An interesting post on the changing shape of some varieties of Christianity. The Suburban Christian: Typologies of renewal: Three routes, four models, five streams:
This is something of a follow-up to my previous post on emergents and new Calvinists. In the comments, Claytonius linked to a post he’d written last year about three routes of escape from the pragmatic evangelical church. He observed that many young adults who leave evangelical churches tend to head to three other places
To summarise, the places these restless pragmatic evangelicals tend to head to are:
- Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches
- Emerging Churches
- Reformed Churches
And there are four kinds of Emerging Churches:
- Pre-modern/Augustinian Model
- Emerging Peace Church Model
- Foundationalist Model
As a language pedant, I find the growing misuse of “typology” a bit annoying. Surely the correct term is “taxonomy”?
My (secular) dictionary (Collins Millennium Edition) gives:
- typology n Chiefly Christian theol. the doctrine or study of types or of the correspondence between them and the reality they typify.
- taxonomy 2 n the science or practice of classification.
Typology usually has to do with one event foreshadowing another — for example the Passover and Exodus as types of Christ’s resurrection.
There’s still a language problem, though, because I’m not sure what “pragmatic” evangelicalism is, and I get the impression that “evangelical” means, or has come to mean, something different in the USA from what it means in Southern Africa. For example, in posts such as the one I was referring to, “evangelical” is mentioned in the same breath as “megachurches”.
In South Africa “megachurches” (ie the barn-style “everything under one roof” hypermarket-style super-congregations like Rhema, Christian City, The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God etc) are almost invariably Neopentecostal, rather than “evangelical”.
Evangelicals are spread over a number of different denominations that tend to have normal-sized congregations — Baptists, a few Anglicans and Methodists and the like. Evangelicals are also concentrated in some parachurch organisations like Scripture Union, Youth with a Mission, African Enterprise, and so on, which were regarded as more evangelical if they were anti-charismatic, and less evangelical if they were pro-charismatic or at least tolerant of the charismatic movement.
So where do “pragmatic” evangelicals fit in?
Another observation is that in South Africa these distinctions seem to be far more important to white Christians than to black ones.
I once attended an ecumenical mission conference where my room-mate was a hyper-Calvinist member of the Church of England in South Africa, who kept interrogating me with the TULIP test, and when I failed the test he found my presence unbearable. He kept phoning home to ask for advice on what to do, and must have been advised to “Come out of Babylon” because after a couple of days he left and I never saw him again. Back in those days I was a hands-up and knees-down Anglo-Catholic Evangelical Charismatic Anglican, with bells, smells and singing in tongues, and believing in things like “one man one vote”, which was very politically incorrect in the days of PW Botha, Adriaan Vlok, Magnus Malan and the Total Onslaught, all of which was anathema to the Church of England in South Africa. The Church of England in South Africa (CESA) is changing too, though — as Stephen Murray’s blog shows.
But even today, white Christians in South Africa tend to do the classification thing and create taxonomies. Yet among black Christians the church that is emerging is a kind of generic Protestantism. Anglicans, Assemblies, Baptists, Congregationalists, Full Gospellers, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Zionists are all coming to resemble one another more and more.
White Christians (some of them) are interested in the Emerging Church, but the church that is emerging among the majority is somewhat different.
So I think our taxonomies might be somewhat different from the American ones, and what is emerging isn’t necessarily Emerging.