Christian Unity … Think About It (Part 8)

What do you think about these two statements – 

“So was Jesus’s death necessary for our redemption? From God’s end of it did Jesus have to die? Absolutely not. In no sense is God’s forgiveness conditioned upon Jesus’s death. God forgives sin because God is a forgiving God. Nor does our personal transformation into God’s likeness demand Jesus’s death either. Persons of other religious faiths are able to relate to God and pursue other paths of transformation apart from attaching any saving significance to the death of their mediators.”

“Today I readily acknowledge that 1 Timothy was written several decades after Paul by someone within the Pauline tradition who clearly did not accept Paul’s original egalitarian theological and social vision.”

Both of these came from recent posts on the Emerging Voices Blog and are examples of the kind of teaching expressed through the Emerging Church/Progressive Christianity. Do either of these statements sound like “orthodox” Christianity?

Dr. Norman Geisler believes that Brian McLaren and other Emergent leaders are “post-Christian” in their view of Scripture –

“Scripture is the most fundamental of all the fundamental doctrines, since it is the fundamental on which all the other fundamentals rest. And on their view of Scripture, Grenz and McLaren are not only postmodern but they are also post-Christian. Their rejection of the classical orthodox view of Scripture is sweeping. It includes a rejection of the correspondence view of truth, a rejection of objective truth, absolute truth, propositional truth, and inerrant truth in Scripture. This it does in favor of antifoundationalism, relativism, subjectivism, constructionism, and Barthianism, no propositionalism, and fallibilism. The so-called emerging church is not emerging; it has already emerged. And what it has emerged into is not Christian in any traditional, historic, or orthodox sense of the words.” (Evangelicals Engaging Emergent, B&H Academic, 2009, p 107)

Here are other insights into E/EC from co-writers of Evangelicals Engaging Emergent

“True to its postmodern provenance, the revision recommended by McLaren deconstructs present beliefs and practices. In so doing, it does not seek to recover the faith of our ancient Christian forebears; instead, it prepares the way for novel beliefs and practices to replace old ones. So revision departs from the present not in order to return to the faith of the apostles but rather to carve out a new and distinct faith. Both reform and revision a la McLaren would thus have us depart from modern beliefs and practices; once underway, however, they would chart radically different courses—one ancient, one postmodern.” Douglas Blount, p 120-121

“People in the E/e movement are thinking through how to present Jesus in a changing world. They are looking for fresh angles and emphases. Part of the value of such newness is that presenting the gospel from a fresh angle can have freshness that the retelling of a well-known version can lack. The question is not whether the story is different or has a different style (narrative versus didactic for example; sermon versus dialogical delivery); it is whether the difference still reflects the experience of knowing Jesus in a way that coheres with the depth and balance in scriptural teaching.” Darrell L. Bock, p 159

“Others within the emerging church movement, such as Spencer Burke and Barry Taylor, write that it was not Jesus’ intention to die as a propitiation of God’s wrath for the sins of the world. Instead, Jesus died because He threatened the religious community by breaking their rules, which He did out of His sacrificial love for others. Christians, then, need to ‘balance’ penal substitution—which ‘can reinforce a caricature of a God who is angry, bloodthirsty, and judgmental’—with good works done in love. After all, they assert, ‘[w]hat counts is not a belief system but a holistic approach of following what you feel, experience, discover, and believe; it is a willingness to join Jesus in his vision for a transformed humanity.” Robert Sagers, p 196-197

“One of the most common emphases to appear in discussions of worship among emerging church leaders is the need for worship to be experiential. Sally Morgenthaler and Dan Kimball both see the emphasis on experienced linked with how people in the emerging culture come to know. Morgenthaler says, ‘Having shift from ‘knowing-by-notion’ to ‘knowing-by-narrative,’ realignment [her term for worship] in emerging congregations is experiential more than mental, sensory more than read,’ involving worshipers on every level: ‘visual, aural, tactile, kinetic, emotional, and cerebral.’ Dan Kimball explains that while modern people begin with learning facts, which then influence beliefs which then guide behavior, for postmodern people everything begins with experience, which influences behavior, which only then leads to beliefs.” John Hammett, p 238

“If Brian McLaren is the Emergent church’s ‘most influential thinker’ and the movement’s ‘de facto spiritual leader,’ Doug Pagitt is its premier homiletician. As a member of the ‘Organizing Group’ in the Emergent Village, he serves as founding pastor of Solomon’s Porch, a self-described ‘Holistic, Missional, Christian Community’ in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In his book Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith, he calls for traditional preaching to be replaced by ‘progressional dialogue’ that ‘involves the intentional interplay of multiple viewpoints that leads to unexpected and unforeseen ideas. The message will change depending on who is present and who says what. This kind of preaching is dynamic in the sense that the outcome is determined on the spot by participants.’ McLaren acquiesces, saying, ‘I’ve found that the more my preaching mirrors the flow of a conversation, the more people connect with it.’ As an additional component to this idea of praching as an ongoing conversation, many Emergent revisionists view Scripture as simply one of the participants. Rejecting the idea that the Bible is the sole authority on spiritual truth, they believe that the Christian community has an equal role to play in the preaching event. Pagitt asserts, ‘The Bible ought to live as an authoritative member of our community, one we listen to on all topics of which she speaks. Understanding the Bible as a community member means giving the Bible the freedom to speak for herself. Sometimes that will mean getting out of the way and putting less effort into interpreting Scripture for others, instead letting them carry out their own relationship with what the Bible says.’ So, as opposed to being the sole authority for faith and practice, the Bible is merely one contributor sitting around the table—alongside experience and collective wisdom—as ‘an authoritative member of the community.” Jim Shaddix, p 283-284

“The apostle Paul was quite clear about the gospel: ‘For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’ (1 Cor. 15:3-4). It is through proclaiming this message that God has chosen to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21). The message of the gospel is undeniably a set of truth claims, and apart from these truths there can be no true evangelism. Indeed, these truths direct us to the One who saves. While not all emerging church leaders would deny the necessity of these truths, their leaning away from propositional truth risks doing ‘evangelism’ without ever getting to the message essential to New Testament evangelism. The frightening result is that some might assume their salvation apart from knowing essential truths; for example, McLaren relates the story of a man who becomes a follower of Jesus while not knowing why Jesus died (in fact, while accepting McLaren’s assertion that even Jesus did not know why He had to die). New Testament evangelism is much more than McLaren’s understanding of evangelism as friendliness in the spirit of Jesus; instead, it is the announcement of clear biblical truths that point the way to salvation.” Chuck Lawless, p 323-324

Adam Greenway wrote an excellent conclusion to Evangelicals Engaging Emergent

“Perhaps the most consistent criticism leveled against Emergent in this volume (and elsewhere) has been the overarching lack of concern for doctrinal content and precision. While ‘generous orthodoxy’ seems to be the Emergent desire, many of its leaders have clearly moved beyond the pale of orthodoxy in order to uphold some overarching sense of generosity. Whether it be the redefining of hell and eternal punishment, the embracing of forms of soteriolgical inclusivism or pluralism, the discounting of Jesus’ deity and penal substitutionary atonement, or the minimizing of the need for evangelism and missions because of nonconversionist theological worldviews (to simply highlight again a few issues treated within this book), the serious evangelical observers notices tragically little within Emergent that resonates with ‘the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all’ (Jude 3) and much that resembles ‘another Jesus’ (2 Cor. 11:4) and ‘a different gospel’ (Gal. 1:6).”

Perspective

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was a ‘young’ Christian with great hopes and dreams about what living life as a Christian would be. Having come out of atheism, I was hungry to learn about Jesus. I attended every Bible study I could and was at church whenever the doors were open. I read the Bible every day and talked with other Christians about what everything in it meant.

I remember reading these words of Jesus to His disciples – “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). I wasn’t a new Christian for long before I discovered that experiencing tribulation in the world included having it within the Christian community as well. That includes, but is not limited to, attending boring church services with even more boring sermons, Christians disagreeing with each other about matters big and small, and even worse, Christians stabbing each other in the back because of pride and jealousy.

So, what does a young Christian do when they are faced with the realities of being Christian in the “real” world? If our experience is not a positive one, where do we go? Do we abandon faith as some do or change what it means to be Christian? Or do we do the hard work of being Christian – the hard work Jesus told His disciples about and the hard work they and their followers did in the 1st century? Did the early Christian disciples change what Jesus taught them because the road was long and hard and many of the people they preached the Gospel to wanted to kill them? Did they change the message and emphasis to make the Gospel palatable to a larger audience? Did the disciples make some mid-course adjustments to emphasize Conversations over Conversions? Reflections over Revelation? Stories over Salvation? Journeys over Jesus? Friendships over Faith?

The answer to those questions should be clear to us all by now.

“But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:32-39

Thinking About Christian Unity Ebook

We have compiled all of the posts about Ecumenical and Emerging unity movements into a FREE Ebook that you can download. We also invite you to share the Ebook with other Christians. It is our hope and prayer that comparing the doctrine and practice of unity movements to the clear teaching of God’s Word will encourage Christians to stand strong for truth.

_______________________________

Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion Of The Emergent Church Movement, 2009, B&H Academic

Emergent / Emerging Church Documentary

Copyright © 1990-2016 GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

GraceLife

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