Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Emerging Church, Compromising Church?

Much is said of the 'emerging church' these days.

Recently, a major leader in the emerging church movement pointed out that some of his colleagues are compromising core truths of Scripture such as the exclusivity of Christ. He views this shift in the emerging church theology as a form of pluralism.

Here is the link. (There is about 12 minutes of Mark's background, before he gets into the meat of his message...but it is worth listening to.) Click OPEN or SAVE if you wish to download.

Is it perhaps time for leaders in today's church to step forward and set the record straight regarding the non-negoitable truth claims of the Bible? For example, is it acceptable to teach that there is salvation apart from Christ? Some emerging church leaders may say "yes."

Have you had questions about the biblical validity of some of the views expressed by emerging church leaders?

Is it possible to embrace this model while not compromising the plain teaching of Scripture regarding the exclusivity of Christ?


joeltriska said...

Hmmm...what emerging "model" are we talking about? The main problem with the term emerging/emergent is that it covers so much. It's like the adjective postmodern. It could apply to an organic housechurch that incorporates buddhist meditation or a tradtional evangelical church's Sunday night service that now uses candles and the pastor preaches from a barstool.

In my experience, emergent/emerging is sometimes heretical (i.e. denying exclusivity of Christ), but certainly not across the board.

Fisher said...

Not to short sight the question but this early in the post, McManus seems to do a good job with Mosaic

hansen said...

Yes - go listen to Mark Driscoll or read his latest book: "Vintage Jesus." He does not compromise the truth.

Gary said...

Yeah...I agree with Joel...(did I just write that?) It's too early and too difficult to define emergent. It is much easier and probably more appropriate to talk about emergent ideas and emergent leaders than the 'emergent church' or the 'emergent movement'. Probably because it is still emerging from being..... submerged? I don't know.

I interpret Shannon's question to be more about liberal verse conservative theology than emergent verses traditional. We have some emergent leaders that are going to or coming from the liberal side theologically. But certainly there are a smaller percentage of liberal emergent leaders than we would find per capita in the Presbyterians movement for example.

The emergent movements I'm aware of have strong theology on what I call the "big issues". Where they do begin to break away is on the evangelical traditions which I think most evangelical consider to be scriptural mandates. Mostly I find it's their ecclesiology and anti-traditional approach that makes the grey hairs nervous. That certainly does not rise to the level of a heretical claim no matter how threatened traditional evangelicals become because they decide to meet in a bar.

Ryan Bolger has looked at the theology of most of the original emergent churches in America and Great Britain in his book that came out in 2004. It's a good read. Could the theology have changed dramatically in less than five years? Perhaps. Does Brian Mclaren push the envelope? Yes. Should he? I think so. But I read him as a deconstructionist not a destructionist. Will he err, has he erred? Sure. But so did Luther, Calvin, Armen, Wesley, Wycliff, Erasmus, Augustine not to mention less famous others. Even Peter's theology went through a pretty radical shift. I think we should be able to handle all of that by now.

Fisher said...

You're a complicated man Gary

DAV said...

Yeah, it's a great question. I guess because I don't know what the model is or what is the exact view of the leaders (I am sure there are several leaders with several views) it is hard to answer the question.
I will say that we can use many different methods and models without compromising the truth.

Stephen said...

I agree with Gary. I don't know a lot about the "emerging church" but what I have read or listened to seemed to be pretty faithful to basic Christian doctrines such as the exclusivity of Christ.

The problem that I have noticed with "emergent leaders" or the "emerging church" does not have to do with doctrine, but with practice. I agree with some of their ideas and disagree with others, however the real problem I perceive is with attitude. Many of the statements I have heard from leaders within this movement seem arrogant. I think that the problem is not with the exclusivity of Christ, but the exclusivity of the "emerging church."

What I mean is that they are a movement that supports new ways of thinking, but they tend to be harsh or exclusive towards older models or traditions. Perhaps they need to realize that while they do have something to teach these traditions, they also have some things to learn and they may need to be more sympathetic to the great amount of energy that it takes to change.

joeltriska said...

Even though I see the "emergenging" crowd as a very diverse group (as I argued above), I think there probably is some degree of concern we should have. The primary target for conservatives is the Emergent Village (home of Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt). My critique is how openly they embrace a Reader Response hermeneutic. This dangerously makes theology subjective.

I understand that they are trying to make room for those who fear dogmatism and formulaic expressions of spirituality, but they often come off as afraid of commitment (even McLaren does, whom I still have great respect for).

When it comes to practics I could care less. I'm not afraid of McManus' dance groups or even the Beer and Bible group that meets in St. Louis (not that I have ever attended, I just don't see it as a threat to the Gospel), but I do see Reader Response and some postmodern accomodations as sincere threats to the historical Jesus and his mission to save the world.

Anonymous said...

Crucial to this discussion is what ministry you called to, for me--military chaplaincy. I just included two of the five sections of my 22 page research paper for Chaplain McChrystal's class Military Chaplaincy on pluralism and religious freedom.
To address this topic an accurate understanding of the history regarding the concept of the gospel's exclusive claim, i.e. Christ as fully divine and fully man or biblical inerrancy or the infilling of the Spirit for service and worship, and its effects to other people--people who could care less about God or the church as well as those who are committed to their own religion and have either a dualistic or non dualistic understanding.
Realize that this emerging concept topic does not emphasize an immediacy for a intentional focus on such issue as the exclusivity of Christ bc that comes and should flow out of biblical preaching--remembering its God's Spirit who leads us as we humble ourselves before God to prepare the sermon and present to the people what God lays on our hearts as the ministers who are about His agenda and not our own even as a Fellowship who would begin to question the focus of our preaching.
For me, I just researched such nuances of this topic so I will try to be short--
by holding to the gospel claim--which is inevitably exclusive, and dualistic in approach in worldview is also the representation of our values as well as beliefs to other personnel in the military and within the church as well who have the freedom to believe what they will--so, in light of a religious plural environment or even a church you will find yourself as a lay person, volunteer, or minister saying by actions and words and the lack there of to those who are there with you that I don’t accept and value ur beliefs bc I don’t take an intentional focus of ur beliefs bc my own are altogether exclusive and that I can’t accept other beliefs with a non dualistic approach for the sake of believing that through diversity there is the opportunity to make a more complete whole. I will leave it here for now so that should someone want to comment about what I have shared that I will have the time to reply as well too.

Nathaniel said...

I confess I really don't know a lot about this topic. I would think that most of us would regard denying the exclusivity of Christ for salvation as heretical and damaging to the mission of the church. How is that even a debate? All churches, whether "emerging" or "traditional" need to be careful and intentional about the message it proclaims. So while the style is subject to change with the change of culture, I don't think the substance of the Xian message shouldn't change much. At the same time, the church should critique itself theologically from within, but I doubt we will(and sincerely hope we don't) ever decide to minimize the role of Christ in redemption.

I don't think that change in style necessarily means there must follow a change in substance. All churches and theological horizons, can err.

Beaty said...

I think its possible to follow the model without compromising the truth. My question is concerning the model. Does the model exclude opportunities for total development. I of course, always gravitate my thoughts towards children and adolescents. I model for worship and approach to society leave very little, if any room for all encompassing discipleship. Jesus didn't just grow spiritually, he grew mentally, physically, and socially as well. And it has seemed from my observation that while emergent churches do not prohibit holistic discipleship, they do nothing to promote it. I worry about the children in these churches.

justys said...


i have heard McLaren's name thrown around in christian radio discussions, and from my limited reading of excerpts from his literature (the portions that appear to 'deconstruct' the exclusivity of Jesus), his theology appears dangerously universalistic. i don't believe preachers who push the theological envelopes, when it comes to nonnegotiable truths, even from classical theologians (i.e. martin luther, wesley or augustine) can be liken to Peter's radical shift in theology. of course, i'm not sure what shifting theology you are referring to. are you alluding to God commanding him to eat of the unclean banquet in a vision? the author of Acts certainly does not condone his pre-vision theology, as oppose to someone like mclaren or joel olsteen who market their christianity under the guise and responsibility of the pastorate. despite peter's reformation, he did digress into a radical shift in behavior by ostracizing the gentile christians, in which paul reprimanded him. here too, the authorial intent was to rebuke peter's behavior not teach it.

there are many theological curiosities and questions unanswered i have; certain doctrines make me downright uneasy, but i suppose truth doesn't exist for my comfortability, nor anyone else'. it is meant for resurrecting power, and for any preacher to balk on the exclusivity and absolute necessity of the cross, as the only means of reconciliation to a holy God, has stripped the gospel of its power.

is it okay for christians to stumble with core doctrines of the faith? sure, but to the extent one is willing to seek wisdom through an honest examination of scripture. i'd be lying to say that i haven't struggled (anyone ever challenge the sovereignty and goodness of God). is it wrong to have nuanced convictions regarding valued biblical beliefs of your faith community (like subscribing and signing to the AG 16 fundamental truths)?

the danger the church faces is not with christians faltering with bad theology but with preachers reinforcing bad theology by the force of their popularity and self-aggrandizement. is bad theology perpetuated by a desperation for membership growth?

theological conundrums will forever plague me, and they may even unintentionally spill over into bad preaching and teaching, Lord have mercy. but may the Spirit grant me, thus, with a teachability that enables me to mature as a biblical follower of Christ.

Gary said...

As always I appreciate your insight and perspective. Both of which are speckled with truth and wisdom.

Yes, I was referring to Peter's theological paradigm shift that occurred when he "discovered" the Kingdom was for all people not just Jews. Yes I agree that Luke makes it clear Peters pre-existing theology was in error. That is my point. Even the paragons of faith I listed previously got it wrong on more than one occasion during their journey. We should be mature and graceful enough to handle that by now. The important question for us to ask is: what is/was their intent?

To that end I think we would be well advised to re-read Mclaren holistically before we jump the gun and label. We also would benefit from recognizing a person’s writings often reflect ideas in progress not always those that have arrived. Mclaren's writings are an excellent example a person wrestling with embedded ideas, powerful religious structures and authoritative institutions. I think it is easy for us seminarians, who are required to read so many dead authors whose contributions come from antiquity into our world dimensionally, to forget that ideas morph change with maturity and experience along with the authors. Mclaren seems to be in the middle of this process.

Are there things that I think he and others miss? Sure. Does he miss them by a mile? No, I don't believe he does. Is he attempting to gut the gospel? If you consider his intentions to reinvigorate the Church with an authentic message of empowerment and change for the betterment of the Kingdom the answer must then be: no.

Call me a heretic, but the more I think I know about God, his nature and Kingdom, the more I realize the fortune of God’s grace which extends even as far as to cover my bad theology.

Are there absolutes? Sure. Does anyone have a corner on those? No way. That only comes with omniscience. Paul said he claimed to know and hold on to only one thing for certain, Jesus the Christ and him crucified. I think in the end that's the point Mclaren is trying to make however questionable we may consider his means.

John Wagner said...

I find it interesting that as Pentecostal seminarians we feel the need to be so open minded that we can embrace part of anyone's theology. Authors can say anything they want to say, challenge any accepted theology, and we embrace them anyway. We claim to believe in absolute truth, yet when someone challenges one, we attempt to see their side and embrace it anyway (or pieces of it). Brian Mclaren suggests in his writings that Pentecostal distinctives do not matter, implies that Jesus Christ may not be the only means of salvation, and ridicules the idea of focusing on the salvation of the individual. This is simply postmodern deconstructionism at its best. An author can write whatever they want to and some "community" will accept it as truth. In my opinion, many Pentecostals have worked so hard at being accepted by the evangelical community that we seem all too willing to jettison the beliefs we've held as Pentecostals for almost 100 years. The written Word of God is still my all sufficient rule of faith and practice, not Brian Mclaren's creative version of it. Wow, that came out pretty strong...Oooops.

Michael said...

Yes, I would like some clarification as well. The emerging church is in such a primordial stage that I'm not sure if we can pin down their beliefs on the exclusivity of Christ. I'll be interested to see this discussion from MarsChurch once you find it, so we can analyze some of the leanings of the emerging church's leaders.

I also need to second Stephen's comments. I don't think the emerging church will be all that different from any other church offshoot movement. I do sense a level of arrogance from some of these pastors who claim to be part of the movement. It'll be interesting to see how different the emerging church movement is from any other denomination in 50 or 100 years when there is yet another new model for the church.

Shannon said...

Hey John,
I don't think anyone would suggest (at least anyone I know of at our seminary) that we need to be open minded to any compromise with regards to core beliefs.

I think often we label a 'new' movement (as if anything is new anyway), and then when other ministers have something that 'looks' or 'feels' similar, they are grouped into that movement as well. But there are big differences often with core beliefs and the absolute authority of scripture that is taught.

Joel had a very good point--what model are we referring to? When we wrote that post, Dr. Oss and I were probably referring more to the particular leaders within the emerging church movement that have appeared to deviate from our core doctrines.

In fact, within a day or so, I should have the MP3 posted here of one particular leader mentioning a few others (all of which have been mentioned above) and his disapproval of their deviation.

Stay tuned!

Gary said...

Yes it did come out strong. I like it. Thanks for kicking in.

I did not say I embraced everything Mclaren writes. I said I understand (or I think I do) where he is coming from and why. That does not mean I have capitulated on what I believe to be biblical truth. Since I am confident of the Truth I am secure enough to let him be him.
"Implies"..."Ridicules"...."Suggests" .... what is wrong with those words? Why can't we openly dialog? Why can't we take a little push back? Why can't Mclaren deconstruct? What are we affraid of?

I'm a little confused about your point regarding Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Are you saying Pentecostals (me, I assume) are bending over backwards to accept Mclaren in order to get invited into the Evangelical club? If that is your point, let me make this observation: First, we are evangelicals. Second, most conservative, fundamental evangelicals (by far the largest constituency of evangelicals in America) are about ready to burn Mclaren at the stake. Why would Pentecostals (me)want to jump on his bus if we are looking for approval from them? I don't follow your logic.

Anyway, I feel your angst. The written Word is being challenged. I predict it will do just fine. God doesn't seem too threatened. The Word has made it this far. But in this transformative process maybe we can learn a few new and enlightening things about the post-modern, gen-x worldview that will help us build a lasting bridges, unity and peace within the body of Christ. See post-modernism isn't a disease or an affliction nor is it strictly......evil.....anymore than any other period of time or cultural framework. Post-moderns are in our churches. Thank God. They bring a tremendous amount of talents and perspectives to the plate. The church should be the place where we experience shalom in this world. Peace is a pretty good thing because it usually comes hand in hand with love. Throwing the “h” words around doesn't really do the trick to establish peace.

Do some emergent leaders focus on community to the unhealthy exclusion of truth? Sure. But ask yourself John why that is so. Could it be a reaction to a heartless, soul-less, purpose-driven, machine-like corporate culture church we see in droves today? I think so. Give'em a break. They'll come around. They are healing.

Martin said...

Well I guess I'll go ahead and jump in. I am not familiar with many of the names mentioned so far, but I do have a basic grasp of the postmodern/emergent church movement and I can feel its influences on my own life. I read up on McLaren and I am drawn to one major thing about him: he is trying to establish conversation. And not conversation that happens within the church, but conversation outside of the church walls about issues that people face everyday.

If we are too quick to pull the correct hermeneutic card or the doctrine card in a conversation, we just may end that conversation (and perhaps, for good). Let's say I was having a conversation with someone who is openly gay. Should I immediately establish that this individual's lifestyle is sinful and that they must change immediately, thus ending the conversation? Or, should I foster dialogue by first getting to know them and trying to understand who they are and the choices they have made in life? Or perhaps the best question is: Do I trust the working of the Holy Spirit to allow this relationship to develop and become what God intended it to be? What if we loved first and asked questions later?

I believe that religion is dead without dialogue. It is dead without conversation. Can we learn, or more importantly, should we learn from those pushing the envelope?

I am all for solid, biblical Christianity. There is a part of me that wants to fight and do battle. I am troubled by those who believe that tolerance=love. But what troubles me even more is the hatred and insensitivity that exists in the church (I don't have to go far to find it). But I believe that in the working out of these issues, in the love of Christ, the Truth will come through. God's Truth always seems to break through in the midst of our human crises (probably plagarizing Barth here but so do a lot of people so its cool).

Fisher said...


Seriously you confuse me. In the close of your last post you used the phrase purpose driven which is forever linked to Warren. It appears that you are strongly against the seeker movement but on board so to speak with the emergent.
In my mind the two are not in contrast but more of an evolutionary path that the modern church seems to be on. It is hard to imagine that their would even be an emergent movement without first the Purpose driven movement. In history things seem to go in stages. Perhaps the seeker movement was too much one way or the other and now the emergents are focused on having more community but in the end both sides seem to be after the same thing although using radically different methods. I find it hard to glorify one without at least paying homage to the other in terms of methodological evolution. The church is forced to operate in a world increasingly more different than the one that the Bible refers to, and that is why we face such strong issues of contextualization and method. We must evolve in this sense or we will die... as is presently happening in churches that refuse to do so. - In case that was unclear I think both movements have positives and negatives that I as a minister must learn from and leverage if I am to reach this generation.

As for doctrine, sometimes those on the cutting edge do tend to say and do things that make the rest of us uncomfortable, and sometimes rightly so. There are certainly things that Bell and Mclaren have said that have seemed univeralistic and have gone too far in my eyes. The problem for me is that they say and do other things that are amazing, insightful and empowering for the church. It is hard to watch the Nooma videos and not be amazed at the fresh insight that Bell brings to spirituality and Christianity. I would like to believe that the questionable things that these two in particular have said are issues of magnification that comes from the spotlight. For instance I say a lot of stupid things that might come across as heretical at times, but because I am a nobody, nobody notices. When you lead a cutting edge church that leniency goes away and so you are much more open to being quoted accurately and still misunderstood. On the other hand, maybe they are heretics who are still bringing a lot of people to Christ and I can still learn from them, minus the heresy.

Fisher said...


In response to your post, In terms of Mclaren saying that Pentecostal distinctives don't matter... why does that matter? He's not Pentecostal, he doesn't affiliate with AG, it's illogical to hold him to a Pentecostal distinctive when he isn't Pentecostal. That is like asking sinners to stop sinning. Why would they?

Also in terms of being so willing to throw out 100 years of beliefs, that seems pretty short sighted to me. If our faith is only 100 years old we are in trouble. Not that I don't value the contributions of the AG, but I think it would be foolish not to more importantly affiliate ourselves with redemptive history back to Genesis as a priority. The AG is good, but they aren't infallible. Azuza was good, but it shouldn't necessarily define us over scripture. (not that it does) My point is that our distinctives must be rooted in the Scriptures, ala Acts, not Azuza or Springfield.

John Wagner said...

One concern I have in response to what has been said is not for us as seminarians or pastors. It is for the people who we lead or will lead: the pre-Christians, the babes in Christ, and the youth of our churches.

Mclaren was recently highlighted in Time Magazine (maybe Newsweek), along with others, as one of the most powerful and influential people in Christianity.

That scares me, because of the dire consequences of his "theological" influence on the church sitting in the pew.

Yes, the Bible will survive. That wasn't my point. But our faithfulness to its message and our faithfulness to proclaim its message to a lost and dying world may not.

Gary said...

Great post. I agree with most everything you wrote. But I don't know why I'm confusing you.

Let me try to make it more plane.
The seeker movement started within the Church growth movement that started from the writings of Donald McGavran. His basic tenants were that maturity of a believer was realized at membership. He also valued conversion above sanctification. What the seeker movement and mega-church movements did was use his premises and morphed them for their own purposes. Evangelicals quickly realized it is much easier to make a member than a disciple. It is also easier to relegate the gospel to a set of facts and beliefs that I can raise my hand and agree to than it is to lay down my life daily and procedurally die to my flesh which becomes my spiritual act of worship. In an American consumer driven society membership comes with rights and privileges, an ethic clearly at odds with a biblical representation of "slavery to Christ." My issue with that model is not that they have been unsuccessful in producing religious products and services; it is that they have successfully cheapened grace. Bonhoffer said it best: Christianity without discipleship is a Christianity without Christ. Now, who looks more heretical?

The problem I see in the seeker movement is that it too often stops at conversion when the single measure for effectiveness laid down by Christ for the church is discipleship. When you add the CEO, ego driven, kingdom building, celebrity stardom of many leaders in evangelicalism today, the church becomes a self-perpetuating monster, consumed with the hubris of size, not depth. When depth is sacrificed, you lose a culture which is looking for something real. Willow Creek just largely admitted that the overwhelming majority of their largest and most heavily funded ministries have failed to produce committed disciples of Christ. I applaud them for asking the question and wanting to know the answer. Who will follow their lead?

The core of the emergent movement is not building on the plaudits of the seeker church. It is not a new twist on an old idea or strategy. It is more of a repudiation. That is why the emergent leaders and writers are taking so much heat and why I think they are sometimes making claims that are too strong. Mclaren overstates his case I fear to make a point because he feels he has to. If the establishment would back down and perform their rightful and Godly duty of funding, supporting and encouraging the next generations attempt to encounter God on their own, within their unique contextual barriers, I would have no beef. But they are not encouraging. They are threatened and fight tooth and nail for every bit of turf they can. And as they do they reveal what their true ethic is. Baby boomers have had it their way since they were born. Society has flexed and compensated for their every need, desire and whim. But as the lessons of ancient Rome should remind us, might does not make right. The mob is almost always wrong.

Now you might point out that there are some churches that do encourage, fund and equip the next generation. Sure, there are. But stop and look closely. Willow Creek tried for years to get a "church within a church" thing going. Almost every senior pastor I know begins to think about how they can get a younger leader complete with flip flops, untucked shirt and bed head hair to come on staff and lead a contemporary service. Maybe even at an off-site location. Why? Often I fear it is because he wants to keep those numbers counted on his ledger. What is wrong with a plant? Remember, money always brings strings of influence and control. Without drawing any conclusions for either side of the Timbercreek issue, that mess at minimum illustrates how convoluted issues become when those expectations are not realized.

Like it or not, the "power of the anointing" concept and the authority it provides is often measured by the numbers of butts (members) in the seats. That is 'success' for most evangelicals today. The emergent idea cannot be encapsulated in simply a different worship style, preaching style, atmosphere or demographic. It is a different culture, with different ethics and priorities. In fact I wonder if the reason there is such conflict is due to the fact that cultures are truly clashing much like foreign cultures would when thrown together in confined spaces. In that respect our missional ideas about enculturation and contextualization to foreign lands would work better to explain and understand the phenomenon.

Bottom line, I'm not sure any gospel that allows for discipleship to become optional is powerful enough to save. To accept Jesus as savior and not equally Lord is simply absent and foreign to scripture. I'm not way ahead on this. Bonhoffer, Barna, Hull, Willard, Foster, McNeil, all old guys, have written about this for years. They prophetically drew conclusions as to the unfortunate results of a disciple less church we now suffer from.

Does any of that clarify?

John Wagner said...

The issue once again is not with Mclaren being Pentecostal or not. But when Pentecostals, AG or other, uncritically hold him up as an example of a "leading edge" thinker and author, then by extension, we endorse his statements regarding our core distinctives.

Those distinctives, I believe, are indeed rooted in the written Word of God all of the way back into Genesis. That is why I believe Mclaren and others who say the things they do are dangerous.

Too often, as Pentecostals, we tend to embrace the popular rather than stand for what we believe to be the truth, and confront our culture as the prophets of old.

I say these things in light of the problems of Pentecostal clergy who are today struggling with whether or not to believe in the initial evidence of tongues, or the subsequence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I've long had difficulty with the notion that being Pentecostal was about a particular style of worship instead of what the Word says it is about: divinely imparted power to witness for Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8), even in the face of opposition, ridicule, or persecution.

Gary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Wagner said...


When you said, "On the other hand, maybe they are heretics who are still bringing a lot of people to Christ and I can still learn from them, minus the heresy." I thought surely that was meant for shock value.

If I accepted your premise, and I don't, my response is then, "What kind of 'Christians' are being produced?"

They are apparently not going to be Pentecostal because that distinctive is unnecessary. They will not be soul winners because that is also frowned upon. They may or may not have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior since they allude to the possibilty of there being other means of salvation.

How then are they bringing a lot of people to Christ?

John Wagner said...

Ouch, my bad!

I attrbuted my last post to gary. Sorry. I was responding to fisher.

John Wagner said...

Let me shift away from Mclaren for a moment to another author: Reggie McNeal.

An example of the effect the postmodern perspective can have on a person’s view of the Bible is evident in his book, "The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church". He begins his critique by saying that the church is “print reliant.”

Then he asserts that for the modern church the Bible has become “the supreme manifestation of the Word of God (not Christ) because it is ‘objective’ truth (a modern distinction).” He places the word “objective” in quotes, intimating that it might be something other than objective truth.

Then he boldly states, “It became the fourth member of the Trinity.” McNeal describes the modern approach to spirituality as adopting “Kantian metaphysics” and explains that by saying, “We focus on the Bible because the thing-in-itself (God) is really beyond us.” Contrasting the modern view with that of the medieval mystics, he says they “sought and attained personal intimacy with God,” implying both that people today do not achieve such intimacy, and that one does not need the Bible to obtain it.

However, his most startling assertion is in his concluding remark: “In a premodern (and postmodern) world there was not the interposition of text between soul and God, nor did spiritual maturity rely so much on human reason’s ability to grasp, understand, and explain (McNeal 55).” Adopting a postmodern deconstructionist perspective, McNeal’s disdain for the Biblical text becomes evident.

His statement leaves me wondering how much study he has done into the literature of the middle ages? Why were men like Wycliff, Hus, Tyndale, Luther (all 'premodern'), and their followers, persecuted, tortured and executed, if it was not because of their high view of the written Word of God - the text?

Shannon said...

The link to the MP3 is now on the original post. Continue your thoughts after listening to Mark Driscoll's message.

Gary said...

"Why were men like Wycliff, Hus, Tyndale, Luther (all 'premodern'), and their followers, persecuted, tortured and executed, if it was not because of their high view of the written Word of God - the text?"

If you understand modernity to have begun with the invention of the printing press then one would have to include the above as modern theologians and writers.

They were not tortured in my view because of their high view of God's word. They were tortured because of a corrupt, power hungry, institutionalized religious establishment that twisted the gospel for their own purposes and sought to destroy any and all dissident views.

But I would defer to Dr. McGee's view on that point.

McNeal's point (by the way he is not a post-modernist)is that the Spirit of the Word, the Spirit of Jesus revealed in scripture which incarnates life giving power into the language of scripture remains the lone entity that elevates and establishes the Bible as authoritative. It's not simply the combinations of words or sayings. It's Jesus, who is revealed and working in and through the texts, as the Word, the divine Logos, which makes scripture a living breathing instrument. Without the spirit of Jesus in the words, it becomes no more powerful than Shakespeare or Tolstoy. As I read McNeal, that is what I think his point was. I could be wrong.

Brother Bell said...

Hey everyone,

Well I was made aware of this Driscoll comment yesterday by a friend back in Mass and did listen to the whole podcast last night.

Driscoll's point after introducing himself is this. There are three groups of the "emerging" church and I can't remember all three of the names he gave them but I do remember that Donald Miller and "Blue Like Jazz", which he named a deconstructionist book, was in the first. Rob Bell (no relation) was in the second as well as McClaren. And he was in the third with the likes of J.I. Packer, John Piper, etc.

The point that he first made originated back to Genesis 3 and the use of "conversation" to deconstruct God and how that led to the fall. Satan's ploy was the conversation: "Did God really say that."

He also points to some of the sources that Bell and McClaren use and their flat out ties to paganism and pan-theism (not pantheism). This is perhaps the best part of the presentation because I checked out the sources and they are all there!

I forgot about how Rob Bell stated that we don't necessarily need the virgin birth! Driscoll states that it changes the story if Mary wasn't a virgin in a very typical Driscoll colorful way.

The biggest issue and this has been the alarm I have had in my own readings (i can't remember which) is the neglect of the substitutionary atonement. Labeling it as "divine child abuse" is flat against many passages of Scripture and according to Driscoll this is something that most within the "emergent stream" seem to back away from.

He also points to McClaren saying that he doesn't want to hurt either side with his beliefs about homosexuality and Driscoll makes the point then that he is hurting God. If a homosexual and a person living with his girlfriend are in the same row, they both are sinners in God's sight. Period. Failure to point that out is a disgrace to God.

Driscoll also has some moments where I think he's a little to "cursing pastor" as he is labeled in Donald Miller's book. For instance, stating that McClarens new group "The Deep Shift" (i can't remember if this is exactly it but I know the shift is right) accidentally left in the F I think is a unnecessary jab that takes away the power of his argument.

I left the podcast with the following. I agree with Driscoll that if the emergent stream is truly going this direction I cannot go with them. I think the label is not the issue we need to discuss here because no one is going to agree on it. That can just be a smoke screen for the bad theology, the progressive theology, and other possibly damaging theology being espoused by these popular pastors.If we debate the meaning all day long we aren't getting anywhere.

That said. It matters whose feeding our thoughts and it matters what we do with them. Driscoll's point is solid of how the emerging church discussion leads them to accept the theology of Buddhist, pantheists, pan-theists, and also theology which denies the basic tenets of orthodox Christianity. While all truth is God's truth no matter where it is found Driscoll points that we can't repeat the mistake of Genesis 3. Which if I'm understanding him correctly is what is happening now!

Mike said...

this is a great discussion, one that I cant fully comment on now because I am typing this post on my iphone. However, I would like to recommend a great podcast that is currently dealing with the emergent church as well as what they call "Christless Christianity."
specifically look for the cast entitled "Good Advice vs. Good News"

Shannon said...

Great observations Matt.

What is most telling for me was when Mark said "And with this I will close..." and he goes on to say the real tragedy is while all these factions within the church are in-fighting and trading jabs--there are no real converts in our churches anymore.

(This is even more depressing when considering how the church is growing in other parts of the world outside of the USA.)

It is sometimes a disservice to oversimplify complicated issues, but I can't get this purpose, passion and calling out of my mind as a Christian and a minister. People need Jesus.

justys said...


i read your response to my response and because you are so far ahead in conversation with other people that i don't feel i should continue what we discussed. regardless, i see what you mean.

it's hard, i suppose, for us to view pastors and prominent ministers as people "in progress", as you and i both are, along with the likes of mclaren. but i'm sure that mclaren in his progress is willing to do what every christian must do--allow the examination of scripture to interogate our progress for the sake of greater obedience and knowledge of Him. the problem, however, is that he is not accessible to everyone for personal dialogue, but we must be ready to dialogue with him vicariously through his adherents.

honesly, the difficulty with us as aspiring 'vocational ministers' is that particular preachers are damaging our market. that may sound selfish. maybe there is also another element within us, being pastoral in nature, that cringes on behalf of their adherents, and for it not to concern us would also be troubling. ultimately, the christian faith is a shared market--our faith community (church fellowship) will have other influences, some unfortunately involved with bad theology--and it is the shepherd within us that lifts up a rod against wolves and threats. or, we may perceive this is as the business of nuturing sheep, in which we are easily offended when someone within our trade makes our labor tougher. well, the kingdom of God is not for our comfort.

yes, may i not be so quick to strick others with a rod, but, with a diplomatic and teachable spirit, expose falsehood upon the platform of scripture. ultimately we all found ourselves in a vulnerable position, for we too as ministers of His word will be spotted with errors and mistakes, and may we be wise to learn from them.

justys said...

...for the glory of the name Jesus and His name alone.

Brian said...

It might be helpful to know as well that Driscoll is strongly Reformed (Calvinist) and is turning that direction more and more - so he is not just cautioning against the emergent/emerging movement but also women in ministry, a value the AG holds to openly ((not sure of his thoughts on spiritual gifts) but that is something to think about.

I agree with others that it depends on the emerging model one wants to speak of - some compromise and others do not. I think the term emerging is more of a continuum than anything else so various folks will fall on one side of the spectrum or the other.

As to Rob Bell's comment about the Virgin Birth he is not the only one that says that - there are some Reformed scholars who make that claim as well (eg: Donald Bloesch's Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord). Even so, the real miracle is the incarnation more so than that Mary was a Virgin - the real miracle is that God became flesh and lived among us for a time now living in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

John Wagner said...

I just finished sitting through 1 1/2 hours of Mark Driscoll's teaching. I am overwhelmed at his ability to articulate complex philosophy for so long! I came away disagreeing with almost nothing he said. I was equally overwhelmed by where the emergent church leaders have gone. I stopped paying close attention to their teachings a few years ago. Wow!

I then came back and read some more posts.

Brian said: "Even so, the real miracle is the incarnation more so than that Mary was a Virgin - the real miracle is that God became flesh and lived among us for a time now living in our hearts through the Holy Spirit."

Since the Scripture says that Mary was a Virgin, if that isn't the real miracle, how can I believe that God became flesh? That He lived among us? And, ultimately, how can I know He is living in me through the Holy Spirit? Those are all claims made in the Scriptures.

In my opinion, it either all hangs together or it all falls together. Picking and choosing what is really the miracle isn't an option.

Gary said...

Good words. Remember, you'll always have a job if you are a problem solver. Those never go out of style.

Matt, agree with Driscoll's comments over all, in part or just not his approach?

Brian and John's response to Brian,

I agree, somewhat with both of you. I believe Mary was a virgin for no other reason than the Bible makes that explicitly clear. I also think God knew it would be necessary for history to understand at least the beginnings of how the human/divine mystery of the nature of Christ was possible. (Still, it didn't help prevent the great schism in the early church.) But Brian makes a good point, John. I think you would agree too that the miracle becomes even more vast when we begin to recognize that the Son of God, Creator of the cosmos, chose to leave heaven and get into that little baby's body. I think the question Bell asks is: can you be a Christian and not believe Mary was a virgin? It's a fair question. I don't see creeds being recited in Acts. Did the early gentile believers really have that deep of a Christiological understanding? Did they need to? Was the virgin birth in the first century "gospel presentation"? I don't know. Do you? Does anybody? I guess that's part of Bell's point. Right or wrong.

One thing a did not appreciate in the podcast: I think it does more harm than good to name names and “throw down” like Driscoll did in the court of public opinion. In so doing lines are drawn in the sand and camps are formed. Why not just argue your point in opposition to a given opinion and keep it above the fray? When individuals like Driscoll and others get a big following they tend to draw these lines and make people choose imaginary sides. That is ridiculous and counterproductive. If they really want to discuss issues they feel are detrimental to the Kingdom then get together and have a debate. Attacking them from a distance is like trying to grasp a vapor. I also think it comes off looking like a straw-man jousting session.

Talk about the ideas. Not the people. I know it is a lot easier to attack personalities. It's also more entertaining. A modern day theological gladiator match. We have learned to be entertained over and over again by the bloody arena of political campaigns. But if we make it about people first and foremost, if or when we reject an idea we must by default reject the person. That begins to tread close to a sinful response. We are all God's children and thus deserve honor and respect presented in love. If we stick with challenging the ideas, thoughts and words and we can disagree agreeably while remaining a part of the body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

When the serpent asked Eve, "Did he really say that?" Her answer should have been, "Ah.., Yeah."

But, Satan was asking that question. What was the motive and intent? Is Driscoll implying that asking questions about God and his word is sinful? Are we to be sheep for he and others to blindly lead and feed? Or is Driscoll making the implication that what Bell and Mclaren are doing is demonic and/or evil?

Brother Bell said...

I can't really speak for Driscoll here and encourage you all to actually listen to what he said~

I agree with Driscoll that when a believers conversation is a twisting of the truth or is a misrepresentation of truth that it is a conversation that shouldn't educate or be the root of a Christians theology or their attempt at theology.

The question I think we may all be skipping over then is wither or not every single item of Christian theology is on the table to have a discussion about? Is every single item of christian theology allowed to be questioned and adjusted by unstudied, error ridden, pagan philosophies? When you put the virgin birth on the table, what stops them from being greedy and taking the substitionary atonement next?

We also need to clarify what we mean by "discussion". I have no problem with people asking me questions and for me to make a defense of the faith as Scripture states to. Those are great for unbelievers! I do have a problem with believers sacrificing this stuff for some apparent attempt to be more "openminded". People have no problem with not agreeing. Their just sick of Christians being disagreeable!

I don't think this leads anyone to be a Christian fascist or theological nazi. It leads to a humble acceptance of things which we can't know. Like i'm learning in my Genesis 1-11 class. And also things I won't sacrific. Like the virgin birth or the atonement. If that is offensive then so be it. christ said it would. And to tone down the message is to miss the Gospel.

I also encourage the white horse inn podcast although it can get a little annoying. They ahve some good stuff on this as well!

Brian said...

For the record I fully support and believe in the miracle of the virgin birth.

I also listened to Driscoll's whole presentation and found much of it (if not all of it) quite agreeable - certainly he has studied the issues and presents them well. I hear his Sunday services can be just as long and engaging and no one would know an hour and a half had gone by. Whereas for the rest of us, that would be atrocious.

Anyways, on the issue of substitutionary atonement - the leader of the pack of those abandoning this crucial doctrine is really the Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright (see his work 'Jesus and the Victory of God') - he advocates Cristus Victor and plays down penal substitution and many are eating it right up - many are also buying into the "cosmic child abuse" dogma as well.

As to name dropping, well, I understand what Gary is saying, deal with issues and not people, however, too often the issues and the people are so intertwined it is hard to separate them. Even so, Paul seemed to have no problem name dropping if necessary. In 1 Timothy 1:19-20 he specifically pointed out that "Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." That seems pretty harsh if you ask me, but it was necessary for Timothy's sake. In Philippians 3 he called the false teachers "dogs" (3:2).

I think if there are dangerous teachings going on then if necessary they need to be pointed out - obviously with grace and respect but again if necessary it needs to be done.

Fisher said...

I stand by my post Wagner. In person I may nuance my position slightly more so than in print, but I do think it is possible to learn from emergent leaders minus the heresy so to speak.
Catholic theology is borders on Mariology which is probably at least equally as harmful as the soft universalism the emergents are accused of. But I can learn a lot from Mother Theresa's dedication to the poor. I can learn a lot from the high view of sacraments that Catholicism holds as well... I'm sure there are a lot of other things as well. In the same way I can learn from the good in the emergent without blindly accepting the bad.
In terms of the converts not being Pentecostal perhaps I am part of the problem you fear, because as Pentecostal as I am, I do not feel that you must be Pentecostal to be saved. I think the gifts are a great blessing and the fullness of all that God would have for us, but ultimately believing in Christ is all that is necessary to be saved. Peripheral doctrinal and denominational nuances mean very little to me in terms of ultimate saving grace. Also in my original posts, I was referring to learning from the emergent methodology moreso than their theology which is admittedly screwy. I still think they will be in heaven though. It is hard for me to make the argument that they heretical in the sense of doing damage to the church at large. If I were to talk to their congregation I might emphasize the area's where it seems that the emergents go soft and try to give them a better picture of the fullness of the Gospel but unless you believe Pentecostals are going to be the only ones in Heaven it is hard for me to think that emergents are any worse than fundamentals, Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, pretty much all other non- pentecostal Christians and even other Pentecostals which whom the AG wouldn't neccessarily affiliate. Ultimately denominations provide more pathways to Christ. In the somewhat consumerist version of Christianity that has been around since the early Judaizers, the church has been diverse in a lot of things peripheral. Either we can accept this and learn from one another while praying for God's blessing and spirit of correction to keep us all on the right path or we can believe that the church must end denominationalism and reunite under one Pentecostal banner. If we believe the second then we are ultimately part of the problem for holding to our own distinctives. Perhaps the church as the body in this age should be seen as many denominations adding their flavor to the soup that will ultimately be the mixed multitude in Heaven. (Again with a previous entry I want to preface that although Driscoll is hard core and I like him, there are a lot of things I and the AG would disagree with him about. It is just another example of plundering the egytians so to speak) I think the position of the church must be that of Augustine "in essentials, unity; in non-essential matters, liberty; in all things, charity"
(this is not to say that Christology isn't essential only that I don't think the emergent view as we are discussing crosses the line to the point of making them outright heretics. It is a thin line but for now they seem to be walking it.) This reality should of course concern us and is the reason for this post and the caution towards them, in this stage it seems to be more of a caution to me though and to take it further is somewhat questionable as well.

Fisher said...

For what it is worth I probably think more in regards to this blog than I have throughout much of seminary. Perhaps that is more of a sign of my post-modernity, than anything else but, I like the blog.

TBE said...

Thanks to my friend Mike for pointing out this excellent discussion to me!

If I might contribute here, I think it's important when we talk about the "postmodern" nature of the emergent movement to be a good deal more specific than we're generally accustomed to being: the problem with the "postmodernity" of most emergentism is a very specific one: it's the wholesale adoption of postmodern epistemology--the basic assumptions about the nature of truth, knowledge, and language's ability to accurately mediate truth or knowledge.

It doesn't at all concern me that Emergents react so strongly against high capitalism or conservative political rhetorics or those sorts of things (whether I happen to agree with them on these is a different matter). What DOES concern me--and what I hope WOULD concern anyone with a passion to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ--is that the typically Emergent approach to dealing with these issues (as well as
other non-essential issues, such as ecclesiology or polity) arises out of a thoroughly postmodern epistemology.

Essentially, a postmodern epistemology hinges on what Lyotard has famously called "the collapse of metanarratives." (The Postmodern Condition remains the ur-text for this discussion.) Basically, this means that any grands recits--any stories that would claim to offer "ultimate authority" on God, the Universe, and Everything--are to be met with severe skepticism or even unequivocal rejection.

Obviously, this doesn't bode well for classical evangelicalism (whether we come at it from a Reformed or Arminian perspective) and its affirmation of sola scriptura.

One of the primary reasons for postmoderns drawing this conclusion is the so-called "linguistic turn" in postmodern analytics: thinkers like Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze have built upon some of the assumptions of Kantian metaphysics and the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure to argue that language has ceased to offer (if indeed it has EVER offered) the capacity to meaningfully "represent"
anything real.

For the pure postmodern, the whole notion of "the real" is a thing of flux and constant deferment; all we have to use, so the argument goes, are "signs" (words) that are really only capable of pointing to other "signs" (words), which in turn themselves can only point to other "signs" (words), etc. Further, these "signs" are always-already the products of immense, deeply and inextricably-embedded social, cultural, and economic factors, for both the speaker or writer and the audience or reader; in other words, what the speaker says is always
determined largely (if not entirely) by time, place, and manner, and the way the audience understands is also likewise conditioned.

The consequences for these thoughts are also dire for evangelicals, as they logically entail (if true), first, that Scripture is the product of immeasurable social, political, cultural, and economic factors, and so cannot point to anything "real" (if indeed there even IS a "real" to
which ANYTHING can point); and, secondly, that even if Scripture COULD break free from its circumstantial moorings (which it can't, according to the pure postmodernist), we ourselves CANNOT; we as readers are always-already conditioned irrevocably to read through the lens of our upbringing, socio-cultural situation, etc., etc. In short, the Holy Word of God, under this paradigm, becomes evacuated of any claim to Authority whatsoever; not only because the whole notion of divine inspiration is met with skepticism (which it is--here, as in many places, postmodernity accepts this modernist tenet unquestioningly), but also because even if divine inspiration could be proven to be true, it would still be "inspiration" into a fundamentally flawed system of communication from which it can never escape.

If we think about these ideas at length, we'll realize that they seem to inform all the work of the major thinkers of emergentism: Rob Bell's Nooma videos; McLaren's "Generous Orthodoxy" (which isn't any more generous than it is orthodox); Tony Jones' The New Christians; Doug Pagitt's forthcoming book, Christianity Worth Believing (not-so-subtly implying that non-emergent versions of Christianity AREN'T worth believing); equivocation on the language of Scripture with regard to Penal Substitution; etc., etc.

It's also probably helpful to note that none of this is really very new--this kind of theology, which gets billed as "postmodern" is really (as is the tendency with a lot of postmodernism, actually) simply modernism writ large: it's Fosdick and Bultmann and Tillich and the modernist liberal theologians brought to their fuller consequences.

Brother Bell said...

John Wagner said...

I agree wholeheartedly that one does not need to be Pentecostal to be saved!

Being Pentecostal is not about salvation. It is also not about denominations (AG or otherwise).

Being Pentecostal is about divine empowerment to be witnesses for Jesus Christ (Luke 24:48-49 and Acts 1:8). It is about entering into the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. This power comes through the baptism with the Holy Spirit and is evidenced by speaking in other tongues.

But, it is not about the tongues, it is about being baptized with the Holy Spirit, which provides divine power to be Jesus' witnesses.

This is not a denominational distinctive, but a biblical imperative.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Paul was onto something when he said in 1 Cor 2:1-5 "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

John Wagner said...

The summary of postmodern epistemology and its application to this discussion was excellent.

This is why it becomes so apparent to me that often, all we do is debate about words, and everyone leaves the table holding onto their own views. So what's the point?

Whether it is Mark Driscoll or anyone else, what's the objective in the debate? We go round and round and round (which I admit is fun) but after it's all over, what have we accomplished?

I'm reminded of Jesus' parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13. I suppose, as always, both will grow together until the end and then the reapers will come and they will separate the "wheat" from the "weeds".

I am very glad for 2 Tim 2:19 that says: "The Lord knows those who are His".

Anonymous said...

Pot calling the kettle black?

Fisher said...

I agree with you John. My problem is what we do with the similarities between biblical imperative and denominational distinctive. The two are hard to separate and the implications a little fuzzy as well.
As an imperative do you think that we should hold everyone else to it, or do you think that it is God's wish for them to experience fullness, but that shouldn't really be our battle? I lean towards the second, but admittedly it is a dicey call. In my mind imperatives are more synonymous with essentials, and therefore things I am willing to fight about. I'm not sure Baptism in the Spirit qualifies in that light, although I do believe it is the preferred choice biblically. More of a concern to me and the post in all reality are the actions of the emergent church in terms of non-essential matters, such as Christology. I think that post-modernist theology such as the emergent stream is the logical progression from that of the modernist theology (hence the name), and that we should in that respect be wary lest it progress too far. On the flip side as a church we should be ever deepening in our understanding of God and I think new theological thought helps us to do this as much from the positives as the negatives.

Fisher said...

I meant essential, not non-essential, although it posted when I hit preview. Sorry about that

John Wagner said...


You said, "As an imperative do you think that we should hold everyone else to it, or do you think that it is God's wish for them to experience fullness, but that shouldn't really be our battle?"

I agree, an imperative is something worth battling for and is synonymous with essentials.

In my opinion, if I call myself a Pentecostal, then the baptism in the Holy Spirit most definitely qualifies in that light!

To me, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is one of four essential objectives in our ministry:

We operate from a Christian, evangelical, and classical Pentecostal perspective.

Our purpose is to establish close interpersonal relationships with servicemen and women between the ages of 18 and 25 by providing a safe and caring home environment where they can feel comfortable, have fun, enjoy fellowship, worship, and be part of a surrogate family while they are away from their homes and families.

These interpersonal relationships then provide the platform from which ministry to the military member’s spiritual needs is conducted. Our four spiritual objectives are to help servicemen and women:

1. Initiate and develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ;
2. Become established in the Word of God both intellectually and behaviorally;
3. Get baptized with the Holy Spirit, with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues, to divinely empower them as witnesses for Jesus Christ; and to
4. Become culturally sensitive witnesses for Jesus Christ among military personnel in their units, among multinational forces in combined military operations, and among the residents of the countries where they may serve.

As a Pentecostal I would no more make the baptism with the Holy Spirit optional than I would make faith in Jesus Christ for salvation optional.

However, having said that I realize I cannot force anyone who chooses not to believe, to accept Jesus as their Savior; and cannot force anyone to believe in or choose to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Those are choices made by the individual.

And, while I believe in learning from as many sources as I can, I will not compromise my biblical beliefs as a Pentecostal, and my beliefs in the Scriptures to be determined by non-Pentecostal evangelicals (especially those in the emergent movement) who have a totally biased perspective on this issue.

I believe as Pentecostals we have more to bring to the table and to contribute to the discussion than we are willing to admit. But we have to be willing to take a stand.

For whatever its worth, the best book I have ever read concerning Pentecostal hermeneutics and exegesis was the one written by Roger Stronstadt called "The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke". I think every pastor of a Pentecostal church should teach through that book.

Sorry if this post was too long. I try to keep them relatively short.

Fisher said...

I apologize to Shannon and Dr. Oss for being the king of off topic. John, what was that mission statement you quoted? Surely it must have been some sort of chaplaincy thing. My only point in this discussion is that in reference to the original post I do think we should step forward to set the record straight in terms of non-nogotiables. I don't see the emergents as having crossed that line as of yet, although Driscoll certainly feels as if they have. I also don't think speaking in tongues qualifies by that definition. It is a non-negotiable as a Pentecostal but not as a Christian in general. Biblical imperative yes, essential to salvation no.

John Wagner said...


I'm afraid an apology for being "off topic" really does not apply in this discussion, in my opinion.

I say that because of one sentence in the original post that said: "Is it perhaps time for leaders in today's church to step forward and set the record straight regarding the non-negoitable truth claims of the Bible?"

I believe it is. And our discussion is simply articulating our views on this subject.

Sometimes in our philosophical discussions we get so caught up in the ethereal conceptualizations of our ideas that we never talk about the elephant in the room; we simply pretend he isn't there.

No, the missions statement was not a "chaplaincy thing." It is the missions statement of the house church my wife and I founded eight years ago.

I never said that simply "speaking in tongues" was the non-negotiable. The non-negotiable as far as I am concerned is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which is subsequent to salvation, and the source of divine power to witness for Jesus Christ. The initial evidence of that Spirit baptism is speaking in other tongues.

That is a biblical perspective, and as exegetically sound as any other general Christian doctrine. It cannot be dismissed as simply a "Pentecostal" perspective, not necessarily applicable to Christians in general. People can choose to disbelieve it, but that does not negate its truth.

Brian Mclaren in his book "A Generous Orthodoxy" attempts to also simply brush it aside as a non-essential denominational distinctive.

He is entitled to his opinion, but his perspective does not inform my beliefs.

fisher said...

I'm not sure if I have anything else to say about this, but I will try to give the book you suggested a read. Thanks for discussing it with me though.

ML said...

In my opinion tongues speech is not the distinctive of Pentecostalism. Nor should baptism in the Holy Spirit be understood as the distinctive. If those are the distinctives which describes a spirit filled believer to a Pentecostal, then Pentecostals are in trouble. I say that due to the recent poles which reveal fewer Pentecostals believe in the absolutism of those doctrines. The implications then are that fewer Pentecostals believe they themselves are saved or filled with the spirit or both.

If we look even closer at Pentecostal churches, what is done in practice appears significantly different that what is stated as beliefs. Fewer and fewer churches either practice or teach the sign gifts. Why would this be the case? Could it be they are losing a grip on scripture as John seems to believe? I don't think so. I think experience, wisdom and a full hermeneutic which considers the full counsel of God and evangelical theology as a whole, revealed both in scripture and in his worldwide works throughout the church speaks of something new and trans-formative. New wine, new wine skins.

John can argue that those polls reveal the Pentecostal movement is becoming more unbiblical. I would argue they reveal Pentecostals are becoming more holistically biblical by not delineating a singular gift and a relatively, again I say a relatively, minor theological event in the total life of a believer, as a sheer necessity for life in the Kingdom. Are there evidences in Acts for the initial physical evidence doctrine? Sure. No one can deny them unless they fall prey to the cessationist argument. Does Luke or Paul or any scripture make it a mandate? No. Even the nature of the other conversion events in Acts offer alternative expressions of saving faith. They stand side by side. Both being attested as authentic and valid. So what's the problem John?

Does that realization make me un-Pentecostal? Probably for those in your camp. But not before God. I think historically the Pentecostal movement has spilled so much blood on this issue it has attain 'sacred' status complete with heightened emotions that cause blindness beyond what is reasonable or rational. Is tongues an evidence of Spirit Baptism? Probably. Maybe even for most. Is it the only sign of Spirit Baptism? Come on. That's really ridiculous and arrogant. Is the Pentecostal interpretation valid? Sure. Does it exclusively represent the only valid interpretation? Absolutely not. Can you be that arrogant and be filled with the humble spirit of Jesus? Should it divide and separate the Kingdom of God? Can you draw that line and say everybody on that side is a heretic and doomed? The way I read scripture, God forbids such division. Have Pentecostals majored in the minors on this issue? In my opinion, very much so. In their attempt to become legitimate they have become exclusive. In their struggle to birth something wonderful and new against the frightened, old-guard religious establishment they contracted the very legalistic virus against which opposed them for decades. That has always been and will always be the mark of religion.

Let's just say what it is, no more no less: Tongues is a gift. A wonderful gift. I can ask for it. I can want it. I can pray for it. I can seek it. But since it is a gift, God's gift, only he can give it. (Otherwise I'm just faking it.) And if it is a gift and not standard issue to every believer(who can look at the world church with any humility at all and think tongues is in any way normative?)then we can only receive it by grace alone. It cannot be formulated. God and his gifts will not be formulated no matter how hard we try to rationalize, exegete and systematize him. Just use your gift to the glory of God and be thankful. Don't start a denomination just to practice and justify it.

So when you talk about the emergent church, give them room to become what they are to become. I listened to Driscoll. He sounded like a modern Jerry Falwell to me. Angry, smart, graceless, and competitive. Honestly, I thought he was speaking in fear. There is no exegetical justification that Jesus prayed for or against liberalism, fundamentalism, conservatism or librarianism for that matter. He prayed that his church would be one. Just after that prayer he told us how to be one, to abide in him, the true vine, not in the fake vine of Israel religious establishment that grew wild, sour grapes as fruit. He told us just to abide, rest, stay attached.

It's about Jesus people. It's in Jesus, for Jesus, with Jesus, as Jesus, by Jesus and because of Jesus. Stop throwing rocks at people who are doing something for Jesus and his glory. Emergent or traditional, Lutheran, Reformed, Calvinist, Armenian, Baptist, Anabaptist, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Charismatic, Pentecostal....whatever....Does anybody get closer to Jesus, find hope, experience love, sleep warmer, get fed, get wounds treated, marriage reconciled because Mark Driscoll can't agree with Brian Mclaren or Rob Bell? What are we thinking?

Sorry for the rant....

Anonymous said...


Wow. I sense you feel quite strongly about the issue. You mentioned that Tongues speech is not the distinctive of Pentecostalism. Then what is the distinctive? I did not follow your argument.

OH, about the initial issue of the Emerging Church. I got nothing. I am really stumped when it comes to even understanding what the term means. I have read some awesome things by those who write on this blog... but what I don't get is: why does anyone need to be concerned with the Emerging Church?

TBE said...

"why does anyone need to be concerned with the Emerging Church?"

This goes back to my earlier post about postmodern epistemology; that kind of thinking is at the core of why we need to be suspicious of the emergent movement: in general, they operate under the assumption that the Truth about God is either (A) completely unknowable; or (B) knowable but unable to be accurately conveyed by human language, including the language of Scripture.

Here are a couple of examples of this kind of thinking from among the Emergent Church. Note that neither of these samplings comes from any of the 'big names' (Pagitt, McLaren, Campolo, Jones, etc.) we've come to associate with emergentism. Both of the following examples, however, come directly from An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Baker, 2007), and as such they're completely enmeshed within the broader scope of emergentism as a whole.

My first example comes from an essay entitled, "What Would Huckleberry Do? A Relational Ethic as the Jesus Way." (Honestly--folks, I couldn't MAKE UP stuff like this!) The author, Nanette Sawyer, is ordained through the PC(USA), and she heads an emergent community in Chicago called Wicker Park Grace. This is how she describes her approach to understanding and applying Scripture:

"When it comes to the Bible, tradition, and moral decision making, I've begun to ask myself, 'What would Huckleberry [Finn, the titular character of Mark Twain's classic novel] do?'...As Huckleberry Finn demonstrates, how we interpret and apply the biblical stories and commandments has life-threatening, life-changing, and life-expanding implications and possibilities. Our decisions about biblical interpretation and application can only be strengthened by grounding them in what we know in community with each other." (p. 46, emphasis added)

Folks, this is postmodern epistemology at its worst; the author clearly disregards Scripture as secondary to human experience. Indeed, were she to be taken to the full logical outworking of her own arguments, she'd have to say that all moral truth is determined first by communal experience, with Scripture as a secondary authority (if that). In short, her hermeneutic is completely backward: rather than allowing Scripture to inform her understanding of what genuine, authentic community should be, she advocates letting our experience of community determine our interpretation of Scripture. In fact, she immediately uses this kind of approach to deny the exclusive claims of Christ, performing veritable feats of exegetical gymnastics to read her brand of pure inclusivism into Romans 8, 1 John 3, and Acts 17. (See p. 47 in An Emergent Manifesto.)

Emergentism is simply modernist liberal theology in new postmodern clothes. We can see this even better in my second example, from an essay entitled, "The Art of Emergence: Being God's Handiwork," by Troy Bronsink. Bronsink is, like Sawyer, ordained through the PC(USA), and runs an emergent community and independent coffee shop in Atlanta.

Bronsink is primarily interested (like most of the "big guns" of emergentism") in a "new way to do church"; as such, he discusses at length how it's the way the mainstream church has historically clamped down on theological innovation that has driven away so many people:

Lack of freedom to innovate [theologically] can retard the maturation of the church's story and practices....But what if God and God's commissioned people continue to sketch the practices and the sotry? What if the practices of the church and her story are continually being reshaped by the active work of God in our midst?...Isn't this what Paul illustrates to the church in Rome...[see Rom. 8:18-23]? Recognizing the story of the gospel as planted within the very culture that it is destined to transform accounts for the story's own tranistory nature. Our story is en route. As the gospel story is being finished in our midst, so are the practices of the gospel community." (pp. 66-67, emphasis added)

So Brosnick and the emergents aren't trying just to point out that the church needs to practice evangelism faithfully while remaining true to the essential Gospel message--Brosnick is arguing pretty clearly here that the reason we've got to change "the way we do church" is BECAUSE THE GOSPEL ITSELF IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING.

Beloved, you don't get much closer to outright heresy than this. We can also see the underpinnings of modernist liberal theology here--Brosnick goes to great lengths to engage liberal theologians, especially Jurgen Moltmann, in order to prove his point. The other writers in An Emergent Manifesto do the same thing.

"There is nothing new under the sun"--this kind of thinking isn't in any sense an innovation, it's simply the old heresies dressed up in newer terms. This at its core is just another example of human beings wanting to call their own shots, rejecting the Authority of Scripture and replacing it with their own.

By all means, let's think of new ways to "do church"; but for us, as redeemed witnesses of the Gospel of the Glorious Grace of Jesus Christ, we lose all credibility and all hope in evangelism the second we reject the bedrock of Sacred Scripture.

Anonymous said...

tbe, and others,

so the idea I am getting from this is: if church is done differently you are an emerging church. And by differently I mean non an emerging church is a model of style? Not message? But the message they (emergent churches) are associated with is one that is not Christ centered, yet their style draws the postmodern culture and pluralists into the church.

Gary said...

You are an excellent writer and well read. However, I think Joel's original post on the subject contravenes your propositions. Let me quote the illustrious Mr. Triska,
"Hmmm...what emerging "model" are we talking about? The main problem with the term emerging/emergent is that it covers so much. It's like the adjective postmodern. It could apply to an organic house church that incorporates Buddhist meditation or a traditional evangelical church's Sunday night service that now uses candles and the pastor preaches from a bar stool."

Your points may be valid for some emergent leaders or congregations. But they cannot represent the whole of something that as of yet has not been formed. Unless you purpose all emergent leaders and/or followers have read all of Sawyer and Brosnick. I think we both know that’s unlikely.

Having lived near, worshiped in and visited with pastoral staffs in several of the more emergent congregations on the west coast (Imago Dei, City Church and Edgewater in Oregon and the The Quest, BayMarin and Rock Harbor in California) I can attest that you give much too much credit for their theological construction and intentionality. ML has a point, these churches are only looking for the best way to contextualize the ‘full’ gospel of Jesus with integrity. In that respect their “ortho-paxic” theology more resembles one emanating from a foxhole than an Ivory tower.

As to the specifics of your point: Just for the fun of it, I could argue that the quote you gave from Sawyer, "Our decisions about biblical interpretation and application can only be strengthened by grounding them in what we know in community with each other." is a relatively accurate, stand alone statement. One could argue it is in community, as a body of believers in the New Testament era, where we discover the full Missio Dei for all creation. I think it was Cyprian of Carthage that interpreted Matt 16:18 to say that outside the community of the church there was no salvation (Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus). Was he talking about the person or the body (church) of Christ? I think since it was a tenant of the early church he was talking about the community of believers. The Church is the keeper of the Christian culture. For better or worse we have been appointed the message of salvation from death to full-life(not just reconciliation ) which is the intention of the gospel. (Matt 28.) One could also point out that we find what the gospel means, in its entirety and how that is to take place in praxis, together, as a community, led by the Spirit. That's not a new idea. Therefore, you could argue, (as I just did) Sawyer is not off-line with her remarks.

Secondly, your Brosnick issue:
"Recognizing the story of the gospel as planted within the very culture that it is destined to transform accounts for the story's own transitory nature. Our story is en route. As the gospel story is being finished in our midst, so are the practices of the gospel community."

uhhhh....I don't think the end has been written. Do you? Jesus said "It is finished." And I believe him...but I also know I’m still here. Is this a predestination/foreknowledge/metaphysical issue for you? I think there are still a few curves to navigate on our journey home. I hope and pray we continue to navigate those with innovation and creatively search for new ways within our cultures to honestly reveal the gospel story with integrity. But as new people come to faith, new miracles are witnessed, new signs and wonders revealed within the lives of believers, new strands are added to the tapestry, new pages are then written in the hearts of believers with new testimonies of God’s greatness. Am I suggesting those experiences rise to the level of orthodoxy and or doctrine which should break open the canon? No way. But it is still Good News, the gospel revealed in the changed hearts of humankind? It is still the working of Jesus through the Holy Spirit in the lives of his children. Do we believe God speaks through heavenly tongues and interpretations? I think we do. Is that part of the uncovering of God's story in and with us? I hope so. Do we believe in the mysterious power of the declared word of God that does not return void? Yes. Is that a further revealing of his story among us? I think it is. Is the story changing? The story is not over. New characters, new souls are added to our ranks. Jesus has not come back. Are we at the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? No one knows for sure. The gospel is living and breathing. It is not stoic. He is alive. God remains largely unpredictable despite years of systematic theology which has endlessly tried to chase him down. In my experience the most brilliant theologians are the humblest of men because they, better than most, know the vast quantities of the divine which remain unknowable and/or undiscovered.(ie Dr. Railey) We can't figure him out.(God not Railey.) If we could, God would cease being omniscient. Bad, bad idea. So is the story finished, done, unchanging? Logically impossible. Is God immutable, omniscient and Jesus the only name by which men can be saved? Forever. They are not mutually exclusive.

This brings up another point. Why do we uniformly believe all there is to know about God we now know? Why aren't theologians making discoveries about God like any other discipline? We are looking for the cure to cancer. We are looking for new planets. We are looking for ways to make a longerlasting light bulb and a more fuel effecient cumbustable engine. Wherre are the theological innovators? Oh, yeah.....they are heretics forgot. No wonder the church hasn't kept up with culture. Not only do we not fund R&D (research and development)we shoot most of our new discoverors. Sorry, that was a tangent.

My goal here was to show that these statements can be fairly easily nuanced into an acceptable orthodoxy. To simply 'cut and paste' does not a heretical theology make. There is no single author, theologian, school, creed, statement of faith, hermeneutic or theology that summarizes the emergent movement. It's just not that organized yet.

Anonymous said...

This is Justin Woods,
This emerging church has good intentions, many of them just take their gospel accomdations to an extreme level, and compromising the truth claim of Jesus' excusivity is about the only thing in my opinion that really needs to be the core component. Otherwise, they are not bringing people to salvation, but only to the general notion of a god who WANTS to save. I hear some people say that, "We need to listen to the Holy Spirit in these issues," like the spirit would EVER tell someone to keep the NAME of Christ secret. foolishness. I have seen the military suffer such unchristian advice. Would the apostles ever tell us that the holy spirit wants the name of Christ kept secret? Even when Paul preached using a Greek idol what did he say? He used their general notion of a God and put the NAME OF JESUS to it. We cannot defect from this apostolic precedent. Jesus is a specific person with a proper noun for a reason. We may differ culturally about the pronunciation of that name but it is the fact of WHO we are directing to with that name that makes a difference. This is the core issue. Everything else is just details.

Brother Bell said...

Sorry for asking this and I'm not directing it to anyone specifically who might have posted above me. But wasn't this supposed to be about Driscoll's comments? There has been no interaction on those? Has anyone listened to his statement on the podcast? I really have enjoyed the conversation so far but what do you guys think about the podcast!? Just wondering~

John Wagner said...


Again, a very articulate and insightful post. You seem to have an excellent grasp of postmodernism and its application in this emergent context. What's more you articulate your position clearly and sucinctly.

I found one thing you said very interesting and I have struggled with it for some time because I see it as something we all tend to do.

You said: "Folks, this is postmodern epistemology at its worst; the author clearly disregards Scripture as secondary to human experience. Indeed, were she to be taken to the full logical outworking of her own arguments, she'd have to say that all moral truth is determined first by communal experience, with Scripture as a secondary authority (if that). In short, her hermeneutic is completely backward: rather than allowing Scripture to inform her understanding of what genuine, authentic community should be, she advocates letting our experience of community determine our interpretation of Scripture."

Isn't that exactly what the Church has been doing for 2000 years?

The Roman Catholic community interprets Scripture based on its perception of truth and tradition. Calvinist communities interpret Scripture from their perception of reality. Pentecostals interpret Scripture from their perception of reality. And finally, from a non-Christian perspective, so do Buddhists, Hinus, Muslims, etc.

Each of these communities views their interpretation of Scripture, or truth, as correct and authoritative and view the others as interpreting Scriptures (truth) incorrectly.

Postmodern writers argue that people do not have the ability to step outside of their "constructed" views of reality.

I disagree. Because it happens all the time when people come from a non-Christian worldview to a Christian worldview (or vice versa). People continually go from one community to another.

My impression of what the emergent leaders are suggesting is that these differing perspectives can and should simply be set aside to "do church differently" since these differences of perspective and interpretation are really "insignificant".

However, I do not think it is possible to merely disregard these differences of interpretation (or distinctives) in favor of creating one large "Christian" community that draws everyone into one huge whole.

TBE said...


"Isn't that exactly what the Church has been doing for 2000 years?"

Quite simply, no--I don't think we can make that kind of sweeping general statement. When the church asserts today that homosexuality is a sin--regardless of its cultural acceptability--it is NOT allowing culture or community to interpret Scripture, but asserting rather that Scripture has Authority to determine what "community" should mean and look like for us.

When the early church saved infants from death by exposure, it once again was asserting that God's Law supersedes the laws of men.

Every persecuted believer who died because s/he wouldn't worship Caesar as the Roman law commanded died precisely because they REFUSED to allow their cultural situation to determine their reading of Scripture.

The Emergents would have us move in exactly the opposite direction--in fact, the article in An Emergent Manifesto that deals with homosexuality does exactly this, arguing that the church's perspective on this matter should be conditioned not simply by what Scripture says, but by our cultural instincts and experiences. Similarly, Sawyer argues in her article that if we allow our experience of community to inform the way we read Scripture, then the exclusive claims of Christ cease to be exclusive at all.

So what's at stake here is not simply the notion that we all come to Scripture with our own baggage and we need to set it aside, etc....what the Emergents are arguing is much more dangerous and blasphemous, saying that Scripture ITSELF is inevitably conditioned by culture and so functions not as any kind of binding, authoritative revelation, but as simply one more story that should only be heeded in concert with the other stories we have available to us.

Under emergentism, Scripture ceases to be God's Revelation of Himself and becomes merely human words about human experiences of God's Revelation of Himself--no more infallible (and hence no more authoritative) than any other human story.

Fisher said...

I want to post a brief qoute from Driscoll's book Confessions of a Reformission Rev. in which he tries to explain the differences between what he sees as EMERGENT churches which he considers bad, and his own which is EMERGING:

"I am particularly concerned, however, with some growing trends among some people: the rejection of Jesus' death on the cross as a penal substitue for our sins; resistance to openly denouncing homosexual acts as sinful; the questioning of a literal eternal torment in hell; the rejection of God's sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, as if God were a junior college professor who knows only bits and pieces of trivia; the rejection of biblically defined gender roles, thereby contributing to the mantropy epidemic of young guys now fretting over the best kind of loofah for their skin type and the number of women in the military dying to save their Bed, Bath and Beyond from terrorist attacks; and the rejection of biblical names for God, such as Father, which is essentially apologizing before the unbelieving world for the prayer life of the flamboyantly heterosexual Jesus... Therefore, it is very important that any church seeking to be emerging define whether it is an emerging evangelical church or an emergent liberal church." (pg. 22)

Hopefully for those who are still sort of unsure of the issues and distinctions between emerging and emergent or good emerging vs bad, that sort of summary helps. Of course Driscoll is a little biased on certain things so you kind of have to read it through that lense as well

TBE said...

Thanks, Fisher...part of the problem with the emergent crowd is the way the term itself is always evolving to talk about different things.

While Driscoll himself at the time of Reformission Rev was considered part of the emerging fold, he's no longer considered (by himself or by other emergents) "emerging" in any sense. He's too traditional--and WAAAAYY too Reformed--for that.

Pastormark said...

Anyone read Dr.Oss's article in the latest Enrichment Journal? His point seems clear that we have spent way too much time trying to be "hip" and keep up with the latest fad, of which the Emergent church is the latest down the pike. He focused on Paul's words to Timothy to simply "preach the word, in season and out of season." If we spent as much time preaching the simple gospel as we do trying to make the gospel "acceptable" to the masses we would make better progress. Let's face facts, the gospel is offensive, and we cannot change that without changing the gospel itself (i.e. watering it down).

John Wagner said...


I agree with your assessment and your point about the danger of the emergent hermeneutic. They are establishing their own hermeneutical principles, much like the theologians of modernism in the late 1800s.

The difficulty I see is that there is some element of truth in the approach that says Scripture needs to be understood culturally. For example:

We no longer accept Job's friends as speaking for God. They were spaking from their cultural perspective that believed Job was a sinner and recieving his just due because a righteous person is always rewarded in this life and an evil person is always punished. That cultural perspective is viewed as wrong, now.

Paul talked about a woman wearing a head covering. We now interpret that as a cultural issue of his day. Some say it's applicable today and others do not.

Paul said a woman was to remain silent in the church. That too is viewed as a specific cultural issue, and needs to be understood from that perspective.

All of this seems to ultimately become a matter of hermeneutics. And, depending on which "community" one finds themselves the most comfortable associating with, determines the hermeneutical principles by which Scripture is interpreted.

I've even seen this on this blog. The hermeneutical principles a person holds determines what they consider an "essential" biblical doctrine to be, and what is not an essential doctrine.

TBE said...


"We no longer accept Job's friends as speaking for God. They were spaking from their cultural perspective that believed Job was a sinner and recieving his just due because a righteous person is always rewarded in this life and an evil person is always punished. That cultural perspective is viewed as wrong, now."

Actually, the reason we reject Job's friends' advice has nothing to do with culture; it's because God Himself rejects it--His Judgment against Eliphaz and the others reads as follows:
"My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (Job 42:7, ESV, emphasis added)

So the reason we reject the advice of Job's friends has nothing to do with a cultural background that's changed for us; Job's friends were wrong even from WITHIN their cultural framework.

Paul talked about a woman wearing a head covering. We now interpret that as a cultural issue of his day. Some say it's applicable today and others do not.

This example (as well as your next one) doesn't really work here--the reason we assert this to be a cultural issue is quite simple: we're letting Scripture interpret Scripture, and since there's nothing anywhere else in Scripture to suggest that Paul's admonition here is intended to be a norm for the church, it becomes pretty clear that he's issuing a cultural injunction that wouldn't apply for us simply because the Gospel is not tied to any one given culture. Rather, the Gospel at its best (i.e., when we most faithfully live it out) is what informs the culture.

But you should see here that we're not looking at these texts this way today because of cultural differences, but rather because we're being obedient to the full counsel of God in the whole of Scripture.

And while I don't disagree with you that many Christians (myself included at times) fail to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, relying instead on cultural/philosophical assumptions (in my opinion, the idea of a libertarian free will is the example of one of these), we need to recognize that for what it is: a shortcoming on our part, rather than something we should come to expect or take for granted out of any hermeneutic.

John Wagner said...


I understand what you are saying. My point was not really to get into a biblical discussion of these texts, but in doing so, you confirmed my point.

You interpret Scripture from your hermeneutic principles. I do as well. To the extent that our principles agree we will probably arrive at interpretations of Scripture that are pretty close. To the extent they do not agree our interpretations of Scripture, and their subsequent aplication to our culture, will vary, perhaps significantly.

You stated one such hermeneutic principle when you repeated that Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture. I agree. But someone who interprets the Bible with a different principle will come up with different conclusions because of their hermeneutical starting point.

I will make an assumption based on your principle. I think you and I would probably agree that the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels were actual miracles - they actually happened as recorded.

However, because of Bultmann's rationalistic philosophical presuposition that miracles were scientifically impossible, his hermeneutic principle applied to the Bible required him to interpret the miracles in the Gospels as myth rather than actual fact.

I know people who interpret Scripture based on a hermeneutic principle that says every word in the Bible is God's Word to us, to be taken literally, and every instruction to be obeyed to the letter.

Therefore, Job's friends were speaking for God even though they were later rebuked; women have their heads covered; and women are not permitted to speak in church.

You and I might say they are wrong in their interpretation and application of Scripture, and thus legalistic. But, I suggest they are simply operating from a different hermeneutic principle.

One example a little closer to my own situation is the evangelical hermeneutical principle that says normative doctrine cannot be obtained from historical portions of Scripture. That principle has long been used to argue against the Pentecostal belief that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. And, because of that pricnciple, that belief cannot be claimed as normative for the church.

Therefore, Luke is interpreted as if he were Paul instead of being allowed to stand as a theologian in his own right. Which, according to the hermeneutic principles I operate under, leads to faulty biblical interpretation and subsequent faulty application in the life of the church.

Hermeneutics are of vital importance in Scriptural interpretation. If the emergent church develops its own hermeneutic principles, as I believe they are, their interpretations of Scripture will be based on those principles. And, apparently they are basing those principles on postmodern philosophical tenets.

Tenets which challenge the very core of Christian belief. I agree that this is a remake of the modernist agenda of the 1800s. Unfortunately, much of the jargon that is being used by the emergents is couched in fundamental, evangelical, and biblical language that has the potential of deceiving many unsuspecting and less philosophical people.

Anonymous said...

The initial blog stated, or shall I say wanted to know our opinion or thoughts on the "Emerging Church and if they are compromising core trusths"

Well if we are talking of churches that take their que from Tony Jones I would have to say yes. According to Jones there are no absolute truths (Relevant Magazine July 2006) or at least if there are we shouldn't talk about them as absolutes.

I don't know about you but that raises a few red flags and whistels. So maybe thoes who say the emerging church is heretical are not too far from the truth..but not absolute truth :)

I am not famaliar enough with the emerging church movement to lump or suggest that all of the emerging churches are the same. I did listen to a recent pod cast of Mark Driscoll but didn't find him too convincing either in his speaking out against other leaders in the "movement" Maybe what happens is that when the emergent church leaders find truth they then revert back to more tradional affiliations and acceptabilities.

Something else I recently noticed is that recent leaders seeking party nomination for President of the USA, have also a message of hope and so does the emerging church....neither idetify readily what that hope is in but they got it and by golly they want to give it everyone. "For a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wonder off into myths" (ESV 2 Tim 4:3-4)

From what I have read and seen; having church isn't easy and it would genuinly seem that many leaders are concerend about bringing the gospel to as many as possible and getting as many in as possible, but at what cost and to what loss?

Noah didn't close the door to the Ark, God did.

This was posted by Brian Nelmes

Brian said...

I am with Pastor Mark and Dr. Oss - less focus on being hip and more focus on being true to the gospel - Jesus is our savior, healer, baptizer in the Spirit and Coming King. Though I suppose it is possible to be perceived as "hip" and true to the Gospel - Rob Bell might be a good example of this.

ChosenCho said...

Fisher said...

Driscoll has a video called the 4 lanes of the emerging church posted on his church webpage.

It's only like six minutes but does a decent job as well

Fisher said...

sorry about that

Daisuke Yabuki said...

I think I need to understand such people in emerging culture first.
non-negotiable truth of the Bible might be fresh idea for them. I had a friend who recognized he was a person who live in and practice emerging culture.His parents did not understand his way of thought and life.There was a time he sent me an e-mail to help his who hated his son's way of living. There was a spiritual need for my friend. I introduced several AG churched near his house. For me, I tried not to see their cultural-outward appearance and tried to find out what they are seeking for spiritually.

Muliya said...

Thanks for writing this.