Certainty: A Place to Stand: A Critique of the Emergent Church of Postevangelists

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To take this glorious truth, together with others as they are set forth in Scripture, and to formulate carefully worded statements of faith that identify what we call Protestant evangelical orthodoxy is one of the greatest joys I know as a Christian. And to differentiate these views from those that are outside the boundaries of biblical revelation, so that heterodoxy is seen as the soul-threatening, hell-deserving enemy which I believe it to be, is the responsibility of every Bible-believing Christian.

Do I believe that any statement of faith is impeccable, perfect in every affirmation and denial? We can never be comprehensive or infallible in our interpretation of the biblical text or in the theological conclusions we derive from it. Deep humility and a conscious awareness of our weaknesses and personal prejudices, together with a consistent dependence on the Holy Spirit and a readiness to alter our affirmations when they are shown by Scripture to be ill-conceived, must characterize all our theologizing.

But theologize we must. Our eternal destiny hangs in the balance. Human frailty and cultural influences notwithstanding, we must articulate as best we can what we believe are the foundational and non-negotiable truths of Holy Scripture. But this does lead us into a brief discussion of the emergent resistance to a focus on propositional truth about the Son of God and suspicion of all things theological.

The power of the gospel is the result of a person — Jesus Christ — not a message. The gospel is an event to be proclaimed, not a doctrine to be preserved. And how is a message about Jesus — say, who He is and what He did on earth — different than [ sic ] doctrine? We can tell people about Jesus every day until He returns again, but without some doctrinal content filling up what we mean by Jesus and why He matters, we are just shouting slogans, not proclaiming any kind of intelligible gospel. The ethical imperative is always grounded in the theological indicative.

Emergents, on the other hand, will often simply conflate the two while placing primary emphasis on right behaviour.

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But we cannot afford to ignore the biblical emphasis on certain truths as foundational to all Christian living. As DeYoung and Kluck argue,. You have a message about what happened in history and what it means.

Are you sure?

The authors are especially helpful in pointing out the emergent dislike for doctrinal boundaries. Statements of faith in which we articulate not only what we affirm but what we deny are rare in emergent churches.

The Emerging Church article by Scott Diekmann - all 8 parts/Christian apologetics

I want to know what boundaries they draw and why. I want to know if it is biblical Christianity for which they stand and whether truth is important. There is much to which we say Yes theologically, but there is also much to which we must say No. There are times in reading emergent literature that one wonders whether they have a concept of theological error and doctrinal falsehood. If theology is merely a dialogue and journey and conversation, but does not at any point reach a definitive and intelligible conclusion about what is true and false, on what grounds do we assure anyone of eternal salvation and others of eternal peril?

Are you sure?

An excellent, as well as deeply disturbing, example of this tendency among emergents is the book by Peter Rollins, How Not to Talk of God. I hope to review this regrettable book in a subsequent article, but here I only take note of it as typical of the biblical and scepticism about ever knowing anything truly about God. But when we talk about God we can never make him known.

I keep wondering, am I missing something here? God is greater than we can conceive — but what about the 1, chapters in the Bible? Young people will give their lives for an exclamation point, but they will not give their lives for a question mark, not for very long anyway.

In Chapter Seven, DeYoung sets his aim on the emergent perspective on modernism and postmodernism. I suspect that many of you will find that a bit tedious, and I can understand why.

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Actually, the objection is less about preaching and more the style or manner in which it is engaged. It is the notion of a ministerial monologue in which one ordained Christian speaks a message to a congregation of unordained, passive listeners that evokes their negative response. The purpose of preaching, they tell us, is not informational but transformational.

Uni-directional, discursive sermons, delivered by seminary trained pastors, is a reflection of an Enlightenment mentality that is out of touch with the postmodern, image-driven, participatory culture of our day. But DeYoung is right to point out a number of false dichotomies that lie beneath this criticism, namely,. This is not helpful. We must refuse false dichotomies that force a wedge between head and heart, rationality and faith, truth and experience.

And he proceeds in the next few pages to give copious counter-examples of such to the emergent claim. But he also argues that. Preaching presupposes there is a message that must be proclaimed and believed. This is what is being objected to in preaching, not simply the specter of modernism.

And may I add to this that what may be driving much of the emergent disdain for linear, discursive preaching is their own regrettable experience of having been raised in churches where the proclamation often turned to legalistic oppression in which little if any voice was given to the congregation as a whole. No one, I hope, would endorse the insensitive authoritarianism that has characterized much of the preaching in western fundamentalism. But the abuses of this otherwise sacred ministry are no excuse to discard the practice or to ignore the biblical commands that we teach and preach the Word.

In fact, when one looks carefully at some of the distinctive ideas and emphases of emergent authors it is difficult to differentiate their concerns from those of nineteenth-century theological liberalism. If there is one undeniable common link between the theological liberalism of the last years and contemporary emergent thought, it is the disinclination to discuss if not an outright denial of the existence of hell.

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They feel it requires an act of discernment and judgment that only the arrogant and self-assured can make. Let me be brutally honest and forthright: I am unapologetically preoccupied with hell, and for two simple reasons. First, the Bible says it is quite real, and second, the Bible says people are going there. The language it uses is of the sheep and the goats Matt. To avoid, diminish, or, God forbid, deny such texts and the eternal destinies they affirm is the epitome of selfish disdain and lack of concern for lost souls.

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Either one is branded with the name of the Lamb or the mark of the Beast Rev. I dare say he would not have written in his diary, on Monday, April 19, , these words of love and committment to their eternal welfare:.

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God enabled me so to agonize in prayer, that I was quite wet with sweat, though in the shade, and the wind cool. My soul was drawn out very much for the world; I grasped for multitudes of souls. I think my soul was never so drawn out in intercession for others as it has been this night.

Had a most fervent wrestle with the Lord tonight for my enemies. I praise God for those who care deeply for lost souls and are willing to speak the truth, harsh and offensive though it be, that others might have eternal life. It appears again in Chapter Nine, together with a discussion of other basic biblical truths that many in the emergent movement either misunderstand or reject outright. Yes, the kingdom is, at least to some extent, the announcement that God has inaugurated in Christ Jesus his plan for bringing ultimate peace, justice and compassion on the earth.

DeYoung notes, in paraphrasing the emergent view,. It is a call to join the network of God that breaks down the walls of racism, nationalism, and ecological harm. The kingdom of God is like a dance of love, vitality, harmony, and celebration. Thus, according to emergent Christianity, the message of the kingdom in the ministry of Jesus was not primarily about certain doctrines to believe but about a manner and style of life to live. Citing McLaren,. The Church in Emerging Culture, What disturbs them is the absence of truly good news in this message. The name has weaknesses. We agree. In , at the National Gen X conference in Florida, Doug Pagitt and I successfully taught an entire seminar on emerging church without using the word "postmodern".

We used the word "Cultural Creatives" to talk about this one third of the population who thought differently.

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I still use that phrase Cultural Creative. And "Emergent" was a better name than "Young Leaders" which is what we were called originally. It relates to emergent theory in systems and organization. Check out its use in church at Movable Theoblogical and in regards to blogs. Kester Brewin's "Complex Christ: Signs of Emergence in the Urban Church" does a good job contrasting "emerging" with "emergent" using emergent theory.

None of us will go to the stake for the "emergent" term. And Carson is right - one day we will use a different word. We have come up with slogans. We normally avoid them and offer them apologetically. We hardly ever use them among ourselves. We have been using them reluctantly due to the older folk requesting them. Apparently they didnt understand when we spoke in parables and stories and used art forms. They wanted tables, powerpoints, slogans, reductionist alliterations. And we gave in to them.