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Friday, April 20, 2012

Where Did the 'Emergent Church' Emerge From?

By Dave Fiorazo
Article Link at Wisconsin Christian News

WARNING: Ignoring the following information may be hazardous to your spiritual health, and choosing to do nothing with this knowledge may grieve the Holy Spirit and cause regret; but taking action may strengthen your faith. “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:3-4).

        The ‘Emergent Church’ is a movement of the late 20th and early 21st century that crosses a number of theological boundaries: participants can be described as evangelical, post-evangelical, liberal or post-liberal, reformed, neo-charismatic, and post-charismatic. The first time the words, “emergent church” were used is hard to pin down, but it was most likely in the mid 1990s. “Emergents” seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a “Postmodern” society. It is a rapidly growing network of individual believers and churches who would prefer to be understood as a conversation or a friendship rather than an organization. What those involved mostly agree on is their disdain and disillusionment with the organized and institutional church.  
        The Emergent Church favors the use of simple story and narrative. Members of the movement often place a high value on good works or social activism. The hallmark of the Emergent Church is the new age aspect including the practice of contemplative monastic meditation and prayers. While some emphasize eternal salvation, many in this “emerging church” emphasize the here and now. Much of its doctrine rejects systematic Christian theology, the integrity of Scripture, and gospel exclusivity. They don’t believe Christianity is the only true religion and they often promote homosexuality. They call for diversity, tolerance and camaraderie among all religions, as they modify and expand their teachings. It is a war against the truth. 

        At an Emergent Church workshop in San Diego, Tony Jones said, “This is about our belief that theology changes. The message of the gospel changes. It’s not just the method that changes.” What? I submit to you that Jesus never changed His message to fit the times. Books, sermons and articles have been and will be written about the Emergent Church, and I’ve come to realize that too many believers are, at times, uninterested, uninformed, or just plain apathetic about the Bible and understanding the times we live in.

        There’s plenty of information out there if you’re interested in doing the research. You may know their names. They are best-selling authors in Christian stores, speakers at our Christian festivals, and well-known leaders in Evangelical circles. Please read the following quotes from Emergent Church leaders with these verses in mind: 1 Timothy 4:1, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” And Acts 20:30, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

Tony Campolo: (Author, professor of Sociology at Eastern College, former spiritual counselor to President Bill Clinton, and a leader of the movement called “Red Letter Christians”). Campolo has stated: “Going to heaven is like going to Philadelphia...There are many ways...It doesn’t make any difference how we go there. We all end up in the same place.” (1a). “On the other hand, we are hard-pressed to find any biblical basis for condemning deep love commitments between homosexual Christians as long as those commitments are not expressed in sexual intercourse.” (1b).

Brian McLaren: (Founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, MD, he serves as a board chair for Sojourners, an Emergent Church leader and a founding member of Red Letter Christians.) McLaren has stated: “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...” (2a). “In this light, a god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship. How can you ask your children...to honor a deity so uncreative, over reactive, and utterly capricious regarding life?” (2d). 

Jim Wallis: (Writer and political activist, best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners’ Magazine, for which he admitted to accepting money from George Soros, who has financed groups supporting abortion and atheism; Wallis has been arrested 22 times for acts of civil disobedience, and he serves as a spiritual adviser to President Obama.) “I don’t think that abortion is the moral equivalent issue to slavery...I think poverty is the new slavery. Poverty and global inequality are the fundamental moral issues of our time. That’s my judgment.” (3a). “As more Christians become influenced by liberation theology, finding themselves increasingly rejecting the values of institutions of capitalism, they will also be drawn to the Marxist analysis and praxis that is so central to the social justice movement.” (3c).

Rob Bell: (The founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a popular icon in the Emergent Church movement.) “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 just a bit of mythologizing …Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live?” (4a). This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds good, but it’s not true.” (4b).

Tony Jones: (Author and a leader in the Emergent Church movement, blogger, and social commentater). “In any case, I now believe that GLBTQ [Gay Lesbian Bisexual Trans gender Queer] can live lives in accord with Biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.” (5a). “I think the Bible is a f***ing scary book (pardon my French, but that’s the only way I know how to convey how strongly I feel about this.” (5b).

        How did we get to the point where some, if not all, of these teachings have blended in with truth and sound doctrine, and are accepted by many churches and ministries? Make no mistake. I’d need to write an entire book to completely answer that question. False teachers have been around since the early church days. The major issue with the Emergent Church is that it rejects the authority of the Word of God. These teachings were not accepted by evangelical Christians overnight. This is 2010. We can trace the advancement of the Emergent Church to the late ‘80s and ‘90s, when people began talking about how to modernize and re-create church to be more attractive to the unchurched. But going back to the hippy flower-power days of the 1960s, the new fad was all about peace, love, free sex, and rebelling against authority. Absolute truth and Biblical standards were questioned, leading some to moral relativism. Moral Relativism is an ethical judgment. It is the claim that no ethical system is better than another, and rests on the belief that values are subjective. Some churches responded by trying to convert as many as possible and accepted them into their folds. ‘Come as you are’ was the new slogan. Yes, Jesus does meet people right where they are, but there’s an important distinction; He loves people too much to leave them that way, and unlike the Emergent Church, His message never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8).  
        Many churches began watering down the true gospel in an effort to lure potential new members and not offend unbelievers. Some Pastors saw an opportunity to attract new members and increase their market share, so to speak. The seeker-friendly or seeker-sensitive movement began to grow and a skim milk diet replaced the meat of God’s Word. More young people began attending church, but there was little follow-up or discipleship training, and lots of baby Christians went back out in the world with little conviction to change. Grace is amazing, but today it is erroneously used as an argument not to “judge.” One might say that we shouldn’t judge others because it is divisive. Luke 12:51. Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace, but division. If you’re a mature Christian, you too need to be careful. The Apostle Paul writes, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” (Gal. 5:7-9). Many of these churches now have beautiful buildings, coffee shops, bookstores, great music and sound systems, state-of-the-art lighting, and good drama or video presentations, but they seem to put more of an emphasis on entertaining the flock than on feeding them God’s Word. Well, at least the young people are happy.

        I first heard Tony Campolo speak in California in 1989 and remember laughing a lot because he’s a great entertainer. His theology may have changed since then, but he knows how to reach both young and old. His presentation has never been a concern, but his theology definitely is.

        According to Time magazine, (so take this with a grain of salt), Brian McLaren is one of the 25 most influential people in the evangelical church. This makes me believe our culture is confused about what ‘evangelical’ means. It is a serious issue, because His teaching seems to reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the work on the cross; and he dilutes what the Bible says about Heaven and eternal life. McLaren is changing Biblical doctrine to fit his own “We are the World” type of theology which stomps out the reality of Hell and God’s judgment. He casts doubt on the reliability of the Bible and I’m confused as to why he is not more of a red flag to Christians. Please read for yourself what the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8 about those who preach another Gospel.

        Jim Wallis said that the gospel is all about tax hikes and wealth redistribution to promote social justice. In 2005, Democratic Senators met with Wallis to devise clever ways to use religious language to pull evangelical voters away from Republicans. According to TraditionalValues.org, Wallis was hired to fool Americans into believing secular liberals had found “religion” in part by sprinkling references to God and faith into their speeches. 

        The “social gospel” message is an apostasy. “Apostasy” means a departure from the faith or, one who denies the fundamental doctrines concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. Social justice teachings have branched off from the Emergent Church. Wallis and others put more emphasis on the environment (climate change), than on salvation and sin. We can no longer deny the fact that emergence, liberalism and the secular progressive movements are alive and well in the Church, just as they’ve always been in government, education, media, and the entertainment industry.

        In July, Jim Wallis brought his social justice message to a Christian festival in Wisconsin called Lifest. One woman told her daughters that they could not attend because of Wallis. Weeks before Lifest, she wanted their young daughters to remember the dangers of false teachings, so they made brownies together. After all of the ingredients were added, she told them there was one more ingredient to add. The girls were shocked when their Mom added a small piece of dog poop to the batter! She told them not to worry and that they might not even taste it. Admittedly, this was a disgustingly effective lesson I bet they’ll never forget! Jesus warned His disciples to avoid the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees but He didn’t have a brownie recipe handy for visual effects. 

        Many of today’s youth have been raised in a culture (and sadly in many churches) where feelings and sensitivity are a priority over morality. Our culture has redefined the word ‘tolerance’ to mean acceptance, unconditional grace, warm fuzzies, and a non-judgmental attitude toward sin. What about the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Because of some Emergent Church teachings, we shouldn’t be surprised that many young Christians have their spiritual foundations built on the sand. The Lord Jesus Christ said something very serious about those who cause little ones to stumble. He said in Luke 17:2 that it would be better that a millstone would be tied around the neck of the one who caused them to sin. These guys have no business teaching Christian theology and it’s amazing that so many ‘believing’ consumers buy into their feel-good, motivational doctrine. Part of their gospel is one of a social worker putting their faith in man (humanism) and government. 

        Dr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute sternly warned about liberal theology and the Emergent Church saying, “It is a cult because it follows every outlined structure of cultism; ...And it ends in immorality; because the only way you could have gotten to this homosexual, morally relativistic, garbage - which is today in our denominational structures - is if the leadership of those denominations denied the authority of the Scriptures and Jesus Christ as Lord...Test all things; make sure of what is true [see 1 Thessalonians 5:21]. I’m not being harsh; I’m not being judgmental. I am being thoroughly, consistently, Christian; in the light of historic theology, and the holy Bible.”  

        So what should we do? Since not enough Christians know the dangers and the extent of the emergent church movement and their radical teachings, we need to promote awareness of these deceptions. We need to dig deeper in the Word of God than ever before and know it so well that if we hear a counterfit message, we’ll recognize it immediately! We need to talk to our Pastors and Christian friends. You have a choice to make and I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and take a stand for Christ. See if you remember this exchange from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; Theoden: “I will not risk open war.” Aragon: “Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.”

        The spiritual battle rages all around us and the enemy is on our doorstep. Satan has been at work at a church near you spreading his deceptions. The good news is that we are on to his schemes. Mature believers know that the Emergent Church teachings are contrary to the gospel of Christ. So suit up in the full armor of God and pray for discernment. Rev. 3:11 says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Light dispels the darkness so share the truth, stand your ground, and shine your light!

References: 1a- “CarpeDiem: Seize the Day,” 1994 page 85; 1b- “20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid To Touch” page 117; 2a- “A Generous Orthodoxy,” page 260; 2d- “A New Kind of Christianity,” 109; 3a- “ChristianityToday.com” 5/9/2008; 3c- “WorldviewWeekend.com” 8/3/2010 #1597; 4a- “Velvet Elvis; Repainting the Christian Faith” pp. 26-27; 4b- “Velvet Elvis;” 5a- “Beliefnet.com” 11/19/08 blog; 5b- The church and postmodern culture: conversation 3-26-07.

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