The Great Emergence brings you a review by Mike Smallbones concerning a new book by Phyllis Tickle that may help to make some sense of what is almost certainly baffling us all concerning what is happening in the Church world wide.
Even your own church is not what it used to be. Once fairly formal and predictable service programmes and liturgies have given way to increasing informality. Why, some churches even and have tea and coffee available during the services which the members of the congregation can help themselves to as and when they like! We've just got used to the new music, but this is just …….
What is actually happening? Not to mention the acceptance of things once vociferously condemned like divorce and homosexuality.
I was recently introduced to a very helpful little book by author Phyllis Tickle. The Great Emergence, subtitled “How Christianity is Changing and Why”, is a fascinating commentary of what is happening in the thinking and practice of Christians the world over, but particularly in the West.
Mrs Tickle is an Episcopalian lay person in the US and has been involved in religious publishing for many years. She is described as an “internationally renowned religions expert”. If this book is anything to go, she certainly seems to know what she is talking about.
Tickle points out how every 500 years the “church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale”. 500 years ago there was the Reformation in the 16th Century which changed the course of Christianity radically, and paved the way for the rational approach with its great emphasis on reading the Word for yourself.
500 years before that, in 1054, was the Great Schism, the division of the Church – Rome and Constantinople with various doctrinal divisions as well. Changes like priests not being allowed to marry, which forever changed the Roman Catholic landscape.
The 6th Century brought Gregory the Great to the stage – around the time of the end of the Roman Empire. It was also the beginning of Monasticism which was to have an enormous role in preserving much of what we take for granted now in our Christian faith.
Also examined are the influences of people such as Freud, Jung and Darwin as well as inventions such as radio and TV and the automobile.
Tickle’s chapter entitled “The Century of Emergence: Einstein, the Automobile and the Marginalisation of Grandma” is particularly interesting.
And, of course, the legacy of the two world wars.
The final chapters deal with much of what we are experiencing now in western churches.
I found her thoughts on authority very helpful. Also the move from Modernism with its emphasis on logic and rationalism to the current post-modern views which will say things like this: “the Virgin birth is so beautiful that it has to be true, whether it happened or not”.
If you are wanting something to help you understand what is happening and also to challenge you own thinking, I recommend this book. It is only 160 pages long and well worth the read. I found it really helpful in trying to understand what is happening in the Church today.
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