Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Emergents - Part One

I promised this post some time ago. Because of events beyond my control, it will be a series of posts as I have time. These events include, sadly, another death in the family which will necessitate my traveling out of town for a few days. This is the 10th death in my family this year. So, your patience will be appreciated.

When taking up a subject such as the Emergent Church (EC) movement, great care is needed. By now, most reasonably informed Christians have heard of the EC phenomenon within evangelicalism. Few subjects in recent years have excited as much controversy, or dare I say, conversation. What I hope to do in this and subsequent posts is to address some key theological, biblical and doctrinal concerns I have about this growing (or matastasizing) and increasingly influential movement that dislikes being called a movement. Other Christian leaders and theologians have expressed concerns both in print and the blogosphere. I hope to reinforce concerns that have been expressed, as well as make it clear to the proponents of EC (on the extreme end) that these concerns are not going to go away despite a concerted effort to squelch criticism.

To their credit, some EC supporters, pastors and authors have appeared to take the concerns raised very seriously and have called their followers not to abandon biblical doctrine in a well-intentioned effort to reach postmoderns for Christ. Sadly, others have been disdainfully dismissive of any criticism. Some ignore it outright while others respond in answering questions in a purposefully vague, imprecise fashion. To the committed postmodern, this is the standard MO.

The first thing I want to point out before I really get rolling in this series is to highlight some "givens." The EC is NOT monolithic. They do not all agree on every plank given in related authors' books, church programs etc. There are those on the conservative end such as Dan Kimball, and others such as Brian McLaren who are on the other end. In fact, some theologians I respect highly have called McLaren an outright heretic. Frequently, those in the EC often rightly identify problems within evangelicalism that need to be addressed, then proceed to take the wrong approach to deal with these problems. While much of their language is couched in "niceness" - if you read between the lines, the things they say about evangelicalism and evangelicals are little short of a kick in the groin. One example..the call to "authentic" worship. Am I to assume from this that my worship, and that of other evangelicals, is NOT authentic? Some EC authors confuse the issue of "proof texting." This is a common tactic cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses use, taking Bible verses out of context to "prove" one of their doctrinal aberrations. This is a FAR cry from citing biblical authority on core doctrine and orthopraxis. Some EC authors/pastors have even said they get nauseated when someone quotes the Bible to them. Hmmm. I imagine Satan got a little queasy when Jesus kept saying "It is written" to Ol' Slewfoot's temptations. Think about it.

The following are eight key areas where I think the extremes of the EC have problems, protest though they may. I will elaborate in future posts. I wish to commend my colleague JBW for reminding me of the eighth area, which was just added to this post (I had originally posted seven).

1. A Low View of Epistemology

2. A Low View of Scripture and Scriptural authority

3. A Low View of the Reformation

4. A Low View of the Doctrines of Grace

5. A Low View of Eschatology

6. A Low or Distorted View of Apologetics

7. A Low View of the Biblical Gospel

8. A Low View of Biblical Ecclesiology

A tall order for one you see why I will need a series. My comments will be based on both what I am reading from EC authors, and from direct communications with EC adherents.

One note of caution. I do not receive the idea being pushed by some in the EC that one must follow Matthew 18 in dealing with them. They seem to think that one must visit each EC service, talk to each EC author ad infinitum/ad nauseum before you can dare comment on the subject. Balderdash. They are amply published. If they can't defend their writings to criticism, then they had best not publish. Matthew 18 does not apply in this situation as we are not dealing with personal offenses or sins. It's doctrine, doctrine, doctrine!

More to come later. Happy New Year!


kerri said...

Yipee you have your blog up and running! Congradulations :)

I'm swamped with all the fixings and fussings of the holidays but I'm looking forward to a hot cup of tea while I read your posts.

Happy New Year!

andrew said...

let me know if you want some book recommendations

'transforming mission' by david bosch is probably the most influential and admired book by the EC but "Shaping of Things to Come" is perhaps the next best thing - recent emerging-misisonal church stuff

SolaMeanie said...

Thanks to both of you! I am heading out the door right now for a 500 mile trip to a funeral. Happy New Year, eh? :) Oh,'s an opportunity for witness and to glorify the Lord.

As to the books, thanks for the recommendations. I am reading one right now called "The Great Giveaway" by David E. Fitch. It's endorsed by Brian McLaren..and seems quite well within the key points advocated by EC. I will probably refer to it in my series of posts. I hope people stop dying in the family for a while. I need to get these posts written!!!

Excuse my rather sardonic sense of humor. After 45 years, I am resigned to it.

Rob said...

Comment away. Just please do your research and try not to misrepresent them. McLaren is definitely a lightning rod. Please post the good too. EC is asking a lot of questions evangelicals should have been asking during the 80's when they were far too interested in defending middle class white values.

I think that situation has gotten better now, but I think a lot of that has to do with the EC.


crownring said...

It would seem EC is seeping in everywhere, Sola, even in places I never expected. I hate to say this, but I believe much of it is due to people being entirely clueless and essentially being shepherdless. I'm hearing of more and more pastors who refuse to visit the sick and generally regard their duties as being limited only to preaching from the Sunday pulpit and managing the church staff. I also believe on Judgement Day, a lot of these pastors will find themselves in the following situation.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Sola, I believe it's time to pray for a true movement of the Holy Spirit that goes beyond revival and renewal to a complete rebirth. If the last days are truly nearly upon us, Sola, we surely need it now.

SolaMeanie said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments thus far. I am contemplating how best to continue this and not have it "deconstructed" to death before my main points are made and/or considered. I might well just make my comments on each of the numbered issues and not directly quote EC authors unless really necessary. I have seen on other blogs how posts get sidetracked or challenged i.e. "taking people out of context"...."did you correspond with the author first"....."just because one EC author says that doesn't mean all agree" etc.

I have read EC material, personally debated with EC adherents and am facing this in my own local area, so I am not ignorant of the subject. I've even been to EC-type services before. I didn't get much out of it besides a headache. :)

Crownring, I really think we're in for more challenging days than most realize. Those holding on to sound biblical doctrine are going to become an increasing minority.

Joe B. Whitchurch said...

Good one Joel. You are really leading the charge on collecting the best resources and having the best working knowledge of the vices of the ECM. I'll be back. Thanks again.

SolaMeanie said...

I don't know about "leading the charge." Others have done lots of legwork and I am merely piggybacking. What I hope to do, "cut to the chase" and hit key areas of concern without being distracted into a whole host of bunny trails. Some in the EC are good at "conversing" you to death in a whole host of different directions, arguing much like Jehovah's Witnesses if you've ever had that privilege!

I also don't want to get sidetracked into the "one EC doesn't speak for all EC." That's a given, but one must also notice they tend to talk from very similar templates. We'll see how it goes.

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