Friday, January 30, 2009

Greg Koukl on the Emergent Church

rom Stand To Reason's
"Solid Ground" Newsletter
(text and graphic)

Truth is a Strange Sort of Fiction Part V: Christianity and Postmoderism: The Emerging Church by Greg Koukl

Emerging Christians, then, are reacting to a church establishment that deeply offends them. They have been embarrassed by what appears to them to be systemic hypocrisy. They are unsettled by what they take to be indifference toward the poor, a fear of (and therefore hostility towards) diversity, and a dogmatism borne of religious conceit....

The driving force for many emerging Christians, therefore, is not orthodoxy, but orthopraxy; not right thinking, but right living – a practical “love lived out” way of life...

My own concerns are theological and philosophical, not cultural. My uneasiness with the movement is not with the emerging church in general, but with a subgroup on the vanguard that I fear is being seduced by a postmodern culture God intended them to transform, not be transformed by. This subgroup goes by the name “Emergent,” a proper noun identifying those following the lead of the Emergent Village...

Four Concerns

For me, four concerns form the watershed: the truth/ knowledge equation, the authority of the Bible, the work of the cross, and the Great Commission. First, does Christianity give us an accurate picture of the way the world really is, and can we know it? This is just another way of asking if the claims of classical Christianity are true in the objective,
correspondence sense.

Because there is little objectivity (here to be understood as “detachment”) regarding knowledge, some seem to think knowledge of the objective world is not possible. Truth may exist in the mind of God, but it’s something we can never know with certainty. Yet the Bible clearly – and frequently – speaks of truth, knowledge, and certainty as if each were attainable in significant measure by mortal men. The price to pay for this mistake is high. Remember, faith does not save. You are saved by the One you put your faith in, so you better invest that faith wisely. If you have an unshakable faith and your facts are wrong, then you have an unshakable delusion. And delusions don’t save.

Second, in what sense is the Bible God’s authoritative communication to us? Do we find between its covers the very words of God or merely the poetic narratives of ancient shepherds? If Scripture asserts something, can it be trusted? Does God underwrite the accuracy of the specific claims in the text? Paul says that the writings are profitable to accomplish a host of vital spiritual tasks precisely because they are the very “breath of God” itself (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Was Paul right?

Third, did Jesus actually pay for anything or purchase anything when He suffered so terribly on that cross? Did He die for us, that is, in our place? What did Isaiah mean when he penned the words, “He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him….The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:5-6)? Is the idea that Jesus willingly died in our place a sublime expression of divine love, or a crime of “cosmic child abuse”?

Finally, is Jesus a singular Savior or just a first among equals? Was Jesus’ answer to the problem of sin truly the “narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13-14), or is the way to life a broad one that many eventually find? Does the Great Commission start with a message of sin or of social justice? Is it primarily about discipleship or about redistribution of wealth?

According to Tony Campolo, a sympathetic voice regarding Emergents,

“These [Emergent] church members…tend to reject the exclusivistic claims that many evangelicals make about salvation. They are not about to damn the likes of Gandhi or the Dali Lama to Hell simply because they have not embraced Christianity.”
By contrast, when the Apostle Peter explained to the gentile Cornelius his own commission by Jesus, here’s what he said:
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. (Acts 10:42-43)
Each of these questions needs an answer, and I have been troubled with much that I’ve heard from Emergent leaders in response. Postmodernism has its dogmas of denial on each of these issues. When these denials are embraced by any Christian, they are like atomic acid, burning right through the foundation of the faith. At the end of the day, the views that give me pause seem to be indistinguishable, in the main, from theological liberalism. Granted, they do differ in intellectual motivation. Liberal views are driven by a modernist animus, while these Emergent views by postmodern sentiments, but ideologically they both seem to end up in the same bed.

Read the entire article HERE.
. .