James MacDonald:

“I do not view Brian as an ‘erring weaker brother,’ worthy of sympathy or olive branches, but rather as a dangerous false teacher who repackages mainline liberal theology. (Have the past 50 years not been adequate to see how liberal theology empties churches and damns souls?)

More dangerous still is that McLaren packages his false teaching and denials of Scripture as  solutions to some of the excesses currently plaguing evangelicalism—the danger being his winning over of young people who have legitimate complaints about the current church, but who lack the discernment to see that his solutions are often unbiblical even when his critiques are fair.”

In the rest of his blog post, James MacDonald explains why he believes McLaren is teaching error, and whay he believes it’s biblical to name such people publically. Read it here.

~Donovan

HT: Tim Challies

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Rob Bell is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan (not to be confused with the Mars Hill Church pastored by Mark Driscoll, in Seattle, Washington), a congregation that numbers 11,000. The Chicago Sun-Times has heralded Bell as the new Billy Graham. His books (most notably, Velvet Elvis and Sex God ) have been bestsellers, and NOOMA, a series of excellently produced videos featuring his teaching (now 19 in total) have sold over a million units…

Bell is not officially a part of “Emergent” (an organization within the emerging church), but he is closely associated with two of it’s leaders – Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt. I’d consider him a part of the theologically liberal stream within the emerging church (as would many others). 

The emerging church is big on orthopraxy (living rightly), and honestly, we should all be big on this! In Bell’s opinion (and I think he’s right about this), Christians too often fail to live out their faith as they should… He uses the analogy of a trampoline, equating Christian doctrines with springs. He makes the point that often we spend all our time focussing on the springs, rather than getting on with jumping (living out the Christian life). As I said, I think this is all too often true. I have major concerns about where he takes the anaology next, however. Consider this quote from his book, Velvet Elvis: 

“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?…

What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?” (Velvet Elvis, pp26-27)

Read the rest of this entry »

I think it’s only fair to give specifics about why we’re concerned with the theology being furthered by certain Emerging Church leaders. Here are some of the concerns we’ve been expressing about Brian McLaren (a popular author, pastor, and the most well-known leader in Emergent/Emergent Village), in his own words:

    

This may all sound very clever, but it does not match up with Scripture. Hell is not antithetical to the cross! Hell exists because our God is a holy and perfectly just God Who takes sin seriously, not a god who could care less… And Jesus died on the cross because God is both perfectly just AND infinitely gracious… Because God made a way in which He could extend His grace to sinners like us without compromising His justice…  

        

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” ~ Romans 3:21-26

         

That is the gospel! If God were not just, Jesus’ sacrifice of the cross would not have been necessary… And if God were not gracious, He would have left us in our sins rather than sending His Son to save sinners. We can be forgiven because grace and justice met at the cross… Praise God that He is both Just AND the Justifier! 

       

Let’s proclaim the biblical gospel faithfully! It is the only gospel that saves…

          

~ Donovan

                

P.S: For a little more on McLaren, you can read this review of his book, A Generous Orthodoxy, or this review of his book, Everything Must Change       

                                 

For all our posts on The Emerging Church, click here       

                                    

That’s the title of a new book by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. This is the book description:

“You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism and not be an emergent Christian.  In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.”
 
The Emergent Church is a strong voice in today’s Christian community.  And they’re talking about good things:  caring for the poor, peace for all men, loving Jesus.  They’re doing church a new way, not content to fit the mold.  Again, all good.  But there’s more to the movement than that. Much more.
 
Kevin and Ted are two guys who, demographically, should be all over this movement.  But they’re not.  And Why We’re Not Emergent gives you the solid reasons why.  From both a theological and an on-the-street perspective, Kevin and Ted diagnose the emerging church.  They pull apart interviews, articles, books, and blogs, helping you see for yourself what it’s all about.
”  

I have not yet read this book, but I wanted to let you know about it because it seems well worth checking out. It comes with hearty endorsements from such solid theologians and pastors as Al Mohler, DA Carson, Justin Taylor, Ligon Duncan, and Mark Dever (see here). I’ll be reading it as soon as I have time to.

You can see more info on the book and read/download some of it’s chapters at this website: www.notemergent.com. I’d also recommend listening to this interview with the authors (besides an overview of the book, they give a helpful overview of the Emergent scene).

The review below is by Frank Turk of the Pyromaniacs Blog (March 19, 2008). I posted it here because not all of his post was about this book, and I trimmed it down a tad because his review was pretty long:

Read the rest of this entry »

This PBS documentary gives a helpful overview of the Emerging Church, including interviews with Emergent leaders (Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, and Tony Jones), with Scott McKnight (an evangelical scholar who is a conservative voice in the emerging “conversation”), and with DA Carson… Footage of worship services gives a helpful look into some of what is being furthered. The documentary focuses on Emergent and the more liberal stream of the emerging church.  

P.S: For the record, I agree with Carson and McKnight’s critiques!

~Donovan

You can read my post, “The Emerging Church, part 1 – Overview″ hereThe nutshell of my first post was that there is a wide spectrum of churches and theologies that would employ the label “emerging church” – some are genuinely evangelical, but some have denied the truth.

In this post I want to highlight the undermining of biblical doctrine that is prevalent amongst some who would call themselves “emerging”. This is typically done without actually stating one’s position – it’s done more by questioning positions (or the importance of those positions) and withholding a conclusion. For example, many people who would consider themselves “emerging” will not take a stance on issues as clear in Scripture as Homosexuality being sinful or Hell being real. They refrain from taking a position on issues as important to our faith as what Jesus died on the cross to accomplish or who will go to Heaven. The result is what Mark Driscoll calls “the latest version of liberalism.” As he goes on to explain, The only difference is that old liberalism accomodated modernity and the new liberalism accomodates postmodernity” (Confessions of a Reformission Rev“, pp22-23). 

Many in this stream of the emerging church align themselves with “Emergent” or “The Emergent Village” – an official organization in the U.S. and the U.K. Brian McLaren (author of numerous popular books including A new kind of Christian and A Generous Orthodoxy) and Doug Pagitt (author of An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, and other books) are some of the biggest leaders associated with this organization. Though not officially a part of “Emergent”, Rob Bell, another hugely popular author and speaker, is closely associated with the leaders of “Emergent”. I’ll post on specific concerns about these men and their theology soon. 

(Note: As confusingly similar as the terms “emerging” and “Emergent” are, they should not be confused. All Emergent people would consider themselves a part of the emerging church, but not all emerging church people would align themselves with Emergent. “Emergent” is an official organization, “emerging” refers to a wide spectrum of churches rethinking how to “do” church in current culture. “Emergent” Christians are not evangelical, but “emerging” Christians may or may not be.)  

D.A. Carson, one of my favorite theologians, has written a book called “Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church”. I’ve read sections of it and found it excellent. It’s important to realize however that this book is really more of a critique of the theologically liberal stream of the emerging church than about the emerging church in its entirety. As Scott McKnight said in his Christianity Today article on the emerging church: “D. A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Zondervan, 2005) is not alone in pointing to the problems in the emerging movement… But as a description of the movement, Carson’s book lacks firsthand awareness and suffers from an overly narrow focus—on Brian McLaren and postmodern epistemology.” If you’d like to learn more of this particular stream in the emerging church, Carson’s critique is worth reading. His final analysis is chilling, “I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the Gospel…I cannot see how their own words constitute anything less than a drift toward abandoning the gospel itself” (pp 186-187). 

How did this all come about? Well, in our post-modern world, many doubt how sure we can be of things… (Post-modernism is less a denial of truth than it is a hesitancy about how truth can be known with certainty). As these emergent theologians have applied this to Christianity, they’ve been hesitant to take doctrinal positions or state much with conviction…  

What can we say to this? Are there difficult passages in Scripture? Yes! Even the Apostle Peter said this of the apostle Paul’s New Testament letters, ”His letters contain some things that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Are some aspects of theology far too lofty for us to fully understand? Yes! In Ephesians 3:19, Paul desribes Christ’s love as a “love that surpasses knowledge”. But none of this changes the fact that God has spoken to us through Scripture, and that He intended to be understood. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 

God has been gracious to communicate to us through His Word. Let us therefore contend for the faith entrusted to us (Jude 3), let us study God’s Word to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15), and let us preach His Word boldly in season and out (2 Timothy 4:2-5). 

I’ll write more on this topic soon.   

~Donovan

 P.S: This is another video of Mark Driscoll describing the “lanes” of the Emerging Church. Some of the content is similar to the video I posted in part 1, but in this one he goes into more detail about prominent men in each lane and expresses his concerns with this theologically liberal stream:

(A few notes on the video: Though Driscoll refers to Tim Keller and CJ Mahaney as “Emerging Reformers”, these men have never been associated with the label “Emerging Church”. They are both Reformed in theology and and are big on church planting (and are therefore concerned with how best to plant churches in the culture of modern day America). Another term used quite often to describe this camp is “The Young Calvinists”. Driscoll said the “Emerging Reformers” are generally charismatic, and this is true – for example, CJ Mahaney is, but Tim Keller is not. Also, note that John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and D.A. Carson were referred to as men these “Emerging Reformers” like, not as “Emerging Reformers” themselves. Not that any of that is really all that important – just thought I’d try clear up any possible confusion.)  

It’s extremely difficult to say much about the emerging church that would be true of every church that bears the label “emerging”. Why? Because technically the “emerging church” does not refer to a movement, denomination, theology, or official association. The term “emerging church” means exactly what it sounds like – it refers to the church that is “emerging” in our current culture. As Scott McKnight put it in his Christianity Today article, “[emerging] has no central offices, and it is as varied as evangelicalism itself.”

Emerging Christians prefer to talk of the emerging “conversation”. What is this conversation about? To quote McKnight again, “Emerging catches into one term the global reshaping of how to “do church” in postmodern culture.” Some of what is being said in this emerging conversation is food for thought, but some of what is being said is downright anti-biblical. Under the label “emerging” you have everything from doctrinally solid believers trying to do church a little differently in order to best reach the current culture, to people denying scripture and preaching a different gospel! I’ll use McKnight’s analogy and take it a little further – I’d say the term is as varied as the label “christianity” itself – including both genuine believers and those who claim Christ but have forsaken the truth.

I’ll write a few more blogs on this soon, but this short video should be helpful in giving a brief overview of the four major groups in the emerging church and their distinctives: 

(This is a Desiring God (the ministry headed up by John Piper) interview with Mark Driscoll before he spoke at their 2006 pastors’ conference)  

 ~ Donovan