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Posts Tagged ‘Emergent Church’

I remember a few years ago when Don Carson come to my church for a conference. I had recently read his book “The Gagging of God”, David Wells’ books “No Place for Truth” and “God in the Wasteland.”, and Ian Murray’s “Evangelicalism Divided”. My head was buzzing with my new-found understanding of worldview history and the evolution of epistemology (the study of how we come to know truth) and the influence of of these two factors on the church. I was eager to ask Carson what he thought was next. At the end of the conference I got my chance when several of us were chatting him up.

The answer he gave me was humble. He said he didn’t really know what would come after post-modernism and deconstruction. Had I been clever enough I might have asked him how these things would impact the church. I would bet money that he would have forecast something like the Emergent Church movement, especially since some of the earliest prototypes were already in play.

Personally, I dialogged a bit with one of the readers here about where the whole Emergent things was going. In my opinion, I said, the movement was moving toward churches without Bibles. In her response, the reader (Dani) observed that Saddleback (Rick Warren’s church) members often didn’t bring Bibles. This is probably because, as the Irish Calvinist has observed, Scripture is provided on overhead displays and in the printed programs. No doubt, as Dani noted, Saddleback’s foundation is built on some of the ideas common to the Emergent, such as a de-emphasis on Christian academics, doctrine, and theology proper. (Dani, I hope I’ve repped you properly!)

istock_000003593234xsmall.jpgWhat I meant was something even more terrible. When I said that I saw the Emergent Church shedding the Bible, I meant the pastors.

Since the Emergent movement is basically post-modernism gone to seed in the church, the Bible with all of its truth claims and dogma will eventually find its way out of the ‘church’ entirely. Already Scripture is not much more than a starting point, so its disappearance will be gradually and mostly unnoticed.

These churches may also end up without pastors, at least as we know them. Post-modern foundations instantly undermine the purpose of a pastor, at least as a teacher of some kind. Most likely, pastors will devolve to being paid cheerleaders and administrators. When truth claims are deemed oppressive, that aspect of the pastor’s job (preaching the Word) is pretty much unwanted.

Imagine that: churches without Bibles OR pastors! And yet, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

That is a scary thought. When churches empty themselves of their authority, the Bible, and the stewards of that authority, the result is that Christ’s churches will be primed to be filled with something other than Christ. What’s more, I believe that eventually the world will reject the silly conclusions that we come to when we cut out the legs of truth. They will realize that relativism demands that we be permissive of every form of perversion. the free pursuit of perversion will lead to anarchy, and anarchy will encroach on their ability to pursue their own good. Post-modernism WILL be rejected.

I don’t know how long this will take., but the vacuum left by post-modernism, in this penny-prophet’s opinion, will be one who offers peace through an authoritarian rule. People will be thirst for direction. It could take 100 years, but people will turn from the absurd conclusions of post-modernism, and there will be one who gives it to them. I think you know of whom I speak.

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Please check this out

For those of you new to Ikonograph, there only a few blogs I read regularly and even fewer that I link to. Pyromaniacs just put up this link about the Emergent Church that you need to read. Follow the PDF link and read the LA Times piece. It requires a degree of familiarity with the Emergent Church (see here).

It is often the case that major movements in the church at large have some rather sinister roots and its beginnings have been afoot long before they register on the public radar. The Emergent Church is no different. Just as important is the end-game of the movement. Take notice, as these folks will have a lot to say about what the visible church looks like in the future.

Given the fact that when Jesus returns, his feet will touch down first on the Mount of Olives, it gives me no pleasure to say that I think one of the first places His “boot” will touch down will be Fuller Seminary.

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I’ve recently finished one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in quite some time. Mark Driscoll’s “Confessions of a Reformission Rev.”is that book. Quite a lot has been said about Driscoll over the last year or so. He is the infamous “cussing pastor” mentioned in the popular and controversial “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. He is closely linked with Doug Padgitt and Brian McLaren as he worked with them earlier in his life before splitting with them over their theological drift. My guess is that Driscoll is one man who many think they know without having heard him speak for himself.

For this reason alone, I decided I needed to find out what he was about: everything I have come into contact with that has to do with him has been compelling, for better or for worse. Say what you want about him, he is never boring, and more than that, his influence is on the rise.

So I read the book. It did not disappoint. I’m reading “The Radical Reformission” right now, but that will have to wait. My reaction was both strong and mixed. Let me explain:

  1. Mark is, I believe, unnecessarily crass… a lot. He does not cuss in the book, but admits that he has struggled with swearing in the past. At the same time he is known for crossing comfort barriers in his preaching. In his book the words are not the issue so much as the phrases. You could call is crass, you could call it coarse, or you could call it frank. To his thinking it is a part of identifying with culture. You may disagree. At times I did.
  2. Mark calls the teachings of Padgitt and McLaren as heretical, yet insists on calling them friends. Go figure.
  3. Mark has a different idea of the church’s purpose than I do. He rejects the attraction-heavy, market-driven approach of Willow Creek, but he does believe that the church must market itself to unbelievers to a lesser degree. He remarks that his church is more for those unsaved people they are trying to reach than for the ones already there. He calls this being “missional.” Many people have now hijacked this term to justify becoming worldly in the name of evangelism. For Mark, being “missional” means having a singular drive to go into culture and see people saved. This is a right pursuit, but I believe that the first purpose is for the equipping of Christians for the work of service (Eph 4:11-13), under which evangelism falls.
  4. Mark goes a little to far in my opinion in accommodating to culture. This is a very touchy issue. He rightly observes that most Christians do not want to accommodate to culture at all; most want to drag converts into their own culture. When living IN the world, there is always the risk of becoming OF the world (1 Cor 5:10, James 4:4). I think Mark crosses this line a bit. I am reading “The Radical Reformission” right now, which addresses this question, so I am withholding judgment for now.
  5. Mark asks us to be more considerate of the cultures of the unsaved (in his case, the unchurched, ultra-liberal, punk rock culture of Seattle) while he mocks other subcultures. He picks on the ultra-conservative a lot. He unintentionally implies that the legalists are less deserving of patience than the heavily tattooed, pot-smoking crowd.

One the other hand:

  1. Mark convinced me that I do not truly love the unsaved like I should. He commended me for loving the people in my church but criticized me for not caring about my neighbor. I would classify this as a life-changing conclusion.
  2. Mark pushed me to re-evaluate the Church’s obligation to it’s community. This conclusion mirrors my personal reflections and extends them to the Church as a whole. He paints churches with too broad brush strokes, but he sums up the basic types of churches relative to their views on evangelism.
  3. Mark helped me rethink my ideas about how to contextualize the gospel to different subcultures. I would say that I have understood that context is important to the gospel (see all of Acts 17) but that I may have been too legalistic in what I expected of converts. In other words, I have expected that they should become like me. Christians and churches can exist inside subcultures rather than having to conform to mine.
  4. Mark has challenged my thinking about what is Christian liberty and what is worldliness. Again, I would say that I have not been a legalist about what passes and Christian liberty, but I have probably been too narrow. He has drawn me to examine exactly why some of my hang-ups exist. Whether I agree with him or not, I understand it better for myself.

The guy who titled a chapter “Jesus, Our Offering Was $137 and I Want To Use it to Buy Bullets” is definitely worth a read. Love him or hate him, he’ll make you think.

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Emergent? or crawlbackin-ent?

Some of you who read my recent post about Doug Pagitt’s remarks about John MacArthur and the sufficiency of Scripture also passed over my brief analysis of the emergent movement. Many who surf the Christian blogoshpere from time to time have heard of this movement, or of the “Emergent Church”, but don’t really know what it is. I though that the occasion would be a good one to try and explain.

Apparently all the grubby-clothes-wearing, half-shaven, sandal-shod Christians needed their own church.

Just kidding. I am wholly in favor of dressing with the times, within respectful boundaries. The emergent movement in general, though, is a pretty casual bunch.

Seriously, the emergent movement is somewhat of a rebellion. Now, not all rebellions are bad. The American Revolution is one example. I’d say that whole deal turned out well. Many rebellions start well and go bad. the French Revolution is a fine example of this sort of thing: the poor rise up to claim their liberte and egalite (liberty and equality), but end up making the guillotine famous by cutting heads off for no apparent reason by the end of the bloody mess.

On a level, the Emergent Church is this kind of rebellion: it has a many good premises, but over-reacts and slides into error of a new sort.

What are these good premises? I’ll try to list a few, as best I can:

  1. Much of the church today is chained to traditions that have to meaning to modern day believers. They are stifling because formality tends to be at odds with using your brain.
  2. Much of the rest of the church is consumed with attendance figures and crowd pleasing. Their appearance is healthy but in reality they are hollow.
  3. Many preachers use the Bible as a weapon, out of self-righteousness, and people are turned off to preaching.
  4. Many churches that are strong in Scripture scholarship are weak in their ability to relate to others, especially those who disagree.
  5. Churches think that evangelism amounts to getting other people to be just like them, rather than just like Christ. Evangelism seems to be a tool for depersonalizing people.

I would agree with all of these critiques of today’s church. To me, most churches look either obviously dead, or totally phony. That should be dealt with. No bones about that.

Here’s the problem. Post-modernism has now infiltrated the church. For those not familiar, post-modern philosophy says (in as few words as possible) that big “T” truth is not knowable. Certainty, then, is not possible. It says that we impose personal bias on anything we try to know for certain. Therefore, it is up to each one of us to tr the best we can to do what is right, and nobody should judge anyone else.

In the church, that becomes reality when the preaching of the Word is uprooted from it’s central place. This follows because post-modern thinking resists the Bible’s repeated Truth claims.

The resulting “Emergent Church” is hard to define. it’s nature is that it is different for everyone. Here are some common elements:

  1. In its quest to fight the impersonal, the Emergent church is ONLY personal. It resists any attempt to establish standards for behavior or belief.
  2. In its fight against the hollow programs of the mega churches, the emergent movement is consumed with personal experience and is turning to mysticism (looking to self for the discovery of truth, rather than outside self to God’s revelation)
  3. In its quest to fight formalism, it has become totally informal. For some reason even coarse language has become more accepted in emergent circles.
  4. In its quest to personalize evangelism, promotion of self-fulfillment has replaced the goal of Christ-likeness.
  5. In its resistance to self-righteous preaching, preaching is shrinking and in some cases gone. In its place are less ‘authoritative” practices like “sharing” or giving devotionals.
  6. In its resistance to cold academic Bible scholarship, Bible study is greatly diminished, and the value of knowing Scripture is diminished as well. this is where Doug Pagitt’s mocking of Scripture comes from.

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Doug Pagitt: I would like a response.

Wow. Two posts in one day.

Have to post about this. Some of you who read here also read about this at Pyromanics. John MacArthur was on CNN a short while ago debating about whether Christians should engage in yoga with Doug Pagitt (apparently another pastor of note, I am not familiar with him).

MacArthur was crisp and straightforward, as usual, insisting on the sufficiency of Scripture and warning against mysticism as a means to godliness. Pagitt hemmed and hawed and insisted that Jesus didn’t say anything against yoga and that he could find no Scriptures specifically forbidding it. The segment was brief. Not much more was said.

Just after they went off camera, Pagitt spoke with the attendant, still on mic, wherever he was being put on camera. Padgitt himself put the audio on his podcast. He mocks John and insults him by apologizing for him and insults the sufficiency of Scripture.The Pyromaniacs put the audio up.

Listen to it here.

I personally felt compelled to ask him where he was coming from. I posted a comment on his blog. There were a few comments other than mine, along the same line, probably more sternly worded. I went back to see if there was any reply, and he had closed the comments entirely, removing them from view.

Doug Pagitt, if you are going to post that kind of material yourself, I think it’s the right thing to do not to hide from the inevitable criticism. You can have your theological and practical differences, but you took cheap shots at another pastor, behind his back.

I’d barely heard of you before now. No doubt you are influential in the emergent movement. I’m sure that’s why Headline News tapped you for the piece on yoga. What I understand of the emergent movement is that it moves the authority of Scripture out from center stage. Your comments confirmed this. I also understand that the movement puts such stress on authentic personal experience that it is ONLY personal and shies away from objective claims of truth. Your argument on Headline News confirms this. I further see the movement as rebelling against stodgy orthodoxy to the point of being flippant toward dissenting views. Your podcast underlines this as well.

Please feel free to respond to the comment I left on your blog.

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