What is the emerging church?
I think it comes down to a single element. How is the concept of certainty defined?
About four years ago I went through a struggle with defining certainty. I grew up believing that certainty was knowing the right answer and providing that answer when in dialogue (Paul: always be prepared to give an answer). This conception was based on maintaining a systematic theology that explained everything. Learning was directed at filling in the gaps. The gaps are not examples taken from reality and experience but from the Bible. My world view had to account for and not be contradicted by any verse in the Bible. Experience and reality were seen through the lens of biblical verses. If there were gaps between experience and the Bible, then it was explained as something that we could not know. ie. ultimate authority was through scripture.
Well after a while the experiences that had unsatisfactory answers and were pushed to the back burner began to leave a nagging feeling. Things didn't add up. This was also the time that I changed my definition of certainty. It went from being able to provide an answer and having faith in the link from my certain world view (theology) to reality to exposing my faith and world view to question and the test of reality. The argument goes that if I am certain about my theology then it doesn't need me to shield it from the test of reality and exposure to legitimate questions that reality and experience expose it to.
As John Douglas Hall points out in The Cross in Our Context, this is the difference between theology and ideology. Ideology is not only found in religion, but also in politics and many other ways of seeing the world.
Does the paradigm or world view shelter thinking from reality or does it offer the opportunity to think through the implications of experience to world view.
This is the test to determine an emergent church from repackaged church.