Great Emergence, The: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith)

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Rooted in the observation that massive transitions in the church happen about every 500 years, Phyllis Tickle shows readers that we live in such a time right now. She compares the Great Emergence to other "Greats" in the history of Christianity, including the Great Transformation (when God walked among us), the time of Gregory the Great, the Great Schism, and the Great Reformation. Combining history, a look at the causes of social upheaval, and current events, The Great Emergence shows readers what the Great Emergence in church and culture is, how it came to be, and where it is going. Anyone who is interested in the future of the church in America, no matter what their personal affiliation, will find this book a fascinating exploration.

Customer Reviews:

  • Great History and Excellent Theory of the Future!
    Phyllis Tickle presents an excellent overview of church history and an excellent theory of what has happened in the past and how these same patterns will determine the future. This book is well written, highly informative and presents an excellent theory of "what might be". A good and engaging read for anyone interested in church history and the future of Christianity. ...more info
  • Great Springboard for Discussion
    Phyllis Tickle's books are always intelligent and thought-provoking. "The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why" is no exception. Following in the footsteps of the Papacy of Gregory the Great (@ 590), the Great Schism (1054) and the Great Reformation (1517), the Great Emergence refers to the massive changes going on in the Christian faith and society at large in our present day. As Tickle puts it, every 500 years the Church has a massive rummage sale during which the old ways are cast off and a new way of being Christian comes to the forefront. As Tickle emphasizes, however, "no standing form of organized Christian faith has ever been destroyed by one of our semi-millenial eruptions. Instead, each simply has lost hegemony or pride of place to the new and not-yet-organized form that was birthing."

    Tickle offers a historical overview of the three previous upheavals, with a special focus on the Reformation as it is the transformation that immediately precedes our current era. There are parallels between the two, especially in that increased forms of communication made both possible. The invention of movable type made possible the widespread dissemination of ideas via the printed word. In many ways, this brought the Reformation into being. Everyone could now have a Bible. By the same token, modern communication advances such as the radio, television, and perhaps most importantly, the internet, have encouraged communication among different branches of Christianity and exposure to other faith traditions.

    Tickle explores the many pivotal people, things, and ideas that have contributed to the Great Emergence. Among these were Darwin, Faraday, Freud, and Jung, new forms of communication, the increased use of the automobile, a rediscovery of the historical Jesus, communism, World War II, changing roles of women, the drug age and the birth control pill. Tickle doesn't pass judgment on any of these developments. She simply reports on the many changes they brought to society in general and Christianity in particular.

    The last section of this book, "Where is it Going?" is the most speculative. Tickle divides Christianity into four main areas: Liturgicals, Social Justice Christians, Renewalists, and Conservatives. No one quadrant is the sole domain of any one denomination. Rather, there are Christians of many denominations in all four. In the middle is the convergence, the new way of being Christian, that is developing.

    "The Great Emergence" is an excellent sociological and historical study of a Christianity in flux. It provides a springboard for much discussion. ...more info
  • An erudite, passionate epitome of current changes in the Church
    She writes with a strong brush of enthusiasm for the change that has been occurring in the Church. And this change is big, no less than another Reformation, maybe even greater. This book gave me a great synopsis of the emergent (or emerging) church, that I only had a vague conception of before. She projects this change as something very edifying to the Church universal. I do not yet have an in-depth knowledge of this Change, Tickle, McLaren, and others to make personal assessments on some of their seemingly radical statements (i.e. postmodern locus of authority, deprioritizing of absolute truth and logic, ushering of God's kingdom down-top, etc) but even the mention of Change is a breath of fresh air for the Christian community that I've been familiar with. Book brings forth a great expectation. Hopefully, it's the antithesis of the second law of thermodynamics--maybe those quadrant corners could raise their steam to get this going even more forcefully....more info
  • a better-than-average emergence
    Much of what Tickle's book is can be summarized in her own statement capturing the sentiment of Anglican bishop, Mark Dyer: ". . . that the only way to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale" (16). Indeed, this is a more accurate reflection that might initially be recognized and Tickle's rendering of church and history follow along such lines.

    The book itself is rather accessible, though most laity and less-than-averagely-interested clergy will find parts of it difficult to follow. This is a shame as much of this readership would otherwise be greatly interested in the material and could certainly benefit from understanding the current climate of the church a little bit better. So I will have to hesitate on where to recommend this as a read, though initially I thought it would be a book for many in such a position. Further, the overall structure of the book can become confusing to the reader, especially the large sweeps through history on a thematic level. Such a presentation lends itself to a back-and-forth telling of selective history and sometimes loses the reader (I found at certain points if I wasn't paying close enough attention I was mixing up time periods).

    These critiques aside, what one does find in the book is an interesting presentation of the changing Protestant climate in North America. Further, the evaluation of the socio-religious climate is quite helpful in understanding the whys and whats of the *emerging* movement. Much of the bread and butter of this book is found in Part 3, where Tickle works on how the movement is working now and where it is likely to head as it unfolds. And while the rummage sale of the church does not render the previous forms of the faith useless, it does change up the in-house decorating of what this generation of believers look like.

    Although the *great emergence* is a very uncertain and unsettling process for many, Tickle does well to remind the reader throughout that these movements are necessary and vital to the overall work of the church. She asserts that this leads to a "more vital form of Christianity" (17), that it breaks down the encrusted dogmatism of the previous generation, and that it energizes the church and leads to the spread of the gospel. And she backs these three assertions up with the great 500 year moments in the history of the church.

    My primary caveat to a book like this is that it is quite difficult to understand and properly evaluate a movement which we are currently experiencing. With *emergent* Christianity, it seems that everyone is jumping ahead quickly to assert the significance of their approach to the faith and to be the first and best to characterize the movement itself. Although no book can critique the current landscape without hitting some of these snags, Tickle does a really good job at navigating away from such pitfalls (she comes close a few times, but that's my critique). It would do the *emergent* crowd well to move forward with great humility before God (some do and others don't), and not get ahead of themselves on their own impact.

    In the end, this is a good book with a good message, though not without its own faults. How emergent of itself.

    [...]...more info
  • Defining Book of Our Time
    Phyllis, with this book, has hit a chord which is sure to resonate through the hearts of many Christians today and for years to come. Through social, political, economic, and scientific threads she draws up a beautiful analysis of Christianity since Jesus' ministry in Galilee and speaks the patterns of this Narrative into our lives today. That is to say--the patterns of what she calls 'pivot moments,' significant changes throughout the theology/aesthetic of the Church taking place roughly every 500 years--in Christianity for the last 2000 years give us a deep insight as to how and why the church is changing today. This change we are experiencing has been and is spurred on by, appropriately the title of the book, 'The Great Emergence.'

    If you are interested in the Emerge/ing/ent conversation, this book is a must read. Phyllis has taken the pulse of our world for the last 2000 years, taken a breath, reflected and subsequently wrote a masterpiece outlining the bumps and details of the history of the Church.. and more importantly: where it is going.

    Don't pass up this book! Read it!...more info
  • What is happening in and where is the Church headed?
    Phyllis Tickle is one of the spokespersons and historians for the Emerging/Emergent Church. Her premise in "the Great Emergence" is that there are major changes in Christendom that happen every 500 years and she takes the reader through those past events and brings us to the changes that are occurring now in the Global Church, particularly in the United States.

    The reader will need to be prepared to read this book with a good dictionary at hand or by googling the definition of words online. If you are a history buff and a strategic thinker, this book will be a challenge to you. Ms. Tickle highlights timelines, people and events who have influenced along with inventions and technology to show what is emerging today in the global church. She spends quite a bit of time from the Reformation and what happened in the 20th Century and its impact upon the Church today, particularly regarding the centrality of Scripture and other trends that are shaping our faith and morality.

    Then she shows what the church is looking like today and what is may look like or how it could be changing shape in the next couple of decades through a grid of those who come from liturgical, social justice Christians, renewalist and conservative backgrounds. I have heard Ms. Tickle speak on this subject and she is also an incredible speaker and one of the most popular speakers on religion in America today, not to mention that she is 70+ years old. This book will make you think and will encourage you to learn more of what is happening in the world and in the church today and hopefully to act upon what you learn....more info
  • The Great Assimilation (or) Resistance is futile
    "Emergent" Christianity resembles the Borg (of Star Trek) to the extent that Phyllis Tickle and her book truly are representative. With one important flaw which I will mention later.

    Let me state at the outset this is not the "full" review I had intended. A full and critical review article of The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle would take a long time and a lot of space. The book is so problematic that one hardly knows where to begin. Like performing an autopsy on a brontosaurus. So without supplying all the appropriate citations and evidence - and whoever reads this will be entirely right to complain - I must summarize for now my various points of critique.

    Let me also share that I do not wish to demonize(?) Phyllis Tickle. I am sure she is intelligent sweet sincere knowledgeable and does not write from ill motives. Indeed I first read this book with positive anticipation. The senior pastor heard her speak at a conference and spoke highly of her and her presentation. And of her book. I trust him and value his opinion. I assumed "I am going to enjoy this I look forward to what she has to say".

    By the second chapter I had red flags going up in my mind. After the last footnote of the last chapter I could only conclude the book was truly dreadful. I can only wonder what a competent and respected theologian and/or church historian would have to say about it.

    One key question is "does she describe these social/cultural/religious shifts to which the church must respond? or does she believe in these changes?" I am convinced she does not describe but rather advocates. Where she says culture is taking us - that is where she believes the Christian movement should go. Without supplying all the evidence for this conclusion let me briefly suggest the reader observe carefully the language she uses to describe various trends and theological stances and religious groups. Notice what the assumed "center" is to which she compares everything else. (And yes I am invoking a form of deconstruction here.)

    To prepare for a brief conversation about the book in staff meeting I jotted down a quick list of "problems" on the back inside page.

    1. Her "this dramatic shift happens every 500 years" historical schema does not hold up. Can we really say 500 A.D. was that much more significant than 400? 600? 800? What of the Ecumenical Councils? I thinka strong case can be made for the edict of Constantine more than Pope Gregory the Great. Can we really say 1000 A.D. was the point of dramatic shift? Historical changes are rather gradual. According to Kallistos Ware in The Orthodox Church 1054 A.D. marked when East and West formally renounced each other - but they continued in relationship until the 13th century and the sack of Constantinople. Granted Tickle has a reply: "preformation and postformation". The big shift was coming. The big shift continues to work itself out. But this strikes me as a cheap convenience. Such a schema allows one to choose nearly any point in history and say "here is the dramatic change!" and then explain away big changes before as "preformation" and big changes after as "postformation". I will give her the Reformation - yes indeed a dramatic shift around 1500 A.D. (And if big shifts really occur more or less on schedule - then it is not 2017 A.D. yet.)

    This 500 year pattern is crucial to her thesis. If such dramatic changes occur every 500 years and are in a sense inevitable so the Church just needs to accept them as such and adapt/change with them - such as now around 2000 A.D. But if there is no such pattern than can be defended historically - there is nothing "inevitable" about the current shifts she describes (and well - one of the few good things about her book).

    2. She describes theological positions poorly. How often she equates sola scriptura, scriptura sola with inerrancy and literalism. But this is patently absurd. I know plenty of people who believe that the Bible is the primary or even sole authority for Christian faith and practice who do not necessarily assume inerrancy or especially literalism. At best - and this may be another one of the few good things she accomplishes - she describes how the Bible no longer is assumed to be a book that answers many of the deep questions that human beings have.

    3. It is clear she has no use for the Bible as a source of authority - except insofar as we interpret it according to our own mercurial and protean understands of what "the Holy Spirit says to us". This is classic American Episcopalianism.

    4. She sets up almost incomprehensible metaphors which she controls. She declares which part of the metaphor one view is and which part of the metaphor is some group - and then the metaphor neatly demonstrates how that view loses and this group prevails. I like metaphors and use them frequently myself - but metaphors have limits. They describe but do not determine. I submit that Tickle uses metaphors to determine. "Sorry but your view/group is this part of the metaphor that gets changed or swept away by the inevitable rhythms of history".

    5. This leads to another critique - what I call her "imperious/imperial point of view". She is like the third person omniscient voice in a novel who floats above history and has it all worked out. Her people are on the right side - the side of culture and history. Our people - and here I think the "losers" in her thesis are clearly those of a more "conservative" Christian bent - are doomed. Hard to explain and I would understand if the reader demands better examples.

    6. She defines and then employs terms rather arbitrarily. What exactly does she mean by "corporeality" as opposed to "morality" and "spirituality"? She sets orthopraxy and orthodoxy against each other (more or less - there is one moment where she moderates this binary dichotomy) and throws sexual morality under "orthodoxy" rather than orthopraxy. You gotta be kidding me.

    7. She clearly assumes that the Christian church does not only change how it communicates (form) but what it believes and practices (content) according to changes in the surrounding culture. Shifts in culture determine not only the form but the content of Christian mission. (I acknowledge that we may ask fairly, Does she describe or advocate this point? I submit she advocates and believe that careful reading supports this.)

    8. Even this seems to be a contradiction. Toward the beginning of her book she seems to say the Church must change its structures (the "rummage sale" metaphor - which is actually another good thing she offers) but quickly it becomes clear that no she also has in mind its theology and practice. When the Virgin Birth (whatever the merits/details of that teaching) is true because it is "beautiful" not because it happened (or not) - surely that is advocating a fundamental shift in content. She does not just want the form/expression of the Christian church to change - she wants its theology to change.

    9. Tickle marginalizes dissent. This is particularly evident on pages 136-137 in which people who do not buy into the "emergence" are reactors who are part of a general backlash and - notice her metaphor! - are retreating to the corners of her square diagram (137).

    10. Tickle is a hypocrite - in my opinion. Sorry if that sounds harsh. She clearly sympathizes with the current leadership and direction of the Episcopal Church. (Notice the quote from Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori on the back jacket.) And also frequently describes "emergence" as breaking up authoritarian hierarchies. But the Episcopal Church for all its theological liberalism is indisputably becoming more authoritarian. The Presiding Bishop speaks and acts like a Metropolitan rather than a "first among equals" whose primary job is simply to call and moderate meetings of the House of Bishops.

    11. She defines words in such a way as to privilege the viewpoint with which she sympathizes. Notice that when she sets theonomy against orthonomy (which clearly she associates with emergents - see 2nd to last paragraph of page 149). Orthonomy is a kind of "correct harmoniousness" or beauty (149). Aw shucks. Which means theonomy is what? Neither beautiful nor harmonious?

    12. She gives way too much credit to emergents for being a vital and growing group. Christianity has grown "exponentially" in the hands of emergents?!? (121) If emergent Christianity is more or less liberal Christianity (and this is what I think she assumes although it is not entirely clear or consistent) then the statement is just nuts. Liberal Christianity - right or wrong - is dying rapidly. (To be fair conservative evangelical Christianity is not growing much - but it is not imploding at quite the same rate.) Where is Christianity truly growing "exponentially"? In the Global South thank you very much. And Global South Christians are not terribly liberal or emergent.

    13. She says the new shift will get rid of the "Hellenization" of Christianity - which seems to mean more traditional/conservative Christian theology is very Greek and not very Hebrew/mystical. She is half right about this. But it is not clear that a more "Hebrew and mystical" Christianity necessarily means we suddenly say "the Resurrection is true because it is beautiful - and it does not matter whether it happened or not". Moreover Eastern Orthodox Christianity is explicitly non-Hellenized. (Now whether that is true or not we can debate.) So here you have a non-Hellenized and very mystical form of Christianity - and it is again neither terribly liberal or emergent.

    14. The whole book assumes a Western and Protestant point of view. Where is the "Church" going? How should "it" change? Why because modern Western culture and society are changing! Where does this leave the majority of Christians who are neither Western nor Protestant? The geographical center of Christianity is now in Africa. Africa! Should African and Asian Christians read this book and say "oh gosh yeah we sure need to change - I mean look at all these changes in modern American culture and society"? Why should the majority of Christians go where American Protestantism wants to go?

    15. Tickle predicts a movement toward:
    ... a system of ecclesial authority that waits upon the Spirit and rests in the interlacing lives of Bible-listening, Bible-honoring believers (153) [that "rewrites Christian theology" her words!] into something far more Jewish, more paradoxical, more narrative, and more mystical than anything the Church has had for the last seventeen or eighteen hundred years. (162)

    Tell me - having thoroughly demolished sola scriptura (and I would partly agree with that - partly!) and gotten rid of the Bible in favor of how individuals sense the Holy Spirit (with which I almost entirely disagree) - how can one speak of people who are "Bible-listening, Bible-honoring"? She must be joking.

    I am sorry but this book strike me as almost entirely boilerplate religious liberalism. And its goal is to make us all stop resisting the changes we see because they are inevitable. The Church must follow culture/society.

    By the way - if you think I am too hard on this book I suggest you take a look at the last footnote to the last chapter (164-165). I wonder how many people get to see what can only be described as the most insane and heretical paragraph in the entire work. See - the Great Emergence is also a bi-millennial phenomenon. The beginning to Christ the emphasis is on "God the Father". From Christ to now on "Christ the Son". From now to around 4000 A.D. (or CE which Tickle prefers - and I prefer CE also except most people do not understand it) the "primacy in worship and in human affairs of God the Spirit". And yes indeed 4000-5000 will be the "consummate and glorious union of all three parts of the Godhead within space/time".

    That is just nuts. A healthy doctrine - and yeah I know Tickle is hard on things like "dogma" and "doctrine" but tough cookies - of the Holy Trinity does not allow anyone to say that Christ (or the not-yet-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity who is the Son) was not really around until... But especially that there has not been an emphasis on the Holy Spirit until now? Is she kidding?!? Hello - book of Acts? Pauline theology? The last two thousand years have been two millennia of the Holy Spirit thank you very much. And no Orthodox theologian could ever take this seriously - nor should they.

    Let me conclude with a brief postscript.

    Another "emergent" writer is Brian McLaren. When I read a generous orthodoxy - sort of a theological manifesto(?) for emergent Christians - I thought "wow I agree with almost all of this, I guess I would identify myself with the emergent movement". But if Phyllis Tickle truly represents and describes accurately the true nature and direction of "emergent Christianity" (and we can debate that - conservative readers take note!) then suddenly I find myself suddenly suspicious of Brian McLaren - what about his other books? And of other "emergent" pastors/teachers/preachers who until now I have enjoyed and appreciated.

    If Tickle's book is what Emergents are really about and where really they are going - then I cannot join them. Instead of selling me on the "emergence" Tickly has instead turned me against it....more info
  • The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why

    The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. Phyllis Tickle. 176 pages. 2008.

    My wife picked this book up for at the library on a whim. It sat on the shelf for about a week before I picked it up and read it.

    The book is really divided into two sections. The first section is an excellent history of Christianity since about 500 AD. The history is brief, about 100 pages. The serious religious scholar will be disappointed because the focus is not on theological intricacies. The focus is on the general moves and its effects. Too often in seminaries the focus is narrowly theological and the wider context is lost. The author does a very good job of tracing out and extending the impact on society and society's reverse impact on theology. The strongest aspect here concerns the impact of sola scriptura and its reverberations. The context and effects was eye opening to me. I had not thought much of sola scriptura except in the theological bent I was trained in at seminary. The wider echoes are very thought provoking.

    Because the author is going through almost 2,000 years in 100 pages there are many omissions which some readers will get hung up on. The focus here is not the details and pet niches but rather a generalization ... a big picture view of movements. The focus is also not on theological intricacies. This lack of nit-picking though is a great strength of the book.

    The author traces various impacts of theology and society and the interplay in 500 year chunks. Sometimes these 500 year culminations make sense and a few of them seem contrived. The biggest contrivance is the current, "Great Emergence". The second part of the book is based on this notion of a Great Emergence.

    I actually do not really understand what the Great Emergence is. The weakest aspect of the book is that the author writes from a point of assumption that the Great Emergence does exist and that everyone understands that it exists and what it is. To me it is still a mystery. Though I do admit that Christianity in America (and this is the decided focus of the book!) is going through a change away from the group and towards an individual version. This does present challenges to several denominations though it is really nothing new with in the Christian experience.

    Perhaps the effects of the automobile and the changing dynamic of the family are of more important than many in standard denominations realize. All told this is a good book to read in the first 100 pages or so. It is more of an anthropological approach than a philosophical approach. It provides fresh insight into movements with in Christendom.

    ...more info
  • Informative not Theological (Not A Bad Thing)
    Phyllis Tickle is not a trained Theologian, but in her role as one of the founders of the Religion department of Publisher's Weekly she has had a unique position to see how Christianity and in particular writing about Christianity has shaped and evolved over recent years. Tickle recognizes that now, as has happened in the past approximately every 500 years, the church goes though a big change, and we are currently in the midst of one such change, which she has been coined the Great Emergence.

    In the book Tickle examines the idea of the church having a major change every 500 years or so. She presents the work of Pope Gregory I around the late 500's who being the first Pope from a Monastic background, placed much church authority in monasteries. Then she reminds us of the Great Schism which happened around 500 years later and saw the separation of East and West in the Church. Thirdly Tickle presents the Great Reformation which happened another 500 years later and separated the catholic church from the protestant church. Now the author suppose we are coming into a Great Emergence. The next major change in the Christian Church.

    I found the details of the previous three to be interesting but a bit lacking. I would of liked to of learned more, but I suppose they were just to provide a background for what she had to say about the current emergence.

    As far as the great emergence, Tickle focuses mainly on North American Christianity and presents it as coming to center of the church, and moving away from solo scriptura. Her work unfortunately is brief and does not cover or go into detail as much as I would like. She doesn't really delve too much into the purpose of the emergence or the goal of the emergence, but I suppose she much like the rest of us don't know.

    This book is more about taking a step back, seeing that things like this have happened before and are obviously happening now. Many complain that she is too vague, but I can't blame her, she is just telling us that something is going on and we shouldn't be afraid and here is a little of what to expect. It is not a work full of theological details or scripture references. But more then anything a work of Church History and Church Future. As I have said before I would of loved more detail, but I believe time will fill in those details on it's own.
    ...more info
  • Could you be a tad more vague, please?
    I bought this book in order to understand better the phenomena of the "emerging church." What I got instead was a hundred pages or so of rambling musings that made me realize just how out of touch the author is with the real world.

    The book centers around the idea that, every five centuries or so, the church goes through a major doctrinal and structural change. She identifies the first of these as the Chalcedon Council, which cemented the orthodox views of historic Christianity. The second was the great schism during which the Eastern churches separated from the west. The third was the Protestant Reformation. All of this Tickle outlines in competent, though rather vague, language.

    It's when she turns to what she calls the current emergence that she shifts gears into true "Anglican-speak," the nearly nonsensical language that the Episcopal Church has used over the last decade. I am a practicing Episcopalian, BTW, so I am quite familiar with this phenomena. Ask the average Episcopal clergyman or woman whether or not they favor gay marriage, for instance, and you will get a litany of platitudes about love, reconciliation, sensitivity and thoughtfulness. What you won't get is an answer to the question. That's because the church hierarchy's response to the civil war occurring in the denomination has been to create a "big tent" in which they hope liberals, moderates like myself, conservatives, fundamentalists, high churchers and low churchers will all feel welcome. The end result is a bland, generic spirituality which strives so hard to avoid offending anyone that it is also robbed of any power to inspire or instruct.

    Tickle seems to believe that this watered down, flavorless approach to faith is the church's future. In presenting her case for this she reveals how elitist and out of touch she is with average people. Here is a quote from page 96 that illustrates what I am talking about:

    "...after 1965...American Christians - and American Jews with them - rushed like the subjectively starving people they were towards the feast of Asian spiritual expertise and experience. Books on how to be a Buddhist Christian made the country's bestseller lists time and again..."

    Yes, Ms. Tickle, but who was reading these books? Not the average person in the pew. Such avant-garde approaches to religiosity were certainly popular, though, among the artsy-touchy-feely crowds in major urban centers. And Tickle seems to think that those kind of people ARE the people.

    It's this point of view that colors the remainder of the book, which is a plea for the church to abandon concrete teachings in favor of a "Christianity" which has no tangible doctrines. She says this emerging church will be distinguished by the search for warm fuzzies, and increasingly vague attitudes about what constitutes truth. This is shown in a revealing quote from page 149:

    "An emergent (Christian), in observing heated debates about the factualness of the Virgin Birth can truly be puzzled. For him or her, the whole problem is just not there in any distinguishable or real sense. FOR THE EMERGENT, THE VIRGIN BIRTH IS SO BEAUTIFUL THAT IT MUST BE TRUE, WHETHER IT HAPPENED OR NOT (emphasis mine)."

    What the H*** is that supposed to mean?

    Let's say I'm a big fan of the Lord of the Rings books. Imagine me saying something like "for me the story of Frodo tossing the ring into the river of flame is so beautiful is must be true, whether it happened or not." Does that make any sense? Would I be seen as a deeply profound thinker or as someone who got too many wedgies from the guys in shop class?

    Let's go a little further. Let's say I believe that OJ Simpson really didn't kill his wife, and I defend this view by saying "for me, the image of OJ as a persecuted and misunderstood African-American man being charged for a crime he didn't commit is so powerful it must be true, whether he committed the crime or not." Nonsense.

    In summary, it seems that Tickle believes that post-modernism, with its denial of objective reality, must be embraced by the church if it is to have anything to say to 21st century people. The exact opposite is the truth. It's her pathetic attempt to water down the faith that robs it of any meaningful message.

    Tickle's emerging church may find fruitful ground in the circles she moves in, but for the average person, who doesn't have the luxury of dispensing with concrete reality, it comes across as cheap sentimentality that offers empty platitudes without substance. If this is what the church as a whole is becoming then its days are limited indeed.

    ...more info
  • Very Helpful, and Worthy of Vigorous Debate
    Before The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why appeared on the shelves at the local bookstore it was on my radar screen. I've read Phyllis Tickle's work in the past and have been amazed at her command of the language. Her ability to translate complex ideas and vivid images into captivating prose is undoubtedly impressive, and her latest work is no exception. The ideas contained in The Great Emergence cannot be ignored, and will surely be of vast importance for "emergers," "emergents," and the "hyphenateds" (Presby-mergents, Metho-mergent, etc.) as the church charges into the future.

    After naming the historical reality in which we stand "The Great Emergence," Tickle states her task as answering three questions, "What is this thing?", "How did it come to be?", and "Where is it going?" The church, according to Tickle, stands in the midst of a giant rummage sale. This rummage sale is not the first of its kind, as each of the great Abrahamic faiths have been through this before. These moments have come about in history at approximately five hundred year intervals. Quoting the Anglican bishop Mark Dyer, Tickle states, "about every five hundred years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at the time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur." Now, Tickle believes, is one of those times. Tickle generalizes three results each time one of these historic shifts has occurred. According to her analysis: (1) a more vital form of Christianity emerges, (2) organized expressions are reconstituted into a more purified expression of the former self, and (3) the "the range and depth of Christianity's reach" expands.

    To support her argument Tickle provides a broad historical sketch. Her markers in history include the rise of Gregory the Great and the monastic movement in the 500s, the Great Schism which occurred near 1000 AD, the Great Reformation of the 1500s, and, now, the Great Emergence. During each period she uses a tethered cable as a helpful analogy which consists of four components. The exterior of the cable is a mesh sleeve, represents the common imagination of the time. Once punctured, lying beneath that common imagination are three strands representative of the spirituality, corporeality, and morality of the age. Tickle's examination of each designated time period show how an individual, a group of individuals, or some historic event punctures the common imagination and brings about the reexamination of each of these three strands, raising new questions pertaining to authority, reality, and meaning in the world. When challenges arise, a new common imagination must be formulated which will guide existence within reality. As this occurs, the process can be painful and discomforting. Yet, purgation leads to purification.

    According to Tickle, the two central questions of the Great Emergence are: "(1) What is human consciousness and/or the humanness of the human? and (2) What is the relation of all religions to one another--or, put another way, how can we live responsibly as devout and faithful adherents of one religion in a world of many religions?" Tickle further asserts, "the other great truth here is that we can not be said to have truly entered into any kind of post-Emergence stability until we have answered both of them." Interestingly for Tickle the question is one of plurality, or the truth of plurality. In order to negotiate this question one must wrestle with the location of authority. The dilemma of authority today is present not only in Christianity, but in the world at large. Tickle is right to point us in this direction.

    In an attempt to explain how we got here, Tickle traces important philosophical, sociological, theological, scientific, and technological developments including Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Einstein's theory of relativity, the advent of the automobile, the shifting relationship of families, the rise of the drug culture in the 1960s, the quest for the historical Jesus, and the rise of Pentecostalism. All of these factors, in a way, eroded the Reformation foundation of authority, sola Scriptura.

    To address her final question, "Where is it going?", Tickle provides a quadrilateral to serve as a guide. In each of the four quadrants (moving from upper left, clockwise to lower left) she locates Christians on Liturgical, Social Justice, Renewalist, and Conservative terrain. The Great Emergence has brought about a stirring in each of these four quadrants, drawing leaders in each area in to a gathering center. As this gathered center begins to draw more and more people of like mind together the church becomes primed for renewal, though this new reality is turbulent and challenging. The church together must navigate these new frontiers, with traditionalists, re-tradition-ers, progressives, and hyphenateds engaging in constructive dialogue which paves the way forward.

    As this pattern emerges, Tickle turns to the sources of authority in this new environment. Here she defines and explores two terms, "orthonomy" (correct harmony & beauty) and "theonomy" (only God can be the source of perfection in action or thought). Under this context she explores how Christians in the Great Emergence will define authority underneath these categories, offering that authority is established in Scripture and Community. Authority becomes a dynamic conception based on a network theory or crowd sourcing, and levels hierarchical structures which have carried the day in the past. Christian communities will become a centered set rather than a bounded set, will emphasize narrative, and will return to Hebraic roots of the Christian faith, purging Hellenistic influences which have defined certain aspects of Christian belief and doctrine. Tickle's ideas are complex and defy simplification. I recommend you read them.

    Tickle's book is a good one. At times I found places where her argument could be strengthened, though not to the detriment of the whole. This book should be read by practitioners and church leaders seeking a way forward and then discussed with fervor. There will be moments when one may strongly agree or disagree with her argument, but Tickle must be contended with. We stand at the precipice of a new age, which in and of itself is not a new dilemma. Christian people must seek to be faithful in that age. A debt of gratitude is owed to Tickle for how her ideas might sharpen our thinking, strengthen our practice, and spur us on to greater deeds.

    Read this book....more info
  • The Great Emergence
    Up until a few months ago I'd never heard of Phyllis Tickle, but a few weeks ago I ordered her latest book The Great Emergence; How Christianity is Changing and Why

    It arrived from the US on Friday; it's only a short book (162pages) so I read most of it the following day.

    Tickle (refreshingly) is not an academic or theologian, but is recognized by CNN, USA TODAY, NEWSWEEK, TIME and The NEW YORK TIMES as one of the most respected authorities on religion in the US, she is also the founding editor of the religion department of Publishers Weekly, she is also a lay Eucharistic minister of the Episcopalian Church and a senior fellow of Cathedral College, so she is well credentialed to make these observations.

    In the opening pages of the book she makes a timely but also disturbing observation (at least to some!) She says; "every five hundred years or so, the Church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale"

    She articulates the challenges facing the Church in a way that few others have, she takes us right back into the early days of Christendom and points out with great accuracy starting with Gregory the great in 500AD and in a brief yet comprehensive fashion creates a broad picture of the issues (and what would appear) and unrelated facets in this period of history and shows with some conviction the factors that contributed to the demise of the first "Great" re-formation. This was followed by a similar tectonic shift around 1000AD and of course the Great Reformation of Luther, Calvin and co in 1517.

    Tickle points out in each instance that the great unrest started in years and in many cases sometimes even centuries before the event was officially recognized, and in may cases as pointed out earlier these co-contributors were not religious in nature, a good example of this was the first printing press by Gothenburg, it started its production within a short time of the famous "Wittenberg Door" and the nailing of the thesis to the same, this reformation owes its so called success in no small way to the arrival of the printing press. This fuelled the state, national and international debate and discussion on a level unprecedented in history.

    In our own case the end of modernity and the painful dawning of a new era called post-modernism has challenged to the very core all that we hold dear, this in itself has created untold anxiety, fear and uncertainty, we are by nature (not all of us thankfully!) Creatures of habit and the Church more than any other institution has been woefully unprepared for change on any level. Not only do we want things to stay the same, but we will move heaven and earth to make sure that it does, and woe betide anyone who has the temerity to even think of doing this, as one minister once pointed out when taking over a church with a very conservative congregation, `how do you move the organ in a church...inch by inch, week by week'

    The emerging Church has attempted over the last few years to move the church with what would appear to be great haste, and the old warhorses of modernity have had much to say about this, most of it scathing in nature. When looking at the different eras of the church over the last 2000years modernity has brought its own unique challenges, its obsession with black and white absolutes, its manic need to have everything reduced to quantifiable outcomes and then bringing out the old black and white plans to see if everything measures up to the millimeter, this has made things difficult indeed, the old guard in terms of all things theological, has mostly produced Christians that are `sentry guards' or `boundary keepers'

    McLaren has rightly pointed out that this is a conversation not a blue print for the final model. Unfortunately modernity has for far to long turned any conversation into a monologue, wanting to monopolize the end result, conversation brings with it the suggestion of a mutual exchange of ideas, not the old model where the defense of a worn out theology that has long had its day. The rummage sale will always be stressful, when moving house one will always feel that everything is sacred, it is no longer about what to keep but what to let go of, and the reasons (within this context) will more than likely contain elements of co-dependency. To let go is to feel that one will not be caught and so plummet into the depths. Modernity has finally come to the cross roads, it is time to put aside its adolescent angst, and realize that is time to `grow up and grow out' of its obsession with not only a theology that was systematic but a whole lifestyle, the emerging church as an observer over many years is declaring that this is now problematic. Tickle brings two new words to the table and the conversation, "orthonomy" and "theonomy" these words are a good description of what the `great emergence' are endeavoring to do;

    * Orthonomy:

    This is a difficult word to describe; it was used in the Septuagint and the New Testament it is best understood as meaning the employment of aesthetic or harmonic purity as a tool for discerning the truth, this word presents a great challenge for those who are steeped in doctrine and or practice.

    * Theonomy

    It means to say or name the principle that only God can be the source of perfection in action and thought...As is patently clear, the burden of the argument of theonomy is still the principle of sola scriptura, albeit in more modish and culturally attractive clothes.

    These new words also describe in more comprehensive fashion the new model;

    The old model looked a little like this, it could be described as `the quadrilateral' this was simple divided into four boxes that looked like this;

    * Liturgicals
    * Renewalists
    * Social justice Christians
    * Conservatives

    These four categories are well defined by four square boxes, this model will never lend itself to any sort of mergence, the boundaries are too well defined, within this old model one was forced to guard the boundaries for fear of theological contamination, this in itself and by its very nature created friction, this was and will always be divisive, forcing people into one camp or the other, and one would be challenged when the pressure was on to declare ones `colors' little wonder that we have more than 20,000 denominations always looking for an edge, this model bordered on compulsive-obsessive, like the man who washed his hands dozens of times a day, never wanting to suffer any contamination, and so with this model theological purity at all costs leads one to break away again and again, pride will always seek to express itself in elitist language, will always major on the minors, never wishing to see that as a body of Christ we will always have much more in common that not.

    The new model looks more like a `rose' with the petals interwoven towards the center, indeed as one gets closer to the center the greater cohesion where each petal compliments and supports the other, the goal of this new model is nothing short of miraculous, since when and where has the body of Christ ever worked in harmony every sought to compliment and support those with different ideas and views. This new model is seeking to create a dynamic where for the first time the boundaries (which have always bordered on the level of autistic in the sense that there has been a repulsion of any and all intimacy and contact) are removed and we are encouraged to embrace for the first time. The real need here is for a fresh understanding a more informed view of the bigger picture. Only the spirit of God is capable of creating this sort of cohesion
    ...more info
  • must-reading for church leaders of all kinds
    in a recent video post by doug pagitt (, he talks about the relationship between the terms "emergence", "emerging church", and "emergent" (or emergent village). the emerging church, as many have come to use the term, is a subset of a greater shift that has been happening in our culture for the last couple hundred years. the emerging church is, one might say, the ecclesiological implications (or at least the discussion of those implications) of the grander shift taking place in our broader mindset, both in academia and in the popular conscience.

    phyllis tickle engages this discussion at both levels -- giving us much of the historical reasons for, and milemarkers of, this greater emergence. she weaves a discussion of the emerging church throughout. but this is not a book about emergent village; and, to be fair, tickle writes about the emerging church in the broadest terms possible, including vineyard churches and calvary chapels as indicative of the shift.

    i heard phyllis give a talk on this content at one of our national youth workers conventions last fall. it was stunning. it blew people away, to the extent that she received a long and loud standing ovation that showed a level of respect for both who she is and what she said. of course, she really ticked a few people off also, which one should expect from any hearty discussion of change in front of a large and diverse audience. but for me, and many others present, it was one of the most memorable talks i've heard in years, and has shaped my thinking and discussions since. knowing that this book was coming, i've been extremely eager to read it, and was thrilled to get my hands on a pre-pub copy of the manuscript (the book releases in october, though amazon seems to have it in stock already).

    tickle is a recovering academic, and this is no lightweight book of observations and anecdotes: it's a sweeping analysis of sociological, cultural and religious shifts. tickle contends that the church seems to transition through massive changes about every 500 years, as a result of changing worldviews in the culture at large. she posits that we're a good ways into one of these epochal hinge-points; and following the language of "the great schism" and "the great reformation" for the last two hinge-points, uses "the great emergence" for this shift (though the term is not, as she acknowledges, hers).

    because the book is a cultural analysis, and not a theological treatise, there's not much to anger anti-emergent people in this book. they might not agree with the cultural analysis, i suppose; and tickle's pro-emergence leaning (clearly, she sees this shift as positive, not neutral or negative) isn't masked. so some might choose to be dismissive on that count (we all have our biases). but the case is well made -- we're clearly not a part of the same worldviews that existed prior to darwin, scientific discoveries of relativity, postmodern language deconstruction, and a variety of other factors that have (in tickles language) so severely pocked the cable of meaning that connects our religious thought and practice to its mooring.

    truly, the great emergence is one of the most important books written, to date, on the shifts happening in the american (and worldwide) church -- particularly protestantism, but all of christianity also. it's must-reading for anyone who desires to be an active participant in the shaping of the church today, whether at a local level, or at broader levels of discussion and practice.

    i'm smarter because of this book. i understand more. i am better equipped to both enter into dialogue about the church today, as well as to live out my calling as a practitioner of the church of jesus christ in the real world....more info
  • A Pleasant Historical Synopsis
    OK...OK...I finished this book - The Great Emergence - How Christianity Is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle. Well....

    There is absolutely no question that the author is a scholar, has superb writing and analysis skills etc. However, I must have received a dozen emails telling me I "must" read this book "now." Well after six weeks of completing the reading in my 'stack' I did just that. Admittedly, my expectations were very high. I enjoyed the book, particularly from the historical perspective.

    However, the hype that raised my expectations to beyond lofty provided the basis for my disappointment. In terms of the subtitle, How Christianity is Changing and Why, I guess I missed that answer and/or illumination. On the final page of the book (163) the author writes, "it is emergents themselves who are going to have to reconsider Emergence Christianity. They must begin now to think with intention about what this new form of the faith is and is to become; because what once was an engaging but innocuous phenomenon no longer is. The cub has grown into the young lion; and now is the hour of his roaring."

    In an article I wrote in 2007, entitled "Take Away The Stone - Shedding Light Inside The Emerging Church," I wrote: Movements of God's Spirit have been occurring ad infinitum. However, man's ability to recognize and participate in them have been, well, problematic. Man attempts to define these movements and the people ascribed to them, through the use of man-made words. We attempt to categorize people into recognizable boxes. Typically, these attempts are guided by discerning people's beliefs (by what they say), actions (by what they do), places (where they hang out together), experiences (our interaction with them). Man attempts to understand by developing a flavor for these phenomena by relying on the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. The history of the Christian faith is distinctly the history of emergence (as Tickle clearly illustrates). Today, there are literally thousands of names for different denominations of what the term Christian originally meant (if there ever actually was just one meaning that was widely understood and accepted - by both insiders and outsiders). So what's the big deal?

    Honestly, I think the "big deal" about this book is as follows:

    1. The momentum of the emergent `movement' in North America has been "meowing" throughout 2008. In some sectors, the meow has become a yawn, just like when a kitty takes that one last yawn before it slides off into a nap. Thus, the emergent movement desperately needed a title like this (with a legitimately brilliant woman author/scholar) to awaken the lethargic kitty.

    2. The suggestion by Tickle (see quote above from page 163) that it is the "emergents themselves who must reconsider Emergence Christianity" is likely somewhat true, yet it does not give ample recognition to the forces who do not consider themselves emergent (whatever that really is anyway) who are contributing in a myriad of ways to the ongoing changes occuring within the Christian faith, following Jesus and the institution of the Church in N. America.

    3. This book provides hope for the hope-less. The ongoing decline of the Church (big `C' ) in N. America is well documented. This book provides hope for those who want to see the Church rise again, with a reformed theology and new types of Christians.

    This book is primarily about institutional change in a historical context. The informative value about the vision of the future of the faith is lacking (Ms. Tickle does not portend to be a prophet). Perhaps the title is what skewed my expectations as a reader.

    We do not need religion that roars, in my opinion. We need servants that serve.....quietly, bringing a helping hand to a deeply wounded world. What was served up in The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle is a meal that will tickle the palates of academics and intellectuals. For me, and a whole host of others, this book needed more time in the oven and some deliberate reconsideration of the seasoning that was sprinkled on the chapter entitled, "The Way Ahead."

    The presence of a fuzzy little kitty snoozing on the couch in the living room is often overlooked by those running for the exits because the kitchen has caught fire.

    Scene: People standing on the sidewalk in front of a burning home: "Hey, anybody see the kitty!"...more info
    EXCELLENT PRESENTATION. Good for those who have forgotten, or never knew the History of
    Christianity, and the culture surroundiing it. Her tie-ins from beginning to end helps you to follow her
    thinking to the logical conclusion she reaches...more info
  • Why buy another Phyllis Tickle book? Because this one is a concise overview of her work, great for groups.
    If you know the name "Phyllis Tickle," then you probably already own one or more of her books. You may own copies of her guides to recovering the tradition of fixed-hour prayer, such as "Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours" or "The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime (Tickle, Phyllis)." You may be a fan of her "Prayer Is a Place" or may have studied her "The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord with Reflections by Phyllis Tickle" with a small group.

    So, why buy another Tickle book?

    The answer is that this short volume is conceived as really a summation and introduction to the vast sweep of Phyllis' work over the past decade. You'll find here her concise overview of 500-year cycles of religious change. You'll find here her system for sorting out the impact of various religious movements -- and the convergence of movements back toward a spiritual core in Christianity.

    For a small book, though, this text deals with very big issues. While primarily a Christian book, there are important insights here for anyone interested in changing global culture and values.

    This book is custom-made for small-group study....more info
  • Excellent
    Great Emergence, The: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith)...more info
  • The Great Emergence
    The first 3/4 of this book read like a condensed history of Western Civ. Skip to the last 1/4 if you're interested in a list of names and titles of books written by people active in the Emergent Movement; then read those books for information. (Also, short on women writers.) A good book for church discussion groups, especially if your community is alarmed by the changes that are happening in the church; she has a calming stance. Has no information about Eastern religions and the role they may play in the future....more info
  • An "emergent" meta-narrative! Who'd have thought...
    In this highly impressionistic gloss on an exceedingly messy pair of millennia, Phyllis T tickles the rosy hopes of chatty emergent types that their "conversation" marks a momentous pivot of ecclesial epochs. The hide! The hubris! Tickle draws & quarters the rambling weed that is Christianity into neat 500-year portions and hangs it all, fetchingly, on a sort of tendentious, dialectic trellis. What a pretty tracery! And to think it's all pinned in place with the cosy, suburban metaphor of the "rummage sale". Breathtaking.

    As she scuds over dark depths like a water-skier, Tickle is nowhere and everywhere, all things to all persons, irenically obtuse in typically episco style, able to spin cloister, Geneva, margin, Trent, synagogue, Aldersgate, conquest, and eucharists into an utter blancmange of nutritious inclusivity. And not only that! We, now, through Tickle's epic gaze can thrill ourselves with the giddy notion that we occupy a portentous cusp. Even us. Come! Comprehend centuries with Phyllis! The welter of anathemas, the conciliar tit-for-tat, the pros of icons, the infinitesimal scholastic razor, the post-Wittenberg fracas, and the pool of plural truths will all make SENSE, and MEAN THINGS, and keep you agreeably COMPELLED. ...more info
  • Noticed the serious problems with her thesis?
    There simply is no real evidence to support her thesis. Gregory the Great as the creator of a great emergence of monasticism? Nonsense. Monasticism emerged in the 3rd century and there was a slow but steady growth of the church and of monasticism throughout the first 1,500 years. Gregory the Great was famous for lots of things. But there was no Great Emergence.

    And can the schism between the Latin and Eastern churches be called a "Great Emergence"? What the heck emerged? No theology, no new moral changes; indeed, many of the various Eastern churches quietly returned to full communion with the Roman church without any noticeable changes. So, mostly, it was a political spat.

    No, there is only one era that could be called a "Great Emergence" and that was the Protestant reformation. And I cannot see how you can take that one instance and call it a trend for change every 500 years.

    Moreover, although Tickle is a good writer and she posits a number of intriguing theories, she is crippled by her narrow viewpoint. Again and again she mistakes a small number of liberal believers in America for the world itself.

    The growth in religion is in places like Africa and Asia. There, membership is extraordinary, an explosion unimaginable here in America or in the new dark continent for religion: Europe. And it is an explosion of traditional religion, conservative, orthodox religion.

    Moreover, what emergence is even going on here? Liberal denominations are shrinking to size of peas and blowing away. Surely she can't think anything will come from the ranks of those ancient citizens--feminist nuns in their 70's, gay bishops lording it over nonexistent churchgoers, and hippie theologians no one reads anymore. Are you kidding?

    No, what is emerging here in the US is...ta religion. If you look at the statistics for the young--that is, the future--you find a group of theological illiterates. Bookstores are stocked with books on wicca, psychics, magic crystals, revivals of pagan religions, and magical books on how to believe your way to great wealth.

    A "Great Emergence" it is not. ...more info
  • Flawed, but informative
    Phyllis Tickle's newest book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, arrived yesterday. At 172 pages, this small but elegant volume (aren't all Tickle's books elegant?) both informs and disappoints. Tickle takes on the daunting task of reviewing the major turning points or `Great' events in the life of the Christian church. Her contention is that every 500 years or so the church goes through a `great' transformation.

    Counting back from the present, the Great Reformation took place about 500 years ago -- 1517 to be exact. Prior to that, The Great Schism occurred when the Eastern and Western churches split over icons and statues. Five hundred years earlier, Gregory the Great blessed and encouraged the monastic orders which would preserve the Christian faith through the Dark Ages. Of course, 500 years before that, we're back in the first century and the time of the apostles. Today, Tickle contends, the church in in the throes of The Great Emergence.

    But, the Great Emergence is not just religious. It is also cultural, technological, and sociological. Of course, context shaped each of the other `great' church transformations as well, and this time is no different. Tickle takes the reader on an overflight of church history, world events, and charts the shifts in the center of authority in the life of the church. In the Great Reformation, of course, the cry of authority was sola scriptura - only scripture. Tickle traces the diminution of the authoritative place of scripture in culture and Christianity from its heady beginnings in the Reformation to its marginalization in the current postmodern era. The book provides thoughtful tracing of influential elements as Tickle leads the reader on a quest for a center of authority.

    But, while Tickle's insights and examples provide clues to the transformative forces in our culture and society, the book disappoints when we arrive at the present. Tickle sees all denominations, all churches, all movements in the quadrant of Christianity -- conservative, liturgical, renewalist, and social justice -- as converging toward the center. Granted, there are those denominations and groups that cling to their identities in a kind of resistant pushback, but Tickle's vision is that we are all being swept up into the next great moment of the church -- The Great Emergence. Every church, not just the cool emerging church types, are part of The Great Emergence. I'm not sure that is happening, but I could have lived with Tickle's opinion except for some examples she uses.

    Tickle uses John Wimber and the Vineyard churches as an example of this new kind of emergence. She correctly credits Quakers -- Richard Foster, Parker Palmer, etc -- with great influence on the spirituality of the Great Emergence. I might add Elton Trueblood to that list, as mentor to Foster, but Tickle doesn't. But, in her citing of John Wimber, she goes off track. She credits Wimber with being a "founder" of the Church Growth department at Fuller, and calls Peter Wagner his colleague. I was present at Fuller during Wagner's tenure, and I was enrolled in the DMin program in church growth. I attended one of the Signs and Wonders classes, heard Wimber speak, and got a sense of his idea of `power evangelism.'

    Wimber was not a founder of the church growth movement. He was an adjunct faculty member at Fuller. Dr. Donald McGavran was the founder, Peter Wagner was his protege. I met McGavran once, although he had retired when I was enrolled at Fuller. Tickle misunderstands Wimber's approach, and also overestimates the Quaker influence on Wimber. Wimber left the traditional church in which he had become a Christian because he wanted to `do the stuff' -- heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and so on. I also attended the Vineyard church that Wimber headed, and it was no Quaker meeting. So, at the end of the book, Tickle disappoints. Simple fact-checking could have offered a corrective to her inclusion of Wimber.

    While Wimber did create a powerful new church community called Vineyard, he used signs and wonders as power evangelism to win people to Christ. All of that was very much part of the church growth movement that believed in attractional evangelism. Wimber's brand just happened to be one of the more interesting versions of church growth techniques being used to gather people. She also wrongly attributes the concept of bounded sets and centered sets to Wimber when actually it was Paul Hiebert, the missiologist, who used those concepts to illustrate new approaches to understanding the place of persons in the Kingdom of God.

    Would I recommend the book? A qualified yes is in order here. The book succeeds in all but the last chapter. If you want a great overview of where Christianity has been, what the influences were that got it there, and where it might be headed, Tickle's book provides a good, concise overview. My disappointment was that it fails to see clearly the way forward, and misinterprets some of the church's most recent experiements, such as Vineyard. But, Tickle is an elegant writer, and the book is a valuable resource to those aware of its short-comings....more info
  • Keep moving
    To move is to emerge, and become what you are destined to be. HOORAY for writers like Tickle who amuse and amaze you with their insights on the church's future. Don't dispair, there is HOPE for the future if we go back to the basics and learn to love our neighbors and to care for the poor....more info
  • Seen one "historical inevitability" you've seen them all.
    I realize Tickle probably does not hang her comments completely on the 500 year notion (I have not read the book but only watched her YouTube comments). But it tickles me that the appeals to historical inevitability or religion's eschatology continue to mystify intelligent, or at least cultured, folk.

    Even Nietzsche, promoter of the god who has died, couched his conclusions in terms of the eternal return. Add the curse of Marx's dependence on the idea, and objectors are guaranteed a field day. (Although they'll have to be told about that since those are authors on the censored list.)

    Of course the young people want to be with other young people, and the vast majority of churches are full of old people. A church just for youth, however, means they will outgrow it. That's the only version of historical inevitability I submit to....more info
  • Important scholarly work on the Emergence
    Phyllis Tickle's work is an important scholarly work on the Emergent movement. However, it seems to be written for the seminary/Div school student looking for more credible scholarly sources to cite for their term papers. The language is frequently thick so bring your thesaurus. This detracts from the books effectiveness since so much of what the Emergent movement has been about has happened through and from the laity of the church.

    Where Tickle succeeds is in the establishment of historical trajectory. Her extensive review of the landmark moments within church history takes nearly 3/4 of the book. This might seem overdone and irrelevant at times given the modern phenomenon she is writing about, but the historical references point to ingredients that have been brewing in this (post) modern movement for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. This builds a strong case for this being a legitimate, established movement of change within the church.

    If a reader is new to this movement or in the study of it, more approachable titles such as "An Emergent Manifesto of Hope" or most anything written by Brian McLaren are recommended before attempting such an academic effort as this. ...more info
  • The Best Book For Understanding Emergence In The Church
    Summary: Phyllis Tickle's, The Great Emergence is my choice for book of the year in 2008. Tickle carefully crafts the historical shifts and tipping points leading up to what she calls a rummage sale on the church. She answers three questions: What Is It, How did it come to be, and Where is it going? The defining question of all reformations is clear: Where is our authority? The book takes an important look at the events leading up to Sola Scriptura and the current events leading away from it.

    The value of this book cannot be understated. It helps us understand not just what is happening but also why it is happening within our previous history and current social-religious systems. It's much more than a history book. It's a clear and concise look into the strings that moved and are moving the system.

    The book breaks down three sections: What Is It, How did it come to be, and Where Is It Going? Each section builds on each other. The first gives the metaphor for understanding what is happening. The second gives us the nuts and bolts of why. This fifth chapter could easily be expanded and become a book in itself. If you read one chapter, let it be that. The diagrams Tickle uses are some of the best I've seen to really explain what is happening.

    A more detailed review can be found here: ( info
  • superficial, artificial, and...important
    For the last twenty years Phyllis Tickle has been one of the more notable and quotable commentators on the changing landscape of American religion. In 1992 she became the founding editor of the Religion Department at Publishers Weekly. She has written more than two dozen books and given interviews with major media outlets like Time magazine, CNN, and PBS. Today she is a senior fellow of Cathedral College at the National Cathedral in Washington.

    Tickle explores three questions in this book. What is the Great Emergence? How did it come to be? And where is it going? She limits herself to Christianity in North America, but her overall trajectory is a prime example of the pleasures and pitfalls of Grand Theory writing. According to Tickle, there's a "recurrent pattern" in which every 500 years Christianity sheds "the incrustations of an overly established" institution and reinvents itself. She sees a similar phenomenon in Islam and Judaism. Pope Gregory the Great (b. 540) was the first disrupter and preserver in her scheme, saving civilization through promoting monasticism. Then came the Great Schism of 1054 when Roman Catholicism of the Latin West and Eastern Orthodoxy of the Greek East divided. Then, right on schedule, came the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

    Closer to our own day, Tickle samples a handful of the "three-dozen" signs of the times that indicate another major disruption and reinvention of the faith--Darwin, Freud, Jung, Marx, and Einstein, science, the radio, the automobile, the rise of pentecostalism, and even a group like Alcoholics Anonymous. Tickle acknowledges that such chronological markers and sweeping generalizations can be artificial and even superficial (cf. 95, 111). Each person, movement or invention gets only a paragraph or so of commentary; the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, for example, are barely mentioned at all.

    In the last third of her book Tickle explains how and why older categories of describing American Christianity are now passe. If and when the current 500-year Great Emergence matures, Tickle estimates that it will include about 60% of North American believers. Forget about "main line" denominations or categories like "liberal" and "conservative." Rather, begin with four major trends-- Liturgicals, Renewalists, Social Justice Christians, and Conservatives-- and then imagine endless permutations and hybrids that mix, match, and cross-pollinate.

    Tickle's historiography is the sort that drives scholarly experts crazy, but there's no question about the phenomenon she describes. Whether it's as long-lasting or disruptive as 1054 or 1517 remains to be seen. The book by Brian McLaren with its suggestive sub-title is a good example of what she describes: A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished CHRISTIAN (2004). The best book about all things "emergent" by one of its adherents is Tony Jones, The New Christians; Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier (2008)....more info


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