05 August 2006

Why "the Emerging Conversation" is going nowhere

by Phil Johnson
Updated Saturday Noon (see below)




imply put, the so-called "Emerging Church" has no way to fend off heresy. The movement itself grew out of postmodern presuppositions about truth and assurance that make any kind of vigorous, biblical defense of the faith impossible.

Scan the Emerging neighborhoods in the blogosphere, and you'll see profoundly disturbing doctrinal notions being floated more frequently and more brashly. Here are three samples:

  • Pelagius redux. John O'Keefe explains why he can't stomach the doctrine of original sin: "When we start with the fall we never pick ourselves up." Of course, Christianity has never been about "pick[ing] ourselves up." In fact, the gospel message points 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

  • Socinus redux. In an excerpt from his new book promoting a home-brew brand of universalism, Spencer Burke (creator of "The Ooze") writes: "I want to explore what it means to move beyond religion—particularly Christianity." The excerpt is fittingly titled, "Who wants to be a heretic?" Commenter number 3 in the thread writes, "I wanna be a heretic!! yeah yeah yeah."

  • Derrida redux. At "Out of Ur," David Fitch begins a series of diatribes against expository preaching by declaring: "The historical-critical method in the hands of individuals has not yielded a singular meaning as 'intended by the author' in over 100 years."

    The main problem with the dominant Emerging approach to dialogue, debate, Christian fellowship, and truth itself is this: the ground rules for the conversation apparently rule out ever identifying any ideas as heresy (except in the way Spencer Burke employs the term: either in jest, or with a tone of smug arrogance.)

    The problem is obvious in Scot McKnight's review of Burke's book. McKnight recognizes several serious errors underlying Burke's universalism. But he can't seem to bring himself to recognize that Burke's views are not even legitimately Christian ideas.

    In fact, McKnight's review commences with this: "To begin with, I simply don’t like that he chooses the term heretic to describe himself." McKnight then argues that in order to qualify as a heretic, a person would have to deny the ancient ecumenical creeds. "And it can almost be reduced to the doctrine of the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit)," McKnight says.

    But even on that count, McKnight is forced to give a less-than-ringing endorsement to Spencer Burke: "As I read this book, I’m not sure that he has denied the Trinity. . . "

    It seems no Emerging Conversationalist who really wants to fit in would ever dream of pronouncing any anathemas on another Emerging person's beliefs. In fact, anathemas in the Emerging subculture are generally reserved for people who think they have epistemological justification to be certain of anything. Thus in effect, every Christian doctrine is on the table for discussion and fair game for skepticism or outright denial.

    Yes, I realize that Mark Driscoll might seem to be a rather conspicuous exception to that rule, but 1) he clearly isn't trying to "fit in" with the Emergents—a fact I greatly appreciate; 2) his plainspokenness has already relegated him to the outer periphery of the "conversation"; and 3) the larger Emerging movement is clearly not going to follow Driscoll's lead.

    Some conversations simply aren't worth joining. Sometimes we just need to contend earnestly for the faith. In fact, some people's mouths really do need to be stopped (Titus 1:10-11).

    I'm not proposing that we literally bust out the meat chubs and go to work against the Emergent heretics. But I do think it's time to stop all the gratuitous deferential language and drop the pretense of being "brothers and sisters" to people who profess to be Christians while rejecting Christ's exclusivity and doubting or denying other essential tenets of gospel truth.




    A Coda for Roger
    Why I don't necessarily accept Mark Driscoll's taxonomy of Emerging Christianity


    oger Overton at the A-Team blog finds "a number of problems" with the above post. He doesn't enumerate those problems but says my foundational error lies in a failure to distinguish Emergent and Emerging the way he does.

    Short answer: I agree, and have said so repeatedly, that Emerging and Emergent shouldn't be used synonymously. I didn't do that. What I did do was treat Emergent as a major, influential element in the "Emerging conversation," which it is. (It sometimes seems to be the most influential segment of the larger movement.)

    I do realize, of course, that there is a world of difference between McLaren and Driscoll, and I have made that point at every opportunity, too.

    But it's premature and ill-advised to try to spin the Emergents off and pretend they constitute a whole separate movement with absolutely no relationship to the larger "Emerging Conversation." Even Driscoll doesn't try to do that (though we could hardly blame him for wanting to).

    Apparently, some in the American evangelical mainstream would like to cede the expression "Emergent" to McLaren's universalist/Socinian/liberal wing of the "missional" movement, and reserve the word "Emerging" for people who are more or less evangelical. (As if it were suddenly possible to make such a neat dichotomy in a movement that has always been deliberately amorphous.)

    Evangelicals would like that, because it gives them a way to make their analysis of the Emerging Conversation mostly positive. (Evangelicals love to make positive evaluations of religious fads.) Trendy evangelicals could even climb on the "Emerging" bandwagon without the need for any vigorous analysis and discernment. They could pretend they are able to make certain pragmatic concessions to postmodernism without seriously compromising sound doctrine, and go right on with business as usual—in essence adopting postmodernism as the Next Thing in a long string of worldly fads evangelcals have mindlessly embraced.

    Driscoll himself would certainly like to define the term Emerging in a way that sets him as far apart from Emergent as possible, for obvious reasons. That's not meant as a criticism. Just the opposite. I'm glad he doesn't want to be associated with the various strains of Emergent Socinianism. For the umpteenth time, I'm not trying to paint him with that broad brush.

    But Driscoll's own explanation of the "Emerging/Emergent" divide and the various styles of "Emerging" Christianity glosses over the fact that most in the middle—those in the "Emerging" (not Emergent) community—are just about equally uncomfortable with McLaren's Socinianism and Driscoll's quasi-fundamentalism.

    (Incidentally, I would suggest that Andrew Jones at Tall Skinny Kiwi is actually a more fitting figurehead for the mainstream "Emerging" culture than Mark Driscoll is.)

    Those multitudes in the middle, I believe, represent the true mainstream of the Emergent Conversation. They are probably the rightful claimants to the term Emerging. And very few (if any) of them are as willing as Driscoll is to call heresy what it is, or to contend earnestly for historic evangelical distinctives. Driscoll's characterization of these mainstream multitudes as "basically evangelical" is overly optimistic in the extreme.

    And Driscoll's dream that "Reformed" doctrine can be successfully blended with postmodern epistemologies and/or dialectical methodologies is likewise hopelessly naïve, in my estimation.

    There's more I could say about this, but here's the point: It seems to me there's a heavy dose of "spin" in Mark Driscoll's taxonomy of Emerging Christianity, and it's a serious mistake for critics of the movement to adopt Mark Driscoll's or Ed Stetzer's perspectives on this issue blithely or uncritically as if these guys have given us the definitive and canonical insiders' explanation of how the movement breaks down.

    It's an even greater mistake to imagine that the movement as a whole might ever go in the direction Driscoll is leading.

    By the way, I have addressed Roger Overton's objection in several places, most recently right in the meta of this post.

    I realize comments often go unnoticed. (I rarely read comments on other blogs myself.) So because the point Roger makes is an important one, and since I've already addressed it, I'm bringing the following remarks up out of the meta:

    Scott asks: "is there not a distinction between what is now being called the 'Emergent' church (McLaren's type of postmodern, washed up, muddy theology) and that of Driscoll's 'Emerging'"?

    We'll see. Longtime readers of my blog will note that I have always refrained from either affirming or condemning Driscoll on doctrinal grounds. (In fact, don't believe I have ever posted criticism of any kind aimed specifically at Driscoll. Search and see.)

    Driscoll started at the center of the Emerging movement and was one of its dominant figures. But as the movement has grown and drifted, he has been moved by default more and more to the periphery. These days, he is a huge problem and an embarrassment to most other Emerging leaders because of his willingness to speak plainly—and I greatly respect and appreciate that about him.

    But at the moment, I think any attempt to make a hard-line distinction between the "conservative" minority and the Socinian mainstream in the Emerging Conversation is the product of Mark Driscoll's wishful thinking more than it is a reflection of reality.

    (Incidentally, "conservative" in the Emerging Conversation is obviously a relative term. I'm using it as a kind of shorthand, not because I think it's a suitable descriptor for Driscollism. Driscoll is really a kind of neo-con, not a true conservative.)

    Anyway, the distinction Driscoll wants to make between "Emerging" and "Emergent" stems from the fact that McLaren's branch of the movement formally organized themselves, appointed Tony Jones as "national coordinator" and co-opted "Emergent" as their official name. Emergent is now the name of a formal organization. "Emerging" is still the common descriptor for all postmodern ways of doing church.

    Driscoll would like to co-opt the word "Emerging" for conservatives the way Jones and McLaren co-opted "Emergent" for the Socinians. But Driscoll is not going to be able to do that. In fact, Emergent is still one of the dominant strains in the "Emerging Conversation." And most in the conversation (Emergent or otherwise) regard Driscoll's outspokenness about his own doctrinal scruples as divisive.

    Obviously, I like some things about Driscoll, but I am by no means prepared to make an endorsement of his whole approach to ministry. There are still a number of things about his style that greatly trouble (and offend) me. I think most of the postmodern presuppositions underlying "missional" approaches to ministry are dead wrong—and that criticism applies even to the most "conservative" Emerging communities, including Driscoll's. Their desire to translate the gospel into pomo-speak is the very thing that has opened the door to the heresies Driscoll rightly deplores.

    I'm going to wait to see how the Emergent-Emerging tug-of-war plays out before I say any more about Driscoll one way or another. It may not be long before the whole thing blows sky-high. If Driscoll's doctrinal scruples are as strong as they appear to be, he should renounce not only the left wing "Emergent" approach but also the Emerging mindset itself. I hope he will do that. Unfortunately, church history is full of people who let pragmatic concerns trump their doctrinal scruples, so I don't really expect that he will do that.

    But (and here is the main point): I don't see any way Driscoll will be able to contend for the faith from within the framework of a missional-postmodern-emerging philosophy, because at the end of the day, you simply cannot defend the doctrines Driscoll wants to defend and translate your message into postmodern parlance at the same time.

    That's why I'm not going to bend over backward to let Driscoll off the hook every time I point out some heresy that is festering within the movement he helped engineer.

    Phil's signature

  • 106 comments:

    BReformed said...

    Amen! Those last two paragraphs are gems!

    candleman said...

    Great post Phil,

    My opinion of the EC movement changed from one of exploring and delving into what it was all about to one of deep concern, when I listened to this podcast of McLaren at Bleeding Purple, where the interviewer was greatly challenging the concept of hell and eternal damnation, and Brian’s response was severely lacking in my opinion. It is one thing to be empathetic to someone’s spiritual concerns about these issues, it is quite another to be a pastor and listen to concerns raised and not set them straight from a biblical point of view, after hearing them out.


    {{{Candleman}}}

    Martin Downes said...

    Phil,

    I think Scot McKnight is well aware of where Spencer Burke is headed, and has picked him up on his abysmal interpretation of John 14:6. Since Scot is a friend of Emergent his critique of Spencer's exegesis is the strongest in-house critique that I have read (it's in part 2 of his review of the book). I think he's well aware that Spencer is moving on from NT Christianity because he is ashamed of the scandal of particularity. He hasn't said that on his blog yet but he knows it I'm sure.

    On the Socinian front I am quite convinced that Faustus Socinus is inadvertently the most influential figure in Western evangelicalism today. I have a post on my blog on the revenge of the Socinians. (http://against-heresies.blogspot.com/)

    I'm reading H. J. McLachlan on the history of Socinianism in 17th century England. There are so many affinities and parallels with sub-groups in the evangelical world today. EV reminds me of the Oxford rationalists with their views of doctrine and tolerance. They may not have been Socinians but they were seeking to foster an environment where such doctrinal differences were tolerated.

    Stephen Newell said...

    At the risk of sounding fanboyish, thou hast laideth the smacketh downeth. I agree with candleman, the more I delve into EC reading, the more bewildered, concerned, and flat-out horrified I become.

    Libbie said...

    yup.

    Gordon Cloud said...

    Amen and Amen!

    centuri0n said...

    As I began the post, I was thinking, "Phil's about to pull out the rhetorical and proverbial meat chub here," and lo and behold, he did.

    You know: I share the concern that preaching in the last 100 years has taken a nose-dive -- but the problem is that the hist-crit method has been abused so much by so many that you can't blame the method for the result: you have to blame the methodizers.

    Ah, shoot. Phil's said it all anyway. Good post.

    Taliesin said...

    There are certain doctrines on which we as Christ's church can allow no compromise if we are to be faithful soldiers for the kingdom. As Luther wrote: If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle front besides is mere flight and disgrace - if he flinches at that point.

    Phil, thanks for being a loyal soldier, both on justification and these errors coming out of the emergent conversation. Like Paul in Galatians, we must see attacks on the essentials of the gospel as an being worthy of the strongest condemnation.

    Steve said...

    Frank said, "the problem is that the hist-crit method has been abused so much by so many that you can't blame the method for the result: you have to blame the methodizers."

    That's a succinct way of saying it, Frank. Thanks for adding that.

    As for the Emerging Conversation--over the last couple weeks I've had concerned believers ask me about good books to read on the subject. Thus far I've pointed them to D.A. Carson's book and Smith's New Kind of Christian (I've read Carson's and not Smith's--the latter I suggested only because it was featured on Carla's Emergent No). Any of you Pryos aware of anything newer and particularly good for lay-level believers?

    vandermeulen said...

    Sadly, everyone knows that there is only one heretic left in the church - that is the person who still believes that there are heretics and/or heresy!

    Sadly, Phil (or anyone who points out the heresy of another "believer") will be viewed more poorly than the one who denies the Trinity or teaches Universalism. Its wrong to be orthodox. It has become spiritual to be heterodox.

    Thanks Phil for your article - keep it coming!

    Caleb Kolstad said...

    Well said! Thanks for this...

    KP said...

    What enjoyable reading to accompany my Saturday morning coffee. Thanks for saying what so desperately needs to be said, Phil.

    One of the tactics that many in the EC movement have used so effectively is to couch their doubt and skepticism in terms of the virtue of humility. The church is increasingly in need of those who through their words and lives demonstrate that certainty, conviction, and humility are not necessarily incompatible.

    wordsmith said...

    The more this movement pupates, the more we'll see of heresy and tolerance of everything except truth. Just imagine what the adult creature will be like when it finally emerges from its cocoon.

    mjbeasley said...

    In this genteel culture of ours it simply isn't "nice" to call apostate doctrine heresy, in much the same way that it isn't nice to call Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

    Scott said...

    Hi Phil, first time comment-er...

    I agree whole-heartedly, but is there not a distinction between what is now being called the "Emergent" church (McLaren's type of postmodern, washed up, muddy theology) and that of Driscoll's "Emerging"(whom I saw you note well of)?

    The reason I ask is because Driscoll made a clear distinction on a podcast entitled, "Emerging vs. Emergent" to prepare for his conference with John Piper.

    Driscoll seems to hold to their being "4 teams" within the Emerging/Emergent conversation (confusing, yes, I know, haha), but under close speculation, the terrifying theology that is being preached seems to go to the "Emergent" (yep, "ent" instead of "ing") church which seems to be caught up in redefining the lines in such crucial doctrines as substitutionary atonment, the authority of Scripture, original sin, etc.

    To conclude, I definitely agree with where you are coming from with the lack of substance amongst this postmodern movement among much of the youth of America (being a senior in high school, I am daily challenged by other youth who seem to desire this postmodern tragedy over what Scripture truly teaches), yet at the same time I think that when it comes down to it, we need to take a close look at the Emerging conversation as a whole and truly define what is what.

    -Scott

    Phil Johnson said...

    Martin Downes: "I am quite convinced that Faustus Socinus is inadvertently the most influential figure in Western evangelicalism today. I have a post on my blog on the revenge of the Socinians. (http://against-heresies.blogspot.com/)"

    Well said! I shall bookmark your blog immediately. In fact, I might blogroll you.

    Here's an addendum to your excellent comment: The long shadow of Peter Abelard hovers over Socinus and his spiritual heirs, too. There's really nothing new at all about the Emergent spirit. It's an agglomeration of old-style heresies whose advocates have found a way to seem remarkably "relevant" by adopting the mantle of postmodern epistemological agnosticism.

    Jared Wall said...

    Great post Phil!

    I have been following the emergent movement for a while and have the good pleasure of studying its counterpart first hand in graduate school. Unfortunately, their isn't much difference between the seccular pomo's and those in the church.

    For the person who asked about books. 1)Truth and the New Kind of Christian
    2) Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World by David Wells

    Both were strong books on the subject.

    Martin Downes said...

    Phil,

    Thanks. I have been doing some research on Socinianism with the help of the Evangelical Library in London. It's a heady brew of antitrinitarianism, open theism, annihilationism, rationalism, and of course a flat out denial of penal substitutionary atonement. Socinus is not, I'm sure, being read by postconservatives but they are publishing and blogging his theology.

    John Owen was commissioned by the English Parliament to respond to Socinianism (those were the days).

    Even Archbishop William Laud (no friend of the gospel) feared the influence of the Socinians.

    Jon from Reidville, SC said...

    "Some conversations simply aren't worth joining. Sometimes we just need to contend earnestly for the faith. In fact, some people's mouths really do need to be stopped (Titus 1:10-11)."

    Ahh, Phil, you risk sounding like a full-blown, card-carrying fundy saying things like this!

    Good article. I think we have to be quick to call a lot of garbage that is floating around what it is: heresy.

    Phil Johnson said...

    Scott: "is there not a distinction between what is now being called the 'Emergent' church (McLaren's type of postmodern, washed up, muddy theology) and that of Driscoll's 'Emerging'"?

    Welcome.

    In answer to your question: We'll see. Longtime readers of my blog will note that I have always refrained from either affirming or condemning Driscoll on doctrinal grounds. (In fact, don't believe I have ever posted criticism of any kind aimed specifically at Driscoll. Search and see.)

    Driscoll started at the center of the Emerging movement and was one of its dominant figures. But as the movement has grown and drifted, he has been moved by default more and more to the periphery. These days, he is a huge problem and an embarrassment to most other Emerging leaders because of his willingness to speak plainly—and I greatly respect and appreciate that about him.

    But at the moment, I think any attempt to make a hard-line distinction between the "conservative" minority and the Socinian mainstream in the Emerging Conversation is the product of Mark Driscoll's wishful thinking more than it is a reflection of reality.

    (Incidentally, "conservative" in the Emerging Conversation is obviously a relative term. I'm using it as a kind of shorthand, not because I think it's a suitable descriptor for Driscollism. Driscoll is really a kind of neo-con, not a true conservative.)

    Anyway, the distinction Driscoll wants to make between "Emerging" and "Emergent" stems from the fact that McLaren's branch of the movement formally organized themselves, appointed Tony Jones as "national coordinator" and co-opted "Emergent" as their official name. Emergent is now the name of a formal organization. "Emerging" is still the common descriptor for all postmodern ways of doing church.

    Driscoll would like to co-opt the word "Emerging" for conservatives the way Jones and McLaren co-opted "Emergent" for the Socinians. But Driscoll is not going to be able to do that. In fact, Emergent is still one of the dominant strains in the "Emerging Conversation." And most in the conversation (Emergent or otherwise) regard Driscoll's outspokenness about his own doctrinal scruples as divisive.

    Obviously, I like some things about Driscoll, but I am by no means prepared to make an endorsement of his whole approach to ministry. There are still a number of things about his style that greatly trouble (and offend) me. I think most of the postmodern presuppositions underlying "missional" approaches to ministry are dead wrong—and that criticism applies even to the most "conservative" Emerging communities, including Driscoll's. Their desire to translate the gospel into pomo-speak is the very thing that has opened the door to the heresies Driscoll rightly deplores.

    I'm going to wait to see how the Emergent-Emerging tug-of-war plays out before I say any more about Driscoll one way or another. It may not be long before the whole thing blows sky-high. If Driscoll's doctrinal scruples are as strong as they appear to be, he should renounce not only the left wing "Emergent" approach but also the Emerging mindset itself. I hope he will do that. Unfortunately, church history is full of people who let pragmatic concerns trump their doctrinal scruples, so I don't really expect that he will do that.

    But (and here is the main point): I don't see any way Driscoll will be able to contend for the faith from within the framework of a missional-postmodern-emerging philosophy, because at the end of the day, you simply cannot defend the doctrines Driscoll wants to defend and translate your message into postmodern parlance at the same time.

    That's why I'm not going to bend over backward to let Driscoll off the hook every time I point out some heresy that is festering within the movement he helped engineer.

    Hope that helps.

    (I think this is where the Blue Raja shows up to try to set me straight.)

    TheBlueRaja said...

    Instead of bemoaning the existence of a "conversation" among those who are troubled, upset or by traditional Christian doctrines, why not try to be persuasive and winsome instead? It's entirely possible to begin with where someone happens to be (i.e. semi-pelagianism, postmodern, wherever) and patiently listen, instruct, correct and encourage them in front of an open Bible.

    It's not likely to happen, however, if it begins with rolling one's eyes and snorting, "Of course, that's heresy, you idiot!". Those who (theoretically, anyway) have all the resources available to helpfully interact with a person of the views you decried in this post seem to be frustrated before they even begin.

    You're not exactly a "regular" commenter at McKnight's blog, the Generous Orthodoxy Thinktank or the Ooze. ;)

    I'm not immediately sure what one should make of those who opine that "these people never listen". What would you say to a married person who straggled into your office complaining that her spouse "never listened" or that working out their "irreconcilable differences" just wasn't worth trying - after all (much like Pelagianism, Socinianism, and (post/late)modernism), they've fought over all these things before and the issues still keep coming up. The bonehead just doesn't seem to get it. What's the point of continuing with the marriage?

    If "ground rules" consist of someone admitting they're guilty of sinning in their views from the very beginning (or very shortly thereafter), there'd never be any reason to interact with anyone who has passionate views about anything. If the "conversation" is about "what is essential christianity?", then asking someone to "rule out" certain doctrines as heresy from the get-go is ending the conversation before it starts.

    So the real question is, "Is such a conversation only allowed among those who already largely agree on what is essential Christianity?" and if the answer is "yes", what's the point of that (beyond self-affirmation)? If it's "no", than perhaps the singularly "contentious" model of interaction you're advocating might not be consistent.

    No doubt that, in some circumstances, offending mouths must simply be stopped - but I think people are in danger of laziness (at best) when they pull out the "irreoncilable differences" card before there's ever a serious attempt to be persuasive (2 Tim. 2:24-25). I think we'd both agree that there's far too much haughty and dismissive snark on the blogosphere (including, of course, my own contributions).

    TheBlueRaja said...

    Are you straight yet?

    ;)

    You're welcome.

    Scott Hill said...

    Phil you are right. I will make sure that in my next posts on the emergents I remove all pretense. I have been too accomodating in my past emergent posts, and it is time to call it what it is.

    Karen said...

    Methinks real Christians are rare.

    Those people are worst than confused though. They are playing with fire in blatantly attacking the truth.

    When I wasn't a Christian I had nothing to do whatsoever with Christianity and theology and what not. Just unconscious to it all, or indifferent. I say this because their excuse can't just be that they are young, or something like that.

    Scott Hill said...

    I think most of the postmodern presuppositions underlying "missional" approaches to ministry are dead wrong—and that criticism applies even to the most "conservative"

    Are we going to see a post on that anytime soon?

    mjbeasley said...

    It is important that we refrain from a haughty approach when correcting and rebuking error - this is a valuable charge for everyong; however, is it not the case that when the core doctrines of Christianity are under attack that we should refrain from a genteelism which belies the seriousness of the occassion? The errorists in the church at Philippi probably didn't like Paul's "conversation" with them when he declared to the church that "many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction." These errorists, along with their degradation of the doctrine of justification by faith (Phil 3:1-16), was met with a response that matched the value of the doctrine that was opposed. Such a confrontation was necessary for the sake of those in error, as well as for those who were inclined to follow them in their error. I would suggest here that the absence of holy rebukes against any errorist is an implicit denial of the importance of the very doctrines that are being challenged. Many of the errorists of the modern day are not neophites - many of them are well read and highly educated men who have a higher accountability in view of their training and ministry responsibilities.

    Taliesin said...

    Phil: I second Scott Hill's question/implicit request (Are we going to see a post on that anytime soon?). Having listened to Driscoll (a fair amount)and Ed Stetzer (a little), I've started reading Ed Stetzer's Breaking the Missional Code. So far I have found little with which I disagree in this approach.

    Sometimes Driscoll crosses lines I don't think he should have crossed, but I can say that about virtually anyone, including (especially) myself. I also don't find any systemtic problems in his approach, just some specifics. But perhaps I've not yet run across what concerns you (or perhaps we have different concerns).

    Pastor Beasley: I concur. There is also strong condemnation by Paul in Galatians 5:12. If we had not caught on prior to that in Galatians, at that point we understand how serious Paul is about this particular error.

    Martin Downes said...

    Blueraja,

    I appreciate that in the NT the response to error is nuanced. It makes a big difference whether or not we are teachable (as Apollos was) and are sincerely misinterpreting the text (and/or ignorant about some aspect of the truth). Or whether the embracing of error has been intelligently thought through and is deliberate.

    Added to this is the plain fact that we should expect error to dress up and speak like Christian truth. We do see NT cases of revelation being subsumed by an alien worldview and the church & gospel being body snatched (as in Corinth so in European liberalism).

    There has to be room though for Paul's responses to the Galatian and Colossian false teachers as well. I'm sure that it is possible to be strong on condemning error and yet to be humble at the point of assessing the reasons for our own right understanding--at the same time. Whether we are guilty of pride in our own orthodoxy is a matter to search our own hearts about. It isn't something that we can read off automatically and infallibly whenever we see someone get rightly angry because of destructive heresies.

    Two of the wisest pieces of writing on how to handle ourselves in controversy that I have read are by John Newton and Roger Nicole. I wish I could turn back the clock on some conversations and follow their advice.

    wulffenstein said...

    Could you clarify what you mean by this . . .
    at the end of the day, you simply cannot defend the doctrines Driscoll wants to defend and translate your message into postmodern parlance at the same time.

    If sounds as if you are arguing against any kind of contextualization. Is that the case or are you saying that we can't borrow categories from postmodernism and "christianize" them.

    Phil Johnson said...

    The following post had an URL that was too long for the template, and it was messing up the way the blog displayed. So I deleted the post and changed the URL to a hyperlink. It's reposted here. Though it's out of order, I retained the original timestamp:

    _______________________

    AuthenticTruth:

    Good Post.

    What is amazing is that there are those in the broader “emerging” movement who claim that they are not a part of Emergent (the newly formed organization) and are somehow distinctly different. But they will also quickly come to the defense of guys like McLaren and support his teaching.

    That the Emergent organization is very influential to the whole emerging conversation is clearly evident on their newly updated website, “Emergent Village” on their “About” page under the heading “Organization”. Here they explicitly state that “we in Emergent Village endeavor to fund the theological imaginations and spiritual lives of all who consider themselves a part of this broader movement.” I did a post on this on my blog on Thursday.

    The influence of those in the emerging “conversation” is spreading rapidly to mainstream evangelicalism. Promise Keepers is now utilizing some of this material (of course, coming from PK, it should not surprise us), apparently utilizing one of Rob Bell’s NOOMA videos for the theme of a Promise Keepers event. Refer to Slice Of Laodicea’s post from Friday, [here.]

    7:28 AM, August 05, 2006

    ________________

    Phil Johnson said...

    Wulffenstein: "Could you clarify what you mean by this . . . I[t] sounds as if you are arguing against any kind of contextualization."

    Well, it all depends on what you mean by "contextualization." That's one of the most-abused concepts of the postmodern era. Unfortunately, people these days who are enamored with the idea of cultural "contextualization" rarely make any meaningful distinction between engaging the culture and embracing it.

    I dealt with this very issue last September.

    Now, obviously, you can't effectively evangelize rural Mexicans by preaching in English with an Oxford accent. You need to learn to use their language. But I don't think it follows that the only way to reach communists is to become a communist and preach communism to them.

    Unfortunately, evangelicals long ago abandoned common sense when it comes to this question. More than 20 years ago evangelicals with itching ears began dumping biblical preachers in favor of clowns and comedians, and turning their church services into circuses in order to reach a culture weaned on shallow amusements.

    So it's really no wonder today's evangelicals don't see anything wrong with the kind of "contextualization" whereby Emerging types think they have to employ filthy language in order to reach people with unclean lips. That, you'll recall, was not Isaiah's approach to a similarly-depraved culture (Isaiah 6:5-8).

    If the reasons why the contemporary evangelical infatuation with that kind of "contextualization is wrong escapes someone, I'm probably not going to be able to help you.

    wulffenstein said...

    I don't think you answered the question.

    I wasn't asking your view of contextualization. (I would agree there are limits and it is abused. But so would Driscoll, Stetzer, Piper, etc.)

    Let me ask it another way: Is your statement which I quoted directed toward philosophic categories or is it directed toward ministry style (reasonable contextualization)? Or maybe both?

    Carla said...

    Phil,

    I cannot tell you how good it was to read this post this afternoon, and many of the comments as well.

    Over the last several months, I've had countless conversations with others about the very things you've touched on here, and in your 1 post, you've summed up all the good points that have been brought up in those conversations.

    In fact, just last night I was in a conversation with a friend about this very topic, and what you said here:

    "Trendy evangelicals could even climb on the "Emerging" bandwagon without the need for any vigorous analysis and discernment. They could pretend they are able to make certain pragmatic concessions to postmodernism without seriously compromising sound doctrine, and go right on with business as usual—in essence adopting postmodernism as the Next Thing in a long string of worldly fads evangelcals have mindlessly embraced."

    was discussed at length, almost word for word.

    You've nailed it Phil, and all I can add is a great big AMEN.

    Thank you.

    SDG,
    Carla

    Roger N. Overton said...

    Hey Phil,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I've posted my response.

    DJP said...

    Wow, Phil. That's a really long post.

    (c;

    Phil Johnson said...

    Roger:

    Thanks for the further feedback.

    You wrote: "My main point here is that it’s not helpful to point at heretics in the conversation and therefore stop engaging in it."

    I'll be candid. That's where I think we don't quite see eye to eye. The problem with the Emerging conversation is not that a handful of heretics are trying to horn in on an otherwise fruitful and beneficial conversation, but that people with unorthodox doctrinal agendas commandeered the "conversation" almost from the get-go.

    It's not realistic to imagine that any amount of "friendly persuasion" is going to make a change in the direction of the larger movement. There's a reason hospitals don't try to cure infectious diseases by unleashing healthy people among those who are already sick. Heresy, like infection, always works the other way around. (I don't know of an unorthodox movement in the history of Christianity that has ever gradually come around to orthodoxy through friendly dialogue with—or subtle infiltration by—sounder minds.)

    By the way, this would be my reply to the Raja's comments as well:

    I see absolutely no warrant and no apostolic example for engaging in friendly conversation with heretical teachers. Second Timothy 2:23-26 tells shepherds how to deal with wayward sheep. That is not a recipe for how to handle wolves in sheep's clothing.

    On the contrary, it seems to me that there are lots of explicit commands forbidding us to cultivate partnerships, friendly relationships, or even academic comradeships with the purveyors of rank heresy. "Receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 10-11).

    A friendly dialogue with Stetzer or Driscoll on an individual basis is one thing. The idea of joining the whole wide-ranging "Emergent Conversation" is quite another. Such a strategy strikes me as abominable. As a matter of fact, my first bit of advice to Stetzer and Driscoll in any private dialogue with them would likely be a direct quotation from 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and a passionate plea for them to take the command in verse 17 very seriously.

    That would likewise be the heart of any message I think might truly and constructively "encourage the masses [in the Emerging mainstream] toward historical-orthodox Christianity."

    Do I sound like a hard-core fundie? Well, here's my assessment of that: Dialogue with some of the more thoughtful old-line fundamentalists would probably be a thousand times more fruitful for mainstream evangelicals than playing footsie with postmodern fads. For every positive thing we "can learn from" the Emerging subculture, evangelical give-and-take with that movement would expose us to a thousand deadly pitfalls. On the other hand, I think there are still a few sensible fundamentalists out there who remember some important biblical truths evangelicalism as a movement has stupidly discarded—beginning with the biblical mandates for holiness and separation from evil influences.

    mjbeasley said...

    "...my first bit of advice to Stetzer and Driscoll in any private dialogue with them would likely be a direct quotation from 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and a passionate plea for them to take the command in verse 17 very seriously."

    Exactly...

    chamblee54 said...

    Scott Hill said...
    "Phil you are right. I will make sure that in my next posts on the emergents I remove all pretense. I have been too accomodating in my past emergent posts, and it is time to call it what it is".
    Good grief. Scott, you are the first person I heard talk about emergents, and I have never seen you say a kind thing about them.

    Phil Johnson said...

    DJP: "Wow, Phil. That's a really long post."

    Yeah, I don't know what happened. It started out short and pithy and just kinda got out of hand.

    a simple bloggtrotter said...

    See, ok… right there it is: Phil Johnson’s second to last paragraph,

    But (and here is the main point): I don't see any way Driscoll will be able to contend for the faith from within the framework of a missional-postmodern-emerging philosophy, because at the end of the day, you simply cannot defend the doctrines Driscoll wants to defend and translate your message into postmodern parlance at the same time.


    I read this; I kick out the givens:

    That a “difference” between Emergent and Emerging is a convenience that both use to their advantage, at will, (400 lb. gorilla-style) missing any biblical separation that might necessarily follow,

    That the different terms might just be a deconstructionist joke on scripture-shackled rubes like me,

    That the dichotomy could be no more than elastic nomenclature to many in the “middle” of the conversation …as far as trying to keep up with the emergent/ing/ish critter (for me at least),

    And that a postmodernist cannot, by the very definition, embrace the absolutes that the gospel necessarily holds…

    And what I get is a picture of a floundering, aid-less, Jesus loving group of Emerging (?) people like Driscoll who are in desperate need of the kind of lifting up and smacking down that the Word demands that the older (elder) men provide to us young bucks.

    I have to mention this, and if I get deleted or banned or lose my TR tie-tack,,, so be it: Mr. Johnson is an elder at Grace Community Church, where leadership is strong, doctrine is biblical, and discipline proves what (some guy) posting on church discipline said over at IX marks: “Salvation comes through judgment”. That local body and The Masters Seminary provide the safety net ( in the form of all that I mentioned above and more) for a young minister to learn and grow and mess up and be corrected and not be given up on and grow more and become what the God of the universe intended His called minister to be.

    I am NOT calling for a pope. I am not looking to establish a bishopric. However as a young preacher, struggling with God’s call (with at least a few of the luxuries that I mentioned above), I feel for a guy who is my age, who I believe desperately loves his Savior, but who may need accountability, training, and fellowship with older, wiser saints. I grind my teeth to the jawbone thinking of the potential of Phil Johnson mentoring and discipling Mark Driscoll. Or, _______________ ( Well-grounded, solid elder) mentoring _______________(Young, well-meaning, Jesus-loving, called man of God).

    All that being said, I believe Phil Johnson’s post is solid, his points are all pretty much right. I pray that Mark Driscoll, or any other in need of this word find it and it cuts straight through to their heart and they are edified.

    Steven Dresen said...

    Phil,

    You said:

    I don't see any way Driscoll will be able to contend for the faith from within the framework of a missional-postmodern-emerging philosophy, because at the end of the day, you simply cannot defend the doctrines Driscoll wants to defend and translate your message into postmodern parlance at the same time.


    It seems that your lumping missional with postmodernity. Are you really saying that engaging the culture with the gospel is equal to postmodernity, to go further with the parlance are you saying contextualizing is a denial of the truth, because that is what Driscoll is really doing?

    On second note how much exposure have you had to Driscoll, have you listened to his sermons, read his books or articles?

    SolaMeanie said...

    Steven,

    You wouldn't believe how many times those of us who are critical of the EC have had that query thrown at us (have you read..dialogued with..etc.) After a while, it does get tiresome.

    Most serious apologists that I know do not pick their ideas and critiques off of a bush, nor do they come out swinging on something that they haven't read or encountered. Having said that, it is not necessary to read every single piece of published material written by an Emergent before one can intelligently discuss the issue. In fact, the issues currently being discussed are not new. It's the same old theological liberalism gussied up in new clothes.

    The key figures in the EC are widely published. They are interviewed on radio and on television. They are interviewed by magazines. They write articles for magazines. They have websites. Their ideas are out there for all to see. They come out and pop off with statements denying the substitutionary atonement, softpedaling homosexuality, implied universalism and a host of other ridiculous ideas, and then plead loudly that they've been misunderstood when they get called on it. Perhaps that postmodern dislike of clarity is coming back to bite them a bit too hard?

    Rob Bell's wife said in Christianity Today that she didn't know what most of the Bible meant. And this is a PASTOR'S WIFE!

    We are concerned because we have reason to be. And in defense of the average layperson who doesn't have time to read tome after tome, they tend to turn to solid pastors and teachers that they trust to deal with issues such as this. That doesn't mean that they don't have the responsibility to be Bereans, but realistically they can't spend the amount of time reading and studying that others can. Eschatology is not what I would call my specialty, but I have theologians I trust who are expert in this arena. See what I mean?

    For me personally, I've been dealing with this stuff for nearly two years and the EC "conversation" has managed to split a beloved local church in half. I recently received a copy of David Fitch's most recent book to add to the numerous others in my library on this subject. Hosting an apologetics radio program requires digesting a lot of material. And lately, a lot of Maalox.

    For every time I get asked if I've read EC material, I'd like to retort with a question of my own. How much Bible have they read lately?

    Steven Dresen said...

    sola,

    Driscoll is a solid reformed evangelical. He's not so big on the whole conversation going on. He takes a stand for biblical truth in a city where noone else is. He's tooken a stand of the atonement, the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, gender roles, and other truths of scripture. I think it's terrible that everyone wants to take a potshot at him when he's serving the Lord in a city that is ungodly. But I guess when a brother is out preaching the gospel being faithful to the Lord we're supposed to take potshots at him because division is what it's all about right? Carl F. H. Henry in a speach at Capitol Hill Baptist Church lamented how evangelicals don't feel they need each other anymore, and how that acknowledgement of the need for each other used to be our main strength, if we're really evangelical why don't we get back on the mission of presenting the gospel to the lost, sure heretics will come but we'll kick them out like always.

    danny2 said...

    great post phil,

    i'm so sick of the modern movement that believes the word heretic is only to be used on someone who admits that moniker.

    and as you've pointed out, when a person accepts that label, they are either being smug or mocking.

    i've never figured out how we are supposed to contend without calling out error.

    i pray that many that are infatuated with the trend will simply desire to be missional in Biblical contexts.

    Steve said...

    Phil said, "playing footsie with postmodern fads"

    Wow...that's a real gem of a phrase. I love the imagery. It fits SO perfectly with what's happening today.

    Good going, Phil.

    Phil Johnson said...

    Blogtrotter: "I grind my teeth to the jawbone thinking of the potential of Phil Johnson mentoring and discipling Mark Driscoll."

    Thanks for your kind words. But I'm nowhere near the best person for that kind of role. In fact, the thought that I would be someone's choice for such a duty makes me grind my teeth.

    My pastor certainly would be a better choice as a mentor to pastors. He has pastored a thriving congregation for more than 35 years 10 miles north of Hollywood, in a culture that is every bit as worldly and wicked and hostile to gospel truth as the dark side of the Seattle grunge community. And he has managed to do it without making the kind of compromises, abridgments of biblical truth, and accommodations to the postmodern contempt of certainty that today's gurus in the art of "contextualization" insist are absolutely necessary.

    That refusal to acquiesce to culture's tastes is a common trait of many of the heroes of church history, by the way. I can't think of a single towering figure in church history who was especially used by God because he embraced and adapted to the popular trends of culture or generations.

    (Unless you count Charles Finney.)

    Steven Dresen: "It seems that your lumping missional with postmodernity."

    Not exactly. That is, the two expressions aren't synonyms. But I do think the whole concept of "missional living" (an inelegant coinage if there ever was one) owes everything to the current postmodern climate. One of these days, perhaps I'll post on it, but it's too much for a comment in this already-overlong thread.

    "On second note how much exposure have you had to Driscoll, have you listened to his sermons, read his books or articles?"

    All of the above. I also subscribe to his podcast. But as I said, I have carefully refrained from either condemning him or affirming him on doctrinal grounds. Even when I dealt with the issue of bad language, (what some of Driscoll's friends have characterized as the trademark of his style) I deliberately left any reference to him out of it. So your subsequent remarks, viz.:

    "I guess when a brother is out preaching the gospel being faithful to the Lord we're supposed to take potshots at him because division is what it's all about right"

    are far wide of the mark.

    marc said...

    Whoah! That emergent church thing is still going?!? I thought Carla had killed it off months ago.

    Frank Martens said...

    I know there's a whole lot of commenting going on here... but I gotta add to this (being someone who has been around a lot of this kind of crap).

    Phil Johnson wrote... "The long shadow of Peter Abelard hovers over Socinus and his spiritual heirs, too. There's really nothing new at all about the Emergent spirit. It's an agglomeration of old-style heresies whose advocates have found a way to seem remarkably "relevant" by adopting the mantle of postmodern epistemological agnosticism."

    And this is why it says in Ecclesiastes ... "there is nothing new under the sun"

    Phil Johnson also wrote... "Well, it all depends on what you mean by "contextualization." That's one of the most-abused concepts of the postmodern era. Unfortunately, people these days who are enamored with the idea of cultural "contextualization" rarely make any meaningful distinction between engaging the culture and embracing it."

    And this the problem that I had with Driscolls interviews for the DG conference... He equated that in the same way you would reach an African Culture you would also reach the punk culture... stop down to their level.

    Uhm, but I'm failing to see how punk culture is a real culture. Isn't it more like rebellion?

    Mike said...

    Phil,

    McKnight's caution about using the term heretic was justified, Burke affirmed his belief in the Trinity in the comments (no 18):
    http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=1302#comments

    As for the EC not being able to deal with heresy, well, the Emerging Church isn't a church. Individual churches represented in the "conversation" have their own membership standards and can deal with doctrinal issues on that level (just as Baptist churches can). Expecting "the Emerging Church" to deal with an issue formally is like expecting "the Baptist Church" to do so. If you're saying that there's an unwillingness among EC leaders to call other EC leaders heretics, that's a fair comment.

    McLaren, by the way, is not a universalist. He's an inclusivist. For some reason, his critics seem to have some difficulty distinguishing the two concepts. Most Christians are (at least) partial inclusivists, in that they do not assert the damnation of infants as well as of Old Testament saints.

    Of course, some are more partial than others.

    DJP said...

    Phil -- It started out short and pithy and just kinda got out of hand.

    Long and pithy is good, too!

    (I hope you know I was just pot/kettling you.)

    Phil Johnson said...

    Mike: "McKnight's caution about using the term heretic was justified, Burke affirmed his belief in the Trinity in the comments (no 18)"

    Never in the history of any major branch of Christianity has Trinitarianism been the sole and single test of whether someone is a heretic or not.

    Trinitarianism is perfectly compatible with the legalism Paul condemned in Galatians 1; Pelagianism; and a number of similar soteriological errors.

    Your remarks underscore every concern I have raised about the Emerging approach to truth and sound doctrine. If a false teacher has to deny Trinitarianism outright in order to be recognized as a heretic, wolves in sheep's clothing are free to corrupt the gospel and deny the exclusivity of Christ as blatantly as they please, and no one will ever suggest that those errors are serious enough to anathematize.

    That's already happening on a number of fronts in the Emerging Conversation. Such an attitude betrays a callous rejection of Paul's clear command in Galatians 1:8-9.

    Martin Downes said...

    Emergent Village has a pluralistic approach to all Christian doctrines. There is no rule of orthodoxy that you have to agree to in order to be part of the conversation. I have been assured that Unitarians are welcome to join the conversation.

    The following is from the EV website:

    "What does Emergent Village believe?

    We believe in God, beauty, future, and hope – but you won’t find a traditional statement of faith here. We don’t have a problem with faith, but with statements. Whereas statements of faith and doctrine have a tendency to stifle friendships, we hope to further conversation and action around the things of God".

    So that's relativism concerning the concept of confessionalism itself. And for that reason I would echo Phil and consider this to be a conversation going nowhere fast. I am not aware that the end goal of this conversation (with no doctrinal commitments) is to arrive at any future confessional clarity on any point of Christian doctrine.

    Statements of faith and doctrine don't stifle friendships. They say that these are the things worth believing, worth living for, and if need be worth dying for. These are the things that we are prepared to fight for, to suffer for, to preach to the world, to comfort the dying, to pass on as gold to the next generation.

    Don't expect any Emergent martyrs, don't expect them to stand for the gospel in the face of Islam. As J. Gresham Machen once said, "the things for which men are prepared to fight (he meant intellectually of course) are the things that are most worth believing".

    I recently stood at a graveside and recited the words of the 37th Q & A from the Westminster Shorter Catechism as well as the 23rd Psalm.

    Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?

    A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.

    Being evasive about confessionalism is a pastoral disaster. The statement above gives true hope in the face of death, because it is based on God's Word and ought to be believed. How can I sacrifice such things?

    chamblee54 said...

    There is a common problem among bloggers known as keborrhea, or keyboard diarrhea.
    Maybe the editor needs an editor.
    Many readers are intimidated by a large block of text. They skim over it, read the last paragraph, or simply move on to other things. Sometimes your ideas are more effectively communicated with fewer words.

    wulffenstein said...

    I don't know if I got buried back there or was ignored on purpose. So I will repost.

    I don't think you answered the question.

    I wasn't asking your view of contextualization. (I would agree there are limits and it is abused. But so would Driscoll, Stetzer, Piper, etc.)

    Let me ask it another way: Is your statement which I quoted directed toward philosophic categories or is it directed toward ministry style (reasonable contextualization)? Or maybe both?

    Phil Johnson said...

    Chamblee: "Maybe the editor needs an editor. Many readers are intimidated by a large block of text. They skim over it, read the last paragraph, or simply move on to other things. Sometimes your ideas are more effectively communicated with fewer words."

    Thanks.

    Wulffenstein: "Is your statement which I quoted directed toward philosophic categories or is it directed toward ministry style (reasonable contextualization)? Or maybe both?"

    Both.

    donsands said...

    Sometimes it's good to read a long post. And sometimes it's good to read a short post.
    Depends on the post. Could be good, or bad, either way.

    This was a nice post to read. And good to read the comments as well.

    framk martens,
    "..there's nothing new under the sun".

    Ain't it the truth.

    TheBlueRaja said...

    Phil,

    Your idea that there are "unorthodox doctrinal agendas" driving the conversation is just wrong. It looks to mea s though these are people who have all sorts of motivations for believing the things that they do, and most of it is reactionary, not an aggresive push for "unorthodox" doctrine. In fact, most of the reactionary concern has to do with the role of doctrine itself.

    Your analogy with the hospital is silly. Hospitals "unleash" healthy people on the sick all the time - they're called doctors. You may be pessimistic about the possibility of changing a movement, but maybe friendly dialogue with individuals could make an impact, if you were to try your hand at it. What does "joining the whole wide-ranging "Emergent Conversation" even mean, anyway? Is putting yourself in contexts where you can actually cultivate relationships and talk about the issues "joining the whole wide-ranging Conversation"?

    Wayward sheep are exactly what we're talking about with a great many in the emerging movement - so the 2 Timothy passage applies perfectly, if people were actually willing to engage differeing perspectives on that basis. Of course there's no garuntee of success, but what are we, seeker-sensitive? We should make such attempts, looking to ourselves (Gal. 6:1, Mat. 7:2-4), because it's right, not because we think "it'll work".

    The problem with your opinions on Christian interactions with differing views (of both non-believers and believers alike) is the way it sees them as either "clean" or "unclean", as though someone could come away from a "give-and-take" with emerging-leaning Christians and be "exposed" to "deadly pitfalls". What's the point of calling people to discernment if interacting with differing views is more like catching a cold than it is separating the wheat from the chaff? Can't someone pick out the good and leave the bad without "exposing" oneself? And how could anyone presume to know what God could teach them through an individual with differing views as long as the interaction is in front of an open Bible, characterized by patience, humility and a teachable heart? Such an interaction should be every bit as fruitful with individuals of an emergent persuasion as with individuals of a fundamentalist persuasion.

    It's not as though fundamentalism has fewer pitfalls than emergent, after all - it's just that their pitfalls are more comfortable for some (as the recent controversy surrounding alcohol and the SBC demonstrates - i.e. those who are more comfortable with legalism than alocholism).

    Eric said...

    Mr. Johnson, I just want to thank you for all you are doing to help teach Believers sound doctrine. I'm a pretty simply guy and I don't try to argue what I don't understand. I've had the privilege of hearing one of your teaching series, Against the Grain, as well as many of your sermons and believe me, I've tried to prove you wrong. I figure that if a minister is going to use a scripture to back up his point then that should be the litmus test of the validity of what he is trying to say. Sadly a lot of times people take scripture out of context and loose the meaning. It is refreshing to find someone who doesn't do that. I have learned a lot from you, and hope tu continue learning from you. I am sorry to read that people are trying to air personal disagreements and taking things to personally.

    As for the "Emerging" movement all I can add to the thoughts God has blessed you with is That all roads DO NOT lead to God. We have to actually open our Bibles every so often and study, not just alow ourselves to be spoon fed garbage.

    wulffenstein said...

    Since you list it as both would you be willing to give an an example of Driscoll's style (outside of cussing) that you think is not compatiable with a reformed doctrinal stance?

    Thanks.

    Jonathan Moorhead said...

    Phil, thanks for this post. It is very informative.

    Phil Johnson said...

    Raja: "Your idea that there are "unorthodox doctrinal agendas" driving the conversation is just wrong."

    Well, I cited three fresh examples of the kind of thing I'm talking about. If you gave me a week, I'm confident I could document a few dozen similar examples just from the past month's entries in the Emerging blogosphere and podcasts.

    Or read almost any book from the Zondervan/Youth Specialties imprint, and see the trends for yourself.

    "Your analogy with the hospital is silly. Hospitals "unleash" healthy people on the sick all the time - they're called doctors."

    Well "Doctors" certainly do more than dialogue with their patients. They administer medicine, and they sometimes do surgery—up to and including amputations, when necessary. What they don't do is take up residence in the infectious patients' rooms and chat with them for several years in the hopes that the terminally ill will somehow "catch" health from the doctor through a never-ending conversation.

    I can't think of a single instance in church history where friendly dialogue with purveyors of heresies ever accomplished any good whatsoever. Gnosticism, Socinianism, deism, modernism, and several other movements all advocated the wholesale reimagining of Christianity and managed to capture the imagination of myriads in the church. In every case, the only effective remedy proved to be plain preaching by men who were willing to contend earnestly for the faith—accompanied by separation from the teachers of heresy.

    That, after all, is the answer Scripture commends to us. I guarantee it will be more effective than your strategy.

    TheBlueRaja said...

    Well "Doctors" certainly do more than dialogue with their patients. They administer medicine, and they sometimes do surgery—up to and including amputations, when necessary. What they don't do is take up residence in the infectious patients' rooms and chat with them for several years in the hopes that the terminally ill will somehow "catch" health from the doctor through a never-ending conversation.

    You're mixing your metaphors. The point is that "healthy" people can help "sick" people, and doctors who opt for amputation right out of the gate are quacks.

    Gnosticism, Socinianism, deism, modernism, and several other movements all advocated the wholesale reimagining of Christianity and managed to capture the imagination of myriads in the church.

    The noteworthy characteristic of emerging concerns is that it's largely about Doctrine, capital "D" (the nature of it, how it is properly derived from Scripture, the role of it in the church, the authority of tradition, the relationship between doctrine and practice, etc.), not necessarily specific doctrine(s).

    In every case, the only effective remedy proved to be plain preaching by men who were willing to contend earnestly for the faith—accompanied by separation from the teachers of heresy.

    I think you're going to have to do more than cite examples of specific denials of a few people, go out on a limb and say "the EC as a movement denies these essential doctrines" before you can slap the "heresy" label on it. If you've already done that, and are contending that emerging type folks generally deny original sin etc., I'm not sure that accusation sticks as an accurate generalization (and there are, of course, accurate generalizations despite specific counter-examples that may be given).

    That, after all, is the answer Scripture commends to us. I guarantee it will be more effective than your strategy.

    I already suggested that the Scriptures wisely command more nuanced responses than "contend to the death" on such matters, our own ideas of "effectiveness" be buggered.

    Phil Johnson said...

    Raja: "The point is that 'healthy' people can help 'sick' people, and doctors who opt for amputation right out of the gate are quacks."

    A "doctor" who can't diagnose something as obvious as a severed artery (and who stands in the way of emergency medical personnel in order to deliver a tedious lecture about diagnostic techniques) is worse than a "quack"; he's a criminal, Raja.

    Raja: "The noteworthy characteristic of emerging concerns is that it's largely about Doctrine, capital 'D' (the nature of it, how it is properly derived from Scripture, the role of it in the church, the authority of tradition, the relationship between doctrine and practice, etc.), not necessarily specific doctrine(s)."

    ...except when someone is denying original sin, the exclusivity of Christ, the doctrine of eternal punishment, the principle of substitutionary atonement, the principle of imputation, or the doctrine of justification by faith itself. Those are all "specific doctrine(s)," Raja, and I have pointed out numerous instances where they have come under attack from some of the most influential voices in the "Emerging Conversation." I could point out many more, and you know it.

    And yet I never see you anywhere in the "Conversation" itself trying to correct such errors. You actually seem to spend most of your energies sniping and complaining about those of us who believe those "specific doctrine(s)" are actually vital truths. In fact, you do a lot of cheerleading for various dissidents and iconoclasts. It's frankly pretty hard to imagine that your approach to "dialogue" is going to steer many apostates back to the strait and narrow.

    Admittedly, my apporoach is probably not going to convince Spencer Burke to abandon his apostasy, either. But what it has done and will do is convince impressionable believers who are confused by the Conversation that no good will come from their paddling around in a cesspool that regularly spews forth those kinds of errors.

    I cited three instances where (in the past five days) some of the most popular blogs in the Emerging blogosphere hosted full-on attacks on evangelical principles.

    I'll tell you what: If you can point out three instances in the past two months on any high-profile Emerging blogs where someone propounding such ideas (denying original sin, the exclusivity of Christ, eternal punishment, or something of that magnitude) was actually convinced through collegial dialogue to accept a more sound and biblical position, I'll shut up about it.

    But I contend that kind of paradigm-shift practically never happens in the "Emerging Conversation," and simply cannot happen very often under the rules of postmodern engagement. For every person who abandons a fringe idea in favor of more mainstream or historic confessional stance, there must be dozens who move the opposite direction.

    Now, unless you can produce some actual proof in the form of testimonies from people who have abandoned Socinian ideas (as opposed to embracing them) because of Emerging influences, you are the one who needs to cease and desist.

    Martin Downes said...

    This is based on an impression but for all the valuable published critiques from evangelical conservatives since the year of the evangelical megashift, what exactly has been accomplished?

    Have any high profile figures changed their minds? Has Millard Erickson persuaded Pinnock? Piper convinced Boyd? Carson won over McLaren?

    Are conservative arguments and critiques unpersuasive? Is their approach too prickly to gain a hearing? Or are these critiques calculated to best serve the unsure and misinformed instead? Perhaps their primary aim is to warn and inform the church in general.

    s plodinec said...

    Phil, you said
    I am by no means prepared to make an endorsement of his whole approach to ministry. (I agree)
    And,
    There are still a number of things about his style that greatly trouble (and offend) me.
    I don't exactly follow you here. What elements of style are you referring to? I visited Mars Hill for two Sundays last summer and the preaching was excellent - though Driscoll gave us a very heavy dose of covenant ecclesiology - and the worship and music was great. I liked the art in the foyer and the coffee too, but the auditorium was too dark. None of the style was anti-biblical in content or virtue. It was August and I did not see any immodest cloting. In fact, sometimes I saw more immodesty during my 3 years at GCC.
    Anyway, I agree that a style can be anti-biblical, but I'm not sure what you mean in relation to Driscoll.

    SolaMeanie said...

    Chamblee54,

    Here's a link for you. Perhaps you'll find the material here more engaging.

    http://www.tvparty.com/lostromper.html

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I am off to find a copy of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

    Carla said...

    Martin Downes asked:

    "This is based on an impression but for all the valuable published critiques from evangelical conservatives since the year of the evangelical megashift, what exactly has been accomplished?"

    I can't speak for "high profile" folks, but I sure can speak to a few good things that have been accomplished.

    Awareness, conviction, repentance & discernment.

    I'm a no one, in the grand scheme of things, but the emails that come in as a result of Emergent No tell me that there are people who genuinely desire to follow Christ according to His word, and they are thankful for the work we do there and the words Phil has spoken here and elsewhere.

    As I said, I can't speak for the high profile folks, but there are plenty of low profile folks that have carefully considered the critique that's been published, and have made it a matter of prayer, and consideration in their own lives, as to how they view what's happening in the modern church.

    So yes, the published critiques are making a positive difference, for the glory of God and the edification of His people. At least for some.

    SDG,
    Carla

    Martin Downes said...

    Thanks Carla.

    That is the kind of thing that I had in mind. It may well illustrate the fact that there are categories when dealing with false teaching. We can be sincerely ignorant (untaught doctrinally), and sincerely misinterpret God's Word (but still desiring to be taught from it). Folks can also be temporally inconsistent (as Peter was in Galatians). But some folks are well thought through and want to teach others the errors they believe. I'm sure that it is the first three groups that would be helped the most. It is not impossible for the last group to be helped but maybe less likely for reasons that you can figure out.

    mjbeasley said...

    Blueraja

    You said "Instead of bemoaning the existence of a 'conversation' among those who are troubled, upset or by traditional Christian doctrines, why not try to be persuasive and winsome instead?" and "I already suggested that the Scriptures wisely command more nuanced responses..."

    You are right about one thing - our responses must be nuanced. Christ is our greatest example of this, isn't He? To the woman at the well, the Savior offered a gentle but firm correction to her in view of her sin and doctrinal ignorance (John 4:22 "You worship what you do not know..."); but to the religious leaders, who had the law, and should have known better, the Lord publicly identified them (John 10:19) as strangers, thieves, robbers and wolves (John 10:1-14). These were the very religious leaders whom the Lord rebuked in public with a series of prophetic woes in Matthew 23 (Matthew 23:13: 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in"). This is a far cry from the popular views of Christ's shepherding ministry that many tout today. Sadly, we flounder in the absence of godly rebukes in our day.

    Two Sunday evenings ago, I shared with our flock McLaren's CT article on homosexuality where he said - "Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides, but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say "it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us...If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren't sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn. Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they'll be admittedly provisional. We'll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we'll speak; if not, we'll set another five years for ongoing reflection."

    As a pastor, I have a great concern for the influence that this man has, for those who colabor with him in the "conversation", and especially for those who are being influenced by his teachings. Now some people would have us to believe that McLaren's waffling on this matter is an opportunity for a "conversation" - I guess I could agree, if by "conversation" one means a godly, public rebuke.

    MJB

    "For not to delight in assertions, is not the character of the Christian mind: nay, he must delight in assertions, or he is not a Christian."

    Luther to Erasmus in "The Bondage of the Will" (thanks Dean)

    FreedfromBondage said...

    I simply would like to draw reader's attention to the amount of ideology involved within this debate. As Maniacs have previously noted, labelization [new word?] has so overwhelmed the culture of "Biblical Debate", that most have lost sight of the ground floor issue. TRUTH.

    TRUTH is there is a Church...not an Emergent Church, Conservative Church, or any other 'label-type' church...just a church. The Church established by Christ, the Chief Cornerstone...remember that? TRUTH is there is a Redeemed Family of God...not 'brothers and sisters in Christ' who have their own 'way' to salvation (I hereby do honor the statement made in Phil's post in regards to this matter - A+, buddy!)...there is one Way, one Truth, and one Life...remember that? The time has come, friends, to return to TRUTH. That only truth being the WORD OF GOD, a.k.a. the Bible. ETC.>>>>

    75% of your posted comments refer to 'books about', authors, and opinions of so called 'experts'. But there is SO LITTLE reference to the real TRUTH. Let us return to Scripture. We have spent so much time stoking the embers of opinion, that the world can no longer witness the fervorous inferno that is JESUS in us.

    Peace!

    Phil Johnson said...

    Wulffenstein: "Since you list it as both would you be willing to give an example of Driscoll's style (outside of cussing) that you think is not compatiable with a reformed doctrinal stance?"

    I don't recall saying my concerns about "style" had anything to do with compatibility "with a reformed doctrinal stance."

    What I said was, "There are still a number of things about his style that greatly trouble (and offend) me."

    Steve Plodinec: "I don't exactly follow you here. What elements of style are you referring to?"

    Notice, first of all, that I expressly declined to make any sweeping affirmations or condemnations of Mark Driscoll. The remark you're referring to was a general disclaimer attached to a couple of other statements in which I said (and reiterated) that I very much appreciate some outstanding things about Driscoll. I deliberately refrained from enumerating any negative specifics, because that wasn't really germane to the point. (The iMonk's recent histrionics notwithstanding, I have made no general "assessment" of Driscoll—certainly not a negative one.) That one-sentence disclaimer may be the only arguably "negative" thing about Driscoll I have ever said.

    Notice also that although I have said repeatedly that I very much like certain things about Driscoll, no one asked what those things are.

    However, to clarify a bit, when I said there are "things about his style" that disturb me, I was not talking about the style of his worship services. I was talking about things like profanity, flippancy, and carelessness in distinguishing between what's holy and what's worldly. If anyone asks me to elaborate on that, I'm just going to refer you to Driscoll's books. So don't bother trying to pump me for more details.

    Again, this post and thread is not about what's wrong with Driscoll. My stress in my initial reply to whoever mentioned him in the first place was on what's right with him.

    In an earlier thread, where Driscoll wasn't even mentioned or alluded to at all, some angry commenters accused me of treating Driscoll shoddily. Now no less than the iMonk feigns speechlessness (as if!), and then tells his drinking buddies that "ultimatums and irrational blame" have been heaped on Driscoll—when in reality, I made that one critical comment in a context where I explicitly refused to make any blanket condemnation of Driscoll.

    See: that's what is wrong with the "Emerging Conversation," as I have said before. The ground rules make honest criticism nearly impossible.

    So we're right back to what I said at the start. That's why the Emerging Conversation is going nowhere.

    wulffenstein said...

    My goal is not to corner you but asking for clarity. You did say that elements of style (reasonable contextualization) were not compatable with reformed doctrine.

    Is that not an acurate restatement of this quote?

    at the end of the day, you simply cannot defend the doctrines Driscoll wants to defend and translate your message into postmodern parlance at the same time.

    You said that it was the "main point" and you bolded it. So I am trying to understand your point. I am just seeking for clarity.

    I would love to hear what you like about Driscoll. So if you haven't been ask consider yourself ask. (You have said his willingness to take a stand)

    BTW: I do not consider myself emergent (or anything spelled similarily) or pomo. In fact you might be very suprised by my background.

    ScottyB said...

    TMS grads are calling you out brother Phil-did you see Scott Zeller's question A-Team?

    Phil Johnson said...

    ScottyB:

    1. As I said above, I rarely read comments on other blogs, much less join the conversations there. If someone seriously wants to "call me out," let him come here and post.

    2. TMS alumni have been "calling me out" here at my blog since I made my first post. I'm used to it.

    3. For the record, however, my actual work is with Grace to You, and my teaching ministry is at Grace Church. I'm neither faculty nor alumni at TMS, so I'm not personally responsible for the idiosyncasies of certain alums.

    3. In any case, while Eric Zeller is an actual TMS grad (one of the relatively few TMS alums I actually know personally), his brother Scott is a DTS student. So I prolly can't help him anyway. :-)

    ScottyB said...

    lol Amen bro

    scott zeller said...

    I think it would be a bit drammatic to refer to my comment on the A-Team as a "call out." But I would say that after the dust settles from this round of Driscol/Emergent/Emerging/? blogging something I would take great interest in reading from you, Phil, would be more discussion of the meaning of refering to Driscoll's theology as "hopelessly naive." It's really not a call out, its request for the development of a point that seems a bit fatalist.

    It seems to be making much of him to keep having discussions of what we like or don't about Driscoll. But to the extent that he represents a growing chorus of young evangelicals who are attracted to his Reformed theolgy + methodologically liberal ways, I think it would be very profitable to explain what you mean by that comment regarding his theology and its connections to postmodern epistomologies.

    At any rate, I apprecaited the thrust of this post and thought it well said. And for the record, I did actually attend TMS (albiet briefly) but was forced to migrate to the promised land in search of better Mesquite BBQ.

    SEZ

    DJP said...

    Phil -- I declare myself Umpire, and rule that, as of your post at 7:27 PM, August 06, 2006, you won this phase of the argument.

    There. Now I resign my commission.

    scott zeller said...

    You know what, after reading some of the comments... I'll certainly forgive you if you are tired of talking Driscoll. I am still interested in some of your thinking on how postmodern epistomologies are being subtley embraced by those who claim to be Reformed in their theology... but at this point it seems like blogging anything with reference to Driscoll is just asking to be sent around a comments cul-de-sac reminiscent of the kind of conjectures, second-guesses, rumors, and un-founded acusations common to a Jr. High girls locker room.

    SEZ

    Phil Johnson said...

    Scott Zeller: "something I would take great interest in reading from you, Phil, would be more discussion of the meaning of refering to Driscoll's theology as "hopelessly naive."

    To be clear, what I was saying I think is naïve is Driscoll's (and the ECM's) methodology and underlying ministry philosophy. For one thing, the kind of "contextualization" that seems to involve rather uncritically adopting and imitating the most lowbrow elements of whatever culture we are trying to reach (see this for a sample of what I mean) seems to me both pragmatically wrongheaded and not particularly harmonious with the Reformed (and biblical) belief in God's effectual call. Not to mention the fact that it's in conflict with the principles of 1 John 2:15; James 1:27; John 17:14, etc..

    I'll no doubt expand on this in a future post. But that's the gist of what I meant. (I confess I didn't word it as carefully as I might have.)

    Scott Zeller: "I did actually attend TMS (albiet briefly)

    I'm sorry we never met. I know and love your dad and brother.

    Scott Zeller: . . . but was forced to migrate to the promised land in search of better Mesquite BBQ."

    Some here would regard that as a kind of damnable apostasy comparable to Israel's craving for the leeks and garlic of Egypt.

    I, on the other hand, have tasted the BBQ whereof you speak, and I would be almost willing to grant you an indulgence on those grounds. Throw in the superiority of Dallas-area Tex-Mex over SoCal Mexican fare, and you will have made an almost unassailable case for yourself.

    We get to keep Gunner, though.

    Phil Johnson said...

    wulffenstein: "My goal is not to corner you but asking for clarity. You did say that elements of style (reasonable contextualization) were not compatable with reformed doctrine."

    Sorry, Wulffy. I missed what you were asking about. The thread is so long and frayed that it's not easy to keep the point sharp enough to thread the needle's eye every time.

    I think I get you now. But my answers are basically the same. As I said in my comment to Scott Zeller, historic Reformed and biblical truth affirms God's effectual call, and rightly understood, that means the gospel message itself—not pop-cultural references, rap videos, or tacit approval of things like UFC®, but the gospel itself—is the chief instrument and power of God unto salvation.

    To me, that belief is inconsistent with the philosophy running rampant nowadays: that sinners cannot be reached for Christ apart from the kind of "contextualization" that adopts and employs the seamy aspects of whatever culture we are addressing.

    Ergo, I'm talking about just the kinds of things I listed above: the habitual employment of profanity and vulgar language; deliberate flippancy; and the careless neglect, gradual erasure, or systematic removal of boundaries between worldliness and holiness.

    wulffenstein said...

    Thanks for laying that out. I know this thread is multistranded and frayed at points.

    Before I agree or disagree with you on the that point I need to think about it some more. I am not sure I would consider God's call and the use of things in culture as opposing.

    However, if you call me "wulffy" again I will have to break out my own meat chubs!!

    Phil Johnson said...

    Wulffenstein: "I am not sure I would consider God's call and the use of things in culture as opposing."

    But that's not what I said. What I'm suggesting is wrong is not the "use of things in culture," but the idea that cultural contextualization is the essential key to reaching whatever generation hapens to be most cool at the moment.

    I doubt it would be possible to preach or minister without "the use of things in culture." What disturbs me is the notion that maximum cultural accommodation (always to the lowbrow elements of culture) is neccesary in order for the gospel message to be efficacious. Our "faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5).

    Wulffenstein: "However, if you call me "wulffy" again I will have to break out my own meat chubs!!"

    Sorry about that. I'll behave.

    TheBlueRaja said...

    A "doctor" who can't diagnose something as obvious as a severed artery (and who stands in the way of emergency medical personnel in order to deliver a tedious lecture about diagnostic techniques) is worse than a "quack"; he's a criminal, Raja.

    I guess this is why savvy people in search of medical treatment seek out second opinions ;)

    ...except when someone is denying original sin, the exclusivity of Christ, the doctrine of eternal punishment, the principle of substitutionary atonement, the principle of imputation, or the doctrine of justification by faith itself. Those are all "specific doctrine(s)," Raja, and I have pointed out numerous instances where they have come under attack from some of the most influential voices in the "Emerging Conversation." I could point out many more, and you know it.

    I think this is where I need to read more broadly - I understood certain people within the ECM to have come out against such doctrines, while others influential leaders still maintained them. The unifying thread that made all of them "emergent", I thought, was their endeavoring to re-examine and re-articulate the questions about doctrine qua doctrine I mentioned earlier. Are you saying that it would be a safe generalization to characterize the entire emerging phenomenon as denying these doctrines?

    And yet I never see you anywhere in the "Conversation" itself trying to correct such errors. You actually seem to spend most of your energies sniping and complaining about those of us who believe those "specific doctrine(s)" are actually vital truths. In fact, you do a lot of cheerleading for various dissidents and iconoclasts.

    If only all of my "conversations" happened on-line. And I'd correct you in this regard by noting that I've not only criticized various aspects of postmodernism and poststructuralist interpretation at my site, but have been fairly clear about my ambivalence to the ECM - I'm certainly not "cheerleader", and am even more certain that our idea of "dissident" probably differ. I've never given blanket endorsements of any author you might consider a "dissident", and while I have close friends with whom I wildly disagree, I prefer conversation to meat chubbing.

    It's frankly pretty hard to imagine that your approach to "dialogue" is going to steer many apostates back to the strait and narrow. Admittedly, my apporoach is probably not going to convince Spencer Burke to abandon his apostasy, either.

    My approach is nothing more than an attempt to display some semblance of the fruit of the Spirit. It's also an attempt to live out the Scriptures more than it is an attempt to find an "effective strategy", as I've said. I don't care if it doesn't look as though it'll work - [insert comments about the foolishness of the cross and man's wisdom and all that.]

    But what it has done and will do is convince impressionable believers who are confused by the Conversation that no good will come from their paddling around in a cesspool that regularly spews forth those kinds of errors.

    My concern has always been (and has been demonstrated in my personal experiences/relationships) that those who are genuinely confused and grappling with the issues are usually repelled by the seemingly insecure and defensive missle-launching of people who don't seem to understand why they're troubled or confused, much less sympathize with what is driving their disquieted hearts. That's why I made the marriage counseling analogy. Sometimes I think we come off like husbands who lecture instead of husbands who show they understand, demonstrate that they've really listened and then offered choice words in the right circumstances.

    In the end, you're not talking to people who are really "confused", or genuinely struggling with the personal and existential issues which fund the ECM - you're talking to (as your comment section generally indicates) people who are already inclined to agree with you or people who've heard the ruckus and are curious to hear what they should think about the fuss so that they can warn others who have heard the ruckus.

    I'll tell you what: If you can point out three instances in the past two months on any high-profile Emerging blogs where someone propounding such ideas (denying original sin, the exclusivity of Christ, eternal punishment, or something of that magnitude) was actually convinced through collegial dialogue to accept a more sound and biblical position, I'll shut up about it.

    Why does it have to be on a "high-profile Emerging Blog"? The thing about the blogosphere that I've noticed is that those who are really confused or trying to figure things out rarely blast away in a comments section - they just read what people write and try to sort it out. I can give you more than three examples from personal experience, and I could speak about how certain "high-profile" blogs, both emerging and Reformed Baptist have impacted people I've ministered to (and been ministered by). My own conversion was followed by a lot of confusion about the very doctrines you've mentioned, as was my brother's. I can tell you who impacted us, and who didn't and why. I'm not sure why that evidence isn't admissable. What people write impact far more people, far different people, and in much more searching ways than we usually predict. For as many people who post a "right on - go get'em" comment there are people who don't comment, and are frustrated because within these kinds of posts they can't find the slightest evidence that the author "gets" why they're confused. That's got nothing to do with "postmodern" rules of engagement - it's just how confused people are.

    Phil Johnson said...

    Raja: "Are you saying that it would be a safe generalization to characterize the entire emerging phenomenon as denying these doctrines?"

    You know very well I'm not. I've repeatedly and explicitly made clear that is not what I'm saying.

    One more time:

    What I do absolutely deplore is the attitude of that large mainstream in the ECM who would fall somewhere between the rank heresy of Spencer Burke and the neo-conservativism of Mark Driscoll and who take roughly the same stance you want to—marked by "ambivalence" regarding practically everything in the discussion. Like you, many of them have "never given blanket endorsements" to the worst authors in their movement, either—but then, most of them never make any clear repudiation of such things, either.

    And, Raja, you cannot credibly make the claim that such a thoroughly postmodern approach to truth and doctrine is "nothing more than an attempt to display some semblance of the fruit of the Spirit"—especially when you then retreat to the Boar's Head Tavern and regularly post snide put-downs of others who are legitimately concerned about sound doctrine, while peppering your sarcasm with bad language.

    And especially not here. You have too much of a track record at this blog for that suddenly-humble pose to work for you now.

    TheBlueRaja said...

    Phil:

    Since it's your blog, I can't really reproach you for being off topic - but if we're talking about how to approach people who are confused, and wrestling with the questions which have given birth to the emerging church movement,


    What I do absolutely deplore is the attitude of that large mainstream in the ECM who would fall somewhere between the rank heresy of Spencer Burke and the neo-conservativism of Mark Driscoll and who take roughly the same stance you want to—marked by "ambivalence" regarding practically everything in the discussion.

    I'm ambivalent to the ECM as I've defined it, namely as a collective of people trying to answer the questions I mentioned earlier. I'm NOT ambivalent about how some have answered these questions, and I gave my disdain for poststructural interpretive schemes as a prime example. Doctrinally, I'd probably put myself squarely in Driscoll's camp, though I woulnd't call it "neo-conservative" (what does that mean?).

    Like you, many of them have "never given blanket endorsements" to the worst authors in their movement, either—but then, most of them never make any clear repudiation of such things, either.

    I repudiate universalism, soteriological inclusivism, pelagianism and socinianism, and my short 6 years of preaching and teaching reinforces that fact. But of course, that's beside the point - if we're talking about how to approach those who are sympathetic to the emerging church movement. Your single-mindedly contentious model of doing that is the wrong way to go, for all the reasons I mentioned, and this even more crucial one: it's the kind of response that has given birth to the reaction that is the emerging church movement.

    And, Raja, you cannot credibly make the claim that such a thoroughly postmodern approach to truth and doctrine is "nothing more than an attempt to display some semblance of the fruit of the Spirit"—especially when you then retreat to the Boar's Head Tavern and regularly post snide put-downs of others who are legitimately concerned about sound doctrine, while peppering your sarcasm with bad language.

    If what I've said strikes you as postmodern, I'm afraid you either are using the term way too loosely or you're reading in to what I've said - how is being kind, indentifying with people's concerns, patiently listening before speaking, and seeking to learn from others "postmodern"? These are scriptural values (as are correction, reproof and discipline - but these don't cancel out the need for the others). Did you not read the next paragraph in my comments?

    As for "regularly posting snide put-downs with bad language", that's an exaggeration at best and simply slanderous at worst. Whatever your evaluation, you can aim those criticisms at Doug Wilson or even Centurion as easily as me - if only I were in the club! Link posts to my "regular" comments of these nature, and let others decide whether they cancel out everything I've said here.

    And especially not here. You have too much of a track record at this blog for that suddenly-humble pose to work for you now.

    Would it be possible for you to expunge my record, remember no wrongs, recognize my many former apologies (possibly offering some of your own?), and respond a little more carefully to the actual substance of my comments? Or just ban me outright? I'm not sure what to make of the quasi-hospitality.

    Martin Downes said...

    The typology here is very familiar. "If only conservatives were more careful they wouldn't produce reactionary movements that are a thorn in their side". I guess that there may be some mileage in that as part of a bigger explanation for the ECM. But is that not a minor theme compared to the choices being made at the intellectual business end of the EMC conversation? And that is the choice of how theology and philosophy relate. Isn't this the same old story told by the early church, Socinianism and Protestant Liberalism of subsuming revelation to an unbiblical worldview?

    My understanding is that (again at the high brow end) this is being done by explaining conservative evangelical history as indebted to foundationalist epistemology and filtering that down to the masses.

    Martin Downes said...

    Please excuse the double post but the following is from Scot McKnight's blog and is relevant to the concerns Phil expressed in the original post. Scot writes:

    "The emerging movement is proud of creating a safe environment for people to think and to express their doubts. Partly because of what I do for a living (teach college students), I am sympathetic to the need for such safe environments. But, having said that, the emerging movement has also been criticized over and over for not having any boundaries. Frankly, some of the criticism is justified. I want to express my dismay today over what I think is crossing the boundaries. I will have to be frank; but I have to be fair. Here’s how I see this book’s theology as a Christian theologian. The more I ponder what Spencer does in this book, the more direct I have become — be glad I don’t have any more posts about this book.

    Is Spencer a “heretic”? He says he is, and I see no reason to think he believes in the Trinity from reading this book. That’s what heresy means to me. Denial of God’s personhood flies in the face of everything orthodox. To say that you believe in the creedal view of God as Father, Son, and Spirit and deny “person” is to deny the Trinitarian concept of God.

    Is Spencer a “Christian”? He says he is. What is a Christian? Is it not one who finds redemption through faith in Christ, the one who died and who was raised? If so, I see nothing in this book that makes me think that God’s grace comes to us through the death and resurrection of Christ. Grace seems to be what each person is “born into” in Spencer’s theses in this book. That means that I see no reason in this book to think Spencer believes in the gospel as the NT defines gospel (grace as the gift of God through Christ by faith).

    I must say this: Spencer told me on the phone that he thinks all are included in God’s grace from the start solely because of Jesus’ death and resurrection; why not write that in this book?

    Spencer, you’re a good guy. But I have to say this to you: Go back to church. Go back to the gospel of Jesus — crucified and raised. Let the whole Bible shape all of your theology. Listen to your critics. Integrate a robust Christology, a robust death-and-resurrection gospel, and a full Trinitarian theology back into your guide to eternity".

    TheBlueRaja said...

    Martin,

    That's a great point - but I'm not sure people are attracted to the ECM because of its varied epistemological explorations. I think many of them came out of fundamentalist and evangelical churches, dismayed and distraught (over some very real issues in those circles).

    DJP said...

    Raja -- would you prefer to be thought of as leader of the new "Heretic-sensitive" movement?

    (c;

    Martin Downes said...

    Blueraja,

    Having taken leave of fundamentalism/evangelicalism folks perusing ECM options are being offered a noticeably different epistemology aren't they? At least that is my perception of what EV is offering them. My reading of it is that people are not moving simply into "mere Christianty" or paleo-orthodoxy but a postmodernising of the faith. Perhaps I'm judging it by the views of the intelligentsia and not the rank and file.

    TheBlueRaja said...

    Dan,

    I'm making the powder-blue membership badges now. Hopefully they won't interfere with all the heretic-hugging we plan to do while wearing them.

    Martin,

    While I doubt that there is one coherent epistemological option being pushed by the movement, there are at least some similiarties in people's dispositions about knowledge claims. The reason you couldn't characterize it as a move toward "mere Christianty" is because such a concept assumes that the core of Christian faith is defined in terms of propositional content (however minimal) without reference to praxis. I would agree that there is an intelligentsia driving the warrant for these moves and influencing the rhetoric of those involved, but you're probably right to think that these don't provide the draw for the rank and file.

    Martin Downes said...

    Eleven years ago here in the UK Dave Tomlinson wrote "The Post-evangelical". It caused a small ripple for a little while and has I gather been republished recently in the US by Zondervan/YS (but correct me if I am wrong). The book captured disaffection with evangelicalism for those who were going liberal in their theology and looser in their ethics (granted that some of this was a reaction to brethren/house church pietism). The book didn't really have a strong enough positive agenda to offer what EV seems to be offering.

    From a British perspective I have pondered on the EMC/EV momentum because of the big mistake that is the Megachurch phenomenon. In which case it is much less about evangelical theology and more about reaping what untheological pragmatism has sown. In the UK we are a deeply secular nation with no signifcant portion of society attending church and I don't think we will be so impacted by EV. I may be wrong.

    Martin Downes said...

    "Mere Christianity" without praxis? Richard Baxter revolves in his grave at the thought of it.

    DJP said...

    Raja -- Hopefully they won't interfere with all the heretic-hugging we plan to do while wearing them.

    One word: Velcro

    TheBlueRaja said...

    Martin,

    I guess I was thinking more of Lewis than Baxter - isn't the notion of mere christianity primarily a statement about common-denominator propositional content?

    Dan,

    One word: Chafffing.

    Martin Downes said...

    Blueraja,

    Didn't Lewis borrow the phrase from Baxter? And puritans like Baxter saw mere Christianity as doctrine-ethics-piety as it always should be. I guess it is about common denominator propositional content, but never just that. Is there ever such a thing except in the jaundiced eye of critics? I've never experienced it.

    Mrs.Raja said...

    Martin,

    I'm sure you're right - regardless, we'd both agree that ECM isn't a "return to mere Christianity", though it is an attempt to identify what the authentic Christian life looks like in contemporary contexts.

    Stephen said...

    hi phil,

    thanks for your comments. I'm not at all sure I agree that evangelical don't comprise the silent majority of the emerging church conversation. the challenge is that emergent is the most public institutional face of the conversation and so it's very typical for folks to assume that where emergent goes, there goes the emerging church (i recognize you appreciate the distinction). it may be that the efforts that many have made to differentiate the two will prove for naught and evangelicals who affirm penal substitution, believe that homosexuality is a sin, believe in the historic view of hell, etc will increasingly disassociate themselves from the whole thing. i honestly am not sure where matters will lead. time will tell. in the meanwhile, it's far more important that we discern what "christian" means than what "emerging" means and i know that's something with which you can agree!

    blessings,

    candyinsierras said...

    Scott. un-founded acusations common to a Jr. High girls locker room. A Jr. High girls locker room consists of...Is Mark Driscoll cute or not?

    ( spoken from a middle school teacher's point of view)

    Randy said...

    Perhaps it is the role of the Spirit to guide his church? "If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit?"

    If we are to be faithful to the biblical text, it is the Spirit of God who will protect the church from false teachings. Unless you are convinced that you are a prophet?

    If the questions and theology of the emerging church are not of God, this too will pass.

    If God is sovereign, then it seems that we shouldn't be too concerned about possible false teachings. One could argue that the opponents of emerging churches don't really embrace the sovereignty of God.

    For the record, I believe God is sovereign.

    KP said...

    Randy, I too believe that God is sovereign but I think you've created a false dichotomy here. One EITHER believes that God is sovereign and will guide his church OR one contends for the faith once delivered to the saints and exposes falsehood. Is such a dichotomy faithful to the biblical texts? I think not but I'm willing to be shown otherwise.

    Habitans in Sicco said...

    Randy: "If God is sovereign, then it seems that we shouldn't be too concerned about possible false teachings."

    I believe that is known as "Reason Number 134 Why the Emerging Conversation Is a Non-Starter."

    Has it occurred to you that your statement contradicts at least 2 dozen clear commandments in Scripture?

    Holiday At The Sea said...

    Would someone please help this guy out? I ask that you do it ONLY in the spirit of 1 Jn 4.

    Two wrongs dont make a right:).

    http://www.myfourwalls.net/?p=849#respond

    bob hyatt said...

    "I've been dealing with this stuff for nearly two years and the EC "conversation" has managed to split a beloved local church in half. I recently received a copy of David Fitch's most recent book to add to the numerous others in my library on this subject. Hosting an apologetics radio program requires digesting a lot of material. And lately, a lot of Maalox.

    For every time I get asked if I've read EC material, I'd like to retort with a question of my own. How much Bible have they read lately?


    See, it's exactly this kind of thing that needs to be called out by people that want to actually get somewhere...
    1. The "EC 'conversation'" has split zero churches. Immature Christians do that.

    2. The broad-stroke of "People in the Emerging Church don't read the Bible" is about as helpful as "Reformed people don't care about evangelism." Not only is it needlessly pejorative, I think it qualifies as "bearing false witness." You may disagree with their interpretation of Scripture, but ad hominems like that needlessly drag the conversation down.

    Quaker said...

    Why can't you accept the variations on a theme that have been at the core of Christianity for eons. I mean, Henry VIII started the church of England simply because he wanted to get a freaking divorce. From this church you have all the Evangelical movements today. This is your lineage. Why run away from it with your false notions of purity.

    Stephen said...

    As a first time reader of the author's blog, I am impressed by his clarity of thought and expression. I am a pastor who is in the midst of planting a new church in the community of Spring, TX, an ex-urb of Houston. Having read many of the theological and doctrinal concerns of various writers and thinkers including the recent work by D.A. Carson, I found the content here consistent with the prevailing patterns of criticism being leveled against Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Spencer Burke, and others. In the interest of brevity, I can only say that despite my appreciation for the author's diatribe (which I do not use here as a term of derision), I do not walk away convinced that the emergent movement and its accompanying conversation is the wellspring of heresy, error, and harmful doctrine the author asserts it to be. While I am surely convinced that that the author holds strong, clear convictions regarding the supposed false foundations of the EC movement, I do not agree or reach anything nearing his conclusion regarding this movement/conversation's impact. I have found the works of McLaren, Rob Bell, Donald Miller, and others to be a breathe of life and fresh air that have rekindled and encouraged my passionate and committed service to Jesus Christ and the world he came to save. Nothing in this post is likely to sway the convictions of those who have determined the EC movement and its primary thinkers to be out of bounds and destructive to orthodoxy. I am simply another voice to add to the multitudes who are experiencing a deeper, more richly experienced journey with Jesus as result of the EC leaders thoughts and writings. Blessings to those who make their stand for the Bible and the heritage of doctrine and theology upon which so many of our churches stand today. May we continue living as compassionate servants who are salt and light in a world that is often startlingly dark and sour, in desperate need of Jesus' disciples who are willing to give their lives away in His service. Our loving God will undoubtedly fulfill his promise: that despite our flaws, mistakes, and failures, that in seeking Him with our whole hearts, we will surely come to find Him in the end.