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 are to:

  • 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 institutions.
  • 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 Orthodoxy together.
  • 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 activism
    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 — 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 different lifestyle.

  • 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.

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