Who do Missiologists Answer to?

In an entry on “Missiology” in the Encyclopedia of Protestantism, Wilbert Shenk offers, what I take, to be a pretty broad definition of missiology. According to him it is the academic study of all dimensions of the Christian mission. He includes several aspects of what “all dimensions” actually refers to, including, “biblical and theological foundations,” “history of Christian expansion,” and “contemporary practice, theory, and strategy.” (Shenk, 1376)

One thing that struck me from his encyclopedia article was his discussion of “Missiological Traditions.” He distinguished between “Continental,” “Anglo-American,” and “Roman Catholic” traditions. His description of the Anglo-American tradition made a lot of sense to me: missiologists do their work for the sake of the church, partnering with churches and mission agencies. God has a mission, the missio Dei, and God’s people (the church) participate in that mission. Therefore, it makes sense that missiologists, as part of God’s people, would partner with the church (and other Christian organizations) to advance God’s mission to the world. Yet, Shenk’s description of the Continental tradition really baffled me.

According to Shenk, the Continental tradition emphasizes scientific standards and theoretical rigor. So far so good, I think even those in the Anglo-American tradition would want to emphasize those things (to a certain extent), when dealing with theoretical matters or when doing the social scientific aspect of missiology. But what makes this tradition stick out is that, “It answers to the university rather than to the church.” (Shenk, 1380) This let me utterly confused. Universities have missions (as do corporations), but the university’s mission is not the missio Dei. This is especially the case in universities that are not Christian institutions. I would really appreciate it if someone could help me make sense of why missiology should have to answer to the university instead of to God himself, and to the community he has formed.

Teaching Online – Creative Introductions

Think about doing a different Introductory Activity besides the normal “post a little bit about yourself.” Some other ideas that would create a connection and better conversion are below. So think about changing that up a bit!

  • Ask a 3 – 2 – 1 question like: 3 of your favorite songs, 2 unusual things you have eaten, 1 time you took a big risk.
  • “If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with that extra time?”
  • “Post three URLs that illustrate your favorite hobby.” Students will then comment about their experience with this hobby.
  • “What’s a favorite road trip, journey, or vacation you’ve taken? Post a photo of you on the trip.”
  • “What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?”
  • “Post two lies and a truth about yourself and classmates will guess which is which.”
  • “What was your proudest moment in life thus far?”

Source: Fuller’s Instructional Design Team

The Liturgy of Creation

Honestly, it’s hard to think of a theological topic that gets evangelical Christians more fired up than the doctrine of creation. Now I know the doctrine of creation is wide ranging—we could talk about providence, God’s end in creation, the contingency of creation, the orderliness of creation, etc—but the aspect of creation that really makes people’s blood boil tends to revolve around the creation story, specifically the length of creation and God’s means of creation. Michael LeFebvre, a pastor-theologian, has given us yet another book on the topic… but this book is actually quite different. It presents a novel take on what is actually going on in Genesis 1 and 2. I’ll admit – I would have never seen what LeFebvre points out if I hadn’t read this book. I’ll also admit – I find myself pretty convinced by his argument about what is going on in the creation narrative.

So what is this novel account of the creation story?

Basically it’s this: Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is actually a “calendar narrative.” What is a “calendar narrative?” It is “a historical narrative in which historical events are given the dates of a festival observance, without regard for the timing of the original occurrence.” (6)

Through a careful reading of OT Calendars and festivals LeFebvre establishes the difference between occurrence dates and observance dates. Think for example of MLK Day. MLK day is supposed to celebrate his birthday. There is a day in which MLK was born but we observe his birth on a Monday regardless of his actual birthdate. The same goes for Presidents Day. There is a difference between the occurrence and the observation of the event. But the key thing to remember is that we know when the 912bjhppv9gloccurrence date is. Think about Christmas though. Christmas occurred on a specific day – i.e. the day that Christ was actually born. Yet we observe his birth on December 25th. There is a difference between occurrence date and observance date. There’s a key difference between Christmas and holidays like President’s day and MLK Day – we don’t actually know the occurrence date for Christ’s birth.  Typically we keep track of both the original occurrence date and the ongoing observance date. So what does this have to do with ancient Israel? LeFebvre argues that, “all that was deemed important to preserve was the historical even and its observance date. So the Pentateuch simply retells the events having happened on the appointed observance date.” (95)

So that’s the first plank of his argument – a distinction between occurrence and observance dates of festivals.

The second plank of his argument is the demonstration of how the Pentateuch uses narratives for liturgical guidance. These narratives are intended to give guidance for the practice of various festivals.

The third plank of his argument is a demonstration that the creation week narrative is “a structured retelling of the creation around the pattern of a Model Farmer tending his fields and livestock each day of the week until sabbath.” (7) The creation narrative has a “festival” in view – and that festival is the sabbath.

Here’s his big claim:

The Torah adapts historical narratives to the dates of festival calendars for the sake of observance, not chronology. The creation week is another narrative ascribed with observance dates that do not preserve the original occurrence timeline. (138)

Note what he is not saying. He’s not saying that God didn’t create the world. He’s not saying that the events of creation didn’t happen in precisely the way the creation narrative is written. In fact quite the opposite. The festivals – including the sabbath – are all rooted in historical events. So there is a historical event of creation. What he is saying is that Genesis 1 and 2 doesn’t shouldn’t be read as an attempt to give us a narration about the occurrence date – it’s meant to undergird the liturgy of the observance of a festival – the sabbath.

What’s the upshot? The upshot is that Genesis 1 & 2 can’t be used to present a theory for how God created the world, because scripture simply isn’t interested in giving us that information. We will have to turn to other sources of information, e.g. other parts of scripture, science, etc.

Now I’ll admit that I’m not an OT scholar – so this isn’t my area of expertise, but LeFebvre’s presentation of the evidence is pretty compelling. I happened to be sitting on a bus with Tremper Longman while I was reading this book (don’t ask why). I leaned over to him (this was before social distancing) to say: “Hey have you read this? He makes some really important points…”  He chuckled a little and said,

“Yeah I’ve read it, take a look at the back.”

Oops – I didn’t even realize that he wrote an endorsement for it. He says that it is,

“Essential reading for all serious students of the Old Testament.”

Tremper is a smart guy, a lot smarter than me, so if both an OT Scholar and a Systematician came to the same conclusion about this book, then I think it’s safe to say – you should probably read The Liturgy of Creation and judge it for yourself.





Some Tips from AAR for Teaching Online

If you will be teaching from a course shell and working more asynchronously, you will benefit from tips about navigating an online classroom. In this new environment, especially faced with a lot of uncertainty, engagement is key to success.

1. Check into your online course frequently. Students will need to see you present in the online classroom. Use messaging and the discussion board to be present with your class.

2. Respond to messages within 24–48 hours.

3. Set clear expectations with students. Make sure they know how many days you expect to be in the online classroom. Four days a week is a standard many online faculty set. Let them know exactly when they can expect grades from you. Be clear about the time you won’t be available. If you have delays, let them know.

4. Grade items quickly and provide good feedback. Remember, your students need to feel they are still connected and engaged with you. Even a couple of sentences on a short assignment or discussion post will go a long way.

5. Use weekly announcements to summarize the assignments, topics, and due dates for the week. Make sure the announcements get pushed to student e-mail addresses.

6. Use short videos in your course shell to give instructions and general course feedback on a weekly basis. These don’t need to be fancy or professional. Make them from the heart.

7. Be very clear about your participation expectations. Discussion and interaction is the heart of the online classroom. Make it count. Get students to respond to open-ended and thoughtful discussion questions, both responding to you and to their classmates.

8. When working with synchronous lecture technologies like Zoom, be sure to have ways to manage participation. Get used to the technology in advance and explain to students very clearly how you would like them to participate in the discussion. Remember, large online lecture groups can be a challenge to manage, so avoid a free for all. Stay engaging, and be sure to check in with your students frequently to keep their attention and reduce multitasking.

9. Remember, this will be a challenging time for both you and your students, and the written word can often be much sharper than you may intend. Be thoughtful and kind in your responses to students, and encourage them to do the same in your online courses. Your online classroom should be as safe and welcoming as your face-to-face classroom, and it might require more diligence on your part to provide a space for thoughtful communication.

Baptist Association of Philosophy Teachers: 2020 Summer Seminary Call for Applications


2020 BAPT Summer Seminar Flyer

Baptist Philosophy

Christian Philosophy: Its Past, Present, and Future

From Theology.News

Christian Philosophy: its Past, Present and Future
September 22–24, 2020

Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow, Poland

We are happy to invite you to the conference organized by Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow. We hope that you may find it inspiring. Please see the Call For Papers below:

The conference is addressed to the representatives of Christian Philosophy, and researchers who are inspired by it. Two thousand years ago, when Christianity encountered Greek and Roman philosophy, Christian thought was born. This encounter, as John Paul II noticed (Fides et ratio, IV.38), was “neither straight-forward nor immediate”. It was also based on the presupposition that synthesis of faith and reason is not only possible, more so, necessary. Many contemporary thinkers, even if they not declare themselves as Christians or religious believers, who examine philosophical problems and search the truth, seem to be open to this mystery, which is experienced by faith.

In our Academy, Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow, we develop Christian Philosophy since 1867—that is to say, we participate in long and rich tradition of philosophizing. This tradition will be continued and developed, if only Christian Philosophy will be able to respond to contemporary philosophical, ethical and social problems. During the conference, we will also present the results of four-year research project, funded by Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, which conducted by our colleagues.

We invite proposals that address the problems of Christian Philosophy. We are particularly interested in the following topics and questions, but any research on the conference theme is welcome.

Main problems and questions worth considering
•       What is a Christian Philosophy?
•       Methods of practicing Christian Philosophy
•       Faith & Reason – how this relationship was understood throughout the ages and how should we understand it today?
•       Interaction of Christian Philosophy with different paradigms of philosophy and religions
•       Great Christian Philosophers
•       Can Christianity provide a creative inspiration to solve the problems of philosophy?

Proposal Requirements
Proposal Submission: Please submit a 500-word abstract of your paper (in PDF format) by April 20. Link to submission will be enabled on March 1.

Language: we accept proposals in English exclusively.

Fees: TBA

How to Submit: Please submit a 500-word abstract of your paper (in PDF format) by March 31. Submissions will be handled through the online form, which will be available from March 1. The link to the form will be included on our website. Please follow our Facebook profile (Christian Philosophy Conference), and Twitter (@christianphilo4) to be in touch. Each accepted presentation should not exceed a 20-minute time slot. There will be maximum 20 mins for a talk, and minimum 10 mins for a discussion afterwards.

Keynote speakers
·       Robert Alexander Pruss, Baylor University, Texas, USA
·       Ted Peters, Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, California, USA
·       John Hittinger, University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas, USA

The conference is open to the public. Speakers will be charged with the costs of conference (materials, dinner, etc.)—the exact fee will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

Thus, we invite you to attend, regardless of whether or not you are presenting. However, we will have limited space, so please register for the conference, so we know that you are coming. Starting May 1, you will be able to register via online form. The deadline for registering is June 30, 2020.

If you have questions, please contact the conference secretary at christianphilosophy2020@ignatianum.edu.pl

After the conference we plan to publish a special issue in a philosophical journal with the articles based on the conference speeches. The speakers are encouraged to prepare a paper (up to 15,000 words) and submit it by December 31. Each article goes through the process of double-blind peer review. Forum Philosophicum, international journal for philosophy, has already agreed to publish a special issue in 2021 including the materials from the conference, though we are also open to the collaboration with other journals.

·       Submission of Proposals: March 1—31, 2020
·       Notification of Acceptance: April 30, 2020
·       Registration Deadline: June 30, 2020
·       Conference Dates: September 22–24, 2020
·       Paper Submission Deadline: December 31, 2020
More information on our website: www.christianphilosophy.ignatianum.edu.pl

Call for Papers: Theology and Tolkien

No proper list of the greatest works of English literature in the twentieth century can exclude the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. His works are not only much-read and beloved, but also Hollywoodized (Peter Jackson), and have launched (or, perhaps, re-envisioned) an entire genre of fiction. As a result, they have made an indelible impression on popular culture, even more so after the release of Jackson’s films.

It is not surprising that Tolkien’s works are ever so subtly deeply theological. Though Tolkien (perhaps wisely) eschewed the outright Christian allegory of his friend-in-writing, C. S. Lewis, there is no doubt from the close reading of his works (as well as a consideration of his personal correspondence) that Tolkien’s world is deeply indebted to Christian theology—even if we may suggest that his work is the ‘Esther’ of the Inklings. Media derivatives, while hewing close to the source material, also put a unique spin on the works’ theology, even as it moves from books to movies to pop culture.

We invite submissions for a peer-reviewed volume on Theology and Tolkien for the Theology and Popular Culture series published by Lexington Books / Fortress Academic. The volume editor is Douglas Estes (associate professor, South University).

The primary objective of this book will be to investigate theological themes in Tolkien’s works—broadly defined—with an eye to pop culture. To help the reader understand the purpose of this book, the essays within will not interact with Tolkien the individual, or his historical background, only his narrative works and their derivatives. Essays will sit at an intersection of theology, culture, and narrative/film.

Essays should focus on the theology of works set within the Tolkien universe in any media, including but not limited to the literary works, the movies, the video games, and the artwork.


Although many of the projected essays will likely consider the primary works, we are especially keen to ensure at least a third of the essays consider theological aspects in Peter Jackson’s film trilogies; further, to have a few essays that use other starting points such as the legendarium, the art of Alan Lee or John Howe (or other), the languages or the culture, the video games, or other, for theological investigation.

Current contributors include Philip Ryken (author of The Messiah Comes to Middle-Earth), Alison Milbank (author of Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians), and Lisa Coutras (author of Tolkien’s Theology of Beauty: Majesty, Splendor, and Transcendence in Middle-earth).

Possible topics could include:

  • Theology proper / the creation story in The Silmarillion
  • Eudaimonia and the Hobbit life
  • Just war/pacifism in LOTR/Hobbit/movies/legendarium
  • Theological anthropology of various races
  • Theology of friendship between humans, dwarves, elves/Samwise, Frodo
  • Divination and palantíri
  • Theological implications of Tolkien languages (Sindarin or the Black Speech)
  • The absence of God
  • Satanology and Morgoth (or Sauron)
  • Theology of hope in LOTR/legendarium
  • Angelology and the Maiar (Istari and/or Balrogs)
  • Original sin and Orc / Elf history
  • Light and hope in the art of Alan Lee
  • Sin/corruption and the rings of power/Nazgûl
  • Eternal life, the Grey Havens, and the extended narrative closure of Jackson’s ROTK
  • Justice, human economy in Jackson’s TDOS
  • Ecotheology and Ents
  • Two Towers and Augustine
  • Theological imagination
  • Theological appropriation of paganism
  • Theological theme in any work

(These are merely ideas to spur thinking, great ideas beyond these are encouraged.)

The target audience for this book is scholars of religion, theology, and literature, though given the topic essays are to be written in a manner accessible to the average educated reader and jargon-free. Prospective contributors should submit abstracts of 300-700 words and full CVs to theologyandtolkien@gmail.com by May 15, 2020. Contributors should expect to deliver full chapters of 5000–6000 words by May 15, 2021, with editorial revisions due by Aug 15, 2021.

About the Editor:

Douglas Estes (PhD, University of Nottingham) is associate professor of New Testament and practical theology at South University. Douglas has written or edited nine books; his most recent books are a Greek grammar resource, Questions and Rhetoric in the Greek New Testament (Zondervan, 2017), and an edited volume (with Ruth Sheridan) on narrative dynamics in John’s Gospel, How John Works: Storytelling in the Fourth Gospel (SBL Press, 2016). He is the editor of Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education (Lexham Press) and a regular contributor to Christianity Today.

For more information see: Pop Culture and Theology.

Peter Martyr Vermigli on the Imago Dei

Because I’ve been working on T.F. Torrance’s doctrine of the Imago Dei this quarter I decided to look into the doctrine in the works of several reformers. Of course I’m looking at Calvin but I’m also looking at others like Vermigli, Musculus, Bucer, etc. It’s not always easy to know exactly where to go if you want to read up on their views (and if you do know where to go you likely have to browse through digitized old books). So today I present to you Vermigli on the Imago Dei:

Common Places 1.13.26-27

(26)But how man is the image of God, it is declared at the beginning of Genesis where it is written that God said; Let us make man after our image and likeness, that he may have dominion over the fouls of the air, the fishes of the sea, and the beasts of the earth. Where it appears, that herein stands the image of God, that he should be ruler over all creatures, even as God is the ruler over all things. Augustine doth oftentimes refer this to the memory, mind and will, which being faculties of one and the self-same soul, do represent (as he said) the three persons in one substance. This doctrine of Augustine, doth rather show the cause of the image. For man is not yet above other creatures, to have dominion over them, for any other cause, but in respect that he is endowed with reason, which plainly shows itself by these three faculties. But yet this is not all that the image of God is bound unto. For its is not enough to govern and rule well the creatures of God, with memory, mind, and will; except we doth understand, remember, and will those things which be pleasing unto God. For if our mind remained infected, as it is, with sin; it will not lawfully have dominion of things, but will rather exercise tyranny against them. Wherefore the image of God is the new man, which understands the truth of God, and is desirous of the righteousness thereof; as Paul has taught us, when he wrote to the Colossians; Put upon you the new man which is shaped again in the knowledge of God; according to the image of him which created him. Where we see, that the knowledge of God is true and effectual to lead unto the image of perfection. And this is more expressly set forth in the epistle to the Ephesians, Put on the new man, which is created according to God in righteousness and true holiness. When our mind is both imbued with the knowledge of God and adjoined with righteousness, then it truly expresses God. For righteousness, and the knowledge of divine things are nothing else, but a certain flowing in of the divine nature into our minds….

(27) The image of any man is the form, where by it represents him. A similitude of any man is a qualities, wherein it resembles him. What this image then is, le us most absolutely declare. A man only has the power and strength of understanding, whereby he is not far from God; but he is also created with most excellent and heavenly qualities. He is imbued with justice, wisdom, mercy, temperance, and charity. But the very full image of God is Christ, as touching his divine nature; and further, as concerning his human nature, so much as there can be of the similitude of God in it: as appears in the first to the Hebrews, the first to the Colossians, and in the eight chapter to the Romans. Again; this is my well beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. We were made, to the end we should be such: for we have understanding and are capable of divine perfections. In them we were made, but cannot be restored unto them, unless it be by the help and example of Christ who is the principal and true image. How much we be the image of God, it appears by our felicity, which we have one and the same with our God. I mean in loving and knowing. But if thou demand, by what power men rule over things: doubtless not by bodily strength: for as touching that, the most part of living creatures exceed us. Wherefore this is done by reason, counsel, and art: by which man not only makes and takes these living creatures, but he also moves and changes exceeding great things. This power is really restored by faith: thou walk on the adder and dragon. Daniel was cast unto the lions; Christ lived among wild beasts in the wilderness, Paul took no harm by the Viper, Solomon and David overcame the lions.

As touching this dominion over beasts there arises a difficulty; wherefore were the wild beasts made that they should be trouble unto men. I answer to the intent that wicked children might be chastened. After sin, a scourge was made for him; sin armed our own servants against us: for which cause the irruption and invitation of beasts was sent, as testifies the Scripture in the fifth of Ezekiel: I will send hunger and wicked beasts among you. Unto the righteous man all appears to be meek and quiet. And now, albeit that they have rebelled, yet it happens that very few perish thereby. And if any man be destroyed by them, there comes profit unto us no matter of ways by it. First it is an example of the severity of God as in the Samaritans which were slain by lions; second book of Kings, the 17 chapter: in the children which were killed by the bears because they mocked Elisha. The second book of kings, the second chapter. In the disobedient prophet which the lion killed: the first of Kings the 13 chapter. Furthermore, it shows how great the majesty of God is, that even the wild beasts do revenge the injury done unto him. Lastly behold here with me the goodness of God towards us, which has bounded his hurtful cattle within the precincts of the desert and solitary places, and in a manner permitted them to wander but only in the night. Here also may man see his calamity after sin, that he being such and so notable a creature, should perish with the sting of one little scorpion of by the biting of a mad dog. Yet nevertheless the wild beasts have not been able, in respect of sin, utterly to shake off the yoke of men; that they fear and tremble at the sight of him, yea and though might see a child to rule, beat, and threaten the greatest beasts. In him they do reverence the image of God.


Call for Abstracts: 6th Annual Theistic Ethics Workshop

Call for Abstracts
6th Annual Theistic Ethics Workshop

College of William and Mary
October 22-24, 2020

Confirmed Speakers:
Lara Buchak (University of California, Berkeley)
Helen De Cruz (St. Louis University)
Christian Miller (Wake Forest University)
Derk Pereboom (Cornell University)
Samuel Fleischacker (U of Illinois, Chicago)

Goal: Contemporary philosophy of religion has been richly informed by important work in metaphysics and epistemology. At the same time, there has not been nearly as much work done at the intersection of philosophy of religion and meta-ethics or normative theory. To help inspire more good work in this area, Christian Miller (Wake Forest), Mark Murphy (Georgetown), and Chris Tucker (William & Mary) organize a series of annual workshops on theistic ethics.

Logistics: The 6th workshop will be held near the campus of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. We will begin with dinner and the first paper on Thursday, October 22nd and conclude at the end of the day on Saturday, October 24th. There will be four spots for submitted papers. All papers will have about 40 minutes for presentation and 40 minutes for discussion.

Themes: “Theistic ethics” is to be understood broadly to include such topics as divine command and divine will theories; God and natural law; ethics and the problem of evil; moral arguments for a theistic being; infused and acquired virtues; the harms and benefits of theistic religions; what mainstream moral theories imply about divine action; specific ethical issues in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam; and many other topics as well.

Applying: Those interested in participating should submit an abstract of 750-1,000 words and a current C.V. to Chris Tucker (cstucker@wm.edu) by May 1. Word or PDF file formats only. Please prepare abstracts for anonymous review.  For although the organizers seek to have a balanced program both in terms of topics and presenters, the initial stage of review will be done anonymously.  Questions about the workshop should be sent to the cstucker@wm.edu.

Notification will be made by June 1 at the latest. If your abstract is selected, we will cover your accommodation, meals at the conference, and travel expenses (international travel can be covered for at least one submitted paper). Co-authors are welcome, but only one author’s expenses can be covered. You do not have to send your paper in advance of the workshop, and it certainly can be a work in progress.

Supported by generous funding from William & Mary’s Philosophy Department and Theresa Thompson ’67.


Seeking Church by Dyrness and Duerksen – Book Notes

Seeking Church, by Dyrness and Deurksen, is driven by questions that arose because of the “emerging” or “insider movements” that are increasingly being witnessed at the fringes of where Christianity meets unreached areas. These movements have led missiologists and ecclesiologists to wonder how the members of these movements fit in to the structures of the church.

Dyrness and Deurksen state that two convictions drive the argument of this book.

  1. We believe that the church of Christ has always reflected its social and cultural setting; it has read Scripture in terms of its cultural assumptions about community and human goods… [therefore, this] has led to a wide variety of possible social forms.
  2. We argue that the church in all of its expressions is necessarily an emergent phenomenon. That is the entities we call ‘churches’ emerge from their interaction of their cultural assumptions, their special historical inheritances, and their understanding of God’s revelation through Scripture. (ix)

Their book begins by arguing for the view that all instances of the church are in fact “emergent” entities that reflect their particular social situation. (25) They then move on to exploring several biblical models of the church. From there the authors apply the notion of emergence to examine various practices of worship, including the eucharist. They make—what some will take to be a rather provocative argument—that many articulations of these practices ignore the fact that such articulations “emerged” from a particular historical and cultural context. Thus, the theological sensibilities reflected in these practices are also “emergent.” Because they are emergent, there must be room for new forms and practices that reflect the significance of these worship practices. The end of the book presents a biblical theology of God’s purposes for his people. They identify the biblical church with the eschatological people of God.

Dyrness and Deurksen’s (D&D) argument in Seeing Church really hangs on the ideas they establish in chapter three. There they define the concept of emergence. They say,

For social theorists, emergence describes the process of interaction between a context and persons and what results out of that interaction. As Christian Smith explains, social emergence is “the process of constituting a new entity with its own particular characteristics and capacities through the interactive combination of other different entities.” (65)

What is the real significance of emergence for ecclesiology? For D&D the significance lies in the fact that the church does not stand above culture. The church emerges, or is a product of, its cultural situation and the values and practices of that cultural setting from which it emerged. Emergence is a dynamic process. They explain,

As people related to eachother and to the gospel from their own cultural situations, there often emerge new entities, including new ideas or understandings, new senses of togetherness and corporate identity, and eventually new social forms or institutions by which to sustain these. (82)

The significance of this idea is that when we are wondering about the state of insider movements we need to recognize that the church is an emergent entity in those settings. So, the church won’t look like it does elsewhere. When the people encounter God and the Gospel in their cultural setting new forms of church will emerge, that is why insider movements look so different from what many Christians are used to when they think about the church.

This does not mean that there aren’t marks of the church. In fact D&D list five marks of the church. Each of these, however, will look different based on cultural and historical context. The marks are:

  1. Wherever the story of Christ is heard and obeyed
  2. Wherever a community forms around this story
  3. Wherever this community responds to this story in prayer and praise
  4. Wherever this community seeks to live in peace with eachother and their wider community
  5. Wherever an impulse drives this community to witness to Christ and the transformation the Spirit has brought about. (151)

Where these marks are present, there, say D&D, “the emergent dynamic of the church is present.” (151)

This book will be of use to those who are interested in ecclesiology or missiology. It will also be of interest to those who are aware of the dynamics of insider movements and would like to think carefully about the nature of these movements. The book presents vivid stories of Christ following communities that could be labeled as “insider movements.” These stories are moving and might challenge your understanding of these movements. Their use of social emergence theory is innovative and seems to be quite fruitful.