Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chuck Missler on the "Emergent Church"

It's been a while since I've posted anything about the so-called "Emergent Church" movement, or updated where things are with it these days. In many ways, it seems like it's fallen off the radar screen, which is unfortunate. It hasn't gone away. It may have morphed into different forms and different names, but the ideas are still out there being pushed within evangelicalism, and it's just as deadly.

Back when I was still doing radio, I had author/researcher/teacher Chuck Missler of Koinonia House Ministries as a guest several times, usually on geopolitical issues, Israel, and biblical prophecy. In his newsletter this month, he revisits the Emergent Church and explains some of the problems with it from an orthodox Christian perspective. I am posting it below for your perusal—a good summation.



UNDERSTANDING THE EMERGENT CHURCH

Many Christians have heard of the Emergent (or Emerging) Church but have no idea what it is. In understanding the Emergent Church, it’s necessary to understand a cultural trend in Epistemology. Epistemology is a fifty-cent word meaning “the study of truth or how we learn truth”.
Through the history of man, we can discern three major trends in Epistemology: Premodernism, Modernism and Postmodernism. Each is tied to a time frame and is extremely general. There are many exceptions within each group. The focus here will be on Premodernism.
A Premodern epistemology assumes that God exists and knows everything. Our knowledge and ability to learn truth depends on divine revelation from God Himself. In other words: truth begins with God. Premodernism was the first known epistemology and lasted up until a bit after 1600 AD, during the Enlightenment period of history. René Descartes is generally attributed with the shift to Modernism.
Modernism assumes that truth can be found through the senses of man. What we can feel, see and measure becomes the focus of how truth is learned. This is where science plays a much more important role in society. Science, after all, just seeks truth through what man can observe. While an existent God is compatible with Modernism, we see the focus shift from God being the source of truth to man being the source of truth.
Modernism has lasted up until just the last few decades. Indeed a vast number of people hold to a Modernistic Epistemology but something called Postmodernism has begun to take hold over the past thirty years or so. Postmodernism is not an easy thing to define, however there are a few general trends that can be understood.
Postmodernism denies that absolute truth can be known, or even that it is desirable that it should be known. The process of learning or discovery is the important thing to postmodernity; the end point of this process should never be reached.
Jim Leffel, director of The Crossroads Project, an apologetics ministry designed to equip Christians to understand and effectively communicate in our postmodern culture, summarized the main tenants of postmodernism with these five points:
    Reality is in the mind of the beholder. Reality is what’s real to me, and I construct my own reality in my mind.
    People are not able to think independently because they are defined—“scripted”, molded—by their culture.
    We cannot judge things in another culture or in another person’s life, because our reality may be different from theirs. There is no possibility of “transculture objectivity”.
    We are moving in the direction of progress, but are arrogantly dominating nature and threatening our future.
    Nothing is ever proven, either by science, history, or any other discipline.
Postmodernism also denies that any story or written word has an absolute message. The author’s point or intent is not important, only what the reader receives has value. The written word only has meaning in how the reader interprets it. Here we can see that the focus of truth has moved from man to the individual, each who may define his own truth.
The Emergent Church can be thought of as a marriage of the Church with Postmodernism. There are many leaders in the movement, but each of them seem to share a dissatisfaction with the conservative evangelical churches from where they usually came. The stated goal is to reach the Postmodern society, but the means to this are to become Postmodern themselves. Thus absolute things such as sin, hell and judgment are not talked about. Instead members are encouraged to find God and their own truth through a number of means including many things that the evangelical Christian community (and the Bible) would call occultist.
Obviously this description does not do the movement justice. Books have been written on the various aspects of the Emergent Church.
The stated goal to reach our changing society is certainly a good one. Jesus gave the Great Commission in the end of Matthew 28. Verse 19 reads “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The next verse, though is verse 20 which starts with “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
Verse 20 follows verse 19 by a comma; it is the method Jesus says to make disciples. Christians are not supposed to make disciples by telling people to find their own truth. Disciples are to be made by teaching them to observe all the things Jesus commanded.
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Each person finding his own truth is not compatible with this. Jesus is the one and only truth.
Instead of becoming Postmodern to reach the Postmodern, the example of Paul should be followed in Acts 17 when encountering the philosophers in Athens. Paul didn’t become a Stoic or Epicurean; rather he understood their philosophy and spoke the gospel of Jesus Christ to them in terms they would understand.
The “emerging church” movement may urge us to concentrate on telling people about God’s love for them, but if we fail to warn them of the need to repent of their sin and believe the gospel, they will die—and God will hold us accountable for the Holy Spirit tells us in Ezekiel:
“If I should say to a certain wicked person, ‘You wicked man, you’re certainly about to die,’ but you don’t warn him to turn from his wicked behavior, he’ll die in his guilt, but I’ll seek retribution for his bloodshed from you.” (Ezekiel 33:8, ISV)




1 comment:

Solameanie said...

I should also point out that Chuck recommends Dr. D.A. Carson's book, Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church, published by Zondervan. I do as well.