Phyllis Tickle has written her fourth book on the emergent church aptly titled, “Emergence Christianity.” A sympathetic look to the non-movement movement, she does an admirable job of assimilating and distilling in about 200 pages where things have been, where they are and where they might go.
If that sounds a little vague, welcome to emergent.
Tickle suggests that we are living in the age of The Great Emergence across the world. Quite a bold claim, especially for one living in the middle of it! And this book seeks to describe how a certain group of “Christians” are adapting to it.
It won’t surprise you that a book that repeatedly identifies Brian McLaren as “the Martin Luther of Emergence internationally” is not going to be my favorite. Yet, I found one section near the end surprisingly encouraging.
Tickle, against the consensus of most observers, suggests that Emergence Christianity is not in decline, but in a stage of reconfiguration, even maturation. As she describes the influences on this process, she notes the place of the New Calvinism. Of that movement she writes:
“As such and because of its sheer size, it will also be a participant in, or at the very least a potent influence upon, the events and decisions that, during the coming decades, will determine the shape of Emergence Christianity in its full maturity.” (189)
I found that sentence strangely hope-giving. I most certainly do want to help shape Emergence Christianity! And I think the New Calvinism (which is not just the Old Calvinism, but the message of the Bible itself) is uniquely gifted to do just that. The world of Emergence Christianity that Tickle describes is like the early creation, “formless and void.” But those who take the Scriptures at face value are able to speak the Word and see something of real good come out of it.