Scott sent me an email concerning Michael who's trying to figure out this whole Emergent phenomenon. He's looking for views from both side of the movement, so I thought I'd throw up [pun intended] some stuff here. Maybe you've heard of Emergent and have wondered what all the fuss is about, or maybe you're totally unfamiliar. Either way, I hope this is post is helpful. I attended one of the first Emergent church gathering, and have followed it since my college graduation so I'm rather familiar with the whole thing. And for my hardcore theologically-minded readers, keep in mind that I'm trying to make this accessible to readers from all backgrounds, so refrain from trying to critique my critique.
Emergent started from a group of churches trying to do ministry in a postmodern world. But during the past few years it's become much much more. Those involved began to explore theology and church history, seeing if the way we've been thinking about God/Jesus/Church was actually Biblical or societal. The source of the debate raging now among "Emergents" is how far can you go to make the gospel acceptable to the masses.
What really brought the issue to the forefront of evangelical discussion was Brian McLaren's book, A Generous Orthodoxy. McLaren, a literary professor turned pastor, is seen as the lead voice of Emergent. He enjoys questioning everything in an effort to stimulate discussion, but in doing so he's offended many conservative pastors and theologians. And since Emergent won't come out with any official kind of statement of faith, they invite more criticism.
For another insider's perspective on Emergent, read Tony Jones' defense of it here. Tony is national coordinator of Emergent and has been trying to deflect the heat that McLaren is taking for his views. Unfortunately for Tony, his best efforts have brought even more controversy. Definitely check out the Emergent website to get a feel of what they're about.
There are, however, some opponents trying to make a distinction between Emergent and emerging churches [you might not think capitalization would mean much but, in this discussion, it's making a world of difference]. These people are all for being missional [missionary-like, or adapting the gospel to our culture], but are leery of doing at the expense of Biblical authority. Mark Driscoll, pastor from Seattle, offers up an explanation of this view here, and Ed Stetzer, church planting guru, has an objective critique here. Also, D.A. Carson has written a book against Emergent entitled, Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church.
These people against Emergent believe that the movement is nothing more than a rehash of liberalism. Whether or not this is true, there is a bigger fight abrewin'.
I have opinions about all this that I will keep to myself for now in keeping with Michael's request. But I hope this helped.