Cutting Through the “Emergent” Church Fog

Where is this road taking us?

Where is this road taking us?

Some of you out there have been faithfully following the conversation going on for a few years now about Christians who claim to be “emerging”, “emergent”, or “missional”. Others don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, and still others are just plain ole confused.  If you want in on the “conversation” then feel free to stick around and read on…

Be forewarned: this is a longer post! This vein has been going through my mind for awhile now and I have been trying to find a solid position and understanding on these things.  In the end, you will see how all of this relates to missions in my mind.  

I think I’m getting to understand now thanks to Mark Driscoll’s recent message given at Convergence Conference in Raleigh, NC. If you can, you should listen to the whole “Convergence” message. It brings out more than I can or care to talk about on this post.  LISTEN HERE.  He also talks about it HERE.   In a recent interview Mark breaks down the terms for us.

“I see various teams flying under the banner of emerging (church):

Relevants-theologically conservative, culturally innovative church forms.

Reformed Relevants-theologically conservative and reformed, culturally innovative church forms.

Reconstructionists-theologically conservative, reinventing church forms. (ie, house church)

Revisionists-theologically liberal, reinventing church forms.

He goes on to say, “I have no problem with the evangelical Relevants… I have respect for, but some concerns with, the house church Reconstructionists. I consider myself a Reformed Relevant. And, the Emergent crowd is Revisionist, which I have strong concerns about regarding such things as gender roles, original sin, substitionary atonement, homosexuality, authority of Scripture, hell, etc.”  Ed Stetzer recently said that Emergents are rewriting what it means to be a Christian by abandoning substitutionary atonement when they avoid speaking of the cross in reference to sin. 

At the Convergence conference, Driscoll points out three main men from the Emergent/Revisionist Camp that he has the most concern about: Rob Bell, Brian McLauren, and Doug Pagitt.  Emerging Grace has summarized his thoughts HERE.  You should check these out if you don’t listen to the message.

Let me say this about Rob Bell because he is the most well known and popular. There is no denying that this dude is cool. Pastors everywhere are now wearing thick black rimmed glasses because of him ;-) His Nooma videos are really fun to watch and visually engaging. But I have been concerned with his slippery and vague language concerning some of the core truths of Christianity as well as his seeming slide toward universalism. SEE HERE.

I haven’t been able to listen to his most recent speaking tour, “The God’s Are Not Angry”, but I am already hearing buzz that he doesn’t go near substitutionary atonement and doesn’t mention the core truths of the Gospel. Add to this the points that Driscoll brings out, and I am definately watching him more closely than I was before.  Just because he’s cool and engaging doesn’t make him right, it just makes him even more dangerous if he’s wrong.

Back to the Driscoll “Convergence” talk: I felt the last part of it was the best and really concluded the matter for me and brought out what I’ve been feeling all along, but haven’t been able to articulate. Here are some of his points: 

“Emergent is like Judas in the process of hanging himself” All I can say is Wow!

We need to be Biblically Faithful and Culturally Fruitful.  I agree.   

Liberal: Doctrine and Practice- Two open hands.  Fundamentalist: Doctrine and Practice- Two Closed Hands.  Both are Wrong:  We Need To Have One Closed Hand on Doctrine and One Open Hand On Practice.  I agree.

We Need To Both Contend and Contextualize.  I agree.

“The Goal is conversion: not that people would be converted to religion or irreligion, that people would meet Jesus and be born again.  The Gospel carves out a center all its own that enables us to speak prophetically to the (theologically) left and to the right.”  I agree.

He also speaks about the theologically liberal (emergents/syncretism) and the fundamentalists (sectarianism) fighting with one another, but the one thing they don’t have is: converts.  They waste all their time shooting one another.  I agree.

He goes on to say,

I understand that there are times when we must make a stand, where must declare false teaching, where we must protect the doctrinal integrity of the church.  But the vast majority of our time should be seeking converts, seeing people meet Jesus, seeing churches get planted that have timeless truth and timely methods and new expressions so that those people could be Biblically faithful and culturally fruitful and they could have a church where they could worship Jesus as well. 

And all the nonsense about emerging and emergent and new monastic communities ( I would add house church, new mystics, missional etc-What would you add?) and all of these various kinds of ridiculous conversations.  I tell you as one on the inside.  They don’t have converts.  The silly little myth, the naked emperor is this, they will tell you that its all about being in culture to reach lost people and their not.  They’re getting the disgruntled children of evangelicalism to critique fundamentalism or it is the disgruntled children of fundamentalism who are critiquing liberalism, neither of which is seeing converts.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I would add that most of them are upper middle class white folks who talk about diversity, but don’t display it! 

From my perspective, I want to always remember that some people in the world are not having these conversations yet because they don’t even have a Bible in their language!  They don’t have a life-giving church anywhere within reach!  They don’t even know the name of Jesus Christ, much less that he came as an atonment or propitiation for our sin. 

Yes, we need to be relevant to our culture, we need to contend and contextualize, we need to take a stand when Biblical integrity is being questioned, we need to be aware of these “conversations” that are turning into new theology, but most of all we need to be advancing the Kingdom of God to the uttermost ends of the Earth! 

Thanks to Mark Driscoll for summing this all up, exposing some of these things from an insider’s perspective, and keeping the most important thing, the most important thing.  

Next book to read that I found at Nathan’s siteWhy I’m Not Emergent:  By Two Guys Who Should Be.

FYI:  My home church would be considered in the “relevant” camp and not the revisionist camp.   My Pastor and friend recently preached on what this means HERE.

Here Are A Few Others Of Interest...

  • http://troymaxwell.com Troy Maxwell

    Great stuff John. I too am a bit concerned that we are trying to be so like the world, we have become “INDISTINGUISHABLE” from the world. If we are too slick with the truth it may just slip right out of our hands. Christianity doesn’t need to be re-invented. Christianity needs to be lived!!!

  • http://www.spreadtheflame.com JL

    Right on. This is a quote from the book I mentioned in the article that sums it up for me. “You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism and not be an emergent Christian. In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.”

  • PaulWilson

    I agree it starts with Christ an dends with Christ. If we are not protectors of the truth religon,culture and tolerance will steal it from us unless we hide His world in our hearts and do the will of the Father.

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