especially in film would want to be reading him.

Geoff Holsclaw 18 years ago

I’ve notice that there are roughly two readers of Zizek, one from the cultural theory angle (who are interested in how he analyses Western Culture), and the second from a political theory angle (those interested in his critique of liberal democracy and capitalism). Of course there is significant overlap, but I’m falling more into the second category.

curious, but which three book of his did you read (since there are about 30 to choose from)?


Fernando Gros 18 years ago

Geoff, could you be a little more upfront where you are going with this line of questioning? I said the group read three, not that i had only read three. I’m well aware of the extent of his writing, having read my way through most of it.

The group read On Belief, The Desert of the Real and The Fragile Absolute.

Also, it seems reductionistic and innatientive to his emphasis to read zizek in only the two categories you suggest. I can’t comment on what people working in theology may have recently commented upon his work, but even in his work explicitly focussed on film he still is making commented on the mechanics of capitalism. To me a large part of his appeal is that meta-ethical/religious considerations are embedded in any reading of culture. Zizek’s work problematises the division betwen culture and politics as false, so to read him this way is also false.

Personally I was drawn to zizek through thinking about theology and film but was enmeshed by what I saw as a more robust reading of reality than what I was finding in baudrillard (whom I still adore for aesthetics and consumer theory). Moreover, I found in zizek a lot to consider on the relationship between Christianity and liberalism, which as a historically oriented Baptist is a big issue.

So, do I have permission to keep blogging on Zizek, or should I step aside for the experts?


Geoff Holsclaw 18 years ago

I wasn’t trying to suggest anything about the 3 books. I assumed you had read more. I was just wonder which texts you decided to work through with the others.

and i wholeheartedly agree that the gist of Zizek is to relate the cultural and political sides of reality, i was just commenting that I had noticed many people (particularly in America who still like cultural studies as a replacement for politics) read Zizek one-sidely. I’m particularly thinking of my evangelical connections who like Z’s cultural hermenuetic but can’t even graps his political orientation (mostly because their own theology excludes such possibilities).

Geoff Holsclaw 18 years ago

(my tone throughout is amiable…I have to note this b/c the internet excludes all these other communicative gestures)

concerning ‘the experts’: i would love to have you continuing writing on zizek, but of course you don’t need my permission. I’m just a amateur, not an expert.

but concerning you comment over at jason clark’s about churchandpomo.org: the project is not a closed shop at all (if by closed you mean we’ve already decided who is contributing [those being the experts] and now we’ll have the conversation on behalf of all you others…kinda like Z. favorite reference of Buddist monks having prayer wheels with prayer on behalf of the monk.)

In that sense, we have not closed shop at all, we are in the process of throwing the doors open, hoping to find contributors no matter their academic credentialing. (for the record, I don’t have a ph.d, nor am I enrolled as a student, i’m a pastor.)

anyway, I’ve been looking for your email but I couldn’t find it on the site. would love to talk more about Zizek, ‘experts’, and opening up the shop.

Fernando Gros 18 years ago

Geoff, thanks for your comments. I look forward to seeing where the discussions at churchandpomo.com end up. I probably misunderstood where you were coming from with some of your comments here, but I do stand by what I said at Jason’s site. I hope, in time, I’m proved wrong on that one.

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