I just finished reading Why We’re Not Emergent, By Two Guys Who Should Be by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. I downloaded it to my Kindle shortly after a good friend cautioned me about an author I’ve really enjoyed and quoted in my blogs, regarding his connections to the “emergent church.” That was the first I’d heard of the term. So I asked around and apparently I’m not the only one. Many Christ-followers in churches across American may be blissfully ignorant of this growing, and concerning, movement. After reading this book, and raising my eyebrows in dismay everyone other paragraph, I’m sounding the alarm.
I belong to a church that is multi-cultural and multi-generational. Its members are from all walks of life and come from a myriad of backgrounds. It’s located in the Bay Area of California, the worship band plays contemporary music, the Pastor wears jeans, and coffee and bagels are served every Sunday morning. People love and genuinely care for each other and the community. Members feed and clothe the homeless, give to the poor, and strive to welcome anyone and everyone with open arms. By some definitions, I could be attending an emerging church. But I’m not. From an intro to the book: “You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged n a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism and not be an emergent Christian. In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.”
There is, apparently, a difference between “emerging” and “emergent.” Though, to quote DeYoung in the book’s intro: “Defining the emerging church is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.” To some, “emergent” means nothing more than a new style and approach to worship, however, upon reading more about the leaders of this movement and what they are actually doing and saying, it is so scarily not that.
Scary, because some people are leaving Bible-believing churches for emergent ones. And instead of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many of these churches seem to build their communities around esteeming doubt, equating humility with ignorance, valuing journey over truth, stripping the cross from Christ, treating mystery as more important than orthodoxy, arguing that people are too concerned with questions of the truth, and generally changing the church to fit the culture. I agree with DeYoung: “In our world of perpetual squishitude, why offer people more of what they already have — vague spirituality, uncertainty, and borderline interpretive relativism? Why not offer them something hard and old like the Law in which we delight, and to say and believe, ‘Thus saith the Lord’?”
I understand that people within the emergent church may see the movement as a reaction either the traditional church with legalistic overtones, or the seeker-sensitive church with its entertainment-oriented shallowness, but some leaders in the emergent movement are clearly outside Christ’s teaching. If their statements were for shock value alone (and clearly many are) I wouldn’t be writing this blog. A sampling from which you can judge for yourself:
“Of all the elements of Christianity, the repugnant is the notion that the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?”
“Although the link between grace and sin has driven Christianity for centuries, it just doesn’t resonate in our culture anymore. It repulses rather than attracts. People are becoming much less inclined to acknowledge themselves as ‘sinners in need of a Savior.’”
“I’m not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person anymore either… I now incorporate a pantheistic view…”
“[We are] holding atheism and theism together in the cradle of faith.”
“Those who exhibit a genuine love know God, regardless of their religious system, while those who do not love cannot know God, again regardless of their religious system.”
And on substitutionary atonement: “That just sounds like one more injustice in the cosmic equation. It sounds like divine child abuse.”
If these statements cause you to do more than raise an eyebrow or two, here is a call to action: If you are a Christ-follower who desires to be “as wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove,” “always ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” then I challenge you to know absolutely what you believe the Bible teaches. Then become familiar with the emergent church movement and how it differs from the truth of the Gospel. Reading “Why We’re Not Emergent” is a great place to start.