The following post, and some of the material that will follow in subsequent posts, has been adapted from one of my messages at the 2005 School of Theology at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London last month
About fifteen years ago, Christianity Today (February 19, 1990) published a major article describing several novel theological ideas that were (at the time) barely whispers among a handful of influential academic evangelical writers and theologians. Written by renowned Canadian theologian Robert Brow, the article was titled "Evangelical Megashift."
According to Brow, evangelical theology was quietly being remodeled by some of the movement's most influential thinkers. He used some benign-sounding language to describe how evangelical thinking had already changed radically, even though most evangelicals had not yet noticed the changes. But Brow implied that even more monumental changes were on the horizon. Subsequent history has shown, I believe, that he was exactly right in his predictions.
(Don't take that as an endorsement of Brow's theological perspective. In my assessment, he is himself a theological miscreant of the worst stripe. I've listed him in the "Really Bad" section of my annotated bookmarks and given a brief explanation for that assessment. I don't need to rehash it here.)
Brow's 1990 CT article pretended to be an objective report about what was happening in the theological world, but the truth is that Robert Brow himself was one of the main figures working hard behind the scenes in the academic world to bring about a wholesale remodeling of evangelical theology. He was an ardent advocate of virtually every theological innovation he described. So the article was actually a propaganda piece promoting what Brow referred to as "new-model theology."
Today the new model exists in full form, and it has a name: Open Theism. Every issue Brow discussed in that 1990 article touches on a key point of doctrine where some or all of the leading Open Theists have departed from the historic evangelical position.
But here's something I find even more interesting: Read Brow's article and notice that virtually all the issues he raised are also the pet issues of several leading figures in the Emerging Church movement.
I'm not suggesting everyone associated with the Emerging Church is also tainted with Open Theism. Nor would I necessarily accuse Emerging Church leaders of harboring deliberate sympathies with everything their "openness" cousins stand for. But I do believe the two movements clearly have common roots, and the Emerging Church, in a very real sense, represents the metastasis of the same unhealthy theological tendencies that gave rise to Open Theism. Brow's article is a catalogue of those pathologies.
In the days to come, I'll say more about this and examine some of the key similarities between Brow's "Megashift" and the Emerging Church. But in the meantime, if you want to take an interesting romp down memory lane, review the article referred to above, and notice how the clear theological agenda being touted by the more outspoken leaders of the Emerging Church (including various champions of innovation ranging from Steve Chalke to Tony Campolo) is a clear, almost point-for-point echo of what Robert Brow was already talking about more than fifteen years ago.