I recently finished Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence and I must say it is one of the most important books around now.  She historically and culturally explains Christianity’s current path and place, and she even relates it to giant historical events in the past.  She shows how Christianity and Judaism fall into 500-year epochs that radically shift the way those religions are in the word (she also explains that Islam goes through this also, but it is 200 years later than this).

Tickle takes us back in time, explaining the epochs going backwards.  She shows us 500 years ago and The Great Reformation and she explains that in each of these shifting epochs, society must answer the question, “Where now is the authority?” The Great Reformation answered that question with Sola Scriptura.  She then moves us back 500 years before that to approximately 1000ce, and The Great Schism.  She explains certain doctrinal differences that brought the rise of The Vatican and the way it influenced Western Christianity even today.

She takes us 500 years before that to Gregory The Great and she describes the Fall of Rome, and the advent of Christian monasticism.  She shows how this period’s Christianity survives and flourishes in the monasteries, convents and abbeys through The Dark Ages.  In showing this, she then takes us back 500 years before that to Christ Himself.  She shows the massive impact and changes in Judaism and the birth of Christianity during this time.  She then notes the Jewish epochal shifts as 500 years prior finds the Babylonian Exile, and 500 years prior to that is the beginning of the Davidic Line of Kings.

Anyway, she explains these historical shifts and explains that as we ask, “Where now is the authority?” we are forced to examine 3 parts of our religion; spirituality, morality, and corporeality (the physical evidence of religion; buildings, writings even clothing).  She shows the historical events leading up to now that cause us to question Christianity’s morality, spirituality and corporeality.  She shows the way our post-modern world asks, “Where now is the authority?” to sola scriptura.  It’s very interesting to see the different things going on in western culture that affect our perception of God.

Tickle goes to these great lengths to try to show us what’s going on because she shows how each situation led to enormous bloodshed.  Her purpose and encouragement is to show us where we are and what we are going through so that we may avoid the massive bloodshed that affected the previous shifts (or ‘rummage sales’ as she calls them).  She writes to show us that what we are going through is in fact giant and epochal, and that it is a good thing (each previous shift has resulted in the split parts of Christianity being strengthened and spread or dispersed); she wants us to see that Christianity will become better, both traditional Christianity as well as Emergent Christianity.

Phyllis Tickle is an amazing writer.  Her book is fun to read, and is dripping with scholarly wisdom and research, though not boring.  She writes so positively, valuing and blessing each part of Christianity, and even mentions that the seeming-at-odds parts of Christianity cannot devalue each other.  I honestly think this is one of the most important books a Christian could read now.  I think every Christian should read it (and even people who aren’t Christian would benefit from it).  I highly recommend this book.