August 19, 2009
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
When I originally began this current series, I had intended to start an in-depth teaching through the book of Revelation. Through the urging of the Holy Spirit however, I had to change direction. It would seem that Jude was in a similar position when he set out to write his epistle. Based on the language contained in his introduction it would appear he had originally set out to write an epistle much like Romans. Through the compelling of the Spirit he instead wrote an in-depth expose of the false doctrines beginning to infiltrate the church of his day. The apostle John in his general epistles was dealing with many of the same errors.
It has been said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This is certainly true when it comes to false doctrine. In the church today we see many of the same lies being propagated that have been around for centuries. The names change, the deception does not. I have a book in my library by the late Baptist evangelist John R. Rice, entitled simply, “False Doctrines Answered”. The false doctrines he addresses in that book interestingly enough, are some of the same ones coming against the truth in our day. Again, some of the labels have been changed, they have become “new and improved”, and somewhat adapted to the times; but false doctrine nonetheless.
Last time, if you will recall, we stated that we would be dealing with four of the seemingly most prevalent, and in my opinion most dangerous, false doctrines affecting the Church and believers of the 21st Century. They are again,
- The New Age Movement
- The Emerging/Emergent Church
- Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM)
We dealt last time with the New Age movement quite in-depth. This movement seems to be operating in a much more covert fashion than it was in it’s earlier days. It has adopted a more genteel approach it would seem. It functions today more through its many front organizations, but make no mistake about it, the individuals involved in this have exactly the same “end game” in mind they always have. Namely, a one world monetary system, one world health organization, global control of food, oil and banking, a one world religious system, and a one world government headed up by a new world “messiah”. Lest you think these statements are merely the ravings of a prophecy preacher, or a conspiracy theorist; guess again, because the nations of the world, including the government of the United States of America, are moving toward this full steam ahead!
This time I want to deal with the second false system in our list of four,
- THE EMERGING/EMERGENT CHURCH:
Much like the New Age Movement, this movement is a bit difficult to define as it is fairly diverse in nature, and doesn’t really have a clearly defined and contextualized system of teachings. In many ways that is the danger of it, as it promotes a “broad path” approach that doesn’t ground its followers in the truth. Jesus said, 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. [Matt. 7:13, 14 NKJV] The road that leads to life is narrow, it is restricted. In the emerging/emergent church movement this fact is ignored and instead the path is broadened to include virtually any belief system or practice that aids the “seeker” in arriving at a place not of truth, but rather interspiritualality. This term, coined by Wayne Teasdale, a lay monk at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, who combines the traditions of Christianity and Hinduism in his “journey”; really describes the heart of the emerging/emergent church movement.
The emerging/emergent church movement takes its name from the idea that as culture changes, a new church should emerge in response. In this case, it is a response of various church leaders to the current era of post-modernism. Although post-modernism actually began in the 1950’s, the Church didn’t really seek to conform to its tenets until the 1990’s. Post-modernism can be thought of as a dissolution of “cold, hard fact” in favor of “warm, fuzzy subjectivity.” The emerging/emergent church movement can be thought of the same way. The emerging/emergent church movement falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking – it is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward, feelings over truth. For the most part, this movement rejects any standard methodology for doing anything.
I want to emphasize the fact that some groups who would identify themselves as emerging/emergent have only adopted some of the methods of the emerging/emergent church in order to impact their community for Christ, and remain biblically sound. Most groups however have embraced post-modernist thinking, which eventually leads to a very liberal, loose translation of the Bible. This, in turn, lends to liberal doctrine and theology. When we abandon truth in order to embrace all lifestyles, all belief systems, all doctrines, we end up watering down the message of the cross and the truth of the gospel in order not to “offend” anyone. In most emerging/emergent church groups experience, as stated earlier, is valued over reason. In this environment truth becomes relative. Relativism opens up all kinds of problems, as it destroys the standard that the Bible contains absolute truth, negating the belief that biblical truth can be absolute. If the Bible is not our source for absolute truth, and personal experience is allowed to define and interpret what truth actually is, a saving faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross is rendered meaningless.
False doctrine abounds in most, while not all, of these groups. Let me be very clear about this point. What we believe is extremely important. You will not walk securely and victoriously in these turbulent, troubled times unless your Christian life is built on a foundation of solid biblical doctrine. I don’t care if what you believe makes you “feel good”, if it is not biblical you need to reject it. In a good portion of the Christian Church of today it has been a doctrinal “free-for-all”, and a good number of believers today don’t know what they believe really, or why they believe it. It is time to stop worrying about offending apostates and religious pretenders, and instead view false doctrine in the Church exactly as our Lord does! [See Rev. 2:14 – 17] Jesus said,
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. [Matt. 7:15 – 20 NKJV]
So, what are some of the distinctive teachings and goals of the emerging/emergent church movement? There are several that I will outline here with brief comments following each point.
- The World is radically changing and the Church must radically change with it – What is needed, they say, is not a change in methodology. We need a new kind of Christian.
- Since the Church has been culture bound for so long we must reexamine and question every belief and practice in the Church, finding new ways to define and express these – It seems at times that emergents are engaging in a complete reinvention of Christianity accompanied by a radical redefinition of Christian terms.
- We have no foundation for any beliefs, therefore we cannot know absolute truth – They fail to realize here that faith is something God-given which does possess certain knowledge. [See Matt. 21:21; Eph. 2:8; Heb. 11:1]
- Since we cannot know absolute truth, we can only experience what is “true” for our communities – Postmodern philosophers and theologians insist that truth is only known and validated within communities. This implies that truth is culturally relative and that true cross-cultural communication is impossible. Interestingly, postmodern authors communicate to people of various communities simultaneously, apparently expecting them to all equally understand their intent.
- Since we cannot know absolute truth we cannot be dogmatic about doctrine – Instead they redefine orthodoxy as “generous”, that is, inclusive of many beliefs Christians have historically thought of as aberrant or heretical.
- Since we cannot know absolute truth we cannot be dogmatic about moral standards – Absolute stands on issues such as homosexuality are viewed as obsolete. Activities such as drinking, clubbing, watching sexually explicit movies, and using profanities are seen by some emergents as opportunities to show those who are not part of the Christian community that postmodern Christians do not think they are better than them through any false sense of moral superiority.
- Since we cannot know absolute truth, dogmatic preaching must give way to a dialogue between people of all beliefs – Emerging Christians do not position themselves before the world as though they were the light and the world were in darkness. Instead of “preaching” to the “lost” they join in “conversation” with people of various beliefs. This of course is completely contrary to how scripture defines believers role in culture, and the place of preaching. [See Acts 17:30, Matt. 5:13, 14; 1 Cor. 1:21]
- Since propositional truth is uncertain, spiritual feeling and social action make up the only reliable substance of Christianity – Without a solid footing in revealed truth, however, emergents have no firm foundation for knowing which experiences are valid and which works are good (something they don’t seem to notice).
- To capture a sacred feeling we should reconnect with ancient worship forms – Trappings such as burning candles and events such as silent retreats are popular in the movement. Embracing these premodern forms further breaks their connection with “modern” Christianity.
- Since sublime feeling is experienced through outward forms, we should utilize art forms in our worship – Appreciating art for art’s sake as a spiritual experience.
- Through conversation with them, “outsiders” will become part of our community, and then be able to understand and believe what we teach – This approach seeks not to persuade people to believe through reasoning with the scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit, but rather seeks to “befriend” them to believe. The Bible teaches us to proclaim the gospel message with reliance upon the Holy Spirit to empower, illuminate, and convict [1 Cor. 2, 1 Thess. 1:9]. When such proclamation is absent, as in the emergent church movement, there is no prophetic voice coming from the church calling sinners to repent and believe the Gospel [Acts 2:38, 16:30 – 32].
- All are welcome to join the “conversation” as long as they behave in a kind and open-minded manner. – Evangelicals however are not treated as kindly in the conversation as other are (something many emergents admit).
- The ultimate goal is to make the world a better place – The emerging church envisions a utopia in which the oppressed of the world are free, the poor are no longer impoverished and the environment is clean. This paradise is achieved through social activism. Many emergent leaders think it is selfish folly to live for the Return of Christ.
Can you see how this movement represents an affront to the truth? Can you see how it perverts and denigrates the message of the Cross, the power of the gospel? This movement and its basic tenets certainly represents a departure from the faith once delivered to the saints. [Jude 3] It most certainly qualifies as a product of seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, designed to turn the heads of many in these days away from the truth.
The thing I find really disturbing in all of this, are the numbers of evangelical leaders, those who really should no better, who while perhaps not actually “swimming” in the emergent/emerging church stream; are endorsing some of these leaders. Evangelical leaders such as, Robert Schuller, Richard Foster, Brennan Manning, Dan Kimball, Dallas Willard, Bruce Wilkinson, Erwin McManus, John Ortberg, John Eldredge, Dr. Robert Webber, Leonard Sweet, and dozens of lesser-known and unpublished people. Rick Warren and Bill Hybels also give credibility to the Emergent movement, though their churches are not direct participants in the “Emergent movement.”
Truth is under attack like never before. One thing that seems to characterize all four of the belief systems we are looking at in this current series is that they have replaced the centrality of the cross, the power of the gospel with other things.
Next time we will look at the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM). Please join us then.
The Weekly Word is found in 2 Peter 2:1, 2. Here the Bible says,
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. [2 Pet. 2:1, 2 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson