Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"Emergent Church" Is Neither Emerging nor Church

One of the things that fascinates me most about Emergents is just how enamored they are with the special language they use--metanarrative, missional, Emergent, process information, etc. Being thoroughly soaked in academia from different times in my life, I am aware just how seductive a new-fangled word or phrase can be. It is new. Your parents have no idea what you are talking about. And all the guys in your dorm are dazzled. The folks at your church hear you say this really cool stuff and smile. Some are trying to act as if they understand you. Others, though, are saying in their heads, "Yeah,yeah,yeah, you're going to college. We get it, fella."

This is shear delight to young egos. To be able to stop a debate with a single word because the other guy has no idea how to answer what he does not understand is the closest a Christian can come to Nirvana. Never mind that you have as big a bag of ignorance under your hat as the next guy. No one wants to ask "What?" lest his own spill on the floor for all to see.

Such is the case with "Emergent Church." The first time I heard the term, a student asked what I thought of the Emergent Church. With age comes wisdom, so I fessed right up. "Dunno. Wazzat?" But I was quite sure that with such a spiffy new moniker, the tenseness I felt at the question was pure cortical intimidation.

Don't be fooled by the name. It contains two lies. That's right-- one per word. Efficient, huh?

First, the claim to be emerging is grossly wrong. What is emerging is a semi-formal movement. The ideas, though, are older than anyone reading this. Much older.

Let's go back to three points in history and see if believers have been confronted with a callous disregard for truth as objective, assertable, and ascertainable.

Martin Luther was a believer who dealt with what he called the dislike of assertions. We call these propositional truth today, or declarative sentences not used in a work of fiction.

Luther said that those not comfortable with confident assertions of faith were not Christians. I concur. To the Emergent mind the thought of definite, assertable doctrine or any kind of propositional truth is wrong unless it is simply proposed as in a mental chess game. Statements will be made like this: "I believe xyz." This is good so far, depending on what xyz is. You are also allowed to say something like this: "I believe that to me xyz is not necessarily so, but abc is." That much is allowed. But it is definitely a no-no to say something like, "No, xyz is wrong. Abc is right." And that is true whatever the xyz or abc is. It may be the most basic biblical doctrine or it may be the approval of sodomy, ala Brian McLaren. "Jesus is Lord" and "Jesus is a bald Irish gnome with bad breath" are to be treated equally. Disagree if you must but only if you couch your words in plenty of assurances that you are not sure. NEVER imply that someone is really wrong or lying. That is unloving.

Let's listen to Luther on the subject:

Luther on Assertions and Assurance

Luther on Assertions and Assurance
[N]ot to delight in assertions, is not the character of the Christian mind: nay, he must delight in assertions, or he is not a Christian. But, (that we may not be mistaken in terms) by assertion, I mean a constant adhering, affirming, confessing, defending, and invincibly persevering. Nor do I believe the term signifies any thing else, either among the Latins, or as it is used by us at this day. And moreover, I speak concerning the asserting of those things, which are delivered to us from above in the Holy Scriptures. Were it not so, we should want neither Erasmus nor any other instructor to teach us, that, in things doubtful, useless, or unnecessary; assertions, contentions, and strivings, would be not only absurd, but impious: and Paul condemns such in more places than one. Nor do you, I believe, speak of these things, unless, as a ridiculous orator, you wish to take up one subject, and go on with another, as the Roman Emperor did with his Turbot; or, with the madness of a wicked writer, you wish to contend, that the article concerning “Free-will” is doubtful, or not necessary.
Be skeptics and academics far from us Christians; but be there with us assertors twofold more determined than the stoics themselves. How often does the apostle Paul require that assurance of faith; that is, that most certain, and most firm assertion of Conscience, calling it (Rom. x. 10), confession, “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation?” And Christ also saith, “Whosoever confesseth Me before men, him will I confess before My Father.” (Matt. x. 32.) Peter commands us to “give a reason of the hope” that is in us. (1 Pet. iii. 15.) But why should I dwell upon this; nothing is more known and more general among Christians than assertions. Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity. Nay, the Holy Spirit is given unto them from heaven, that He may glorify Christ, and confess Him even unto death; unless this be not to assert - to die for confession and assertion. In a word, the Spirit so asserts, that He comes upon the whole world and reproves them of sin (John xvi. 8) thus, as it were, provoking to battle. And Paul enjoins Timothy to reprove, and to be instant out of season. (2 Tim. iv. 2.) But how ludicrous to me would be that reprover, who should neither really believe that himself, of which he reproved, nor constantly assert it! - Why I would send him to Anticyra, to be cured…
Unless you consider all Christians to be such (as the term is generally understood) whose doctrines are useless, and for which they quarrel like fools, and contend by assertions. But if you speak of necessary things, what declaration more impious can any one make, than that he wishes for the liberty of asserting nothing in such matters? Whereas, the Christian will rather say this - I am so averse to the sentiments of the Sceptics, that wherever I am not hindered by the infirmity of the flesh, I will not only steadily adhere to the Sacred Writings every where, and in all parts of them, and assert them, but I wish also to be as certain as possible in things that are not necessary, and that lie without the Scripture; for what is more miserable than uncertainty… The Holy Spirit is not a Sceptic, nor are what he has written on our hearts doubts or opinions, but assertions more certain, and more firm, than life itself and all human experience.

Check the above link for my source on this and to read more.

Now let's look at Jesus' experience with Pilate. In John 18 we read of Jesus' interrogation by Pilate. Pilate is on the spot. If Jesus is guilty He must be executed. If not, He must have His freedom and good name restored. Oooooh, not so fast. That would only be true if objective truth obligated Pilate to any certain course of action. If, on the other hand, truth was fuzzy or did not count, then "obligation" would become a meaningless word, like abracadabra or Willy Wonka or unicorn. Imaginary and fun, but nothing important. So he says, "What is truth?" This disregard for the importance of truth allows the next thing to happen. John writes, "And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, 'I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?'"

The early postmodern Pilate said his xyz truth: "I find no fault in Him." That's pretty clear. Let Him go and announce His innocence. Instead, he announced the truth and let the Jews decide.

And the God-man was murdered.

Even so the anti-truth people in the Emergent can say the truth or a lie. But what is important in their minds is that truth does not matter that much. So we can worship any way we want. And we can live any way we want.

The last believer we will consider is actually the first believer to encounter postmodern thought, Eve. Who was God's antagonist? Satan. "Indeed has God said..."

Kind of reminds me of Brian McLaren's proposed moratorium on talking about homosexuality because he is not sure if God really said it was bad...indeed has God said... Yeah. We really need to study a long time to find out if the Bible condemns homosexuality. God was not really clear, huh?

Postmodern thought, while sold as new-fnagled, is really ancient excuse making with a new name. Eeemmmmeerrrgeeent......... Wow.

Second, the Emergent is not a church, but an antichurch. I'm really old. I remember a time when my dad and mom dragged me to a church that taught us stuff. This stuff was true and you'd better believe it or else. Or else you'd go to hell. Or else you'd miss God's blessing for your life. Or else you may experience judgment. Or else you may fall into all sorts of sin and shame. The Emergent teaches that you'd better not believe or else. Or else we will call you arrogant. Or else we will call you a hypocrite. Or else we will call you unloving because we are way more loving and open minded and humble than you could ever be, you fundamentalist, you!

Remember what Luther said about the postmoderns of his day? "...he must delight in assertions, or he is not a Christian."



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