Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Emerging Church - pt. 2
...by Pastor Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-Teacher

Our worldview will determine how we process information and in turn what we believe. In theory, at least, Christians should possess a biblical worldview shaped by the study of Scripture. In actuality, too often our philosophy of living (worldview) is formed by other forces around us including our culture. This is an accusation often cast at the evangelical church by the emerging church leaders. They say that evangelicalism has been shaped by modernity – that what we believe is not drawn so much from Scripture as it is from the Enlightenment. This indictment should not be cast aside too quickly; there is some truth to it. We must ever be careful that we trace our beliefs to Scripture and not take detours constructed by men. But having read the specific allegations coming from the emerging camp, I find that most do not hold water and are thrown out more to put us on the defensive and justify their beliefs than to accurately portray the teachings of the conservative church. When the smoke has cleared we discover that our fundamental doctrines find their basis in Scripture after all. But the same cannot be said for emergent teachings. Their doctrines have been more than tainted; they have been fashioned by postmodernity. Let’s take a look through the lens of emergent philosophy at some of the major doctrines.

Emergent Doctrine
In General

Al Mohler, theologian and president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, provides this scathing comment:

The worldview of postmodernism – complete with an epistemology that denies the possibility of or need for propositional truth – affords the movement an opportunity to hop, skip and jump throughout the Bible and the history of Christian thought in order to take whatever pieces they want from one theology and attach them, like doctrinal post-it notes, to whatever picture they would want to draw.

Most emergent church leaders claim fidelity to the Scriptures as well as the historic doctrines and even creeds of the church. Sounds good on the surface – but then they force these things through the filter of postmodern deconstruction and what comes out are distorted and unrecognizable understandings of theology. Dan Kimball says that the church must “deconstruct, reconstruct, and redefine biblical terms.” Brian McLaren would agree, saying that our old theological systems are flawed and something new is needed.

I meet people along the way who model for me, each in a different way, what a new kind of Christian might look like. They differ in many ways, but they generally agree that the old show is over, the modern jig is up, and it’s time for something radically new…. Either Christianity itself is flawed, failing, untrue, or our modern, Western, commercialized, industrial strength version is in need of a fresh look, a serious revision.

Rob Bell chips in to make certain we understand that these men are talking about more than methodology, “By this I do not mean cosmetic, superficial changes like better lights and music, sharper graphics, and new methods with easy-to-follow steps. I mean theology: the beliefs about God, Jesus, the Bible, salvation, the future. We must keep reforming the way the Christian faith is defined, lived and explained.”

How far is Bell willing to take all of this? Which doctrines can be changed, altered or even eliminated before we no longer have the Christian faith? Apparently nothing is off limits. While personally claiming to affirm historic Christian theology, Bell writes that it would not bother him to discover that we have been wrong all along concerning the basic elements of the faith. For example, if it could be proven “that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry… and that the virgin birth was just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in…. Could you still be a Christian?” Bell doesn’t see a problem. As a matter of fact, if our faith depends on such doctrines “then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it?”

What doctrines does Bell regard as dispensable? In this brief statement alone he sees as superfluous the virgin birth, the incarnation, the hypostatic union of Christ and the inspiration of Scripture (since the Gospel writers lied about the person of Christ). Of course, like dominos, as these doctrines fall they take others with them, not the least of which would be the substitutionary atonement since a mere man could not die for our sins. In one stroke of the pen Bell has undermined the whole Christian faith, but he sees it as a non-issue. To Bell, and other emergent leaders, Jesus is not the way and the truth, if by that we mean He is the embodiment of truth and the only way to God. No, to these men the “way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.” We could continue to live the “Christian life” without the truth of Scripture. We could still love God and be a Christian, because what we believe is not important. The only question is, “Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to life?” It is not about what we believe, Bell would insist. “Perhaps a better question than who’s right, is who’s living rightly?”

McLaren reinforces this major tenant of emergent “theology:” “We place less emphasis on whose lineage, rites, doctrines, structures, and terminology are right and more emphasis on whose actions, service, outreach, kindness, and effectiveness are good.” “A turn from doctrines to practices” is one of the four major legs that the emerging church stands on, according to McLaren. Being, rather than believing, is a major component in the emergent philosophy. The New Testament, on the other hand, does not sacrifice one for the other. We are called in Scripture to live godly lives, but first we must believe (John 1:12; Roman 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). Christlike living is a fruit of salvation, not the cause. We can “be” moral and decent people and not be Christians, but we cannot deny or ignore the true historic, biblical person and work of Jesus Christ and be saved. The emergent church has turned this truth on its head. Mark Oestreicher, president of Youth Specialties, makes these comments in The Emerging Church which are not only dangerously close to a denial of the gospel itself but actually cross the line:
Does a little dose of Buddhism thrown into a belief system somehow kill off the Christian part? My Buddhist cousin, except for her unfortunate inability to embrace Jesus, is a better “Christian” (based on Jesus’ descriptions of what a Christian does) than almost every Christian I know. If we are using Matthew 26 as a guide, she’d be a sheep; and almost every Christian I know personally would be a goat.

A Few Specifics
The doctrine of God: Even though Jesus has come to reveal and explain the Father (John 1:14, 18), “God,” McLaren insists, “can’t ever really be an object to be studied.” To emergent leaders theology is not a matter of knowing God but a quest for beauty and truth.

The doctrine of original sin: McLaren writes, “Many of us have grown uneasy with this understanding of ‘the fall’ (and with it an exaggerated understanding of the doctrine of ‘original sin’). We are suspicious that it has become a kind of Western Neo-Platonic invasive species that ravages the harmonious balance inherent in the enduring Jewish concepts of creation as God’s world.”

The substitutionary atonement: One of the characters in McLaren’s book The Story We Find Ourselves In goes beyond questioning the purpose and need of Christ’s death for us, or even the unfairness of one dying for others. “That just sounds like one more injustice in the cosmic equation. It sounds like divine child abuse. You know?”

The TULIP: You don’t have to be a Calvinist to find McLaren’s deconstruction of the famous TULIP ridiculous. The acronym has historically stood for total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. McLaren says he too is a Calvinist but he comes up with his own TULIP: Triune love, unselfish election, limitless reconciliation, inspiring grace and passionate, persistent saints.

When deconstructing and reconstructing takes place at this level it is not hard to understand the difficulty involved in communication. As Al Mohler wrote recently on his blog,

McLaren claims to uphold “consistently, unequivocally and unapologetically” the historic creeds of the church, specifically the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. At the same time, however, he denies that truth should be articulated in propositional form, and thus undercuts his own “unequivocal” affirmation.

The Doctrine of Hell
So odious is the doctrine of hell to the emergent community that McLaren devoted his latest book, The Last Word and the Word After That, to the subject. McLaren introduces his subject with an exaggerated distortion of the evangelical position,
God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, and if you don’t love God back and cooperate with God’s plans in exactly the prescribed way, God will torture you with unimaginable abuse, forever – that sort of thing. Human parents who ‘love’ their children with these kinds of implied ultimatums tend to produce the most dysfunctional families… (emphasis his).

If the idea of hell is so ridiculous then why did Jesus teach it? McLaren concocts a fanciful view that the Jews during the intertestamental period wove together the mythological views of the Mesopotamian, the Egyptian, the Zoroastrian and Persian religions and created hell. When Jesus came on the scene the Pharisees were using hell as a club to keep the people in line. Through the threat of hell the Pharisees could motivate sinners to stop sinning and then perhaps God would send the Messiah along with His kingdom. Jesus takes the Pharisees’ club and turns it on them. Jesus didn’t really believe in or endorse hell, as we understand it; He just used it as a “truth-depicting model.” Jesus used hell “to threaten those who excluded sinners and other undesirables, showing that God’s righteousness was compassionate and merciful, that God’s kingdom welcomed the undeserving, that for God there was no out-group.”

This convoluted argumentation leads to there being “no out-group.” If there is no out-group, does that mean McLaren is a universalist? While he flirts with this possibility stating, “Universalism is not as bankrupt of biblical support as some suggest,” he never firmly lights on it. But without question McLaren does hold to the doctrine of inclusivism which teaches that while salvation has been made possible by Jesus Christ, it is not necessary to know who Jesus is or the precise nature of what He has done. Emergent church leaders follow the reasoning of missionary theologian Lesslie Newbigin’s position concerning Christ and salvation which runs along these lines: Exclusive in the sense of affirming the unique truth of the revelation of Jesus Christ, but not in the sense of denying the possibility of salvation to those outside the Christian faith; inclusive in the sense of refusing to limit the saving grace of God to Christian, but not in the sense of viewing other religions as salvific. In other words, salvation is not exclusively found in the gospel, therefore there are saved Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and so forth. Soon hell becomes a mute issue because no one seems to be going there anyway.

The Doctrine of Salvation
The doctrine of hell is determined to a large degree by the all-important understanding of the gospel. The emergent leaders see a wide gate opening to eternal life. “It bothers me to use exclusive and Jesus in the same sentence. Everything about Jesus’ life and message seemed to be about inclusion, not exclusion,” writes McLaren (emphasis his). He adds later in his discussion, “Maybe God’s plan is an opt-out plan, not an opt-in one. If you want to stay out of the party, you can. But it’s hard for me to imagine somebody being more stubbornly ornery than God is gracious.” The clear implication is that we are all “in” unless we want “out.” But the next question is (and this is where it gets tricky) in or out of what? The short answer is “the kingdom of God.” But the short answer leads to a long explanation that leaves us scratching our heads (which is appropriate since the emergent people prize mystery over clarity).

The gospel, according to the emergent thinkers, is not about individual conversion. It is not about how to get people “in.” It is about “how the world will be saved from human sin and all that goes with it...” This sounds close to the mark until we examine more thoroughly what is meant by the terminology. Their concept of “world” does not simply involve humans who don’t believe in Christ. The emergent gospel is not just bringing unbelievers to the Savior for the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of God’s righteousness. There is more, as Rob Bell informs us,
Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker. This has huge implications for how people present the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can come into our hearts. But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems. God’s desire is to restore all of it.

McLaren continues the thought: “Is getting individual souls into heaven the focal point of the gospel? I’d have to say no, for any number of reasons. Don’t you think that God is concerned about saving the whole world?... It is the redemption of the world, the stars, the animals, the planets, the whole show.” You see, “The church exists for the world – to be God’s catalyst so that the world can receive and enter God’s kingdom more and more.” When asked to define the gospel, Neo (the main philosophical character in McLaren’s novels) replies that it could not be reduced to a little formula, other than “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Narrowing this definition is not easy, but McLaren gives some insight when he writes,
I am a Christian because I believe that, in all these ways, Jesus is saving the world. By the “world” I mean planet Earth and all life on it, because left to ourselves, un-judged, un-forgiven, and un-taught, we will certainly destroy this planet and its residents.

As we are discovering, the emerging church is very concerned with the planet, with the ecosystems, pollution and the environment; so much so that apparently in some sense Christ died for the physical planet and it is the job of the follower of Christ to help restore and protect this world. He is also troubled with injustice. McLaren asks, “And could our preoccupation with individual salvation from hell after death distract us from speaking prophetically about injustice in our world today?” Emergent leaders have a deep concern that if we are preoccupied with who is “in” and who is “out,” who is going to heaven and who is not, we will ignore present physical needs of the planet and social issues like injustice, poverty and AIDS.

McLaren argues, “When Matthew, Mark, and Luke talk about the Kingdom of God, it’s always closely related to social justice…. The gospel of the kingdom is about God’s will being done on earth for everybody, but we’re interested in getting away from earth entirely as individuals, and into heaven instead.” Martin Luther King is given by McLaren as an example of one who had the right gospel emphasis. They fault the evangelical church for being too wrapped up in eternity to care about what is happening right now on planet earth and with being too anxious over who is saved from sin to notice who is suffering from man’s inhumanity to man.

It does not seem to be an option to the emergent church that both social injustices and eternal redemption can be and have been attended to by God’s people. But, despite opinions to the contrary, the priority of Scripture is on man’s relationship to God. It is because men are alienated from God that they mistreat one another. The spiritually redeemed and transformed person should and will care about social sins. But, again, the gospel is about man’s alienation from God and what He has done through Christ to reconcile us to Himself (Romans 5:6-11), not about the ozone layer and elimination of poverty. Neither Jesus nor the apostles made these latter things the focus of their ministries; it was the reconciliation of souls to God that was at the heart of their message. Once we begin to draw our gospel from the culture, no matter what culture that might be, we have altered the true gospel. Emergent leaders are not wrong to be concerned about the environment and social injustice; they are wrong to confuse it with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

53 comments:

scripturesearcher said...

PLEASE! PLEASE!

Tell me that much that is being pawned off as marks of the emerging church is only an ugly, horrible NIGHTMARE!

2 Timothy chapters 3 and 4

Breuss Wane said...

Uh-oh. Gilley mentioned McLaren and Kimball in the same essay. I can hear it now. I'll bet, despite the fact that McLaren wrote the forward to Kimball's book (an implicit endorsement both ways), some E.C.er's will protest that McLaren doesn't speak for Kimball. We just don't get it. We need to do our homework. We need to visit Kimball's church.:-)

Thanks for the clarity Gary (and Steve).

Breuss Wane said...

I can't help but wonder whether the responses we are reading from the E.C. (not merely to this article, but to the various that Steve has posted on the E.C.) mirror those of liberals responding to Machen, Murray, Vos, Warfield, and Van Til in the early-mid 20th century.

How much does the E.C. polemic itself mirror the deconstructionists of the late 1800's-early/mid 1900's?

Saabinmike said...

"The emergent church has turned this truth on its head. Mark Oestreicher, president of Youth Specialties, makes these comments in The Emerging Church which are not only dangerously close to a denial of the gospel itself but actually cross the line:

Does a little dose of Buddhism thrown into a belief system somehow kill off the Christian part? My Buddhist cousin, except for her unfortunate inability to embrace Jesus, is a better “Christian” (based on Jesus’ descriptions of what a Christian does) than almost every Christian I know. If we are using Matthew 26 as a guide, she’d be a sheep; and almost every Christian I know personally would be a goat."

When that is written, its not about denying the gospel, its about questioning how the average Christian lives up to hat we are instructed to do. Or at least that is my take on it.

I'll post on here from time to time becasue you folks challenge me to know and learn my stuff, but I will say this, the elitist atmosphere and haughty tones taken in the comments do nothing to enamour people to your position.

As an off-topic from reading your post about Spurgeon and calvinism vs. arminian. I would like to hear what you have to say about James 5:19-20. "My dear brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back again, you can be sure that the one who brings that person back will save that sinner from death and bring about the forgivness of many sins."

Thanks!

donsands said...

"a little Buddhism thrown into .."

"Every Word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him.
Add not unto His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar." Prov. 30:5-6

JG Lenhart said...

The current Christian worldview is in three parts: God created the heavens and the earth, man fell, Jesus died for our sins. We can't extend this worldview any farther without running into contradictions.

Post Modernism is not new. It was all the rage in the 20's and 30's. Also in the 60's and 70's. However, the alternative seems to be fundamentalism/traditionalism which reigned in the 40's and 50's as well as the 80's and 90's.

Don't we want to break this cycle? What you have called "modernism" is actually misapplied modernism to traditionalism.

If correct modern TOOLS are applied the RESULT is a non-contradictory worldview that gives the answer to all the issues that have divided us. Modernism isn't the answer, it is the tool to help us intentionally arrive at a much deeper understanding.

Let's face it, it is hypocritical to say post moderns are abstract when traditionalists can't explain grace, truth, life, or love (for example) in a non-contradictory manner. When I speak to groups I illustrate all of this with the Henderson 4000:

I love to tell people how much I love my new Henderson 4000. I relate to them how it makes my life easier, gives me more free time, and makes me happy. When an audience member asks, “What is a Henderson 4000?” I respond by relating more of the benefits: it is convenient, it comes in many colors, it doesn’t need a lot of maintenance, etc.

This exchange will continue until someone tells me he doesn't think a Henderson 4000 exists. At this point, I will ask him why he doesn't believe in a Henderson 4000. The typical response is, “Because you can’t explain what it is!”

At this point, I like to establish two facts. First, I get agreement that the more I talked about the Henderson 4000 in an abstract fashion, the less likely he believed in it. Secondly, I show the only way I could get someone to believe in the existence of the Henderson 4000 would be on a purely emotional basis. It is at this point I ask the audience, "How is the Henderson 4000 any different from God and salvation?"

Again, are we interested in telling post moderns why they are wrong or are we interested in showing them what is right? Are we interested in taking this discussion deeper or are we just going to regurgitate the thoughts or failures like Spurgeon...

...I mean, if his thoughts were the right answers, why do we still have post moderns?

nick said...

her·e·tic
1 : a dissenter from established religious dogma
2 : one who dissents from an accepted belief or doctrine

chad, don't be afraid to call EC folks heretics, since by definition we clearly qualify. then again, so do you.

nick said...

"The gospel, according to the emergent thinkers, is not about individual conversion. It is not about how to get people “in.” It is about “how the world will be saved from human sin and all that goes with it...”

okay this statement is an ignorant mischaracterization of the vast majority of EC folks.

i don't know who trying to speak for the EC believe that God is not primarily concerned about the salvation of human individuals, but they should be silenced if this is true.

but i don't think this is the case as far as i know. everyone i hear and read about clearly put primacy of salvation on the human soul, but also extend it to the entire creation.

Romans 8:22 says "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."

this is just one passage the EC'ers believe reveal God's purpose of restoring the entire planet, including everything from social justice to the elimination of predation to the stabilization of the climate.

i challenge any of you to find a EC spokesperson explicitly claiming that salvation is not primarily resoration of mankind's personal relationship with God.

the full reconciliation between humans is simply a result of man being reconciled to God. i hope the EC remembers that salvation encompasses social reconcilation, and environmental renewal, but what drives these two processes is God changing the human heart.

Breuss Wane said...

>i don't know who trying to speak >for the EC believe that God is >not primarily concerned about the >salvation of human individuals, >but they should be silenced if >this is true.

This is very nearly an exact quote from Brian McLaren.

Breuss Wane said...

Nick,

The last place I go for *any* theological definition is an American dictionary.

JG Lenhart said...

Breuss,

Excellent!

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of people who think they understand theology go to the dictionary for their definition of "grace". ("unmerited favor")

Actually it is:
charis "the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life"

A modern would know this.

A fundamentalist/traditionalist would go with the dictionary and tradition.

I wonder why people are afraid to find out the truth?

JG Lenhart said...

A post modern would argue you can't define any word objectively...

...and use words to make their case.

~Mark said...

A question I have for the Emergent folks who don't agree with the categorizations presented...what reactions do you get when you attempt to help errant brothers get a better grasp on the truth of Scripture?

Breuss Wane said...

A related question to Mark's: how and when is Matthew 18 and the church's obligation to discipline the unrepentant errant (either practice or belief) enforced? Is the last step of discipline, excommunication (Matt. 18:17b) *ever* invoked by an emergent/postmodern church and on what occasion or basis?

molly said...

[Warning: Side rant regarding the last sentance of the blog post]

QUOTE:
" Emergent leaders are not wrong to be concerned about the environment and social injustice; they are wrong to confuse it with the gospel of Jesus Christ."



I would say the quote is what is terribly wrong.

The Gospel (Jesus Christ Himself) is about redemption. Human souls, YES!, but all of creation too.

Romans 8 speaks of creation groaning IN PAIN until the revealing of the sons of God. I am a son, you are a son, and as we are ruled by the Law of Love, we participate in the redemption of a planet that is under the curse of sin and death.

Surely a man after God's own heart isn't going to dump bleach down the sewer, kick his dog, and scorn abused children, is he?

So, yes, redemption of souls is integral to the Gospel, but we fall prey to the modernistic "divorcing" trend (where we divorce one thing from another and set up neat little camps for all issues) instead of being able to see things holistically. As in WHOLE. As in The Whole Picture.

And the Gospel of God is not just about giving humans a heaven ticket...it is about bringing glory to God through our very lives. Caring for the "unlovely things" (social injustices, our environment, etc) is a part of that, and that IN NO WAY lowers the Gospel, but rather makes it all the more beautiful.

One of the things most repugnant about modernistic Christianity (especially to onlookers) is the dichotomy between thelogical belief and outward practice. The Emerging Movement is, at least, pointing that out.

And I think instead of hollering back, we ought to take a good look deep inside... Isn't living for God's glory a life that will bring His touch into every area? And wouldn't that include the way we treat the things (the earth and the animals, Gen.1) we are to "have dominion over?" Isn't it a part of God's nature to reach out to the humble, the oppressed, the fatherless, the widow?

This isn't anti-Gospel, it is a part of the Gospel's chain reaction, a part of the OUTWORKING of the Gospel.

Modernity seeks to make the Gospel this one-time event, Good News for a moment...whereas I think it's fair to say that it's ALSO Good News for our entire lifetime, Good News for everyone that we come into contact with.

And if it isn't a part of our way of thinking, if we see the Gospel as seperate from how we live life on this earth and in our particular culture, then we need to ask some probing questions of our understanding of what it means to be vessels of the life of God.

Breuss Wane said...
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Breuss Wane said...

>The Gospel (Jesus Christ Himself) >is about redemption. Human souls, >YES!, but all of creation too.

So much could be said about this statement. But I think it highlights the sharp theological divide between the E.C. and historically Reformed Christianity.

I think such a debate/discussion is healthy. If this was all we were debating with the E.C. some of us would be far less passionate about opposing it.

Some of us don't deny that creation is being or will be redeemed. The question is to what extent, how is it accomplished, and whether or not Romans 8 is actually teaching what you say it is. And I would submit it does not. Creation groans as it waits for the redemption of our bodies (vs. 23... "redemption of our bodies" is a parallel qualifier for "adoption" in that passage), a redemption that will not take place until "the glory that is to be revealed in us" or that is the appearing of Christ a second time. When Paul uses the word "revealing" in the sense that he does in Romans 8:18, he is speaking of that future event we know as the second coming of Christ. There is a parallel in contrast in that verse: "the sufferings of this present time", which is the already/not yet in which we live, is contrasted with "the glory that is to be revealed in us", something that is yet future. What glory or revelation is yet future? Paul answers that in the next verse: "the revealing of the sons of God".

IOW, while we *are now* adopted as Sons (vs. 15-17), the ultimate manifestation of that adoption still awaits us (vs. 18)... it is that "hope" spoken of in 8:24 and 25.

The redemption of our bodies has not yet taken place... and neither has creation been redeemed. It still groans, and will still groan, until our final glorification with Christ (vs. 17).

4given said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Saabinmike said...

Breuss Wane said...
A related question to Mark's: how and when is Matthew 18 and the church's obligation to discipline the unrepentant errant (either practice or belief) enforced? Is the last step of discipline, excommunication (Matt. 18:17b) *ever* invoked by an emergent/postmodern church and on what occasion or basis?


I'm wondering if it ever happens to leadership in ANY church. What if a leader in the church is in need of correction? What if that leader uses their power to turn the tables on the one brining correction and instead exiles them?

nick said...

The Emergent Church is correct in emphasizing social action and environmental stewardship because they are appropriate responses to the Greatest Commandments given by Jesus Christ.

Matthew 23: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' [d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

When asked what the single greatest commandment is, curiously Jesus gave them two. What are we to do? Love God and love each other. God calls us to keep these two commandments together. If we are to love God, it requires loving people. So this requires placing a high priority on anything that affects people, from poverty to war to smog. So we do whatever is part of loving God and loving people.

Pretend a disciple asked Jesus, “Okay Jesus, sounds simple. I understand loving You and loving people, but what about all the people that do not love and follow You? Are we to not care about that?”

Jesus might say, “[sigh] Nah man! Of course you are to care about that! The ultimate goal of all the things you will do that come under ‘love your neighbor as yourself” is that people will see Me in you through your acts of love, and then come to know Me, becoming my disciples just like you. You love cause you follow me, and loving is the only way you will grow to become more like me, but I care about a personal relationship with others too. See, check out what I said here in Matthew 28.”

Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in [a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Clearly Jesus’ final instructions to the disciples were focusing on the transformation of individual persons. He said we should help others become His apprentices, teaching them what was directly passed on to the disciples. He did not emphasize making peace between people groups, reducing poverty, or taking care of the environment. But it wasn’t because they aren’t major goals of God for humanity and creation. It was because these things, actually all fruitful things, are assumed to take place as people live as disciples of Jesus. They are the fruit of our lives that naturally result from discipleship, as they are the primary way people are persuaded to become Jesus’ disciples. Jesus simply sums up the goal, the ultimate purpose of creation, that all would become disciples and give glory to God with their lives. Making disciples is what we are to do, love is makes this possible.

Does the Emergent Church overemphasize social action and environmental stewardship as if they were simply ends unto themselves? I sure hope we don’t fall into that.

boxcarvibe said...

Molly...are you saved? Born-again? If so, how do you know? Is it a feeling you have? Is it a state of awareness you have?

Assuming you are saved - from what are you saved? Why did you have to be saved? If you are saved, then does that mean others are not saved? If they're not saved, then what is the destination of their souls upon their death? How do you know?

I ask all that to ask this: Is it more important to teach/preach salvation of souls or is it better to preach a way to live better/rightly here on Earth? Assuming you have a sanctuary full of non-saved people, how would you address them if you had only one chance to do so?

Breuss Wane said...

>If we are to love God, it >requires loving people. So this >requires placing a high priority >on anything that affects people, >from poverty to war to smog.

IMHO, it's quite a leap in logic from the first sentence to the second sentence, esp. as the second sentence is fleshed out in the words and practice of the E.C. and liberal Christianity. The emphasis in the overwhelming majority of the NT is social action *within* the body of New Covenant believers (this is where so-called Creational theology could use a healthy dose of biblical theology on the covenantal nature of the New Covenant).

>He did not emphasize making peace >between people groups, reducing >poverty, or taking care of the >environment. But it wasn’t >because they aren’t major goals >of God for humanity and creation.

IMHO, it's just the opposite. He didn't emphasize making peace between people groups or taking care of the environment precisely because they are not major goals of redemption and the New Covenant. Christ's kingdom is not of this world. The creational theology as it is espoused by the E.C. and liberals (Jim Wallis, etc.) is born of a faith that walks by sight and not faith because the emphasis is on what we can *see* (creation, environment, etc.) Thus, creational theology shares the same fatal flaw with theonomy: both are looking for a kingdom of this world. And both depend on leaps in logic like the above that cannot be sustained in the text (i.e. if people are transformed, creation will be transformed; no promise of the kind is given in the text, except that which applies to the consummation of all things in Christ).

Does this mean we're free to destroy the environment? No. But that kind of stewardship is an overflow of kingdom expansion in the life activities of the church.

molly said...

boxcarvibe,
I'm not really sure why you are asking that question...? I have no qualms with sharing Jesus with those who do not yet believe, no qualms whatsoever (and, in fact, it is my delight). I am also a huge fan of studing theology, and enjoy digging into Scripture. Thar's good stuff in them thar hills. :)

All I was trying to point out is that the Gospel is multi-faceted, and that including stewardship of the earth and kindness to the poor isn't "anti-Gospel" at all. (In my opinion) the Gospel isn't the 3 steps to Salvation, but it's Jesus Christ Himself.

HE HIMSELF is the Good News. :) That involves our own salvation and that is IMPORTANT, but then it also involves our lives being His... When the Gospel is reduced to a one-time prayer/moment, I think we all experience exactly what we have in Modern Christendom...a whole lot of folks sitting on a pew, waiting for heaven. And I think Jesus rose again for something bigger than that.

One of the EM criticisms of the modern church is it's belief that Christianity is for Sunday's and the rest of the week is for everything else. Not so. He wants it all. And that would filter down, all the way down, into everything we do...including the poor (Paul was asked to "remember the poor, the very thing we delighted to do", right?) and to be good stewards over that which God has given us dominion over. That is a part of the outworking of the Gospel.

Bill Arnold said...

bruess wane wrote: "I'll bet, despite the fact that McLaren wrote the forward to Kimball's book (an implicit endorsement both ways), some E.C.er's will protest that McLaren doesn't speak for Kimball."

I think this is a logical fallacy. If author A endorses book B, that does not mean that the author of B agrees with everything that author A teaches.

I really can't agree with the whole "guilty by association" mindset. For me, one of the valuable things about Emergent is the way that various voices are "heard." Does that mean tha anything goes? No.

Breuss Wane said...

>If author A endorses book B, that >does not mean that the author of >B agrees with everything that >author A teaches.

This is only true to a certain extent. The endorsement means there is *substantial* agreement. The scriptures tell us that we are not to associate with false teachers. McLaren's deconstruction and open theism clearly place him in that category.

Johnnie Burgess Jr said...

"One of the EM criticisms of the modern church is it's belief that Christianity is for Sunday's and the rest of the week is for everything else. Not so. He wants it all. And that would filter down, all the way down, into everything we do...including the poor (Paul was asked to "remember the poor, the very thing we delighted to do", right?) and to be good stewards over that which God has given us dominion over. That is a part of the outworking of the Gospel."

Molly the modern church has preached a cheap grace. That does not mean we should follow the idea there is no truth.

molly said...

The EM is not teaching that there is no truth.


Imagine if someone took one or two visible teachers/leaders from the Modern Church...say, Kenneth Hagin and Robert Tilton (they're on TV, right, so this *is* what modern Christians believe, right?) and then wrote a long essay (expose) on why the modern church is terrible, basing much of their conclusions on the quotes of these highly-visible leaders.

Wouldn't you be offended? I know that I would be. Tilton and Haggin certainly don't represent me, though they're on TV and I'm just a youth/worship pastor's wife way out in the Alaskan wilderness... (lol) I would accuse that author of poor scholarship, say that he tried to represent a HUGE (huge!) many-hued group by choosing a few of the louder voices.


That's all I'm trying to say. Christians in the postmodern age are not saying there is no truth. Some may lean one way and some may lean the other way (always those on either extreme and always those somewhere in between, in any thing, right?), but to catagorically say that the Emerging Movement denies absolute truth is absolutely wrong.


The EM is seeking to learn HOW to communicate truth to an age that scoffs at it, yes, but isn't that what we should be doing (seeking to speak to the people in a language they can hear)? Learning to communicate to a postmodern world is something we are all LEARNING.

It's a new thing. This whole thing is brand new---nobody's got it all figured out yet (if ever)...but there are those of us who are trying. Moderns need the Gospel. So do Postmoderns. But, and this really is the key point, we don't have to cloak the Gospel in Modernism for it to be the Gospel.

(Btw, I am very uncomfortable with the side of EM that seems to be more into being postmodern than into what the Bible says and means...but I'm equally uncomfortable with the churches in Modern Christendom who slide towards humanism, etc, at the expense of the Bible. Now as to whether we all interpret the Bible the same, that's a whole 'nother ballpark. But I sure have a LOT of respect for those who are at least TRYING to [even if we may differ in our conclusions], versus those who almost forget they have the Book altogether).

JG Lenhart said...

I think we should be careful with using the word "modern". What is your definition?

If "modern" means the church today, then when the post modern church becomes the church it will be (by definition) a "modern" church in the future.

Tilton and Hagin are traditionals/fundamentalists who have MISAPPLIED the principles shared by "moderns". This doesn't make them "moderns".

There are four principles that are associated with good science. Everytime these four principles are used, good science results. Everytime any of these principles are misapplied, bad science results and people get hurt.

The traditionalists/ fundamentalists have misapplied these principles and the post moderns have labeled them "modern". The four principles are: non-contradiction, contrastive thinking, growth, and causality.

These four principles would lead to a non-contradictory definition of salvation, grace, truth, life, love, etc. Everyone is throwing around these words on this blog but no one is defining them.

I don't blame post moderns for wanting to try something different especially if the rest of us can't define/explain what we mean by these words.

boxcarvibe said...

Molly-

Sorry to get back to you so late. An all day home improvement project turned into an all-night, flat-on-my-back project.

By your writing style, I had you pegged as a Pacific NW type...but I was still off several hundred miles to the southeast!

OK- I actually asked more than one question of you, not just one. They weren't asked because I had questions about your salvation but to get to what I see as the heart of the matter: the absence of honest, expositional teaching of God's Word in the seeker-friendly/EG church.

You wrote that the Gospel is "multi-faceted". It's really not...its actually quite simple. The over-conceptualization of theological principles and the blending in of man-centered psychology has turned true, Christ-centered teaching into something unrecognizable...something open to debate. If one can even say that a "Buddhist is a better Christian than I am"...well, that person has a HUGE problem - perhaps genuine conversion and salvation being one of them.

Jesus said in John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth and life. No one comes to the Father but my me." And again he says in Matt 7:14: "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it"

EM/seeker-friendly churches think the "way" is some 10-lane wide interstate. It's not. It's actually a small path that few can find. And its not free either. A toll, a price was paid.

If I'm a pastor, and I'm not preaching and teaching my church these essentials, I would hate to stand before a Holy God and be judged for my wasted effort of trying to make them feel good about themselves.


I love what Gilley wrote: "Christlike living is a fruit of salvation, not the cause. We can “be” moral and decent people and not be Christians, but we cannot deny or ignore the true historic, biblical person and work of Jesus Christ and be saved. So true.

So ask not "do I know Jesus Christ?" but rather, "does Jesus Christ know me?" There's a huge, eternal difference between the two.

irreverend fox said...

I don't know if McLaren speaks for Kimball, but I know that McLaren doesn't speak for me or for Southside Christian Fellowship, I know that for sure.

We are an emerging church that honors the historic reformed doctrines of the Church.

Within post modern Christianity there are liberals and heretics just like there were in modern Christianity.

It is amazing to read how the Church cried out against modernism and now that we have moved into a post modern area all much of the Church wants is to run back to modernism.

"at least when we were in Egypt we had bread..."

~Mark said...

irreverant fox,

then why be called "Emergent" if you follow the true doctrines? What I mean is, what specifically has drawn you to that way?

Breuss Wane said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Breuss Wane said...

>It's a new thing.

There is nothing new under the sun. I have to concur with William Lane Craig: postmodernism is modernism in redress. At the end of the day, its subjectivism is pure humanism, regardless of whether it is coming from an individual or group.

>we don't have to cloak the Gospel >in Modernism for it to be the >Gospel.

One of the fundamental flaws of the E.C. is its suggestion that the gospel has been cloaked in modernity. Oh sure, Finney's legacy in evangelicalism suffers from enlightened humanism, or modernity. But some of us (like David F. Wells, Machen, etc.) have been saying this for years. The E.C. is johnny-come-lately.

The problem is that most of the loud voices in the E.C. are including the exclusive, core propositions of the gospel in their critique of modernity.

Breuss Wane said...

>We are an emerging church that >honors the historic reformed >doctrines of the Church.
>Within post modern Christianity

IMHO (again leaning on Craig and Carson), "post modern Christianity" is an oxymoron. Why? Because post modern at its core is a-propositional. The moment one affirms a proposition (such as the resurrection as a historical fact that objectively makes claims on us all) is the moment one is no longer post modern.

And, while I agree that we must find ways of communicating in our postmodern culture, when *that* conversation has run its course, the propositional resurrection *must* confront and rebut the postmodern's a-proposition.

This leaves the attempt to *be* postmodern to the postmoderns nothing more than a complex "bait-and-switch" conversation.

The gospel is an absolute proposition. And postmodernity cannot account for any absolute proposition.

a simple bloggtrotter said...

To: Any Emerging/ent/ish-types

RE: The work and Person of the Holy Spirit in relation to all this modern/postmodern stuff, the building up of the body of Christ, and obeying the Great Comission.

Dose the ministry, and Equipping power of the Holy Spirit ( from His convicting of an awakened sinner via the Preached Word to the washing and regeneration) fit the body together in such a way to a> glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever, and b> transcend most ,if not all ,of this discussion of reaching a particular generation.



A simple blogtrotter

Carla said...

re: "If author A endorses book B, that >does not mean that the author of >B..."

I have grown rather weary of this defense put forth that just because someone writes a glowing endorsement of the content of a book, does not mean that the person who endorsed the work really places their stamp of approval of the work, but it does mean that if you think that it does mean this, you're guilty of accusing innocent folks of guilt by association.

I love that logic, I had a friend like that in highschool that no matter what she said or did, she could twist and stretch and contort the obvious in such a way, that even if you knew for a fact she was guilty of whatever it was, she'd leave you questioning what you knew to be true.

Back in the day, we called that a headgame.

Folks who endorse other folks books, do so because they liked the work, and agreed to put their name on it as "approved". If they don't like the end result, maybe they should be re-thinking their associations.

Just a suggestion.

SDG,
Carla

Breuss Wane said...

>Folks who endorse other folks >books, do so because they liked >the work

Well... there's also mullah involved. "Endorse me, I'll endorse you" is the gentleman's agreement... a variation is authors who share the same publisher endorsing each other's books.

One significant difference with the Kimball book is that McLaren didn't just endorse it. He wrote one of the forwards (the other was Rick Warren).

Again, if the conservatives in the E.C. think we should take them seriously about their fidelity to the historic faith once for all delivered to the saints, they need to stop endorsing the books, stop appearing on the same conference platforms, stop sharing/swapping pulpits, stop laughing at the jokes (Miller), and stop the general pat-on-the-back kudos of those who are clearly false teachers spreading a false gospel.

Fidelity the way the scriptures sees it is not only about proclaiming the whole counsel of God but also defending the gospel and cutting off from the partnership in ministry those who deny it (either explicitly or implicitly). 2 Cor. 6 tells us that "guilt by association" is not only valid, it is necessary in the defense of the gospel.

JG Lenhart said...

Post modernism is definitely NOT new. It was around in the 20's and 30's. It was also around in the 60's and 70's.

In fact, post modernism leads to fundamentalism...which leads back to post modernism. Don't we want to break this cycle?

Modernism is definitely different from post modernism and fundamentalism/traditionalism. When people don't define "modernism" correctly, they show their ignorance and just cloud the issue. No wonder we can't take this discussion deeper.

I've posted an article on the ooze titled, "The Problem with Modernism" that may help you get clearer definitions. Otherwise, we are just going to have the same discussion that occurs on every one of these blogs.

Don't we want to break the cycle and take this discussion deeper or do we just want to keep pointing fingers and reciting the same tired observations?

Sparks said...

I say we continue comparing the teachings of the Emergents with Scripture to see how well they align with God's True Word.

Carla said...

breuss said "Again, if the conservatives in the E.C. think we should take them seriously about their fidelity to the historic faith once for all delivered to the saints, they need to stop endorsing the books, stop appearing on the same conference platforms, stop sharing/swapping pulpits, stop laughing at the jokes (Miller), and stop the general pat-on-the-back kudos of those who are clearly false teachers spreading a false gospel."

I've said the same thing myself, repeatedly. Go figure.

:o)

Bill Arnold said...

carla,

I think you missed my original point. I'm not saying the person who endorses a book doesn't agree with the book. I'm saying it doesn't automatically mean that the author agrees with everything the endorser stands for.

I would agree that an author should care about who endorses his or her book, but I think you can take that too far.

Bill Arnold said...

breuss,

What exactly do you mean by your citation of 2 Corinthians 6? Are you inferring that people in the emerging church are unbelievers?

Breuss Wane said...

Some in the E.C. are denying the gospel. I think Gilley has chronicled at least a couple of them (those who speak of "new ways" of thinking about the gospel, salvation, Christ, etc.).

The conservatives in the E.C. need to be asking themselves "what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? what fellowship has light with darkness? what accord has Christ with Belial? what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? what agreement has the temple of God with idols?"

After all, "someone has come and proclaimed another Jesus than the one Paul proclaimed" and while some are "accepting a different gospel than the one accepted from Paul", the conservatives in the E. C. (via the share conferences, the book endorsements, the partnerships, etc. etc.) are "putting up with it readily enough" (2 Cor. 11:4).

Grosey's Messages said...

ok.. let me see if I get it... an emergent church can be reformed, it can be arminian , it can be post modern ( are the post moderns really post modern, or do we the "intelligentsia " lable them so, so that we can have a trendy name for our ministry?
Aren't they still sinners, just like the Athenians?
Now.. suppose these post moderns that meergents are culturally cloning into are in another cultuure.. say Caribbean.. do we need to caribean ise our churches to reach them? ahhh should we practise voodoo on the side?

Breuss Wane said...

>do we need to caribean ise our >churches to reach them?

In "Breaking the Missional Code", this is precisely what Stetzler says we must do. Stetzler believes that a culture must be bridged before the gospel can be presented... IOW, the gospel must be contextualized... it cannot transcend culture in and of itself.

Stetzler says suggesting that all cultures have "sinners" in common is too simplistic. He suggests great damage has been done by those with this "simplistic" mentality.

I don't agree with Stetzler.

Bill Arnold said...

Breuss,

I'm not crazy about the "new way" rhetoric, but I do think many have tended to miss the point of the gospel, etc. over the 2,000 years since Christ walked the earth. I think a lot of the "new ways" are an attempt to return people to the original intention of the concepts in question.

In my opinion, 2 Corinthians 6 does not apply to this situation and I think we should be careful about who we choose to disassociate ourselves from. Jesus associated with the Pharisees and "endorsed" a lot of what they taught (i.e. the resurrection) while also condemning their attitudes about a great many things.

I think it's possible to be a part of a group that you think offers a lot of benefits while disagreeing with them on various points. I think one of the values of the Emergent "conversation" is its inclusivity. I'm sure you'll disagree.

Breuss Wane said...

I don't believe Jesus associated with the Pharisees. In fact, he condemned them to hell (the "woes" of Matthew 24 and Luke 11 are the same kind of damnational "woes" pronounced by the prophets on unbelieving Israel in the OT). And it wasn't merely for their hypocrisy... it was for the content of their belief (legalism, to be precise; one cannot simply segregate their hypocrisy from their legalism).

McLaren isn't merely guilty of error. His affirmation of deconstructionism and open theism place him in the "false teacher" camp to which 2 cor. 6 applies (as does Robert Schuller, to reiterate a point that Steve made here a couple of weeks ago).

Bill Arnold said...

I will think more about this issue of how Jesus associated with various groups. Thanks for your comments.

In the meantime, I'm wondering: What is your basis for declaring deconstruction so evil?

Breuss Wane said...

The "evil" in deconstruction is not so much in the method (although it is in error to be sure) as it is in its presuppositions. Deconstruction presupposes that supernaturalism could not have given us the text before it even begins to use the method on the text. It presupposes *humanism*... the text is the product of man's ingenuity... that the text originates from the inside out rather than from the outside in. It is not interested in *facts*, but in the "spirit of the times and consciousness of the period" (Vos' explanation) in which the text was "created". The text does not exist in independence from the authors’ own beliefs and context and in fact is the product of those beliefs.

Those presuppositions are radically opposed to the way the Scripture presents itself. Such presuppositions immediately make Christ's resurrection as a brute fact of history either suspect, dispensable, or irrelevant.

Bill Arnold said...

On the subject of Pharisees:
In Luke 7:36ff, Jesus is invited to a Pharisees' house and he goes.

In John 3, Nicodemus comes to him. Yes, it was at night, but this may say more about Nicodemus than about Jesus.

We read nowhere that Jesus refused to "associate" with the Pharisees, despite his the clear ways in which he disagreed with them. Actually, there was a lot he shared in common with them as opposed to the Sadduccees (which I'm sure you know).

On the subject of deconstruction:
I guess I just accept the basic premise of deconstruction: that "meanings, metaphysical constructs, and hierarchical oppositions (as between key terms in a philosophical or literary work) are always rendered unstable by their dependence on ultimately arbitrary signifiers" (from www.webster.com)

I remember you making at least one comment about how you didn't trust a certain kind of dictionary. That only demonstrates the problem that deconstruction seeks to deal with, doesn't it?

Having said that, I understand why you have a problem looking at the human framework behind what has been written in scripture. Nonetheless, I believe this is a valid part of hermeneutics.

Breuss Wane said...

It's not that I distrust a certain kind of dictionary. An American dictionary cannot and should not define biblical constructs and terms. The Bible itself is the ultimate arbitrary signifier because Christ is the ultimate arbitrary signifier.

We can make a one-to-one correlation with Christ and the Pharisees the moment those in the E.C. begin pronouncing woes on those embracing deconstruction and heresy. Otherwise, you're comparing apples and oranges.

Christ did converse with Pharisees, but there's a leap in logic to "association". Christ did not converse with them as someone who agreed with them, but as someone who, like John the Bapt. before him, considered them "vipers"... these are those of whom Christ said were not invited to his "banquet" (Luke 7:30/14:24).

Bill Arnold said...

Earlier, you wrote: "The last place I go for *any* theological definition is an American dictionary."

You can't simply rely on the Bible for definitions when many of the theological terms we use are not found in it.

I think that God condescended himself in revealing truth through human language. I don't believe that just because the biblical writers used a certain word to describe something means that's the "perfect" word for it. It is the word that best conveyed what they (inspired by God) were trying to convey.

You wrote: "We can make a one-to-one correlation with Christ and the Pharisees the moment those in the E.C. begin pronouncing woes on those embracing deconstruction and heresy. Otherwise, you're comparing apples and oranges."

First of all, I don't know that my desire would be to make a one-to-one correlation. Secondly, I do think the EC pronounces woes, in their own way, against people who are pulling others away from Christ and his kingdom. They do disagree with people just not the people you want them to disagree with!

You wrote: "Christ did not converse with them as someone who agreed with them..."

Christ agreed with them on a great number of things. That's easy enough to prove. He also instructed people to do what they say, but not what they do. As you undoubtedly know, the Pharisees, unlike other groups at the time, had accepted the words of the prophets. In terms of doctrine alone, I'm sure Jesus was more opposed to the Sadducees. I'm not sure that the "woes" Jesus pronounced were related to the kind of "doctrinal" issues we're discussing, though.

SJ Camp said...

To all ECers weighing in on this thread:

If you really want a hard, challenging, difficult place to minister--try coming to Nashville, TN. For the most part, everyone thinks they are Christian because it is an acceptable cultural norm; where Christianity is marked by affluence and notoriety; and is considered big business - which makes it political. 



Seattle, WA is child's play compared to NashVegas...

In fact, when you think about it, the EC has created its own language; its own subculture; its own books; its own sermonettes for ECettes; its own websites that speak in its own convoluted-manufactured-pomo-terms; its own conferences; its own music (kinda, but not very good); its own ecclesiastical methods, etc. And that very narrow “EC subculture” has generated millions of dollars and has even produced their own mega-churches to boot.

In reality, the EC is not radical at all—I don’t care if its McLaren, Padgett, Sweet, Miller, Driscoll, Jones, Kimball, etc. 

It's just mainstream evangelicalism… their way.

Steve
2 Cor. 4:5-7