We do not need a generous orthodoxy, as some have claimed.
It is neither humble nor orthodox to undermine the inerrant, authoritative Word of God. We are weak. We are biased. We are sinful. We idolize ourselves.
Emerging Church Characteristics
And God has a powerful Word that stands over and above us. We must submit. Mark Dever has said it well:. Christian humility is to simply accept whatever God has revealed in His Word. The humility we want in our churches is to read the Bible and believe it—everything God has said, dogmatically, and humbly!
It is not humble to be hesitant where God has been clear and plain. If you read the EM writers, you will often hear them contend that the atonement is bigger than substitutionary atonement—the biblical idea that Christ acted as our substitute and graciously absorbed the wrath of God that we deserved. And the EM folks are right; there is more to the atonement than substitution.
The Bible also refers to the cross in terms of his example for us e. Yes, more happened on the cross than Christ bearing our sins and the wrath of his Father. The theory of penal substitution is the heart and soul of an evangelical view of the atonement. Nor am I claiming that penal substitution is emphasized in every piece of literature, or that every author articulates clearly penal substitution.
I am claiming that penal substitution functions as the anchor and foundation for all other dimensions of the atonement when the scriptures are considered as a canonical whole. I define penal substitution as follows: The Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son who offered himself willingly and gladly to satisfy his justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The riches of what God has accomplished in Christ for his people are not exhausted by penal substitution.
The multifaceted character of the atonement must be recognized to do justice the canonical witness.
Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the gospel. Perhaps their rhetoric and enthusiasm have led them astray and they will prove willing to reconsider their published judgments on these matters and embrace biblical truth more holistically than they have been doing in their most recent works. But if not, I cannot see how their own words constitute anything less than a drift toward abandoning the gospel itself.
As far as I can tell, Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke are the most influential leaders of the emerging movement in their respective countries. I would feel much less worried about the directions being taken by other emerging church leaders if these leaders would rise up and call McLaren and Chalke to account where they have clearly abandoned what the Bible actually says. Such matters cut to the very heart of our faith.
Is the wrath of God real? Did Christ go to the cross to absorb and remove the wrath of the Father? Was he our substitute—our sacrificial lamb? Many within emerging churches say that they believe truth exists, and that it is absolute. But many of them also say that such truth belongs to God, not us. We may have confidence that something is true, but we can never have certainty. So the question of truth is really a question about our knowledge of truth, our knowledge of right and wrong, and so forth.
I do appreciate the fact that emerging writers stress human fallenness on this particular point. During the Enlightenment, many people believed the process of obtaining knowledge was a fairly mechanical process, as if humans were computers. Plug in the correct information, and the correct analysis will pop out. EM advocates rightly point out that the process of gaining knowledge is much more complex, and that sinful human biases and perspectives color how we view the world.
I can have the latter without having the former. For example, I can know with certainty that God exists, and yet not have exhaustive knowledge about him. This distinction can be made in most areas of our lives, whether we are talking about my knowledge of my spouse, a country to which I have never traveled, football, or even my own personality.
- The Emerging Church, Part One!
- Navigation menu;
- Charting Living Waters;
- The Emerging Church, Part One | July 8, | Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly | PBS.
- Five Streams of the Emerging Church.
- Shattered Silence Volume 1 : Breaking Free!
But the EM perspective, like the worldview of postmodernism generally, uses the lack of comprehensive knowledge to undermine the ability to have confidence or certainty. Scripture clearly teaches that humans are fallible, mixed in their motives, and partial in their knowledge. At the same time, Scripture unashamedly describes humans as capable of knowing the truth. It even portrays doubt as a negative characteristic at times. I wonder if you have noticed this pattern: in the places where Western culture is critical of traditional evangelical Christianity, so—often—are the emergents.
Take, for example, the issue of homosexuality. Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. There is a time for charity and a time for deference. But there is also a time for straight-speak. What McLaren says here is foolish. I am not simply calling him names. I am drawing on the language of folly in Proverbs and elsewhere to offer you my measured biblical assessment. The Bible says many things, and some topics are clearer than other topics. Its teaching on homosexuality, however, is clear. It may not be popular, but it is not ambiguous.
The Bible also commends the idea of seeking truth and understanding e. Do these concerns apply to every church that is considered an emerging church? Absolutely not. But they do apply to a number of the most prominent leaders and popular churches. I believe that much of the criticism against emerging churches would be quelled if those from within the movement arose and spoke clearly about these crucial issues, and criticized the abandoning of such central Scriptural matters.
In other words, humility does not mean hating yourself and believing that everything you do is wrong. Rather, humility means being confident in—and looking to—God and his grandeur and greatness. It means submitting yourself to his word and his ways. As indicated earlier in this article, we must commit to a stance of humble orthodoxy, understanding that true humility should lead us deeper into orthodoxy, that orthodoxy should have a humbling effect on our souls, and that we must speak the truth orthodoxy in love humbly.
In the New Testament, it is a non-negotiable that Christians love one another and express their affection. Now when most guys in the United States get together, there may be handshakes or hugs or high-fives—but no smooches. Are they disobeying Scripture? Let me give some other examples. The lunch is ready, and everyone pulls up their chair to the table.
What would you think? You might wonder if your pastor is doing okay spiritually? You might wonder why he was so dishonoring to God. Now I think praying before meals is a great idea. But we should recognize that the Bible does not command us to pray before each meal. There are lots of things like this: praying with your eyes closed, having a quiet time first thing in the morning, singing only hymns, having pews in your church, a pastor wearing a coat and tie, and so on.
Paul discussed the relationship between unchanging truth and changing culture in 1 Corinthians For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ , that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. We must never compromise—but we must accommodate. What are those things in our lives, in our ministries, in our churches that have more to do with cultural Christianity than they do with eternal, unchanging truth? Our great danger in the Western church comes when we refuse to accommodate the non-essentials in the name of not compromising.
Contextualization has become a buzz word. By confessional I mean that we should affirm and confess the historic teachings recovered during the Reformation. We need to remember that we are bound by the Word of God to speak the truth in love Eph. And of course, the converse is true as well.
There are those who are so concerned about speaking in love that they never get around to speaking truth. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. I want to close with a couple of quotes from pastors wiser than myself. Taken together, the two books constitute a clarion call to the evangelical church in America, as it adapts to its marginalized status in post-modern culture.
If I want a Christianity that is authentic, real, textured, and alive, can I possibly have that within the narrow constraints of a structured system of doctrine? A pastor should know his congregation, and a Christian should know his non-Christian friend, so they both can exercise wisdom and sensitivity in communicating the gospel.
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