I hate labels. Evangelical, emergent, emergING, post-modern, conservative -- each of these has become so nebulous and subjective that they have little meaning left in them. Unfortunately, no matter how much we loathe them, contemporary language is so saturated with labels that they are really inescapable. Therefore, we need to understand what they mean (as best we can).
Some of the most misunderstood words among Christian commentators and laypersons are "emerging" and "emergent." Perhaps, they are familiar least of all to Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists often exhibit some kind of skiddish, toy terrier-like fear about addressing or even acknowledging anything from anyone they consider to be a part of one of these two camps (not that most of them could tell you the difference between the two).
You can imagine how surprising it was when Dr. Danny Akin decided to host a conference (ambiguously named "Convergent") dialoguing about the Emerging Church on the campus of Southeastern. Aside from the name, one must commend both Dr. Akin and the Southeastern staff for having the guts to put on such an important event. At least some Southern Baptists are willing to get in the game! Southern Baptists have begun a significant conversation, and it is imperative that is ongoing.
Guests included Ed Stetzer (Missiologist / Director of LifeWay Research), Mark Driscoll (Progressive Pastor of Mars Hill Church / President of Acts 29), Danny Akin (President of Southeastern), Tyler Jones (Pastor of Vintage 21), JD Greear (Pastor of The Summit Church), and Alvin Reid (Professor of Evangelism, Southeastern).
Perhaps the most surprising moment was the 1+ hr. lecture given by Mark Driscoll that included a polemic against Emergent leaders like Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and others. I encourage you to download it and judge for yourself.
For those of you who did not attend, I am listing some of the more memorable quotes. Please leave me your reactions to any of this.
-"I believe total depravity is for optimists -- that's how much of a Calvinist I am."
-"It is always best to pick dead mentors because they don't disappoint."
-"When God speaks, we are not to converse. We are to obey."
-Responding to Brian McLaren's refusal to comment on homosexuality for fear of "huting someone on either side": "Then I say, 'Now you have hurt God' because God has spoken on this issue with great clarity."
-"Brian McLaren now has an organization called 'Deep Shift.' I think someone inadvertently put an 'f' in there."
-"There is now no clarifying, theological doctrine that defines evangelicalism."
-"If you are thirsty for theology, may I suggest that you not drink from the toilet even though there is water there."
-"It is foolish reductionism to say that culture equals worldliness."
-"The world is not full of good guys and bad guys; It is full of bad guys and Jesus."
-"The needs of others will outweigh the desires of my own heart."
-"We have a Biblically illiterate church . . . especially within the SBC."
-"Love is the fulcrum that balances freedom and responsibility."
-"We are raising a generation that is theologically ignorant . . . and our churches are suffering."
-"Think about your friends who first embraced comtemporary church culture. Are they still welcome in Southern Baptist Convention life? Mine aren't."
-"People never change until the pain of staying the same grows greater than the pain of changing."
-"The reason there is an Emerging Church is because the Church in North America is failing . . . people are calling for a new expression of the Church."
-"John Maxwell is like Jesse Jackson for white people."
-"The bride is not pretty right now, but you cannot love Jesus and hate his wife."
-"People are losing confidence in the church and then losing confidence in the Gospel."
-"We have got to move away from anything that furthers the try harder mantality in the church. The Gospel is not try harder. It is die to self and live freely."
-"The Great Commission is more important than beer."
-"Love is probably the most affective apologetic."
-"There will be much joy in our cities when our message is accompanied with tangible acts of its beauty."