31 August 2007

Emerging Church: bad as Gutless Grace Girliemen? Worse than Wrongheaded Wrightophiles? Sillier than Leaky Canoneers?

— OR —
Emerging/Emergent Errors; Puerile Pomo Prattle; Abominable Antinomian Aberrations; Novel New-Perspective Nonsense; Crazy Charismaniac Charlatanism; Sanctimonious Sacramentalist Superstitions; Cynical, Condescending Catholicity; Private Prophetic Phantasms; and Seeker-Sensitive Silliness: What Do They All Have in Common?

Frank Turk & Dan Phillips, but not Phil Johnson—because you people wear him out

The primary point of this post is to really bring all the people we have had consistent adversarial interaction with out of the woodwork to see if we can't make a comment thread go past the 1,000 mark—because after all, we get thousands of readers every day. Everyone should have something to say for himself.

(There's a possible counter-bonus to being so open about our aims. All our friends among the jolly-raunchers and tongue-waggers and shape-shifters and gutless-gracers might read our goal, and think "Well, I'll be [EC verbiage deleted] if I'm going to oblige those judgmental pinheaded legalistic dead-lettered haters!", and stay away. Net result? We get to whack away to our hearts' content, unopposed. See? Win/win!)

So we're going to write a post determined to engage all of the above categories, and it's going to work like this:
  • We're going to assume that when we type phrases like "inerrant scripture," "personal sanctification," "indwelling of the Holy Spirit," and "regenerate believers," they will be blithely ignored or recklessly misconstrued, and will instantly cause someone in one of the adversarial camps to post a comment which has nothing to do with the point we were making.
  • We're going to take it for granted that all of these groups are actually engaged in more important things—you know: like ministry, or real, high-flown academics—than blogging.
  • We're going to have a calm assurance that, no matter what we say, Steve Camp will find a way to disagree and show us how much better his Kung Fu is than ours.
  • We're going to gratuitously post graphics like this one:

And this one:

Inspired by remarks left in the combox below
And this one:

And this one:

And this one:

And this one:

And this one:

And this one:

But not this one:

And the reason for all of that is this—after our concurrent 3-ish years of blogging, we have come to realize that blogging cannot be serious business. Investing a lot of time in posts which say things like God's provision is usually exactly what we need, or that the sufficiency of God's word far exceeds any experience we could hope to encounter, or that we often discount what God has already done never seems to work out for us. People don't remember them. They're not what people come here to see.

And that, frankly, is a shame.

So no sense in wrecking the rest of our week with prayer, reflection and the real meat of God's word. This is what the people want—verbal meat-chubbery—and frankly, from what we understand, giving people what they really want is called missional these days.

We're down with that, because we've listened, heard, read, dialogued, and it keeps coming down to the same thing: the Bible. It seems to be such a problem for so many of our critics.

If you take the Word at its word, it is God's Word. Because it is God's Word, it is truth (John 17:17), it is inerrant (John 10:35), it is sufficient for every Christian need (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Are you a real disciple ofJesus? The way you treat the Bible tells the tale (John 8:31-32). It is the end result of a long, deliberate process (Hebrews 1:1-2), done through men moved by the Holy Spirit who wrote out God's self-revelation, rather than products of their own will (2 Peter 1:20-21).

And it's markedly complete. No essential God-breathed book has been found that antedates Genesis, nor any that post-dates Revelation. The whole vital, need-to-know story and all the details are there: God, man, the universe, the meaning of life and everything. How it all started, how it all ends, what we're to be believing and doing (and not believing nor doing) in the meanwhile.

And there's so much of it. Sixty-six books chock-full of revelation. So much that most professing Christians (to our shame) have never even read it all.

In the light of that, what explains a movement that in effect trivializes it all? A movement that's fascinated with low-voltage pale imitations, so much so that they will redefine Scripture itself to accommodate them? Why (on their view) did God make this perfect thing, then go mostly silent for long centuries, then recently start muttering and stammering and stuttering? It's like they think God is a one-hit wonder, who made one really great album, and then kept making a succession of tired, hackneyed thrift-shop nothing-bombs.

If these mutterings and burblings are actually meaningful, why did God bother to write the Book in the first place?

Or what of another movement that basically has to stare emptily at so much of the Bible? A movement that makes every imperative into a suggestion, treats the commandments of Christ and the apostles as more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules? That turns every vivid and hard warning into a Nerf-bat? That makes the road to Glory wide and easy, but the road to Hell narrow and hard?

If these commandments, warnings, and conditions are actually meaningless, why did God bother to write the Book?

Or what of yet another movement, a vowel/consonant movement, that reduces the clarion calls, the proclamations, the crystal-clear, black-and-white razor-edged demands of God to a "conversation"? A movement that sometimes seems to love community over clarity, dialogue over die-to-sin, leaven* over Heaven, good feelings over Good News, crass over Cross, reinvention over regeneration, edginess over edges, and hipness over holiness? A movement that has all the wisdom of a 20-year-old who's decided he's smarter than his elders (or smarter than all the wisdom of the ages) and approaches the issues of life as if no one else ever saw anything plainly before him...

...and (more particularly) as if God never said anything about the issues of life, or even if He did, as if no one has wrestled with His words before?

If none of the lines or limits of truth has been discovered, uncovered, and well-covered over the last twenty centuries, it makes you wonder why God bothered to give that Book as long ago as He did.

And if the most central issue of the Bible—how can man be just before God?—has been misunderstood by basically every one of the holiest, godliest, most consecrated and devoted men of God for centuries; if, that is, our most elder brothers in the faith have, every one of them, answered that question wrongly, and only a specialist engaging in specialized sub-category studies can unearth the true answer to this basic question...

...it makes you wonder not only why God wrote the Book, but why He made such a poor job of it. Why couldn't He manage to get it Wright... er, right, the first time? Why didn't He make it plain enough for non-specialists to "get" what He was saying?

And what if we lump together all those bustling, bristling groups that have found (invented) such wonderful ways of packing churches—by substituting arts and crafts, skits and dances, jokes and stories, gimmicks and gewgaws, rather than the red-hot, passionate, truth-full, straight-up, eternal-God- talking-to-you-today (Hebrews 3:7-13) preaching of the Word?

Why, really why, did He bother?

See, we may be really old guys, but we wonder things, too.

Don't you? Shouldn't you, anyway?

*Well, at any rate, yeast.

30 August 2007


by Phil Johnson

wasn't going to bump Dan, but I don't mind bumping Frank. I had this item teed up for tomorrow, but the guys are already working on a post for tomorrow whose title alone will prolly launch a thousand comments, and I'm not even going to have time to participate in that thread. So let me get this one up.

(Incidentally, observant readers will notice that I haven't even opened the combox for this post. I know that's not very Schaefferesque of me, but if you have something you desperately need to say, please go to the thread just below this one and take it up with Frank. Or go to the one after that and take it up with Dan. I'm really busy.)


I found the following comment from Gordan "Knuckles" Runyan over at Reformed Mafia, and it perfectly expressed my thoughts about the several really-long comment-threads sparked by the Po-Motivators®.

I've compared those threads to the Whack-a-Mole game at Chuck E. Cheese's, and on my better days I have likened it to a carousel.

Gordan, on the other hand, says,
As much as I love all those posters, the comment threads are even better. It's like "Night of the Living Dead," where these slow-moving zombies come around, each one offering identical complaints. Once you bash one in the head, three more pop up around the corner saying precisely the same thing. The irony there being that a movement that prides itself on individuality and free expression winds up producing cookie-cutter copies, one after the other. It's like they all went to the same seminar on how to complain about conservatives.

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L'Abri or not L'Abri

by Frank Turk

I have a really, really long post which is from something that happened last week, and I'm scrubbing it hard because it's a topic which deserves a hard scrub. And I have another which is part of an inside joke here at TeamPyro which I am in the process of writing. And Phil has a great post linking to a person who's obviously got his head and humor tied on right, so a bumpin' we will go.

But Luke (of "Luke and Rachael" fame in the meta) has said something which I think deserves special attention.

It seems to me that TeamPyro could learn a thing or two from the L'abri model.
Here's my initial reaction to that statement, and I urge you to think about it and then add something constructive to the topic in the comments.

Apparently L'Abri is participating in something like ministry, and this blog in particular is not -- and that's an interesting view from a guy who may or may not be a friend of Emergent but who is taking up for the cause of so-called "missional" church work.

I was going to comment that it's a little weird that pastors who cuss from the pulpit, borrowing music from the least morally-concerned part of secular culture, accepting ritual scarring and piercing, and giving a pass to public drunkenness are all seen as "acceptable", but blogging -- that is, blogging in a way which people will read and take notice of -- is seen as a violation of mission. However, I'm going to ask a question instead.

L'Abri doesn't feed the hungry or clothe the naked in any kind of consistent way. Should they abandon their work to do that work because the latter form of work is apparently more like what Jesus would do?

Mystery quotation: shrinking from telling unwelcome truth

by Dan Phillips

Well kiddies, how about another round of Mystery Quotation?

Remember, no tricks—
  1. Use your memory (or guessing) alone
  2. No electronic tools
  3. No Googling
And now, without further eloquence—
We have a base man-pleasing disposition, which will make us let men perish lest we lose their love, and let them go quietly to hell, lest we should make them angry with us for seeking their salvation: and we are ready to venture on the displeasure of God, and risk the everlasting misery of our people, rather than draw on ourselves their ill-will.
Timely? Have at it!

Dan Phillips's signature

29 August 2007

Answer the Question

by Phil Johnson

From time to time we pull classic comments up out of an old thread's combox. This is one of those.

his comes from the discussion attached to one of yesterday's posts. We've all seen the vigor, passion, and persistence with which angry friends of Emergent have been willing to argue and complain about the propriety of the Po-Motivators. I had wondered aloud if there has ever been an equivalent outpouring of passion from so many people inside the broad boundaries of the Emerging Church against the more heinous doctrinal problems that constantly percolate in that movement's left wing.

So far, no one has really answered that question. One poster (whose behavior here has been so obnoxious that he actually got himself banned awhile back) posted some links showing that he and others had at various times expressed polite disagreement with certain abberant doctrinal ideas in the ECM.

That was no answer to my question, I pointed out. Where was the passion and outrage equal to the outpouring of indignation we've received for our critiques?

After yesterday's long and rambling comment threads drew to a close, we are still waiting for an answer to that question. I don't want our regular readers to miss that fact:

Go back and notice the actual question I asked: "Where, precisely, are [the so-called "conservative" Emerging Christians] investing that kind of energy in order to straighten out Jones, Burke, Bell, et al.?"

I'm not asking whether Emerging insiders ever voice disagreement with one another. Of course they do. But I'm asking to be shown where they have employed the same level of energy and force of polemic they have used against the "watchblogs" in their disagreements with fellow Emergers who have gone off the reservation doctrinally?

Scot Mcknight's telling Spencer Burke he needs to go back to church is hardly in the same class with the curses and demands for repentance that have been posted right here in our comment-threads by Emerging Christians and their sympathizers.

As a matter of fact, some of the same commenters who regularly breach our commenting guidelines here have established entire blogs where they mock and attack Ken Silva and Ingrid S. and others who critique Emerging trends from the outside.

Where, precisely, are Emerging insiders dealing that earnestly with the more serious doctrinal meltdown inside their own movement?

Phil's signature

28 August 2007

Clanging symbols

by Dan Phillips

"Well after all, that's just symbolic, isn't it?"

Guess the topic. Is that about Revelation, predictive prophecy, apocalyptic? Parables? Proverbial metaphors? Heaven, Hell?

It could fit any of those and more. Now, my hermeneutic approach is resolutely grammatico-historical. That conviction is essential to me, equally was instrumental in my conversion, and insofar as I am consistent, it explains every theological position I hold.

That position has always allowed for the obvious presence of symbolic elements in the Bible. (Hint: when someone criticizes this position as not allowing for the symbolic, that is a sure sign that he hasn't a clue.) So I'd have no problem with the occasional employment of the opening statement.

Except for one word: "just."

See, here's the thing about the use of symbolism. Symbolism never is used to point to something less than the symbol, but something greater.

For instance: you might say that the term "Branch" is symbolic of Messiah (Isaiah 11:1), or that the image of the stone is Messianic symbolism (Zechariah 3:9); or that the "smoking fire pot and ...flaming torch" of Genesis 15:17 is symbolic of Yahweh's presence. All true. But while we can gladly agree that each is symbolic, we would never imagine that the reality thus symbolized is less than the symbol itself — that Messiah is less than a branch or a stone, or that God is less than a smoking fire pot or flaming torch.

The symbol is but a lowly signpost, pointing away from itself to the great reality.

Which brings to mind an interchange some thirty-plus years ago, when I was a relatively new Christian. A non-Christian coworker conversationally challenged the reality of the fires of Hell, since the symbol would be meaningless as a threat to an Eskimo.

Even at the time, I think I responded that if an Eskimo were to stick his hand in a fire, he'd find the threat real enough.

It's a commonplace to dismiss the fires of Hell (or the pearl gates of the eternal city) as symbols. Dismissers feel quite sage and urbane, and I'm certain that they feel they've lowered Hell's terror-index appreciably by this dismissal.

Are they symbols? Maybe, maybe not. But I am certain of one thing.

If they are symbolic descriptions, then the reality is far more intense, and far more terrifying (— or, in the city's case, more glorious) than the symbol itself.

Symbol? Maybe.

Just a symbol?


Dan Phillips's signature

What are "conservatives" doing in the Emerging Church?

by Phil Johnson

From time to time we pull classic comments up out of an old thread's combox. This is one of those.

ere a commenter tries to argue that outsiders' criticism of the Emerging Church Movement is inherently unfair and unwise, because the movement is so broad that no criticism can possibly apply to the whole mess. Furthermore, this person suggests, an ultra-broad movement like this would be self-correcting if we would just allow that process to happen. The conservatives in the movement are trying to straighten out their wayward brethren, and that's why non-emergent critics should simply leave them alone:

B__________: "Let's recognize that ECM has BOTH liberal and conservative elements, and the conservative element is striving to correct the liberal one."

Really? Where? Take Driscoll's contribution to Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Churches out of the equation, and I don't see a whole lot of evidence that what you suggest "the conservative element" is trying to do is really happening on any significant scale.

As a matter of fact, when I recently complained that a certain other ostensibly conservative contributor to that volume had made such a weak and reductionist case for "orthodoxy" that he was really adding to the problem rather than helping solve it, angry hordes of Emerging "conservatives" came over here to try to set me straight.

Where, precisely, are they investing that kind of energy in order to straighten out Jones, Burke, Bell, et al.? Can you give me some URLs?

And, by the way, if they are trying to "correct" the wing-nuts secretly and behind the scenes while continuing to extend the pretense of Christian fellowship to them publicly, that strategy isn't working. The wacked-out left end of Emergent is getting larger and crazier.

Meanwhile, among the churches within the movement that profess adherence to a solid doctrinal position, some of the most prominent ones seem to be working hard to make their actual position seem as broad and fuzzy as possible. Furthermore, I don't see any evidence that conservatives are having any significant positive impact on the overall direction of the larger movement. What they are doing is (precisely what you are doing here:) managing to convince naive non-emergents that postmodern perspectives on truth and certainty really don't pose a serious threat to the Christian worldview after all.

That is a huge mistake, and it might actually pose a greater danger than the rather extreme and obvious heresies of someone like Spencer Burke.


Phil's signature

27 August 2007

More Signs of the Times

by Phil Johnson

he Q&A session during last Tuesday's seminar got me thinking. . .

Bonus (added 1:30 pdt):

Phil's signature

25 August 2007

Regarding the "Polite" Tolerance of Heresy

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Fathers in Christ," a sermon preached Sunday Morning, 18 November 1883, at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle.

here used to be a company in the north of Scotland called "The Men." Why, if heresy had been preached before them, they would have been as provoked as Janet Geddes when she threw her cutty stool at the head of the preacher. They would not have endured these modern heresies as the present effeminate generation is enduring them.

Let the new theologians have liberty to preach what they like on their own ground, but not in our pulpits. Alas! the leading members in many churches are Christians without backbones, molluscous, spongy; snails I would call them, only they have not the consistency of a snail’s shell. They are ready to swallow any mortal thing if the preacher seems clever and eloquent.

Cleverness and eloquence—away with them forever! If it is not the truth of God, the more cleverly and eloquently it is preached the more damnable it is. We must have the truth and nothing but the truth, and I charge the fathers in Christ all over England and America to see to this. Get ye to your watchtower and guard the flock, lest the sheep be destroyed while they are asleep.
C. H. Spurgeon