Apr 19, 2008

The Emerging Church

By Don McGee

I call it “The Lite, Bibleless, Non-Offensive, Non-Controversial, Doctrine-Free, Buffet Church — Everything You Ever Wanted In Religion And Less”. What this describes is the current cutting-edge philosophy in western religious thought, and it is having a hay-day among some former evangelicals and new converts looking for a nicer and less offensive gospel. It is called “The Emerging Church” and is basically stale, warmed-over multi-cultural religion that would make Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller proud.

While doing the background reading for this article I came across some interesting descriptions and comments about the emerging church movement. Reading most of them was like reading an extremely wordy and complex description of a very simple process. Emerging church adherents use words that are hardly ever used in common speech, so we are forced to read between the lines in order to understand what ever it is they are trying to say. But, even the fancy-schmancy wording can not hide the truth from one who knows the Bible — the emerging church movement is heretical, plain and simple. Sort of like trying to camouflage the sight and smell of a hog pen with silk flowers and dollar-a-gallon perfume. It won’t work.

The following is a description of the emerging church movement word for word:

“Proponents of the emerging church movement embrace postmodern epistemology and values. They seek to de- construct and reconstruct Christianity in order to engage post-Christian Western culture in a two-way conversa- tion rather than proclaim a message that is alien to that culture.” Did you like that?

How about this: “Proponents of the movement advocate ecumenical, non-dogmatic view of doctrine in which they embrace a continual reexamination of and flexible approach to theology which causes them to see faith as a journey rather than a destination. Emergents claim to hold in tension even radical differences in doctrines and morals...Emerging church participants are thus true to the social constructs of their local narratives rather than to any absolute, ahistorical, cross-cultural authority.”

In case you are wondering, this theo-babble is from the on-line Wikipedia Encyclopedia on the subject of “The Emerging Church”.

No doubt most of us can read this and figure out what is being said, but we might ask why do they not speak in plain language about who they are what they believe? One reason is they wish to sound very refined and stylish because they understand basic religious marketing techniques. They know quite a number of “seekers” out there are interested in a certain level of sophistication in a church, and they make their choice based upon who attends, where they live, etc. “Emergents”, as they are called, understand if they are going to reach the “beautiful people” they must get rid of bloody crosses, broken and contrite hearts and all that other stuff that goes with gut-level repentance and sorrow for sin. The only emotion they want to see in the assembly is when people joyfully greet each other and talk about portfolios, politics and vacations. You see, tears of contrition, public rededications and especially public immersions (baptisms) are too passé. Emergent sermons are inoffensive, politely delivered and leave people with a glowing sense of “Yep, I’m doing it right. Isn’t God glad to have me!” Jeremiah, Amos, John the Baptizer, Jesus, Paul, Jonathan Edwards, etc., would be totally out of place in an emergent church.

A second reason they blunt the sharp edges of their heresy by using this kind of jabbering nonsense is they understand most people are so spiritually shallow they would not even attempt at getting beyond the icing to see what is really in the cake. Noble Bereans (Acts 17:10,11) are never found in emergent churches. It is amazing how many church-goers are present on Sunday mornings for the sole purpose of fulfilling what they see as a religious obligation. What is said from pulpits is unimportant — “...just check my name as being present and let me go home…after, of course, I confirm the tee time with my friends.”

The word “heresy” has been mentioned a couple times. What does that mean in context of the emerging church? Three overlapping eras of time must be understood first. These definitions are somewhat broad for the purpose of this article. Modernism: period from about 1850 to 1950 when man thought he had the answers to the questions and, because of growing technology, did not need God. Post modernism: when man lost faith in technology and leaned toward “feel good” philosophy and socialism. (The hippie movement of the ’60s grew out of this era.) Post-Christian: from about the 1920s when the biblical worldview began to be replaced with the secular worldview. The secular worldview is essentially humanism plus multiculturalism which means everything is relative to everything else and there are no absolutes to be found anywhere. This is precisely where our world is today. Evolution was tailor-made for this era.

Basically, biblical heresy is any doctrine that is not from God, and God’s sole written revelation of Himself is the Bible. Beginning with the modern period the higher critics have done everything from placing the Bible in doubt to outright rejection. In a nutshell these three eras give us a broad view of the whole process of rejecting God.

"They seek to de-construct and re-construct Christianity in order to engage post-Christian Western culture in a two-way conversation rather than proclaim a message that is alien to that culture."

The Bible is the word of God, and no man has the right or authority to add or remove anything from it (Revelation 22:18,19). Emergent churches do just that in order to make the Bible more palatable to those offended by the truth. In this way, you see, people can get religion with multi-cultural affirmation. Powerfully proclaimed truth with accompanying Holy Spirit conviction are left out. Too crude and unrefined, of course.

Emerging churches accept about anybody with about any religious belief system. Doctrine is meaningless to emergents because they believe most all moral and religious systems have equal value and truth. When they talk about a “two-way conversation” they mean that any man can disagree with God and that God must accept that man’s belief system as a good, valid and perfectly acceptable alternative to biblical truth. God will negotiate truth with humanity when pigs fly.

"Ecumenical and non-dogmatic doctrine...continual reexamination of and flexible approach to theology." This means salvation is not exclusive to biblical teaching, and Christians must not be so unbending and narrow in their belief of the Bible. In essence they mean what you believe today might not be what you will believe tomorrow because “truth” changes. Further, Christians must be willing to not only consider all points of view, but to give them spiritual equivalence with the Bible.

"Emergents claim to hold in tension even radical differences in doctrines and morals..." This takes the above statement to an even lower level. Not only do emergents give credence to some very outlandish and heretical doctrines, but their standards of morality are sometimes no different from those of the world. Ever been to a Bible study party where along with pool-side food and a copy of the New Living Bible you will find booze, bikinis and sexual innuendo everywhere? At these get-togethers, usually hosted by college-age students and young couples, you will encounter informal discussions of “the Bible” by people with slurred speech, showing lots of cleavage and derrière and enough hormones flowing to float a ship. If you ask somebody there why this kind of thing is going on you will probably be told, “We must make the gospel relevant to those with no religious background and who would be terribly offended by Bible doctrine.”

"Emerging church participants are thus true to the social constructs of their local narratives rather than to any absolute, ahistorical, cross-cultural authority." This is probably one of the most visible of the emerging church attributes. Said in plain language, social customs and inclinations are more important than God’s absolute authority. Put even more succinctly, “It’s my life and what I want to do with my time, talents, money, influence, etc., is of far greater importance than what God wants to do with them. All I want is for God to save me then stay out of my business. And don’t preach to me about it, either!!”

Michael Edward, writing for the emerging church movement in his article “An Emerging Christianity” *(cited 11 June 07) gives clear insight into this emerging church heresy. He said, “Would it not be a wonderfully inviting proposition to suggest that God is love and the rest is mystery? Would that not bring together the atheists, agnostics, deists and theists into a creative dialogue?” So, that is it. All we have to do is love everybody and we will then be able to have “creative dialogue” (another term for a compromised agreement) with atheists, etc. I don’t see God going to the table with an atheist to discuss His position on His existence.

Even more appalling is what Edward says about what he calls biblical “myths”. He said, “And what of Jesus? Does Jesus really stand or fall on whether he was born of a virgin, appeared in a vision with Moses and Elijah, or physically rose on the third day? Or were these stories a creative attempt to help convey the incredible impression that Jesus made on his followers.” To Mr. Edwards and all those like him in the emerging church movement or anywhere else: Yes! It does matter what a person believes about miracles. In fact, to be extremely clear: a person cannot be a Christian (and thus go to heaven) if he does not believe in the virgin birth, transfiguration, bodily resurrection, etc. Why? If Jesus was not born of a virgin, transfigured and bodily resurrected then He is not God in human flesh. That is why. And if someone needs to ask why that is important then we need to talk face-to-face.

By the way, a bodily resurrection is the only kind of resurrection possible. Spirits are not resurrected because spirits do not die. And Jesus did not appear in a vision with Moses and Elijah...see Matthew 17:1-8.

What does all this mean? It means we and our children must be on a short tether to the Bible. That is the only place where truth is found. Though they are very real dangers, most Christians do not worry so much about the influence of satanic cults, the Moonies, etc., because their heresies are so evident. However, when it comes to the emergent church and other such movements we must be extremely vigilant for two major reasons. First, what is presented for public consumption looks good, smells good and goes down easily. Second, and most unfortunately, many Christians have somewhat of a stunted spiritual maturity and would not recognize some of these heresies so easily.

As each year goes by it becomes easier to see how Revelation 17 and 18 will be fulfilled. Things are looking bad for the world and for those who claim it as home. But, for those who are here as ambassadors things are looking good. That is, we are soon to be recalled by the King.