Here, There & Back Again

October 6, 2009

Here are a few items online that interested me and/or stirred worship in my heart.

Driscoll on “unbelief vs. questions” and God’s ability to do anything.
Here is an example of why I appreciate the preaching of Mark Driscoll.  For all the (sometimes valid) criticism he has received, he is a Bible-saturated expository preacher of Truth who exalts the sovereign majesty of Jesus Christ.  Two things on this link.  First, I think the “unbelief vs. questions” insight can be helpful in regard to the final message of the James series on those who “wander from the faith.”   Second, the story at the end about the reconciled couple sent chills up my spine and worship to God from my heart.  God can do ANYTHING!

Letterman and the Gospel.
Some very powerful insight into the dread exposed sin places in the heart of man.  People need Jesus Christ. (HT – challies.com)

Fabarez & Compass Bible Church on their coming switch to ESV.
In this blog Pastor Mike Fabarez (who spoke to the men of Bethel Grace about a year ago) explains while Compass will soon be using the English Standard Version.   He mentions some curious news concerning the future of NIV that I was not aware of.

Blessings to you Bethel Grace!
~Jeff

Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, recently wrote an interesting article by this title for Fox News. Read it here.  

~Donovan

HT: Justin Taylor

In some church circles, watered down sermons, downplayed doctrine, and entertainment has been the popular thing over the last few years… Then the “new liberalism” began to rear it’s head and gain popularity through “Emergent” and their hesitancy to take a stance on even core doctrines… But in other circles a renewed passion for deep, precise, biblical truth has been gaining momentum… We’ve made mention of the “Young Calvinists”/”New Calvinists”/”Emerging Reformers”/”Charismatic Calvinists” in a couple posts… Whichever terms one may use, the bottom line is that Calvinism/Reformed Theology/the doctrines of grace/the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is gaining momentum in the church today…

Collin Hansen investigated this trend and wrote an article entitled “Young, Restless, Reformed” for the September 2006 issue of Christianity Today. I encourage you to read it.

Hansen has just released a full-length book by the same title. You can read Tim Challies’ review of it here.

~ Donovan

P.S: I realize the term “Calvinism” carries awful conotations for some people. I think that is partly because of the extreme views some Calvinists have, and partly because Calvinists have been known to be pretty arrogant, insensitive, and overbearing in how they communicate their favorite doctrines… Mostly however, I think many people who dislike this doctrine have an inaccurate view of what the doctrine actually is… (for example, I think for many people Calvinism = Fatalism). I’ll write more on this topic in another post.   

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