Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)




The problem that I will be addressing in this dissertation is the chasm that is growing between the evangelical church and the emerging church pertaining specifically to the epistemological differences between the two. My hope is to provide a theory of knowledge that will bridge the gap in such a way that it will preserve what I believe to be the virtues of both sides of the discussion. I will propose an epistemology that will hold to both the more evangelical commitment of an objective reality, while at the same time honestly facing the limitations to the modern quest for certainty. My goal is to demonstrate that an embracing of a modest epistemology will yield the fruit that is required for the church to effectively communicate the gospel to an emerging generation. Chapter one focuses specifically on an issue of controversy that occurred at my church. The issue has to do with women's roles in leadership. As we approached this issue, I began to realize that much of what I was proposing for the emergent church in a new epistemology happened to pertain explicitly to the situation in which we found ourselves. I use this issue as a launching point to demonstrate that the epistemological conclusions that I suggest pertain to far more than the issues of the emergent church. And yet, effectively applying this epistemology to such a problem is an indication of what the world is longing for and what I truly believe it means to be an emergent church. In chapter 2, I share a bit of my own story in light of my own transition away from a modern, fundamentalist background, but not without caution. In my experience with the emergent church, I find much that is quite liberating and restorative, and yet begin to see some pitfalls that must be avoided if we are to present a compelling answer for the reality of the hope of the gospel. In chapter 3, I seek to understand the reality of living with uncertainty. My goal is to make a distinction between uncertainty and agnosticism, and to show that uncertainty, in reality, is an indication of greater depth and room to grow. It is not a preference for ignorance or darkness, but quite the opposite. The admission of uncertainty is to acknowledge that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Chapter 4 balances this uncertainty with the reality that there is truly something objective that is bigger than our own beliefs and conceptions. Reality is what we bump into when we are wrong. What does it mean to live in light of this reality? How do our claims for belief match up to this reality? In chapter 5, I explore the epistemology we've inherited from modernism in Cartesian foundationalism as well as what it has evolved into in the coherentism embraced by many of the emergent scholars. I seek to find a middle ground between the two in a moderate foundationalism that acknowledges our limitations to certainty and yet preserves our commitment to a correspondence theory of truth. Chapter 6 is an exploration of the philosophy of Michae.1 Polanyi. In this chapter, my hope is to use his understanding of personal knowledge to bridge the gap between objectivity and subjectivity, and to demonstrate an epistemology that will allow for discovery and forward movement. It is in Polanyi's philosophy that I believe we find the forward thinking and hope befitting of our gospel message. Chapter 7 focuses on the incomprehensibility of God. The goal for this chapter is to display that God's character and depth are not ever to be fully grasped, but instead will always draw us further into the depths of Himself. The vastness of God's character provides comfort that He is not the result of our own minds and imaginations, but is a mind and being beyond complete humanity's comprehension. Chapter 8 looks at the book of 1 Corinthians as a model of a similar sort of epistemology being laid out by Paul. The reality is that a modest epistemology that embraces both unity and diversity is nothing new. In this chapter I seek to identify Paul's commitments to orthodox truth, diversity, humility, and above all, charity. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 seek to identify the character required to carry out this epistemological vision, and to pragmatically spell out just what it will look like. I examine ways that my own church is grappling with the manifesting of this epistemology, including the symposium that we hosted regarding the initial issue of women in ministry. I conclude the dissertation with values that I believe are derivative from the modest epistemology I have suggested and provide an answer that is being sought after by the emerging, post-evangelical movement.

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