Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘emergent church’

I have, over the past couple years, had some exposure to Open Theists.  To be fair I have never read their books or heard their speeches.  My friends who are interested in converting to Open Theism tell me their understanding of the theology.  My two main concerns are these: first, that the reason Open Theism is attractive is because God as described by the Bible is unattractive and so unacceptable to them; and second, that while Open Theists may find some verses that support their theory, their theory disregards and occasionally contradicts other passages of Scripture.  So before you convert to Open Theism, don’t you think you should be very familiar with the whole Bible, even those obscure God-revealing passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes and Acts (I’ve started a list) that point to God’s sovereignty and comprehensive omniscience? Conveniently, God did not set us in the world interpreting the Bible – or even books about the Bible – by ourselves.  So even if I am not acquainted with a relevant passage of Scripture, it is likely that one of my concerned and involved friends will be.  I appreciate that.

In fact, in every case I can remember where my friends found it necessary to point out where the Bible contradicted my ideas, I came away respecting them much more, willing to listen to anything they have to say much more, and considerably humbler in my own handling of the topics of God and the Bible.  General observation would declare that I have a ways to go in the field of humility, so I am welcoming further interference by God’s Word-wielding friends.  That is one of the reasons Open Theism has become a fixture of tension-perspective in my studying.  My friends have been led by their investigation of the theory into bringing up parts of the Bible and God’s character that are rarely examined, parts I find comfortable to ignore.

Anyway, the other month someone mentioned NT Wright, and in the back of my mind I remembered reading that his theology was weird, but that was before I’d ever really heard of Open Theism, and something said maybe NT Wright was one of the original Open Theists.  I Googled his name and Open Theism and not much came up, so I was wrong, but then I was wondering what his deal was.

Two weeks ago a friend mentioned he was reading an article by NT Wright about the authority of Scripture.  Wow.  It’s so hard to explain that these are all connected in my mind, these topics, but trust me.  I am, as far as the “five points” go, a Calvinist.  And I discovered when I admitted I was a Calvinist that I had been a Calvinist all along.  Because Calvinists are those people who believe that God is smarter, wiser, and better than we are, so they submit to Him.  Submitting to Him is usually manifest, to these intellectual theologians, by submitting to the written Word of God, the “inerrant Scriptures”.  Sola Scriptura is the Latin phrase for one of the (again, five) pillars of the reformation.  Anyway, Calvinists almost always subscribe to Sola Scriptura (except for the CJ Mahaney, Sovereign Grace crowd) and I am a Calvinist, and Open Theists don’t agree with the Five Points much at all, so NT Wright arguing against the authority of Scripture is associated with Open Theism.  There.

Anyway, I’m interested in the “sola” part of Scriptura, having run around a bit with that Sovereign Grace crowd but having depended my whole life on the revelation of God being complete in the Bible.  So I went over to NT Wright’s article myself (online for free) and read it. Obviously most of the theologians I read would be skeptical of a Christian leader who sidesteps the authority of Scripture, so maybe, I thought, that was the questionable thing I had heard about him years ago.  The article is long, transcribed from a speech, but I skimmed and paid more attention to interesting parts.  Essentially his thesis is that the Bible was not written to be a law, so it is not set to be our authority.

Mostly the Bible is narrative, accounts of God’s ways, of God’s character.  The Bible is true, but how authoritative is it that once upon a time a prophet cured poisoned water by throwing flour in it?  Is it more authoritative that once upon a time a prophet told the Church to collect money weekly to have it ready to give to the poor when the messengers came for it?  Or is it authoritative that the apostles commanded the Roman Christians to submit to governing authorities?  Are the promises for us?  Are the commands?  Instructions?  Reasoning?  And, my goodness! Have you ever noticed how the apostles interpreted Scripture!  We don’t do it like them at all!

While still pondering these things, I was babysitting for a friend who is ordained in the Presbyterian Church.  Thus his house is full of Calvin, Sproul, Piper, and Grudem.  He is also an inner-city church planter, so he has numerous books that are borderline Emergent, books about “missional” living and “incarnational” ministry, the messy life books like Blue Like Jazz and semi-mystical works of early Christian authors like Augustine.  Every time I am at their house, I scan their bookshelves.  On this occasion, after the two little boys were in bed I picked up an issue of RC Sproul’s Tabletalk Magazine to read in the quiet evening ahead.  The subject was NT Wright’s doctrine of justification.  I discovered that this was the subject on which I had heard warnings against NT Wright.  For the purpose of this blog, I will not here describe or refute the “new Paul” ideas NT Wright has proposed.  (Piper wrote a whole book on it. Download as PDF at this link.)  Because while I was edified by Reformed teachers talking about justification, substitutionary atonement, etc. the most interesting article was the last one.

The final article in that edition of Tabletalk Magazine was not directly related to NT Wright at all.  It was a review, a recommendation for John Newton’s “On Controversy,” a letter of Christian wisdom written to a friend about to confront another man about a matter of disagreement.  I have been learning a lot lately about meekness and confrontation and debate, challenged to listen more and pray more and bite my tongue more.  This article reaffirmed that and pushed me farther.  There remains value in discussion, in communicating disagreement or different perspectives, especially when there is mutual respect and interest not to be seen as the winner, the correct one, but in having everyone know the truth.  We should not pretend unity by avoiding difficult subjects.  In fact we ought to have more in mind than mere consensus.

I have a friend who is a poet, who is burdened about the division in the Church and about the way Christians have boiled the Word of God down to a list of rules.  He wrote a poem about that and much more that I want to finish with, but you have to go read it at his blog.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Emergent Cloister – Emerging Church Nothing New

Idiosystematic, a critique of change in the Emerging Movement

John MacArthur on The Emergent Church

Evaluation of the “gospel” in Rob Bell’s Nooma videos in 3 parts.  Part 1. 

Part 2

Part 3

A long review of Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

Doug Pagitt on whether Good Buddhists go to Heaven

Brian McLaren sounds like my brother’s Buddhist friend explaining John 14:6

 

Too many web pages open – and most of them are about the Emergent Church.  Rob Bell and Nooma, Brian McLaren’s broad-way interpretation of John 14:6, and a variety of Christians warning other Christians about the subtle heresies of the Emergent authors and leaders.  I have a lot more links about Rob Bell, and I think that’s because he’s more accepted by the people I know.  He doesn’t push everyone into joining the Emergent Movement.  But he’s a part, and basically he wants to infiltrate the existing Church with emerging theology – which is actually more philosophy, because God is a song in everyone’s heart.

McLaren, Pagitt, they say things that are extreme.  The links I have up for them are not ones that say: when McLaren said this, he was wrong because…  No.  The links I have for them are from their own mouths or pens, self-explanatory in their heresy.  Yes.  Heresy.  The Bible may not be all about who gets to heaven and who goes to hell, but it is about something; it’s about God, the God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  Jesus is the center; not only His teachings or His compassion, but also His fulfillment of prophecy, His divine miracles, His judgment, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His return.  The Bible is about having a relationship with God, God dwelling with individuals, but it is about grace.  God chooses.  God pursues.  God enables the relationship when we rebel and deserve to perish. 

 

I read a McLaren page to my brother, and afterward I asked him, “Isn’t that horrible?  That someone can teach that about John 14:6?  I don’t understand how he can believe that.”  My brother added that the sad thing is, McLaren had a lot of cool stuff to say mixed in with the bad theology. 

 

Emergent books are like that.  Especially the beginning is usually full of the enthusiastic, God-acknowledging, people-loving, truth-seeking community we’re looking for.  And then, slowly at first, the authors begin to slip in their man-centered words, and then they talk about worship and evangelism.  I wonder if the authors or editors intentionally include the controversial things in the latter halves of their books.  My friends read these books very trustingly.  Without being too critical, they think these books and teachers are just encouraging us to have a personal faith, to fulfill Jesus’ command to love. 

 

But if I read closely, and look at other things these guys have said, I start to wonder…  Faith in what?  Who is the Jesus they say commanded love?  What is worship?  What gospel are we bringing to the world through our love and concern for social justice and community? 

 

Rob Bell interprets Peter’s walk on water as faith (or little faith) in himself.  The Jesus these guys mention omits mention of condemnation, hell, judgment, and sin.  Their Jesus was an all-inclusive non-judgmental type.  If we must acknowledge Jesus criticized some people, it was the favorite bad-guys, the hypocrites of Judaism, the exclusive and legalistic Pharisees.  Good followers of Jesus would be the opposites of the Pharisees.  Their gospel is some vague idea of the kingdom of God, a culture where people interact with God and love each other, all accomplished here on earth by Jesus’ trusted followers.  Their gospel is joining God on His mission to make the world a better place. 

 

They don’t talk about the gospel of life for the spiritually dead, or salvation for the sinners who have earned the eternal wrath of God.  Without acknowledging our horrible guilt and God’s just right to wrath, we have no ability to understand His grace and His love and His sacrifice.  Without acknowledging our total depravity, religion is not only not about the awesomeness of God; it inevitably plummets to being all about us. 

 

Which is maybe why the emergent definition of worship is so disturbing.  Worship to them is recognition of the spiritual.  It can be expressed in more than music because candles are also spiritual, and painting is spiritual, and the beauty of nature is spiritual.  To me, to the Bible, and to the English language, worship is recognition of the worth of its object.  Yes; worship has an object, not in name only, but an inspiration.  We don’t just sing praise songs because we feel like it, or because it’s a spiritual experience.  Worship is not an experience; it’s an action.  It either proclaims God’s glory or yields to it.  We sing because God, about whom and to whom we sing, is worthy of it.  Worship is more than music because our lives, sacrificed to His service and to His glory, can be a response to His wisdom and sacrifice and glory.  God spoke light into the world, and created the nature we like to paint.  He has done great things; therefore we will not keep silent.  We will thank Him for His goodness toward us, marvel at His attention, proclaim His mighty works to the nations. 

 

What worship should never be is about us.  It should never be about recognizing the spirituality of a candle-lit room.  Our songs cannot be about how much we love God, unless they are the overwhelmed effusions of people who cry on Jesus’ feet in gratitude.  It isn’t about the art, or the environment, the sensation; worship is about the Almighty Creator of the universe who knows my name and who died for a wretch like me. 

 Rob Bell says in his Rhythm Nooma, “An infinite, massive, kind of invisible God—that’s hard to get our minds around. But truth, love, grace, mercy, justice, compassion…the way that Jesus lived. I can see that. I can understand that. I can relate to that. I can play that song!”  But Isaiah said, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.”  I relate to – and worship – a God who is bigger than me or my comprehension!   

A month ago or more I watched Persuasion on PBS’s Jane Austen season, and commented that the best thing about the movie was that it made me want to re-read the book.  The best thing about studying the Emergent Movement is that it makes me want the real thing, the solid truth against which I need no guards.  I read the Bible to see what God really said, who Jesus really was, to find the passages where Jesus is the Savior, the Man of Sorrows, the Almighty God.  And I get caught up again in the story.  The story that has to do with my day, right now, but that casts me to my knees.  I despised and rejected God.  I betrayed and abused Him.  And He loves me.  He will never leave Me.  He died for me.  He gave me a beautiful day, and His pure Word.  He enables me to teach about Him, and to coach my friends in study of His Word.  Truth.  His understanding is unsearchable, but whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 

 

1 Corinthians 2:12-16, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

In case you haven’t determined from my other posts, especially those about “Changing Church,” I have some serious concerns about the evangelical Christian Church in America. A year ago I led a Bible study. And it is a symptom of the problems with evangelicalism that I must clarify: that means we took passages of the Bible and studied them. We figured out what the words meant, how the passages were connected with other parts of Scripture, and how to apply them. The topic was spiritual gifts. One of the primary passages on spiritual gifts in the Bible is 1 Corinthians. Typically a theologian would point you to select verses in chapter 12. However, spiritual gifts are the topic throughout 12, 13, and 14. This information fits because, in context, we saw that spiritual gifts are (this is so obvious) part of Church structure and purpose. Our group ended up discussing and discovering a lot about how the Church was intended to “run.”

from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:16

Ephesians 4, also a defining passage for the Church, is another chapter describing spiritual gifts. There are also passages in Romans and 1 Peter. In none of these do we see church buildings. The four-point sermon is not described, nor the “invitation.” Come to think of it, a weekly offering wasn’t part of the instructions. There is no gift for “treasury,” though there is one for “giving.”

To some extent, I am still trying to figure out what the Bible teaches about the design for the Church. What did Paul tell Timothy the Church should look like? How should the assemblies go? Who should assemble; when; where; how often? Is it like a network of small groups that interact and overlap? How do elders fit in? What does an elder do? How many elders did God plan for churches? Do they need to be formally ordained? Does a teacher have to be an elder? Does an elder have to teach? If they do, is it every week?

*Deep breath* I have a lot of questions. And I have some ideas I’m exploring. Some might ask how relevant my search is to real life. Occasionally God reminds me He is more important than a completely worked-out theology. He’ll teach me what I need to know. Mostly I need to know I should trust Him.

So I read up on these things. And I try to have an application-oriented study. But I’m not pragmatic. Truth is more important to me than success. I won’t take a group that “does it right” without believing the right thing. I’d rather not be part of a church that is high on creeds and low on follow-through. For one thing, that is my tendency, and I need influences to counter my laziness.

I’m not alone in my dissatisfaction with the Church. A lot of people my age leave, and I can’t entirely blame them. For one thing, my friends and I want challenged. We want examples. We need interaction across generations that is generally unavailable to us at traditional churches. Some who leave their childhood churches gather with others craving spiritual experiences though they were raised outside of church. An overall term for these gatherings is the “emergent church.”

This church and its leaders tend to have embraced a unique philosophy/theology. It is unitarian, communal, experiential: meaning respectively that there could be many roads to salvation and a relationship with God, evangelism and the Christian life should be more about serving the poor and building real there-for-you relationships, and worship must be a multi-sensory encounter.

One of the most frequent things I hear is an emphasis, almost a demand, for “alternative worship.” There is also contemplative prayer. The idea that conversion is a process can be found. In a book I am currently reading, a missionary is encouraging Muslim converts to keep the Koran, keep the the mosques, and be “Messianic Muslims.”

Here’s the thing. Most of these emergent believers and former evangelicals (and some others: family-integrated church members, some house churches, other conservative “fundamentalist” movements) are identifying real problems in the Church. The difference is the source of their solution.

I am searching for a back-to-the-Bible approach such as advocated by the New Testament Reformation Fellowship. The other options would be slight reform (as explained in the Purpose Driven Church and other such books) or theological abdication for what works. These alternatives are man-centered, offering either that which appeals and entertains men, or that which men think will work, borrowing “truth” from “wherever it can be found,” including pagan religions, popular psychology, New Age spirituality, Hollywood, and ancient mysticism.

Back to the topic of spiritual gifts, one oft-overlooked and even supressed gift is that of discernment. “Discerning of spirits,” can mean telling whether a spirit (message or soul) is from God or not. John MacArthur has compiled an entire book on the subject for contemporary issues, entitled Fool’s Gold. There are websites like Let Us Reason, Apprising Ministries, and the Christian Research Net. I believe this is one of my gifts as well as a topic I believe to be vital to the Church.

So I feel obligated to warn you about reliance on The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Brennan Manning’s writings, Rick Warren’s writings, anything Emergent Church or “Christian mysticism.” The argument that one must have read a book to denounce it, or have met a person to know that they are false teachers is invalid. The spiritual gift of discernment comes from God, and is primarily a testing of spirits against the pure, absolutely true Word of God. For specifics of why these people, books, movements, and ideas are unbiblical, please consult the links above. I have personally had exposure to each of these, but not immersion. However, the links provided do go into detail, with quotes and point-by-point refutations.

To summarize: the Church has problems. The solution to these problems can be found in the Bible, and the cause in how we have sold out to our culture and human philosophies rather than believing the instructions God gave. Some people who recognize these same problems and are very insightful in how they are related to each other and to statistics coming out about the Church have resorted to unbiblical “solutions,” which will cause more harm than good. Christians must be on their guard against these philosophies and practices. This is done by being solidly grounded in the Bible, and testing every movement against it.

Colossians 2:6-8, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »