23 November 2007

Apocalypse Now

No Turning Back
by Phil Johnson

he artist currently known as "Johnny Dialectic" cited a snippet in his comment on Monday's post that put me onto an article by Alan Rifkin that was at one time buried somewhere in obscurity on the Web. Although the only current Web-based html version of the article is untitled, undocumented, and badly formatted, I did a little research and discovered it was originally published in the 23 November 2003 Los Angeles Times Magazine. The title was "Jesus with a Genius Grant" (subhead: "Fuller Theological Seminary is Teaching that Smart Christians Can Have it All: Science and the Bible, Body and Soul, Left and Right. To Some, That’s Apocalypse Now. To Others, There’s No Turning Back.")

Here is the full article in .pdf format (courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine).

It's a surprisingly prescient analysis of postmodern religion from a left-leaning secular newspaper's Sunday magazine. It's also a window into the agenda of Tony Jones and Emergent Village—although when the article was written, Jones hadn't yet taken his current role as National Director, and the organization was merely an informal "Coalition". In fact, Rifkin's piece was originally published a full year before Christianity Today introduced "The Emergent Mystique" to its readers with a breathless cover article.

The LA Times article seems to have garnered only kudos—even though Rifkin says some of the very same kind of things I've been harshly criticized for saying. (For example, he writes that "a vocal vanguard of younger Christians who call themselves 'Post- Evangelicals' . . . have tasted the peyote of postmodern ambiguity and been steadily coming on.") But Rifkin was writing as something of an admirer, not a critic, so apparently he was free to speak plainly without being angrily deconstructed.

Note: Rifkin's article was published exactly four years ago today. He was describing a more or less deliberate strategy to sell liberal and postmodern ideas to young evangelicals without upsetting the older conservative donor base. The key to the plan (as most of Rifkin's post-evangelical interviewees described it) was stealth, speed, and subterfuge. The "post-conservatives" were determined to infuse their talking points into the evangelical agenda before conservative evangelicals saw what was happening and hit back with any kind of "organized criticism."

In other words, the goal from the start was not really "conversation" at all, but the preempting of critics.

Here are some salient excerpts from Rifkin's article (emphases added):

[Fuller Seminary philosophy professor Nancey] Murphy's life's work, when you looked at it, was an attempt to reconcile Everything: Advance religion a little farther under the radar of the secular world. Win respect from a scientific milieu that equates Christian scholars with the people who read "Left Behind" novels. Meanwhile hold on to the conservative, born-again donor base, whose organized criticism Murphy fears. . . .

Biblical inerrancy to this crowd is not so much right or wrong as a divine waste of time. "It's not where we're going to land the plane," says Tony Jones, a Fuller alumnus who is a leader of The Emergent Coalition, an international post-evangelistic group, and a doctoral candidate at Princeton. "My money is on a post-evangelical future. And Fuller is uniquely poised to be the one seminary that ushers in this epistemological shift." . . .

In 1995, historian Roger Olson wrote about a "new mood, if not movement" in theology called "Post-Conservatism." Almost no one at Fuller publicly embraces the term (Nancey Murphy likes "postmodern evangelical"—it's early yet), but Olson linked Fuller's faculty to its tenets. Foremost among these is a spirit of intellectual humility. Post-conservatives see doctrines based on the Bible, whether liberal or fundamentalist, as merely human—fallible interpretations through which divine light can leak from time to time. . . .

Last fall, when [Fuller President Richard] Mouw passed through Minnesota for a Fuller fund-raising event, Tony Jones, the youth-movement Post-Evangelical, popped up his hand with questions. How did Mouw feel about this new epistemology? Why didn't Fuller require some courses in poetry along with theology? Mouw groaned (Jones' version)—he had conservative donors to woo. Mouw went on to tell the crowd what a hard time conservatives were having at Glendale Presbyterian Church battling a variety of liberal influences—adding, as Mouw would, that Fuller was still committed to dialogue with everyone. Up leapt an older pastor: Just the fact that Fuller had hosted a conference with Barbara G. Wheeler (the New York-based Auburn Theological Seminary director who declared that homosexual acts are "sometimes to the glory of God") showed conservatives that Mouw had betrayed the cause. Jones' take: Mouw is stretching at the seams. "Here he was standing in a room in the Midwest with a bunch of pastors with really bad ties. And they're ripping him just for talking to liberals." . . .

Murphy converses with the usual perky, cheerful control. She talks about Fuller's goal of preempting its critics on the Christian right. (She tried to rush to print her last book of essays on the soul, "before the subject became known as an area of conflict.") She talks about Fuller's goal of reaching out to the secular Left. . . .

"Reaching out to the secular left." That's the post-evangelical holy grail. The quest for that prize is the byproduct of a value-system that dates back to the inception of Fuller Seminary and the high priority the founders of that institution placed on "academic respectability." By the 1960s a similar mentality defined the neo-evangelical strategy for fulfilling the Great Commission: Win the world by first winning the world's respect and affections. Now Emergent has taken friendship with the world one giant step further, pursuing the secular left's admiration—but not necessarily its conversion—as the goal and end-game of their outreach strategy.

Apparently the Great Commission is not nearly as interesting to some Emergents as the media-relations handbook of the Democratic National Committee. Seriously. I'm currently reading Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change (in slow, small doses), and his list of The Biggest Problems in the World is borrowed straight from the doomsday eschatology of the secular left. As I've already noted elsewhere, McLaren's perspective is deliberately worldly, and this is why. In his big-picture outline of all the world's truly threatening evils, he has nothing whatsoever to say about humanity's sin problem.

In fact, by McLaren's way of reckoning, the real culprit in all the world's worst atrocities is not Original Sin at all, but (get this:) overconfidence. The damnable sin of certainty. Yes, you heard him right. "Excessive confidence"—not greed, a lust for power, rebellion against God's law, or even the seven deadly sins, but too much certainty—is what "cost millions of people their lives and millions more their dignity" in the horrible pre-postmodern era.

In other words, McLaren accepts the standard postmodern substitute for Original Sin: Certainty is a cancer. Everything that's wrong in the world goes back to that. In fact, the world's woes pretty much started with René Descartes. (Of course, if you had simply listened to your college lit professor you would know all of this already.) Cartesian foundationalism is a deadly virus that has infected all our minds, our theology, and the church itself. So what we desperately need now is a "debugged version of the Christian faith."

Fortunately, Brian is here (like a kindly Mr. Rogers clone with his comfortable sweaters, Dockers, gentle voice, and soothing, avuncular style) to tell us how we can "reintroduce" a new, more comfortable—and more likeable—Jesus to the world. It all requires a new "framing story" that borrows its key elements from John Dominic Crossan, Walter Rauschenbusch, and socialist dogma. It champions redistribution of the world's wealth as a kind of panacea for the ills caused by our ancestors' overconfidence, and it lobbies for practically every cause that energizes Hillary Clinton.

But Brian assures us this will win for us the world's respect and approval. After all, we wouldn't want to think of Jesus' Kingdom as anything other than a pure populist democracy, would we?

Hankering for the world's esteem is incompatible with authentic gospel ministry. Scripture is jarringly clear about this: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). In the words of the apostle Paul, "Do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10). And in the words of Christ Himself (Dan Kimball's latest book title notwithstanding), the world hated Jesus, and it will also hate those who follow Him faithfully:

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15:18-21).
We're not supposed to court the world's favor, and whenever you see church leaders utterly obsessed with being "liked" by non-Christians, you are looking at a brand of Christianity that is unbiblical, unfaithful to Christ, and unfit to bear His name.

Bonus: Be sure to read Ron Gleason on "The Arrogance of the Emergent Church Movement." For those who appreciate the way we here at PyroManiacs occasionally offer moments of unvarnished candor, Dr. Gleason's article will give you some fine paragraphs to savor. On the other hand, those who suffer bouts of apoplexy over the "harshness" of plain speech would be well advised to medicate themselves before reading.

Phil's signature


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thanks so much Phil for your great analysis and for your great perseverance. I also appreciate your series on "evan-jello-calism" over at SFPulpit.

God bless you, Pastor John MacArthur, and the Team Pyromaniacs.


"Ode to EC"

Look into my eyes, what do you see?
Cult of Personality
I know your anger, I know your dreams
I've been everything you want to be
I'm the Cult of Personality
Like Mussolini and Postmodernity
I'm the Cult of Personality
Cult of Personality
Cult of Personality

Neon lights, A Nobel Price
The mirror speaks, the reflection lies
You don't have to follow me
Only you can set me free
I sell the things you need to be
I'm the smiling face on your T.V.
I'm the Cult of Personality
I exploit you still you love me

I tell you one and one makes three
I'm the Cult of Personality
Like Emergent Church and Gandhi
I'm the Cult of Personality
Cult of Personality
Cult of Personality

Chris Ross said...

Thank you, Rev. Johnson! An eye-opening post.

The question is, how long until the movement gels into a denomination (one or more) and then begins to hemorrhage members, as happened with the vapid liberal theology of the 18th-19th centuries?

Chris Ross said...

Er, I meant 19th-20th centuries. Don't tell my supervisor I wrote that. :-|

Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,

I am not desiring to be caught in the primary focus of your blog post here as it is a different topic and I am not contributing here about that. But I want to make a comment about what you write near the end of your post.

Something to be clear about as you use the title of the book "They Like Jesus but not the Church" - is that it isn't talking about people "hating" followers of Jesus because of the reasons I think you are inferring to what the title of the book means.

Of course people will "hate" followers of Jesus as Jesus predicted. Of course we shouldn't be friends with the world (the philosophical anti-Christ systems and values of the world). But as Ed Stetzer answered briefly here: http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/edstetzer/2007/11/toward_sunday_1.html

Ed wrote: "How do you answer the apparent contradiction of the next two verses?

1 John 2:15 (HCSB) Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.

John 3:16 (HCSB) “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Thesis: You can be in, but not of, the world if you place your loyalty in another Kingdom, longing and living for Jesus, in the Lordship of Christ."

I believe what Ed is saying there is very accurate. He said that how having your citizenship elsewhere enables you not only to live in the world, but to live incarnationally and engage it for Christ.

I have found in interacting with many people outside the church, that it isn't the gospel they are initially rejecting (as most haven't really heard it) - but it is the attitudes and approaches of Christians they are rejecting. That is two different things.

Unfortunately, I hear the "Well, people will hate you because you follow Jesus" which can be incorrectly used to become a self-fulfilling prophecy that Christians can use to feel they aren't doing anything wrong and oc course people should hate them. Jehovah's Witnesses are trained (I have read their little training manual) that they should of course expect to be rejected and even family tell them they are crazy for becoming a Jehovah's Witness. So as they knock on doors and are rejected, then they are more affirmed they are doing God's work and the self-fulfilling prophecy fulfilled. I think Christians can sometimes take the words of Jesus about the world hating us, and do the same thing as an excuse and not actually be rejected for what Jesus as saying we would be rejected for, but something else.

Jesus was inferring to people would hate those who chose Him and His Lordship over any other as people believe in the gospel. But when I ask people today what it is they "hate" about Christians (i haven't heard too many normal folks say they actually hate Christians, only fringe radicals) they aren't hating the gospel itself or the fact the people put Jesus as Lord. They are hating the attitudes, the approaches, the lack of Galatians 5 fruit of the Spirit seen in Christians lives - which makes them not "like" the church.

I blogged about this before http://www.dankimball.com/vintage_faith/2007/06/do-some-christi.html

OK - it felt as though you were using the title of the book in a way that I did not mean and of course, I know the gospel will offend and divide. That is not what I am talking about with the reasons I listed within the book. I said I know the gospel divides and people will "hate" the gospel and followers of Jesus - but the reasons many don't like us today, is not about the gospel (at first as so many I talk to have not heard the gospel), but about the way we aren't Galatians fruit of the Spirit Christians with our actions, attitudes, blogs, words, etc.

Don't mean to sidetrack the primary topic of what you posted about - but since you brought in the book title, wanted to comment specifically about that. Hope this brings some clarity to the title.

Peace in Jesus,


Stephen said...


In chapter 7 of "The Emerging Church," you begin the chapter by quoting Ghandi saying "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

You continue as if your on Ghandi's side by saying "We probably wouldn't be attracted to Christianity if we weren't Christians." (pg.80)

Your comments here sound different: "Of course people will 'hate' followers of Jesus as Jesus predicted. Of course we shouldn't be friends with the world (the philosophical anti-Christ systems and values of the world)."

The concern is with allowing the world to affect what and how we teach. To create an unbiblical Jesus that Ghandi may like is wrong. To remove the harmatological aspects of the gospel so that it is received by the world is wrong.

From your book "The Emerging Church" it sounds like that is what you are trying to do. The Sky story is a perfect example of this. So is this quote from pg.85 "We must understand that new definitions are being assigned to spiritual and theological terms by the new cultural prophets and philosophers of music, movies, and media. This affects what and how we teach."

If it is true that you know the gospel will offend and divide (when faithfully preached), then why don't you be honest with your followers and cohorts that they are embracing a false gospel, one that will not save their soul from hell?

Why not spend your energy and time teaching the next generation about why the world will hate them and what the cost of true discipleship will be?

We both know that you'll sell less books and be less popluar, but that's not why you're in it to begin with, are you?

After I am done with my short series on the apologetic method of Brian McLaren, the vintage christianity book is next. Let's chat about a few things by email or something.

Sorry for hogging up the space Phil, awesome post though.

John Haller said...

As usual, Phil, great post and appropriate for Black Friday. Just a couple of quick comments.

Anyone else see the Fuller connection in all of this?

In keeping with your earlier theme of "we made a mistake in our approach", add in Sally Morgenthaler's mea culpa on "Worship Evangelism".

What's the over-under on when the emergents come clean?

Wow, wow, wow.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen,

In the They Like Jesus book on pages 56-57, I give a biblical definition of Jesus (so to speak) to clarify the Jesus I speak about. When I mentioned Gandhi's quote, I was stating that I can understand why people feel like Gandhi did. But I was not saying that I believe we simply leave people with their own definitions of "Jesus". I believe that because people are open to Jesus (what they at least think of Him), it then allows the opportunity for conversation to discuss Jesus further. The Jesus of the Bible can then taught and explained, so that an incorrect pop-culture version of Him is not what is left to be understood to be the biblical Jesus. When people trust you, they are very open to hearing about the biblical Jesus where you can share about sin, repentance, Jesus as friend and Savior, but also as Lord and Judge.

You mention Sky, whom I wrote about in the Emerging Church book -and admonished me to be teaching and discipling people like Sky correctly. You also mentioned where I said that we need to pay attention to culture and terminology used in our culture. The reason I do feel that way, is because of the many incorrect definitions being used in culture of biblical terminology. Someone may say "gospel" but be thinking of a style of music or something that isn't the biblical gospel of 1Corinthians 15. Or someone says "Jesus" but it is more of a pop-culture of Jesus. It is important to understand beliefs of others, so then as we teach and talk with them - we can be correcting or addressing specific pre-exisiting beliefs or definitions that may not be accurate.

So you are also aware, (since you mentioned Sky), Sky put faith in Jesus, then became part of a mid-week community group which studied through books of the Bible. He decided to even read the entire Bible from cover to cover before he was baptized out of his committment to learn and study. He is a very grounded and strong follower of Jesus now and is part of a church in Sacramento where he lives now. If you want to contact him and ask him specific questions, I am sure he would love to talk with you so you have your understanding of him correct and his faith and what we do as a church (what God does through people). So we don't take up more space on Phil's blog, my email is dan at vintagefaith dot com. I can give you Sky's contact info too, so you aren't making incorrect speculations about what he was taught or what we teach about Jesus or the gospel. Ask Sky yourself if that would help you accurately understand his story.

Thank you! And sorry for taking up space. It is late night here, and I won't be able to be contributing more as I am preaching a a very serious sermon on hell this Sunday and have more work to do on that, so my blog time needs to be limited the next couple of days. I wish I had more time to keep interacting, but if anyone does have specific questions about all this please feel free to email me and I will try to respond next week.

Peace in Jesus -

FX Turk said...

Hey Dan --

Long time no chat. This is a question -directly- related to the little hornets nest Phil has wacked here, so stick with me.

Is heaven a place, and does Jesus live there?

Anonymous said...

I am just about to head off but because you asked:

"Is heaven a place, and does Jesus live there?"

Your question might need more explanation of what you are looking for me to answer. I guess it depends on if you are asking about the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 17:21), the future new heaven (Revelation 21:2) or not? So I am not sure what specifically you are asking me here.

Is heaven a place and does Jesus live there?

I would turn to Scripture to respond and answer:

Jesus says in John 14:3 that Jesus was going to prepare a "place" for us.

In Acts 1:11-12 it says:
"This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

And Hebrews 1:3 says "After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."

That's a quick response. Thank you for asking me.

donsands said...

"he has nothing whatsoever to say about humanity's sin problem."

Brian McLaren is similar to Robert Schiller, who has stated that he doesn't in fact preach and teach everything in the Bible, for that would turn people away. Away from what, is what I'd like to know.

Good post Phil. Keep exposing the leaven for what it is.

Jesus said beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. There's much more leaven today methinks to beware of.

Legalism today is a minor portion of the leaven in the body of Christ. I guess I could be wrong. But it seeeems the overwhelming leaven is a softness on sin. Sin has become soemthng that's not too evil.

Jesus said we need to pluck our eye out, sever our foot, or cut our hand off, if they cause us to sin. Did He mean literally to do so? Of course not. But He was showing us just how serious it is.

And to tell you the truth, if plucking my eye out would keep me from hell, then I'd be better off with one eye. Amen.

Mister Larry said...

We "Fundamentalists" have been carping about the liberal infection within evangelicalism since the 1950's, particularly with Fuller Seminary. No surprises here about their embrace of the Emergent Movement. What galls me is that the 'conservative' donors to the seminary keep pumping money into this liberal monstrosity. It's interesting (no, not just interesting, it's exciting) to see that Phil, who doesn't identify himself openly as a fundamentalist (to my knowledge), talk and argue like a fundamentalist. For that, I am grateful that even some conservative evangelicals are finally seeing the truth through the liberal post-modernist doublespeak.

Ben N said...

Phil said: "In his big-picture outline of all the world's truly threatening evils, he has nothing whatsoever to say about humanity's sin problem."
Spot on, Phil ...

The Bible clearly teaches us that our problem biggest problem is sin. And it is so because it separates us from God:

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness.
No one enters suit justly;no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.

steve said...

When you don't view humanity's sin problem in the same way God does, you'll never come up with the right remedy for humanity's woes. Were we to heed Brian's advice in his new book, absolutely nothing would change--because the real problem of humanity has been left untouched.

These revelations about Fuller Seminary shouldn't surprise us in the least. Thanks for calling our attention to the article, Phil.

And the bonus from Ron Gleason was pure gold.

DJP said...

I don't want to spoil it for anyone, and I think everyone should read Gleason — so I'll just say the sentence about ushers, hand-signals, and “aspiring in their faith” had me laughing harder than anything has for days.

James Scott Bell said...

Thanks for the shout out, Phil. I'm glad you tracked down the article and wrote this great post.

I still remember reading the article when it came out, shaking my head, thinking, Harold Lindsell said this would happen back in '77!

The key issue for him, and it still is IMO, inerrancy. When you give that up, when you finally pack your bags and decide the plane "won't land there," the slide is INEVITABLE. We see it over and over again.

The article reveals so many things--the purposeful agenda kept quiet; the failure of a seminary president (a nice man, from all accounts, but one who has decided to please all sides because money is at stake); the contempt (naturally Christians concerned with right doctrine wear "bad ties").

To Dan K., who is civil and respectful when presenting his views here, I'd like to ask about his view of inerrancy.

Dan, would you use that term? Do you think the evangelical plane should land there?

Savage Baptist said...

Interesting. You write of Mr. McLaren's latest:

Apparently the Great Commission is not nearly as interesting to some Emergents as the media-relations handbook of the Democratic National Committee. Seriously. I'm currently reading Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change (in slow, small doses), and his list of The Biggest Problems in the World is borrowed straight from the doomsday eschatology of the secular left.

When I reviewed Mr. McLaren's last book, I wrote:

To sum up, I would say that Mr. McLaren comes tantalizingly close to understanding the problem of the disfunctional world system, but seems almost determined to understand the whole thing through the focusing lens of the Democratic Party platform. In my opinion, his interpretation of scripture is driven by his concerns with--sorry--wacko environmentalism and redistributionist economics. He gives short shrift to any concern about keeping individuals out of Hell (if he believes in it at all, which certainly seems highly questionable) and continues to drop hints of both universalism and Open Theism. My opinion is that in the process, he either willfully or ignorantly misrepresents whole segments of Christianity and a great deal of social and economic theory and fact.

In the sea of glowing reviews of that book, it's kind of nice to see that at least a few other people see the same thing in it that I saw.

FX Turk said...


I'm glad that, as usual, you won't deny what the Bible says -- I'm grateful in many ways that you personally will not deny the orthodox statement of the faith.

I asked the question because you said this:

But when I ask people today what it is they "hate" about Christians (i haven't heard too many normal folks say they actually hate Christians, only fringe radicals) they aren't hating the gospel itself or the fact the people put Jesus as Lord. They are hating the attitudes, the approaches, the lack of Galatians 5 fruit of the Spirit seen in Christians lives - which makes them not "like" the church.

As we talk about Jesus, it's hard to escape the fact that he's not a character in a novel, but someone who lives -- because, as you rightly affirmed, He's alive: resurrected and alive, which makes him, as Peter said at Pentecost, both Lord and Christ.

Yet on the one hand, you say that the lordship of Jesus is part of why we should be people who live with "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". But that's not really about the "Lordness" of Jesus: that's about the "Christness" of Jesus. As Paul says plainly, that's about living above the requirements of the Law in the Spirit, which we receive through Christ.

The "Lordness" of Jesus -- and of the Kingdom to come -- seems to lie in Gal 5 in the previous verses where Paul says, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." That is: Paul Himself says it is not enough to merely wear the "God is Love" t-shirt -- you cannot merely emote the "spirit", but you must also reject the sinful nature.

And let's be honest: that's where a lot of the people in your book turn away from the evangelist in the airport -- when he gets serious about rejecting the sin nature, he's seen as hateful. But it's part of their own stereotyping which transfers that to all kinds of people who aren't fringe kooks. It's amazingly ironic that you're willing to admit and qualify that unbelievers who hate Christians are on the fringe, but somehow you can't really get to the place where it turns out that the Fred Phelps clan and their ilk are themselves fringe kooks by which unbelievers are judging the church.

I realize you have invested a lot in your book, and I have said elsewhere that there are useful parts of your book. But at what point would you be willing to say that not only do unsaved people seem to like a caricature of Jesus, but they also hate a caricature of the church because of their own sinful preferences?

This is why the confession of a real Jesus and a real Heaven (and a real Hell) are so "already" necessary, and my opinion is that your tactic of shaming the church -- which, frankly, has some things to be ashamed of, and they're not hardly all the sins of the blind conservatives -- is disreputable. It places people who have a pre-regenerate view of God and His demands in judgment over the church.

I know you don't like that assessment, but that's what you do in your book, and that's what you've done here. When you get back from your appointments today, I'd like to see if you've thought about this further.

DJP said...

centuri0n said...


Me? Paden? Or Kimball?

Daniel said...

Gleason's article was a wonderful bonus. If you haven't read it, go read it.

Savage Baptist said...

centuri0n said...


Me? Paden? Or Kimball?

Context--you have to tell by context. Everything always comes down to context... :)

DJP said...

One meta, four Dans, no waiting.

steve said...

Frank, you underscored one of my greatest frustrations with Dan Kimball's book. Kimball's portrait of contemporary Christianity included only the negative caricatures and stereotypes, and completely left out the many believers who are solidly biblical, who love God and His Word, who manifest Christlikeness, and who have a genuine compassion for the lost and aren't afraid to "speak the truth in love" and forthrightly declare the sin problem for what it is.

After Dan painted true Christianity as something that it is not, he then went on to peddle the "new way we should be doing church."

Stefan Ewing said...

JD: Thanks for spurring on Phil to dig up that article. I'd agree that the question of accepting or rejecting inerrancy is a key element in this whole mess. If the Bible is errant, then it's just a matter of rejecting anything that seems "errant" to the reader; ergo, anything that in the reader's imagination, is a product of ancient, "primitive" cultural mores and beliefs, and doesn't line up neatly with contemporary humanistic principles.

Deny inerrancy, and one can discard anything to do with God's "severity," leaving only the feel-good stuff on God's "kindness." So there goes practically all of the Pentateuch and the Prophets (except for the good stuff about restored remnants). Fear of God goes out the window, so one can reject half the Psalms and the whole point of Ecclesiastes, and carry on rejecting most of the rest of Scripture, too, with impunity, since there's nothing to fear in so doing!

Granted, none of this is a strictly inevitable result in every person who denies inerrancy, but it's the logical conclusion.

James Scott Bell said...

Thanks, Stefan. I agree with you that a denial of inerrancy on an individual level does not make a harmful slide necessarily "inevitable." It is thin ice to be sure, but some can, I suppose, keep from falling into the waters.

I think the greater danger is on the institutional level. Seminaries. Denominations. The 20th century sure showed us what happens when inerrancy is denied. The legacy of this surrender continues and builds up into, I think, inevitable "disasters" (to quote Schaeffer again).

I mean, look at the shipwreck within the Anglican communion. Tied to a low view of Scripture. That leaves them without a unifying authority. The split is, again, inevitable.

Gilbert said...

Hi Phil,

That was a real eye-opener. But I have to flatly disagree with one thing you said:

"We're not supposed to court the world's favor, and whenever you see church leaders utterly obsessed with being "liked" by non-Christians, you are looking at a brand of Christianity that is unbiblical, unfaithful to Christ, and unfit to bear His name."

We are not to court the world's favor, period. That means, of course, that we do not get it by doing God's will and men praising our God in heaven because of it.

I'll say this. The post-modern evangelical church is so hooked up with the far "left" which is rapidly rising in this country, it WILL take a massive revival of repentance and faith to get this planet back on its wheels again. I pray I see it happen.

James Joyce said...

Where do I get my subscription?

Good stuff.

dec said...

Ha. I didn't see the 'S'.

I thought the headline was 'Frank Turk on HEMP THEOLOGY'. Now, that I would read.

FX Turk said...

I never inhaled.

DJP said...


You guys from Arkansas.

Kent Brandenburg said...


What do you think of Daniel B. Wallace's publically stated position that inerrancy of Scripture is a "secondary doctrine?"

Daniel said...

I think with the qualifications Wallace gives for what he means by "inerrancy" it is not so big a deal as it would be unqualified.

FX Turk said...

Here's how Wallace himself say what Kent says he said:

Finally, for the third charge: I said that inerrancy and verbal inspiration are peripheral doctrines. That’s the charge anyway. Actually, in my review of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus (posted on bible.org), I never said this. I said that inerrancy and verbal inspiration are more peripheral than core doctrines. But I was only discussing two categories of doctrines there: core doctrines, and those that did not belong to the core. I admit that I should have explained what I meant by core in that paper. I meant essential for salvation, as I tried to explain in great detail above. I would call inerrancy and verbal inspiration category two doctrines. They are important for the health of the church, but not essential for salvation.

The last time Dr. Wallace came up here, it got ugly. Let's try to keep it better than that this time.

MadTownGuy said...

"Ode to EC"

You mean... it can't be. Steve Taylor has finally been cloned????

Send in the clones. Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?

Solameanie said...

Poor Ron (Gleason),

He's had a pesky Emergent bee buzzing around his head for the past few months at his blog, dodging, obfuscating, deconstructing, and nyah-nyahing in general. Today's post both here and at Ron's blog not only smacked the hornet's nest with a scantling, it nuked the thing. And now you've drawn attention to him. Actually, it's a good thing. The more they try to sting him, the more ammunition they put into his magazine.

You all have done such a good job of making the bees mad. I'm sort of thinking I'm slacking of late. I'll have to see what I can do now.

And Philip...as usual, dead-eye accurate. I'd hate to see what you'd do with a .308 Mauser.

candy said...

The Post-Evangelical Post is priceless! How can Emergents think that "fundamentalists" are stuffed shirts after reading the headlines on this. Deep Shift. So funny!

I sent Ron Gleason's article to my pastors. I am sure they will appreciate the take on ushers.

Phil Johnson said...


Thanks for noticing the graphic. It was a cheap 'n' easy way to recycle old images from previous blogposts, but I like the tabloid layout. I'll prolly do a few more of those.

steve said...

My favorite element on the front page of The Post Evangelical Post is the crashed plane accompanied by the Tony Jones quote.

Eager to see the upcoming issues.

Strong Tower said...

I think its got the makins of a fine on line magazine.

Gilbert said...


LOL! I saw that and thought "yep, that's a nice visual of what the emergent doctri...er, philosphy is!".

The only graphic that might be better is an animated JPEG of an old, old movie clip of two early generation trains colliding head on at high speed.

Anyway, I have complete confidence that the Pyros will pass their drug tests this year. ;-)

Chris said...

Brilliant research and/or recall on this one Phil! Thank you for a great artcle that captures very nicely what Fuller is all about!

***In response to Dan's post, I have just one question: What course, or weekend program, on the art of giving non-answers to important questions do all of you emergents attend? Is it called the "Red Herring School of Communication Techniques and Strategy"?

Stefan Ewing said...

At least Dan engages the guys here earnestly, and responds constructively to them. That's a lot more than can be said for some others on that side of the "post-evangelical divide."

DJP said...

Good point, Stefan. He's never said anything as smug nor dismissive as "Wow wow wow."

Let me just say, if I haven't already, that I thought this was a terrific post also, and am surprised it doesn't have 495 comments. And add my voice to those saying (in effect) that if Harold Lindsell's heavenly bliss is disturbed by knowledge of F****r's continuing journey from the truth, his response would likely be about two words:

"Duh. Toldja."

(I'm a Talbot grad. To us, that school was "the F-word," and I didn't allow it in class. If I spoke of a greater amount of revelation on a subject, I'd call it "more-full revelation.")

danny2 said...

great post phil.

and frank's comment referencing galatians 5 should be brought out of the meta into its own post!

Solameanie said...

Oh, Dannymeister . . .

Might I suggest you just spell out "Fuller" instead of using asterisks. I make this suggestion advisedly. Some wascally wabbits out there might think you are a new kind of cussing pastor, sort of in the vein of M*** D*******. I think a certain author named Anne L****** might get wind of this and blacken your name even further.

You know how on-line rumors get started.

Kim said...

That article you linked was excellent. I, too, laughed right at loud at the image of ushers as Secret Service agents.

Doug McMasters said...


Thank you for your helpful piece. When I read it, I remembered this section from John's commentary on Matthew, which shows what kind of message of Jesus the world would like and what kind they don't:

"A letter written to a Melbourne, Australia, daily newspaper expresses clearly the attitude of a person on the broad road to destruction.

"After hearing Dr. Billy Graham on the air, viewing him on television and reading reports and letters concerning him and his mission, I am heartily sick of the type of religion that insists my soul (and everyone else’s) needs saving-whatever that means. I have never felt that I was lost. Nor do I feel that I daily wallow in the mire of sin, although repetitive preaching insists that I do.

"Give me a practical religion that teaches gentleness and tolerance, that acknowledges no barriers of color or creed, that remembers the aged and teaches children of goodness and not sin.

"If in order to save my soul I must accept such a philosophy as I have recently heard preached, I prefer to remain forever damned."

Zippy said...

If there were people qualified to speak about arrogance it would be you Phil.


DJP said...

Because of Phil's experience in patiently enduring contentless, knee-jerk, paint-thin cheap shots from drive-bys who have nothing to offer beyond junior-high-level snarks?

Good point.

DJP said...

meanie — I know, I know. I hoped the capitalization and not typing the full "er" would move me beyond that margin.

Solameanie said...


Nice to see you again. Where have you been hiding. I actually expected you to chime in again before too long, but I would have hoped you'd have shared more substance than just a "nyah-nyah."

Try again. I know you're capable of more reasoned discussion than that.

John L said...

Phil, on that 1000-comment marathon the other month (did it ever get to 1000? some wags were making dozens of contiguous comments with a single letter in each comment, so i'm assuming it made 1k), I commented that "we follow a man, not a doctrine" - or something like that.. You replied that an earlier pyro-post had explored ("shot down" I think were your words) the notion of "man vs. doctrine." i lost the URL - can you repost it, or email to me at JL at JPS dot NET?

I don't plan on reading McLaren's book, but as for his focusing on overconfidence vs. original sin, I'm not sure the two are unrelated. Original sin can be characterized by any number of words (rebelliousness, selfishness, disobedience, etc.). I might put overconfidence in the same broad category of "behavior which separates us from God." That is...

Unlimited confidence in Jesus is healthy. Confidence in our understanding of God's infinite depth is misplaced, and not that far from A&E's brand of "confidence" in their own ways.

FX Turk said...


Doh! You beat me to it!

Matt said...

As one who loves irony, two of my highlights so far:

1) McLaren's absolute contempt for certainty?! I love arrogant postmodern hubris!

2) Rob Auld's comment.

I don't understand how those on the EC bandwagon don't see the dripping irony in their analysis of problems and solutions. They are always certain *enough* of their criticisms of evangelicals that they commit them to print. They are certain *enough* of their "solutions" that they make it their life's work to bring about these "solutions". They are also certain *enough* to evade any kind of criticism from conservative Christians.

I will say this, though. I do appreciate Dan Kimball's willingness to comment content here and actually engage in meaningful conversation, unlike the legendary "wow wow wow" comment (or Rob Auld's sucker-punch) that are intended to smear without actually engaging or interacting with things that people are saying. Isn't that broad-brush painting and oversimplified criticism one of the very "foundations" of postmodernism? As always, the knife cuts only one way.

As for Fuller, it seems more and more like a degree from Fuller is indeed the kiss of death for biblical Christianity (my apologies to John Piper).

Johnny Dialectic: I love the phrase "unifying authority" for biblical authority.

Lindsell was indeed correct. In the final analysis, whether we admit it with our mouths or not, we all live as if either a) Scripture is inerrant, or b) I am inerrant. No escaping this truth. There is *always* a final arbiter of truth, and my view of humanity just isn't optimistic enough to leave that much pressure on me or anyone else. Best leave it to Jesus Christ.

On a similar note, does it occur to anybody else that Christology and Bibliology are inextricably linked? That is, a high view of one naturally leads to a high view of the other, and vice versa? Unlike the Campolo/McLaren view that is so chique, inerrantists have the tools to apply inerrancy and authority to red letters as well as any of the others. On what basis do people try to dichotomize the words of Jesus with the words of the Apostles, which are ultimately rooted in the same Source? How are they so sure that the red letters carry authority and are without error?

Despite my thoughts not being systematically delineated here, I categorically deny any charges of being a postmodern.

Good to be back in the meta after being overwhelmed with starting a dairy farm!

God Bless you all.


Matt said...

Just read Gleason's article. Pure gold. Among my favourite quotes:

This is the “real Jesus of the Bible” that the rest of us knotheads have missed, but if we had only looked closely enough we would have discovered that he really looked just like Brian McLaren all along.

DJP said...

...or Rob Auld's sucker-punch

I'd say "sucker-whiff," but your point stands.

Anonymous said...

Frank and Steve -

Just a quick response (I am not avoiding interacting, this is a very busy weekend here).

I am hoping in 10-20 years that if I was to set out and write another "They Like Jesus but not the Church" that I wouldn't be able to write it.

The reason, is that I hope that as we live more missional lives that people's impressions and stereotypes of church and Christians will change. I understand fully that people's hearts will still reject the gospel - but perhaps if we are out in the world more (John 17:5) people will realize that their stereotypes of Christians will change and won't be like the ones I wrote about. The book would be titled more like: "They like Jesus, and although they don't agree with what Christians believe about the gospel and the biblical Jesus - they see the fruit of the Spirit in Christians' lives and they respect Christians even though they disagree with their beliefs."

But, we aren't gaining too good a reputation in our culture lately because I think that most of us have retreated into our Christian sub-culture more than Jesus intended us to live (John 17:5). A recent book called "UnChristian" came out from the George Barna group who studied the perceptions of people outside the church under the age 35 (or 30, I forget which). It was uncanny the similarities to what I also discovered, where they said it was something like 87% felt Christians are homophobic. Are we homophobic? No. I hold a conservative view on the practice of homosexuality but you can still hold a conservative view and not be homophobic. Or the survey said something like 78% felt Christians were negative and judgmental. Are we negative and judgmental? I hope not. I hope we "judge" believers biblically and hold to truth and addressing sin in our church as we are commanded to Matt. 18 and Gal 6, and we understand the biblical teaching that God will judge those outside the church.

But these negative perceptions of people "who like Jesus but not the church" are more about observing our attitudes and way we interact with people outside the church or how they are seeing Christians potrayed on the media in certain ways - so stereotypes are then drawn (like I wrote about in the book).

But as I was trying to say, it isn't the gospel itself they are rejecting (most have not even heard it) they are rejecting the approaches and personalities and perceptions of Christians they have from encounters on the street or from what media portrays us as. Will people reject the gospel? Absolutely, but as I am redundantly saying - it is more "us" (our attitudes, actions or lack of action) they are rejecting not th gospel itself as when I ask, most have not even heard the gospel.

Back to your comments - the biggest thing I discovered in writing the book is that most of those outside the church don't personally know too many inside the church. So by default, they come up with opinions of who Christians are by the group holding hell-signs outside of a concert, or by the way media potrays Christians.

The question I then ask, is why aren't people at least seeing and interacting with loving, truth-holding, intelligent, graceful Christians? The more I probed, the more I discovered that most Christians spend almost our time with each other. Or use our free time on Christian blogs posting and making comments - rather than taking an hour or two each week and hanging out with a non-Christian friend who then start having their negative perceptions of us changed when they get to know that we aren't all negative, judgmental, homophobic, anti-women etc.

When I realized this about myself, that I was caught in the Christian sub-culture and lost being salt and light in the lives of those outside the church, I had to change my schedule and make effort weekly to be "in the world" with those outside the church. Last week I simply had coffee with someone outside the church. He ended up coming to our worship gathering the following Sunday too. He is coming tomorrow when I preach on hell and that hell is eternal. I will not be changing the message for him, even though I fully am aware it will be a very difficult message to hear. But I have built trust with him, so hopefully the Spirit will move in his life as he hears what the Scriptures say about hell.

You get to the heart of this question when we can as each other:

- what non-Christians are we praying for daily and interceding that the SPirit will draw them to Jesus? Praying that the Spirit will convict them of sin and their need of a Savior? (our prayers represent what we care about). Think right now, who are you daily praying for?

- what non-Christians are we building healthy friendships with, so that they can to see that not all Christians are homophobic, anti-women etc.? When is the last time you spent an evening having dinner with those outside the church? Or gone to a movie? etc.

Because if we spend all out time with each other (which of course we need to spend time with each other, but not ALL out time) then how will those outside the church know that Christians aren't what they are perceiving them to be? live missional lives, that these perceptions will change in our emerging culture. Again, will people still reject the gospel? Yes. But perhaps more people will hear about it when they trust the messnger and we are salt and light to them - but they can't experience salt and light if we are all together all the time or spend our Saturdays on blogs etc. instead of taking an hour to go hang out with a friend we meet at work or wherever like any missionary in another culture would.

OK - long ramble again. But hope little by little those who read these comments can percieve the heart of what I am trying to say.

For the comment about avoiding answers, I have said I am not afraid or will avoid to ever answer any question about the doctrines we teach at our church or what I believe. I do not answer for all "emerging" people (whatever emerging even means anymore). But I have nothing to hide nor hold back on and if you ever have specific questions about what we teach or practice in our church, I am fully open to responding to questions. Please email me or call me and I will respond as I can. Or if Phil wants to post a list of specific questions, I can answer them here about what I specifically believe or teach as a local church pastor.

Peace in Jesus and for the most part, on this blog the tone and attitudes of this discussion have been overall one of grace even though differences of opinions on certain things may exist. So I appreciate the waymost have responded here.

Thank you for listening. Peace in Jesus,

* forgive grammatical and spelling errors here, I am typing fast and this is a quickly written response not a proper defense paper.

John L said...

centuri0n asks Dan if sometimes "sinful preference," rather than evangelical caricature, keeps people from following Christ.

Isn't that sort of obvious?

Sounds like centuri0n is trying to make Dan's position into an "either/or" proposition.

It's not.

Elements of the church frequently present themselves in un-Christ-like ways - ways that offend because they're carnally offensive, not offensive in a Gospel sense. Books could be written about inappropriate religious behavior (oh, wait, Dan just did).

This reminds me of looking between two parallel mirrors and seeing an endless tunnel repeated back and forth. Dan should now ask "so does sinful preference negate the fact that today's evangelism often reveals more about the evangelists' sinfulness than Christ's heart?" and then centurio0n will ask....

look - you're both right - give yourselves a big hug and move on.

donsands said...

Because if we spend all out time with each other (which of course we need to spend time with each other, but not ALL out time) then how will those outside the church know that Christians aren't what they are perceiving them to be?"

Good thought.

I spend time with people who don't believe on purpose, people who are religious [many Catholics], who think they may be Christains, and people who think good people go to heaven, and bad people go to hell.

And there are even more blends of people I deal with, and even in the Church.

I've learned when sin is exposed, then people get upset. They hate it. And the Gospel exposes sin.

The religious people think it's a stumbling block to their goodness, and religion.
The non-religious think it's dumb that Jesus died on a Cross, and this is how one is forgiven.

It's the same today as it always will be.

And I agree we need to be in the world, but not of it.

I have people who respect me, and think I'm too religious, and others who hate me. They mock, and scoff behind my back.
hey, that's alright, that's exactly what I used to do.

Have a great Lord's Day.

I'd rather be holding a door in God's house, than spend 1,000 days in the house of the unbelievers.
But I do know I need to be about the Lord's charge to take the Gospel as well.

Kent Brandenburg said...

When I said "secondary doctrine," I should have said "peripheral doctrines." Is there any difference? Here is the exact quote that I read of Daniel B. Wallace:

"And they need to have a doctrinal taxonomy that distinguishes core beliefs from peripheral beliefs. When they place more peripheral doctrines such as inerrancy and verbal inspiration at the core, then when belief in these doctrines start to erode, it creates a domino effect: One falls down, they all fall down. . . I would say that if inerrancy is elevated to the status of a prime doctrine, that’s when one gets on a slippery slope."

Found at: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=3844

This seems to provide a doctrinal basis for the emergent cause. That's why I included it, and asked what Phil thought.

Phil Johnson said...

John L: "Phil, on that 1000-comment marathon the other month (did it ever get to 1000? some wags were making dozens of contiguous comments with a single letter in each comment, so i'm assuming it made 1k), I commented that "we follow a man, not a doctrine" - or something like that.. You replied that an earlier pyro-post had explored ("shot down" I think were your words) the notion of "man vs. doctrine." i lost the URL - can you repost it, or email to me at JL at JPS dot NET?"

Thanks for asking. Here's the link you are looking for.


1. I think the current comment-count on that thread is 1,067.

2. There were a handful of single-letter comments (many fewer than the 67 extra that took it beyond the 1k mark), but the vast majority of those comments were substantive, and there were enough comments with 700+ words to more than make up for a handful of "wags" who for a brief time were trying to manipulate the numbers.

3. After a handful of one-letter posts, I posted this comment in that thread itself, "I still think this post will never make 1000 legit comments, and I hope people won't post a lot of non-comments or one-word serial comments just to inflate the count. But it's been fairly interesting, and (despite a few cheating comments) it's been a LOT more substantive than most of the other 500-comment threads you might find out there in the blogosphere. I guarantee we outdo nearly all of them in terms of actual words and sheer variety of opinions." I don't think any more "wags" posted one-letter comments after that. You, however, posted immediately after I made that comment, so you must've seen it.

4. On the other hand, I have no expectation that you were paying very close attention. In that thread you made more false attributions than the total number of comments we typically get in an average thread. You kept saying, "Phil said. . ." and then citing other people's words as if they were mine. Even after Dan Phillips tried to point this out to you, you blithely persisted. It was really an amazing performance.

5. In fact, you have now done it again. The comment you have attributed to me here was not mine; it was Dan Phillips's.

6. DJP did not say that "an earlier pyro-post" had "shot down" your point of view. What he said was that 100 years ago, J. Gresham Machen "explored and exploded" the false antithesis you were trying to make. He's right about that. Read Christianity and Liberalism.

6. As a matter of fact, I invite you to do a search through that 1000-comment thread for "John L." and pay attention to 1) the extraordinary number of simple details you got wrong, and 2) how amazingly incorrigible your misperceptions were even though Dan P. tried hard more than once to make you aware of your mistaken attributions.

Now, I wanted to point all that out, not because of any personal pique (I'm quite happy to be credited with DJP's insights), but because I think it illustrates what's fundamentally wrong with the postmodern attitude toward truth. Postmodernists are quite right to notice that our perception of truth is always incomplete and colored by many subjective factors and therefore tends to be inaccurate. They're wrong, in practice, when they use that as an excuse for abandoning the quest for a better understanding of (and more careful distinctions between) what's true and what's false.

As your participation in the long comment-thread illustrates, a lot of our misunderstandings and misperceptions could in fact be cleared up by a little more diligent and careful study and a more open heart. The difficulty we have in seeing truth clearly is owing to faults in us, and not a problem with truth per se. That's especially the case (and extra diligence becomes infinitely more important) when it comes to how we handle divinely-revealed truth.

FX Turk said...


Is belief in inerrancy necessary for salvation?

FX Turk said...

Pastor Dan:

Again, I appreciate that you take the time and energy to respond to us here.

I think you miss a lot in your quest to encourage us to be a "more missional" church. As early as the second century, Justin Martyr was defending Christians against the charges of being hedonists and cannibals, demonstrating that the church is frankly always prone to be misunderstood by those who frankly want nothing to do with her. That doesn't mean that the church about which the Letter to Diognetus was written needed to be more missional: it means that those who want to evade the Gospel will find any means to do so.

That said, I will say something here I probably haven't said before in so many words. The truth is that often we (that would be all the people like "you" and all the people like "me") step over the lost to get to our pet missiological projects. I know people personally who are spending their lives translating the Bible into a language that doesn't even have a written language who frankly can't name 6 people who speak their own native language who are lost and with whom they are having active conversations.

That doesn't make what they -are- doing any less missiological. It's a different and -valid- mission. And this is where you and I part company: in your book (literally), churches and people who are taking a different approach to different kinds of people are stereotyped as "the church which lost people hate" -- by focusing on the fringe rogues and affirming that's how the rest of us are.

If you need an example of that, look at your last post here. You cite statistics which say the unchurched believed X about the church -- but then you admit that the actual people in the church aren't that way. So is the right tactic to say, "wow -- yeah, that's the church alright. Not me personally, but I get it that you think the church is like the preacher-Dad in Footloose because they don't really love people very well." Or is the right tactic to continue to live as the church both under the lordship and christship of Jesus, and not betray our brothers and sisters in Christ?

I think it's false witness to take the tactic to concede the statistics -- in the same way it would be false witness for me to stereotype you and your emerging kin as "the people who hate truth".

That's the problem with your current work, Dan: it betrays good men and women and paints them as villains for the apparent sake of evangelism. How can that really be a good long-term effort?

James Scott Bell said...

Phil: "I think it illustrates what's fundamentally wrong with the postmodern attitude toward truth...They're wrong, in practice, when they use that as an excuse for abandoning the quest for a better understanding of (and more careful distinctions between) what's true and what's false."

An excellent point, and further I think this attitude is eating away at the very ability to think clearly. Rigorous thought requires practice and diligence, or the capacity atrophies. When that happens, all that's left is "feeling", and it's impossible to dissuage anyone of their feelings if they are wedded to them. At least it's impossible using rational thought. What we get then is not discussion or "conversation," but drive-by bites and emotional screeds.

This is what postmodernism is producing in the upcoming generations.

Sloppiness and laziness in theology is, well, a sin, isn't it? Or at least an abdication of a God responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Hi Frank -

It is so hard to communicate via blog posts, and I certainly wish we were face to face talking back and forth.

But --- what you said here:

"As early as the second century, Justin Martyr was defending Christians against the charges of being hedonists and cannibals, demonstrating that the church is frankly always prone to be misunderstood by those who frankly want nothing to do with her."

On page 31 I covered that.

But what I disagree with you is your part when you say:

"... frankly always prone to be misunderstood who frankly want nothing to do with her."

Because I don't know you, I cannot make any judgments on your evangelistic life. But I can say that I fully disagree with you that people "want nothing to do with her".

Time and time again, I have seen people become more interested in knowing about Jesus and being part of a church when their incorrect misperceptions are cleared up. I try to live this out. As I shared just last week I had a coffee with a guy who is 31 years old and he has never been to a worship gathering in his life. His perceptions of Christians and the church were the usual (like the stats I shared). But when he met someone who was not the preconceived stereotypes of what a Christian is, he then was able to build trust in the messenger as we talk about faith issues. And then because of that he came to a worship gathering last Sunday night (his first in his entire life) and he is now interested to where he is coming back again to learn more. He even knows the topic is hell. I will be talking about sin, repentance and the horror of hell.

Recently, we had another young fellow 26 years old, share his testimony as part of our Sunday gathering. He is a recent believer who had very strong anti-Christian sentiment, until he met a Christian who was not what he assumed Christians were like. Through time he ended trusting this guy, who then asked him to a worship gathering where he heard the Scriptures preached and ended up putting faith in Jesus as Savior. He then attended our new believers class at our church.

So I fully disagree that we can just assume "frankly, they want nothing to do with her (the church)". That seems to me (I may be wrong, so I apologize if I am misreading you) as a cop-out to then have a presupposition that people won't be interested in learning about Jesus when they get past the misperceptions of what they thought Christianity and church was. They may want nothing to do with what they currently think she (the church) is, but when they find out that what they think she is, isn't really accurate - many ARE interested like these two stories I just shared. But it means us getting out of our Christian bubble and spending the time to be with them.

Now at the same time, there are two others I know who I am also friends with and building trust. But as of right now, they aren't interested in being part of a worship gathering or church. They have heard the gospel and are not yet responding. But I will continue to make time to be their friend and continue to pray.

You wrote:

"Or is the right tactic to continue to live as the church both under the lordship and christship of Jesus, and not betray our brothers and sisters in Christ?"

If me askig and calling out to other believers to please break out of the Christian bubble if you are in, and begging brothers and sisters to be praying daily for those who do not yet know Jesus - a "betrayal" - the so be it, but I don't see it as a betrayal at all. It is nothing diferent than writing a missionary training manual if you were to be going to a foreign culture and studying "Here is how the natives think of Christians here. From former missionaries who have been here, you should be aware of how they have come to define "Christianity" and the "church". " Yes, often we are seen as "villians" (your word). But any missionary in a different culture studies the people and their beliefs and perceptions so they know how to best cross-culturally speak to them and respond to their perceptions and beliefs. I am assuming if someone from your church was going to rural China or somewhere, that you would foremost want them to be godly people trained in the Scriptures- but then want them to be missionaries understanding the people group they are going to be with. That is simply what I did. And that other book, that is what they did as well. It isn't a betrayal, it is laying out the facts of what is currently happening.

Frank, if you can honestly say that you are taking at least some time every week to be with non-Christians in a setting where you are building trust so they will more listen to what you have to say - or if you can honestly say that if I was to ask you who are you praying for daily by name that is not a Christian right now and you are interceding for the Spirit to draw them to Jesus - I would love to hear the stories. I would love to sit down with you and hear your heart as you name names of non-believers you are praying for and what movie you just saw with one of them, which may have led to a coffee conversation about a biblical view of life, or how your life has been changed because of Jesus. I don't know where you live, but I would love to sit down and hear those stories from you.

Don Sands posted an excellent Spurgeon quote on my blog, and although Spurgeon lived in a time period much different than us and also in England where at that time the perceptions of Christians are not what they are today so he approached ministry in a specific way for the people of that time period and location - you can still hear his heart which is dead-on what I am trying to also say:

"If sinners be dammed, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for."


May people have to leap over our bodies and for me, may I go to the grave whenever the Lord takes me, knowing that I am doing what Spurgeon said here.

I do wish we could talk, I hate posting words where you don't see facial expressions or hear tone and heart. So forgive me, if any of this sounds rough. I am trying to communicate the best I can in this format.

Phil Johnson said...

Kent B: "This seems to provide a doctrinal basis for the emergent cause. That's why I included it, and asked what Phil thought."

Regarding the distinction between primary (cardinal, essential, or fundamental) doctrines and secondary (subordinate, adjunct, or peripheral) ones:

1. I don't see why you think this distinction (which is recognized by most if not all of the major historic Protestant and Baptist confessions of faith) provides any doctrinal basis for the Emergent cause. My concern about Emerg*** perspectives is that they often seem to treat doctrine—indeed, all propositional truth—as if nothing is really essential.

[Since DK is reading, I'll add a footnote: This point has been the substance of all my conversations with him. DK often speaks of key doctrines as essential, but when have I asked him to define what he means by this, he always describes "essential truths" as convictions his local church deems necessary for their teachers and church officers to hold. He does not seem to regard these doctrines as boundaries that help us distinguish between true and false Christianity. But that's precisely what fundamentalists and evangelicals have historically meant when they say a doctrine is "essential": it's a truth that pertains to the very essence of Christianity is such a way that if someone denies it, he or she is not to be thought of as a believer at all (2 John 7-11; Gal. 1:8-9; etc.). Moreover, to say that a doctrine is "secondary" is not to suggest that it is unimportant or "non-essential" in the sense of being dispensable. It simply means it's not so essential in the highest, absolute sense that we are forbidden to embrace as a true Christian anyone who is in error on the point. Thus, while (as a Baptist) I think the doctrine of believer's baptism is very important, I don't believe it is an essential doctrine in the sense that I think being a Presbyterian is tantamount to being a non-Christian.]

2. There's no convenient proof-text or ordered list in Scripture that outlines all the primary and secondary truths for us, but I think we can sufficiently discern the essentials from what Scripture does say. It seems to me that the safest rule (in shorthand form) is to recognize that the essential doctrines are the ones that are most vital to our understanding of Christ and the gospel, because anything that presents a false christ or a different gospel is damnable.

3. All reasonable theologians and churchmen have recognized the validity of this distinction. If you deny it and refuse to accept any taxonomy that sees degrees of importance between, say, what someone believes about the deity of Christ and what he believes about the mode of baptism, you'll end up with a cult that looks something like the group described here.

4. Where I disagree with Dan Wallace is not about the distinction per se between primary and secondary doctrines, but about the relative importance of inerrancy. That is, I think I disagree with him. His clarifications helped somewhat, but I found his original statements (in his article regarding Bart Ehrman) most unsettling. I might not dogmatically insist that inerrancy as defined by the Chicago Statement is so essential that doubting it is tantamount to rejecting Christianity, but I would emphatically say that the authority of Scripture is absolutely that essential. And because those who balk at inerrancy are in reality usually questioning the authority of Scripture to one degree or another; and since history shows that those who reject biblical inerrancy do in practice usually reject the authority of Scripture on numerous other levels, too (Fuller Seminary being only one notorious case in point)—belief in some meaningful principle of inerrancy is very nearly essential if not absolutely so. The truthfulness of Scripture is hardly a doctrine to be trifled with or casually downplayed. I would in fact question the faith of someone for whom biblical inerrancy seems to pose a major stumbling-block. I went to school with Bart Ehrman, and Dan Wallace's assessment notwithstanding, I'm convinced Bart Ehrman's current unbelief is the fruit of Ehrman's own hypocrisy, and not the fault of those who taught him that the Bible is without error.

DJP said...

Dan — what I (and I think we all) appreciate about your efforts to communicate via this admittedly flawed medium, is that we all can listen in. If you and Frank were to hash it out over coffee — well, first let me say I'd like to be a fly on that wall. But if you did, suppose either one of you ran out of the restaurant shouting "I get it! I get what Frank/Dan is saying!"

And then (God forbid) Skylab falls on you.

So nobody else gets it. And the survivor has to start all over. There's only so many hours in a week for coffee.

Phil — it was fun glancing over that comment-thread again.

I don't think I told you this story. In Rio Rico, a good brother was asked to pray for me as I got up to deliver the last (last, mind you) of the six talks on Proverbs. And pray he did... for "Brother Johnson." I'd clearly made a deep impression.

Folks were already chuckling a bit as I got up to the pulpit. I forget exactly what I said (with a smile), but it was something like, "I'm sure that Phil Johnson, wherever he is, appreciates our praying for him."

Later I said I'll know I've "arrived" if you find people calling you "Dan Phillips" wherever you go.


DJP said...

And BTW, fellow-Dan, I'll pray for you and your very difficult sermon. Reconsideration of Hell played a factor in my own conversion. We don't do anyone any favors by holding back the truth; we have to love them (to say nothing of God) enough to risk offending them by telling them what they need to hear, though they don't want to hear it.

And that is a truth I've had to walk, God help me. From both sides of it.

Zippy said...


When I do it it's a sucker punch, when Phil does it it's well thought out critique. As long as I know the rules.

Sola, it's good to hear from you too.

I'm not talented enough to create posters of my own, so words is all I have to make my point. Creating posters and posts like you have and calling others arrogant is nuts.


John L said...

Phil, thanks for the link. And you're absolutely right - I did not take enough time to determine who posted what to where in answer to whom among hundreds of comments. Bad blogging. I even typed "Xn" instead of "Christian" and was roundly chastised. Ouch.

As for how any of this "illustrates what's fundamentally wrong with the postmodern attitude toward truth" - that's a stretch..

So.. I think I got it right this time - you're Phil, and centuri0n accused Dan Kimball of "betraying good men and women, painting them as villains" but stopped short of naming names.

Since this is a blog that promotes "extra diligence" - perhaps centuri0n could share that list of people (or groups, or categories?) whom Dan has villainized in his book. Dan is far too kind to bring this up.

Also curious - perhaps you could highlight some examples of "pomo" theologians who have (as you say) "abandoned the quest for a better understanding of (and more careful distinctions between) what's true and what's false" in favor of "incomplete and colored subjectivity."

What you label lazy postmodern subjectivity might, to another, be honored as sacred truth not fully understood. (hmm, can we honor something as truth even if we don't grasp its entirety?).

steve said...

Dan wrote: I hope that as we live more missional lives that people's impressions and stereotypes of church and Christians will change. I understand fully that people's hearts will still reject the gospel - but perhaps if we are out in the world more (John 17:5) people will realize that their stereotypes of Christians will change and won't be like the ones I wrote about.

Dan, I agree there are some believers who "don't get out enough," but I disagree with you characterizing most of Christianity in that manner. To make your case about the need to be missional, you've taken the stereotypical behavior of a fringe and applied them to true believers at large. Your arguments for "how church and the Christian life should be done" are built almost entirely upon the bleak portrait you've painted--a portrait that represents a small segment of Christianity.

You talk of missional living. In your books, as you portray such living, there is a persistent emphasis upon 1) relating culturally, and 2) creating a "conducive" worship environment.

By contrast, the "missional living" emphasized in the New Testament is this: living "blameless and pure, [as] children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life" (Philippians 2:15-16).

As people see Christ in us, they will either be drawn to Him, or reject the light and retreat into the darkness that they love.

Paula said...

DJP: Skylab is still up there???

Dan K. said: "But, we aren't gaining too good a reputation in our culture lately because I think that most of us have retreated into our Christian sub-culture more than Jesus intended us to live (John 17:5)." and " Back to your comments - the biggest thing I discovered in writing the book is that most of those outside the church don't personally know too many inside the church."

Who does that? Do you personally know a lot of people who don't have jobs in the world, who only shop at "Christian" stores? Who only go to "Christian" gas stations and only go trick or treating to the homes of their "Christian" neighbors?

I really think you've built a straw man that is based either on revisionist history or just plain bad research. Let's be honest. The vast majority of Christians get up every day and go to jobs where the vast majority of their co-workers are not Christians. The vast majority of Christian kids get up and go to public schools where the vast majority of their schoolmates and teachers are not Christians.

We are a homeschooling family and you would probably expect that we are the "bubble people" you refer to. Not so fast! We've opened our home to several people who have needed a place to live (both believers and unbelievers). One was long-term (over a year) My husband and I volunteer at community organizations where most of the participants are unbelievers (and we take our kids with us). I have a close friendship with a bipolar liberal Jewish woman and our family spends a lot of time helping with needs that she has.

A couple weeks ago we went trick-or-treating with another homeschooling family. They would probably fit the "Bubble People" stereotype as well. Their kids are in Christian dance classes and on homeschool sports teams and they don't even have TV!! Totally isolated from "the world" right? Not so fast! I sat on the porch passing out candy with the mom. She knew nearly every kid who came to her door! Not only did she know their names....she knew about their families, who had surgery, what clubs they were in at school, who had recently divorced. It was obvious that this mom had meaningful relationships with her neighbors and cared deeply for them. My kids reported the same things about the kids...they were telling them things about the people in all the houses they went to and knew many of the kids they passed along the way.

I don't know if you realize it or not, but it sounds really sanctimonious for you to go on and on about all your relationships with unbelievers and to imply that Cent (and everyone else here) does not do the same. It's not pretty.

Our pastor recently preached a sermon saying that Christians needed to get out of the Christian sub-culture and into the world (he must have read the book) It frustrated me because I kept wondering who he was talking about. Maybe it's just that pastors live in a Christian bubble/sub-culture and so they think the rest of us do? Or is it that unless you have a soul patch listen to Bono, cuss and drink beer, you're part of the Christian sub-culture and therefore must not have any relationships with the outside world?

It almost seems like the "They like Jesus but not the Church" mantra is about the emergent crowd. There seems to be a real anger, almost hatred toward the church as it has existed for the last thousand years or so. They seem to spend an awful lot of time apologizing for "the church" (i.e. anything not pomo-style) and pointing out everything the church has ever done wrong (and is currently doing wrong). The problem is, sometimes the problem they are carping about sometimes is only a straw man.

DJP said...

<< DJP: Skylab is still up there??? >>

Not for long! Run!!

Anonymous said...

Carol and Steve -

I am only reporting what statistics are discovering (see the book "UnChristian" and what I have personally experienced after interviewing many people 35 and under who are not part of any church. We interviewed 16 students at a local campus, and only 2 of the 16 said they personally knew any Christians.

I am not making judgments on people - only stating what is being proven when people are asked what their impressions are of Christians and why. It probably also depends on what pocket of the country you live in too - which does make a difference. But I do travel a lot and talk to youth pastors and young adult pastors and this is becomming quite the norm. Josh McDowell's latest book also raised some statistics which were quite grim playing out what it will be like in the future.

There are Christians who of course live next to non-Christians and work with non-Christians. but when asked if they actually socialize to any degree with them or develop friendships to the point of where discussion about life and faith happen - it is sadly not the case. When I speak places I have sometimes even asked flat out "who is praying daily for a non-believer?" or "when is the last time you have had non-believers over for dinner etc." - and my informal guess is that is around 75% or more who don't.

What you are doing sounds great and what will break stereotypes.


steve said...

By the way, Dan Kimball, regarding George Barna's "findings" about the younger set's perception of Christians: Are those negative perceptions actually based on Christians those younger people have met (as you assume)? Or are those negative perceptions ones that were shaped by negative stereotypes promoted by the media?

The mere fact there are negative perceptions out there doesn't mean much until you take the time to dig deeper and find out where those perceptions came from.

Contrary to what you contend, a good number of unbelievers with whom I've interacted over the years have told me that many of the Christians they met did not fit the stereotypical images they had been fed by movies, books, etc. They portrayed their interactions with Christians as largely positive.

I was a psychology major, and took some courses in statistical analysis. Our professors constantly harped on the necessity to view poll results with healthy skepticism. The "what" of poll results (the fact young people have negative perception of Christians) rarely explains the "why" of those results (what caused these young people to have the negative perceptions?).

If I remember right, even George Barna's results were called into question in that Sally Morgenthaler article someone linked earlier in this comment thread.

I'd be very careful about using polls to determine how to do church. Scripture left us with an abundance of guidance on that.

FX Turk said...

John L:

Here's my complaint, in Reader's Digest form, for those who can only read what has previously been digested.

1. It is -uncontested- that the thesis of Pastor Dan's book is that the unchurched think they like Jesus, but they think they don't like the church.

2. It is also -uncontested- that Dan Kimball has said, both here and in his book, that the view of the majority of the unchurched is that those in church are frankly people who do not manifest the fruit of the spirit -- love, joy, peace, patience, etc.

3. It is also -uncontested- that this perception of the church is a -stereotype-, based on fringe examples and not based on any kind of mainstream statistic or meaningful interaction.

That's what's -uncontested-, dude. Dan Kimball and I -agree- on that much.

Here's the thesis upon which we do not agree:

The church should apologize for the stereotype foisted upon it by unbelievers.

Pastor Dan says that because people believe this is true, we should just take our lumps and apologize. That is: we should say, "yes: the church is exactly as bad as you say it is -- except for me, if you'll give me half a chance. I'm a nice guy caught up in a bad organization, but you and I agree that Jesus is a nice guy, unlike those (re)publicans."

My point is that saying anything like that slanders the majority of Christians who are not actually like that. If you want me to name names, you simply don't understand what it means to stereotype and therefore slander a group of people.

My understanding of Pastor Dan's point is that we have to cross the boundaries o the stereotypes -- both the ones of us and the ones we have of the lost and the unchurched -- if we are ever going to reach the next generation for Christ. I think that's a fine point when you say it like that. But he doesn't say it like that. He accuses (in his book) people who edit study Bibles of printing inflammatory essays, and lumps in all people who are concerned about society's lax attitudes about sin with Fred Phelps-like public spectacles. That's not dismissing or confronting stereotypes: that's accusing the church of being stupid and crude.

One of the great moments in missiology happened this year, when Jerry Falwell died. You can read my summary of it here. But because Jerry Falwell wasn't a guy with a trendy haircut, and because he didn't find creative ways to soft-soak his position, nobody on the non-traditional side of Christendom has 500 words for the fact that Jerry Falwell was frankly misrepresented by the vast majority of lost people in the culture, and he in fact was extending the missional hand to those he thought were lost and dying.

He just didn't do it by painting the rest of the church as callous hypocrites with outdated views of community and morality. It's a stark contrast to what Dan Kimball represents in his book.

Thanks for asking.

Anonymous said...


Yes, i agree with how statistics themselves can be misleading. In my personal studies, I didn't use statistics - but explored each person and their specific stories and how they came to the conclusions that they have. So I was looking for the "why's" behind why they perceived Christians as they do. Generally, it is from media or the fringe extremists. That is my point - but then I ask "Do you have any Christian friends?"- and the majority say "no". So they are only going by what they see in media and from agressive street evangelists etc.

Then when I start probing Christians about how they make their faith known or befriend non-Christians, so many only stick to their Christian friends socially. So it is no wonder that the bulk of the younger non-Christians aren't experiencing the Christians to break their stereotypes.

So, I agree with what you are saying and that is why I am zealous in encouraging Christians who aren't in friendships with non-Christians to not forget about them and not forget to pray for them and to be missionaries right in our own towns and cities.

Nothing new. Just a call to be missionaries here where we live just as we would if we moved to another country as tent-makers. If we were tent-makers in Europe somewhere in a more developed country to where we worked jobs like we do here but went there as missionaries - we should see it the same here where we live. How does it impact our lives, how we spend time, how we pray etc.? I often talk to Christians here who say they are "missional" - but then I specifically ask them those questions I did earlier which reveal a lot 1) who are you praying for daily that is non-Christian? 2) when is the last time you socialized and been building a friendship with someone who isn't a Christian as a missionary would? The answers reveal a lot.

OK - my last post here, as I am still going over the sermon for tomorrow and must concentrate on that the rest of evening. Thank you for the dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, thank you for most of your attitudes and responses. I often am afraid to even post here because as soon as something "emerging" comes up, it gets aggressively attacked (so to speak) and then very difficult to add something.

So I really appreciate the tone and heart and way most posts were written. I apologize if any of mine came across too rough, that is not the intent. Blogs and comments are weird to communicate with. So I hope I was able to have healthy conversation on this, even though there may be points of disagreement. So thank you for responding and the way most responded. And always feel free to email me or call or if you are in the Bay Area come and chat in person, if you have any further clarification or questions. I must return to study now for tomorrow! Good night.

FX Turk said...

I also wanted to link to this post on my home blog for John L, who apparently needs some insight into how to address the problem of using fringe kooks as the basis for stereotypes for a much larger and more-sanguine population.

Solameanie said...

Mind if I poke the elephant in the room with a scantling?

Before I poke the elephant, let's state some things at the outset. (OOOH, I wish this kind of disclaimer weren't necessary)

1. All Christians should be bold witnesses for their faith.

2. All Christians should be winsome and loving, to each other and to those who are outside the faith.

3. Christians should not live in Christian ghettos and never mix with those who don't believe.


Now, what about the One who said all that the Father has given Him will come to Him? What about the One who said no one can come unless he is drawn?

Are not people drawn by the power of the Holy Spirit through "the foolishness of preaching?" Will the Lord not honor the faithful preaching of the unadulterated, unvarnished Gospel? Of course Christians ought not to act like jerks. That's a given. Do some Christians act like jerks? Yes. And they will be held accountable. But does the fact that some Christians act like jerks give the unbeliever an excuse not to repent? Will the unbeliever be able to stand before the Throne and plead not guilty because some Christian acted like a jerk?

I think not.

I hope what I am saying here is clearly understood. I think part of what causes the church to get sucked into all kinds of fads and traps like the Emergent Church is endless handwringing over whether the culture likes Christians or not. Stop it. Please. Pretty please.

The antics in the Coliseum rather settled that question for me once and for all.

Acolyte4236 said...

One can take pleasure in good things and one can take pleasure in bad things. Consequently pleasure is neither good nor bad. Those that place pleasure, intellectual or sensual, as the goal of their lives have a great hatred for "certainty." Certainty requires a committment one way or another which will exclude some opportunities for pleasure. The problem with these people is that they are aesthetes or hedonists. If they think that PostModernism is giving them an "epistemology" they are entirely bereft of brains. Postmodernism in its poststructuralist vein for example is entirely nihilistic. There is nothing to know. There is only entertainment. If nihilism is true then the connection between a symbol (letters, words, sentences) and mental content is contingent such that it is possible to reinterpret, legitimately, a text contrary to the intention of the author. This is nothing new to the Church, it just wears a different dress but it is the same old Gnosticism of reinterpreting stories, producing forgeries, denying meaning and hence committment in this world to any and all stories. Probably the best critique of this kind of nihilistic hedonism was Kierkegaard's masterpiece, Either/Or. Or you could save reading time and watch Collateral-the hedonistic and ethical life contrasted. Another mistake that these people make is that by means of PM they move from the idea that no position is objectively true to the idea that this frees them up to think that their position is true, but this doesn't follow. What does is that no view is true at all. Professing themselves wise...they reinvented a really bad wheel.

KTie said...


You stated that most people rub elbows with non-believers all the time. My thoughts exactly!


You said: "They aren't hating the gospel itself or the fact the people put Jesus as Lord. They are hating the attitudes, the approaches, the lack of Galatians 5 fruit of the Spirit seen in Christians lives - which makes them not 'like' the church."

Here's the fatal flaw I see in this presupposition: You imply that if Christians exhibited the Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit, the world *would* realize, "hey, I like these Christians!". This is not scriptural. The truth is, (and the stories of early Roman persecutions bear this out), the closer we "live incarnationally" to Christ's model, the more violent the reaction of the world will be:

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Chrst to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

That's saying we'll either smell like life (sweetly drawing them to Christ), or death (repugnant and offensive, driving them from Christ), isn't it?

God grant us adequacy in such things, and may we look not to man's invention, nor to the opinions of unbelievers without the light of Christ, but to the foolishness of preaching, the diligence of faithful living (separated but not isolated), and above all, the sufficiency of Christ and His Word!

Phil Johnson said...

Solameanie: "I think part of what causes the church to get sucked into all kinds of fads and traps like the Emergent Church is endless handwringing over whether the culture likes Christians or not. Stop it. Please. Pretty please."

Thanks for the best succinct summary of my original point so far.

That, folks, is what this post was originally about. I hope the point doesn't get lost in all the tap-dancing about "tone" and all the verbiage about opinion-poll results.

Incidentally, if anyone reading my blog still thinks I might be persuaded to alter my perspective on ministry philosophy because of data from an opinion poll, perhaps I haven't been straightforward enough yet.

Anonymous said...

Sola Meanie -

I fully am aware of the fact it is the Spirit who draws people to Jesus, not just human effort and made effort to mention that when I wrote. However, it does say in 1 Peter 2:12 "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." and in Col 4:5-6 "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

That is what I am trying to stress in this.


Christians in Rome were persecuted because they refused to worship Caesar as Lord and confess Caesar as Lord and god. That isn't what we are having to deal with today. So the reaction was not at all about them at that time simply living out incarnational lives and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit - it was their refusal to worship false gods under the Roman laws set up which required it.

The Scriptures show as in the verses above, that we should live such good lives among the world that they will glorify God and Jesus said the same in Matthew 5:16 "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

So we are told that people should credit God for how we live among them. We can't use the early church persecution and compare it to this situation today, as that was a specific time legally where Christians were persecuted for simply being a Christian and not confessing Caesar. We shouldn't expect people to persecute us for demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit today - and that isn't what the early church was persecuted for.

Hope that makes sense.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I have a difficult time with not including verbal inspiration and inerrancy as necessary for the gospel, and for these reasons:
1) Is Scripture authoritative if it isn't inspired? What is a gospel without authority?
2) We require trust in the gospel for salvation and a perfect Bible and a perfect God connect or parallel in Scripture---His revelation is a revelation of Himself.
3) It attacks the sovereignty of God. A sovereign God could allow errors in His revelation?
4) We can't be completely sure of what is with error and what is without error. Maybe homosexuality, then, isn't a sin, so homosexuals who profess Christ really are saved.

There could be more, but these are enough, IMO. Even if we say that not believing them won't affect the gospel, how long before it does? This attaches belief to concepts and ideas, when God said it was Words. As it relates to the emergent, the line has been fuzzied for them. So this truly is a slippery slope as well.

Strong Tower said...

Inerrancy Kent-

Yes, and this is all so important. If the truth cannot be known inerrantly we do not have a faith that we can place in Christ. For unsurety would result, if we could not trust that the Gospel explained is trust worthy. Peripheral, hardly. Inerrancy is as vital as the living Word of God. It is upon this foundation, the Word, that all the rest is built, 1 Corinthians testifies. It is by this Word of the testimony that we as sanctified as Jesus prayed and his Father heard, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." Without the words of life, the disciples said, there is no where else to go.

KTie said...


You said: "We can't use the early church persecution and compare it to this situation today, as that was a specific time legally where Christians were persecuted for simply being a Christian and not confessing Caesar. We shouldn't expect people to persecute us for demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit today - and that isn't what the early church was persecuted for."

This implies you believe that times have changed AND people are different now. However, while times have changed, people are NOT different.

How were Old Testament prophets, preachers of righteousness in the midst of crooked and depraved generations, treated? Violently.

John the Baptist, the greatest man born of women (Matt 7:11) was beheaded for righteously condemning Herod's wicked behavior.

How were the original Apostles treated? Ten executed, one tortured and exiled. One can assume a high degree of Galatians 5fruit among them, but the gospel they preached was so offensive to *some* hearers that their rejection was fatal.

The point I'm making is, not all non-believers will reject "incarnational living". Those who embrace it tend to be those whom "the Spirit draws" as "life unto life".

But those to whom righteous living smells of death - the reaction can often be violent and angry. Sin does not readily admit itself, and pride is an angry fighter.

The church can expect persecution in every age, because the world is sinful and hates righteousness. Political and social times have changed, but people have not.

And you never addressed the scripture which refutes your position: The aroma of Christ either smells of life or death, depending on the disposition of one's heart. There are no caveats depending on what era one lives in, because it presupposes "there is nothing new under the sun." And the verse you've cited doesn't contradict this passage - Matthew 5:16 doesn't guarantee that non-believers will glorify God because of our good deeds. It is our "best practice", so to speak. If we have no good deeds, there's no way a non-believer can glorify God. It does not, however, guarantee he will.

jody said...

Truth indeed resides in the back seat today...but it didnt go willingly.

The church...the evangelical church leaders...put it there back in the 1940's.

If your not already aware of such things do a search on Dr. Ockenga's "repudiation of separation"...all this has been a long time coming. :-(

FX Turk said...


So you're saying, point-blank, that no one is saved unless/until they believe that Scriture contains no errors.

Dude, you are amazing. How small is the church universal anyway?

donsands said...

The culture believes in man, and that man, and even the government, can solve the problems we face in our world. Human wisdom seems to be sovereign.

Has the Church adopted this mind set? Or even a fifty fifty mind set of solving problems with God helping us?

James Scott Bell said...

Dan K., I do want to repeat my question, since it is what triggered this blog post in the first place, i.e., whether "inerrancy" is where we should "land the plane."

I don't know anyone who disagrees that we should "have coffee" (literally or figuratively) with non-believers and show them true Christianity on an individual level. But what about the collective level? What about the church?

When they come to our community, do you think inerrancy is something they should be taught?

I still see this as vitally important, and would like to know if your church does as well. Thanks.

Solameanie said...


Thanks for the reply.

Again, I think the emphasis is all out of whack. If Christians aren't living like Christians are supposed to live -- including being an example to those who do not believe -- than Christians are in sin, and need to be confronted from the pulpit. However, I think many have overly gone the other direction, thinking all one has to do is to project a winsome "aura," and people will flock to the altar.

Sooner or later, the hard truths of the Gospel will need to be stated. One can't have a Savior from sin without knowing they need a Savior, and without knowing they've sinned. I am glad you are preaching the message you are preaching about judgment, but how many out there within the Emergent Village disdain the notion of God's judgment? Doug Pagitt seems to have a hard time with the concept that Heaven could actually be a real place.

steve said...

Dan wrote: I often am afraid to even post here because as soon as something "emerging" comes up, it gets aggressively attacked (so to speak) and then very difficult to add something.

So I really appreciate the tone and heart and way most posts were written. I apologize if any of mine came across too rough, that is not the intent.

Dan, I cannot presume to speak for others here, but I think at least some of us who are challenging your comments are not attacking per se, but are speaking from deep convictions shaped by Scripture.

I'd say one of the most glaring distinctions between those of the emerging church mindset and those of us who express strong concerns about that mindset is our reference point for how to do church and the Christian life.

The emerging church mindset uses culture as its reference point, and the emergent church shapes its model for ministry based on that reference point. You check the pulse of culture, and respond accordingly.

The fatal flaw with that approach is that culture is always changing. It's fickle. Not to mention the facts it's spiritually blind, undiscerning, and dead. Thus, by clinging to this ever-moving reference point, the emerging church is led further and further astray from the reference points established in Scripture--none of which call us to seek culture's stamp of approval on how we do ministry.

Clearly, you and and most of us who have responded to you agree that Scripture exhorts Christians to live winsomely among nonbelievers.

But living winsomely does not equal bolstering our approval rating amongst nonbelievers.

In regard to your hope that none of your comments came across as too rough, I don't think they did. But I do hope you see a distinct pattern here--those of us who have responded to your comments are speaking from strong convictions about letting Scripture alone serve as our reference point for shaping our philosophy of ministry. So of course we're going to disagree with a model of ministry that's culture-centric.

Solameanie said...


Bingo. Pass "go" and collect $200.

God-centered theology vs. Man-centered theology. Isn't it all about that at the very root? Those who see culture changing, and see the need to address the culture are indeed to be commended for their concern that a generation doesn't seem to be attracted to the church. But what is the solution? Confronting the culture with truth or pandering to the culture?

At Mars Hill, the Apostle Paul quoted pagan authors and found a manner of commonality. However, he didn't become like the Athenians and parrot their behavior. Instead, he made known to them the truth. The Gospel itself is the change agent we want for culture. As the Gospel is believed and people are saved, the Holy Spirit begins effecting change in individual lives, and as a result of that, in society. Let's give credit to the Holy Spirit -- where credit is due. Our clever little methods in the end have little to do with someone ultimately coming to saving faith. Can God use our methods in spite of ourselves? Sure. But wouldn't it be better to do it His way and follow a biblical model at the outset?

Phil Johnson said...

Off-topic here:

Anyone else notice a massive influx of spam blogs over the past week, practically hijacking the "Links to this post" sections of our posts?

We keep getting links from spam blogs that have simply cut and pasted our material in blogs that seem designed to do nothing but collect income from Google ads.

Meanwhile, the links we get from legitimate blogs keep disappearing from the list. For example, James White had linked to this post. His link was listed briefly but is now missing from the list below.

It looks like someone has found a way to manipulate Blogger, Technorati, and the Google ad system.

At least one person thinks we're systematically deleting links on purpose.

We're not.

James Scott Bell said...

Steve and Solameanie, you both made points I was thinking about all morning. It seems to me that in an effort to be "nice" (read: NOT be like the church stereotype people "hate") one can set up a filter that keeps out essential doctrine. It may not even be done intentionally, but it operates nonetheless.

The "harder" truths are blocked or so degraded (all in the effort to be "liked") that they become, essentially, non-existent.

This is why I again emphasize the importance of inerrant authority: it forces the issues. It makes you confront the truth. It delivers the truth. Giving that up in an effort to be cooler for the culture is, instead, giving up the store.

Jim Crigler said...

Before I get started, let me just say that the "Frank Turk on Shemp Theology" headline left me ROTFL.

Jim Crigler said...

Sigh. Sometimes I wonder whether we ought not start simply ignoring Brian McLaren and his ilk, and preach the Gospel. After all (to paraphrase Frank's pastor): The Gospel is the solution to Brian McLaren.

Then I keep remembering that troublesome business between Peter and Paul, and I realize that polemics have a place. I'm just glad I'm with you guys.

Solameanie said...


Hmm. Interesting. I actually don't have the "links to this post" thing activated over at my blog -- something I've neglected. I'll have to take care of that once I figure out how to do it. You know me, Luddite to the core.

It wouldn't surprise me that this is going on, though. For about six months, I had someone trying to post ads in my comments section, and it got to be such a nuisance that I enabled comment moderation for a while so I could zap them into cyberoblivion. Putting the word verification in helped quite a bit. But this issue you've noticed is a new one.

Paula said...

I can't help but connect some dots between Dan K's comments about the people he talks to who have never met a Christian and the thread here not too long ago about youth groups.

I think many of us here - more and more of us :) are hearing Dan say this and thinking, 'what planet is he living on?....is he just making this stuff up?' On pondering it some more, I started to think that maybe Dan is right about the problem, but he's blaming the wrong generation for it. Well, not even that - I still don't think he has the problem right. Perhaps it's not the 50-something white guys spending their weekends at the golf course who are the problem, but rather the pomo 20-something guys who walked the aisle as teenagers, prayed "the sinners prayer" and are now in the 75% (or whatever it is now) who walked away from their faith when they left home.

If that 75% figure is anywhere near correct - even if it's 30% - the raw numbers of Christians we've "lost" are staggering. Wouldn't that explain why there are so many people (from the 20's-30's gen.) who say they have never met a Christian?

One of the things that came out of that youth group discussion is that many believe that the way we've done youth ministry in the last 20 years or so has produced a lot of seeds planted in shallow soil (Mark 4:4-6) or false converts.

As I sat in my SS class today, and we shared prayer requests, I listened to about a dozen 30-50 year olds share requests for their unsaved friends they have relationships with (surely Dan would call it "incarnational" even though they have bald patches instead of soul patches!).

To me, part of the solution lies in unsegregating our churches and getting back to an intergenerational mindset. If we have indeed lost a large segment of a generation to the world, it is going to take an intergenerational effort to win them back. We're not going to do that by having segregated churches where everyone has their own little niche appealing to their own taste and style. We've seen that method fail with our segregated youth groups and it should be a warning to us. There is no model for age-segregated churches in the scriptures. The model for churches is for older men to teach younger men and older women to teach younger women. When done in love and humility and according to Biblical teachings, it is a beautiful thing.

John L said...

I'm not at all sure that Dan is encouraging (as solameanie and others have implied) a "man-centered" theology. But I've not read his book, so really can't say.

The Christian tradition gives us little choice but to see everything in creation as a spiritual dynamic. "Secular" (man-centered) is the language of defeat - an admission of blindness to the unseen realities constantly at work in and around us. Perhaps as we become more aware of those realities, our theology becomes electrified with action - service, care, deep alignment with the marginalized and powerless, a living reflection of spiritual Kingdom.

Reminds me of a Chrysostom quote I saw recently in a book called "Consuming Jesus - Beyond Race and Class Division in a Consumer Church" ==>

"…see us building ourselves fine houses, and laying out gardens and baths, and buying fields: they are not willing to believe that we are preparing for another sort of residence away from our city. Do you not perceive Christ asking us to be salt and light in this world in order that we may both brace up those that are melting in luxury, and enlighten them that are darkened by the care of wealth?" John Chrysostom, circa 400 A.D.

When can we see an actual exegesis on Shemp Theology? And how does it compare with the more more obscure Joe DeRita theology?

danny2 said...


i have not read your book, so i'm not sure if it deals with this particular issue or not, but your comment here troubles me:

So we are told that people should credit God for how we live among them. We can't use the early church persecution and compare it to this situation today, as that was a specific time legally where Christians were persecuted for simply being a Christian and not confessing Caesar. We shouldn't expect people to persecute us for demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit today - and that isn't what the early church was persecuted for.

i appreciate your historical observations, but what do you say to the following passages:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.--2 Tim 3:12

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; BUT BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT OF THE WORLD, but i chose you out of the world, BECAUSE OF THIS THE WORLD HATES YOU.--John 15:18-20

what was the cause of stephen's persecution? roman insubordination? a false perception of what the media says about Christians? or:

But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.--Acts 6:10

again, i appreciate your gracious tone in responding, and this may be published out into a void (for i have no idea if you will return to this meta again), but it seems like these verses speak in contradiction to your quotation.

Jono Mac said...

Not sure on rules regarding youtube links, but this little cheerleading skit at the YS convention looks like it went down well... I'll admit it, I actually laughed, a little.


James said...

Boy, you (the author) missed the point of this article. Completely. I can't wait to attend fuller. Now if I can only figure out how to afford California.