A Catechized Critical Look At The Emerging Church Movement
A Critical Look At the Emerging Church Movement w/ Catechism Editing
From: Critical Look At the Emerging Church Movement
by: Phil Johnson
2006 Shepherds' Conference
Grace Community Church,
Sun Valley, CA
Catechism EditingBy Steve Horne
2006 Shepherds' Conference
Grace Community Church,
Sun Valley, CA
Catechism EditingBy Steve Horne
Q.1 What name we ought to use when we speak of this movement?A. The emerging church movement
Q. 2 Is this what it is commpnly called? A. Yes it is the term popularly used.
Q. 3 Why are the proponents of the emergent church movement fond of calling it emergent or emerging?A. Although people in this movement sometimes claim to represent the next great step forward after the failure of modernism.
Q. 4 Does this title rightly express the emergent church movement?A. No
Q. 5 Why is the term emergent not a proper description of the emergent church movement?A. This movement is not some beautiful new butterfly coming out of a cocoon but the the collective dying gasp of every major modernist idea evangelicals and fundamentalists have stood against for the past century and a half.
Q. 6 Do the Leaders of the emergent church movement submit written documents explaining their purpose (es)?A. Yes
Q. 7 How can the teachings of the emerging church movement be described?A. Virtually all the literature, style, and philosophy associated with the emerging subculture contain conspicuous elements of worldliness, man-centered worship, the narcissism of youth, liberal and neo-orthodox theology, and the silly, ages-old campaign to be "contemporary" at all costs.
Q 8. Are the teachings and features of the emergent church movement inventive?A. No, few of this movement's most obvious features are truly inventive.
Q. 9. What parts of the movement are clearly not inventive?A. They incorporate many kinds of religious tools such as, candles, contemporary music, various kinds of religious paraphernalia in order to seek a way to make the church seem "relevant" in order to adapt Christianity to the spirit of the age.
Q. 10. Will the emergent church movement succeed?A. No, Christ stated that “the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church.”
Q. 11. How does the pattern of history indicate this will not succeed?A. Movements to talior the Church to the tastes of a specific generation have been tried in various forms throughout history. If the pattern of history holds true the emerging church movement will die out and will be irrelevant even before the current generation gives way to the next generation.
Q. 12. Is the emergent church movement Church like?A. No
Q. 13. How is the movement not like Church?A. It is not Church like in its its attitude toward structure and authority. Its character is more like a free-for-all than Church.
Q. 14. Is it appropriate to speak of this movement as the "the emerging church?A. Some from within the movement are questioning itself about whether it's really appropriate to speak of "the emerging church."
Q. 15. What term are they preferring use?A. Some like Brian McLaren now prefer to speak of the movement as emerging "conversation."
Q. 16. Does McLaren think the word Church fits the movement?A. No, he has indicated that even he thinks the word church really doesn't fit the movement very well.
Q. 17. Is the emerging church a true “movement”?A. No
Q. 18. In what ways is the emerging church movement not true “movement”?A. The “movenent” hates formal structure, it is resistant to any kind of definition or boundaries which keeps it shapeless and not easy to discern or describe, it is purposely foggy and amorphous, fluid and diverse, and it does not have clear leaders or universally recognized spokes-persons.
Q. 19. Who is the most prominent person in the “movement”?A. That is Brian McLaren.
Q. 20. Why is he not the leader of a “movement” in a classical sense?A. He is controversial and prone to make disturbing statements to such a degree that many say they don't want their ministries or opinions to be evaluated by what he says concerning the emergent church “movement”.
Q. 21. Has the “movement sought to organize” ?A. Yes, in 2005 Brian Mclaren and a few other figures have sought to form an actual organization called "Emergent" aka "Emergent Village”.
Q. 22. What is the purpose of the movement?A. There's no question that the movement is self-consciously and purposefully trying to accommodate or adapt to or otherwise indulge the postmodern climate of the age.
Q. 23. How does this affect the essential features of the faith?A. Some of the essential features of faith and assurance that are absolutely essential to communicating the gospel clearly are sometimes held in contempt by the emerging subculture.
Q. 24. What essential features of the faith are being affected?A. The features such as authority, strong convictions, doctrinal precision, clear definitions, and candor are compromised since they run counter to the values prized by postmodernists.
Q. 25. Is there then a possible broad-brush redefining of the “movement” in order to resist any kind of precise definition and yet will help men understand the concept of the “movement”?A. Yes
Q. 26. Can this definition be stated in one or two concise sentences?A. No, the very natureof the movement is broad since it is attuned to and seeks to work within Postmodernism.
Q. 27. What is Postmodernism?A. Postmodernism, in general, refers to a tendency to discount values like dogmatism, authority, absolutism, assurance, certainty, and large, commanding, exclusive worldviews-
Q. 28. What then does Postmodern value?A. Postmodernism values things like diversity, inclusiveness, relativism, subjectivity, tolerance, ambiguity, pragmatism, and above all, a view of "humility" that is characterized by lots of qualms and reservations and uncertainties and disclaimers about whether anything we hold in our belief system is really true or not.
Q. 29. What then are the values of the “emergent Church movement”?A. Those values would be the very same values that are usually held in high esteem in the "emerging church movement."
Q. 30. Is the “emergent church movment” just another creative way to accomplish the goals of the “seeker sensitive” church growth movement then?A. It certainly seeks growth however, the "emerging church" is a reaction against the shallow, mass-movement professional showmanship of the slick megachurches.
Q. 31. So then how can the “emergent church movement” better be defined? A. The "emerging church" is a broad-based and growing assortment of similar or related movements that have flourished in the past half-decade--mostly on the fringe of the evangelical movement. "Emerging" congregations in one way or another tend to be keenly attuned to the postmodern shift in art, literature, and public discourse.
Q. 32. Is the “emergent church movment” missional?A. Yes
Q. 33. What does the “movement” mean by being missional?A. Their mission is the focus upon the importance of evangelistic outreach through involving themselves in the lives of unbelievers in the community outside the narrow circle of the church.
Q. 34. Is there anything wrong with this involvment in the lives of unbelievers?A. No, there is nothing essentially wrong with this as long as the gospel is communicated clearly and distinctively with words.
Q. 35. Wherein then lies the problem with the mission of the ECM?A. The problem arises when you factor in the postmodern tendency to distrust or despise every kind of clarity, certainty, or authoritative truth-claim.
Q. 36. What is the missional communication practice of the ECM?A. Often in practice the emphasis on "missional living" results in an evangelistic strategy where gospel preaching is downplayed or deliberately omitted.
Q. 37. What is the basis of their “gospel” message? A. Emergent-style churches show a preference for "narrative theology" as opposed to systematic doctrine.
Q. 38. What does this mean practically?A. The ECM holds the story of the gospel as ultimately more important than the theology of it. The simple narrative of salvation history must not get lost in the careful parsing of theological words and ideas.
Q. 39. Is there some good that comes from the from the narriative gospels?A. Yes. The four gospels do tell us about the life of Christ in narrative format. They are collections of anecdotes and incidents from His life.
Q. 40. Where does the narriatives fall short of giving the gospel?A. Narriatives do not give full, if any, instruction in systematic doctrinal treatises regarding soteriology, or hamartiology, or any of the othersegments by which we tend to categorize systematic theology doctrine.
Q. 41. What is a proposition? A. A proposition, by definition, is a premise that is either true or false. There is no third choice. (That is one of the most basic laws of logic, known as the law of the excluded middle.)
Q. 42. Does the EMC accept propositional truth?A. Many times they do not. In the emerging church movement often the idea of propositional truth is not accepted since it is not held in high regard.
Q. 43. What do they think regarding propositional truth? A. The ECM don't like handling ideas with clarity so they devalue the very idea of propositional truth, logic, and rationality.Q. 43. Can truth be taught apart from propositions?No, truth whether systematic or narrative theology can be taught apart from propositions. Truth at its pure essence is a proposition.
Q. 44. Can we know Christ apart from propositional facts?A. No, for to know Christ in a true and saving way of necesssity involves true facts about Him.
Q. 45. What are facts that Christians know about Christ?A. Christians know Christ in a biblical sense when they know the basic facts about His deity, His death, His resurrection, and the narriative of His life and purpose.
Q. 46. How does denying propositional truth affect logic?A. Any attack on propositional truth ultimately entails the abandonment of logic completely.
Q. 47. In Church history has there been other “movements” that denyed propositional truth?A. Yes, it was a key tenent of neo-orthodoxy. Which was said to lead to a “theological equivalent of suicide”
Q. 48. What is modernism?A. A movement within Christendom which has attempted to examine traditional belief according to contemporary philosophy, criticism, and historiography in an overt attempt to subvert and defeat the truth of Scripture with humanistic rationalism.
Q. 49. How does the ECM see their movement in relation to modernism?A. Most EMC portray the movement as an answer to the influence of philosophical modernism; a departure from modernism; and as something distinct from modernism.
Q. 50. How does the ECM see postmodernism?A. The ECM assumes that postmodernism represents a correction of the philosophical errors of modernism.
Q. 51. How does postmodernism pose a threat to Christianity?A. Postmodernism is an attempt to subvert and defeat the truth of Scripture by glorifying irrationality, and by portraying all truth as hopelessly paradoxical, ambiguous, unclear, uncertain, and unimportant by playing with words and language questioning every assumption and challenging every claim to truth to destroy the clear gospel.
Q. 52. Are the modernist and postmodernist movements anthitetical?A. No, the two movements are ultimately just one and the same. Postmodernists today are using the same arguments and the same strategies that the modernists of the Victorian era employed.
Q. 53. How can this be confirmed?A. A reading of Charles Spurgeon's criticisms of 19th-century modernism against the so-called "evangelical modernists" of his day can be applied against the "evangelical postmodernists" of our day.
Q. 54. What then is the ECM?A. The "emerging church movement" is really this generation's version of what has been known as modernism.
Q. 55. Does the ECM uphold respect for authority?A. No It fosters contempt for authority. The contempt for structure in the "emerging church movement" is a thinly-veiled aversion to authority. You will see that if you simply examine the angry comments that were posted at the Emergent-US blog when it was announced that the new organization would have a "director."
Q. 56. Is having a “director” favorable to the people associated with the ECM?To many a “director”is not favorable at all as has been stated multiple times: "A director?! Nobody's going to direct me! That's why I left the traditional church." Another guy wrote: "I think we are going in a horribly dangerous direction. We aren't becoming a 'conversation,' we're becoming an institution. A 'National Director?' for a conversation? Give me a break . . .. I have a feeling we're going down the Anakin Skywalker path here, folks."
Q. 57. Why should we be concerned about authority?A. Because the Bible idea of church government and polity is not anarchy. It's not even democracy or mobocracy. The church is certainly not supposed to be the sort of populist organization where everyone has an equal voice in everything that happens.
Q. 58. How does the ECM approach Scripture in relation to authority?A. The movement's approach to Scripture reflects the widespread tendency to show contempt for every kind of authority in the church claining that the Scripture does not actually claim authority for itself, it is “profitable”, but not "authoritative."
Q. 59. Does the ECM like preaching?A. The ECM has aversion to the idea of preaching and it prefers the idea of "conversation."
Q. 60. Why does the ECM desire “conversation”?A. Because the movement seems devoted to
Hegelian dialectical approach to truth. They have a underlying assumption that the best way to arrive at the truth is formulated conversation: You have a thesis, and then an antithesis, and the truth is supposed to lie in a synthesis of these two contradictory ideas. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. It's a never-ending cycle.
Q. 61. What then becomes truth?A. Nothing, all things remain ambigious since the synthesis becomes the new thesis to be answered by a new antithesis, and the synthesis of those ideas becomes the new thought, etc, etc, etc. Therefore there is never an absolute. Truth changes all the time.
Q. 62. What is the perspicuity of Scripture?A. The principle of perspicuity teaches that the Bible is not too hard for God’s people to understand it. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, "All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, [so] that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
Q. 63. How does the ECM ambiguity affect the perspicuity of Scripture?A. . It breeds doubt about the perspicuity of Scripture.
Q. 64. How does the postmodernism view of how one aquires knowledge of truth (epistemology) glorify uncertainity?A. The postmodern epistemology glorifies uncertainty through denying the scriptures as suthortative, holding basic Christan teachings as “mystical, thereby denying absolutes. This creates and glorifies uncertainity in the area of one gaining truth.
Q. 65. Why are they not dogmatic?A. Those in the ECM cannot be dogmatic since they have abandoned certainty, assurance, and strong convictions and aren't sure of what they believe.
Q. 66. Can it then be said tht the ECM message sounds much like the echo of the voice of Satan in the garden: "Hath God said?"A. Yes, for some find the Bible to be “as a human product”…… The Bible is still in the center for us,"…. "but it's a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it." And another says, "I grew up thinking that we've figured out the Bible," ….. "that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel like life is big again-like life used to be black and white, and now it's in color."
Q. 67. Is this a denial of a basic tenant of the Christian faith?A. Yes, for it is a flat denial of the clarity and perspicuity of Scripture which is a denial of one of the basic tenets of biblical Christianity, Protestant history, and evangelical conviction.
Q. 68. Can Scripture be difficult to understand?A. Yes, parts of Scripture are "hard to be understood." (2 Pt. 3:16). But the essential message is simple and clear (Isa. 35:8). God has made Himself plain enough that there is much more than merely mystery to the Christian faith.
Q. 69. How does this do to the church at large?A. It sows confusion about the mission of the church.
Q. 70. What the the desire of the ECM in its missional emphasis?A. The "missional" emphasis in the ECM seems to be entirely focused on an effort to adapt the church to the culture. The interest is in the conversion of the church, rather than the conversion of the sinner.
Q. 71. Are they emphasizing the true gospel message?A. There is little to no emphasis on the church's duty to proclaim a message of repentance and faith in Christ that calls men and women to forsake the world. Conversion is not a major theme of discussion in the emerging conversation.
Q. 72. Can a Christian pastor commend to any Christian to be partaker of the ECM in any manner?A. There is absolutely no sense in which a Christian Paastor should commend this movement to Christians whether in engaging in their “conversations", attending their services, nor in reading their trendy literature.
Q. 73. Are their any valid points made by people in the ECM?A. Yes.
Q. 74. Can they be succintly listed?A. Yes:
Point 1 -- They are right to reject the professionalism and big-business approach to ministry that has been popularized by most of the influential megachurches.
Point 2 -- They are right to point out that millions of American evangelicals live lives of gross hypocrisy and narcissism, ignoring the needs of the poor while indulging themselves with entertainments and luxuries while the church struggles, and many pastors live barely above the poverty level (if that), and our Christian brothers and sisters struggle in many parts of the world because they don't even have clean water or basic medical care.
Point 3 -- They are right when they complain about the way the evangelical movement has sold its birthright for a mess of Republican Party porridge
Point 4 -- They are right when they suggest we have not done enough to reach the outcasts and counter-cultural people in our society.
Q. 75. What then should we do?A. The Church should heed all those things without buying into the agenda of the ECM without abandoning the task of preaching the gospel with clarity and conviction