In a recent post, James asks how far the emerging church movement is willing to go if it wishes to authentically represent "the early Church."
"Will the post-mods begin affirming the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? The efficaciousness of Baptism? Will they fast on Wednesdays and Fridays? And the most burning question: What will they do with the ecclesiology of Sts. Ignatius, Irenaios, and [Cyprian] (to name a few)?"
Of course I keep hoping that many will find themselves "moving East" as we call it and answering these questions in the affirmative. As the western Christian world continues to collapse into moral decay and theological oblivion, many PoMo's will find themselves embracing a more patristic, holistic and ancient faith. The question is: will they realize that they didn't need to invent it from scratch in the first place? Time will tell....
However, as Justin notes, many PoMo's will fight this movement toward orthodoxy precisely because they will refuse to give up their "freedom of choice."
"It seems that much of what we within the evangelical heritage are doing in the em-church is of great interest to Anglican, Orthodox, and Catholic thinkers. This is probably due to the heightened interest in icons, symbols, ancient spiritual practices, church history, and multisensory worship...."
"The em-church is only interested in borrowing the interesting bits and pieces of their traditions, not their larger theologies and assumptions. That is, most evangelicals are not at all interested in becoming members of the Orthodox Church, but rather are expressing an interest in symbols, forms of expression and worship absent from protestantism yet alive and well within Orthodoxy."
Can you appropriate the externals without the foundation? The answer to that question seems plain from an Orthodox POV but might seem unclear from the PoMo POV. For us, there is no ontological difference between the "externals" and the foundation that gives them meaning. Thus *by definiton* it can't even be done!
But can one derive benefit from liturgy, icons, asceticism, etc outside formal participation in the life of the Church? Of course. However, as James notes, in the end all questions end up seeking the foundation and not the externals because the externals end up lacking their holistic meaning without being organically connected to the foundation.
The remainder of this post is part of a letter I sent to a friend in regards to this issue. Those who have read Matthew Gallatin will recognize this as a slightly re-written and partial paraphrase of his last chapter in "Thirsting for God." I think it sheds some light on James' question:
The main reason [why many western Christians] are not formally [capital "O] Orthodox is a powerful misconception regarding the nature of Christianity. It was given birth in the Great Schism (1054 A.D.; when western and eastern Christendom split), nursed by the Reformation, nurtured by the Enlightenment, and brought to full maturity in the atmosphere of relativism and self-centered individuality that defines much of our modern culture.
The misconception is this: Christianity is essentially a faith that one can individually interpret and live as one pleases.
To many, the myriads of Christian denominations, rather than being a sign that something is dreadfully wrong in Christendom, instead testify to the fact that there are many legitimate churches, groups, paths to union with God. In their minds, it's perfectly obvious that a person is free to choose whatever path suits his personal needs, desires, and tastes. If one doesn't like any of the existing paths, he can legitimately create his own.
Now, the spirit of the age would have us all believe that it's actually God's will that we exercise our "spiritual freedom" by recreating the Church, or by believing and fashioning our own doctrines and practices in the spiritual life. Its deceptive voice would convince us that they way we practice our Christian faith should be-no, MUST be-conformed to our own will, and to our own desires. God's primary concern (the world assures us) is that we be individually comfortable in our faith. If we don't find a practice or belief held for 2,000 years in Orthodoxy personally meaningful, then we should not feel obligated to it or to the Church.
This choosing is the root of our word "heresy." In fact, the word in Greek literally means "choice." To be a heretic is to willfully, knowingly, and unrepentantly choose to teach, practice, and participate in something foreign to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Is it laudable that many in the Emerging church movement are trying to reclaim their spiritual heritage by capturing "little-o orthodoxy"? Of course! But once they realize that the foundation can't be created by man, will they be willing to enter more fully into union with the same Church which they so desperately wish to re-create? I hope so.