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Haven't there always been "emerging" Christians....

I have been a Christian in exile for 14 years--and even lost my faith entirely for a number of years.

It is only within the last year that I have been healed enough from my experiences with evangelical Christianity to begin once again to grapple with the particulars of my faith. For more than a decade, it was enough to walk with the Lord in the wilderness and to learn about Him precept upon precept through the Spirit. What I discovered was that I could never return to the system of faith I once clung to tenaciously--my new faith is constructed on different principles. It is truly a matter of new wine bursting old wineskins.

A few months ago, I was directed to your Web site, and since then, I have read two of your books: Finding Faith and A Generous Orthodoxy. Many of your assertions about the emergent movement resonate with me. However, as I revisit the trajectory of my faith's development, I can see how every painful mis-step was necessary to bring me to this place. I don't think I could have skipped over the black/white paradigm of fundamentalism. And indeed, as a baby Christian I was prepared to follow Him anywhere. Why, then, would He have chosen to immerse me in that world--which ultimately threatened my very existence as a believer--if there was no value in it?

I think the scope of emergent as you define it is too global. I don't see it as a breakaway movement for our culture as much as for the particular believer. The world, in varying degrees, has always been a stronghold of relativism. When the call comes from the Holy Spirit to the new believer, it usually leads to "deep" and "costly" fundamentalism. Liberalism may be palatable, but many young believers discern that it is a spiritual dead-end. The new believer finds solace in answers, not questions.

What I am saying is that I don't think I would have a capacity for nuance if I had not been grounded first in fundamentalism's clear delineations between truth/lies, light/darkness, and kingdom/world. The conventional Church served as a kind of "rehab" experience for me as my dependence on the world was severed. But ultimately, those boxes became suffocatingly small and my existence in them was revealed as pseudo-reality. But by then I'd learned to hear His voice and because of our history together, I trusted Him enough to follow Him outside the boxes.

So I'm wondering if there have not been long-time believers "emerging" from conventional Christianity at all times.

Your comments resonate with a lot of the things human developmentalists are saying. If you haven’t read John Westerhoff’s “Will Our Children Have Faith?” – you’ll find there an affirmation of what you’re saying. At the same time, though, I think that I’d rather try to help a new Christian get on a path that – while taking human development patterns seriously – bypassed some of the damage of fundamentalism. Doing so will require clarity, as you say, and answers – but hopefully answers and clarity that open the way for more learning.