By. jeff baxter
1. the Emergent Church crosses theological lines.
2. Theology has very little boundaries or lines of authority for the Emergent Church. I mention a “morphed view” because many of these theologies are in line with Orthodox Evangelical Theology until they “emerge” into a life of their own landing into the Emergent camp. This is what makes the Emergent Church Theology so hard to get and thus dangerous. This is why I have defined Orthodox Evangelical Faith with the following two constants. First, to be in bounds Biblically, one must affirm a conservative theology based on the truth that the Bible as infallible, inspired and inerrant Revelation from God (the 66 books of the Biblical Scriptures). This makes it the only True source of authority. Second, one must believe we are saved “by grace through faith alone” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If the authority source is not a view of the Bible this way, many doors are opened to unorthodox and unbiblical “conversations” and belief systems. Be careful. Just because “love” is lifted up as the highest value does not mean that the Theological foundation is accurate or the definition of love is correct.
3. Many of the leaders of the Emergent Movement have been influenced by Liberal Theology, Existential Theology, and Neo-Orthodox Theology. These Theologies do not affirm Orthodox doctrines of the Church. The Divinity of Christ, Virgin Birth of Christ, Salvation of Sinners, and Eternal Forever Hell are a few examples of where Emergent Theology is off base even if they think “Love Wins” in the end. This view does not fall in line with Orthodox Evangelical Theology that affirms an interpretation of the Word of God as infallible, inspired and inerrant.
4. Those who like the Emergent “conversation” don’t like labels, so the two paragraphs above would go against their unwritten mantra of rising above “conservative” and “liberal” labels (source). As one of Brian McLaren’s books is titled, they want a Generous Orthodoxy. They want their cake and eat it too. They like the journey, with little boundaries accept love and tolerance. They like to take a little from each of the historic faith groups stating that it is authentic and historic, thus good, keeping their definition of Jesus as important thrown into a blender of belief that looks beautiful, but tastes terrible. This is dangerous.
5. There seems to be a common bound of disillusionment (even hurt) from the organized and institutional church. They like to deconstruct everything, even orthodox theology. They want to live their faith while dancing with postmodernity and even at times negative culture. Many, if not all, do not like evangelism because they believe it is a show stopper for the “open conversation” about spiritual things, but this is the heart of the Christian Message and Orthodox Evangelical Theology. As a result, we don’t hear about people coming to Christ for the first time (either because of individual relationships or preaching) within Emergent groups. That is not the point for them. But, this flies in the face against, well, the Gospels and Acts in particular where the Gospel advanced from Jerusalem to Rome setting the stage and pattern for local churches today in the Great Commission. The Emergent church does not seem to like this topic of conversation (I have personal experience with friends).
6. Now, to be fair, the emphasis on community and adapting forms or methods in living out Christianity in our current world is a good thing to discuss, but not by putting Orthodox Theology on the operating table to be dissected and put back together again anyway you want to. Not everything is up to be deconstructed and changed. I like the emphasis of love in action, but what of the authoritative Truth of God’s Word with love in action. There needs to be a balance, but I am afraid Emergent Church leaders have swung the pendulum out of Biblical bounds.
7. Emerging church practitioners are happy to take elements of worship from a wide variety of historic traditions and theologies, including traditions of the Catholic Church, the Anglican churches, the Orthodox churches, and Celtic Christianity. From these and other religious traditions emerging church groups take, adapt and blend various historic church practices including liturgy, prayer beads, icons, spiritual direction, the labyrinth, and lectio divina (source).
Practices that open up one’s mind to mysticism, Buddhism, using idols and partnering with ancient practices from folks whose theology was not orthodox and view of the Bible that is not authoritative is dangerous and should not be practiced. I suggest studying the Theologies of these groups (our series), their leader’s views of God, Jesus, Salvation, Meditation, Prayer and the like to gain a better understanding of why they participated in these practices and promote it to others. Compare them to Evangelical Orthodox Theology and you will find a disconnect in background and proper Biblical study.
8. The Emergent Church does not want to be “nailed down” but to keep her options open. This is where the slope gets slippery. Not all meditation is good, right or True. We should fill our minds with the Word of God, not empty our minds of distractions with self exaltation. The focus should always be on the Biblical God, not us. How do you determine which are okay and which are not okay or is it all open to every Christian? The Word of God determines our practice, not “ancient gurus of the faith.”
God gave us guardrails to guide us. I am afraid the Emergent Church Theology and many others as we have discussed have disregarded the heart of God. The Bible is His Revelation to us and tells us what is on his heart. His mission was to provide a substitutionary atonement for our sins because the wrath of God was against us. This is Salvation and the good news that Jesus Christ took our place on the cross so we could gain access back to God in relationship. McLaren in his book, Generous Orthodoxy changes the New Testament definition to fit his own philosophical and theological worldview and his trouble with a real forever eternal hell. I noticed McLaren adds to the Biblical definition of salvation by adding other ways that God saves in Chapter 3 – Jesus: Savior of What. This is doctrinally dangerous!
Jesus stated his ONE mission many times like in the context of Zacheous coming to faith in Christ by saying, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Lost from what? Lost from a relationship with God because we are separated because of our sin against God (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
Again, Jesus stated his mission to call sinners to God. Jesus’s purpose in spending time with “sinners” was to save them from their sin. In a summary statement he said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31). Sick here is not physically sick, but spiritually sick because of our transgressions and sins against God. We need to “change our mind” (repent) about who Jesus is and receive him by grace through faith.
Paul affirmed Jesus’ mission making it very personal by saying, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy1:15). Again, we are separated from God because of our sin. We broke the law (i.e. Ten Commandments). We are guilty and need to be rescued. Jesus did it, but we need to believe and receive Him or we are not saved. He is the only way to God (John 14:6).
The calling of Paul in Acts was to preach the Gospel (which he risked his life for. As well as the disciples! They literally died for it!) and establish the churches in sound doctrine so that the Gospel would not be distorted by false teaching. I am afraid the Message of the Gospel is being changed today by many in the Emergent Church. It is not just a method adjustment, but involves the very essence of the Gospel message they are molding to suite their own desires!
We needed a solution, a remedy, a deliver and Messiah to come, not just to make the world look better as many in the Emergent group affirm (there will be a day when the King comes back to set up his Kingdom), but to save people from their sin against a holy God. If this is not on the heart of every follower of Jesus, we are missing the point of any “conversation.” This is not just an “Evangelical” thing, but a Biblical one. Again look back at the root and definition of eevongeleon. This is really good news from a really good God who saves sinners.
May our Theology line up with the authority of the Word of God using proper interpretation principles (hermeneutics). May we focus on God’s mission – “To seek and save the lost.” May we hold the line of sound orthodox evangelical theology together.
What Do You Think?
Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren
Why We’re Not Emergent, DeYoung and Kluck
Tensions in Contemporary Theology, Gundry and Johnson (Moody Press)
Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, House (Baker)
Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren (Zondervan)