Urgent! An Emergent Warning

    I want to share with you the latest fad in the Christian arena, which is being called the “Emergent Movement”. I have read, “Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)” written by Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck and “The Courage To Be Protestant” written by David Wells, which has left me on the front edge of this movement. I want to thank my mentors at Together For The Gospel (T4G) for the free books and the education.

   Let me start by saying that the definition of the emergent movement is not written in stone. The best definition has come in the “Living” section of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Saturday, January 27, 2007. In this article, given to us by Ted Kluck in his book “Why We’re Not Emergent”, there is an interview with the one who his considered the leader of the emergent movement, Brian McLaren. 

In this article they list the nine characteristics of an emerging church:

1- Identify with the life of Jesus.
2- Transform the secular realm.
3- Live highly communal lives.
4- Welcome the stranger.
5- Serve with generosity.
6- Participate as producers.
7- Create as created beings.
8- Lead as a body.
9- Take part in spiritual activities.

    This list is full of good and noble things; however, Ted Kluck brings to our attention that there is no guiding principles about Jesus’ death and resurrection and the need of both for our salvation. This seems to be the norm for the emergents. The centrality of there church is man and not Christ. We need to be aware of this movement and the people who are involved in it who are holding conferences and writing books. Here are the ones that I am aware of; Rob Bell, Brain McLaren, Donald Miller, Tony Jones, Diana Butler Boss, Doug Pagitt, Leonard Sweet, and Karen Ward.

    I want you to see some of this “emergent way of thinking” so that you can be more familiar and able to recognize the language they use. Rob Bell says, “The Bible is still in the center for us, but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.” Bell’s wife, Kristen, continues with, “I grew up thinking we’ve figured out the Bible, that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel like life is big again-like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color.” Emergents don’t believe truth is a destination, but truth is a journey.

     I could go on and on, but I think this is a fair enough warning. I want to leave you with a quote from Donald Miller, from his book “Blue Like Jazz”, in the book Donald is giving his reasons for embracing Jesus, “I think the difference in my life came when I realized, after reading those Gospels, that Jesus didn’t just love me out of principle: He didn’t just love me because it was the right thing to do. Rather, there was something inside me that caused Him to love me.” Ted’s response is, “That last sentence is flat-out wrong and a denial of original sin, total depravity, and God’s free grace in election.” I agree with Ted, to have anything within yourself which is deserving of God’s grace to shine on you is moralism. I hope this post will be helpful in bringing our attention to the things that will take Christ out of the church’s center.

To God be the glory!

Published in: on Friday,July11,2008 at 11:25p07  Comments (11)  

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  1. I know it may not make a difference in your perspective; but I urge you not to make your decisions about a group or movement or conversation (the preferred term among many emergents) based on those who oppose it! That’s like saying the best way to understand a political party is to look at it’s opponent. (I’m going to guess you lean toward the Republican side-would you want your working definition of the Republican party to be written by Democrats?…or asking a Red Sox fan to describe the New York Yankees, if you prefer a sports analogy.)

    You will be able to make a more qualified evaluation by looking at proponents of a particular perspective, as well as the critiques of others. I don’t really know what you mean by “front edge of this movement,” but don’t see how reading two books against it puts you in any position to speak knowledgeably about it.

    Emergent, emerging, these are words that are used to convey a broad spectrum of people, conversations, churches, theology…no single church or person speaks for it. To sum it all up with a couple of quotes is very limiting and misleading.

    You say “the centrality of there (sic) church is man not Christ.” First, it’s impossible to make a statement and say it applies to all emerging/emergent churches; second–all of the emerging/emergent churches I know are more Christ-centered than many of the traditional or modern churches I have been a part of.

    I encourage you to read “The Emerging Church” by Dan Kimball, “A New Kind of Christian” by Brian McLaren, “Emerging Churches” by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs. Also, take a look at the Emergent VIllage website.

    None of this may change your mind, but you will at least have a more informed perspective.

    FYI, the author of “Blue Like Jazz” is Donald Miller, not David.

    have a great day!

  2. Thank you for your comments. You seem to be very acquainted with this movement.

    First of all, my attention has been drawn toward those who speak and what they are saying on behalf of this movement. After evaluating these conversations it seems there is a lack of sound doctrine. I would say, from my limited knowledge, that this movement directs you to a more liberal democratic view of life, because there is no stance on simple things such as homosexuality.

    My comment about being on the front edge of this movement was in reference to my locale. Being from the “Bible Belt”, this movement has not been seen, as of yet, henceforth it is a warning.

    My limited number of quotes were sufficient in my attempt to show the language this “conversation” holds. Mystery over doctrine; uncertainty over truth, and so on.

    Oh, thanks for the correction on Mr. Miller’s name (Donald).

    To God be the glory!

  3. Speaking of Rob Bell………

  4. Mystery over Doctrine, Uncertainty over truth, 2 things that should scare us. Although we don’t have any “emergent” churches in our area you can tell some pastors are using some the “emergent” philosophies you listed in order to attract people to their churches.Thank you for this post.

    For His Glory,

    P.S. Are we going to have to wait 2 weeks b4 we get another post from you?

  5. I know, I will try to do better. Thanks!

  6. Bill,

    I’m frightened of doctrine with no mystery! I don’t see how one can read the Bible, and ponder the nature of a God beyond our ability to fully understand and explain, and not see some mystery.

    And I don’t think truth and uncertainty are mutually exclusive. Christ is the truth; but I don’t have certainty about all things pertaining to Christ.

    I’m not saying everything is a mystery, and that everything is uncertain; but a healthy relationship with God can include some of both.

    And how can you be certain that some pastors are using “emergent” philosophies to attract people to their church? Perhaps they are earnestly seeking God in new ways. Just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they are not genuinely seeking God.

  7. My question would be, do we need new ways to find God? I believe the Holy Scriptures are more than sufficient. Why is the Gospel no longer enough? What certainties do you not have about Christ that really matter.Do you believe He is the Son of God? Do you believe He was born of a virgin? Do you believe He lived a sinless life? Do you believe He died and paid for your sins on the cross? Do you believe that He rose from the grave 3 days later and is now seated at the right hand of God? Everything, we need to know is found in the Bible. There is nothing new under the sun.

    Are there questions that I will have when I get to heaven? Are there things in the Bible that I don’t fully understand? You bet.

    I guess what I’m saying is that we as the church,need to focus on the gospel(truth) and sharing that gospel, for it is the power unto salvation.

    But I’d really like to know what uncertainties about Jesus you have.

    For His Glory,

  8. Historic Protestant,

    Now would be the time to enter in the comments of GEORGE! Especially since I share many of the same sentiments George has expressed concerning the church today… Particularly how we draw people into the church (i.e. gimmicks, games, watered down Gospel, etc.)…instead of taking a stand on the TRUTH of God’s Word. It appears to me that much of what I see in the Emergent Church and have read in their books is the philosophy of ‘I’m OK, You’re OK so let’s all just get along’…and that it is their desire to meet the emotional needs of its members rather than the heart needs of all mankind. No doubt each emergent church is sincere in their beliefs; however, whenever we take their sincerity and apply it to God’s Word, it comes up lacking. I have never heard a forthright sermon from these pastors dealing with the hardcore issues (i.e. homosexuality, same sex marriage, abortion, adultery, gambling, etc.) …It’s all a touchy-feely “God’s got a wonderful plan for your life” mentality.

    As I encounter people who attend these ecumenical emergent churches, many of the members really have an ignorance of the Scriptures and at times have never read the Bible except for the verses used by pastors in their sermons. They have VERY LITTLE knowledge of what’s actually in God’s Holy Word.


  9. Thank you brothers for your comments on this particular subject. Allow me to introduce a couple more quotes from the emerging “conversation” that parallel the comments you bothers have made.

    Bill asked, “What uncertainties do you have about Jesus?” I am not answering for Todd, but here is some insight to your question in a quote from Rob Bell in his book “Velvet Elvis” where Rob is apparently giving his interpretation of John 14:6, which says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    Rob Bell says,
    “Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality. This kind of life Jesus was living, perfectly and completely in connection and cooperation with God, is the best possible way for a person to live. It is how things are…Perhaps a better question than who’s right, is who’s living rightly?”

    Looks like we have a problem with Jesus being the only way. I’m going to quote R.C. on this one and say at least God provided “one way” for us. He was never obligated to do that much for us, but He did. To God be the glory!

    Rich, you mentioned the “God has a wonderful plan for your life” mentality. This quote is for you. It comes from Brian McLaren in his book “The Last Word” in which he is referring to hell, which seems to be a topic to avoid in their “conversations”, McLaren says, “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.”

    McLaren also says, in reference to hell, in his book “New Kind Of Christian” that it’s not our business who is there–if anyone is there at all.

    Sounds like we have a problem with proclaiming God’s judgment. Why did Christ suffer the Cross? Never exchange the work of Christ, that was and is still being done on our behalf, for some good ole fashion moralism.

  10. “Christainity Lite” I believe is what David Wells calls it.

    By admin on Dec 8, 2007 in AM Missives, Current Issues, Emergent Church, Rob Bell, Youth Ministry

    In Rob Bell Says “All-ee In Free…Almost” here at Apprising Ministries we showed you that Rob Bell preaches a universal atonement where everyone is already forgiven. In Velvet Elvis the Emergent Church leader writes:

    So this is reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was reconciling “all things, in heaven and on earth, to God.” All things, everywhere.

    This reality then isn’t something we make come true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making. (146, emphasis mine)

    Pastor Benji Magness gives us his impression of the mushy message of Rob Bell in his post The Gods Are Not Angry {But I Am}:

    Just got back from seeing Rob Bell on his “The Gods Are Not Angry” tour. I went as a pastor precisely because I was concerned that he would end up saying that God was not angry at sin. Bell lived up to my expectations. His closing words were:

    “God is not angry because God is love.”

    Sounds like John Lennon to me. Sounds like Oprah to me. Doesn’t sound like the Bible to me… His message was simple: Don’t feel bad about yourself and all your shame and guilt because you have peace with God. This message was offered to all without the mention of repentance, trusting Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins and satisfying God’s wrath.

    I feel like I was at an Oprah taping {but I did not get any free gifts!}. I go to bed thankful that I am saved from the coming wrath of God because Jesus died in my place, taking my sins, imputing His righteousness, declaring me righteous based solely on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and indwelling me by His Spirit. These wonderful truths were sadly left out by Bell.
    (Online source, emphasis mine)

    In the comments section of the “Watcher of Watchdogs” website CRN.Info Dave Marriott makes an excellent point as he mentions AN INTERVIEW WITH ROB BELL, which ran on the well known emerging church website The Ooze:

    I am fairly sure that if Rob Bell said in his next Nooma “I am a universalist that doesn’t believe in a literal hell” that some of you would still say, “Rob is amazing, stop criticizing him for doctrine you radicals!”

    That being said, I doubt anyone will take this seriously. But, in a recent ooze interview, Rob said when questioned about hell…

    “Well, there are people now who are seriously separated from God. So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say “No I don’t want any part of this.” My question would be, does grace win or is the human heart stronger than God’s love or grace. Who wins, does darkness and sin and hardness of heart win or does God’s love and grace win?” (Online source)

    You can read Marriott’s deconstruction of Bell’s interview at the Seeing Clearly piece Rob Bell and Hell ooze interview. And finally we have the following quote which dispels any further doubts about Bell preaching a type of universalism. It comes from the Saturday December 8, 2007 article—the title tells us much—by Charles Honey called “God has already made peace with us, pastor says.” It appears at MLive, the online version of the Grand Rapids Press:

    “[Jesus is] essentially saying the system is corrupt,” Bell said. “There’s a new thing happening.” The new thing culminated in his Crucifixion, in which Jesus did away with the old sacrifices and God reconciled himself to humanity, Bell said.

    “Everyone thought it was your job to make peace with the gods. This God has made peace with humanity.” (Online source, emphasis mine)

    A lovely story for sure; but, it is absolutely not Biblical theology. While Christ Jesus did make the way to peace with God, this salvation from the coming wrath of God is only to be found by those who have been born again by God’s grace alone; through faith alone, in Christ alone.

    The emphasis above is on the word in; as in one must be regenerated by God the Holy Spirit and then baptized into Christ to have this peace with God because the Bible clearly says:

    The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

    You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.

    And if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He Who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:6-11)

    So Rob Bell is left with an irreconcilable problem: If all men already have peace with God, then according to the above from Holy Scripture all men would have to have the Spirit of God already dwelling within them. And if this is true, then all men are already saved; and so, Rob Bell would have to be preaching a type of “opt out” universalism ala another emerging church leader Spencer Burke.

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