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The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why

By Phyllis Tickle (Author)
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Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 6.18" Width: 5.1" Height: 0.77"
Weight:   0.22 lbs.
Binding  CD
Release Date   Oct 1, 2008
Publisher   Hovel Audio
ISBN  1596445750  
EAN  9781596445758  

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From the church's birth to the reign of St. Gregory the great, to the Great Schism and through the Reformation, Phyllis Tickle notes that every 500 years the church has been rocked by massive transitions. Remarkably enough, Tickle suggests to us that we live in such a time right now. The Great Emergence Examines history, social upheaval, and current events, showing how a new form of Christianity is rising within postmodern culture. Anyone interested in the future of the church in America, no matter what their personal affiliation, will find this book a fascinating exploration.

Publishers Description
Rooted in the observation that massive transitions in the church happen about every 500 years, Phyllis Tickle shows readers that we live in such a time right now. She compares the Great Emergence to other Greats in the history of Christianity, including the Great Transformation (when God walked among us), the time of Gregory the Great, the Great Schism, and the Great Reformation. Combining history, a look at the causes of social upheaval, and current events, The Great Emergence shows readers what the Great Emergence in church and culture is, how it came to be, and where it is going. Anyone who is interested in the future of the church in America, no matter what his or her personal affiliation, will find this book a fascinating exploration.

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More About Phyllis Tickle

Phyllis Tickle PHYLLIS TICKLE, founding editor of the Religion Department of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, the international journal of the book industry, is frequently quoted in print sources, electronic media, and innumerable blogs and web sites. Tickle is an authority on religion in America and a much sought after lecturer on the subject.

In addition to lectures and numerous essays, articles, and interviews, Tickle is the author of over two dozen books in religion and spirituality, most recently Emergence Christianity-What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters, The Great Emergence, How Christianity is Changing and Why and The Words of Jesus, A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord. She is also the author of the notable and popular The Divine Hours series of manuals for observing fixed-hour prayer: The Divine Hours – Prayers for Summertime, The Divine Hours – Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime, The Divine Hours – Prayers for Springtime, Eastertide- Prayers for Lent Through Easter from The Divine Hours, and Christmastide – Prayers for Advent through Epiphany from The Divine Hours (Doubleday); The Night Offices from The Divine Hours and The Pocket Edition of The Divine Hours (Oxford University Press); and This Is What I Pray Today – The Divine Hours Prayers for Children(Dutton)

Tickle began her career as a college teacher and, for almost six years, served as academic dean to the Memphis College of Art before entering full time into writing and publishing. In September 1996 she received the Mays Award, one of the book industry’s most prestigious awards for lifetime achievement in writing and publishing, and specifically in recognition of her work in gaining mainstream media coverage of religion publishing. In 2007 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Christy Awards “In gratitude for a lifetime as an advocate for fiction written to the glory of God.” In 2004, she received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the Berkeley School of Divinity at Yale University. In 2009 she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from North Park University.

Tickle serves now, as she has in the past, on a number of advisory and corporate boards. A lay eucharistic minister and lector in the Episcopal Church, she is the mother of seven children and, with her physician-husband, makes her home on a small farm in Lucy, Tennessee.

Phyllis Tickle currently resides in Lucy, in the state of Tennessee.

Phyllis Tickle has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modern Spiritual Masters
  2. Paraclete Poetry
  3. Seven Deadly Sins
  4. SkyLight Illuminations
  5. Stories from the Farm in Lucy
  6. Tarcher Cornerstone Editions

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Strong Looking Back; Weak Looking Ahead  Apr 14, 2010
Phyllis Tickle is a prolific writer. This latest book does not disappoint. She has an amazing ability to weave nearly 1500 years of history into one book. The title of the book is compelling and very inviting to many observers of the Christian scene nowadays. The premise is simple. If we want to look ahead, we need to look back and learn from our past. Otherwise, we risk repeating past mistakes.

Tickle brings the reader through a fascinating journey into the early centuries; from papal domination to the Protestant Reformation; from the first Schism to the next; from Reformation to Renaissance. She did not stop at religion. With skill, she harnesses amazing scientific insights from Einstein, Jung, etc; philosophy from Hegel, Marx, and others; technology like automobile, the computer, the Internet and many others, to carefully remind us that any religious institution like the Church is never immune from these factors. What I enjoy most is the way she identifies the changing nuclear family, gently comparing and contrasting the traditional grandma image in the early 20th Century to the modern working couple family structure in the late 20th Century. She shows a keen understanding of women roles in society. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about her comprehensiveness with regards to the male gender.

Throughout the book, she poses an important point: Who/What is the authority during each era? Indeed, the Great Emergence is not exactly in terms of what shape Christianity or the Church is going to become. It is actually upon what kinds of authority does the world at large recognizes during each period. While she has a very clear sense of what kinds of authority exist per historical era, this mood fizzles out in the final part of the book. In fact, I think the weakest part of the book is in Part III, the strongest in Part II. I will commend her book with regards to learning from the past (Part I and II), but will hesitate to recommend her prescriptions for the future (Part III).

New emerging trends of Christian faith and spirituality  Mar 29, 2010
Phyllis Tickle. The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks and Emergent Village, 2008). 172 pages.

Phyllis Tickle draws on her wide publishing and writing experience on religion in America to offer a concise but ground-breaking portrayal of how Christianity, as it is practiced in North America, is emerging into new shapes and emphases.

The book assumes that every five-hundred years the church experiences a massive transition and `cleans out its attic for a massive rummage sale'. The first transition was marked by Gregory the Great, who became Pope in 590CE and guided Christianity into ecclesio-political coherence and into a monasticism that would preserve it for 500 years. He cleaned up after the Roman Empire disintegrated and after the church divided over doctrinal disputes such as at Chalcedon in 451CE which codified the doctrine of Jesus as two natures in one person. The Great Schism, 500 years later in 1054, was the division of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Constantinople and Pope Leo IX in Rome. The Great Reformation, another 500 years on, gave birth to Protestant Christianity. A convenient date marking this rummage sale was when Luther nailed the 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517.

With any of these changes, the old forms of Christianity lost their pride of place and new forms emerged alongside. Normally there is a century or two of unease leading up to overarching changes, and it takes a century to work the transition through. The church has to grapple with how to function in a new context and especially asks "Where now is the authority?" The Reformation, for example, reasserted sola Scriptura, scripture sola, only Scripture and the Scriptures only, added a conviction about the priesthood of all believers. The Catholic Church also had its own (counter-)Reformation. A tension exists of needing to change externally and rework internally, now as then. Tickle observes, "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 retraditioners from one another." (p.58) There will be new forms, but they will not completely eradicate old forms which also need renewal.

The church and society has been coming to another point of crisis and transition for two centuries; this time largely because of science. Copernicus, the clergyman astronomer, was a contemporary of Luther, and both of them unsettled the medieval church's worldviews. But Tickle identifies Charles Darwin's 1859 The Origin of Species as the tipping point, along with Michael Faraday who from 1851 started field theory. Faraday showed electricity and magnetism were unseen fields of force which intersected to create matter and light. With scientific explanations for the development of life and matter, where is the place of God? Thus churches opposed evolution vehemently, but in broader society there was widespread acceptance of a new paradigm for understanding the universe and its origins of life.

Tickle explains the history of ideas and how mayhem was also brewing elsewhere. Freud opened up the world of the unconscious, and Jung went further and popularized the collective unconscious. Campbell questioned Christian particularity and exclusivity - on television documentaries for all to see! Einstein introduced the quantum world of atoms, the "special theory of relativity" and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Where was certainty any more? Marx attacked the authority of the church. Theologians from Reimarus to Schweitzer, and later Marcus Borg to NT Wright, searched for the real historical Jesus. Since Azusa in 1906, Pentecostalism introduced fresh egalitarianism to churches and an experiential rather than purely canonical basis for authority. Cars gave people never-before-experienced mobility which decreased commitment to local place. Alcoholics Anonymous popularized a generic approach to God and made spirituality accessible beyond organized religion. Buddhism enhanced this trend with its openness to selective borrowing and integration with other faiths. Immigration, drugs, the changing role of women, the erosion of the perceived authority of Scripture, churches moving from sacred to secular (to electronic) space, and different views of other religions (especially from Vatican II) are all brewing a different approach to faith.

Tickle's boldest and most significant section explores where this next transition is going - she describes it as "The Great Emergence". Once again, Christianity is facing a time of upheaval and opportunity and having to grapple with the authority question. If other times of transition are an indicator, it will be a massive time of readjustment but also usher in a growing and spreading of Christianity's influence. Fifty years ago analysts said Christianity in North America could be represented with four squares in a quadrilateral: liturgicals, social justice Christians, conservatives and Pentecostal/charismatic renewalists. This neat division fitted decades ago, often parallel to denominational lines. But as Tickle identifies, the demarcation points are changing.

There is a gathering centre as an increasing number of Christians are mingling and learning from and embracing one another's traditions. Tickle describes this as "Watercooler theology"; co-workers meeting over a drink and discussing spirituality. It is producing the "New Rose" of Christian expression; a cluster of people in the centre and spreading out along and embracing the axes. There is a backlash as 10% or so of Christians push back into a corner and reassert their traditional identity and position. Those in the corners, however, help remind the gathering emergent centre of the importance of the different elements.

The developing majority of Great Emergence Christians are embracing orthodoxy (allegiance to doctrine) with orthopraxy (emphasis on action). They are finding a fresh confidence in Scripture, influenced by conservatives and social justice Christians. But they are also often recognising the place of experience and the Spirit, especially those influenced by liturgical and renewalists. They are sourcing more narrative, mystical and paradoxical theology. Community belonging is more centred on allegiance to Jesus than bounded by particular beliefs or behavior.

Many are discovering richness in community and in the conversation between and among Christians. The Quakers, outside the traditional quadrilateral, have a particular contribution in this. Quakers like Parker Palmer, John Wimber and Richard Foster have played a significant role in reshaping Christianity. Foster's Streams of Living Waters (HarperCollins, 1999), for example, models an embracing of different traditions from contemplative and holiness to social justice to evangelical.

The Great Emergence leaves me with two unanswered questions to ponder. Firstly, Tickle's descriptions and diagrams help portray where North American Christianity has come from and where it may be going. Her North American focus reflects her expertise. Unfortunately she does not evaluate her frameworks for the rest of the West including Australia, or the rest of the world especially the growing global and southern-dominant Christianity. If global Christianity is becoming more conservative, Pentecostal and assertive, as some observers suggest, then I am curious how Tickle's analysis will apply beyond the USA?

Secondly, Tickle contends early in the book that the Great Emergence will need to answer two questions - both intellectual tsunamis - in order to emerge to maturity:

1. What is human consciousness and the humanness of the human?
2. What is the relation of religions to one another? (p.73)

She indicates why these are critical questions, building particularly on Freud and Campbell. I would have liked to have read in the last chapters her thoughts on how the Great Emergence is addressing these questions, or point in some helpful directions. Furthermore, how is the Great Emergence treating science - from the theories of Darwin through to chaos theory and the new science? For all the science and psychology of Part 2's background to the Great Emergence, there is little treatment of science in part 3 and how it is interacting with the Great Emergence.

Yet I appreciate Tickle for getting me thinking in these directions and she has fitted a lot into a concise and monumental volume. I applaud her for helping us understand the shape of church life, the rich merging of different traditions and the history of ideas that brings us to this emerging hinge-point in history.

Published in St Mark's Review, No. 211 (February 2010), pp.100-103.
Whither the Church  Mar 3, 2010
Although a real historian would run screaming from her quick and superficial run through 2000 years of history, her thesis merits thought. It provides a helpful context to understand what is happening in and around Christianity in these times and in "organized religion" generally. The broad perspective she offers helps those of us who care about the future of the Church a broader vision of the changes we are probably at the beginning of. That can help us look forward with hope and free us from fear of all that is happening around us.
Delusions of Emergent Utopia  Feb 23, 2010
I'm no historian. You probably aren't either. Fortunately, this fact probably won't serve as a handicap when reading this short book of history.

"The Great Emergence" is a book that makes sweeping generalizations about large swaths of world history. Many conclusions are drawn from these generalizations, which leaves us non-historians in a bit of a bind: in order to accept Tickle's conclusions, we must first accept her version of the events. Without extensive knowledge of these historical events, it is difficult to refute or agree with either.

But before this really becomes a problem the book shows itself to be an exercise in unintentionally amusing hyperbole. Likewise, the concerns with historical accuracy subside, inversely proportional to the level of - again, unintentional - humor that accompanies the escalating hyperbole.

Pretending to be a short but concise assessment of current events, the book is more like an impressionist painting than an accurate portrait. The subtitle sets the goal of answering "How Christianity is Changing and Why," but it is a small book with too few pages (165) in which to accomplish the task. In many places, the historical flybys leave so much unsaid that regardless of your level of historical knowledge it's pretty easy to tell that too much of the story is missing. At other points in the book, inordinate amounts of space are spent on tangential developments at various historical junctures in church history.

Tickle sees the current period of upheaval as an event in significance equal to the Great Schism and the Great Reformation. What we are living through, by her estimation, is the Great Emergence - and this is a cause for great elation.

In one particularly effusive section, Tickle pictures the movement itself as a great healer:

"One does not have to be particularly gifted as a seer these days," she says, "to perceive the Great Emergence already swirling like balm across that wound, bandaging it with genuinely egalitarian conversation and with an undergirding assumption of shared brotherhood and sisterhood in a world being redeemed." (p29)

A sentence of greater utopian delusion has seldom been written.

It is little wonder that those who are leaders of emergent Christianity call Tickle a friend and ally. Of Doug Pagitt she says he is "one of emergent Christianity's most influential and brilliant thinkers." She calls Brian McLaren "the symbolic leader of the Great Emergence... in the same way that Martin Luther became the symbolic leader and spokesman for the Great Reformation." It's all a bit much, regardless of the contributions these two may have made.

Sola Scriptura
Tickle chooses as a common thread for the book the metaphor of a rummage sale, and though the metaphor appears at regular intervals, it is never quite explained or successfully coaxed into a relevant illustration of historical upheavals. We're not sure what is being sold at the rummage sale or what the current one has in common with past one, etc.

A third of the way through the book 46, Tickle goes to work on the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura, claiming, "Even many of the most die-hard Protestants among us have grown suspicious of `Scripture and Scripture only.'" She goes on:

"We begin to refer to Luther's principle of `sola scriptura, scriptura sola' as having been little more than the creation of a paper pope in place of a flesh and blood one. And even as we speak, the authority that has been in place for five hundred years withers away in our hands."

Her evidence: Paul's injunctions against women, the one-time acceptance of slavery, and flat-earth theology. For her, this evidence is damning evidence; she leaves no room for other options. Paul says one thing (women must keep quiet in the assembly), we do another (women are allowed to speak), therefore sola scriptura is an illusion and scriptural authority is eroded. This narrow view of Sola Scriptura is laughable. Occasional doctrinal corrections cannot be used as indicators of future change, as Tickle proposes on the following pages.

Tickle also makes parallel comparisons between the current and historical hegemony. Hegemony is leadership or dominance, esp. by one country or social group over others. In the 16th century, the ruling hegemony was the Roman Catholic Church. It is pretty difficult to draw a modern parallel of a uniform hegemony against which Emergents are protesting or which they are attempting to reform.

In short, her parallels are too labored to be convincing, and too weak to maintain their connection to their supposed historical equivalents. Just who or what constitutes the current hegemony? We're not told.

Grandma, Tin Lizzie, and the Decline of Protestantism
On pages 86-87, she proposes a line of social theory involving grandma (yours), Norman Rockwell, and the automobile that defies reason. Of Grandma, Tickle claims that "When the Tin Lizzie took away her kingdom of influence, it was Protestantism more than Grandma that came untethered and was diminished." This attempt at a two-page synopsis of a wide range of events ends up looking more like the work of Salvador Dali than Norman Rockwell. Like Dali's paintings, Tickle's words are fun to look at but making sense of them is an arduous task.

Shortly after (91-93), in what seems to be another attempt at a "Dali Word Picture", Tickle claims that pastoral authority was singlehandedly supplanted by Alcoholics Anonymous. Huh?

In another episode of incoherent and unfounded "fact-stating" Tickle claims that, "In the hands of the Emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples." Is there some evidence of this of which none of us are aware?

Tickle's penchant for hyperbole is, if nothing else, amusing. I quote the following (p135) at length for your amusement:

"There is enormous energy in centripetal force, especially as it gathers more and more of its own kind into itself. Centripetal force, though, is usually envisioned by us as running downward, like the water in a bathtub drain. The gathering force of the new Christianity did the opposite. It ran upward and poured itself out, like some bursting geyser, in expanding waves of influence and nourishment. Where once the corners had met, now there was a swirling center, its centripetal force racing from quadrant to quadrant in every widening circles, picking up ideas and people from each, sweeping them into the center, mixing them up there, and then spewing them forth into a new way of being Christian, into a new way of being Church."

Gathering... running... pouring, bursting, expanding, nourishing! Swirling! Racing! WIDENING! SWEEPING! MIXING!!! SPEWING!!!!!!

If you want to know what reading The Great Emergence is like, imagine your newest married-in relative attempting to write your family history. She may have something to say and plenty to add in the future, but hearing a few of Uncle Joe's stories hardly qualifies her to write a definitive history of your family - or a map of its future for that matter. Tickle may well be truthful to a mainline perspective on historical events, and she may even have something to offer in predicting the trajectory of mainline denominations, but this book's target is primarily Evangelicals, with whom, as far as we now, she has little affinity or experience.

Unfortunately, the book is more an exercise in poetic impressionist prose than historical analysis or prophetic utterance. It is a short read, but in the end not really worth the time. This much history deserves a more thorough treatment than 165 pages in a small book.

Are we on the verge of some significant shifts in the Western Church? It's pretty safe to say that we are. It would be difficult to name another period in history where so many questions and debates and trends and issues were at play. But to draw a parallel between this time and the periods of upheaval of the past is a bit overblown.

I have not read any of Tickle's other books, but I've heard they're quite good. I have heard numerous interviews with her and enjoyed them. Tickle's thoughts, analysis, and prescriptions for our current age of upheaval are far narrower in scope than the book purports them to be. There is plenty of revision here masquerading as synopsis.
Had high hopes, but was disappointed  Feb 9, 2010
I was disappointed, as I hoped for more of a focus on the actual emergent/emerging movements in the church itself.
To say "The Virgin Birth is true because it is so beautiful, whether or not it happened" as she credits some emergents as saying, is to be nonsensical as far as I can tell.

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