Posts Tagged ‘Emerging Church’

No, this is not my autobiography about my leaving the Roman Catholic Church.  This is a highly recommended book by David Wells.  The Courage to be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern is his latest in a series that includes No Place for Truth, God in the Wasteland and Above All Earthly Pow’rs.  It came recommended by a pastor friend (who promised to buy the book from me if I didn’t like it).

I read the first 2 books years ago while in seminary, and just after graduating.  This book is a summary of all 3 that extends beyond them to take into account all that his happened since he began writing these books well over a decade ago.

Time Magazine said “A stinging indictment of evangelicalism’s theological corruption.”  Ironically Christianity Today (which takes some abuse in this book) said, “Can serve as a catalyst for evangelical self-examination.”

I must admit, that though I often agreed with him early on I was often thinking “yeah, so what else is new?”  I found much of it merely critical (hold onto that thought).  At times I found it confusing, but I think he cleared up my confusion.  It was in the early stages of the book that I found myself wondering “is there an appropriate cultural engagement?”  I actually wrote on the bottom of a page “Is there a difference (in his mind) between giving in to consumerism and legitimate adjustments to culture?”  I think he tried to spell that out in the latter chapters of the book.

He argues, rightly I think, that Evangelicalism is in dire straits today.  The reason for this is the abandonment of theology.  First there was an abadonment of theology at the hand of the marketers who thought the way to save the church was to get rid of its “churchiness”.  Part of what they often did was dumb-down theology.  The Reveal Study revealed that Willow Creek and other church growth churches were not actually producing disciples who could sustain and extend the kingdom.  Truth also suffered at the hands of consumerism.  It was turned into a product to be consumed, rather than a life-transforming truth to be believed.

“No one should take issue with a church for being sensitive to outsiders.  On the contrary, this is simply about being considerate.  Every church should put itself in the shoes of an outsider who visits for the first time, who knows nothing about Christian faith, and who is introduced to it in this first visit.”

I served my 9 years of ministry in a community beset with consumerism.  It was a plagued churches.  People were not concerned with the truthfulness and application of truth.  They were focused on consuming- did they have the music I like, the programs I need?  It made ministry very difficult.  We tried to be “seeker sensitive”, particularly after I watched visitors unable to keep up as we shifted between the hymnal, chorus book and Order of Worship in a losing attempt to keep up.


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In the final chapter of Confessions of a Reformission Rev., Mark Driscoll addresses the future.

He notes a conversation with Larry Osborne at a Leadership Network conference.  Larry redirected the conversation to family and kids.  Here was a guy who “got it”, and Mark needed the reminder.

It is awesome to come home from the office and spend time with my wife and little girl (ask me about this when she is a teen).  It reminds me that the Great Commission begins at home, and there is more to life than vocational ministry.  I get to laugh… and that’s kind of important to mental health.

But what happens when she gets older?  Do we shelter her from the bad aspects of church life?  Or do we integrate her with ministry life?  I’d like to bring her to hospital visits to develop a compassion for the hurting (and not feel as awkward as I do in there), deathbeds excepted perhaps.


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Piper’s The Swans are Not Silent series continues with book 4, Contending for Our All.  I thoroughly enjoy this series since it combines history and theology applied to our contemporary context.  I was going to review this book as a whole, but after reading the section on Athanasius, I just couldn’t do it justice that way.

Athanasius is one of those intriguing figures from history.  It was great to learn abit more about him and his life.  I can see now why the desert fathers were so dear to him.  Piper gives a good look into his life as a churchman, and a suffering one at that.  But then he applies lessons learned from Athanasius to our contemporary context, and this is well worth the price of the book itself.

“If something is worth fighting for, it is worth rejoicing over.  And the joy is essential to the battle, for nothing is worth fighting for that will not increase our everlasting joy in perspective.”  THAT is a great quote, well worth remembering as we contemplate contending for truth.

“Loving Christ includes loving true propositions about Christ.”  He compares the de-emphasis of doctrine and propositional statements among the more liberal elements of the church modern and postmodern with the tactics of the Arians.  Without propositions we do not know who this Christ we speak of is.  Without propositions, we do not know who this Jesus we trust is.  Without propositions, we do not know who this Jesus we suffer for is.  And if we do not know who He is, why do we proclaim Him, trust Him and suffer for Him.  Christianity is more than mere propositions, but it is not less either.

“Biblical language must be vigorously protected with non-biblical language.”  Arius and his followers used biblical language.  The real question was about what that biblical language meant.  We must be able to ask people what they mean- and expect them to answer us- on important questions.  Piper pressed this home, again, with the more radical elements of the emerging church.

But Piper also addressed the “seeker” models of church growth.  As pastors we do need to be indigenous (all things to all men), but we cannot stop there.  We are also a pilgrim people and need to create new categories of thought and truth in the minds of our hearers.  People’s minds need to be renewed so their lives can be transformed.  We necessarily have to speak of things they may not get, at first.  Real church growth is not through compromise (see my posts on Sinclair Ferguson’s sermons) but contending for the truth with clarity- winsome clarity.  More pastors and elders need to read this chapter.

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I finished DA Carson’s book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church.  As always I find him thought-provoking and his analysis penetrating.  There will be a review of the book on the other page (along with Powlison’s Seeing With New Eyes).

Here are Carson’s main complaints, which I cannot deny.

1. Their critique of modernism is superficial.  It is quite reductionistic.  There are problems with modernism, and they have distorted the church’s view of itself and its mission.  But it was not all bad.

2. Their analysis of postmodernism is superficial.  They focus on it effects, not one the fundamentally flawed theory of knowledge.  They push us into a false antithesis which undercuts the notion of truth.

3. Their most vocal spokespeople are doctrinally fuzzy at best, and heretical at worst (the last part is my assessment).  I’m thinking that if you deny the substitutionary atonement, you have missed the essence of Christianity.  You have substituted another religion in its place.  Sorta like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  McLaren, for one, has done this.

So, while I have great sympathies for the Emerging Church, I can’t buy into it.  I agree with many of their critiques of contemporary Christianity (though not all).  I share many of their longings for authentic community where lives are transformed and we aren’t afraid of the past.  But I can’t go all the way.  This makes me sad.  Not because I want to be all trendy.  But this hope for a more authentic church is currently mired in trendy worship, fuzzy/heretical teaching and is just as much captive to culture as the contemporary/modernist churches they despise.  It is the product more of their biases than biblical teaching.

[originally from my previous blog]

Update: Carson is primarily critiquing the Emergent Church which is the most radical of the Emerging Churches.  He is actually quite influential among what Mark Driscoll calls the Relevants.

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