oug Pagitt has explained his scorn for John MacArthur in an e-mail to someone who expressed disappointment about the way Pagitt seemed to sidestep certain gospel truths during his recent CNN appearance. Pagitt's reply to his interlocutor is a rare, and welcome, moment of Emergent candor.
First, a hat-tip to Todd Friel, who featured this on last Monday's second hour of Way of the Master Radio. I get WOTM's podcasts daily but usually have to catch up with my listening on the weekends, so I did not hear this segment (or even know about it) until Saturday, when I listened to it on my way home from a conference in Bakersfield. Since it sheds further light on Friday's post, I decided to mention it today, while it's still timely.
Anyway, it seems this disappointed CNN viewer (someone I do not know) pointed out to Pagitt that Jeremiah 17:9 says "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." What sinners urgently need, therefore, is a new heart and a wholesale spiritual conversiona new birth, in Jesus' wordsnot the artificial "wholeness" offered by yogic meditation; not a spiritual calisthenic that doesn't even deal with sin; and certainly not the phony self-help of seeking a connection with "the divine" by looking inside our own fallen and deceitful hearts.
The writer said he felt strongly about this since Jeremiah 17:9 had been instrumental in his own conversion, and he was very concerned about the way Pagitt seemed to gloss over the vital truth that text teaches.
Now, I've suggested on a couple of occasions that several of the dominant figures in the Emerging/Emergent Conversation seem to have a notion of the gospel that is altogether different from what I find in Scripture, in the teaching of Christ, and in every historic confession of faith. In particular, the whole Emerging trajectory on the gospel seems to involve a conscious departure from the historic evangelical distinctives that define the Protestant mainstream.
Whenever I have expressed concern about that, I've been scolded and/or shouted down by Friends of Emergent who think such concerns are alarmist, overblown, uncharitable, and altogether unwarranted.
But here is someone who is arguably one of the three most prolific authors in the Emerging Conversation, and he plainly acknowledges that the gospel he believes is so thoroughly opposed to John MacArthur's understanding of the gospel that he thinks what MacArthur teaches about the gospel is a serious perversion"so distant from the message of the Bible that it is dangerously harmful to people."
He even takes pains to stress that he is not making such a statement lightly. That is Doug Pagitt's carefully-considered assessment of the doctrinal differences between himself and "the likes of John MacArthur."
In other words, Pagitt admits that these are two wholly different gospels. One or the other, therefore, deserves the strongest possible anathema (Galatians 1:8-9).
That kind of clarity is precisely what is needed in the Emergent conversation. It draws a much-needed line in the sand. Emerging leaders who seem to crave the endorsement of conservative evangelicals while maintaining close affiliations with Pagitt and the rest of the Emergent Village posse need to pay close attention to what Pagitt is saying.
Those who are trying to produce carefully-crafted, purposely ambiguous statements of faith that can be affirmed by conservative evangelicals and liberal Emergents alike need to listen carefully to Pagitt; then read Paul's words in Galatians 1; and wake up to reality: the issues at stake really are of eternal importance.
And while we are on the subject, Pyro readers ought to listen to Mark Driscoll's 83-minute message from Friday night's session of the Convergent conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. (I got it on iTunes from the SEBTS podcast. I don't see it listed on the Web yet.) Driscoll likewise drew some clear lines in the sand. As usual, he couldn't seem to manage doing it without being unnecessarily and inappropriately crude, but we'll set that aside for the moment. He called out Pagitt, McLaren, and Bell (among others) for their departures from essential biblical truths and key Reformation distinctives.
Before you get too excited about that, note that Driscoll also took some hard shots at non-Emerging critics who don't approve of the methodology (and scatology) he employs to contextualize his ministry for postmodern young people. Driscoll dismissed all such critics as "fundamentalists" (he clearly doesn't relish saying that word the way he does certain four-letter expressions). He said such people pose a danger equal to that of the heretics within Emergent.
Meanwhile, Driscoll himself is under fire from some of his Emerging friends who don't like his combativeness and claim he fudged the numbers in his description of Mars Hill's "baptsmalooza."
So it seems the "Emerging Conversation" is coming apart at the seams.
Mike Clawson, a self-styled pacifist who clearly favors the leftmost Emergent ideas, says the fault lies almost entirely with the revival of Reformed doctrine. And ironically, he cites a three-year-old piece by Pagitt, appealing for a mild and friendly response to Emergent's critics. It contrasts starkly with Pagitt's actual response to John MacArthur.
Clawson's post seethes with postmodern angst over so much conflict. (Which is a bit odd, really, because Clawson has never really shown himself to be as averse to conflict as he often claims he is. But at least he has the good taste to acknowledge near the end of his post that he's not "always very good" at being a real pacifist, "but I'm trying.")
However you look at it, this has been a seriously hard week for the Emerging/Emergent conversation. I'm thinking of trying to trademark the name "Post-Emergent," because I think it's going to be really, really useful very soon now.