10 May 2007

OK, OK. Just one short but substantive contribution before I hibernate:

by Phil Johnson

ere's a snippet from a footnote in a chapter I've been writing for an upcoming book. Read it and talk amongst yourselves:

ne genuine contribution the [Emerging Church Movement(ECM)] has made is in its analysis of the many failures of the contemporary evangelical mainstream. The ECM critique of the evangelical movement is for the most part right on target—especially when Emerging critics decry contemporary evangelicals' infatuation with everything frivolous, superficial, and self-centered. As a matter of fact, one major catalyst that seems to be propelling young people into the ECM is their loathing for the unbridled shallowness and self-absorption of modern evangelicalism. The publisher's ad copy for Russell Rathburn's Post-Rapture Radio (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005) expresses a typical sentiment: "Frustrated with the shallowness of the American Evangelical Movement of the past few decades, and seeing that many of his friends wanted to have nothing to do with Christianity, Russell . . . decided to create a church that his friends would want to come to."

Rathburn and friends are absolutely right in their negative assessment of contemporary evangelicalism; but their solution could hardly be more wrong-headed. Redesigning the church to suit one's own cultural or generational preferences (as opposed to seeking a biblical approach to church order) is the very thing that caused the evangelical movement to run aground in the first place. It has already bred a completely different—and perhaps more dangerous—kind of superficiality in the ECM, too.
Phil's signature

41 comments:

donsands said...

Sounds like a book i"d love to read.

" .. shallowness of the American Evangelical Movement .."

I'm so glad the Lord brought me out of this 1/2 inch deep and 100 mile wide churchianity.

It's the depth of His Word along with the simplicity of Christ which the Spirit of God uses to set the Body of Christ apart.

(I suppose we may all need to experience this; perhaps not.)

steve said...

Redesigning the church to suit one's own cultural or generational preferences (as opposed to seeking a biblical approach to church order) is the very thing that caused the evangelical movement to run aground in the first place.

Well said. Can't wait to read the chapter itself.

I just started reading Evangelicalism Divided. Murray could easily write a sequel based on what's happened since 2000.

Daryl said...

Well written. Like all of us, the EC group find it easy to criticize and not so easy to correct the problem.

Since I first began to look into the EC movement it seemed to me that in claiming to reject the "seeker-sensitive" model of their parents, what really happened is that they maintained the very same market driven rationale and simply went after a different clientele.

The acorn doesn't fall very far from the tre...

Jerry Wragg said...

Absolutey right on Phil!

Today's "emergents" justify their approach by criticizing the shallow seeker movement (a criticism rightly leveled), yet seem obtuse to their own brand of seeker-fed motivations (as Daryl stated above). It's as though they truly see a significant difference between Warren's "break down emotional barriers" philosophy and their own "break down cultural barriers" approach.

Moreover, they seem to have forgotten why they orignally began complaining, namely, that the old "traditional" churches were the thorn in their proverbial passion for outreach. It seems as though the movement began by distancing itself from "old" forms of worship and evangelism, but have found a new whipping boy in the market-driven approach of contemporary evangelicalism.

It is readily apparent from the above inconsistencies that emergents just really don't like any approach different from their own.
It seems obvious that any ministry philosophy which speaks definitively about truth or implies any kind of biblical separation from worldly associations is destined for criticism. Early on, the "out-dated" traditional church was the ash heap out of which a phoenix must rise. For now, the seeker-movement is in the hot seat. My guess as to which approach is on deck? Those within the movement who see the folly of "contextualization" and begin calling for reform of the ECM.

Noel said...

It is amazing how led astray "happy churches" or "seeker chuchers" are. Having come from one where I went to church and punched a time card never developing my mind for the Lord. I couldn't say I was loving the Lord with all my mind.
Thanks be to God for His grace that he called me to a higher place where I am being developed for the Lord where I can truly strive to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, and soul.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Great stuff here!

Daryl said...

What follows probably includes some pent-up frustration from reading various archived posts on the Emergent church...

It occurs to me that the criticism which the EC movement engenders, NEEDS to come from outside sources because it fails so abysmally at policing itself.

What could happen within the Emergent Church if all those who insist that they not be treated with a broad-brush approach would stand up and loudly and publicly denounce men like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren Steve Chalke etc. for what they teach? Unfortunately they give the lie to the claim that they don't all believe the same things by saying nothing and continuing to attend their conferences and book-signings.

Perhaps they don't all believe the same thing...then again, maybe they do...In my view the maddening lack of clarity makes holding the EC movement AS A WHOLE to the fire and insisting that they clearly state their beliefs a completely legitimate exercise.

It's just not enough to say "they don't speak for everyone..."

Actually they do, or someone else would. And no one else is.

Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

Re the stamp graphic...does it indicate we'll need to read the post 4 times to get your 2 cents' worth?

David said...

Commentor war alert - start the popcorn - within about 10 more minutes we will have the rush of commentors about the evil EM'rs. I am sure shortly we will get the EM'rs to pile on about the evil fundies. Then each side can complain about each others posts.

Daryl has it right

"Like all of us,

the EC group find it easy to criticize and not so easy to correct the problem."

I look forward to the chapter that lays out the solution for all churchs - EM, EV and Fundi alike.

Sewing said...

A prescient observation. I agree 100% with the motivation behind the emerging church movement, and 100% that the solution is to get back to exposition of the Word and ditch the superficial stuff.

Ebeth said...

This reminds me painfully of the church I was involved with in the late 1960s-early 1970s which was established with the goal of doing church "right"--as if no previous generation had done that. To say we were idealistic would be kind. "Naive enthusiasm" might best sum up its beginnings. Before it ended, there were many who left it damaged in one way or another.

danny2 said...

phil,

allow me to be the first of 658 comments to say, "but phil, you've gotten it all wrong. you just don't understand."

(even though i think you nailed it!)

Mean Dean said...

I think the emergent church re-factoring some of the failures of the fall out of the anti-intellectualism that afflicted the evangelical church in the late 19th and up through the 20th century is not a bad thing.

But what they've concluded, and how they've decided to address these problems are as reactionary to the problem - and as likely to 'trend-out' as problems as those they seek to cure.

To me, too much of the 60's and 70's culture has been infused into the solutions.

Daryl said...

I wonder how many of the doctrinal problems in the church were caused by looking around at the culture and saying "they don't get it, lets do what thet get".

You hear a lot of that amongst the various EC writings and speakings.

Why not try to be faithful to the text and accept that sometimes (maybe even most times) people won't respond, instead of deciding that maybe we've gotten the gospel wrong.
As Phil concluded (more or less) surely it's wrong-headed to correct culturally created problems in the church by embracing...another culture.

A bit like fixing a broken leg by breaking your other leg so you don't tip over...

David said...

Phil,

I agree with much of the Emergent critique of the Evangelical church as well. I can't stand the theological shallowness I've seen in some of the churches I've attended; especially the impotence of many pastors when it comes to preaching boldly on controversial issues on which Scripture is clear.

But what's worse to me is that Emergents choose to flee with their tails between their legs, often portraying themselves as helpless victims of "hypocrisy" in the church (instead flocking to bars and coffee shops as if such were bastions of integrity). They take no proactive approach toward helping sincere believers (who comprise these churches) see areas in which they are failing and need to be exhorted; then they uncourageously emerge into faux-intellectual circles of elitist skepticism.

These groups take a passive aggressive approach to the issues of the church, waiting for evangelicals to get something else wrong so they can critique it to society at large...apparently valuing the favor of the world over fellowship in the Spirit. "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies."

I think that Emergents need our love and our grace more than anything else we can give. But part of that involves the exhortation that even if they have "all knowledge...but do not have love", they accomplish nothing.

David
Five Smooth Stones

jsb said...

Right on, Phil. I've always been 30-70 with ECM lit. 30% is good, the critique aspect. The rest, the "solution" aspect, veers way off.

Finished "The Truth War," BTW. Well done! Your fingerprints are all over it. Your name should have been on the cover along with JM's, IMO.

centuri0n said...

My favorite consideration is when we think about what a wreck "denominationalism" has made of things. So what do we do? We start a non-denom church.






Think about that for an hour or two.

Sewing said...

Mean Dean wrote,

"...the anti-intellectualism that afflicted the evangelical church in the late 19th and up through the 20th century..."

Can y'all shed some more light on this for me? This is intriguing, because starting out as a non-believer, I used to think I had to choose between the atheist's false dichotomy of being a thinker or being a believer. Discovering things and people like apologetics, Oswald Chambers, this wonderful blog, and so on convinced me that I could be both: a thinking evangelical. Could my dilemma have been because evangelicalism itself stood opposed (wrongly) to intellectualism? Did evangelicals cede valuable ground in a century when it could have used—but underplayed the use of—rational thought to proclaim the Gospel?

Lance M. Roberts said...

Thanks Phil for the post. Should we be surprised? 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3-4. What is the next heresy? I can't even imagine.

Touchstone said...

Do the folks here really suppose that the ECM is primarily or only thinking of Rick Warren and the "seeker sensitive" churches when it offers its criticisms of Evangelicals?

That seems to be a bit of "Well, yeah, +1 on the criticisms of those *other* guys... Good thing they aren't talking about me".

You can press me for links on this if you want, just of the top of my head, I'd just look at the implications of the ECM term "missional". As I understand it, the basic thrust here is that the basic priority should be moved away from the church serving its members to the church serving the community, a "sent people" (I'm thinking of stuff I've read on this by Horrox, Kimball and McKnight here). Also implicated in that is a shift in focus away from singular focus on eternal salvation ("I will be saved") to a more expansive view of salvation ("I am saved, I am being saved, I will be saved"...).

That's expressing it in positive terms with respect to the ECM. But when turned around, what it negates/criticizes is the Evangelical focus on eternal salvation, and in many cases *only* eternal salvation.

If that *is* a bit of ECM criticism that it would level at the Evangelical church, that seems to be much more squarely aimed at, say conservative Reformed churches and Independent Baptists than Saddleback.

Or, as an ECM friend of mine quips "Great, your soul is saved, so's mine. Now can we start focusing on more pressing problems?" The heart of that quip is not about culture, but about fundamental theology, and the exegesis of Jesus words. Is saving our eternal soul our *only* priority? Is saving the souls of our neighbors and the peoples of all nations our *only* imperative from the Lord?

That transcends culture. If the ECM is saying that Evangelicals need to get beyond a self-centered obsession with the own souls, the rest of the world be...

then that criticism isn't rightly fobbed off onto Rick Warren. It may apply to him and his ministry to, but right or wrong, it's a criticism aimed right here.

-Touchstone

jsb said...

sewing...actually, the late 19th and early 20th was the peak of evangelical thought. Warfield and the Princetonians; the drafting of The Fundamentals; R. A. Torrey, et al.

When fundamentalISM became a movement in the late 20's, it did abandon the academy. That was one reason people like Carl Henry started Fuller Th. Seminary in the 40's.

I think it was the 60's that began to do us in, because it led to the experiential over the intellectual, and that was what fostered the "seeker sensitive" quagmire of the last 30 years. That, it seems to me, is what the ECM is rightly finding uninspiring. That includes, as Touchstone mentions, a sort of sitting back in the pews mentality, an individual comfort factor (seen most horrifically now in Osteenism). I would agree that ECM focus on community and service is a good corrective for same.

However, I would also say the Bible thinks souls are supposed to be saved and doctrine is supposed to be right.

Touchstone said...

jsb,

However, I would also say the Bible thinks souls are supposed to be saved and doctrine is supposed to be right.

Amen. ECMs that I talk to are at pains to point out that "missionality" doesn't actually come at the *expense* of saving souls, but is a more effective strategy for same. "Right doctrine" is more conceptually more problematic for ECMs (as we've beat to death previously), but for their part, I don't think they'd agree that their missionality diminishes the soul-saving efficacy of the congregation's efforts, but rather enhances it.

-Touchstone

Mike said...

Touchstone,

I'm having a real tough time reconciling "Great, your soul is saved, so's mine. Now can we start focusing on more pressing problems?"

With

"Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away."
(Hebrews 2:1)


Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding you but you seem to want to treat the gospel as preparatory to the Christian life, but yet distinct from it. But it seems to me that the Bible tells us to put the gospel at the center of our *whole* lives, and have our good works flow from our hearts as they are changed by the gospel.

What good is it for Christians to set the gospel aside as we address our "pressing problems"? Having begun in the Spirit, can we then be perfected by the flesh? It's almost as if we're saying "enough of this 'Christ crucified' stuff, Paul; give us something we can use!"

--Mike

Touchstone said...

Hi Mike,

I can see how you might take it that way, but I meant that in the opposite direction, and believe that's how it is offered from many ECM types.

It doesn't split off eternal salvation or diminish it, but rather brings a clear-eyed view of broad commendations of the Gospel in reifying the Kingdom of God.

That very much *is* an exercise in putting gospel at the center of our whole lives, I'd say. The "missional" concept generally sees evangelical life as highly compartmentalized and disengaged from making Christ as a *lifestyle* and a *theology* a practical, unmistakable reality in our lives. Which is too say that ECMs often identify evangelicalism as too neatly contained in a theological drum, opened up in church and passed around in quantity there, but without a lot of spillover into the street.

(And, since it seems the reflex here in some quarters is to see all that as invective against Rick Warren, I will state that this particular criticism lands much heavier blows on "Truly Reformed" types much more than doctinally-weak seeker churches that play Indigo Girls tunes as the congregation wanders into the sanctuary.)

Another way I've heard it phrased is when ECMs invert a favorite evangelical aphorism:

"Orthodoxy begets orthopraxis"

ECMs have suggested the opposite for consideration:

"Orthopraxis begets orthodoxy"

In my life there's been something to that (although as stated the inversion is too extreme); getting out there and *doing* the things Jesus commanded, with vigor and diligence and humility has been a great enabler for doctrinal and spiritual insight.

It has nothing to do with justification or sanctification or any kind of works-based soteriology. It has everything to do with obedience, a robust hearing of the gospel. A hearing that absolutely affirms the importance of eternal salvation and the repentance and faith it takes to obtain it, but isn't satisfied with just that being the "whole center" of one's life. Jesus also called us to reify the Kingdom of God in the here and now, as part of his Gospel -- the Kingdom of God is among you!, etc.

Hope that helps. The criticism I was pointing at is one that sees *more* centrality of the Gospel in the lives of the Christian community, not less. Many in the ECM and elsewhere decry what they idenitify as a very self-centered comparmentalization of their lives, focusing on doxis at the *expense* of praxis.

We can debate the merits of that criticism, but I believe that is a salient criticism of modern evangelicalism that the ECMs would offer.

And it's not one Phil can rightly push off on Rick Warren, in any case.

-Touchstone

lordodamanor said...

"However, I would also say the Bible thinks souls are supposed to be saved and doctrine is supposed to be right."

In reality it says that souls will be saved and that is the right doctrine. Now, this leads us to the whole reason for the EC. We have all concluded at one time or another that we know what is best for the church. Fundamentals were written, rules for behavior regulated. The noose tightened and the body strung up high. Will it never end, well no.


"A prescient observation. I agree 100% with the motivation behind the emerging church movement, and 100% that the solution is to get back to exposition of the Word and ditch the superficial stuff."

But as soon as we do, then there are those ravenous wolves. Ya see, there is a real and very powerful enemy who will never let us rest. The Lord did this so we wouldn't. I like that refrain, "Reformed and always reforming." So...

"We start a non-denom church."

And we try to get back to the native church of the first century. Can't imagine that... outside urinals and all, no running water, frozen baptismal lake. Well, personally, I like my coffee and cakes at the entrance of the sanctuary. Once the Pope went to Papua and his advanced guard had all the native women don T-shirts. Wow- one man's culture is another man's exuse to not preach the truth. And, that is really why we want a new nondenom. That nominus, the rules just get in the way of individuality.

And that is why this disease of....


"...the anti-intellectualism that afflicted the evangelical church in the late 19th and up through the 20th century..."

keeps creeping in. Red carpet, blue carpet issues take the forefront when we do not follow the admonitition....

"Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away."
(Hebrews 2:1)

Would it be so much to ask what Jesus would do? Well, evangelism was not the primary reason that he came, but it went along with sanctifying his disciples with the truth. One of those tiny little things that is not paid much attention is the great commission. We say we do, but, it has three parts. The first is making disciples. But, that is not evangelism because it belongs to the last clause, teaching them, and as a practice, baptizing. This center is evangelism and WWJD. He did not baptize. Well then, first he called men to himself. But, he did not evangelize. He taught, he did preach the kingdom. Now, what did he teach and preach? That is really the question. And, if we want to do Church right, then that is what we must find out. Proving all spirits, to see if they are of God.

It is easy to fill a church. But take away the incentives, require that the people eat the body of Christ and drink his blood, and the crowds thin our precipitously.

It has not been just the EC, but every movement that jumps ship, jumps for spurious reason, usually. And, it will not end. Reactionaries spur correction and we can thank God for that. So in summation I would have to agree with y'all. The best we can do is to bury ourselves in the Word of God and pray that God would not lead us in to this temptation. Perhaps a good place to start is in 1 Corinthians 4, "...for your sakes, that you may learn from us not to go behond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from antother. And what do you have that you did not receive?"

Mike said...

Thanks for the reply Touchstone.


I have to ask, is your criticism that evangelicals are not **teaching** obedience, or that we are not obeying?

If the issue is that we are not teaching obedience, then who is it you are criticizing? Who is teaching that obedience to the gospel is not a necessary part of belief in the gospel? It sounds like your real beef is with the "free-gracers"!

If the issue is that we are not obeying, then can you be more specific? I honestly don't know if I've ever "reified" anything. :-)

--Mike

The Fantastic Daughter-In-Law's Spouse said...

I see a common theme in the graphics when a certain team member posts...but then again, it worked for the Ayatollah.

Isaac said...

Hi, I'm new but I've been reading for a while.

I was directed here by Way of the Master Radio.

Daryl has completely summed up my thoughts on the ECM, thanks.

As for a solution, can I suggest that there is none?

Won't the tares grow up with the wheat?

We simply cannot force everyone to believe what the bible says alone. Jesus never promised that a great percentage of people would be saved (not saying EMers are unsaved, but we all know what sort of converts will be made with this distinctly Seeker-sensitive approach).

It's almost as though the majority of the church hold on to this unbiblical idea. "If we just try hard enough, work hard enough, in the end; everyone will be saved."

We've forgotten about the Narrow Gate somehow.

Just my thoughts, from the land Down Under.

Daryl said...

May I return the compliment Isaac. Well said.

Every single time the church starts talking like the gospel is primarily something you do, rather than something you believe it gets into trouble. True, the seeker-sensitive churches aren't the only problem, but churches putting a heavy emphasis on doctrine can hardly be identified as whats wrong with evangelicalism. I daresay that in the past 50 years or so, the evangelical mainstream has been dominated by everything EXCEPT churches which place a heavy emphasis on doctrine.

Touchstone said...

"Orthopraxis begets orthodoxy"

(I realize you were quoting the ECers, I've heard them say it too)

Problem is, it's just not true. In fact it makes no sense. If it were true then JW's, Mormons, Bahai's and every atheist whoever gave his/her life for a good cause, would be an orthodox Christian and on their way to heaven.

They're not.

Actions don't cause ideas, ideas cause actions. "Out of the heart, the mouth speaks". Is "Out of the speaking of the mouth, the heart thinks" an equally valid statement? I hardly think so.

The problem is, the primary thing we are told to "do" as Christians is to "believe on the one whom he has sent". And further to that "how shall they believe unless they hear and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (my paraphrase)

Once the whole thing gets away from "what do we believe" to "what do we do" (as primary concern you understand, I'm in no way suggesting that we need not do anything) we start to confuse who is to do what. That is, if my neighbour needs his lawn cut and can't do it, I, Joe Christian should. That does not, however translate into "the church's ministry should be cutting people's grass". I see this thinking more and more both in my own (non EC church) and in others churches.
(Our church recently did an "outreach" which included picking up garbage in a city park and stuff like that...)

Yes, we should love our neighbour. Absolutely.
But what is the mission of the Church as a body?
Souls. Only souls. Preaching to unsaved, and teaching the saved.
And unless we are crystal clear as to what we need to be preaching and teaching we do no one any good at all.

The Gospel is not a "secret message". Environmentalism is not the church's mission nor is it in anyway equal to it. Salvation, as laid out in Scripture, is reserved for souls, real people, nothing else.

Again, for those like Touchstone who will take issue with much of this on "broad-brush" grounds. I reiterate, why do we hear nothing of this from those within the EC who aren't covered by the brush? Why are they not disciplining McLaren, Bell and others for their twisting of the gospel?

To wrap this up. Touchstone, this discussion will always go back to belief and theology and what doctrines you would die for because all the rest comes out of that. All of it. Not the other way around.

Touchstone said...

mike,

Let me paste in a couple paragraphs I pasted away in my files from a Christianity Today, back in January of this year. This is a guy you may have heard of by the name of N.T. Wright (pernicious pomo warning!)

“For generations the church has been polarized between those who see the main task being the saving of souls for heaven and the nurturing of those souls through the valley of this dark world, on the one hand, and on the other hand those who see the task of improving the lot of human beings and the world, rescuing the poor from their misery.

“The longer that I’ve gone on as a New Testament scholar and wrestled with what the early Christians were actually talking about, the more it’s been borne in on me that that distinction is one that we modern Westerners bring to the text rather than finding in the text. Because the great emphasis in the New Testament is that the gospel is not how to escape the world; the gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world. And that his death and Resurrection transform the world, and that transformation can happen to you. You, in turn, can be part of the transforming work. That draws together what we traditionally called evangelism, bringing people to the point where they come to know God in Christ for themselves, with working for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. That has always been at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, and how we’ve managed for years to say the Lord’s Prayer without realizing that Jesus really meant it is very curious.


In a comment right after you, Daryl advanced the very argument I am working against, and which NT Wright is discussing above. Daryl says:

Yes, we should love our neighbour. Absolutely.
But what is the mission of the Church as a body?
Souls. Only souls. Preaching to unsaved, and teaching the saved.
And unless we are crystal clear as to what we need to be preaching and teaching we do no one any good at all.


In a nutshell, that is what I'm pointing at as disobedient to the Gospel. Not because we should be saved and preach to save, but because it's an abdication of our commission from Jesus to leave it at just that.

The ECM has a general sense of this problem, I think. But that's not particularly innovative; Catholic and Orthodox friends have chided me since I was a teen about this position -- I used to espouse the "souls, only souls" argument myself back then.

People who've suffered through my previous comments will believe me when I say I could go on and on about this, but for just here, I think the idea that Wright articulates here frames it more succinctly than I could. In any case, I think daryl's comments here will cement my argument that this criticism is *not* something aimed at "fluffy superficiality" that we decry in seeker sensitive or otherwise anemic churches.

This criticism aims squarely at the conservative reformed community (as well as other communities), those who have sympathy with the "souls, only souls" ethos.

-Touchstone

Isaac said...

Touchstone quoted N.T. Wright saying;

"For generations the church has been polarized between those who see the main task being the saving of souls for heaven and the nurturing of those souls through the valley of this dark world, on the one hand, and on the other hand those who see the task of improving the lot of human beings and the world, rescuing the poor from their misery."

Surely this is a false dichotomy. Maybe it could be better described as a continuum between those very extremes.

(I'm sure it is hyperbole anyway)

It's tough isn't it? Daryl says, "souls, only souls" (not excluding good works of course) Touchstone says that that isn't being true to the Good News.

Of one thing we can be sure, we cannot see souls converted in heaven. We can't evangelise in Heaven.

I wonder if there isn't something else we've forgotten also: Namely the return of Christ. He promises come just as the the flood water came in the days of Noah: people eating, drinking and getting married (or not these days). People were doing this right until the very moment the door closed and they were all lost.

In the same way, we can do all the good deeds we like (incidently just as many non-theists and non-christians do without anyone asking them how to be saved) but the hour is drawing near, whether we like it or not.

Now I'm not one of those street doomsday preachers but Paul believed it was soon, I think we should too. And if it's true we need to do everything within our power to see people saved.

Mike said...

Touchstone,

Here’s the problem. There are all sorts of reasons that we might want to “improve the lot of human beings and the world”, and “rescue the poor from their misery.” The desire to do these things is not unique to Christianity. In other words, simple love for man is not enough to please God. (Without faith it is impossible to please Him!) Just as Christ said, if we love our fathers or mothers more than Christ then we are not worthy of Him. Anyone can feel compassion toward those in need. And we can act on that compassion for any number of reasons. The real difference between a Christian and a kind-hearted Buddhist is that we give our cups of cold water in Jesus' name. And when we do this for “the least of these”, we serve Christ first.

Your friend’s statement that I first responded to, that we should move on from the gospel to “more pressing problems” is horribly misguided. When a man claims to be a Christian but does not love his neighbor, his problem is not a stubborn adherence to a too-narrow gospel. The problem is that he does not have any gospel at all! When someone “shuts up his heart” to a brother in need, the real problem is that the love of the Father is not in him! “He who says ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” If the gospel does not change us, good works never will.

We must remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood! Satan does not care if we feed the hungry or fight for social justice. He is not opposed to prosperity, physical health, or even good morals. He is more than happy to appear as an angel of light and allow people to live comfortably until they are damned. No poor sinner who, when condemned to hell, will be grateful if some kind-hearted Christian once gave him a wonderful meal but neglected to share the gospel. Comfort and ease in this world is not the domain of the Christian – even if we’re trying to attain it for someone else.

I’m sorry, but it still sounds like you’re saying that once we get around the “losing your own soul” business, we can get back to our work of gaining the whole world.

--Mike

TallSkinnyKiwi said...

phil, although rathburn's negative attitude towards the existing churches are not to be emulated (neither does it reflect that of the whole EC movement) it is possible to build a Biblical strategy for church planting based on the requirements of the new believers rather than the church starting team.
Luke 10, in which we read Jesus' instructions to his short term mission team, shows them going out in twos to find a person of peace and then, they were to stay in that person's house and begin ministry. i see this as a church start based on the person of peace and there is other Biblical warrant (Matthew, Lydia) for a church strategy focused on them rather than us.

hey - do i still need to use my dead blogger account to comment here. what about opening the comments a little more to allow non-blogspotters?

eric said...

When will Phil return to the finishing up his post regarding Dan Kimball?

Just Curious!

Eek

Jim Crigler said...

Re: Eric's comment, "When will Phil return to the finishing up his post regarding Dan Kimball?"

Forget Dan Kimball. I'm still waiting for the year and a half old discussion about Gothard and Blackaby (that got hijacked by a different discussion).

Daryl said...

Just to piggy-back on what Mike said before I get to work...

When has the church ever began to emphasize good works at the expense of theology without running into problems? (A friend of mine addresses theology with "yeah thats interesting if you've got time for it, but what should we DO?")
We need to stress what Mike said, namely that if our good works are lacking it indicates a lack of faith, primarily.
I fear that in neglecting real solid teaching, we have also forgotten or ignored the real power in God's word. It is true that it is crazy to believe that education will correct racism or drug use or whatever however theology and biblical studies are not just education. God's word tranforms. If it doesn't, either we're not regenerated or we're being disobedient.

The answer to a lack of charity and compassion is not to begin another church. New denominations spring up due to a difference in belief, and that is the primary difficulty with the EC. If action is what is lacking, someone would start pushing the saints a little and starting a helps ministry or whatever. But that's not what's being done here.
The previous comment about "more pressing problems" really lets the cat out of the bag. If getting the gospel right isn't the primary issue, all the other issues jump to the fore, right where any moralizing unbeliever would put them. After all, what offends the world? Is it helping aids victims (which we should do), is it trying to alleviate poverty (again, a worthy cause)? Hardly. What offends the world is when the look around and see our condition and then see Christians having the audacity to say that, while yes, those are real problems which need to be addressed, at the end of the day it is the eternal soul that matters.

Think on eternity for a while. Try and get your head around forever.

Now try and imagine hell for 5 minutes, 1 hour, 1 year. I used to figure that I could manage hell for a while, even a long while, if I knew it would end at some point. But it won't. It seems to me that in leaving core doctrines behind, we leave eternity behind and suddenly the worst this world has to offer is really the worst there is. And we lose sight of what really matters.

Gotta run,

Work calls...

Jan said...

As agreed I am putting my post here.

Good to hear you on the radio here in SE Michigan. I thank God for your willingness to stick with preaching the good news!

Garden City, Michigan

Art said...

Redesigning the church to suit one's own cultural or generational preferences..."

You do realize that every single church does this across the board, whether fundy mundy, emergent, or somewhere in between. I don't think its helpful to pretend like you can design a church in an "a-contextual" sort of way. Every church is bound by its context...at least the emerging movement is honest about that and isn't still following the modernist fairy tale of a "meta-contextual" church that can recapitulate the church of the first century in our current context.

It would be nice to see church's admit that they are shaped by their context. Grace is no different from Solomon's Porch or Mars Hill in this regard; the only different is the context that they are choosing to embrace.

Isaac said...

Art said:
"'Redesigning the church to suit one's own cultural or generational preferences...'

You do realize that every single church does this across the board, whether fundy mundy, emergent, or somewhere in between."


Of course each individual congregation adapts some of its forms to engage the people. Some obvious ones include having services in English for English speakers and Spanish for Spanish speakers etc. Another one is the use of contemporary music in worship or technology in sermons. None of these can be seen to contradict the scriptures.

What the challenge to the emerging church (and the seeker sensitive church for that matter) is: Don't redefine 'church' to suit yourself; Church is for believers. The word ekklesia means "the body of believers". Emergents and Seeker-sensitives have unwisely based their ideas on pragmatism, not the Bible.

You betray a very post-modern world-view and frankly I have no sympathy for a philosophy that can't prove it exists.

art said...

What the challenge to the emerging church (and the seeker sensitive church for that matter) is: Don't redefine 'church' to suit yourself; Church is for believers. The word ekklesia means "the body of believers". Emergents and Seeker-sensitives have unwisely based their ideas on pragmatism, not the Bible.

You betray a very post-modern world-view and frankly I have no sympathy for a philosophy that can't prove it exists.


For the sake of precision, the Greek term ekklesia means "assembly" or "congregation" and is not just used of believers in Greek literature or in Scripture (Acts 19.32).

It is a mistake to say that the emerging church movement has based its way of doing church on pragmatism alone. I am not emergent, but I have read much of their literature and do not believe this to be the case. They do go too far in their adaptation to postmodern philosophy, which in its 'hard' version is very dangerous and I agree that it should not be tolorated because it is incompatible with Biblical truth.

But there are some churches that belong to the emerging movement (for instance, Mars Hill Seattle) that are contextualizing their ministry (just like any ministry does, whether they are aware of it or not) based on Biblical principles and not pragmatism.

Melchizedek said...

Redesigning the church to fit the context of the culture is the biblical approach to church order.