For some time
now, I have been tracking something called the "Emergent
Church Movement" (also known as the "Emerging Church"). I don't want
to assume that everybody here is up to speed on what I'm talking about,
so first a few words of definition. At some point in the mid-1990's
the moniker "Emerging Church" surfaced out of the Young Leadership
Network. It came from the notion that, because the culture has changed,
a new church should emerge in response. Declaring themselves to be the answer to
reach the so-called postmodern generation, Emergents claim to have
explored all of the avenues of what the Church has historically been,
only to find that little or none of it satisfied them. The common bond
of the Emergents was and still is a general dissatisfaction for Bible-believing
Christianity, though nearly all of them claim to be
Like many in the
various "isms" before them, Emergents set forth to tackle a seemingly
noble cause. They appeared to want desperately to reach a lost
generation. However, it soon became clear that no matter how zealous
Emergents were, the message they offered to their target postmoderns
was not the authentic biblical model. Almost before even
taking flight, the Emergents veered sideways into the ditch of
heretical thinking, doctrine and practice. Their unorthodox view of
the Christian faith, including doctrine and solo scriptura, aided in
drawing many who were seeking a self-styled Christianity rather
than the biblical version. Those who came early to this perilous party
also brought volunteers and funding to the soon-to-be-famous heretic
leaders and, in the eyes of some, their very presence added credibility
just because the seats were being filled on Sundays. After quickly
jettisoning the constraints of biblical hermeneutics and (God forbid)
sound doctrine, Emergents picked up steam (and press) as being "hip,"
"different" and "refreshing." In reality, though, "hip" transposes into
"we'll accept almost anything," "different" means "far out...really far
out," and "refreshing" symbolizes "any Wiccan or Buddhist will feel
right at home with us."
I know many
Emergent sympathizers would object and say that I am generalizing.
However, that simply is not the case. Even without much space to
elaborate in this article, and even as difficult as "Emergent Speak"
can be to decipher, once one boils it down, just a partial outline of
Emergent philosophies indicates glaring flaws.
To Emergents, Christianity is:
* Experience over Reason
* Images over Words
* Spirituality over Doctrine
* Subjective Feelings over Absolute
* Earthly Justice over Salvation
* Social Action over Eternity
An examination of
only a few quotes from Emergent leaders illustrates not only some of
these wacky ideas but also the sobering reality that Emergent leaders
and the tens of thousands following them are indeed
in very dangerous territory.
has been preoccupied with the question, 'What happens to your soul
after you die?' As if
the reason for Jesus coming can be summed up in, 'Jesus is trying to
help get more souls into heaven, as
opposed to hell, after they die.' I just think a fair reading of the
Gospels blows that out of the water. I
don't think that the
entire message and life of Jesus can be boiled down to that bottom
- Brian McLaren, from
a July 2005 PBS special on the Emerging Church.
not turning from sin. It is a 'celebration' of life in
Christ. Anyone who tells you that you need to repent is not talking
about Christianity." -
Rob Bell, "The 'gods' Aren't Angry
Tour," Nov. 16, 2007, Dallas,
Emerging Leader, author and pastor of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis,
was asked "Is homosexuality incompatible with Christian faith?" Pagitt
simply replied: "NO. Being Gay and Christian is not a
contradiction in any way." - Quoted by Mark Driscoll in "Why I
Left the Emerging Church" at Southeastern Baptist Theological
Seminary, Fall 2007
Christian faith asserts that Jesus did not come to make some people
saved and others condemned. Jesus did not come to help some people be
right while leaving everyone else to be wrong. Jesus did not come to
create another exclusive religion (based on beliefs)."
- Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy,
doesn't have a position on absolute truth, or on anything for that
Tony Jones, at the 2005 National Youth
"(This is) part
problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the
Christian faith must be a belief that
"Scripture alone" is our
guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true...When people say that all we
need is the Bible, it is simply not true." -
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p.68
It is serious
enough that some Emergents like Rob Bell (whose
"Nooma" DVD series has
sold over a million units) don't believe the Bible contains the
whole truth. But many teachers, such as Emergent author and activist
Brian McLaren, simply twist the Scriptures to say what they wish the
Scriptures said, regardless of context, history or any understanding of the
In February of
this year (2008) I attended McLaren's "Everything Must Change"
conference tour stop in Nampa (Boise), Idaho. Attending the three-day
event with me was my friend, Pastor Chris Bayer, who also wanted to hear what the
godfather of the Emergent movement believed.
tough to take emotionally and spiritually, we stuck it out for the
entire conference. It was at times grueling and at times frightening.
Space here permits me only a few
comments, so I want to focus on the Friday evening session. Pastor
Chris has written a stellar account of the entire McLaren conference
that is posted at
The session began
with original songs that, frankly, any Wiccan priest could sing. They
were dark and gloomy and focused on how mankind has raped and
destroyed the planet. The glory or greatness of God was non-existent
during the “worship.”
Next, we were
subjected to a film produced by The Sierra Club, which focused
on how mankind was raping Mother Earth through coal mining.
When McLaren took
the platform, he began to unfold the real core of what he means by the
book (and tour) title, "Everything Must Change." That is, "EVERYTHING...MUST...CHANGE"
- including what Jesus meant by the very term "Kingdom of
God" in the Gospel accounts.
McLaren, "The Kingdom of God" is all about our saving the planet. I
thought, "of all the things this guy is, he's a Kingdom Now preterist,
informed us that "salvation" is actually us saving the
planet and, when Jesus used the phrase "the world," He was referring to
the Earth and not the lost souls living on it! I was more stunned with
each passing moment.
ended with McLaren's invitation for attendees to come to the front
and, among other exercises, take some water
from a vat and re-baptize ourselves into the new enlightenment we'd
received. He recommended that while we were
there we also stick our hands into the tub of dirt
that had been provided to fully sense "what needed to be saved"! No
joke, folks. I was there. All this from one of Time Magazine's
twenty-five most influential "Evangelicals."
A most disturbing
aspect to Pastor Chris and me was that McLaren's event was held at and
partially sponsored by Northwest Nazarene University - a fact that has
made at least one former State Elder in the Nazarene Church weep in my
presence! Thank God for the many Nazarenes who still hold to the
Bible. But from what I saw in the panel discussions, which included
several of the professors at NNU, there needs to be a radical housecleaning if Nazarenes
expect the next generation of pastors and leaders to present true, biblical Christianity. (McLaren even
declared during the conference that John Wesley was an Emergent!
It was all I could do to contain myself.)
If the Emergent
line of reasoning sounds familiar to you, it should. Nearly 100 years
ago, maverick-turned-heretic Rudolf Bultmann set out to
"demythologize" the Bible, starting with the abandonment of such
central and essential doctrines as the Virgin Birth and the bodily
Resurrection. Liberal Baptist leader, Harry Emerson Fosdick, preached
his now famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" and declared,
"Of course I do not believe in the virgin birth or in that
old-fashioned substitutionary doctrine of the atonement, and I know of
no intelligent person who does."
Of course, for Satan it wasn't
enough that decades ago heretical teaching on par with Bultmann and
Fosdick slowly infected the once-sound seminaries, pulpits and, finally,
entire denominations. We shouldn't be at all shocked that the devil's
21st century target would again be some in leadership who
as "evangelicals." Consider the rise of the feel-good gospels and
scriptural compromising of Bill Hybels,
Rick Warren and Joel Osteen
that I and others have documented. The predicted apostasy is indeed in
full swing - right under our noses.
Now, with kudos
from Warren and others, Emergents have gone a step further than their
questionable and more famous "Evangelical" brethren. Emergents are now
openly adopting cultic, "New Age" and Universalistic ideas in place of
or along side of the teachings of Jesus and the New
Testament. In fact, Warren sure sounds more and more like an Emergent
On January 27,
2008, Rick Warren stated, "I think we need a second Reformation in
the church about how we behave. The first Reformation was about
creeds. I think the second Reformation needs to be about deeds..."
That day he even told Dean Samuel Lloyd of Washington's National
Cathedral that "the future of the world is not secularism, it's
religious pluralism." (http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/centennial/SF080127.shtml)
It is statements such as these that have garnered Warren such warm
acceptance among Emergents.
question is, since Warren is easily one of the most influential
persons on Planet Earth today claiming to be a Christian, why didn't
he declare that the future of this world is 100% dependant on Jesus
and Jesus alone?!!
Further illustrating this
dissatisfaction with biblical Christianity, as well as a fascination
with mysticism, is a statement from the wildly popular Emergent pastor
from Michigan, Rob Bell, who stated,
"This is not just the same old message with new methods. We're
rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life."
(Christianity Today, November, 2004, pp.36-41)
the New Liberalism
The debate over
modern liberalism, be it called "Emerging," "Emergent" or whatever,
boils down to the absolute authority of Scripture. As a former
Emergent pastor who has now shunned the movement points out, the
foremost error of the Emerging Movement is that it has reduced
Christianity to a CONVERSATION. This is EXACTLY what Lucifer pulled
off with Eve in the Garden – i.e., "Hath God said…?" (Genesis 3).
I have contended
for years that if the followers of Joseph Smith had been astutely
reading their Bibles in 1830, there wouldn't be 13 million Mormons in
the world today and millions more would never have perished because of
Smith's false teachings. The same is true of those who sat in the pews
in the early 20th century as doctrines of devils
infiltrated the seminaries and pulpits of previously-sound Methodist,
Presbyterian, Baptist and Lutheran churches, to name a few.
It is tragic that
millions had to be deceived by the Watchtower's conniving, Smith's tango with Satan and Bultmann's
dive from orthodoxy. We need to learn from so many instances of regretful, timid
hesitancy that church leaders have engaged in when it comes to swiftly quashing cultic
doctrine. Why is it that retrospect seems to be the sad teacher when
identifying cultists in our midst? In trying to be civil, gentle and
loving with those espousing error, what really happens is that less-aware souls are trapped, deceived and convinced to go along for what
amounts to a demonic joyride down the path to eternal destruction. I
say, "Enough!" Where are the pastors and leaders who are not afraid
to deal with error and false teaching in our midst? Paul would have opposed heretics, and instead of viewing it
as somehow unkind, we must see it as the MOST loving thing to do.
liberals need to be confronted.
These folks are heretics, yet they view their ideas as theologically
deep and intellectually superior. In reality, no amount of
condescending or attempting to spin true Bible believers into archaic
Neanderthals can lessen or justify the depth of their error. For their
own sakes and for that of their followers, we must recognize it as our
task to identify Emergents as cultists, no matter who thinks we are
radical, judgmental, or rude. After all, caring enough to warn the lost
is the loving and biblical thing to do.
Barger's tri-fold pamphlet "How to Spot the Emergent Church" here.
(Print and distribute as many as you like!)