The writers search paper on the Dangers of the Emerging Church will begin with a discussion on the nature and history of the Emerging Church. The Postmodern philosophy and the Re-defining of this new Christianity will be the focus of first section of the paper. Then, the writer will point out the main teachings of the Emerging Church proponents, which is the uncertainty of Scripture and the inability to know absolute truth. The research paper will then conclude with a discussion of the dangers of the Emerging Church Movement.
Table of Contents Introduction 4 The Nature and History of the Emerging Church 4 Postmodern Perspectives Re-defining Christianity 7 Teachings of the Emerging Church 7 Uncertainty of Scripture 9 Absolute Truth 9 Dangers of the Emerging Church 10 Truth v Experience 1 1 Relativities of Sin 12 Conclusion 12 Bibliography 14 Introduction Since the beginning of Church history, the Church has had to deal with controversy. The writer of this paper believes that sometimes controversy is necessary in order to develop a systematic belief system. Creeds were developed to address doctrinal issues.
Most if not all creeds and confessions were written and debated to defend the truth of Scripture. In this paper the Ritter is attempting to provide a history on the nature of the Emergent Church controversy. Secondly, the writer will expound on the main teachings Of the Emergent Church Movement. And finally the writer Of this research paper will outline the Dangers of the Emerging Church philosophy and how it threatens the very existence Of the Church at large. The Nature and History of the Emerging Chi arch What were the events that helped materialize the Emerging Church Movement?
According to Phyllis Tickle in “Emergence Christianity” every five hundred years, give or take a decade of two, Western culture, along with hose parts of the world that have been colonized or colonized by it, goes through a time of enormous upheaval, a time in which every part of it is reconfigured. 1 At the close of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth the century a whole new form of Christianity was being born Tickle begins to delineate the changes that have taken place with the Great Reformation.
To make her point Tickle refers to changes in every area of life especially in culture and religion. According to Tickle the way people thought as to religion, has always changed. Christianity was taking on a new identity. According to D. A. Carson “emerging” and “emergent” have become strongly associated with an important movement that is sweeping across America, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. 2 Tickle points to several events that caused this new Christianity to materialize.
In 1868 by Pope Pious IX convened Vatican I. During the time of the convening of Vatican and the convening of Vatican II by Pope John XII slavery was abolished and according to Tickle the first blow had been struck. Since Christians before this felt that the bible clearly acknowledge the practice of owning slaves, there was no question now as to how wrong it was. Christians were now questioning their own belief system. The USA Street Revival is another event Tickle points to in the emergence of this new Christianity.
William Seymour who was a student of Charles Pariah’s bible school in Houston was the figure that led to the revival at USA Street. Seymour began to preach his belief on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as a sign of God’s new way of moving in these times. According to Tickle the presence of Pentecostal early in the mix of what became Emergence Christianity was to be of inestimable import because their ready familiarity ND comfort with the Spirit would feed and hone much Of the core theology and praxis of Emergence itself. The Social Gospel philosophy has also played a role in the development of the emergence theology. Social Crisis a document written by Walter Raucousness is generally regarded as the first of several foundational documents upon which the theology of social justice with Emergence thought, the Social Gospel of twentieth century Protestantism, and the rational of the more secular and political Civil Rights movement were all built. 5 Postmodern Perspective As a result of the changes occurring in Christianity over the last 150 years the Emerging Church movement has adopted a postmodern perspective.
The term “postmodern” is used to breakout of modern molds and patterns of thought and creativity. 6 Postmodern represents a different way of thinking. As it refers to Christianity postmodern represents a change in worldview from the values and principles of the past era. The emerging church proponents believe the Christian faith has a fixed framework of creation, fall, incarnation, death, resurrection, church, and new heaven and new earth. This framework ND the story of God it reveals are always conceptualized into this or that cue True. The postmodern philosophy denies the existence of any ultimate principles that would explain truth for everyone. In essence those that adhere to the Emerging Church philosophy believe in the need for a “conversation”. Brian D. McAllen writes “this conversation takes place within and among communities of people who share the same essential questions across generations”. 8 The result is a belief in the re-interpretation of the Scriptures because it must fit our culture. At the heart of the matter is the constant necessity to adapt to ultra. D. A.
Carson writes “those who fail to adapt are blind to the cultural accretions that hide the gospel behind forms of thought and modes of expression that no longer communicate with the new generation, the emerging generation. 9 Re-defining Christianity Brain D. McAllen asks the question “What are we in the so-called emerging churches seeing to emerge from? The emerging church movement is attempting to emerge from modern Western Christianity, from colonial Christianity, from Christianity as a ‘White man’s religion”. 10 The emerging church movement sees itself as a new kind of Christiana¶y’.
It is a Christianity that moves beyond traditional Christianity and does not bow down to the status quo of our day. McAllen states that moving into a new kind of Christianity means, “we are emerging into a post-colonial faith, a post-Western faith-not a faith that wants to forget and deny the many blessings of Christian faith in Western idioms, but a faith that no longer wants to be in denial about the dark sides of our history. We are emerging into a new era of Christian faith as a “living color” global community, from a religion of conquest and control too faith Of collaborative mission and humble service. 1 Emergent believe we must come to terms with how we did church in the past and come to terms with a Christianity that did not work. A Christianity that was based on false assumptions of the Christian life that caused confusion in the world because of contradictions in the Christians way of living. Teachings of the Emerging Church It is difficult to pinpoint an exact Theology of the Emerging Church movement due to the fluidity of thought among those who consider themselves as Emergent. Ray S.
Anderson describes the Emergent Church Theology as one that is messianic, mission, revelation, reformation, mining coming, kingdom living, scatological and incarnation. 12 The emerging church movement’s philosophy is based upon the idea that Christianity must be reinvented or at least revamped in order to accommodate itself to a pattern of what the culture is thinking. In essence at its core it is a “give the people what they want philosophy”. So as the culture changes the church must change to meet the demands of the people.
As John MacArthur states in an interview discussing the emerging church movement, “it is a cultural accommodation redefining Christianity in terms that are acceptable to whatever the trendy sin is and whatever the trendy way of thinking is”. McAllen writes, we must find new approaches to our sacred texts, approaches that sanely, critically, and fairly engage which hones scientific inquiry, approaches that help us derive constructive and relevant guidance in dealing with pressing personal and social problems, and approaches that lead us in the sweet pathway of peacemaking rather than the broad, deep rut of mutually assured destruction. 3 The following are some of the teachings and beliefs of the Emerging Church movement. According to Gibbs and Bolder the emergent church is a new expression of church. Three of the core practices of an emergent church are identifying with the life of Jesus, transforming secular space, and commitment to community as a way of life. 14 Emergent also believe that since the Church has been bound by culture for such a long time there is a need to go back and reexamine and question every belief and practice in the Church.
The Emergent Church movement calls for every doctrine and moral standard to be questioned. It would appear that Emergent are trying to revamp traditional Christianity. This acceptance of changing culture and reexamination of one’s beliefs leads us to question absolute truth. The Emerging Church movement places experience over truth. For the emergent proponents, experience may prompt us to revise our previous understanding of truth. 15 Uncertainty of Scripture The most prominent teaching of the emerging church movement is the need to question conventional ideas and theories of the Scriptures.
McAllen questions how we understand the Bible. He claims that Christianity is in a mess because we have refused and failed to find a new approach to understanding the Bible. The proponents of the emerging church movement believe that Christianity is in trouble in relation to certain areas. In regards to our relation to ethics McAllen writes: The Bible, when taken as an ethical rulebook, offers us no clear categories for many of our most significant and vexing egotistical quandaries.
We find no explicit mention, for example, of abortion, capitalism, communism, socialism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism, systemic racism, affirmative action, human rights, nationalism, sexual orientation, pornography, global climate hangs, imprisonment, extinction of species, energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, genetic engineering space travel, and so on-not to mention nuclear weapons, biological warfare, and just-war theory. 6 For McAllen the fact that the Bible does not speak clearly and unequivocally to specific problems in society justifies the Emergent philosophy as to the uncertainty of Scripture. Absolute Truth In A New Kind of Christian Manacle’s fictional altar ego, Neo, says even Scripture is neither authoritative (in a “modern” sense) nor a foundation for faith. 7 This uncertainty of Scripture leads to a view of Scripture that absolute truth is unknowable.
In his response to Mark Drill’s chapter on ‘The Emerging Church and Biblicists Theology” Dan Kimball writes, I think such a view denies the reality of the development of language and the pressures of culture. 18 He goes on to say “l am not advocating a postmodern reading of the Bible for everyone, but am suggesting that people cannot legitimately operate with no cultural lens. 19 Time and time and again we see this need to adapt to culture in order to interpret Scripture by emerging church advocates.
McAllen writes “Well, I’m wondering, if you have an infallible text, but all your interpretations of it are admittedly fallible, then you at least have to always be open to being corrected about your interpretation, right? So the authoritative text is never what say about the text or even what I understand the text to say but rather what God means the text to say, right? ’20 McAllen believes throughout the History of Christianity, there has been a misinterpretation of Scripture on several fronts. One of those areas where the Church has had to reinvent or reexamine is on the subject of Slavery.
Slavery, an ill of the 1 9th and 20th Centuries has come full circle according to Tickle and McAllen. If as Tickle states that the Church has been wrong, egregiously wrong on such a massive level what else has the Church been wrong in how it has addressed the issues of its time? The Dangers of the Emerging Church So what are the dangers of the Emerging Church movement? D. A. Carson states that the biggest danger of the Emerging Church movement is its apparent discontent with traditional Christianity pertaining to truth and experience.
Carson writes, “from the perspective of the traditional Christian, he emergent Christian may appear to be so committed to new experiences and subjective evaluations that the truth can easily be left behind. 21 Truth vs.. Experience The debate is one of truth vs.. Experience. Is there such thing as absolute truth? Do the Scriptures claim absolute truth? If we cannot claim the Bible to teach absolute truth then truth is relative. For the Emerging Church movement “mystery” is a key word. What they are saying is that God has spoken but it would appear not clearly enough.
If we cannot be sure of what God has spoken in Scripture everything is up for debate. In 2 Peter 1:19-21 he Scripture itself claims complete reliability. 9 We also have the prophetic message as cometh ins completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning Star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 1 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself affirmed in Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass way, but my words will never pass away/’ (NIB). The implications of believing that truth is relative is imprudent. If there is no absolute truth then we can follow our own truth. Truth then becomes a belief system based on what I experience. So instead of truth informing our experience our experience now informs our truth as we see truth.
Carson writes, “If emerging church leaders wish to become a long-term prophetic voice that produces enduring fruit and that does not drift off toward progressive sectarianism and even, in the worst instances, outright heresy, they must sites at least as carefully to criticisms of their movement as they transparently want others to listen to them. They need to take great pains not to distort history and theology alike, by not caricaturing their opponents and not playing manipulative games.
And above all, they need to embrace all the categories of the Scriptures, with the Scriptures’ balance and cohesion – including, what the Bible says about truth, human knowing and related matters. 22 The truth of Scripture allows us to take a stand or a position on any given subject without the need of consulting culture or even understanding it. The truth of Scripture is our foundation for truth itself. Jesus is the truth. His words are true. No other book contains the absolute truth about the beginnings of life and the end of life.
Relativities of Sin The other danger that the Emergent Church movement poses is if there is no absolute truth, then sin is also relative. This is dangerous because sin must be defined especially where the Bible speaks clearly and definitely. It would seem that the Emergent Church seeks to blur the lines of truth with regards to sin as to not offend anyone. McDermott confirms this when he writes, Brian McAllen, a post-conservative guru of “emerging” churches, does not want to identify his position on precisely the point at which moral orthodoxy is under siege today-gay unions. 3 There is unwillingness on the part of the Emerging Church movement to not want to openly call out sin where the Bible gives a clear mandate for the sake of numbers and inclusively. There appears to be reluctance on the part of Emergent to accept absolute truth. It would appear that they wrestle with the idea of absolute truth. Conclusion The Emergence Theology is difficult to understand, because the main question as the author Of this paper has explained is a question Of authority with regards to Biblical truth.
To say that culture and experience is what is important when it refers to truth is a difficult concept to accept. If the Church is going to be the Church then its authority must come from beyond itself. The Scriptures must be able to inform, teach, and educate us as to our way of living out the Gospel. Biblical truth is based on facts and evidence, not on experience. Experience is subjective and personal. Biblical truth is objective and not based on personal preference. The Church must stand on the truth f the Scriptures. Who determines what is right and wrong?