THE EMERGENT CHURCH MOVEMENT, Part III
IT'S METHODS AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES
January 24, 2010
The Emergent Church movement consists of a diverse group of people
who identify with Christianity, but who feel that reaching the
postmodern world requires us to radically reshape the church’s
beliefs and practices to conform to postmodernism. As I noted in my
first article in this series the
Emerging Church movement is guilty of compromise by embracing
postmodern epistemology and accepting this epistemology’s practical
implications. It's result is to water down the gospel in such a way
as to make it non-confrontational and appealing. It's a
"whatever it takes to make one feel good about himself and get him
into the church" approach. Emergents’ exert efforts to
accommodate postmodernism by shaping theology to suit culture.
Last week I addressed the Emergents' basic teachings and goals.
Today, we'll look at it's methods and standard communication
strategies and in this context, reveal how antiBiblical
this approach to "doing church" truly is.
Among the many methods the Emergents use to get their message out
- Communicate the
postmodern message in print
Emerging Church movement leaders are prolific writers. Their
books are popular and they are well represented in Christian
magazines and journals.
- Communicate the
message over the internet
Emerging Church websites and blogs abound on the internet.
- Communicate the
message in institutes of higher learning
Emerging Church leaders can be found on staff at many colleges
and seminaries. They are also frequent guest speakers at these
- Conduct seminars
around the world
The movement gives high priority to seminars and participants in
the movement are expected to attend these.
- Form local communities
of postmodern believers through “cohorts”
Cohorts are small groups that form over the internet and meet to
discuss postmodern ideas.
recommends that these cohorts study McLaren’s A Generous
- Influence the
leadership and membership of established churches
Through their published writings, seminars, and websites the
movement’s ideas are influencing and affecting established
churches of every kind.
- Establish churches
that are dedicated to the ideas and values of the movement
While this has not yet been as successful as they had hoped, a
handful of Emerging Church congregations have been established.
- Engage in social
While Emerging Church leaders sometimes claim the Church should
not be linked to any political agenda, most of them are quite
tied to a liberal political agenda. (For an idea of the kind of
activism emergents are inclined toward, visit the Sojourners
website at http://www.sojo.net/
— McLaren is on the board of this organization.)
The Emergents strategies are in keeping with their goals to
propagate a social gospel which neither convicts a person of their
sin, challenges him/her to change or motivate him/her to a radically
- In their effort to persuade
others, emergents repeatedly use two logical fallacies: the
straw man and the false antithesis (also known as the false
dilemma). After presenting a distorted picture of “modern”
Christianity and each of its distinctive teachings and
practices, emergents will present their teachings and practices
as the only alternative to the straw man they have created.
Regarding witnessing, for example, they may say something like
the following: “Instead of trying to arrogantly bully
unbelievers into submitting to our truth claims through the use
of propositional head bashing, we must befriend them so that
they will join our community.” The only real choice given in the
above false antithesis is to abandon propositional declaration
of the gospel message in favor of being nice people. The truth
is that we can be nice and proclaim the gospel message.
- Another strategy emergents
employ with impunity is brazen self-contradiction. They assert,
for example, that we cannot know truth with any certainty; and
they seem to be absolutely certain of this. They say that it is
wrong for any segment of Christianity to arrogantly claim that
they have a better grasp on correct doctrine or practice than
others, yet they repeatedly claim to have a superior
understanding of these things than conservative Evangelicals do.
While claiming that imposing one’s moral standards on another is
wrong (itself a self-contradiction), they often insist that we
must embrace liberal social causes. Because of the
self-contradictory nature of the relativism they embrace,
emergent writings abound with contradictions.
- Emergents do not always “play
fair” in their use of language. Since they deconstruct terms to
make them mean whatever they choose, isolated emergent
statements may mean different things to emergents than they do
to Evangelicals. To determine emergent intent one must study the
overall context of their communications. Avoiding this time
consuming study prevents many Evangelicals from fully
appreciating the seriousness of emergent error.
- Finally, whenever their
teachings come under fire, emergents tend to “duck and cover,”
that is, they do not answer their critics directly, they simply
attempt to deflect the criticism and divert attention elsewhere.
McLaren’s comment that “Don Carson doesn’t understand us” is a
good example of this. With this comment McLaren summarily
dismisses the well-researched and thoughtful critique of one of
Christianity’s most thoughtful and even-handed scholars.
Emergent bloggers frequently insist that no one in the movement
believes what the critics accuse them of in spite of the
numerous citations offered by these critics. Additionally, these
blogs flow so freely with egregious heresy that one wonders if
the defensive bloggers are reading the comments posted on the
very sites they are on.
One may ask: "Where do the Biblical teachings of truth, being light
in a world of darkness and the call to repentance and belief in the
resurrected Jesus come into play?" The answer is: They don't!
Next week, we'll look at the church's proper role in the
Postmodern culture. We will also introduce you to some of the
leading proponents of the Emergent Church Movement.
We believe that the Constitution of the
United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change
or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or