View Full Version : The Emerging Church The New Reformation?

03-07-2007, 06:26 AM
The Emerging 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. That one must shed any offensive content in the Christian message and seek ecumenical agreement with politically correct considerations. To develop a construct a theology that “has universal implications". Postmodernism is hostile to the objective and exclusive claims of biblical Christianity and overturns some of the distinct doctrine essential regarding message of Christ.

The following was published in the Christian Chronicle - By S. E. Ray - 12/03/07

We are living at a time in Church history when a new type of reformation is underway, and Christianity is being reinvented so that it is said to be more relevant for the twenty-first century. The "Emerging Church" has become a focus of intense evangelical interest, as the nascent movement has grown in both size and influence. The emerging church (also known as the emerging church movement or ECM) is described as a new 21st-century Protestant Christian movement whose participants seek to engage postmodern people, especially the unchurched and post-churched.

This modern evangelical movement emerged in the last half of the twentieth century, complete with "mega churches" and baby-boomer variations. The Emerging Church, largely represented by Brian McLaren, is defined against the massive mega church models and the seeker-sensitive approaches popular among baby-boomer pastors. Several of the movement's leaders document their own rejection of former evangelical theology and church life. Some have completely refuted Dispensational eschatology, while others contrast their new understanding of the culture with a previous experience rooted in fundamentalist separationism.

To accomplish this transition, "emerging Christians" (also known as "emergents") deconstruct and reconstruct (redefine and reshape) Christian beliefs, standards, and methods to accommodate postmodern culture. The predominantly young participants in this movement prefer narrative presentations drawn from their own experiences over biblical exposition that often dictate theological absolutes. They believe change is necessary to effectively reach the post-Christian Western culture, rather than proclaim a message that is viewed as outdated and unpopular with today's "Any Way to God" tolerant culture.

[See photo below of a Brian D. McLaren's popular pro-emergent book.]

The ECM fully embraces the postmodern mindset which sometimes moves beyond the rational and the factual to the experiential and the mystical. To explain this better, in the past, the Canon of Scripture was the final word as to define right from wrong. In the postmodern era, all things are relative to the beholder. What may be right for one person may be wrong for another. No longer is there an absolute truth or way; rather, the only thing that is absolute is that there is no absolute. Professors at universities teach students there is no right or wrong. All things are relative. The gospel message to the postmodern mindset is far too dogmatic and arrogant. Emerging leaders continue to reshape the message which can be accepted by the modern seeker with minimal discomfort.

Participants in the ECM assert that the incarnation of Christ shapes their theology, believing that God entered the world in human form through Christ. They also enter into society as God's representatives, aiming to transform that culture through social involvement. This holistic involvement may take many forms, including social activism, hospitality, and community involvement, which supersede traditional preaching and teaching. Emergents call this involvement in culture "missional living." Missional living is thought to make emergents part of the culture rather than outsiders who call people to come to them. This approach leads emergents to their focus on temporal and social issues, as opposed to the traditional Evangelical emphasis on eternal salvation. The hope of the emerging church is to positively enhance the lives of others, regardless of their lifestyles or beliefs, through a non-offensive approach.

Although some emergent leading proponents such as Brian McLaren and scholars such as D. A. Carson use "emerging" and "emergent" as synonyms, a large number of participants in the emerging church movement maintain a distinction between them. "Emergent" is sometimes more closely associated with Emergent Village. As with many Protestant splinter movements, The Emergent Village was founded in 1990, consisting of many who professed to be disillusioned and disenfranchised by the conventional ecclesial institutions of the late 20th century. The Emergent distinction has a tendency to lean towards the mystical and New Age more than the Emerging branding.

The very premise of the movement provides a sense that evangelicalism must be cast aside in order for something new, radical, and more modernistic to emerge. "For almost everyone within the movement," Carson argues, "this works out in an emphasis on feelings and affections over against linear thought and rationalities; on experience over against truth; on inclusion over exclusion; on participation over individualism and the heroic loner." This approach produces what McLaren calls "a new kind of Christian," and a new kind of church. A metanarrative or “a unifying theory of universal meaning” is to be replaced by a far more humble understanding of truth that accepts pluralism as a given, and holds any claim to absolute truth as suspicious.

Emerging church leader Pip Piper from Birmingham, UK, stated: "Evangelism or mission for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe, no matter how edgy or creative I get. It is more about shared experiences and encounters. It is about walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture, but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another." This is often referred to as a Christian-branded New Age perspective of total ecumenical acceptance.

Author E. M. Bounds who wrote "Power through Prayer" exposes the folly of God’s leaders if they try to use any means other than prayer to achieve the fruit God requires. While the church and its leaders look for better methods to bring about the increase of Christ on the earth, God is intent on using humble vessels who submit themselves daily before the throne. Bounds asserts, “Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The glory and efficiency of the gospel is staked on the men who proclaim it.”

Spencer Burke, an emerging church leader from Newport Beach, California, has a church that is experimenting with faith traditions outside the Christian fold. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with this family. He feels that the Spirit has been with these people all along as well as other faiths that refute the deity of Christ. David Yonggi Cho is Senior Pastor and founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church (Assemblies of God) and appeases the masses, 830,000 members as of current, to worship any god they wish. Roger Oakland of Understand the Times wrote, “It should be apparent what is occurring as the emerging church evangelization program unfolds. Walls that once separated biblical Christianity from pagan religious belief systems are being demolished. Instead of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves sinners from certain hell, the gospel has been redefined. The narrow pathway that Jesus proclaimed leads to heaven through faith in Him alone now has been broadened to permit open access for the sake of establishing the ‘kingdom.’”

The mandate that unites Emerging Church leaders suggests that all Christians must respond to the Emerging Church with acceptance and adaptation. "Those who fail to do so are blind to the cultural accretions that hide the gospel behind forms of thought and modes of expression that no longer communicate with the new generation, the emerging generation," Carson relates. Even though the Emerging Church constitutes an amorphous movement with ill-defined boundaries, Carson is convinced that the influence of the movement is larger than its numbers would suggest.

"Faced with such opposition and the pressure it brings, postmodernism is a form of intellectual pacifism that, at the end of the day, recommends backgammon while the barbarians are at the gate. It is the easy, cowardly way out that removes the pressure to engage alternative conceptual schemes, to be different, to risk ridicule, to take a stand outside the gate. But it is precisely as Disciples of Christ, even more, as officers in his army, that the pacifist way out is simply not an option. However comforting it may be, postmodernism is the cure that kills the patient, the military strategy that concedes defeat before the first shot is fired, the ideology that undermines its own claim to allegiance. And it is an immoral, coward’s way out that is not worthy of a movement born out of the martyrs’ blood." - J. P Moreland

Those opposed to the movement are found in academic and evangelical circles. Academics critique the movement for being without legitimate theological, historical, and philosophical roots. Conservative, evangelical theologians and pastors believe the movement's postmodernist philosophy leads emergents to unorthodox theology, relativism, antinomianism, universalism, and syncretism. These creditable leaders frequently equate emerging church theology with the liberal theology that has historically been at odds with Christian fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, and other selective-literalist interpretation of the Bible. Evangelicals have recognized the great diversity within the ECM, which makes it difficult to critique with too broad of a brush. The beliefs vary from group to group due to the rejection of hierarchy and lack of an authoritative premise, less the writings of Brian McLaren.

[See photo below of a John MacArthur's popular anti-emergent book.]

Some Evangelicals such as D. A. Carson have characterized the emerging church movement as primarily a movement of protest in which participants are reacting against their more conservative heritage. Many Evangelical scholars are concerned about the movement’s position that absolutes of scripture are not acceptable, and for their rejecting the view of historical orthodoxy, upholding the authority of Scripture. Evangelicals aptly point out that when these factors are combined with the postmodern tendency to deconstruct traditional terms and biblical texts, the result is the emerging church movement's toleration of doctrinal and moral positions that most Evangelicals consider non-negotiable.

While many Evangelicals have been open to some of the criticisms that the emerging church movement has offered, most seem to have rejected the emerging church movement's views of several key theological themes within their soteriology and eschatology, as well as the willingness of the emerging church movement to accept alternative lifestyles such as homosexuality. Evangelicals are especially concerned about unorthodox views in the emerging church movement on doctrines such as blood atonement, salvation by faith, hell, and the sovereignty of God. There has been a quiet deletion of essential cardinal doctrines as to appease new prospects, or to be "seeker sensitive."

Many conservative Evangelicals have expressed great concern that the postmodern spirituality embraced by many emergents is more syncretistic (merging of religions) than scriptural. These Evangelicals have cautioned others about the variety of mystical techniques found in the emerging church movement, such as contemplative prayer and labyrinths, and they express concern regarding the pre-modern medieval mystics and Eastern approach to "spirituality" found in the movement. These ECM additions are not mentioned in biblical scripture, but are typically introduce by practices from the other faiths infused.

Mystical and contemplative practices are being promoted by emergent leaders such as Brian McLaren, Robert Webber, Dallas Willard, Tony Campolo, Richard Foster, and others. Publishers like NavPress, InterVarsity, and Zondervan are flooding the market with books promoting contemplative practices based on Eastern mysticism. Unaware pastors and church leaders read these books and then promote the ideas, believing they are advanced methods to draw close to God. These ideas are also being exported from seminaries to churches by graduates who have been primed to take Christianity to a new level of enlightenment using mystical and social reform philosophies.

"Isn't it staggering when you think that one sermon on the day of Pentecost produced 3000 Christian people? And we had some cities yesterday where 3000 sermons were preached and nobody was saved. And it doesn't even faze us. The church used to be a lightning bolt, now it's a cruise ship. We are not marching to Zion - we are sailing there with ease. In the apostolic church it says they were all amazed - And now in our churches everybody wants to be amused. The church began in the upper room with a bunch of men agonizing, and it's ending in the supper room with a bunch of people organizing. We mistake rattle for revival, and commotion for creation, and action for unction. Look, I think this is a critical hour in history, the most critical hour in history; the Middle East is ready to blow up... the prestige of this nation we love has gone down ... As someone said, "We live in a theater of the absurd...When did you last tiptoe out of the sanctuary when you dare not say a word? The church has to rediscover two things. One, the majesty and the Holiness of God, and the other, the sinfulness of sin." --- the late Leonard Ravenhill

The ECM postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for the fostering of what is called “spiritual formation.” This teaching suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God. Be they methods derived from Taoism, Hinduism, or Buddhism, any way is acceptable. The spiritual formation movement is being widely promoted at colleges and seminaries as the latest and the greatest way to become a spiritual leader. Proponents of spiritual formation teach that anyone can practice mystical rituals and find God within. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is not a prerequisite. This is a foundational teaching of the pantheistic New Age Movement and the fulfillment of prophesy about the great apostasy (II Thess. 2:3; Amos 8: 11). That even the faithful might be deluded in the last days (Mark 13:22), but the Spirit assures that he maintains a faithful remnant (Ezekiel 6 & 9).

One of the main indicators that the Emerging church is present can be seen in the way the future is perceived. Rather than urgently proclaiming the gospel according to the Scriptures and believing the time short, the emphasis will shift. A new emphasis among emergents is the idea that the world can be improved through social programs, community outreaches, and neighborhood awareness programs. While this is good by any standard, the emphasis behind it is to force the Kingdom of God on Earth as propagated by several key emergent leaders. Roger Oakland states “This purpose-driven view of establishing global utopia may be a plan, but it is ‘driven’ by humanistic reasoning and not led by the Holy Spirit.”

Some of the indicators that a church is converting to ECM may include the following. Although some of these are more prevalent in 'emergent' than the 'emerging,' some aspects may be in common.

Biblical doctrine is seen as divisive and modified to be pleasing and supportive
The Kingdom of God is brought about by mankind’s wisdom and techniques
Secular emphasis on emotional, experiential, and mystical experiences (Emergent)
Bible prophecy is no longer taught as it is considered insignificant
The promises of Israel are applied to the universal Church (Replacement Theology)
Bible study and sermons are replaced by an ECM leader's book and methods
Church success is evaluated by the number of people who are attending
Contemplative spirituality and centering are practiced and taught (Emergent)
Growing openess toward the pagan methods (occult) and of mysticism (Emergent)
Cardinal doctrines like hell, sin, and repentance are less mentioned
Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith
Humanistic method to promote church growth replaces sharing the Gospel
Church growth, church planting, and church replication is priority
The Book of Revelation may be taught as already fulfilled (Futurism and Pretism)
Senses replace faith, such as candles, icons, labyrinths, and prayer stations (Emergent)
An new emphasis on ecumenical syncreticism, all ways to God are good
The humanistic message of "world peace" and "God is love" is prevalent
Those who resist this movement may be asked to recant or leave the church (Saddleback)
Teachings of Richard Foster, Rob Bell, Dan Kimball, and Brian McLaren are deemed as guides

It is God’s Word that must be our plumb line in bringing us to a full understanding of God's truth. Following any man and his ideas may well lead us astray, especially if his ideas do not line up with God’s inspired Word. Much of what has been occurring is a sterilization of Christianity that paves the way for an apostasy. This movement away from the biblical Christianity has poured into all evangelical denominations like an avalanche. The best way to be prepared for what is coming is to gain an understanding of what is happening. As the Emerging Church continues unfolding, the narrow way to heaven that Jesus proclaimed is quickly being abandoned for a wider way that embraces humanistic philosophy and experiential practices.

There are some who are persuaded that the Emerging Church movement is no longer a viable entity to contend, but I would argue that it is actually morphing into other definitions as do most movements. The question that might be asked, will the Emerging Church (EC) still be around 10 years from now? Most current thinkers in the Church say absolutely it will. I have observed that even though it may seem the EC is dying out, it is in fact growing under the current guise of the Missional movement (see Alan Hirsch, Robert Frost, and Neil Cole) and the Progressive movement (see Tony Jones, Shane Claiborne, and Gregory Boyd). However, I don't think the EC exists as a formal cohesive unit, easy to peg down and contain like other groups. Rather it permeates churches and ideologies through individuals scattered throughout the Body. I believe the EC is a result of our entrance into a post-modern world and therefore the existence of an EC type of dynamic will forever be unavoidable.

03-09-2007, 03:49 PM
I'm not sure about the emerging church movement, at least not by that name. But I am de-churched because I don't like some of what I've seen and experienced in the churches I've belonged to. For starters, I accepted Christ at a very fundamental church that was so legalistic I don't know how I could have managed to spend 15 years there. God's grace was sufficient, but the subtleties of "works mentality" were preached along with grace, confusing people and turning many neurotic. We were saved by grace, but only if bla bla bla... I was more afraid of condemnation there than I was before I got saved! Go figure. Then I went to a church that was far too liberal, where the pastor took advantage of his power and used neuro-linguistic programming on the congregation, and speed seduction techniques on vulnerable women he counseled. He was a predator of women and was ousted, but I had had enough of the church experience after that. I would love to find fellowship again, but then part of me is so wounded I don't want to return. I know church as we know it has to change... it has to keep up with the times without compromising the integrity of the Gospel.

03-14-2007, 08:26 PM
Tracea, I relate to what you are saying completely. Pastor David Wilkerson of Times Square Church in New York (one of the real fellowships worthy of attending) commented recently that his mail box is full of people crying out for solid biblical teachings from genuine churches. Scriptures mentions that in the last days there will be a famine of truth, that people will seek everywhere for genuine Spirit breathed hope and counsel. I feel we are in that time. An organization completed a census on church growth in 2005 and found that the number of new conversions were in the 2% range, that the majority of the growth were mega-churches who were merely attracting people from smaller churches. The church is not growing, it is merely gestating from trends and fickle church shoppers. The church as a whole today is dead. There I said it, "dead". There are remnants here and there that keep the flame fanned, but they are hard to find. The remnants are usually small groups, who in themselves fear revealing themselves whereas they do not want to loose the power of the Holy Spirit by inception of lukewarm believers. Harsh? I don't think so, just being real. It's going to get worse unless something supernatural takes place. A positive change usually requires a large scale disaster which equals desperation which results in prayer that yields a revival.

03-21-2007, 03:18 PM
I'm not sure what the 'Emerging Church' movement is either, but I am not a fan of Post-Modern trends and theories.

Unfortunately, the reality does seem to be that multiple viewpoints make it difficult to communicate and deal with accuracy and sorting out what is or is not legitimate information and to figure out which paradigms/viewpoints have the best footing in reality.

But there is a reality, there is such a thing as accuracy and correct information when it comes to building bridges or winning at Chess, for example.

Instead of trying to embrace everything, I think it makes more sense to humbly emphasize key spiritual principles that bear spiritual fruit, and to be compassionate of the fact that we all are faulty in our understanding to one degree or another, and confused. In other words, to be humble and patient and gentle, but to be firmly established in what spiritual fruit is, and to speak on beliefs with conviction but without arrogance or nastiness.

03-21-2007, 03:50 PM
Your last paragraph summarizes it all nicely Carl. Could not have said it better myself.

I constantly tell people I am not a heresy hunter or a galactic spiritual sheriff. I am merely a watchman that sounds a warning regarding the seduction of Christianity by the Kingdom of darkness via the New Age.

It can get very complex trying to identify every aspect of ones theology, and since a person's position moves over time, it shows that our understanding is limited to our knowledge. I try not to be dogmatic about my positions since many things are unknown to me. However there are fundamental cardinal doctrines that are etched in steel. Not subject to change and no variation warranted thereof.

08-05-2007, 05:38 PM
One of the most recent emerging Church movement is named Growing in Grace. This movement was founded by a puertorican,born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, who was an heroin addict and an ex convict. This movement had gained popularity a few years ago, and has followers in many countries. This man at first said he was Apostle Paul, then a semigod, after that, Jesuschrist on his second coming; as per today, he is The Man Jesus and also The Antichrist (???!!!). Even that all that sounds (and in fact it is) nonsense, this character is a wealthy man. He drives a BMW, has a few luxury residences (or mansions?), wears a Rolex with diamonds and quite a few very expensive jewelry (gold and diamond jewelry), wears elegant and expensive clothes and goes everywhere with a bunch of bodyguards, to protect him (protect him from what?). I'm sure this movement who's leader is an egocentric, ambicious, but also charismatic man, it's going to past than many others. But, meanwhile, naive and ignorant people follows him, listening to his nonsense and ridiculous preaching (most of the times he talks about his divorces, his problems with the IRS, and money, money and more money; and giving him their donations so he can kepp on living like King Solomon.
Any comment is more than welcome.
Bianca Rodriguez.

08-05-2007, 07:01 PM
Thanks for your comments Bianca. A lengthy article regarding Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, founder of Creciendo en Gracia is found within the main website at this location.


This is not part of the Emerging Church Movement. "Growing in Grace" is a cult founded by a demonically possessed man. The Emerging Church Movement or Postmodernism is about removing the offensive content of the Christian message to make it politically correct while offering psychological advice and positive reinforcement in a social environment. It retains little of Christ's message and caters to the New Age philosophy of ecumenical tolerance. Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, Eddie Gibbs among other theologians departing from Christ's teachings are founders and sustainers of this movement.