Emergent Church Marks pt2
Emergent Church Marks
By Pastor David Cox
So what are the characteristics of an Emergent Church? In this day and time, some may try to hide themselves, but with a little knowledge and work, you can clearly identify them.
Here I am going to use Matthew Slick’s list and comment on them.
Awareness and Attempt to Reach out to Others in a postmodern Culture.
By postmodern, the concept is that the church has died, and we have survived it. When Christ said,
Matt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Somehow Christ slipped up in these people’s minds. They think that the concept and traditional working of “church” as from the NT times to recent times is just not working. They strike a black eye to the genuis of God, thinking that they can do better and can come up with something that is just better than what God has set up.
There is a constant condemnation (hidden by “new things” or outright proclamation) of God’s traditional “church”. If church doesn’t work any more, it is most probably because you got your concept of church wrong to begin with. The failure is in your implementation of “church”, not in the original concept that God gave us. This is what happened with the Catholic Church, and myriads of other groups and denominations that just “got it wrong” because they were not insist on examining Scripture, and drawing their foundations from the authority of Scripture and constanting checking their daily workings with Scripture.
But Emergent Churches “seek” people where they are, as they are, and their idea is to do as little to change people as possible. “Just as I am” is their favorite concept, and unfortunately when they come dirty with sin to God, they expect that God will accept them and never expect them to clean their act up.
Enchanted with the new and out with the old, traditional stuff
Technology is a great thing, and it is really nice to be in a store and call or text the wife asking if we need milk or bread. But technology in these churches becomes an end in itself. This is seen by the importance that these churches put on technology. We now need a full time staff on churches that is the chief of technology.
This is in the actual church service. Rather than a time of calm, peace, meditation, and coming to meet God, their church services is a carnival show. God wants revence from us before he will speak to our hearts. But in these services there is no time for reverence. Our TV addiction has forced us to have a 5 minute attention span. After 5 minutes, something new has to happen.
This also means a flat out rejection of all the traditional church service elements. Many of these churches want to drag into their church elements of unchristian religions. Candles, icons, images, sounds, even incense (smells) are all ways of invoking new emotions, feelings, and experiences. Interpretative dance and songs that are directly “out of place” in a tradition church service are not the common denominator in these emergent churches.
Jer 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
God does not present to us to find a constantly changing “new” norm and standard, but that we have “gone astray” and that we should “return” to the “old paths”. These “old paths” are also declared to be “the good way”.
Rom 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Ps 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Ps 12:7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
First, the things that God has set up have the genius of God behind them, and they are not to be thrown away just so. The true mode of serving God is represented as “old paths” not new ones. Secondly, the procurement of these old paths are through returning to the authority and instruction of Scripture, not any other way.
All of this has a base underlying precedent that they want to impose on their members. That is that it is more important to feel than to know. They attack knowledge and even question everything in the traditional church setup. Doctrine becomes a slippery danger to thing, so why have doctrine. They have no doctrine on the one hand, but on the other they suggest doctrines that are directly outside of the Bible.
Focus on experience and feelings over absolutes.
This de-emphasis on absolutes and doctrinal creeds is a theological position. They “have no absolutes” drawn from the Bible to order their life and ministry. This is obviously of the devil, because who else would attack God and His Word like this? But this detacting themselves from the absolute authority of Scripture is very dangerous. They will tend towards Bible translations that play loose and wild with Scripture. Paraphrases are preferred for them if they even use the Bible at all.
The Emergent Church wants to join hands with the world over love, and whether they love because of God’s love, or they love on something outside of God’s love, they don’t respect the conditions of God’s love. Their primary objective (although most would deny this) is a feel that they seek, and not a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ.
John MacArthur commented on this,
The Emerging Church Movement is an amorphous sort of loose-knit association of churches that have decided that there is value, there is even virtue in uncertainty about Scripture. The bottom line in the movement is they believe that we aren’t even suppose to understand precisely what the Bible means…. The bottom line, I think, in the movement is that it is a denial of the clarity of Scripture.
In general the doctrinal tendency of these people are toward liberal theology. They question everything that is stated in God’s Word, and nothing that is clear can be accepted for what it is. Today we have people who question that heaven or hell exists. The Emergent Church has a discomfort over what the Bible says. They don’t want to take a position on Homosexuality for instance, when the Bible clearly condemns it. Typically the only time these preachers read the Bible is to find something to push their ideas with, or to refute.
Their ultimate conclusion is that even Christianity is of little use in the world. We just grab our social relationships and that is all we need. Their focus is more on giving people what they want in religion (this is making what people want an authority), rather than changing and forming people into expressions of the will of God.
So when you refute a false religion, you look at their doctrine and practice in the light of the Bible to see if they are biblical or not. The Emergent Church has none. They really have no core beliefs that they hold saying that they are from the Bible.
In the previous post, I explained what the biblical gospel is. For this church, there is normally not a regular, clear presentation of the gospel (we are sinners, Jesus died for us, repent and believe in him). Rather their gospel is one of social interactions.
2Chr 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
God calls us not to find new paths, but to forsake our “different path” from God’s, and to return to God’s ways.
MacLaren, an Emergent guru leader says of salvation…
“I used to believe that Jesus’ primary focus was on saving me as an individual.For that reason I often spoke of Jesus as my “personal Savior” and urged others to believe in Jesus in the same way.6
Through the years.I became less and less comfortable with being restricted to the “personal Savior” gospel.7” (teachingtheword.org)
Let me back up a minute. A “gospel” is the central, highest priority thing that one holds. It is usually the first thing when making a new relationship, it is the thing that seems to always come up, and in ordering priorities, it is the thing that takes priority over other things, and this taking priority is seen by distribution of resources. The highest priority takes more time in the services, receives more financial resources as well as personnel time and energy resources, and it is the central focus in presentations of the church.
While in general there is disdain towards Scripture and its authority, not all preachers involved in this movement would throw out the Bible. They trash the Bible by denying its authority over them, but some stay into preaching the Bible according to their own personal concepts. They would seek to mix good sermons with other sermons that would undermine a person’s faith. Again the movement hinges on denying the success of God’s way, and purposing alternate ways.
The Emergent Church movement is going to do things in a “non-conventional” way, because newness is equated as always being good. I would say good in the sight of God, but they don’t think this way. They have stolen a Christian’s checking with God’s will to see if something is good or right, and now the authority is how it feels to you.
Positon on Scripture and Inspiration
The Emergent Church really doesn’t hold to the authority of God to dictate to our lives, so they of course attack inspiration and inerrancy. We need to be very clear here though. They say that they believe in the Bible and that the Bible is guide. That is so that they will appear as sheep. But the actual way that they live and do ministry is to ignore the Bible. They think up their own ways of doing what they do, and they validate it in their reasonings which doesn’t really come from exposition of Scripture.
Even more specifically we look at some Emergent Church leaders.
“the Bible is ‘an inspired gift from God’ – a unique collection of literary artifacts” – Brian McLaren (Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), page 75)
“The history of the Christian faith is that Scriptures come from and inform the church” -Doug Pagitt (Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, editors, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope: Key Leaders Offer an Inside Look (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2007), page 171.)
“the purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works… Shouldn’t a simple statement like this be far more important than statements with words foreign to the Bible’s vocabulary about itself (inerrant, authoritative, literal, revelatory, objective, absolute, propositional, etc.)” – McLaren (Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional-Evangelical-Post-Protestant-Liberal/Conservative-Mystical/Poetic-Biblical-Charismatic/Contemplative-Fundamentalist/Calvinist-Anabaptist/Anglican-Methodist-Catholic-Green-Incarnational-Depressed-Yet-Hopeful-Emergent-Unfinished Christian (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004), page 183.)
The point here is that they take a universalist’s position, that everybody is already a child of God, and so therefore the only real thing left is to do good works. There is no key concept of the gospel, a conversion from sin to righteousness through the belief in the word of Jesus Christ on the cross. This is slanted, left out, and diminished in their mindset as to completely disappear.
“not even one-hundredth of one percent of the Bible (presents) objective information about God” MacLaren (Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), page 262.
Considering that MacLaren considers that there is very little that can be known for certain through the Bible or about life for that matter, then MacLaren has made some pretty strong conclusions that are not confused or fuzzy at all!
MacLaren’s view is “authentic humility” which is a total refusal that he knows any absolute truth on anything, and to despise the very things he thinks he knows. This protrays an image of loving and caring, openness, tolerance, and receiving all faiths without condemning anyone. Yet while he condemns his own Bible concepts (he doesn’t really “have them”), he greatly values contradictory traditions and religions.
While they denounce the Bible of having any real truth, only fuzzy confused truth, they are very adapt at saying all kinds of other religions have captured the very essence of truth and we should turn to them. Surely. The only problem I have with these people is why do they insist on being considered a Christian at all? If they believe that Catholic Mysticism, or Hindi or buddhism is the truth, go there and get out of Christianity altogether! Because in no way can they be considered Christians!
Note: When you try to witness the gospel, the biblical plan of salvation to these die-hard Emergents, they refuse to accept that the Bible has any conclusive doctrine of the atonement. They fuzzy-fie every verse! They say it is confusing and non-conclusive.
Neo-Evangelicalism and Ecumenism
Once you assume that everybody is already going to heaven, and that only a type of social work is the only and most imperative of God’s people’s missions, then you have no doctrinal boundaries. Why not work with Catholics, Mormons, or even animistic shamen?
Their concept is not to be Orthodox (faithful to the Scriptures and God) but something they call Orthoparadoxy. This is a word they made up, and which embodies perfectly the ecumenical concepts.
Dwight J Friesen (one of their “theologians”) said that Christ was not interested in orthodoxy, but in “a full and flourishing human life”. (Dwight J. Friesen, “Orthoparadoxy: Emerging Hope for Embracing Difference” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, page 204.) Friesen continues…
Orthoparaxody represents a conversational theological method that seeks to graciously embrace difference while bringing the fullness of a differentiated social-self to the other. Through the methodology of orthoparadoxy, competing ideas, practices, and hermeneutics are seen as an invitation to conversational engagement rather than as something to refute, reform, or revise.”(Friesen orthoparadoxy p207)
“Current theological methods that often stress agreement/disagreement, win/loss, good/bad, orthodox/heresy, and the like set people up for constant battles to convince and convert the other to their way of believing.”(Friesen orthoparadoxy p208)
“Orthoparadox theology is less concerned with creating “once for all” doctrinal statements or dogmatic claims and is more interested in holding competing truth claims in right tension..Orthoparadox theology requires a dynamic understanding of the Holy Spirit.”(Friesen orthoparadoxy p209)
So what does all that mean? It means that we are wrong in thinking we have a correct biblical position (that doesn’t exist). We continue and make worse our position by thinking that somehow we must correct those wrong views of others. What we must replace that erroneous conduct with is dialog, where we sit down with our theological opponents and accept their positions and views.
This is how we must approach the Bible, according to Brian McLaren: (see teachingtheword.org)
“Drop any affair you may have with Certainty, Proof, Argument. The ultimate Bible study or sermon in recent decades yielded clarity. That clarity, unfortunately, was often boring – and probably not that accurate, either, since reality is seldom clear, but usually fizzy and mysterious.”13
“Find things to do with the Bible other than read and study it” [and McLaren suggests several that are forms of medieval, mystical meditation commended by the Roman Catholic church].14
“In the recent past we generally began our apologetic by arguing for the Bible’s authority, then used the Bible to prove our other points. In the future we’ll present the Bible less like evidence in a court case and more like works of art in an art gallery.”15
“In the recent past we talked a lot about absolute truth, attempting to prove abstract propositions about God (for instance, proving the sovereignty of God).” [That, McLaren asserts, is passee in the postmodern world.]16
“Protestants have paid more attention to the Bible than any other group, but sadly, much of their Bible study has been undertaken to fuel their efforts to prove themselves right and others wrong (and therefore worthy of protest). the Bible does not yield its best resources to people who approach it seeking ammunition with which to lay their [Catholic] brethren low. How many Protestants can’t pick up their Bibles without hearing arguments play in their heads on every page, echoes of the polemical preachers they have heard since childhood? How much Bible study is, therefore, an adventure in missing the point?”17
So for the true Emergent Church, the Bible is like a painting. We look at it afar, and in this case, the further the better for these guys. Perhaps we can find new ways of using the Bible. (What are they thinking of, as a boat anchor, as a camp fire starter?) This is the same lie from hell that destroyed many mainline denominations.