The Emergent Church–Moving From Absolute To Authentic
Over the past few weeks, Shane has been revisiting articles that drew the most feedback in 2010. Here is the final one…
When terms “emergent” or “postmodern” are used, I’m referring to what is known collectively as The Emergent Church Movement. This movement is very popular among young adults. They believe that a new church should emerge in response to changes within our culture. This isn’t necessarily wrong if change operates within the perimeters of absolute truth; the EC movement, as a whole, however, is more about subjectivity than objectivity, experience than reason, relevance than repentance, outward works than inward change, and feelings than truth.
We are to detest division within the church, and work toward reconciliation whenever we can, but we must not confuse “attacking” with “contending.” I’m not challenging emergents if, by this term, one simply means reaching the world for Christ with God’s word as our standard. I was 37 when I began writing on this topic; I completely understand the need to be “culturally relevant.”
My concern is not with those who hold to the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.With that said…biblical unity encourages us to go directly to the source. Where are we getting information about a person, movement, or ministry? Are we going directly to them, and/or reputable sources, or are we looking to smear websites, gossipers, and heresy-hunters for the answers?
Check sources carefully. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed my view after talking directly to the person in question, or after hearing both sides. When I began writing these articles, I was also reading a book about the emergent church entitled: “Stories of Emergence—moving from absolute to authentic.” The subtitle itself reveals a misguided theology by suggesting that God’s absolutes are not authentic.
This book contains short autobiographies of many postmodern and emergent leaders. I read their words with an open-mind. I then had a clearer understanding of beliefs and backgrounds. The cloud of confusion about this movement began to lift when I isolated four specifics. I was beginning to answer my question, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
1) Many emerging leaders were educated at liberal universities, and/or by liberal professors. This is why many Christian leaders say that the emergent church philosophy, as a whole, reflects the latest version of liberalism. 2) Most have unresolved anger toward the “established” protestant church (sometimes with good reason), and it jumps from the pages of their books, blogs, and articles. Protest against fundamentalism and conservatism seems to fuel the movement. 3) Many emergent leaders routinely challenge the truths of the Bible. Thus, they place a very low value on the clarity of God’s word with statements such as “our modern understanding of the gospel may be faulty, warped, and twisted.” Yet, in contrast, Jesus’ words about salvation, sin, and repentance remain crystal clear; so clear that even a child can understand them. 4) Many emergents reference famous secular professors, and psychologists, to prove their point. They rarely reference the Bible contextually regarding difficult issues such as hell, sin, judgment, repentance, and so on. It appears that the movement is influenced more by secular sources rather than by biblical truths.
Herein lays the core problem: When people, groups, denominations, or movements depart from absolute truth, and thus, quench and grieve the Spirit of God, they become mechanical in their approach to Christianity and loose the ability to truly guide. The word of God is not “in their hearts like a burning fire,” but relative, powerless, and debatable. This is what we see today; many are not truly worshipping God, as Jesus said, “in spirit and in truth.” Those who are not committed to the word of God will look for approval from the culture rather than from God. Postmodernism focuses on pleasing man rather than God; telling people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. This is why absolute truth and genuine biblical unity are so important. They keep us grounded. God’s church, and His leaders, are to be pillars who support truth, not who oppose it.