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The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (Emersion: Emergent Villages Resources for Communities of Faith) [Hardcover]

Phyllis Tickle
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Nov 2008
very five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale. Well, not exactly. But according to Phyllis Tickle, this is an accurate summary of the church's massive transitions over time. According to the pattern, we are living in such a time of change right now. Tickle calls it "the Great Emergence"--a time of dizzying upheaval and hopeful promise during which various sectors of today's church swirl into a great confluence at the center.

As an internationally renowned expert on religion, Phyllis Tickle has incisive perspective on the trends and transformations of our time. Here, she invites us into a conversation as she shares her reflections stemming from not only personal faith but also decades of observation and analysis. The result is a work that meets the challenge of chronicling a pivotal time in the church's history so we might better understand where we have been and what the future holds. Now available in trade paper with study guide.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (1 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801013135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801013133
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 15.4 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 453,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly, is the author of more than two dozen books on the subject. She is frequently quoted and interviewed in such media outlets as the New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Time, CNN, C-SPAN, and PBS. A lector and lay eucharistic minister in the Episcopal Church, she holds the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from both Berkeley School of Divinity at Yale University and from North Park University. She makes her home on a small farm in Tennessee. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book 1 Jun 2013
By JayneS
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gave me a lot to think about and was interesting in that it drew on the history of the church
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  97 reviews
220 of 236 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but informative 26 Sep 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Phyllis Tickle's newest book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, arrived yesterday. At 172 pages, this small but elegant volume (aren't all Tickle's books elegant?) both informs and disappoints. Tickle takes on the daunting task of reviewing the major turning points or `Great' events in the life of the Christian church. Her contention is that every 500 years or so the church goes through a `great' transformation.

Counting back from the present, the Great Reformation took place about 500 years ago -- 1517 to be exact. Prior to that, The Great Schism occurred when the Eastern and Western churches split over icons and statues. Five hundred years earlier, Gregory the Great blessed and encouraged the monastic orders which would preserve the Christian faith through the Dark Ages. Of course, 500 years before that, we're back in the first century and the time of the apostles. Today, Tickle contends, the church in in the throes of The Great Emergence.

But, the Great Emergence is not just religious. It is also cultural, technological, and sociological. Of course, context shaped each of the other `great' church transformations as well, and this time is no different. Tickle takes the reader on an overflight of church history, world events, and charts the shifts in the center of authority in the life of the church. In the Great Reformation, of course, the cry of authority was sola scriptura - only scripture. Tickle traces the diminution of the authoritative place of scripture in culture and Christianity from its heady beginnings in the Reformation to its marginalization in the current postmodern era. The book provides thoughtful tracing of influential elements as Tickle leads the reader on a quest for a center of authority.

But, while Tickle's insights and examples provide clues to the transformative forces in our culture and society, the book disappoints when we arrive at the present. Tickle sees all denominations, all churches, all movements in the quadrant of Christianity -- conservative, liturgical, renewalist, and social justice -- as converging toward the center. Granted, there are those denominations and groups that cling to their identities in a kind of resistant pushback, but Tickle's vision is that we are all being swept up into the next great moment of the church -- The Great Emergence. Every church, not just the cool emerging church types, are part of The Great Emergence. I'm not sure that is happening, but I could have lived with Tickle's opinion except for some examples she uses.

Tickle uses John Wimber and the Vineyard churches as an example of this new kind of emergence. She correctly credits Quakers -- Richard Foster, Parker Palmer, etc -- with great influence on the spirituality of the Great Emergence. I might add Elton Trueblood to that list, as mentor to Foster, but Tickle doesn't. But, in her citing of John Wimber, she goes off track. She credits Wimber with being a "founder" of the Church Growth department at Fuller, and calls Peter Wagner his colleague. I was present at Fuller during Wagner's tenure, and I was enrolled in the DMin program in church growth. I attended one of the Signs and Wonders classes, heard Wimber speak, and got a sense of his idea of `power evangelism.'

Wimber was not a founder of the church growth movement. He was an adjunct faculty member at Fuller. Dr. Donald McGavran was the founder, Peter Wagner was his protege. I met McGavran once, although he had retired when I was enrolled at Fuller. Tickle misunderstands Wimber's approach, and also overestimates the Quaker influence on Wimber. Wimber left the traditional church in which he had become a Christian because he wanted to `do the stuff' -- heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and so on. I also attended the Vineyard church that Wimber headed, and it was no Quaker meeting. So, at the end of the book, Tickle disappoints. Simple fact-checking could have offered a corrective to her inclusion of Wimber.

While Wimber did create a powerful new church community called Vineyard, he used signs and wonders as power evangelism to win people to Christ. All of that was very much part of the church growth movement that believed in attractional evangelism. Wimber's brand just happened to be one of the more interesting versions of church growth techniques being used to gather people. She also wrongly attributes the concept of bounded sets and centered sets to Wimber when actually it was Paul Hiebert, the missiologist, who used those concepts to illustrate new approaches to understanding the place of persons in the Kingdom of God.

Would I recommend the book? A qualified yes is in order here. The book succeeds in all but the last chapter. If you want a great overview of where Christianity has been, what the influences were that got it there, and where it might be headed, Tickle's book provides a good, concise overview. My disappointment was that it fails to see clearly the way forward, and misinterprets some of the church's most recent experiements, such as Vineyard. But, Tickle is an elegant writer, and the book is a valuable resource to those aware of its short-comings.
60 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why buy another Phyllis Tickle book? Because this one is a concise overview of her work, great for groups. 9 Sep 2008
By David Crumm - Published on
If you know the name "Phyllis Tickle," then you probably already own one or more of her books. You may own copies of her guides to recovering the tradition of fixed-hour prayer, such as "Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours" or "The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime (Tickle, Phyllis)." You may be a fan of her "Prayer Is a Place" or may have studied her "The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord with Reflections by Phyllis Tickle" with a small group.

So, why buy another Tickle book?

The answer is that this short volume is conceived as really a summation and introduction to the vast sweep of Phyllis' work over the past decade. You'll find here her concise overview of 500-year cycles of religious change. You'll find here her system for sorting out the impact of various religious movements -- and the convergence of movements back toward a spiritual core in Christianity.

For a small book, though, this text deals with very big issues. While primarily a Christian book, there are important insights here for anyone interested in changing global culture and values.

This book is custom-made for small-group study.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great conversation piece for those engaging in the emergent church 4 Mar 2009
By - Published on
It's no secret that change is in the air. The evidence is found throughout our culture, felt in our economy and experienced in technology. Some of us are struggling to keep up with these changes, as they come so fast and from so many directions. Nowhere is that more apparent than within the church. As many Christians are struggling to reconcile what they're seeing and experiencing with their faith, they are asking hard questions of what it all means and where we're headed.

In the midst of so much change and the resulting angst, Phyllis Tickle offers a provocative look at where we are in history as people of faith in order to point to what's to come. As the founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly and a respected authority on religion in America, she recently penned THE GREAT EMERGENCE: How Christianity is Changing and Why. The book offers an overview of church history in which she suggests that every 500 years, people of faith have a rummage sale of sorts in which they reassess Christianity. She writes: "About every five hundred years the empowered structures of institutional Christianity, whatever they may be at the time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur."

Tickle is quick to point out that this emergence is not just religious but blends effortlessly into all aspects of society --- technological, cultural, scientific, even sociological. She points to shifts in church history, world history and technological breakthroughs as well as subtle but significant changes in the modern family to make her case. She argues quite persuasively that while the Great Reformation responded to the cry of sola scriptura, only scripture, that the Great Emergence is asking a similar question: Where do we get our authority from?

When that mighty upheaval happens, she says history shows us that there are always at least three consistent results: a more vital form of Christianity emerges; the organized expression of Christianity becomes more pure; and the church ends up with two new expressions rather than just one. She gently reminds readers that we're not just at the hinge of a 500-year period, we're also the direct product of one.

While the analysis of where we've been is swift in this short volume, the suggestion of where we might be going will leave many readers wanting. The conclusion is so open-ended, the question must be asked if anything can be concluded at all. But maybe that's the point of the emergence we're in. The dust is still kicked up and where it will settle is yet to be determined. Each of us will play a role in the outcome whether we realize it or not.

Overall, THE GREAT EMERGENCE is a great conversation piece for those engaging in the emergent church. Those who read it will be better educated and equipped to talk about the church in today's ever-changing culture.

--- Reviewed by Margaret Oines
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why 30 Dec 2008
By Eric Williams - Published on
The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. Phyllis Tickle. 176 pages. 2008.

My wife picked this book up for at the library on a whim. It sat on the shelf for about a week before I picked it up and read it.

The book is really divided into two sections. The first section is an excellent history of Christianity since about 500 AD. The history is brief, about 100 pages. The serious religious scholar will be disappointed because the focus is not on theological intricacies. The focus is on the general moves and its effects. Too often in seminaries the focus is narrowly theological and the wider context is lost. The author does a very good job of tracing out and extending the impact on society and society's reverse impact on theology. The strongest aspect here concerns the impact of sola scriptura and its reverberations. The context and effects was eye opening to me. I had not thought much of sola scriptura except in the theological bent I was trained in at seminary. The wider echoes are very thought provoking.

Because the author is going through almost 2,000 years in 100 pages there are many omissions which some readers will get hung up on. The focus here is not the details and pet niches but rather a generalization ... a big picture view of movements. The focus is also not on theological intricacies. This lack of nit-picking though is a great strength of the book.

The author traces various impacts of theology and society and the interplay in 500 year chunks. Sometimes these 500 year culminations make sense and a few of them seem contrived. The biggest contrivance is the current, "Great Emergence". The second part of the book is based on this notion of a Great Emergence.

I actually do not really understand what the Great Emergence is. The weakest aspect of the book is that the author writes from a point of assumption that the Great Emergence does exist and that everyone understands that it exists and what it is. To me it is still a mystery. Though I do admit that Christianity in America (and this is the decided focus of the book!) is going through a change away from the group and towards an individual version. This does present challenges to several denominations though it is really nothing new with in the Christian experience.

Perhaps the effects of the automobile and the changing dynamic of the family are of more important than many in standard denominations realize. All told this is a good book to read in the first 100 pages or so. It is more of an anthropological approach than a philosophical approach. It provides fresh insight into movements with in Christendom.
102 of 144 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Great Assimilation (or) Resistance is futile 26 Feb 2009
By Richard M. Wright - Published on
"Emergent" Christianity resembles the Borg (of Star Trek) to the extent that Phyllis Tickle and her book truly are representative. With one important flaw which I will mention later.

A full and critical review article of The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle would take a long time and a lot of space. The book is so problematic that one hardly knows where to begin. Like performing an autopsy on a brontosaurus. So without supplying all the appropriate citations and evidence - and whoever reads this will be entirely right to complain - I must summarize(!) for now my various points of critique.

Let me also share that I do not wish to demonize(?) Phyllis Tickle. I am sure she is intelligent sweet sincere knowledgeable and does not write from ill motives. Indeed I first read this book with positive anticipation. The senior pastor heard her speak at a conference and spoke highly of her and her presentation and of her book. I trust him and value his opinion. I assumed "I am going to enjoy this I look forward to what she has to say".

By the second chapter I had red flags going up in my mind. After the last footnote of the last chapter I could only conclude the book was truly dreadful. I can only wonder what a competent and respected theologian and/or church historian would have to say about it.

One key question is "does she describe these social/cultural/religious shifts to which the church must respond? or does she believe in these changes?" I am convinced she does not describe but rather advocates. Where she says culture is taking us - that is where she believes the Christian movement should go. Without supplying all the evidence for this conclusion let me briefly suggest the reader observe carefully the language she uses to describe various trends and theological stances and religious groups. Notice what the assumed "center" is to which she compares everything else.

To prepare for a brief conversation about the book in staff meeting I jotted down a quick list of "problems" on the back inside page.

1. Her "this dramatic shift happens every 500 years" historical schema does not hold up. Can we really say 500 A.D. was that much more significant than 400? 600? 800? What of the Ecumenical Councils? I think a strong case can be made for the edict of Constantine more than Pope Gregory the Great. Can we really say 1000 A.D. was the point of dramatic shift? Historical changes are rather gradual. According to Kallistos Ware in The Orthodox Church 1054 A.D. marked when East and West formally renounced each other - but they continued in relationship until the 13th century and the sack of Constantinople. Granted Tickle has a reply: "preformation and postformation". The big shift was coming. The big shift continues to work itself out. But this strikes me as a cheap convenience. Such a schema allows one to choose nearly any point in history and say "here is the dramatic change!" and then explain away big changes before as "preformation" and big changes after as "postformation". I will give her the Reformation - yes indeed a dramatic shift around 1500 A.D. (And if big shifts really occur more or less on schedule - then it is not 2017 A.D. yet.)

*This 500 year pattern is crucial to her thesis.* If such dramatic changes occur every 500 years and are in a sense inevitable so the Church just needs to accept them as such and adapt/change with them - such as now around 2000 A.D. But if there is no such pattern than can be defended historically - there is nothing "inevitable" about the current shifts she describes (and well - one of the few good things about her book).

2. She describes theological positions poorly. How often she equates sola scriptura, scriptura sola with inerrancy and literalism. But this is patently absurd. I know plenty of people who believe that the Bible is the primary or even sole authority for Christian faith and practice who do not necessarily assume inerrancy or especially literalism. At best - and this may be another one of the few good things she accomplishes - she describes how the Bible no longer is assumed to be a book that answers many of the deep questions that human beings have.

3. It is clear she has no use for the Bible as a source of authority - except insofar as we interpret it according to our own mercurial and protean understands of what "the Holy Spirit says to us".

4. She sets up almost incomprehensible metaphors which she controls. She declares which part of the metaphor one view is and which part of the metaphor is some group - and then the metaphor neatly demonstrates how that view loses and this group prevails. I like metaphors and use them frequently myself - but metaphors have limits. They describe but do not determine. I submit that Tickle uses metaphors to determine. "Sorry but your view/group is this part of the metaphor that gets changed or swept away by the inevitable rhythms of history".

5. Her "imperious/imperial point of view". She has it all worked out. Her people are on the right side - the side of culture and history. Our people - and here I think the "losers" in her thesis are clearly those of a more "conservative" Christian bent - are doomed.

6. She defines and then employs terms rather arbitrarily. What exactly does she mean by "corporeality" as opposed to "morality" and "spirituality"? She sets orthopraxy and orthodoxy against each other (more or less - there is one moment where she moderates this binary dichotomy) and throws sexual morality under "orthodoxy" rather than orthopraxy. You gotta be kidding me.

7. She clearly assumes that the Christian church does not only change how it communicates (form) but what it believes and practices (content) according to changes in the surrounding culture. Shifts in culture determine not only the form but the content of Christian mission. (I acknowledge that we may ask fairly, Does she describe or advocate this point? I submit careful reading indicates that she advocates.)

8. Even this seems to be a contradiction. Toward the beginning of her book she seems to say the Church must change its structures (the "rummage sale" metaphor - which is actually another good thing she offers) but quickly it becomes clear that no she also has in mind its theology and practice. When the Virgin Birth (whatever the merits/details of that teaching) is true because it is "beautiful" not because it happened (or not) - surely that is advocating a fundamental shift in content. She does not just want the form/expression of the Christian church to change - she wants its theology to change.

9. Tickle marginalizes dissent. This is particularly evident on pages 136-137 in which people who do not buy into the "emergence" are reactors who are part of a general backlash and - notice her metaphor! - are retreating to the corners of her square diagram (137).

10. It is hypocritical for Tickle to sympathize with the current leadership and direction of the Episcopal Church. And also frequently describe "emergence" as breaking up authoritarian hierarchies. But the Episcopal Church for all its theological liberalism is indisputably becoming more authoritarian. The current Presiding Bishop tries to act like a supreme dictator rather than prima inter pares who happens to preside over House of Bishops.

11. She defines words in such a way as to privilege the viewpoint with which she sympathizes. Notice that when she sets theonomy against orthonomy (which clearly she associates with emergents - see 2nd to last paragraph of page 149). Orthonomy is a kind of "correct harmoniousness" or beauty (149). Aw shucks. Which means theonomy is what? Neither beautiful nor harmonious?

12. She gives way too much credit to emergents for being a vital and growing group. Christianity has grown "exponentially" in the hands of emergents?!? (121) If emergent Christianity is more or less liberal Christianity (and this is what I think she assumes although it is not entirely clear or consistent) then the statement is just nuts. Liberal Christianity - right or wrong - is dying rapidly. (To be fair conservative evangelical Christianity is not growing either - but it is not imploding at quite the same rate.) Where is Christianity truly growing "exponentially"? In the Global South thank you very much. And Global South Christians are not terribly liberal or emergent.

13. She says the new shift will get rid of the "Hellenization" of Christianity - which seems to mean more traditional/conservative Christian theology is very Greek and not very Hebrew/mystical. She is half right about this. But it is not clear that a more "Hebrew and mystical" Christianity necessarily means we suddenly say "the Resurrection is true because it is beautiful - and it does not matter whether it happened or not". Moreover Eastern Orthodox Christianity is explicitly non-Hellenized. (Now whether that is true or not we can debate.) So here you have a non-Hellenized and very mystical form of Christianity - and it is again neither terribly liberal or emergent.

14. The whole book assumes a Western and Protestant point of view. Where is the "Church" going? How should "it" change? Why because modern Western culture and society are changing! Where does this leave the majority of Christians who are neither Western nor Protestant? The geographical center of Christianity is now in Africa. Africa! Should African and Asian Christians read this book and say "oh gosh yeah we sure need to change - I mean look at all these changes in modern American culture and society"? Why should the majority of Christians go where American Protestantism wants to go?

15. Tickle predicts a movement toward:

... a system of ecclesial authority that waits upon the Spirit and rests in the interlacing lives of Bible-listening, Bible-honoring believers (153) [that "rewrites Christian theology" - her words!] into something far more Jewish, more paradoxical, more narrative, and more mystical than anything the Church has had for the last seventeen or eighteen hundred years. (162)

Tell me - having thoroughly demolished sola scriptura (and I would partly agree with that - partly!) and gotten rid of the Bible in favor of how individuals sense the Holy Spirit (with which I almost entirely disagree) - how can one speak of people who are "Bible-listening, Bible-honoring"? She must be joking.

I am sorry but this book strike me as almost entirely boilerplate religious liberalism. And its goal is to make us all stop resisting the changes we see because they are inevitable. The Church must follow culture/society.

By the way - if you think I am too hard on this book I suggest you take a look at the last footnote to the last chapter (164-165). I wonder how many people get to see what can only be described as the most bizarre paragraph in the entire work. See - the Great Emergence is also a bi-millennial phenomenon. The beginning to Christ the emphasis is on "God the Father". From Christ to now on "Christ the Son". From now to around 4000 A.D. (or CE which Tickle prefers - so do I although one gets tired of explaining it to people) the "primacy in worship and in human affairs of God the Spirit". And yes indeed 4000-5000 will be the "consummate and glorious union of all three parts of the Godhead within space/time".

That is just nuts. A healthy doctrine - and yeah I know Tickle is hard on things like "dogma" and "doctrine" but tough cookies - of the Holy Trinity does not allow anyone to say that Christ (or the not-yet-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity who is the Son) was not really around until... But especially that there has not been an emphasis on the Holy Spirit until now? Is she kidding?!? Hello - book of Acts? Pauline theology? The last two thousand years have been two millennia of the Holy Spirit thank you very much. And no Orthodox theologian could ever take this seriously - nor should they.

If Tickle's book is what Emergents are really about and where really they are going - then I cannot join them. Instead of selling me on the "emergence" Tickly has unintentionally turned me against it.
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