Tickle, The Great Emergence

I got to hear Phyllis Tickle speak at a National Youth Worker Convention a few years ago.  It was fascinating to hear a little gray haired women get up on the stage with a little white board and blow my mind with observations about the cyclical nature of historical and Christian development.  Tickle – who is just as good a writer as she is a thinker – takes a look at the way that western history has undergone massive shifts about every 500 years, and we are finding ourselves in one of these transitions right now.

While she engages this transition with hope, Tickle also gives wisdom to her warnings of the possible dangers and ways that the church could hurt each other in the midst of a huge transition.  There is a ton of emergent/emerging/postmodern junk out there – enough to disappoint anyone who spends money on books , but this one stands above and is worth every cent.

Here’s some quotable material:

  • p.27, “During the sixth century, the Apostolic Church, with its presbyters and anchorites, gave way to an organized monasticism as the true keeper and promulgator of the faith.  Yet we must remember three things: first, the Apostolic tradition, with its canon, its John Cassians, and its Augustinian theology, even its pursuit of mysticism, did not cease to be.  Second, because of the reconfiguration of those treasures into new shapes and vessels and accommodations, the faith they testify to was scattered across a far broader geographic and demographic area than it had previously occupied.”
  • p.29, “One does not have to be particularly gifted as a seer these days, however, to perceive the Great Emergence already swirling like balm across the wound…”
  • p.45, “…two or three popes evoked the one question that is always present in re-formation: Where now is the authority?”
  • p.58, “The imperative for us in the twenty-first century, therefore, is not to fear either of the two coursings, but to fear with all our hearts and minds and souls the pattern of bloodiness that has in the past characterized the separation of innovators and re-traditioners from one another.”
  • p.73, “The assertive presence in general conversation of the central question of authority is evidence that a re-formation is in process.”
  • p.91, “And the thing to believed in was a God-infused, biblically sanctioned code of conduct that would have made Jonathan Edwards proud. More to the point, as a code of conduct, it was to be believed in as a means of salvation which, as it turns out, is considerably different from believing in G0d-among-us as a means of salvation.”
  • p.138, “In the Great Emergence, reacting Christians are the ballast.  However unattractive they may seem to be to other of their fellow Christians and however unattractive nonreacting Christians may seem to be to them, the small, outer percentage is the Great Emergence’s ballast; and its function is as necessary and central to the success of this upheaval as is any other part of it.”
  • p.158, “He [John Wimber] spoke instead of ‘center-set movement,’ of a Christianity whose basic gatherings would be clear about their vision and be busy about the work of the kingdom while letting people sort themselves out by how close each wanted to get to the center.  Such an approach was – and still is – clearly a leap of enormous faith.  That is, it assumes that something other than ‘rules’ is holding things together while, at the same time, also preventing the whole construct from skittering off into chaos.”
  • p.162, “If in pursuing this line of exegesis, the Great Emergence really does what most of its observers think it will, it will rewrite Christian theology – and thereby North American culture – 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.”
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