Monday, January 08, 2007

How to Know If Emergent May Be Emerging in Your Church

I know this article is lengthy but I believe it is worth taking the time to read.

The reason?

I am becoming weary and frustrated trying to show those I deeply care about of the growing apostasy within today's churches (you know who you are. I hope I do not have to be more specific in identifying you). I am thinking specifically of my former church. Many people very close to me have decided to remain members of this church. I do not know if the church is becoming "Emergent" or not but what they are becoming is definitely NOT what is described in the Bible. I also know that they have purposefully or out of sheer ignorance allowed many of these same ERRORS described in this article to take root in the church and to grow in an increasing degree.

PLEASE WAKE UP and realize what is going on!

If all this is too complicated to understand and requires too much effort to investigate and study perhaps this article will explain the encroaching apostasy in a simple manner occurring in too many of our churches today. Please read this and pray that God will give you the eyes to see the truth if in fact the truth is contained in this article. I certainly believe it is:


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Article by Roger Oakland

The world is changing. So is the Christian evangelical church. There was a time— not that long ago—when the Bible was considered to be the Word of God by the majority of evangelical Christians. Now that we are well into the third millennium and the post-modern, post- Christian era, the term evangelical can mean almost anything. What has happened? Why is this happening and what is the future for mainstream Christianity?

For the past several years, I have been speaking around the world on current trends that are impacting Christianity. After these presentations, I am approached by Christians who come from many different church backgrounds. Many are expressing their concerns about what is happening in their churches, troubled by the new direction they see their church going. While they may not always be able to discern what is wrong, they know something is wrong and that it needs to be addressed.

Further, many have told me they have attempted to express their concerns with their pastors or church elders. In almost every case, they were told they had a choice to make—get with the new program or get out of the church.

This move towards a reinvented Christianity (one designed to “reach people”) seems to be here for the long haul. It is not just a passing fad. I am often asked by concerned brothers and sisters in Christ to provide an explanation in order to help them understand what they have encountered. They want to know why these changes are underway and what to expect in the future. As well, they want to know what, if anything can be done, to stem this tide. It is for this reason I am writing this commentary—to provide biblical insight regarding the Emerging Church and where it is heading in the future.

The Gospel According to the Scriptures

Throughout church history, various trends have come and gone. While culture changes from place to place, biblical Christianity has always been based upon the central message of the Bible which is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message never changes.

This gospel message is about who Jesus Christ is, and what He has done. A child can understand the gospel message. This message proclaims that life here on planet earth is finite and that life after death is eternal. The good news is that we can be saved from our sins if we will repent and simply ask for forgiveness and follow Him.

How we respond to the gospel message during the time we have on earth determines where we spend eternity—heaven or hell. Jesus, the Creator of the universe, provided a way and the only way we can spend eternity with Him. It is a matter of making a personal decision whether or not we will accept the plan He has provided.

God’s adversary does not want mankind to understand the simple message. His plan is to deceive the world. If he can blind people from the gospel or convince them that they believe the gospel when indeed they do not, his plan has been successful. Throughout the ages, countless billions have been duped, either rejecting the truth, or believing that they had believed the truth when instead they had been deceived.

The Gospel According to Postmodernism

Times change! However, the gospel must remain the same no matter what else changes. We are now living in the postmodern era. In a sincere attempt to reach the postmodern generation with the gospel, it seems many Christians have become postmodern in their thinking.

Perhaps the term postmodern is new to you. Let’s examine what it means.

First, the modern era was characterized by a time of rational thinking based on factual observation. Many claim the modern era ended in the mid 1900s.

The postmodern mindset moves beyond the rational and the factual to the experiential and the mystical. In other words, in the past it was possible to know right from wrong and black from white. In the postmodern era all things are relative to the beholder. What may be right for you may be wrong for someone else. There is no such thing as absolute truth. The only thing that is absolute is that there is no absolute.

We now live in a time in history that is characterized as postmodern. 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. They say it is necessary to find a more moderate gospel that can be accepted by the masses.

Many church leaders are now looking for ways to reach the postmodern generation. They believe they can find the appropriate methods to do so without changing the message. However, in their attempt to reach this postmodern generation, they have become postmodern themselves and have changed the message. As the gospel is fixed upon the Scriptures, the gospel cannot change, unless of course it becomes another gospel. I believe this is what is happening in the Emerging Church.

He Didn’t Come

Many have noticed that since the turn of the millennium, their churches have changed positions on Bible prophecy and the Second Coming of Jesus. Many have given up on the return of Jesus. From the ‘60s on there was an excitement about the imminent return of Jesus. The Jesus People were excited about Bible prophecy and could see signs that Jesus would descend from the heavens for His Bride at any moment.

The year 2000 was of particular importance. When Jesus didn’t show up, it seems many were apparently disappointed. “Perhaps Jesus has delayed His coming,” some have said. Others are even taking the position that He may not be coming at all, at least not in the manner we have been taught. They are now convinced that we need to be busy about “building His Kingdom” here on earth by “whatever human effort is required.”

The Gospel of the Kingdom

One of the main indicators that something has changed can be seen in the way the future is perceived. Rather than urgently proclaiming the gospel according to the Scriptures and believing the time to do so is short, the emphasis has now shifted. No longer are “signs of the times” significant. The battle cry is very different. A major emphasis among evangelicals is the idea that the world can be radically improved through social programs.

This concept, while on the surface may sound very good, has some serious biblical implications. According to the Scriptures, there will be no kingdom of God until the King arrives. All the human effort man can muster up will fall short of bringing utopia. In fact, according to the Scriptures, fallen man will lead us further down the road to a society of despair and lawlessness just like it was in the days of Noah.

Thus, 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. While it is of course good to do good unto others, all the goodness that we can do will not be good enough. Pastors and church leaders who get involved in such man-driven programs can usually be identified by certain characteristics:

• Sound biblical doctrine is dangerous and divisive, and the experiential (i.e.,mystical) is given a greater role than doctrine.
• Bible prophecy is no longer taught and is considered a waste of time
• Israel becomes less and less important and has no biblical significance
• Eventually the promises for Israel are applied to the church and not Israel (Replacement Theology).
• Bible study is replaced by studying someone’s book and his methods
• Church health is evaluated on the quantity of people who attend.
• The truth of God’s Word becomes less and less important
• God’s Word, especially concepts like hell, sin and repentance, is eventually downplayed so the unbeliever is not offended.

Spiritual Formation and Transformation

Much of what I have described provides the formula for a dumbing-down of Christianity that paves the way for an apostasy that will only intensify in the future. This trend away from the authority of God’s Word to the reinvented form
of Christianity has overcome all evangelical denominations like an avalanche. Few Bible teachers saw this avalanche coming. Now that it is underway, few realize it has even happened.

However, there is another big piece to the puzzle that must be identified in order to understand what is emerging in the Emerging Church. While biblical Christianity has been dumbed-down and the light of God’s Word diminished, another avalanche of deception is underway that is equally devastating.

This is best described by the Word of God giving way to experiences that God’s Word forbids. The best way to understand this process is to recall what happened during the Dark Ages when the Bible became the “forbidden book.” Until the Reformers translated the Bible into the language of the common person, the people were in darkness. When the light of God’s Word became available, the gospel according to the Scriptures was once again understood.

This trend, which is underway today, shows us that history is in the process of repeating itself. As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise of mystical experiences is alarming and these experiences are being presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling and seeing God. The 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. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is not a prerequisite.

These teachings, while actually rooted in ancient wisdom (the occult), were presented to Christendom post-New Testament and not found in the Word of God. The spiritual formation movement is based upon experiences promoted by desert monks and Roman Catholic mystics – these mystics encouraged the use of rituals and practices, that if performed would bring the practitioner closer to God (or come into God’s presence). The premise was that if one went into the silence or sacred space, then the mind was emptied of distractions and the voice of God could be heard. In truth, these hypnotic, mantric style practices were leading these monks into altered states of consciousness. The methods they used are the same that Buddhists and the Hindus use as a means of encountering the spiritual realm

Such methods are dangerous, and are not sanctioned in the Bible – God gives no instruction for this. On the contrary, he warns severely against divination, which is practicing a ritual or method in order to obtain information from a spiritual source. While proponents of spiritual formation (like Richard Foster) say these methods show that the Holy Spirit is doing something new to refresh Christianity, I would suggest that what is happening is not new and is not the Holy Spirit.

The spiritual formation movement is being widely promoted at colleges and seminaries as the latest and the greatest way to become a spiritual leader in these days. These ideas are then being exported from seminaries to churches by graduates who have been primed to take Christianity to a new level of enlightenment.

As well, these contemplative practices are being promoted by emergent leaders such as Brian McLaren, Robert Webber, Dallas Willard and others. Publishers like NavPress, InterVarsity and Zondervan are flooding the market with books promoting contemplative practices based on Eastern mysticism. Pastors and church leaders read these books and then promote the ideas as if they were the scriptural answer to drawing close to God.

Signs the Emerging Church is Emerging

There are specific warning signs that are symptomatic that a church may be headed down the emergent/contemplative road. In some cases a pastor may not be aware that he is on this road nor understand where the road ends up.

Here are some of the warning signs:

• Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.
• The centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.
• More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.
• The teaching that Jesus Christ will rule and reign in a literal millennial period is considered unbiblical and heretical.
• The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.
• The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past
• An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.
• Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be reinvented in order to provide meaning for this generation.
• The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.
• While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.
• These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.
• There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
• Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.
• There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of
world peace claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways
to God.
• Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.

What does the Future Hold?

If the Emerging Church continues unfolding at the present pace, mainstream evangelical Christianity will be reinvented and the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures will be considered too narrow and too restrictive. In other words, the narrow way to heaven that Jesus proclaimed will eventually be abandoned for a wider way that embraces pagan experiential practices. I call this reinvented, re-imagined form of Christianity that is unfolding—“Christian Babylonianism”.

This new form of Christianity will replace biblical faith with a faith that says man can establish the kingdom of God here on earth. The Word will continue to become secondary to a system of works driven by experiences.

An ecumenical pattern towards unity with Rome will become more apparent. Those who refuse to embrace this direction will be considered spiritual oddballs that need to be reprimanded. Those who stand up for biblical faith will be considered the obstructions to the one world spirituality that is promoted as the answer for peace.

The best way to be prepared for what is coming is to gain an understanding of what is happening now. While there are not many who seem to discern the trend underway, there are some. Without the Bible and the Holy Spirit as our guide, the darkness that is coming would be overwhelming. However, the light of God’s
Word penetrates the darkness and there are those who are being delivered from deception and see what is taking place.

I am convinced we are seeing apostasy underway, exactly as the Scriptures have forewarned. This means that this current trend is not likely to disappear. We must continue to proclaim the truth in the midst of deception with love. As Paul instructed Timothy:

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will (2 Timothy 2: 24-26).

There are still pastors and churches who are dedicated to proclaiming the truth. Find out where they are and support them. If you are in a location where this does not seem to be possible, seek out materials that are available from solid Bible-based Christian ministries and hold Bible studies in your own home.

And keep looking up! Jesus is coming soon.

Visit Roger’s website at www.understandthetimes.org

9 Comments:

Anonymous Todd Olges said...

There is almost more here than can be dealt with. This article is full of problems from the stand point of it's summary of the "emergent" church. He lumps a whole host of things all into the "emergent" church and to top it off he says that if you disagree with the direction of the leadership in the church then you are asked to leave. This isn't "emergent", it's Biblical if the one calling things into question is divisive. He says the "emergent" church is going in a new direction and a dangerous one, but then he states the pursuit of liturgy, candles, and experiences that are rooted in the past as something negative. It's sad when these types of things are circulated and there isn't a sincere desire to try to understand what is really going on. Please...engage the brain and actually talk to the church leaders about what is going on instead of labeling things you don't like under a label and then finding articles that spew any kind of junk that makes you feel better. It's obvious that you were hurt from the church you left, but try and understand what they were doing at this point. I've been hurt by churches, but I also know that labels are useless in today's context. It's not about labels...it's about whether the Bible is central and if relationships are valued. Nothing else really matters if we have Jesus as number one and each other as number two. The charge in the article was that the "emergent" church no longer saw the Bible as the sole autority for matters of life and practice in the church. I'm not sure where this comes from except you can look around and it seems that churches that wear all kinds of labels are off track. The point is...find one that honors God's Word - that's a non-negotiable, but to say those that have any of those characteristics he lists is going off track down the "emergent" trail is just silly. Every church is different and every church leadership is different and every church community is different. Open your eyes, engage your brain, and pray to see if this is the faith community God wants you to be apart of. All the other stuff is just smoke and mirrors to give people stuff to to talk about and look important or like they have the inside track! Hope it makes you think!

10:36 AM  
Blogger Kennyo said...

Todd,

Thanks for your comments.

The intent of this article is for someone to observe tendencies in his or her own church which may be leading to the heresy of Emergent. This topic is dealt with in a broad sense intentionally to alert people to the warning signs so they may begin the process of discernment themselves.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Kenny,
To quote Bill Clinton, I feel your pain. Only I mean it. I know how you must feel like despairing. Don't. Our redemption draws near, my Brother.

This apostacy could be a sign of the end.

"This move towards a reinvented Christianity..." is a sure sign of unregenerate leaders and congregants.

I theorize that either God is removing truth from Western man because of his rebellion, or God is removing His Holy Spirit from the American Evangelical Church because of its long standing lukewarmness and compromise, or we are simply coming to the end of history.

My personal solution is to be more vigorous and aggressive with the gospel. I am going to start "Just The Bible Academy" for discipleship, traing for and start street preaching, and continue to pursue the Emergent with solid refutations.

Keep the faith once delivered,
Phil Perkins.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Todd,
You may be sincere or not. I do want you to be more informed about the Emergent. They are deceivers. They purport to be loving and kind. They are not.

You said, "...and to top it off he says that if you disagree with the direction of the leadership in the church then you are asked to leave."

That is common. I was fired from a teaching post at an Bible college, because I opposed the Emergent publicly. I was allowed to do so only quietly and privately. I refused and was let go.

A pastor I know in Colorado is having a group that is in favor of the Emergent as we speak try to gather support to fire him. Ken Silva has been threatened with law suits and so have I.

These are facts, Todd.

Read your Bible.

You also said, "It's sad when these types of things are circulated and there isn't a sincere desire to try to understand what is really going on."

I have read their books. They are apostate and I will debate anyone anywhere on that issue.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Gigi said...

Sometimes people will not leave a church even when it goes off the reservation, because it's more comfortable to stay with the familiar than to pack up and start over. I wonder how many times Paul the apostle had to do precisely that. We are not any better. It is a good thing to give the church and its leadership every opportunity to get back on track if they are confused; but if they are deliberate and it's clearly erroneous, it becomes our responsibility to go elsewhere and serve with a clear conscience.

I've known people who have stayed in bad churches for many years and they invariably give all sorts of reasons and excuses. I think it's a good rule of thumb to give them "a first and second admonition" if you will, but we'll waste a lot of time trying to persuade the unpersuadable. Without causing a rift or being ugly, we can exit quietly. I think those who truly seek the Lord and the truth will see our example and follow it. They do not render an account to us, they will render one to the Lord.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Gigi,
You're right. There is often no reason to stay. However, we need to do our part and speak up for the truth until that inevitability.

As to the idea that leaders "...do not render an account to us, they will render one to the Lord," that is half true. They will account to the Lord. However, the Bereans held Paul accountable and according to Deuteronomy 18 the assembly under the Old Covenant held prophets to account.
And again in II John 10-11, congregants are to judge a teacher and reject him if he is not straight.

We are all in the body of Christ. If the eye is rotten, the toe should ask it to repent.

I have done this sort of thing. I have remained in a church past the time most would leave. Where I currently attend, fase teaching was brought in. I brought the pastor before the assembly. Everyone that spoke hated me, but the vote was unanimous with one abstention. The false teaching had to go. The pastor stayed pretending to have repented. (He really hadn't.) Soon we had a new pastor and now the church is healthy and growing.

But, as you say, sometimes it's hopeless.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting dialog here. It might be a good idea to go to the scriptures themselves to address this. The book of Revelation has Christs words to the Churches at the time John was writing and apparently they had some of the problems if not all that we do. I am reminded of a firestorm the erupted in the United Presbyterian Church in the mid 60's when they adopted a new confession to supplement the standard Westminster Confession (WC). There would be quite a few believers today who would and do take issues with the WC (I might agree with some of the issues), but the UP's new confession named the 'Confession of 67' began with the words the Bible containes the Word of God. I would recommend a book by John Gerstner 'Theology in Discourse'. The contention at this point is who decides which part of the Bible contains that Word? I think, all things considered, the time tested Canon is for more reliable than a people who can not agree even on a definition for 'truth' or even the word 'to be' or 'is'. The debate remains the same. If God exists, and He certainly must, what has He said. Does He change? What could be greater than God to add to Him? I stand, as Luther did, on His word and I believe it is found in the compiled 66 books written over 15 hundred years and so cohesive that even It's greatest detractors when confronted with it are amazed by it. As for me and my house we will serve the God of the Bible.
Hank

9:24 AM  
Blogger Jeff Noble said...

I hesitate to post here because the comments towards dissenters seem to be so vitriolic; however, the article posted is overly simplistic and reductionistic in its attempt to identify unbiblical trends.

One of the greatest lacks of the American church today is discernment. It's caused by the alarming increase in biblical illiteracy.. on all sides.

Proof-texting seems to be the favorite past-time for bloggers and Christian leaders rather than a loving submission to and intense study of God's revealed Word.

I believe that theology is best done in community. In Gene Getz's excellent book Elders and Leaders, he brings this point home by pointing to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. It was ultimately a theological crisis.

Should converted Gentiles be required to be circumcised to be saved?

As you read the scripture, it's obvious that Peter appealed to a revelatory experience while James used his God-given intellect to make an assessment of the situation, based on what he'd heard from Peter, Paul and Barnabas and pulling from scripture (the book of Amos), he rendered the final recommendation in the matter.

The important thing is that God's previous experiential work through Peter was recognized, as was the obvious infilling of the Spirit at salvation among the Gentiles through Paul and Barnabas' ministry.

This was compared to scripture, and because it alligned with God's Word and purposes, the church moved forward.

I would suggest that we all seek to do the same kind of theology in community, and rather than finger-pointing and an us vs. them mentality, let us seek understanding through a common faith in Jesus Christ, through prayer, dialogue, testimony and scriptural study.

It's easy to cast stones through a keyboard.

I am certainly not excusing those leaders and churches that are on the slippery slope of heresy. I just think there are more legitimate, scriptural approaches to bringing glory to Christ and building His church than this simplistic template allows.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Kennyo said...

Great comments Hank.

I agree.

7:38 PM  

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