25 October 2006
erhaps you are one of those who thinks I have been too hard or too shrill in my criticisms of "the Emerging Church." In all honesty, the more I have been exposed to the various streams of the movement, and the more closely I have examined the agglomeration of trends and ways of thinking that make Emerging-style "ministry" distinctive, the more I want to distance myself from everything "Emerging." If any ostensibly-Christian movement since late-nineteenth-century modernism was more deserving of a shrill warning, I can't imagine what it would be.
Here is a lie writ large: "Postmodern Ministry Takes Us Back to The Bible." I invite you to follow that link; read the page; notice the sound file linked at the bottom of the page; and give it a careful listen.
It's a sermon by Rob Bell. David Posthuma introduces the message with this hopeful claim: "I present this teaching for one purpose alone . . . to illustrate how radically different postmodern Biblical facilitation is from the Seeker-Sensitive Topical Talk model so prevalent within our churches today."
OK. I'll grant that Bell's message is completely and radically different from anything you would hear in a seeker-sensitive context. But Posthuma's blogpost seems to imply that Bell's sermon proves Emerging-style ministry is somehow more "biblical" than seeker-sensitive worship.
Hardly. Bell's message is not only unbiblical; it's anti-Christian. He takes a bit of drivel he apparently learned from a yoga instructor somewhere, badly rephrases in quasi-biblical terminology, and spends 36 minutes doing "exposition" on a breathing exercise.
The result is not merely trivial: it's flat-out heretical. And in more ways than I care to enumerate.
I'll give one brief example, though. Here's a sample of what Bell does with the gospel: "You can't get enough points to get in with the Big Guy. You can't do enough good deeds and then God will like you. One of the things the Spirit does is remind us that we belong. Period. Just exactly as we are. You are loved by God."
Bell's syncretized amateur yoga exercise is not Christianity by any stretch of the definition. I'll go further: if this is what Bell really believes, he himself is no Christian.
The message actually proves that the stream of Emerging religion represented by Rob Bell hasn't a clue or a care about basic biblical truth. It's nothing but an experiment with the deconstruction of Christianity.
On a side note, but a related subject I thought in the interests of balance, after hearing that sermon by Bell, I ought to listen to a sermon from the "conservative" side of the Emerging movement. So I listened to this one by Mark Driscoll. I wish I hadn't. Driscoll's smutty language and preoccupation with all things lowbrow are inappropriate, unbecoming, and dishonoring to Christ. I completely agree that many Christians fail to appreciate the true humanity of Jesus. But it's not necessary to get vulgar in order to communicate the truth about His humanity.
This is the first time I have ever posted anything critical of Driscoll. I have appreciated his defense of the atonement and his willingness to confront the neo-liberalism of other Emerging leaders honestly. But I don't think his perpetually coarse language in the pulpit and his apparent preoccupation with off-color terms and ribald subject matter are merely minor flaws in an otherwise healthy ministry. It is a serious shortcoming.
No, it's actually worse than that, because it blatantly violates the clear principle of Ephesians 5:3-4. It is shameful (v. 12) and therefore a reproach. It's characteristic of the old man and one of the fleshly behaviors we are expressly commanded to put aside (Colossians 3:8). Scripture even seems to indicate that unwholesome language signals an impure mind (Matthew 12:34). And yet this is a deliberate, calculated, and persistent practice of Driscoll's. It is practically the chief trademark of his style.
That's troubling, and even more troubling when I see young Christians and older believers who ought to know better mimicking the practice. If this is the direction even the very best Emerging-style ministry is headed, it's not a trend any Christian ought to find encouraging, much less one we should follow.