In the following posts, I want to explore the current doctrinal and practical impact of the emerging church on preaching.
With some humor, hyperbole, and much accuracy, the authors of Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) provide a detection list for Emergents (See Tim Challies’ review). Notice this list begins and ends with references to preaching:
You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, N.T.Wright, Stan Grenz…(not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem;…if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage;…if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found;… if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing right things but living the right way;…if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism… then you might be an emergent Christian. 
The current impact of the Emerging church (hereafter EC) is seen in the preachers of the EC who have large churches, best sellers, and high profiles in American Christianity. Brian McLaren is a prolific writer. He was listed among “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” Time, 7 Feb 2005. Another prominent name in the emergent movement is Rob Bell. He is the founding pastor of Mars Hill in Grand Rapids which was started in 1999. 10,000 people attend his church weekly. Bell is also the creator of the widely viewed Nooma movies. Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, Washington and co-founder of Acts 29 Network, also played a part in the initial discussions of the movement. Driscoll, who reveals the theological diversity of the EC, now is exposing many of the doctrinal errors of the left wing of the EC that he refers to as the Revisionists. Over 6000 attend Mars Hill on Sundays and 100,000 download his sermons weekly. While the EC preachers enjoy mega popularity and connect to our postmodern audiences, the Biblical content, style, and effect of their overhauled preaching is adversely altered by postmodernism’s rejection of absolute truth.
Postmodernism’s Impact on the EC beginning
The term “emerging” was first used by Leadership Network (hereafter LN) based in Dallas. LN hired Doug Pagitt to find the next generation of leaders and hosted a gathering in 1997 in Colorado Springs called Gen X 1.0 to discuss why the youth were leaving the church. The popular idea at the time was that the problem was generational. The generational advocates said that Busters think differently from Boomers and decided to attract young people by making church cool. Brad Cecil, an evangelical pastor from Texas, who had been researching postmodernism and listening to men like the French Father of Deconstructionism, Jacques Derrida, attended the meeting and argued the reason the church was losing young people was epistemological and not generational. Brad Cecil diagramed on a white board a mega shift that was occurring in epistemology:
Pre-modernism Modernism (1550-1945) Post-modernism
Absolutes are known Absolutes are known There are no
through God’s written through reason as in absolutes
revelation and reason Rationalism or Empiricism
The ultimate outcome of that pivotal meeting was the EC. To minister to those caught in the mega shift of postmodernism there must a mega shift in church ministry. The result is the Emerging Church’s new ecclesiology.
In the 1997, a second conference (Gen X 2.0) met at Mount Hermon, CA on how the church can reach “Gen X” or the postmodern generation. Mark Driscoll agreed with Cecil that “Gen X” was different from the Boomer, Seeker, and Traditionalist churches and spoke on how to minister to the church that was in transition from modern to postmodern.
The Three Periods of Epistemology
The Emerging church sees a paradigm shift from modern to postmodern epistemology. Epistemology is the “philosophical inquiry into the nature, sources, limits and methods of gaining knowledge” and has gone through three major phases. We will briefly survey the three major phases of epistemology, pre-modern, modern, and postmodern.
Pre-modern or the Judeo-Christian epistemology existed for two millennia before the Enlightenment with Western theologians’ and philosophers’ belief in absolute, universal truths. The foundation for pre-modern epistemology was God’s written Word and philosophy. There developed an emphasis on reason with Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Aquinas believed the Fall did not so adversely affect the reason of man that he could not through rational arguments (Aquinas’ theistic arguments for God’s existence) know truth apart from God’s written truth. In the modern or the second phase of epistemology, thinkers would take Aquinas’ view to the extreme of totally abandoning the need for God’s written Word to know truth.
Modern epistemology or the Enlightenment prevailed during the 17th century to roughly the mid 20th century. While the foundation for pre-modern epistemology was God’s written revelation and or objective truth, the foundation for modern epistemology was reason (rationalism) or experience (empiricism) that could discover God or at least truth for those who rejected the existence of God. Thinkers like David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche took Aquinas’ rationalization to exclude God’s written revelation. These men were precursors for the postmodern epistemology rejection of absolute truth in the form of language being the barrier to reality.
Postmodernism rejects foundationalism. There is no absolute knowledge in postmodernism. In postmodernism truth is discovered, not individually, but in the language of each community. “There are as many worlds as there are communities and languages. There is at least one Christian world, as well as a Muslim world, a Buddhist one, a Hindu one, a secularist one, a Mormon one, and many, many others.” This secular postmodern community view of truth has morphed into an evangelical postmodern view in the left wing of the EC.
The following posts will discuss postmodernism’s impact on three areas of Emerginng Church preaching: Content, Style, and Effect.
 Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck. Why We’re Not Emergent. (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 20-22.
 David Hume (1711-1776) was a empiricist, who believed truth was discovered through the five senses, which excluded God since God could not be seen or experienced through the senses. Hume said we could not know the “real” world because we are “trapped” behind our sense experiences of sight, smells, and sounds. Things in our everyday existence “like chairs, tables, and even other people are projections of the mind.” Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) “attempted to answer Hume’s empiricism in order to defend rationalism….Kant’s attempted answer becomes an important precursor to current postmodern ideas. …We cannot know objective reality (what he would call the noumena); we only know how it appears to us (the phenomena).” Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was the first one to introduce the idea that language somehow is involved in the process of how we know the world” Scott Smith, Truth and the New Kind of Christian (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 28-30.
 Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) make the transition from our senses being the barrier to reality to language being the obstacle that stands between us and objective reality. “No longer was it thought that we are ‘stuck’ behind our experiences and cannot get ‘outside’ to the real world. Instead, they developed the idea that we are on the ‘inside’ of language and cannot know reality.…This shift in emphasis in philosophy from experience to language is what is called the linguistic turn, and it marks a turn toward postmodern thought” Ibid., 30.
 Ibid., 31.