Monthly Archives: December 2007

Diverging from the Emergent Church

Resources

Here are some good resources explaining and critiquing the Emerging Church.

By far the best resource that I’ve read or heard on this subject is by Darrin Patrick:

Really good stuff!

Justin Buzzard presents some great concerns about Rob Bell: Rob Bell, the gods aren’t angry tour: San Francisco (Some Reflections & Concerns)

DA Carson provides a helpful, albeit truncated, analysis in his book: Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications.

You can listen for free to the lectures based on Dr. Caron’s book:

Other solid and very similar lectures by Carson on this subject include:

Ed Stetzer provides a very useful overview article of the movement and some clarifications: Understanding the Emerging Church

Using Stetzer, Mark Driscoll has a very similar journal article: A Pastoral Perspective on the Emergent Church.

§ Driscoll speaks on this subject from his own involvement and concern at Southeastern Seminary: Are You A Convergent Christian?

§ Driscoll speaks also on this subject at Mars Hill, pointing to the fact that it’s all about Jesus: Audio and Full Transcript (pdf – 379kb)

A useful but disappointing book that tries to cover the gambit of the Emerging Church is Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives by Mark Driscoll, John Burke, Dan Kimball, and Doug Pagitt.

Tim Challies gives a great review of Mclaren’s new book here.

Darrell Bock weighs in.

Justin Taylor gives a worthwhile analysis at the New Attitude conference. A New Kind of Christianity. An even better article by Taylor is the following: An Emerging Church Primer.

For a heavier read on the philosophy of the Emergent Church try Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times

One final critique that is worth checking out that I’ve read is Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church by R. Scott Smith.

 

On a more favorable perspective, I found Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger to be very engaging and helpful.

Probably the most helpful book to get a reading on the Emergent stream (or Emerging Conversational) is A Is for Abductive by Dr. Leonard Sweet, Brian D. McLaren, and Jerry Haselmayer. Though very “modern” for some “pomos.”

Finally, Emerging Church, The by Dan Kimball was also beneficial.

§ Drew Goodmanson gives a great review: Tension in the Emerging Church

My Two Cents

As far as the Emergent Stream goes (or Emerging Conversational, or whatever) with Mclaren, Jones, and Pagitt, let me say the following.

When in grad school I had to read Race, Identity, and Representation in Education by Cameron McCarthy, etc. When reading Mclaren and company—especially his new book Everything Must Change, all the same social justice themes of racism, globalization, poverty, injustice, fair trade, environment, post-colonialism, etc. come up and not only eclipse the Gospel but alter it completely.

Basically, Mclaren is a missionary for Progressives and Social Liberals to the church. The Gospel gets high jacked and manipulated to be all about neo-Marxist ideals and dreams. The Kingdom of God becomes all about the new Gospel of social justice.

The Emergent Church is fundamentally all about pining for praise of men—yearning for the adoration of the cool progressive/liberals. Essentially they are saying, “I’m a Christian, but I want to be cool. The coolest people in the world are English majors and social activists. So lets change the Gospel for their liking because God’s Holiness, Justice and Wrath they won’t find cool.”

As Driscoll has said “the emergent church is the latest version of liberalism. The only difference is that old liberalism accommodated modernity and the new liberalism accommodates postmodernity.”

Bottom line, Mclaren and company care infinitely more about man’s justice as opposed to God’s justice. Thus, the Gospel must accommodate their faulty understanding of God. The Kingdom of God and the Gospel is now about social justice and man and not God’s justice and the vindication thereof.

Jesus was not solely about bringing in a kingdom where man’s social justice issues are fulfilled (though it will happen and is occurring). Rather, Jesus came,

§ not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:38-40)

§ “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

I guess the Gospel is not that hip. But as Paul said (and I hold his writings to be Canonical and thus inspired),

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)


Top Books of 2007

Pile on another top book list of 2007 (not books from 2007 only):

1. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church by Alan Hirsch

2. Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching by Graeme Goldsworthy

3. Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth (Osterhaven Lecture) by Lesslie Newbigin

4. Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture by David Powlison

5. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry by John Piper

6. Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions and/or Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism: Biblical Responses to the Key Questions by Wayne Grudem

7. Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology by John M. Frame

8. Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy

9. What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza

10. Reforming Marriage by Douglas Wilson

11. Christian Theology: An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath

12. By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification by David F. Wells, Cornelis P. Venema, T. David Gordon, and Richard D. Phillips

13. When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man (Resources for Changing Lives) by Edward T. Welch

14. Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson, and Michael J. Sleasman (see my comments here)

15. Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities by Roger E. Olson and then Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election by C. Samuel Storms

 

Books read actually from 2007:

 

Check out my book recommendations for more books.

Other book lists that I’ve enjoyed include:

 

 

 


What’s So Great About Christianity

Today I read What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza. Overall, it was a really enjoyable and well researched apologetic. I recommend it highly, though I don’t agree with all his presuppositions, particularly about Christ and Culture.

 

In the preface he astutely denounces Christian fundamentalism/escapism:

Instead of engaging this secular world, most Christians have taken the easy way out. They have retreated into a Christian subculture where they engage Christian concerns. Then they step back into secular society where their Christian is kept out of sign until the next church service. Without realizing it Christen have become postmodernists of a sort: they live by the gospel of the two truths. There is religious truth, reserved for Sundays and days of worship, and there is secular truth, which applies the rest of the time. (page xiv)

Concerning secular/revisionist history he makes a great point:

Even the names—“Middle Ages,” “Dark Ages”—guide such a person in his prejudices. Terms like “Renaissance” and “Enlightenment” are uncritically interpreted as literal descriptions of the spirit of the age. We should remember that the people who lived during the Renaissance did not consider themselves Renaissance figures. The term is a nineteenth-century one that has been retroactively applied. (page 42)

 

The Establishment Clause and Separation of Church and State:

Today courts wrongly interpret separation of church and state to mean that religion has no place in the public arena or that morality derived form religion should not be permitted to shape our laws. Somehow freedom for religious expression has become freedom form religious expression. Secularists want to empty the public square of religion and religious-based morality so they can monopolize the shared space of society with their own views. In the process they have made religious believers into second-class citizens. This is a profound distortion of a noble idea that is also a Christian idea. The separation of the realms should not be a weapon against Christianity; rather it is a device supplied by Christianity to promote social peace, religious freedom, and a moral community. If we removed the concept in its true sense, our society would be much better off. (page 53)

Atheistic indoctrination regarding science curricula:   

Theists can be champions of science while at the same time exposing the way in which Darwin’s ideas are being ideologically manipulated, just as they were by the social Darwinists a century ago. It is this ideological indoctrination masquerading as science than should be fought in the classroom. Evolution should be taught, but it should be taught without the metaphysics of Darwinism. Instead of suing to get theories of creationism and intelligent design into the science classroom, Christians should be suing to get atheist interpretations of Darwin out. (page 153)

Probably my favorite quote involved his incisive statement about our culture’s lust for “love” and the horror that has resulted:

The deepest appeal of secular morality is its role in the formation and preservation of “love relationships.” How do we know that we love? There is no other way but to reach deep into ourselves and consult the inner voice, which is not the voice of reason but the voice of feeling. We succumb to that inward self so completely that we feel that we have lost control. We don’t love, but are “in love,” and we are now not entirely responsible for what we do. …

Here we have the firsthand of a serious problem with secular morality. In its central domain, that of love, it is notoriously fickle. It starts out very sure of itself, promising not just “I love you” but “I will always love you.” This is stated not hypocritically or cunningly but sincerely. Each time actress Elizabeth Taylor got married she could be heard on television saying something like, “This time I’ve got it right. This time it’s the real thing.” … So the West has paid an enormous social price—evident in the ineffable sadness of the children of divorce—for its adoption of secular morality. (pages 256-257)

Marxism:

The Marxist doctrine needs to be revised. It is not religion that is the opiate of the people, but atheism that is the opiate of the morally corrupt. (page 267)

Atheists’ real reason for lack of faith is because of sexual mores:

When atheists give elaborate justification for why God does not exist and why traditional morality is an illusion, he is very likely thinking of sex organs. It may well be that if it weren’t for that single commandment against adultery, Western man would still be Christian!…

The orgasm has become today’s secular sacrament. This is not because we are living in an age of sensuality but because, in world of material things that perish, it gives people a momentary taste of eternity. (page 269)

Finally, regarding what atheism truly is, a moral revolt:

Atheism is not primarily an intellectual revolt, it is a moral revolt. Atheists don’t find God invisible so much as objectionable. They aren’t adjusting their desire to the right, but rather the truth to fit their desires. … This is the perennial appeal of atheism: it gets rid of the stern fellow with the long beard and liberates us for the pleasures of sin and depravity. The atheist seeks to get rid of amoral judgment by getting rid of the judge. (page 272)

 

Read the book if you have time.


Culture Wars and Public Education

Tim Challies has a every insightful (and contraversial) post on Christians and public education. As a public educator, and more importantly as someone desiring to influence all spheres of life for Christ, I share his sentiments.

In Public Schooling and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, he writes:

If the time comes that we feel it would be right to take our children out of the public education system, I will be left with two great and related concerns I would need to reconcile. The first is this. If all of the Christians withdraw from the public schooling system, it seems to me that we lose our ability and even our right to speak to that system and to influence it. Though the political system is terribly corrupt, Christians continue to be involved and continue to vote, knowing that only in this way will we have any influence. Yet in the schooling system many wish to withdraw. But when we do so, I fear, we lose any right we might have to correct or influence. As Christians we look to better not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us. We look to be a transformative influence. If schools truly are “prime battlegrounds for cultural conflicts,” as Dr. Mohler states, why would we purposely remove ourselves from them? Why would we give up and retreat from this battleground? If this is where the hearts and minds of generations of citizens will be formed, why would we take no interest in it? If we retreat, we lose our voice.


Re-Thinking Evangelism in Light of the Gospel and Context

A helpful entry by Matt Adair is entitled: Re-Thinking Evangelism.

He insightfully states:

I’ve been through more than a few evangelism training courses and I have yet to come across one that doesn’t fail on the basic level of turning into a sales pitch. And here’s one reason I think that is – to the degree that the gospel is not our operating principle in life, we’re sharing a product and not our lives. And if we do try to share our life and not sell an evangelistic product, we ultimately don’t have anything sturdy enough to give to people.


Contextualized Gospel Proclamations

Today, the Lord provided an epiphany (probably not the right term) for me, as understanding and presenting the Gospel came into the place in a more concrete and exciting way.

I was reading and meditating on 1 Corinthians 15 and realized the shear profundity of the Gospel and in turn the necessity of contextualizing it to one’s audience every single time it is presented.

Being apart of Campus Crusade for Christ in college (and in no way am I denigrating this Christ-exalting organization), one was taught to “share” the Gospel via a small booklet. Now as I fully agree with the contents of the “Four Spiritual Laws,” I’ve come to realize that presenting the Gospel in the same way, emphasizing the same Gospel motifs to every single person is not the most effective and Biblical way of doing so.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Paul encapsulates the Gospel in the most concise way that I personally know of. He says:

3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Here we see that the Gospel is about Jesus: His death for our sins and His burial and subsequent resurrection.

Now as I’ve quoted this verse a number of times, I’ve never really put together the fact that Paul is bringing up the Gospel in this context to combat the heresy that the Corinthians believe there is no resurrection of the dead. It says in verses 12 and 13:

12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

Paul spends the rest of the chapter refuting this false belief. In verses 22-24, 28 it states:

22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power…. 28When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

The chapter climaxes by Paul proclaiming,

55“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In essence, Paul refuted a heresy with one particular motif of the Gospel, namely the resurrection of Christ—Christus Victor.

As I read the New Testament, I’ve seen that no one author ever completely explicates and systematizes the Gospel in its utter entirety. The Gospel is so profound and multi-dimensional that no one author could have possibly ever done so.

Even in Romans, there are other themes and dimensions of the Gospel that this book does not address. The reason being is that the book is situation specific, being written to a people for a specific purpose. We see this everywhere in the NT.

Some really quick examples of the Gospel being contextualized:

§ In 1 Peter 2, servants are called to subject themselves to their masters, with Christ as their prime example, even when they are treated unjustly. The motif of Christ dying unjustly for sinners is expounded as an example to all servants and employees. It says in verses 22-24:

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

§ In 1 John 4:1-7, John is adamant that Jesus Christ is God came in the flesh, in opposition to the antichrists that were denying such. Regarding these secessionist/antichrists John comments in 2:22-23:

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

So the doctrines of the incarnation and mediation of Christ with Father, the Gospel is defended for John’s audience because of the infiltration of heretics.

§ In Acts 17 at Mars Hill, as the Greeks enjoyed knowledge and wisdom, Paul points out the reality of God’s sovereignty over the idols that “now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’”

 

The examples could be increased indefinitely. Even the way Jesus presented Himself to others was very different based on each person and people. Compare the women at the well (John 4) with the Pharisees.

Consequently, Gospel elements of redemption, propitiation, adoption, expiation, justification, union with Christ, Christ our mediator, Christus Victor, Christ Expellar, the Second Coming, etc, etc, are never brought up in a vacuum. There are always put forth put forth for a given people in a specific context.

More often than not, a particular Gospel motif is brought forth to challenge beliefs and deeds of specific people, to impel repentance and faith in Christ. As Tim Keller says, contextualization is giving God’s answers to people’s questions, though people may not enjoy or embrace them.

As it is obvious, contextualization of the Gospel is not only desirable, but necessity and utterly Biblical. The entire Word of God is contextualized.

The implications for the proclamation of the Gospel to both Christians and non-Christians are weighty, to the point that “angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12) and will take an eternity to explore.

But let me put forth a few that have griped by mind and heart presently.

First, every dimension of the Gospel must be preached, proclaimed, and relentlessly dove into—in pulpits, Bible studies, seminaries, and even causal conversations amongst believers. The Gospel is so profound, rich, and vital to the Christian life that one ever dare get past it. There is so much to explore and wrap our hearts around, with nothing more precious to us than to know the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.

Second, as one comes to know the Gospel in increasing depth and dimensionality, one will be more equipped to proclaim the Gospel to non-believers in a more relevant, contextualized way. If a non-believer is struggling with the acceptance of God and others, the reality of adoption might be the entrance into the Gospel. If one is self-righteous, propitiation might be most relevant. If shame, than expiation. If demonic warfare, then Christ as Victor. If the fear of death is controlling, then the resurrection Christ and subsequently our. If guilt, then forgiveness in Christ. If bondage to sin, then the freedom over sin in Christ.

The list could go on indefinitely (with any permutation) and must base on every person and people group we interact with. This will take getting to know people more intimately, and abandoning a shot gun approach to evangelism that may have worked only for the more monolithic generations of past.

Each entrance point should lead into the riches of Christ at the appropriate time, with discipleship resolving around knowing nothing expect Christ and Him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2).

 

Not all people are asking the same questions to life, and struggling with the same sin. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ answers them all in the most radical and relevant way imaginable