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