Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Disastrous Emerging Church - Part 2

A few days ago, I spent some time with a couple of the disasters that are coming from the Emerging Church. I took a little time to point out two of the problems that are very subtly finding their way into our churches. Doctrinal indifference has found its way in to pulpits who are concerned with “ministering” to “felt needs.” This style of preaching caters to the idea that the folks in the pews are stressed out and need to find some “word” of encouragement for “relevant” living. Furthermore they do not need to be exposed to the heaviness of doctrine and other ideas that are present in the Word of God.

Doctrine is too deep and unnecessary for we should just “love Jesus”, so they say. But as one looks to the owner’s manual of preaching/pastoral ministry in the pastoral epistles, Paul declared that the very first and primary reason for Scripture was doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As you read through this passage you also discover that for a righteous man to be thoroughly furnished that the preaching he hears will contain doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. If this is not a part of the steady stream of Word that a congregation is receiving, its immune system will not be at an optimal level to ward off the spiritual diseases that are so prevalent. Brothers, we must preach the Doctrine of the Apostles! I might also add that all of these categories that Paul listed are low on the list in far too many places today.

Secondly, a false sense of humility tries to efface itself in the face of certainty. The Emergents say that no-one can be really certain about salvation. Doug Pagitt, one of the Emergent ringleaders, has endorsed and incorporated the use of yoga with prayer. Talk about another spirit! However, when he was confronted by this exact thought, he hedged and questioned if one could even know for certain that those who practice Eastern mysticism are lost. It appears to me that Pagitt’s familiarity with the Bible is at an all-time low. On the other hand, when you have a very low regard of Scripture as many Emergents do, we should not be surprised at such ideations.

This brings me to the third point the Emergents are doing: They are mocking a strong and solid Biblical message.

Rob Bell, another one of the highly read authors of the Emerging Church, along with his wife was quoted in Christianity Today with the following statement:

"Life in the church had become so small," Kristen says. "It had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working." The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself—"discovering the Bible as a human product," as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat. "The Bible is still in the center for us," Rob says, "but it's a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it."

"I grew up thinking that we've figured out the Bible," Kristen says, "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." [Andy Crouch, "The Emergent Mystique," Christianity Today (November 2004).]

This was about the time (2004) that Rob Bell’s books begin to hit and they were almost gobbled up like candy. It appealed to a younger generation that was at odds with the operation of church life. It appealed to those who knew little oHowever, when you are greatly uncertain about the Word of God it will be cause you to seek out other alternatives. Bell’s NOOMA video series was also widely accepted and the pied piper of the Emergents was in business. In addition to Bell’s material, Brian Maclaren has literally emasculated Paul’s epistles in many of his books.

Some may wonder why I am spending this much time perhaps provoking your mind and your spirit with to tone of these last two blog entries. The answer is very simple, I am hoping to at least encourage your sense of discernment.

Consider this following video which is a parody of Rob Bell’s NOOMA “Bullhorn Guy” which is a far reach in itself to get the church to soft soap its message. This parody is called “Bullwhip Guy” and sadly this clip may be a parody for those who really believe an absolute message but it is truth for the Emergents.

So the Emergents simper that I am a Pharisee because I believe in a solid, Scriptural plan that calls for a sense of holiness and separation from the world. Now they are raging that in addition to being a Pharisee, I am a “Bullwhip Guy.” I can’t seem to win for losing but one thing is for certain, they may change their characterizations of me but I am certainly not going to change my message to accommodate them!

More to come. . . .

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Disastrous Emerging Church - Part 1

When all the wooing is done, when all the conversation is over, when all the dialogue is completed, and when all the “coolness” has been delivered, what has been masked as Kool-aid is really going to be poison to the soul of the Church. Listen carefully to the voices and take in all of the sound bites. You might even read their books or better yet go to their conferences and memorize their sermons but soon you will come to discover that someone is trying to buy the vineyard. . . . but only if you are discerning enough to not let the package confuse you.

For those who refuse to sell this vineyard, it very well could be stolen from them. Naboth’s greatest legacy was that he gave his life for his heritage. Something that had been delivered to him from the previous generation was so precious that he was unwilling to part with it. Even the king’s money was not enough to dissuade him. What I really admire about Naboth is that he did not even flinch or buckle to the social pressure or political presence of Ahab.

I have some heritage in me that I am unwilling to sell! One particular incident where my heritage takes me goes back twenty-seven years ago when I was 14 years old. My parents took me to my very first General Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The first service we went to was a Harvestime broadcast recording that featured Hugh Rose who led us in “I See A Crimson Stream of Blood.” It was a very powerful shaping moment in my young life to see that many folks singing one of our solidly doctrinal songs written by G. T. Haywood. After this N. A. Urshan and C. M. Becton preached the message.

It was at this conference that some young men were allowed to preach General Conference. Rex Johnson, who was our General Youth President, preached one night. The next night, another young pastor from Raleigh, North Carolina, named Wayne Huntley preached a message that I will never forget. He preached on the necessity of revival and the mandate of staying with the apostolic doctrine. About ¾’s through his message, he asked every preacher who was 35 and under that was going to continue to preach the apostolic message with passion and power to stand and wave their handkerchiefs. The building exploded with men who shook the rafters and waved a sea of white. I was sitting in the risers on the right side of the platform and was literally overwhelmed at that scene. So if you think that I shall sit back 27 years later and not let my dissenting voice be heard, you are terribly wrong. I was not a preacher back then and certainly had no idea that I would ever be one but time passed and God’s calling came and here we are!

Of late (the last two years or so) many have been inundated by the siren song of the Emergents or the Emerging Church. This is particularly an alluring voice in our age of uncertainty. Because everyone has an opinion and talk shows have allowed the foolish to call in and air their grievances to the masses, suddenly “experts” have arisen from under their rocks. What they are bringing to us from under their rocks is a very convoluted view of Scripture and biblical doctrine that has been mixed with worldly philosophy and new methods. What is occurring is what one of our “top-gun” preachers in the UPCI told me less than a year ago, “Preachers these days are bored with preaching and praying.” When we turn our sights from prayer and ministry of the Word, our days of effective ministry will become very limited.

I personally do not think that all of this was initially taken up with the intent to embrace the uncertainty of the Emerging Church. Many of these ideas were taken up in an effort to assist with church growth. We read their books and decided that we would take the good and toss the bad. However, we live in times where there are many seducing spirits that aren’t as easily recognizable as the outright doctrines of devils. Therein is the danger because the more familiar we become with books, techniques, and men the less familiar we become with the Book, the Apostolic method, and God.

Some who are reading this blog may question, what in the world are you writing about? I haven’t the foggiest idea what the Emerging Church is and it really does not effect me. I thought the same thing about 2 years ago too but now as a few miles are starting to stack up, it almost would seem as if everywhere I look there is tiny piece of error that is working its way into the Church.

I will leave a few key points about the Emergents and then post some other things in a few days that will further shed light on this new fad we are facing.

Doctrinal Indifference

The Emerging Church is afraid to say anything that appears to have any Scriptural certainty. They are not certain if there is a Hell or if the Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims will not in the end be saved. In fact, if you read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, he did not take very long establishing that he was a universalist. This is a trendy and cool thought for the Emergents to embrace especially in light of their desperation to undo the possibility of hell.

There is great hesitation to embrace any certainty of a strong concept of any salvation message. For those who do say with certainty that there is a specific and Scriptural mode of salvation, a doctrine of separation from the world, and a very clear-cut and defined judgment in the future, they are scoffed at. Not only are they scoffed at but they become shouted down, smirked upon with elitism, and winked at with degrading toleration as a bunch of Pharisees. This is the foxy methods of Brian Maclaren, Rob Bell, Donald Miller and a few others. Doctrinal certainty and great devotion to Scripture is not what makes one a Pharisee. Pharisees become such by the direction of their heart and spirit.

So to further stab home the point of this Pharisee characterization, a parade of harlots, misfits, and down-and-outers are passed in front of us and exalted (not literally but in the metaphorical content of “preaching”). The problem with this is that situational ethics is used to determine doctrine. Nothing could be further from the Truth. The woman in John 4 was a real winner in the eyes of society but her approach to the Christ was correct and she was led into the Kingdom. What is often forgotten by the “Pharisee hunters” is that in the chapter immediately preceding, a Pharisee (imagine that!), was given incredible insight into salvation. Such was his devotion to the Lord that some historians believe that Nicodemus was one of those involved in removing him from the Cross. God changed both of them. He changed the woman with wrecked morals and He changed the man with the pristine pedigree. Key point being that both of them were changed!

What is unnerving to the Emergent proponents is that anyone could be so certain about what Scripture has to say. So now salvation can become whatever they make it. Good morals, folks trying to do their best, or working in as much “light” as they have all become the path for salvation. The “what if’s” become the center point of theology for the Emergents.

A False Sense of Humility

Working in tandem with this doctrinal indifference is a false sense of humility. It works like this, “I would never want to say that I could know the purpose and intent of Scripture. I would never be so judgmental to say that someone was lost (even those who are in the blackest of sin). It’s just not my call, I would rather leave it all up to God to determine who is saved and lost, blah, blah, blah. . .” When this happens the table is turned on the “Pharisee” who is certain of the New Birth message, of the great doctrines of the Bible, of the inerrancy and clarity of Scripture, and of the principles of holiness and separation.

What this sense of false humility really does is undermine the Gospel and turns it into a very ambiguous and pliable something or other that has no ability to save at all. Yet this is very appealing to those who have fallen under the sway of the spirit of the age. This false sense of humility actually allows culture to rule the authority of the Gospel. It works well with those who refuse to submit to authoritative biblical truth that will correct worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behavior.

The prevailing problem this false humility presents is that what martyrs once died for has been so drastically changed that it now has no power to change lives in our generation. The cry for keeping it about Jesus rings hollowly because whatever Jesus comes into contact with, He radically changes. If you want a Crown, it will be preceded by a Cross. Somehow cross-bearing changes the way you walk, talk, and so on. . . .

To Be Continued. . . .

A Prayer Pouring Out of Psalm 119

--> I am presently preaching through the stanzas of Psalm 119 and it has been a spiritually enriching exercise.   Toda...