I have been spending a ton of time lately trying to come up with a thesis topic to pursue for further graduate work. It has been exciting at times, depressing at times, and a complete disaster at other times. This morning, I feel like I had some breakthrough-- at least in the sense that I have a bit better idea of what direction I want to head in my research proposals. Perhaps I will write more on that as things become clearer to me.
I just finished writing an email to my uncle, who has been extremely helpful in my journey (throughout life, but especially in this process). After I sent it, I realized that it was pretty cathartic to write. And so, I decided I would offer a few pieces of it up here for your enjoyment or dissection:
I would make a distinction between the writings of Darrel Guder, Craig VanGelder, et al. and the Emergent movement (which, to the best of my abilities of discernment, is comprised of a very small number of actual people-- few of whom are writing books). That is to say, I have read all the books offered by the Gospel and Our Culture Network (www.gocn.org), and not one book by McLaren (well, I did read the church on the other side).
I'm not interested as much in issues of postmodern ___ (fill in the blank), but rather issues of how we understand the church, and how missiology has shaped this discussion for the past 10-15 years (marked, I would suggest, at least in part by Newbigin's lectures at Princeton in 1984-- published in 86 as "Foolishness to the Greeks"). Therefore, in that vein, I have no interest in anything Emergent (and I got ripped on my blog for saying that-- to me, it is classic liberalism [in the theological definition of the word] in new garments). This could be wrong, and an overreaction, but I'm just not interested in anything that smells of Emergent. For now at least.
However, I am profoundly interested in how missiologists like David Bosch have seemingly become the first order discourse to study as we approach the doctrine of the church. Is that the direction we should be moving as the church? Combining a theology of mission with a theology of the church? Or is God calling us (me) to pursue something different entirely.
I'm extremely anxious to see where these leanings take me-- and how God has architected my journey thus far to make me especially fit to contribute to the theological community in a particular way. I have prayed that God would protect me from anything that is faddish. That is, I know it is extremely easy (on one level) to get a PhD. If God does indeed intend for me to minister to the church by studying & writing and speaking to specific issues through conventional academic channels, then I want to make sure that I steward my gifts and research well so as to make the most significant contribution I can.
So many books are hot today, un-sellable on ebay tomorrow. The same goes with theologies. God help us from contributing to that pile!
I do realize that authors like Alan Roxburgh have participated in both milieus, The Gospel & Our Culture Network, and The Emergent Network. And, upon this admission, I could have drawn a distinction that doesn't exist. However, I do see a difference between studies in ecclesiology and missiology (which, some have called the blend, missional ecclesiology), and the 'conversation' that is taking place within the Emergent movement.