Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Dr. David Plaster writes these sad words: “This endorsement evidently was as far as Brother Mackey ever got on his way to India” (Finding Our Focus, p. 83).
1897: good intentions, foreign mission fervor, a heart for India, yet , as they say, the rest is history…
He never went. He never made it. To my knowledge, we still have no official work in India to this day.
This blog entry might be for someone reading out there. Maybe you’ve been earnestly praying about where the Lord is leading you for His service. This may be a little shove to make you move. Pray to God even now if He may be calling you to go short-term or long-term while we are gifted with today.
He is coming soon! India is ripe for the harvest! More dispatches to come from this nation in need...
Monday, September 28, 2009
I feel it. The slow rumbling that seems to be building in my heart of hearts. Anticipation, dread, extreme rush, quiet joy, and a real and ever-present burden on my soul seem to collide and coexist all at once as I think of my journey coming up in a week and a half. Yes, folks time for my bi-annual trip to the great nation of India where my mind always gets blown and my body is put to the test of endurance.
Anyone who’s been to India any number of times knows the feelings I’m describing. In the midst of the hassle of packing and prep, there’s an excitement that just won’t let up. For me the reason is twofold: One facet is the idea of seeing my bride and baby girl after their two month time in India visiting family. Secondly, I feel called to preach the gospel there and encourage the believers, some of them living in true adversity. I want to teach them and tell them to hang on because Jesus may be coming soon! This is a message for India, America, and every nation on Earth.
I’ll spend almost a month there, Lord willing, sharing and venturing between two mega-cities in central India, Mumbai and Pune (which is my wife’s hometown). 20 million people live in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and about 4 million live in the rising IT center of Pune, 3 hours east from Mumbai. There will be crowds, heat, traffic, and a host of sights and sounds that will be both welcome and hair-raising and I am praying for the clarity to be able to take it all in and use it as fuel for this flaming heart to serve God and see souls saved.
The mega civilization that is India is only mentioned once in all of scripture (Esther 1:1) but is implicit in the vast references to the “nations” whose people can be saved by repenting and believing in Jesus Christ as their only true savior (See all the references to nations in just the Revelation alone: 5:8-10, 7:9, 10:11, 13:7, 14:6, 15:4, 19:15,21:24-26). Nations of course are made up of people, individuals for whom Christ died on the cross, being the penal substitute for their sins, and rose again conquering death for everyone who believes on Him! How can we not be excited and fired up to be a part of God’s plan to reach people and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20) seeing them “called out” from every conceivable culture and lifestyle and translated into the “kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13). In the end we’ll all rejoice to see people from every tribe, tongue, and nation singing worship and praise to the triune God for eternity!
What part will you play in this unfolding adventure known as the Christian life? Who has God burdened you to reach out to today?
Thanks for reading, praying, and, as the Lord leads, GOING!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This is the 9th and final blog post in this series asking the question: IS THE GRACE BRETHREN STATEMENT OF FAITH COMPATIBLE WITH EMERGENT THEOLOGY?
A Final Word
The FGBC Statement of Faith is a good collection of highlights as found in God’s revealed Word. When I say “wiggle room” I mean there will always be places where the devil and deceivers will attempt to insert falsehood and error. Our Statement is not infallible but I believe it to be a good guide pointing people back to the Scriptures, where I believe all of these issues are addressed. If we want to be biblical, then that is our established grid through which we filter and discern every doctrine and practice with the aid of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2).
Is there freedom? Yes, and I relish it especially in areas of music and outreach as long as biblical lines aren’t crossed. But some of the doctrines and practices, far too many, of emerging church and emergent theology definitely cross the line where the Bible, discernment, and just plain Godly wisdom are concerned. In these cases, we can only identify them as compromises.
At one time, there weren’t many questions that we weren’t at least confident were answered in Scripture and I believe that the danger of postmodernism and mysticism is the questioning of God’s Word, or the outright denial of its sufficiency. We need to reject the popular trend of having to re-think, re-imagine, or repaint the Faith. We definitely need to steer clear of unbiblical mystical paths for prayer and guidance. We must identify those among us who seem to be pointing people that way. We must warn them in accordance with God’s Word, which will never change. Truth is knowable (1) and Gods Word is clear and sufficient in the areas we are needful (2 Tim. 3: 16,17). We are therefore to do what it says and refute those who oppose and contradict sound doctrine (Titus 1:5-9). A statement of faith is merely a helpful collection of key points that ideally should uphold the teachings of Scripture and the key areas of content of our faith. I think ours does.
If we are truly committed to resisting false teaching, “test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21), and not waivering in the face of these new and unsound doctrines, then we will also, I believe, be fulfilling God’s plan for us as biblical believers. That would result in God-honoring, boldly proclaiming, God- pleasing Grace Brethren men and women whose Statement of Faith would not be just another contract but a FULL VOLUME proclamation of our convictions in accordance with God’s Word. What glorious changes would be wrought then! Are you ready?
Thanks for reading this lengthy series. Feel free to comment and critique with gentlenss and self-control. Stay tuned for more, Lord willing...
(1) “Can we truly understand the scriptures as believers? Apparently so: Our Lord said – “But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His Own” (John 16:13).
The Bible clearly tells us that if we have the Holy Spirit in us: then we can understand what has been written:
1 Cor. 2:12 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given us by God.”
Ro 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
What We Believe About Our Ordinances:
Our ordinances are also distinctive as compared to much of what’s being practiced in emerging and emergent churches today (and, for that matter, most other churches and denominations worldwide).
ORDINANCES…(1) baptism of believers by triune immersion (Matt. 28:19) and (2) the threefold communion service, consisting of the washing of the saints' feet (John 13:1-17)
Most emergents wouldn’t agree with triune immersion. Many do not observe threefold communion and again there is the prevalence of viewing the Mass or Eucharist as having validity, which we would reject because of its heresy in Christology.
What About the Rest?
Many emergents would probably give at least a cursory agreement with the stated beliefs in the rest of our Statement of Faith (The Holy Spirit, The Church, etc.). Many teach about the Trinity and there being one true God but there is not uniform agreement on these things and, in some cases, beyond the scope of citing in this work, error abounds in these areas as well (Ex. Erwin McManus’ redefinition of major aspects of the Christian faith (1)).
Many other areas are not in agreement with what the Bible says and subsequently what we lean on in our Statement of Faith. Just looking at the collection of essays from key leaders in the emergent church as laid out in An Emergent Manifesto Of Hope, we can see the following aberrant teachings: a false view of the kingdom ( (e.g. pp.80-81),a lack of concern for spiritual conversion—the true gospel (pp. 35-37, 49, 100), Egalitarianism (pp. 42,175-188), Rejection of original sin/sin nature (p. 43), Inclusivism (pp. 44, 49-50; 190-198), Rejection of sola fide (pp. 82, 159; 194-195), Rejection of sola scriptura (pp. 154-156), the inability to understand God due to our subjectivity (p. 156), and “Orthoparadoxy”—chapter 17.(2).
As we’ve seen, many elements of emergent and emerging theology don’t pass the test and therefore should be resisted on the grounds of the teachings of God’s Word, discernment, and conviction given us by the Holy Spirit.
(2) An Emergent Manifesto of Hope compiled by Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt as reviewed by Gary Gilley: http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/BookReviews/book_reviews.asp?ID=351
This is Part 7 of a blog post asking the question: IS THE GRACE BRETHREN STATEMENT OF FAITH COMPATIBLE WITH EMERGENT THEOLOGY?
What We Believe About the Hereafter:
12. FUTURE LIFE. …The judgment and condemnation of unbelievers (Rev. 20:11-15), the eternal life of the saved (John 3:16), and the eternal punishment of the lost (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 20:15).
Doug Pagitt refuses to even answer the question posed to him concerning what happens to a Muslim when they die, and he doesn’t believe Heaven is actually a place (1).
Hell is definitely in question among many in the emergent church. McLaren questions the eternality of Hell and the very character of a God who would punish the wicked that way (2).
Bell believes we bring hell to earth by our actions (3), and hell is full of forgiven people (4). He also says we bring heaven to earth in a social gospel leaning sort of way (5).
I do not mean to broad brush, but these are popular perspectives believed by more and more in these circles and I don’t see any compatibility in these areas that are major to me.
http://podcast.wayofthemasterradio.com/audio/podcasts/1007/WOTMR-10-22-07-Hour1.mp3 http://www.vibist.com/?p=26, http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2007/11/doug-pagitt-on-forevermore-life.html
(2) http://www.understandthetimes.org/ec/ecmclaren.shtml http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2006/05/brian_mclarens.html
(3) Velvet Elvis, p. 146-148
(5) In Velvet Elvis, Bell says, “famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter–they are all hell on earth. Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth” (p. 148).
What We Believe About Salvation:
5. MAN. … The necessity of the new birth for his salvation (John 3:35).
When McLaren says he endeavors to see people become “disciples” while remaining in their Hindu and Buddhist contexts as “followers of Jesus”(1), that is problematic to me. He questions major aspects of the gospel (2) There is a push to affirm truth in all religions and the glory of God present in all people whether they are saved or not. Leonard Sweet calls this “flickers of the sacred” that might even be in Hindus (3). Merton and Nouwen who are loved by many emergents say similar things. Some emergents, like Doug Pagitt, espouse a universalism of sorts (4)
A recent trend as outlined in some of the essays in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope is that clear teaching and preaching of the gospel is an impure attempt to subjugate people to our belief system in the church (5).
I see no real compatibility in this area.
(1) "I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts."—Brian McLaren http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/newmissiology.htm
“McLaren says that's why congregations in the "emergent church" movement focus more on social action than trying to convert people to Christianity.
McLaren says that if people are "happy being Muslim, or Buddhist or Jewish or atheist," he doesn't think it's right to try to "shoe-horn them out of their religion" into Christianity.” http://www.thepath.fm/news/newsitem.cfm?id=24885
(3) http://www.letusreason.org/Popteac23.htm and read his online book Quantum Spirituality at www.leonardsweet.com
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
What We Believe About The End Times:
11. SECOND COMING. The personal, visible, and imminent return of Christ to remove His church from the earth (1 Thess. 4:16-17) before the tribulation (1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 3:10), and afterward to descend with the Church to establish His millennial kingdom upon the earth (Rev. 19:11-20:6).
I do not think most emergents would agree with our perspective at all. The truth is that many emergents are not looking for any rapture. Bell teaches that the rapture is an “escape theory” and is not in view in 1 Thess 4:16-17(1). McLaren despises Dispensational Theology (2). Many emergents believe that we are to “go green” and take care of the earth and have a somewhat dominionist view of what will happen in the end times. Most reject a Dispensational Premillenial view as outlined in our Statement of Faith.
(1) Read http://davecrow.wordpress.com/ as well as Velvet Elvis
(2) A Generous Orthodoxy p. 267-269
What We Believe About Jesus Christ:
“His preexistence and Deity (John 1:13)”, “sinless life (Heb. 4:15)”, and the resurrection would be affirmed by many if not most in the emerging/ent church but things get a bit less certain when we talk about His “incarnation by virgin birth (John 1:14; Matthew 1:18-23).”
Influential Rob Bell is the only one I’m aware of coming from the angle that belief in Christ’s virgin birth is not necessarily an essential. His statement in Velvet Elvis is one of the worst I have ever read but many emergents love that book. (1)
What about Christ’s “substitutionary death (2 Cor. 5:21)”? This precious doctrine, especially in the area of penal substitution and propitiation, is under attack by McLaren and some others in the emergent movement. McLaren calls the cross “false advertising” for God (2). Many protest the violence that the Cross represents and it doesn’t fit in with their repainted version of the Father who requires the blood of His Son to be shed for the remission of our sins.
Concerning the character of Jesus Christ, many emergents have a completely re-worked picture of Christ, His message, and His ministry. Just read McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus (3) and you’ll see the concern here. Dwight J. Friesen says: “Jesus did not announce ideas or call people to certain beliefs as much as he invited people to follow him into a way of being in the world.”(4). What? Similarly, Donald Miller says: “If we hold that Jesus wanted us to "believe" certain ideas or "do" certain things in order to be a Christian, we are holding to heresy.”(5). I think we need to definitely believe certain things to be truly saved (Jn. 8:24).
Many emergents are promoting worship of the Eucharistic “Jesus” of the Catholic Mass (6). Is this an accurate doctrine of His person and work? Is He continually even today being re-sacrificed in the Mass?
This is not the Jesus Christ we point others to in our Statement of Faith.
(1) Velvet Elvis, pg.26
“False advertising” quote: http://www.enteuxis.org/leifh/bleedingpurple21b.mp3
(4) An Emergent Manifesto of Hope p. 201 - 212
(5) Donald Miller writes: “If we hold that Jesus wanted us to "believe" certain ideas or "do" certain things in order to be a Christian, we are holding to heresy. In that bar on Hawthorne, I finished the last paragraph and felt a kind of sickness at the thought of whether or not I was telling the truth. But after further consideration, and after rewriting the book, I realized the formulaic version of Christianity was irrational, and for that matter, unbiblical.” http://www.donaldmillerwords.com/searching.php
(6) Eucharistic Adoration in the Emerging Church: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/index.php?p=330&more=1&c=1
What We Believe About the Triune God:
2. THE ONE TRUE GOD. Existing eternally as three persons the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22; Matthew 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).
Ours is a good statement reflecting sound doctrine about the nature of our Holy God. Many emergents believe and teach the Trinity and most aspects of God’s character but many of these concepts are re-worked or mingled with pagan ideas. The result is a “god” who in some cases is not recognizable as the God of the Bible.
Erwin McManus promotes Greg Boyd who is an open theist (1) and beckons us to be co-creators with God in his writings (2) or “Co- (re) creators” as Pagitt suggests (3). What God is this?
Can we connect with Him through unbiblical mystical practices or would the God of Scripture that we uphold detest these practices?
Bell redefines the holiness of God, which messes with our biblical understanding of this important attribute (4). McLaren speaks of an instance in which he himself was interconnected to God and all things in mystical terms described as the ultimate “We” (5). This again smacks of a panentheistic view (6).
Pagitt says: “The idea that there is a necessary distinction of…creation from creator is being reconsidered.” (7). Others like Spencer Burke are embracing panentheism (God is in all things) and doesn’t view God as a person.(8)
Many emergents are pursuing relationship and spirituality through unbiblical teaching and practice.
These are not compatible with the view of God we are referring to in our Statement of Faith.
(1) McManus not only promotes some in the emerging church movement but lends his support of open theist Greg Boyd as well. Here’s an important warning about that by Jim Brown:
“I warned that Erwin McManus, a leader of the Emergent Church movement was headlining “Student Life” events across the U-S. McManus has endorsed a book promoting open theism, a theology which calls into question the sovereignty of God, denies His omniscience, and is gaining a foothold in many “evangelical” seminaries today. That alone, I believe, should concern parents, youth pastors and churches that are sending their teenagers to attend conferences led by the Los Angeles pastor and author.” http://www.apprising.org/archives/2007/08/darwining_down.html
(3) "God also invites us to be re-created and to join the work of God as co-(re)creators." Doug Pagitt Church Re-Imagined, p. 185.
(5) McLaren describes this mystical experience in A Generous Orthodoxy p. 199
(7) Listening To The Beliefs Of Emerging Churches, p. 142.
Monday, September 21, 2009
What We Believe Concerning “The Faith”:
The Statement of Faith is the “current expression of a never ending effort to clarify an understanding of the primary doctrines we accept.” It’s obvious what is meant: we are always seeking to be clear on what we believe through Godly pursuit of biblical study and this has nothing to do with the prevalent emergent belief that God’s revelation is so mysterious that we cannot actually know whether we can hold an orthodox view or not. Brian McLaren questions the entire belief of whether we can actually arrive at and hold truly orthodox beliefs and practice. (1)
Rob Bell believes that we cannot really ever know what the Bible is actually saying and we cannot interpret it correctly: to take the Bible for “what it says” is “warped and toxic” (2) Bell also says that doctrine must flex and morph with each emerging generation (3) like springs on a trampoline.
Doug Pagitt believes that doctrine is not fixed and therefore not ever really settled as to its trustworthiness and that the gospel can actually be embedded in other religious contexts (4). He says things like “what we believe is not timeless” and that our theology will be “ever-changing”, believing that the church is to function as “cauldrons of theological imagination.”(5).
So the question is begged: Is our faith once for all delivered to us as the Bible says (Jude 3), or must we rethink and rework everything in accordance with every shifting generation? Pagitt admits: “ I realize that for many people, this kind of understanding and faith can seem weak, soft, unprincipled, or otherwise dangerous.”(6) I couldn’t have assessed it better myself! He also states and many believe this: “The Emergent imagination is at its most basic level a call to friendship–friendship with God, with one another, and with the world.” (7)
These emergent beliefs are not compatible with our Statement of Faith.
(1) McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy is, in its entirety, a questioning of the veracity of the claim that we can really have a true orthodox Christian faith.
(2) Velvet Elvis, p. 053-054
(3) Ibid. p. 022-028
(4) See Pagitt’s essay “The Emerging Church and Embodied theology” in Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (gen. Ed. Robert Webber) and read this: http://www.apprising.org/archives/2008/01/doug_pagitt_sha.html
(5) Ibid on the essay
(6) Ibid p. 133
(7) Doug Pagitt from An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p. 18, 19
Friday, September 18, 2009
Presentation of the Evidence
I believe that many aspects of the abovementioned emergent theological beliefs compromise or even oppose biblical revelation of truth. Since our Statement of Faith is biblical in scope and focus I do not see a compatibility with these areas of emergent theology. Consider these things:
What We Believe About the Bible:
Section One. Covenant. The sovereign congregations…are united in accepting the Holy Scriptures as the sole guide and authority in all matters of faith, doctrine and practice.
Section Two. Statement of Faith. … The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Inc., believing the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible to be the infallible rule of faith and of practice…
1. THE BIBLE. The Word of God, the sixty-six Books of the Old and New Testaments, verbally inspired in all parts, and therefore wholly without error as originally given of God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).
Many teachers of emergent theology often question the veracity of the Bible as we’ve all heard it taught or currently understand it. Many assert that we need to “re-think” virtually everything we know and therefore everything we do in order to reach this postmodern generation. While I commend many for trying to be effective in reaching this generation, much of their proposals and methods are unbiblical in content and execution. Most emergents would agree that the Bible has merit but again to varying degrees of adherence concerning our ability to correctly interpret and arrive at what the Bible is actually saying in a given passage.
Do we need to “rediscover the Bible as a human product” as Rob Bell asks (1) or view it as “story” (2) or its revelations as mere “conversation” that needs reworked and refashioned with every new emerging community of faith? (3)
Our Covenant states that the Bible is our “sole guide and authority in all matters of faith, doctrine and practice” and our Statement of Faith concurs. If one reads the offerings of the emergent and mystical teachers like Bell we can only conclude that the Bible is taken as one way to follow and connect with God. He suggests that it is impossible to do what the Bible says in any sort of objective manner and implies that no one can actually correctly interpret it (4). With the exception of Mark Driscoll (who is not "emergent" but could be considered emerging) who refers to himself as a “devoted biblicist” (5), most of the other teachers in the emergent church look to a variety of other faith traditions, rituals and sources for their patterns of spirituality (6). Many follow the writings of false teachers like Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen (7) and the teachings of the Desert Fathers which were mystical explorations resulting in all kinds of unbiblical errors in doctrine and practice. There is much experimentation in Contemplative mysticism (8), meditative prayer techniques, and various other alleged means of gaining truth about God.
One is hard-pressed to see a compatibility with even this initial area between our adherence to the Scriptures and the emergent view of where truth comes from and through what sources and practices God speaks.
Brian McLaren believes the Bible is only “uniquely authoritative for Christians.”(9) Tony Jones has stated that the Bible is “a (expletive deleted) scary book.” (10) And doesn’t even see a need for a statement of faith (11)
Taking all this into account, I do not see any real compatibility between the emergent teachings and our covenant and Statement of Faith in this vital area. Many areas of emergent theology directly oppose or contradict the Scriptures so there remains no compatibility.
(1) http://www.apprising.org/archives/2006/01/rob_bell_fails.html (see also: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/november/12.36.html)
(3) This includes Rob Bell’s assertion that doctrines are springy like trampoline springs and must be stretchy and able to morph while being wrestled with in every new generation. Read about this is Velvet Elvis p. 022-028
(4) Velvet Elvis, p. 053-054
(5) From Driscoll’s essay “The Emerging Church and Biblicist Theology” in Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (gen. Ed. Robert Webber), p. 21
(6) This includes Roman Catholic rituals like Lectio Divina, stations of the cross, icon worship, medieval monasticism, and rituals like Labyrinths http://www.apprising.org/archives/2007/03/emergent_church_29.html, More on Labyrinths: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/labyrinth.htm http://www.chicoer.com/news/ci_7494893?source=rv http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Meditation.html
(8) Roger Oakland says it well: “Contemplative spirituality provides a mystical formula also known as “spiritual formation” in order to get closer to Jesus. The problem is that this state of silence achieved is similar to that which is reached through eastern meditation, and the realm reached is not the presence of God but the possible presence of demons. The Bible is very clear in it’s warning against practicing divination, which uses mystical methods to conjure up the spirit world. Yet, a growing number of evangelical churches are incorporating contemplative into their church body.” http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c73.shtml
(11) From a Relevant Magazine interview in which Tony Jones is asked:
RM: Emergent doesn’t have a doctrine, but what are some of the key principles that hold you together?”
Jones: Just this morning, we came out with an anti-statement of faith that explains why we don’t have a statement of faith. I’d say that one of the core principles or convictions is that the very nature of theology is one of conversation and dialogue, not one of setting boundaries and safeguards from elusive historic orthodoxy. http://www.apprising.org/archives/2006/12/tony_jones_and.html
This is a 10-part series (which means this introduction + nine more entries) and each entry will be added over time as we encounter the various issues covered in our Statement of Faith. Only two entries are on the long side and one being this first one because it is an intro that traces the course for the following blog entries, some of which are bite-size and far more manageable. All entries will include bibliographical notes and links to articles for further study. Soldier on, friends, and comment with great vigor as free men (Ladies are welcome, too)!
Let’s light this candle…
A Question of Compatibility: Thoughts on the FGBC Statement of Faith and Emergent Theology
By Steve Mitchell
Pastor, Garden City Grace Brethren Church/ Director, Power To Stand Ministries
Respectfully Submitted: March A.D. 2008
Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus. The question has been posed:
IS THE GRACE BRETHREN STATEMENT OF FAITH COMPATIBLE WITH EMERGENT THEOLOGY?
And this is an attempt to answer that query.
Defining Our Direction
The task ahead is a formidable one and cannot be wrapped up in any neat and tidy way in the space allotted but let us do our best to get at the root of this issue by defining the elements we’re dealing with.
On “Emergent Theology”:
When we speak of emerging church doctrine and practice or emergent theology (1) we have a wide range of features and factors in view. Doubtless some will already point out my usage of emerging and emergent as not being the same thing and I recognize this. For this project we will take the teachings that are most often associated with the idea of the emergent/ing arms of today’s church. Teachings from the Emergent Village (2), various publications (3), Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, Spencer Burke, etc. come to mind the quickest because they are commonly identified with emergent or emerging church doctrines. Pastors like Dan Kimball and Mark Driscoll are more conservative in their theologies but identify with being emerging or emergent nonetheless and promote the others mentioned and named. Mystics like Rob Bell and Erwin McManus would not receive the label of emergent but nonetheless feature these other teachers at their churches in some cases and would be considered representative of postmodern ministry. We will try to look at this body of doctrines through their writings as representative of the direction emergent theology is heading.
These are the WHOs we will limit ourselves to looking at and the WHATs are the various teachings these and others generally hold in the movement (4). This is not uniform and there are great degrees of agreement and disagreement within these circles but for our purposes, we will deal with just a few of the elements of emergent theology centered on:
1) The idea that “re-thinking”, “re-imagining” needs to be undertaken in virtually every area of ministry in the Church and insistence that we cannot arrive at true orthodox belief and praxis. This often involves a “Neo liberal” questioning of certain truths.
2) Ecumenical beliefs pointing to Roman Catholicism and related religions (5)
3) Practice and promotion of Mysticism in its eastern, medieval, and Roman Catholic contexts (6).
4) Reduction of the gospel and the faith to “story” rather than propositional truth (7) and the introduction of a resurging social gospel in many cases (8).
5) Theological liberalism (9) including ideas borrowed from earlier liberal theologians like “emergent evolution”, “theology as conversation”, “sacredness of the person”, “progressive revelation”, etc. Basically a “repainted liberalism has joined postmodern skepticism” (10).
6) Tenets of universalism (11) (everybody will be saved) and Inclusivism (12) as far as the gospel is concerned. These often come with an entirely new set of ideas concerning of the “Kingdom of God” (13).
These beliefs, while not uniform, are prevalent and regarded as distinctive that help some to separate those who would call themselves emergent or emerging from the rest of the church. We will deal primarily with the beliefs being brought to the church through these specific teachers realizing that there is a wide range of adherence and non-adherence from church to church and person to person. Because these men are adamantly proclaiming these doctrines, we will cite these teachers and teachings in comparison or contrast with the tenets of our Statement of Faith.
On the FGBC Statement of Faith (Quotations, whole or in part, as found on: http://www.fgbc.org/whoarewe/covenant-and-statement-of-faith.cfm will be italicized)
We assume the following:
1) The Statement of Faith is biblical in that it points to the Holy Scriptures as the basis for its beliefs. Both our covenant and the intro of the Statement of Faith point to “The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.”
2) The Statement of Faith leaves some “wiggle room” because of what is not specifically outlined. While clearly presenting biblical perspectives in the key areas, certain non-essential issues are vague or not clearly outlined. These could easily be exploited and worked around in an emergent context.
3) I am not proposing we alter or add to the existing statement to accommodate our changing times. Freedom and “wiggle room” are corresponding realities, so we work with what we’ve got. Basically, we are asking if these major areas of emergent doctrine are biblical and therefore compatible with the tenets of our Statement of Faith?
4) Our format only allows a partial examination of the tenets of our Statement Of Faith. Only the major areas of disagreement will be highlighted.
(3) Books which outline key tenets of what it means to be “emerging” or “emergent”: Listening To the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives, general editor: Robert Webber, A Generous Orthodoxy and The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity For New Generations and They Like Jesus But Not The Church by Dan Kimball, Velvet Elvis and Sex God by Rob Bell, Church Re-Imagined and Re-Imagining Spiritual Formation by Doug Pagitt, Ancient-Future Faith by Robert Webber, and many others.
(4) A thorough checklist of emergent concerns can be found at: http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c40.shtml
(5) See http://pro-gospel.org/x2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=1 , and also the Emergent Village website: “We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Anabaptist. We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential.” (http://www.emergentvillage.com/about-information/values-and-practices ).
(6) http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c53.shtml ,
(9) Bob DeWaay’s excellent article http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue87.htm
(10) “McLaren and others of the postmodern ilk have erected a sophisticated system of doubts that are expressed in various versions of relativism. These are debated in academic circles and call into question the possibility of knowledge that goes beyond our language or cultural identities. Some even question if any human communication is valid (and write books to “communicate” this idea).” (Ibid.).
(13) Read Gary Gilley’s fabulous work: http://svchapel.org/Resources/articles/read_articles.asp?ID=139