C. Michael Patton has been drawing up some charts on the emerging church, trying to compare them with others in the evangelical spectrum. It's been (so far) a four-part series. You can see it here, here, here, and here. It has been taking some heat over at Scot McKnight's blog. Of course, taking heat at JesusCreed may mean that something is on target, since Scot's commenters are not generally posting substantive and well-reasoned interaction.
Patton's articles have some good stuff and some other stuff. It has the typical kind of caricatures that distinctions involving fundamentalists would not be complete without (such as the idea that almost anything the Bible teaches is in the center of the circle of importance for fundamentalists).
But here is a key point. He says,
To be emerging does not necessarily have to do with where you land on certain issues. It has to do with your willingness to fly, seriously entertaining anew important and fundamental issues. Not only do you entertain questions (e.g. Why does God allow bad things? Is inerrancy the center of evangelical faith? Do the various traditions—Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant—all have valid contributions to make?) but you have the same questions yourself.
In the end, you may land your plane in the field of traditional Protestantism on a particular issue, but it is your willingness to take off that is key. Are you willing to discuss issues from a fresh perspective? This is a key emerging question.
He then states: "Those in the Emergent camp seem unwilling to land their plane anywhere. The most emphasized and essential point may be that one cannot land!"
I think Patton is onto something here. The problem with emergents is not that they entertain questions. It is that they have no way in which to arrive at any answers. They have rejected any notion of authority that lies outside their own mind or own way of thinking.
That is the irony of the emergents. They pretend to have all these open questions (and they are open to them). But the reason they are open is because their only authority is their mind—whether or not they can process the information in a way that makes sense to them, and in a way that they believe will not make them appear to "know-it-all."
Here's a little secret: It is okay to know things, and okay to be assured of them.
There is actually nothing wrong with objective knowledge. And there is nothing wrong with sharing that knowledge with others who have questions about a particular things. Of course, we need to humble, but being humble and being ignorant are not the same thing.
Sidenote: It is interesting that some emergents who claim not to know anything for sure know for sure that fundamentalists are wrong.
Here's another little secret: It's okay to ask questions (even if you are a fundamentalist). There are some very hard questions for theology and philosophy. Let's ask the questions. But let's have some way to determine answers.
To leave the deity of Christ hanging in mid-air is not a sign of humility. It is a sign of arrogance, of putting one's own mind above the revelation of God. To question the resurrection is likewise a statement of arrogant subjectivism. Remember, knowledge is not arrogance. Arrogance is arrogance.
The problem is ultimately not in the questions. It is in the lack of a way in which to find answer, to land the plane.