No observer of the emerging church was surprised to see leading voice Brian McLaren endorse Sen. Barack Obama for President. Liberal politics and emerging theology go hand in hand. But what is the connection? Must one lead to the other?
Christians are drawn to the emerging church for many reasons. Many are uncomfortable with the evangelical status quo, especially the bond between conservative politics and conservative theology. Others simply see the winds of culture shifting, and they don't want to be left behind. But I would suggest some deeper connections between liberal politics and emerging theology.
Emerging church leaders believe that the evangelical gospel is too small, too individualistic. They do not emphasize God's plan to forgive sins through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Rather, they talk about the "secret message of Jesus" or God's plan to renew his creation. Scot McKnight wrote for CT about this shift regarding McLaren. "In this aggressive emphasis on the here and now, we see a devaluation of the traditional view of heaven, and the need for a radical reworking of familiar terms—eternal life, heaven, kingdom, repent, believe, and sin," McKnight observed. "These terms now take their meaning from the story of God's current redemption of the entire created order through the followers of Jesus who embody and expand his message."
McLaren may not be heavenly minded, but he is trying to do earthly good. He can partner with anyone who seems to be working toward the same agenda, whether in the name of Jesus or not. This reflects the communal spirit of the emerging church, which highlights the works of Jesus instead of his work on the Cross.
But despite the emerging church's talk about community, postmodernism ...1