Friday, May 18, 2012

What is Truth Part 3: The Emerging Church Leaders


     I’ve been very critical of the emerging church in some of these blogs, and some have accused me of not actually knowing what that movement is all about. For that reason I decided to write a review of the writings of some of these emergent leaders.

     I have previously written about men like Tony CampoloRob Bell, and Mark Driscoll so they won't be focused on in this post. 

     I have read, among other texts, Dan Merchant’s Lord Save Us From Your Followers, Dan Kimball’s The Emerging Church, Brad J. Kallenberg’s Live to Tell—Evangelism for a Postmodern Age, Erwin McManus’ The Barbarian Way and Wide Awake, and Donald Miller’s books Blue Like Jazz, To Own a Dragon, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and The Open Table.   

     My two favorites were books written by multiple authors (a community of them, perhaps). These books are An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, and Stories of Emergence—Moving From Absolute to Authentic.

     I must admit that I enjoyed The Barbarian Way. I didn’t find anything emergent about it. It was pretty much Christianity 101, and what I considered to be similar to my first book All the Law.

     I also admire Dan Kimball for his efforts. He appears to believe in the absolute truth of God’s Word; he has called for us to reevaluate our methods, but not our message. As one of the founders of the emerging church, I think his ideas were hijacked by a more liberal movement that has given his methodology a bad name.

     Everything else I have read from this movement has been disturbing. My biggest criticism has been their denial of absolute truth, which people have argued with me over. But what I have found on page after page, author after author, is that they simply do not believe in absolute truth. The very tag line of one of the books is “moving from absolute to authentic.” They pride themselves on it, and they believe that it is arrogant to think you know absolute truth (which is an absolute assessment on their part, thus making them arrogant by their own logic).

     Will Samson wrote that people who believe the Scriptures alone give us truth fail to “take into account the subjectivity of human interpreters.” Translation: No absolute truth (Emerging Manifest (EM) p.156).

     Barry Taylor said, “faith lives in inquiry and fluidity…Our declarations of faith are always fragmentary and provisional.” Translation: No absolute truth (EM p.168).

     Brian McLaren sarcastically refers to Christians who hold truth to be “an open and shut, black and white case.” Translation: No absolute truth (EM p.142).

     Adam Walker Cleaveland said “Those involved in the emerging church movement are not black-and-white thinkers. (EM p.125)” And “One of the joys…of Emergent is that it is very hard to say, ‘This is what Emergent believes about X.’” Translation: No absolute truth (EM p.126).

     Samir Selmanovic ponders whether the gospel message can be found in “reality” and “stories” rather than simply in “sacred texts.” Translation: No absolute truth (EM p.192).

     Chris Erdman admits, “We’re working to birth something new—new theology.” Translation: No absolute truth (EM p.237).

     Todd Hunter remembers how he “used to love all the things now so popular to diss.” Among them: “foundationalist truth.” Translation: No absolute truth (Stories of Emergence (Stories) p.42).

     Chris Seay said, “We are not simply autonomous knowers given the ability to decipher truth for others.” Translation: No absolute truth (Stories p.79).

     Chuck Smith Jr. enjoys being “free to reinterpret [Scripture] and find new applications.” Translation: No absolute truth (Stories p.89).

     Jo-Ann Badley said that when we get rid of the modern church, we also get rid of “an arrogance that assumes you know the truth.” Translation: No absolute truth (Stories p.113).

    Earl Creps quoted someone from Hollywood that he said sums up the postmodern life: “I don’t believe in truth, I believe in style.” Translation: No absolute truth (Stories p.153).

     Brad Cecil ridiculed an old seminary professor for believing in “absolutes.” Translation: No absolute truth (Stories p.166-167).

     Ed Gungor, writing for Relevant Magazine, has written, “The problem is the world really isn’t all that black-and-white--it’s jammed with lots of grays and splashed with millions of colors.” Translation: No absolute truth. (

     Donald Miller, the man credited with nicknaming Mark Driscoll “The Cussing Pastor” in Blue Like Jazz (he thought that was hip and funny), wrote in The Open Table: “Christianity is not about right and wrong…Rather…experiences and stories (p.103-104).” In his book To Own a Dragon he said, “Let’s not turn the idea of right and wrong into coloring book material (implying that it is not so simple, p.138).” Translation:  No absolute truth.  

     Erwin McManus, founder of Mosaic, wrote in Wide Awake, “Unfortunately, we who build our lives on the Scriptures are at times most in danger when we conclude all we need to know is found in one book (p.39).” Translation: No absolute truth. 

     Kristen Bell, wife of Rob Bell, said in an interview, “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…life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color (as quoted in Brian McClaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, p.293) Translation: No absolute truth.

     There were many more statements by these people that opened a window into their way of thinking. People have told me that I’m wrong when I say the emerging church doesn’t believe in absolute truth, but the sixteen people quoted above prove otherwise.

     In the book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert admit that “many of us are now being influenced by a postmodern worldview, which argues that absolute truth is not knowable: ‘What is true for me might not be true for you. What this Bible passage says to me it might not say to you.’… ‘Who are we to tell them what the Bible says (p.95-96)?’”  

     Contrast that with John MacArthur’s book Twelve Ordinary Men where he applauds Simon Peter because “There are no shades of gray in Peter’s life; everything is in absolute black and white (p.54).”

     Or consider evangelist Rick Coram’s book Surrounded by Angels. Writing about the belt of truth Coram says, “But alas, absolute truth has been greatly minimized in our society today. People in this generation live by creeds such as, ‘This is what I think.’ ‘That’s your opinion.’ ‘What is true for you is not necessarily true for me.’ Without absolute truth we have nothing to hold on to (p.171).”

     To the emerging church, truth is relative. What is right for you may be right for you, but not necessarily for me. What is right today may not be right tomorrow. And while that is ok for certain things, like methodology (church music styles or dress code, for example), it is a very dangerous slippery slope. In John 14:6 Jesus said that He is the only way to the Father. That is absolutely true, not only today, but tomorrow as well. It is also true, not only for me, but for you as well.

     Over and over these authors bash any traditional pastor who claims to know the truth of God’s Word. They continually brag about having questions and not answers. One even bragged that her thirteen-year-old daughter doesn’t know a single Bible verse. They continually refer to the gospel as being a mystery. But these are all very flawed ways of thinking.

    For example, in I Peter 3:15 we are told to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope we have in Christ. To not know a single Bible verse, and to have more questions than answers, according to Peter, is sin (obviously this would not apply to baby Christians, but the church leaders that wrote these books should know more).

     I Corinthians 14:33 tells us that God is not the author of confusion. Do you really think that He wants us to be confused by some great mystery?

     When the apostle Paul referred to the mystery of the gospel, he was talking to Gentiles. The gospel had been a mystery to them; that is, it was a strange religion that the Jews practiced. But Paul, as well as others, worked as missionaries to bring the gospel to them. The Jews never referred to it as a mystery because it wasn’t. And it is not supposed to be a mystery for us today either.

     In I John 5:13 John told the church that he was writing to them that they “may know” that they have eternal life. For those believers, their eternal state was a matter of absolute truth, and it was dictated by Scripture, not society or circumstance.

     And while the emerging church might believe Jesus is the only way to the Father (it’s not like any of them said as much in any of these books), they have cast out absolute truth in other areas. “You might think it is wrong to watch immorality (“I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.” Psalm 101:3), but it doesn’t bother me.”

     This “anything goes” mentality showed itself throughout these books. Consider the fact that there were a handful or curse words and many crude words used. Their logic is probably that they don’t have a problem with it—forget the fact that God does. To say it is wrong is an absolute statement, which they reject.

     Not only do they use foul language, they promote things that do. They constantly refer to bands, songs, shows, and movies that are filthy. Movies like American Beauty, which is filthy, and Fight Club, which has over 60 “F” words, drugs, violence, etc., are promoted. One went so far as to compare a gay drag queen to Jesus while having a dialogue with a lesbian. When nothing is absolutely wrong, then these things become ok.

     In conclusion, it is clear that the emerging church does not believe in absolute truth, even when it comes to God’s Word. For that reason, God’s Word is not held in high esteem at all. The Bible is barely referenced at all in any of these writings. When it is, the context has been butchered.

     One lady didn’t like the biblical passages that say that women cannot be pastors, so she set out to disprove it. When she realized she could not disprove it, she concluded her chapter by saying, “I still believe,” and she refused to let go of her presupposition. If they actually read a Bible verse, they can simply disagree with it by saying, “Well, I believe…” That’s what happens when there is no absolute truth.

     On this issue, the emerging church is absolutely wrong, and that is the absolute truth.

(To be fair, this is a critique of the leaders of the emerging church. I firmly believe that there are thousands of people who believe in absolute truth and attend emerging churches, but the leaders of these churches are teaching with a clear agenda.)  

(Read What is Truth Part 1 here

No comments: