According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: Norm Geisler "Emergence or Emergency?"


I have submitted  a review of an earlier course lecture given by the evangelical professor, Norm Geisler, in 2008, stating the perceived errors of the emergent Christian movement. This, and similar courses, may be found in one fashion or another throughout evangelical colleges and seminaries espousing similar arguments and innuendos. Further, the more popular books and articles in contemporary evangelical religious literature continue to play out to these erroneous fears, objections, beliefs, and barbed rhetorical volleys (sic, David Platt, Justin Thaylor, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Galli, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Francis Chan, Albert Mohler, etc).


But because the Emergent movement had shortly begun in the late 1990s it is submitted by this writer that these fears seemed a legitimate treatment of the then current understanding of emergent Christianity in its interplay with a newer unrecognized cultural dynamic by modernistic evangelical Christians. And because we as Christians are so use to seeing sectarian and cultic error arise so frequently it was considered within evangelicalism that this new movement would be little different.


And this was my considered response as well and it wasn’t until emergent Christianity better proposed itself and enunciated its beliefs did I more fully understand their “alarming” doctrines as being less alarming and ringing more true than I had at first believed. But it took a decade to decipher this new branch of Christianity, known as Emergent Christianity, and all the while this "movement" worked hard to define its beliefs and practices - helped, as it were, by the offsetting trends of global postmodernism on display. The further the 21st Century progressed, the further emergent Christianity would be illuminated by it. In effect, modernistic evangelicalism little understood postmodernism and the resultant emergent Christianity that was arising as an orthodox Christian response to it. But so too could the same be said about evangelical Christianity as it grew in response to the modernism of the mid-20th Century before a fundamentalist Christianity still holding on to the 19th Century.


Moreover, the earlier advocates of emergent Christianity perhaps were too eager to point out the shortcomings of evangelical Christianity and fire-bombed precious "traditional" truths with a vigor that quickly put evangelicalism on the defensive. And religion being what it is, shortly betrayed itself as a holy war by both sides out to crucify and condemn each the other side… disappointingly so. If we know anything, it is that change comes slowly, and where religion is concerned, its comes all too painfully slowly, especially when the truth and rightness of God’s word has been grossly mis-defined and limited by holy practices and beliefs.


And yet, emergent Christianity continues to define itself within its culture of postmodernism (much like evangelicalism had continued to define itself within its own modern era) as we are seeing better and better arguments and more patient teaching against the earlier fears and analysis of evangelicalism's much pronounced veracities. Further, it has been because of the pronouncements and verdicts from evangelical pulpits, papers, and seminaries like the one recorded below that emergent Christian “doctrines and practices” have arisen in better response and highlight.


For as such, these charges whether true or not, have helped open-minded Christians re-examine their modernistic faith and to elevate it beyond the confines of the industrial, scientific enlightenment era which many of our creedal beliefs and examinations have arisen in the past centuries by well-meaning men and women of God.


Christianity can never be defined within a box, and much like Schrödinger’s very famous quantum box (of cats) has shown, our doctrinal certainties can slip away into quite another type of box as easily and without our permission! Partly, language and self-limiting human understanding is to blame, and partly too is our need for absolutes and assurances. But God knows all this and because he is our Creator will give us the language, the understanding, the absolutes, the assurances, the faith and the hope to know him as Savior, Lord and God. This we can be sure of, and sure too that regardless of our blindness he while patiently remove the scales from our eyes and hearts to see him correctly, truly, fully, assuredly. For he is the God of light and truth, love and grace.


For man is not unreachable despite our sin and our ill-faith and ill-hope in the divine. God is as surely revealing himself to us today as he has to all men in all places and at all times of human society. This too we can be sure. And thus, my submittal of Norm Geisler’s anti-Emergent paper and very brief responses to it. Curiously, the very stated responses Geisler makes of emergent luminaries I found to be better arguments than the evangelical ones he had devised and quoted.


For these early Emergents were struggling to better express their faith to like-minded people questioning Evangelicalism’s short-sighted and sometimes false-inferences of God. And paradoxically, this very same “course paper” that would expose emergent Christianity has exposed itself in showing evangelicalism’s own shortsightedness and self-proclaimed deficiencies. Curious indeed.

RE Slater
July 2011

**********


The Emergent Church: Emergence or Emergency?
Copyright by Norman L. Geisler 2008


I - The Background of Emergence Stated

There is one key influence on the Emergent Church movement—postmodernism. While not all Emergents accept all premises of post-modernism, nonetheless, they all breathe the same air. Post modernism embraces the following characteristics:

1) The “Death of God”—Atheism;
2) The death of objective truth—Relativism;
3) The death of exclusive truth—Pluralism;
4) Death of objective meaning—Conventionalism;
5) The death of thinking (logic)—Anti-Foundationalism;
6) The death of objective interpretation—Deconstructionism; and,
7) The death of objective values—Subjectivism.




RE Slater – To be clear, Emergents are not atheistic, have not relativizedEmergents have rejected not the Scripture’s, but evangelicalism’s, conventionalism and its foundationalism through the method of de-construction aimed primarily towards the Reformation's 500-year hold on doctrine through denominational traditions,  creedal formulas, missional statements and self-understandings.

And most definitely the idea of “objectivity” lies in the mind of the beholder as we tussle with the definition of whose “objectivity” we wish to espouse and believe. An Emergent may more believe that it is the Evangelic that is being subjective and non-objective, especially as regards evangelicalism's religion and faith practices.

It is better to know that believers from whatever faith-walk will always scrutinize their religion rather than to accuse each other of not performing to these charges. And it is definitely regressive of either side to declare “I am a better Christian than you” or “My side is more right than yours”. The house of God knows no distinctions within itself, for we are all one body regardless of its parts. (July 2011)




From post-modernism Emergents devise the following key ideas - They consider themselves:
1) Post-Protestant;
2) Post-Orthodox;
3) Post-Denominational;
4) Post-Doctrinal;
5) Post-Individual;
6) Post-Foundational;
7) Post-Creedal;
8) Post-Rational; and,
9) Post-Absolute.

RE Slater – sic, previously answered above.

It is noteworthy that “post” is a euphemism for “anti.” So, in reality they are against all these things and more.
Brian McClaren, one of the leaders of the emergent church stressed the importance of the postmodernism influence upon the movement when he wrote:

“But for me…opposing it [Postmodernism] is as futile as opposing the English language. It’s here. It’s reality. It’s the future…. It’s the way my generation processes every other fact on the event horizon” (McLaren, The Church on the Other Side, 70).

“Postmodernism is the intellectual boundary between the old world and the other side. Why is it so important? Because when your view of truth is changed, when your confidence in the human ability to know truth in any objective way is revolutionized, then everything changes. That includes theology…” (McLaren, COS, 69).


II - Basic Works by Emergents Listed

There is an ever increasing flow of emergent literature. To date, it includes the following:

Brian McLaren,
The Church on the Other Side
A Generous Orthodoxy
A New Kind of Christian
Everything Must Change

Stanley Grenz,
A Primer on Post-Modernism
Beyond Foundationalism
Revising Evangelical Theology

Rob Bell,
Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
Love Wins

Doug Pagitt & Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope

Tony Jones, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Steve Chalke and Allan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus

Dave Tomlinson, The Post-Evangelical.

Spencer Burke and Barry Taylor, A Heretics Guide to Eternity

See also: www.emergentvillage.com


III - Basic Beliefs of Emergents Examined

Of course, not all Emergents believe all the doctrines listed below, but some do, and most hold to many of them. And since they associate with others in the movement that do, it is proper to list all of them.

Anti-Absolutism
McClaren insists that “Arguments that pit absolutism versus relativism, and objectivism versus subjectivism, prove meaningless or absurd to postmodern people” (McClaren, “The Broadened Gospel,” in “Emergent Evangelism,” Christianity Today 48 [Nov., 2004], 43).

This is a form of relativism. Lets reduce the premise to its essence and analyze it by showing that it is self-refuting.



RE Slater response to Geisler’s analysis – “This is not a form of relativism but a form of expanding evangelical absolutism beyond its self-limiting boundaries of God and all things God. Which religious statements were developed in the enlightenment era of scientific absolutism and can no longer hold true under postmodernism’s era of expanded re-thinking of all boundary setting and quantified truths of the past two centuries.” (July 2011)




1 - Relativism Stated: “We cannot know absolute truth.”
2 - Relativism Refuted: We know that we cannot know absolute truth.


Anti-Exclusivism (Pluralism)

Pluralism is another characteristic of the emergent movement. McClaren claims that “Missional Christian faith asserts that Jesus did not come to make some people saved and others condemned. Jesus did not come to help some people be right while leaving everyone else to be wrong. Jesus did not come to create another exclusive religion” (McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 109).



RE Slater - Rob Bell’s book Love Wins succinctly states and buttresses McClaren’s arguments. Evangelical Christianity has self-reinforced its own exclusive arguments to the projection of a smaller remnant of converts than there may be, and thereby have limited God’s love by his own truth and justice. Pitting his own attributes against him in order to create a less-than-biblical view of God, his atonement and his redemption. This would thus be the emergent’s argument with evangelicals. (July 2011)



In brief,

1 - The Claim of Pluralism: “No view is exclusively true.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: It claims that its view (that no view is exclusively true) is exclusively true.


Anti-Foundationalism

Foundationalism in the philosophical sense may be defined as the position that here are self-evident principles at the basis of all thought such as:

1. The Law of Identity (A is A).
2. The Law of Non-Contradiction (A is not non-A).
3. The Law of Excluded Middle (Either A or non-A).
4. The Laws of rational inference.

Inferences take several forms:

Categorical  inferences includes the following necessary inference: a) All A is included in B; b) All B is included in C. Hence, c) All A is included in C.

Hypothetical  inferences include the following: a) If all human beings are sinners, then John is a sinner; b) All human beings are sinners. c) Therefore, John is a sinner.

Disjunctive inferences are like this: a) Either John is saved or he is lost. b) John is not saved. c) Therefore, John is lost.

One of the fore-fathers of the Emergent movement was Stanley Grenz who wrote a whole book against Foundationalism entitled: Beyond Foundationalism.

McClaren contents that: “For modern Western Christians, words like authority, inerrancy, infallibility, revelation, objective, absolute, and literal are crucial…. Hardly anyone knows …Rene Descartes, the Enlightenment, David Hume, and Foundationalism - which provides the context in which these words are so important. Hardly anyone notices the irony of resorting to the authority of extra-biblical words and concepts to justify one’s belief in the Bible’s ultimate authority” (McLaren, GO, 164).

So, the claim and refutation of anti-foundationalism can be states like this:

1 - The Claim: “Opposites (e.g., A is non-A) can both be true.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: They hold that the opposite of this statement (that opposites can both be true) cannot be true.


Anti-Objectivism

Another characteristic is the denial that our statements about God are objectively true. Grenz declared: “We ought to commend the postmodern questioning of the Enlightenment assumption that knowledge is objective and hence dispassionate” (Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, 166).

1 - The Claim of Anti-Objectivism: “There are no objectively true statements.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: It is an objectively true statement that there are no objectively true statements.


Anti-Rationalism (Fideism)

Most Emergents have a strong doze of fideism. Grenz chided “Twentieth-century evangelicals [who] have devoted much energy to the task of demonstrating the credibility of the Christian faith…” (Grenz, Primer on Post-modernism, 160).

“Following the intellect can sometimes lead us away from the truth” (Grenz, PPM, 166). One might add, that not following basic rational thought will lead you there a lot faster!

McLaren adds, “Because knowledge is a luxury beyond our means, faith is the best we can hope for. What an opportunity! Faith hasn’t encountered openness like this in several hundred years” (McLaren, The Church on the Other Side, 173).

“Drop any affair you may have with certainty, proof, argument—and replace it with dialogue, conversation, intrigue, and search” (McLaren, Adventures in Missing the Point, 78).

Donald Miller confessed that “My belief in Jesus did not seem rational or scientific, and yet there was nothing I could do to separate myself from this belief” (54). He said, “My most recent faith struggle is not one of intellect…. I don’t believe I will ever walk away from God for intellectual reasons. Who knows anything anyway? If I walk away… I will walk away for social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons…” (103).

“There are many ideas within Christian spirituality that contradict the facts of reality as I understand them. A statement like this offends some Christians because they believe if aspects of their faith do not obey the facts of reality, they are not true” (201).

So the basic claim of anti-rationalism goes as follows:

1 - The Claim of Fideism: “There are no reasons for what we believe.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: There are good reasons for believing there are no good reasons for what we believe.

1 - The Claim of Fideism: “Knowledge is a luxury beyond our means.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: We have the luxury of knowing that we can’t have the luxury of knowing.


Anti-Objectivism (of Meaning)

Anti-Objectivism deals not only with truth (above) but with meaning (called conventionalism). Emergent embrace both. All meaning is culturally relative. There is no fixed meaning. Meaning is not objective.

1 - The Claim of Conventionalism: “There is no objective meaning.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: It is objectively meaningful to assert that there is no objective meaning.


Anti-Realism

Strangely, some Emergents claim there is no objective world that can be known. Rather, “the only ultimately valid ‘objectivity of the world’ is that of a future, eschatological world, and the ‘actual’ universe is the universe as it one day will be” (Grenz, Renewing the Center, 246).

1 - The Claim of Anti-Realism “There is no real world now that can be known.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: We know it is really true now (i.e., true in the real world now) that there is no real world now that can be known.


Anti-Infallibilism

Not only can we not know absolute truth, but there is no certain knowledge of what we do claim to know, even of biblical truth. McClaren insists: “Well, I’m wondering, if you have an infallible text, but all your interpretations of it are admittedly fallible, then you at least have to always be open to being corrected about your interpretation, right?... So the authoritative text is never what I say about the text or even what I understand the text to say but rather what God means the text to say, right?” (McLaren, NKC, 50).


RE Slater - A postmodernist would understand the difficulties inherent in the use of limited human language to describe God’s thoughts and intents – thus the constant parsing and re-parsing of the divine word of God until it can approximate some degree of truth to that generation’s psyche and soul that would compel the human mind and heart towards conviction, truth and love of God, his design, will and salvific mission. (July 2011)




1 - The Claim of Anti-Infallibilism: “My understanding of the text is never the correct one.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: My understanding of the text is correct in saying that my understanding of the text is never correct.


Anti-Propositionalism

Emergents, along with post-moderns, opposed propositional truth, that is that true can be stated in propositions (declarative sentences) that are either true or false.

Grenz wrote: “Our understanding of the Christian faith must not remain fixated on the propositional approach that views Christian truth as nothing more than correct doctrine or doctrinal truth” (Grenz, PPM, 170).

“Transformed in this manner into a book of doctrine, the Bible is easily robbed of its dynamic character” (Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology, 114-115).

1 - The Claim of Anti-Propositionalism: “Our view of the Christian faith must not be fixed on propositional truth (doctrine).”
2 - The Self-Refutation: We must be fixed on the propositional truth that we should not be fixed on propositional truth.
1 - Another Claim of Anti-Propositionalism: “Doctrinal truth is not dynamic.”
2 - The Self-Refutation: It is a dynamic doctrinal truth (of the Emergent Church) that doctrinal truth is not dynamic.

They fail to recognize that doctrine is dynamic! Ideas Have Consequences! For example, Einstein’s idea that “energy equals mass times the speed of light squared”had consequences—the atomic bomb! Likewise, Hitler’s idea (Nazism) led to the holocaust and the loss of multimillions of lives.


RE Slater - It is unfortunate that Geisler would unconsciously think that Emergents are Hitler-like; it feels like the egg calling itself the yolk when all along it may be guilty of the very charges of being “authoritarian police of religious rhetoric and beliefs” itself.  I will assume a polite retraction of this word-linkage and overlook an over-eager statement made too quickly, and too-quickly grounded in its own assurances rather than its own introspections. (July 2011)


Anti-Orthodoxy

The emergent movement is post-orthodox. Dwight J. Friesen suggests it should be called “orthoparadoxy.” He claims that “‘A thing is alive only when it contains contradictions in itself ….’ Just as he [Moltmann] highlights the necessity of contradictions for life, so I declare that embracing the complexities of contradictions, antinomies, and paradoxes of the human life is walking the way of Jesus” (in Pagitt ed., An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 203).

“Jesus did not announce ideas or call people to certain beliefs as much as he invited people to follow him into a way of being in the world…. The theological method of orthoparadoxy surrenders the right to be right for the sake of movement toward being reconciled one with another, while simultaneously seeking to bring the fullness of conviction and belief to the other…. Current theological methods that often stress… orthodoxy/heresy, and the like set people up for constant battles to convince and convert the other to their way of believing and being in the world” (Friesen, in EMH, 205).

1 - The Claim of Post-Orthodoxy: “We should not insist on being right about doctrine.”
2 - The Self-refutation: We insist on being right in our doctrine that we should not insist on being right in our doctrine.


Anti-Condemnationism (Universalism)

Many Emergents are not merely pluralist, but they are universalists. McClaren affirmed that: “More important to me than the hell question, then, is the mission [in this world] question." (McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy, 114).

Rob Bell believes that Jesus reconciled “all things, everywhere” and that “Hell is full of forgiven people.” So, “Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making” (Bell, Velvet Elvis, 146).

“So it is a giant thing that God is doing here and not just the forgiveness of individuals. It is the reconciliation of all things” (Bell in “Find the Big Jesus: An Interview with Rob Bell” in Beliefnet.com).




RE Slater – Though poorly stated, both McClaren and Bell are speaking not to the emergent idea of hell but to the evangelical idea of hell, one that is too crowded with the justifiably condemned. But whether this is true or not, what they are attempting to say is that Evangelicalism too often preaches Jesus as Judge and their faith as the escape-route from hell.

What Emergents wish to say is that Jesus is love (while not denying the judge aspect) and that heaven here on earth (as well as in heaven later) is the real reason to come to God. Why would we not race to this image of Christ in the Now rather than wait for its “Latter” realization in heaven? And wouldn’t this be a more appealing reason to come to Christ than because of pure condemnation for the crimes of our sin and its sure judgments in hell?

Of course, a true understanding of love in its many aspects of truth and justice should not be lost, as any parent can tell you. But learning to love and to accept love is much harder than the too-easily administration of subjective human judgments. (July 2011)




Let’s analyze the claim of universalism:

1 - The claim: “All persons (free agents) will be saved.”
2 - The Self-refutation: But this is self-defeating for it is claiming that: All persons (free agents) will be saved, even those who do not freely choose to be saved.

C. S. Lewis pinpointed the problem with universalism when he wrote: “When one says, ‘All will be saved,’ my reason retorts, ‘Without their will, or with it?’ If I say, ‘Without their will,’ I at once perceive a contradiction; how can the supreme voluntary act of self-surrender be involuntary? If I say, ‘With their will,’ my reason replies, ‘How, if they will not give in?’” (The Problem of Pain, 106-107). - Amen, RE Slater


Anti-Inerrantism

Most emergent leaders are not inerrantist. They believe that “Incompleteness and error are part of the reality of human beings” (McLaren, COS, 173).

“Our listening to God’s voice [in Scripture] does not need to be threatened by scientific research into Holy Scripture” (Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology, 116). “The Bible is revelation because it is the [errant] witness to and the [errant] record of the historical revelation of God” (Grenz, ibid., 133).

McClaren rejects the traditional view that: “The Bible is the ultimate authority…. There are no contradictions in it, and it is absolutely true and without errors in all it says. Give up these assertions, and you’re on a slippery slope to losing your whole faith” (McLaren, GO, 133-134). He adds, “Hardly anyone notices the irony of resorting to the authority of extra-biblical words and concepts to justify one’s belief in the Bible’s ultimate authority” (GO, 164).




RE Slater - The charge of “Inerrancy” has been previously addressed in this web blog (see the Calvinism section). Suffice it to say that the “doctrine of inerrancy” is a late addition doctrine to Evangelicalism in the 1970s that was self-imposed to better tighten Evangelicalism’s self-limiting boundaries to their religious beliefs.

There are many Evangelics who did not subscribe to its imposition then nor will they now and yet, they are still perceived as Evangelics, just not dyed-in-wool Evangelics. Emergents have this same understanding and do not feel the need to further define the bible’s authority with additional adjectives and propositions. Believing God’s word to be authoritative Emergents question our “errant” human understanding and the human language used to describe it. This is not to say that past orthodox doctrines are incorrect, just that they can be updated and re-applied to today’s postmodernistic jargons and mindset.

As science has loosened up its own ideas of classic vs. quantum sciences, so too is theology permitted to loosen up the rigors of its past languages and understandings. Thus allowing greater fluidity and dynamic application of the Scriptures to postmodern man’s dark demise. In a sense, Scripture is being “carefully re-evaluated and updated” by Emergents though many Evangelics are falsely stating that Emergents are “re-interpreting the Bible”. As testimony to this fact, there are more publications of commentaries and Bible versions than ever before, and evangelicals are the greater perpetrators of these volumes!  (July 2011)




In brief, the problem with the errantists view is this:

1 - The Claim of Errantists: “No extra-biblical words or ideas should be used to support the Bible.”
2 - The Self-refutation: It is a truth (of Post-Modernism) that no extra-biblical words or ideas (like Post-Modernism) should be used to support the Bible.

Yet this is self-defeating for If “No human writing is without error,” then emergent human writing is not without error when it claims that no human writing is without error.

Inerrancy is built on a solid foundation: 1) God cannot err. 2) The Bible is the Word of God. 3) Therefore, the Bible cannot error. To deny this, one must deny either: a) “God cannot error,” or- b) “The Bible is the Word of God,” or - c) both a and b.

However, God cannot err: Jesus declared: "Your Word is truth." (Jn. 17:17). Paul said, “Let God be and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Indeed, “It is impossible for God to lie: (Heb. 6:18). And he Bible is the Word of God "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken." (Jn.10:34-35) “Laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the traditions of men…, making the word of God of no effect through your traditions.” (Mk. 7:8, 13) "All scripture is given by inspiration of God…."(2 Tim. 3:16) “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect.” (Rom. 9:6) “’It is written’…by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4). St. Augustine's dictum is to the point: “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either [1] the manuscript is faulty, or [2] the translation is wrong, or [3] you have not understood.” (Augustine, Reply to Faustus 11.5)




RE Slater - As can be seen in Geisler’s own quotations, Evangelicalism limits itself by its own definitions and as long as you subscribe to those definitions you are an “Evangelic”. Emergents tend to recognize this apriori assumption, and as such, this is one apriori that is not subscribed to, and thus all resultant arguments are thrown out as valid. (July 2011)




IV - Emerging Problems with the Emergent Church

Other Errors of the Emergent Movement

In addition to all the above self-defeating claims of emergence, there are some other crucial doctrinal and practical errors. Here are some of them:

Anti-Substitutionism
Steve Chalke speaks of the Cross as “a form of cosmic child abuse” which contradicts the Bible’s claim that “God is love” and ‘makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies” (Steve Chalke, The Lost Message of Jesus, 182-183).

Anti-Trinitarianism
“I asked him if he believed that the Trinity represented three separate persons who are also one” (Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz 202).

Anti-depravity (Pelagianism)
Some (like Chalke and Tomlinson) reject depravity. The former said, “Jesus believed in original goodness.” (The Lost Message of Jesus, 67). The latter said it is “biblically questionable, extreme, and profoundly unhelpful” (The Post-Evangelical, 126).

Anti-Futurism (Amillennialism)
It has an overemphasis on the present spiritual kingdom to the neglect of Jesus’ future literal kingdom—an over realized eschatology.

Anti-Vapitalism (Socialism)
It has a social Gospel, not a spiritual Gospel with social implications. It adopts the agenda of the political left. Tony Jones said on David Chadwicks show that he and most of the Emergents he knew were voting for Barack Obama (6/22/08).

Ecumenism
The Emergent movement is a broad tent which includes numerous heresies (see above), embracing Catholicism, and even pantheism (by some). Spencer Burke said, “I am not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person anymore either…. I now incorporate a pantheistic view, which basically means that God is ‘in all,’ alongside my creedal view of God as Father, Son, and Spirit.” (A Heretics Guide to Eternity, 195).




RE Slater – Many of these additional charges may or may not be true, however, it is a legitimate charge laid to Emergents to better speak their faith (and, whether they like it or not, “indoctrinate it” – probably as loosely as is possible, without saying nothing, while retaining its antecedent orthodox Christian structure).  As in Evangelicalism, Emergent Christianity will have different flavors and colours within it.

For myself, I claim none of the above and have spoken to some of these issues as clearly as possible. For example, Pelagianism is a false charge and Amillennialism is too. This blog leans more to Arminianism than to Calvinism (and rightly so!) and teaches Inauguration Eschatology as a form of Realized Eschatology. But many of these issues can be further found on the Emergent web blog - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/ .

Suffice it say that Norm Geisler is lumping too many aberrant issues into the Emergent camp based upon the assumption that a few select Emergents speak for all Emergents. (July 2011)




Difficulties with the Emergent Movement

There are many difficulties with the Emergent movement. Here are some of the main ones:

1. Its central claims are all self-defeating.
2. It stands on the pinnacle of its own absolute and relativizes everything else.
3. It is an unorthodox creedal attack on orthodox creeds.
4. It attacks modernism in the culture but is an example of postmodernism in the church.
5. In an attempt to reach the culture it capitulates to the culture.
6. In trying to be geared to the times, it is no longer anchored to the Rock.
7. It is not an emerging church; it is really a submerging church.


Answering an Anticipated Objection

Some Emergents may wish to claim that: No self-defeating truth claims are being made. These are straw men set up by critics. In response we would reply that: Either they are making such truth claims or they are not. If they are, then they are self-defeating. If they are not, then why are they writing books and attempting to convince people of the truth of these views, if not always by affirmation, at least by implication?

While directed to another view, C. S. Lewis made a insightful comment that applies here as well: You can argue with a man who says, ‘Rice is unwholesome’: but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, ‘Rice is unwholesome, but I’m not saying this is true.’ I feel that this surrender of the claim to truth has all the air of an expedient adopted at the last moment. If [they]…do not claim to know any truths, ought they not to have warned us rather earlier of the fact?

For really from all the books they have written…one would have got the idea that they were claiming to give a true account of things. The fact surely is that they nearly always are claiming to do so. The claim is surrendered only when the question discussed…is pressed; and when the crisis is over the claim is tacitly resumed” (Lewis, Miracles, 24).


To re-cast the Emergent Movement, using titles from its own books:

It is not “The Emergent Church” but “The Submergent Church.”

It is not “A Manifesto of Hope” but is “A Declaration of Disaster.”

It is not “Refocusing the Faith” but “Distorting the Faith.”

It is not “Renewing the Center” but “Rejecting the Core.”

It is not “Repainting the Faith” but “Repudiating the Faith.”

The Emergent movement is not “A Generous Orthodoxy” but “A Dangerous Unorthodoxy.”

It is not the “Church on the Other Side,” but it is on the “Other Side of the Church.”

It is not “A Primer on Post-Modernism” but “A Primer on the New Modernism.”

It is not going to “Produce a New Kind of Christian” but a “New Kind of Non-Christian.”

In short, the Emergent Church is the New Liberalism As Mark Driscol wrote: “The emergent church is the latest version of liberalism. The only difference is that the old liberalism accommodated modernity and the new liberalism accommodates postmodernity” (Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformation REV, 21).


To put it to poetry:

The Emergent Church is built on sand
and will not stand.
Christ’s Church is build on Stone,
And it cannot be overthrown.
(Matt. 16:16-18)


RE Slater – All of the above is an evangelic summary of improper charges falsely and/or harshly claimed of Emergent Christianity as earlier pointed out throughout Geisler’s course paper. Contemporary books written against Emergent Christianity are commonly constructing these same false arguments. It is the prayer of this believer that Evangelicals spend more time better understanding Emergent Christianity than they currently are criticizing it. To accept it and be more open-minded to it. It certainly would be a help to this new movement to have well-grounded and conversant theologs as part of its congregational body.

However, if it took a decade for me to come-around to this topic, I suspect it may be too much to ask of many Evangelicals. I then pray Paul’s words that we all learn to get along and remember the fight is with the world and sin and devil, and not with each other. For we are speaking the same thing but to different audiences and in different (but similar) fashions. Ours is to the more global audience of postmodernism and not to the older structures of modernism. So be at peace then, my brothers and sisters, and let us love one another.  (July 2011)


Works Evaluating The Emergents Movement

Several works are emerging on the Emergent Church. The following is a select list containing valuable criticisms of the movement.

Adler, Mortimer. Truth in Religion.

Carson, D. A. Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church.

Carlson, Jason. “My Journey Into and Out Of the Emergent  Church”
(www.Christianministriesintl.org)

*DeYoung, Kevin and Ted Kluck. Why We’re Not Emergent.

Driscoll, Mark. Confessions of a Reformation REV.

Howe, Thomas ed., Christian Apologetics Journal of Southern Evangelical Seminary (Spring, 2008,

Kimball, Dan. The Emerging Church.

Rofle, Kevin, Here We Stand.

Smith, R. Scott Truth and The New Kind of Christian.

Geisler, Norman. “The Emergent Church” DVD (InternationalLegacy.org).
Of course, not all emergent beliefs are bad. De Young and Kluck summarize the situation well. They “have many good deeds. They want to be relevant. They want to reach out. They want to be authentic. They want to include the marginalized. They want to be kingdom disciples. They want community and life transformation….”
However, “Emergent Christians need to catch Jesus’ broader vision for the church—His vision for a church that is intolerant of error, maintains moral boundaries, promotes doctrinal integrity, stands strong in times of trial, remains vibrant in times of prosperity, believes in certain judgment and certain reward, even as it engages the culture, reaches out, loves, and serves. We need a church that reflects the Master’s vision—one that is deeply theological, deeply ethical, deeply compassionate, and deeply doxological” (Why We’re Not Emergent, 247-248).