Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bashing Emergent

(for the sake of convenience I am using the two terms "Emerging" and "Emergent" as basically synonymous in this post, not something I would normally do)

It's just not fair for someone to demonize a movement before they even get around to discussing their issues with it. It'll come as no surprise to most of my readers that Calvary Chapel is not too open to the Emergent movement, a movement to which I am sympathetic, and that in itself is a huge understatement. The local Calvary Chapel here in town recently brought in a guest speaker who posed as an expert on the emergent movement. He came to inform everyone that there are "men" who "claim to be Christians" who have come as "false teachers" and that they are called the emerging church. I got a hold of the CD from that Sunday, I listened to it, and you can already hear in the first 30 seconds of his talk, that he's not there to give an objective explanation with pros and cons, rather he's there with strong bias against the movement. He's there to expose the emerging church as essentially evil without even allowing people to make their own decisions about it. His argument could be used in a speech class as a classic example of the "straw man" argument--he's building the emerging church into something it's not, something purely terrible, and something easier for him to argue against... because the truth is just too difficult.

What bothers me about this is not his criticism of or even his warning against the emerging church, it's his basic lack of respect for the intelligence of his audience and his subsequent lack of faith that people can handle the truth. By appealing to peoples fear and their love for scripture, he manipulates them into thinking that they either have to agree with him or disagree with God... which is quite sad if nothing else. He closed the sermon by basically telling the congregation to just stay away from the emerging church as though no more education is necessary and as though there is nothing good about it at all. Beware of this kind of thinking.

Fundamentalism is as dangerous as any heresy. Please, if someone tells you to simply stay away from something or someone without educating yourself about it, recognize that for what it is and please don't take this kind of paranoia and straw man bashing seriously.
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Here are the notes I wrote on the sermon. They are my raw and spontaneous reactions:

  • Introduction- They’re false teachers.
    • He begins by quoting 2 Peter 2:1 where it talks about false teachers. He already reveals his bias and he starts by building a straw man. He hasn’t even explained anything yet and he’s already using emotional language… this is manipulative at best.
  • People who are seeking to reinvent or reconstruct Christianity to make it more appealing.
    • From what I know, this is simply untrue. Where did he get that wording? The emerging church is changing the way we talk about Christianity and they’re trying to ask the questions of our culture (such as, “if truth is subjective how do I trust God?”) rather than those of the 15th century (such as, “how do I get to heaven when I die).
    • Need to change our methods and message… this is generally true.
    • Separating from other traditions and from Mega-church, aren’t they at least fulfilling another niche
  • “Submerging church”
    • Not modern reformation, modern apostasy. He plans on fleshing this out later.
  • Names—he even appeals to the New Testament to justify his naming names… if he was being fair to the people he was criticizing, he wouldn’t have to justify himself at all.
    • McLaren
    • Bell
    • Padgit
    • Burke
    • Jones
        • These are all very different men… he can’t lump them together so easily as he tries.
        • He spends a lot of time justifying himself and tearing them down before he even quotes them.
        • He says they contradict scripture before he even mentions their ideas.
  • Unchanging nature of Christian Doctrine…
    • He denies contextual theology (what about the reformation)
    • He takes Rob Bell and Brian McLaren out of context.
      • It’s about how we talk which is what theology is (words about God)
      • The message must change… did they talk about global warming in the first century… so should we shut up about it?
    • He quotes the Great Commission out of context in order to argue that the emerging church is not teaching what God commanded but this has nothing to do with contextual theology. Contextual theology asks, “how do we do and believe what God commanded in a new context?”
    • He says truth does not change…. This is incoherent to a post modern society, this is an example of why we need the emerging church.
  • Clarity of scripture
    • He claims that they don’t believe that the bible is God breathed without even quoting them on that issue.
      • He creates a false dichotomy between mystery and inspiration, between God breathed and contextual, between certainty and teaching.
      • Quotes Velvet Elvis and Missing the Point way out of context.
    • The emerging church goes over this guys head… they’re approaching context with honesty, he’s being dishonestly arrogant about the complexity of scripture.
    • He accuses the emerging church of proof-texting and not reading the bible enough. He’s quite condescending… what about God trying to kill Moses… not too clear is it?
      • He thinks God can fit into words this is disagreement not just with Bell but with St. Augustine along with many others.
      • He thinks the Bible is supposed to serve as a full description of who God is… this is idolatry in my book. Isn’t God bigger than our words?
    • Proof-texting Jesus Matthew 19—“have you not read?”
    • I am having trouble taking him seriously at this point.
  • Importance of inerrancy.
    • Defines inerrancy as “true in all that it teaches.”
      • This sounds like infallibility
    • Virgin birth questions raise a point that he never brings up… truth and myth. Rob is not claiming that it’s untrue, just that it’s importance does not lie in its’ historicity.
      • This has nothing to do with inerrancy
      • “we lose a savior”, this is based on post-reformation substitution atonement not purely biblical theology.
      • Doesn’t mean that the authors were deceivers (Is 7:14 says “young woman” not “virgin”) if the readers would have understood it as a sort of myth.
      • Jesus taken out of context to speak for inerrancy because he says it’s truth. Truth and inerrancy are not synonymous. Bad definition.
  • Gospel message under fire?
    • Leaders are “tampering with” the gospel.
      • He thinks he’s arrived at orthodoxy… arrogant.
      • He doesn’t understand contextual theology.
      • It’s more about how we talk about the gospel
      • Quotes McLaren with no context, we don’t even know what he was talking about.
    • Living the way of Jesus is the “social gospel” is not fair… because it’s trying to blend the pros of social gospel with the pros of evangelicalism
      • he’s being quite unfair.
    • Questioning hell…
      • Padgit is extreme within the emerging church.
        • He’s a inclusivist (Jesus still does the saving) which is historically within orthodoxy not a “universalist”
        • Takes Burke out of context.
      • He creates a false dichotomy between padgit’s view and Jesus’.
  • Homosexuality
    • He claims that the bible makes it “crystal clear” that homosexuality is wrong.
      • Context proves otherwise… it’s complex.
      • Openness to homosexuality is not exclusive to emerging church.
      • This is a different argument all together…
      • He’s not just arguing with the emerging church but with almost the whole mainline and anyone who is not a fundamentalist.
      • He doesn’t do any justice to the issue by simply saying “the bible tells me so”
    • He thinks that this is something essential to the emerging church
      • People within the movement strongly disagree on this issue.
  • Implementation of unbiblical spiritual practices
    • Contemplative prayer
      • Why is this not biblical
        • The monks have done this for a long time, this is historical church practice.
      • Not just an emerging church thing, he judging anyone who is less conservative than himself.
      • Not practiced in the bible? Neither is “quiet time” or reading devotionals…
    • Yoga
      • Once again… padgit is extreme
      • Deeply rooted in hinuism, does that mean it can’t be reclaimed by Christians if it’s good.
        • Shouldn’t we affirm something if it does good, claiming it as God’s truth.
      • Wouldn’t yoga in a church be different than in the secular world?
        • Can’t it be a good thing if it involves scripture.
    • Icons
      • Wait… really, he’s criticizing icons?
        • Now I can’t take him seriously, he writing off more than a century of church tradition, not just the emerging church.
        • This worries me…
      • He’s really paranoid isn’t he?
  • Anyone who agrees with them is not studying the bible… arrogant!
  • He ends by encouraging the congregation to stay away from these people... is that a good way to learn about something?
  • 6 comments:

    nate said...

    Who was the guest speaker?

    WES ELLIS said...

    Chuck Campbell

    nate said...

    Thanks...I've not heard of him.

    Greg said...

    Wes, I love your stuff. I know I already told you this, but I think you're the future of religion if it intends to survive into the 21st century. People are getting too smart, which is a good thing, to take such simple and definitive answers that traditional philosophies have to offer. I'm not personally a huge fan of religions for that very reason, but with you, I can at least listen without wanting to vomit!

    WES ELLIS said...

    That’s a huge compliment Greg! I am with you, religion makes me want to vomit most of the time too, especially when it becomes a weapon or a shield. Thanks and I hope you’ll keep reading.

    TheoPoet said...

    Thanks for posting this. Interesting stuff---I definitely agree with you religion and politics get in the way of authentic faith.