Friday, December 14, 2007

Roots of the Emergent Church and "Relevance"

"Do you think the emergent church has some hip, cool, new way of thinking? The mentality of "Well, we need to change Christianity..." and "The Bible doesn't need to be the center of everything..." has been around much longer than these "cool, new, hip guru's" would like for you to believe. The root of the problem is called "humanism", and this short video by Francis Schaeffer exposes this way of thinking for the departure from Christian faith that it really is. Notice the similarities between this culture of 1,000 years ago and the culture of today..."


Blogger Hank said...

Excellent post Ken. I think I recognize this as 'How Should We Then Live' I would love to hear some comments from the Emergent side of the isle on this series.

6:52 AM  
Blogger EmergentMinister said...

Thanks for the insightful history lesson. We really like Schaeffer and we actually know Rob Bell whom you relentlessly vilify. We laugh at your connections and misguided motivation.

Men actually put the Bible together as we know it. Therefore, putting the Bible in the center of everything is essentially putting man's interpretation of what he thought God said to him or what/how he witnessed Christ our savior. The mystery of God actually transcends scripture that is, nonetheless true, transforming, life-giving, and leads us to heal the world.

We believe that your relentless pursuit of so-called heresy is meaningless but ultimately quite humorous. I think you will find us all sitting together in the kingdom, these "cool, new, hip gurus," these stodgy, old guard Pharisee-types like yourselves, and perhaps even some Roman Catholics, Mormons and Buddhists.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Four Pointer said...


I must respectfully tell you that you are wrong in your assertion that "Men actually put the Bible together as we know it. Therefore, putting the Bible in the center of everything is essentially putting man's interpretation of what he thought God said to him or what/how he witnessed Christ our savior.

If you would, please open to 2nd Peter 1:19-21--"And so we have the prophetic word confirmed,which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."

In verse 20, the word "interpretation" is better translated "origin." Scripture is not just something that a bunch of guys sat down and threw together while sitting around and having a conversation. The words in the Bible were breathed out by God Himself (2nd Tim. 3:16), the Holy Spirit spoke to these men, and made sure they wrote down what He told them to write. That's why we can trust the Bible as the perfect, written word of God.

If it isn't, then can we truly know what Jesus really said? Can we know who Jesus really was? If we can't know these things, and we are trying to live according to Christ's example (as many--not all--emergents say we should), how can we know if we ARE living by Christ's example? Are we not trusting to nothing more than a shadow?

5:34 PM  
Blogger EmergentMinister said...

I appreciate your respect and the dialogue. But, if I am a thinking person, I am only going to guess that a man wrote the book of Peter, and that man was a human being, full of sin, full of his own interpretation. Sure, it is God breathed and inspired, but written by a man, nonetheless, and decided by a group of men to include in the canon.

The church must grow and take an objective, historical, and accurate view of scripture. There is truth both within and beyond scripture and God transcends it. If it is literal that ALL scripture is God-breathed (and not just the passages we use to bolster our individual and collective theologies), then God breathed a lot of obscurity. Of course, we know that it is not to be taken literally-even you guys. I don't know of many people outside of psychiatric institutions who have taken out their own eyes or cut off their arms.

Is the Bible a perfect book? Or is it what transcends the scriptures that is perfect. What breathed the Bible, is perfect. Broken men wrote the Bible and broken men decided the canon. Broken men and women like us make our interpretations.

We don't want to tear apart the scriptures, but we want to see them in an accurate context.

Just like you, we emergents love the Scriptures. We meditate on them. We see them, however, in a way to make us more like him, to be Christ to the world, and actually DO something with our faith and allow Christ's belief in us to embolden us to change the world in his name. We see Jesus in our study and delight of scripture, but also see the purpose of Christ coming to earth as more than saving us from a place called hell, but allowing us to fulfill his wish to redeem creation and help others out of their own little individual hells.

Wishing you emergent and non-emergent Blessings and Peace...

9:53 PM  
Blogger Hank said...

How do you reconcile your statement 'The mystery of God actually transcends scripture...'? What puts your interpretation above Ken's? What do you believe of the dogmatic Paul and his statement to the Galatians in chpt 1: '8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.' If you are suggesting your interpretation is a clarification of what Paul has said or other Scripture for that matter please explain yourself. So far all I am hearing is a trivialization of Ken's words without reason. In I Corinthians 14:33 It reads, 'For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.' I'm feeling rather confused.

11:33 PM  
Blogger EmergentMinister said...

I wonder if WE can know everything about God. He is mysterious. He does not think the way we do. He does not act the way we do. He works with paradox and irony. He is discovered in unusual places and people. When people thought they had it all figured out, he showed them truth in unique ways. He changed their lives.

I think that God is transcendent. He comes to us in unique ways. He comes to us through the scriptures, but also comes to us through other ways: people, story, experiences, other cultures, mysticism, listening, prayer, communal worship.

You have many questions here, Hank. And I am not sure what your real question is. You indicated you were interested in hearing from an emergent side. So, I provided my comment. I don't mean to trivialize Ken's views, but my colleagues and I find his motivation a bit absurd, but we do respect his voice in the dialogue.

So Hank, your cursing me and using scripture to do so at the same time? Wow. What's that all about? Pretty harsh. You sound like you're sending me to hell or something.

We like Ken's blog a lot. We don't understand what motivates him, but we'd like to. We don't mean to be trivial because the energy he expends is quite fascinating. I don't think he needs you to defend him either. He can do that very well himself.

I'm preaching a very biblical message tomorrow, by the way, so I better get some rest.

All the best to all of you.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Four Pointer said...


If you believe that Peter wrote his epistle on his own, and was not given the words to write by the Holy Spirit, then who's to say that anything in the Bible was spoken by God? And if that's true, then how do we know that any of the words of Jesus we have are what He actually said? And how can we be sure that Jesus even existed for that matter? And if Jesus did not exist, then can we truly say that we can be saved? After all, Acts 4:12 says that there is no other name by which men may be saved. Or maybe that was just an idea Peter came up with on his own. Did God really give Moses the Ten Commandments? Are they to be taken literally? These are all legitimate questions one could ask if we begin saying that even one part of Scripture was not given by God. "Well, if God didn't say that, then how do you know He said any of it?"

You see, once we start tearing off a little piece of the fabric of the truth of God's word, then that causes another part to be loosened, and fall away, then another, and eventually the whole thing is going to unravel. And we will be left with nothing but a pile of string, all twisted and knotted, and we'll be sitting there with no idea what any of it means. And we will be left on our own to ask one another, "Well, what do you think this was?" And truth will no longer be truth.

But that is not the God we worship. He has given us His word, spoken by the Spirit, written by men who wrote what they were told to write, so that we may know the one, true, living God, and his Christ. It is to be read literally. (There are some parts that should be conseiderd what I call "symbolical literalism"--that is, God telling us symbolically what He will do literally.)

I'll be the first to admit there are some things I don't understand. But I do know that His word is truth.

Four* Pointer

8:48 AM  
Blogger EmergentMinister said...

Thanks for your response. I think the truth of scripture can stand on its own and us thinking differently about it does not make it any less true or more true.

Truth is transcendent and that is what was breathed into Peter.

I believe that God inspired the Bible, but I also believe that men wrote it. We believe his word is truth as well, but we as men use our own idea of what we think that truth to mean.

Women being silent in church. Women not being allowed ordination. The forbidding marriage after divorce. Slavery. Racism. Beheading heretics. Scripture backs up all these things if you allow it to. Yet if you read it another way, it provides a much different picture. People use it to bolster their own ideas of truth. That is very dangerous.

I don't think that we are that much different from one another, to be honest. I'm not sure if you'll agree or not, but I can accept what you have to say. Thanks!

4:16 PM  
Blogger Hank said...

I'm not sure why you are saying I am using Scripture to curse you. I do not. I am a firm believer in the principle Christ spoke of in Matthew 7:1-5. I do not believe I can or should curse or correct you but rather reason with you as to the truths that must necessarily exist. I am of a mind that Scripture is not only God breathed, but He is still breathing through it. If you feel judged it may be the Lord speaking to you. Judging comes from Him through His word and not through me unless the Lord speaks through me, but I do not claim infallibility. I am however at this point reminded of the philosopher Emanuel Kant who had a passion I believe for the good of men but embraced a point of reason I have not been able to endorse. He says God is necessarily immaterial and man material. God eternal and man temporal. Therefore man cannot ever really believe in or know such a being. I'm sure my description here is a weak interpretation but I believe captures the essence of his dilemma. I question the logic of his conclusion in that he as Protagoras before him places the impetus totally on man and limits the very Being he acknowledges must be eternal and logically if eternal omnipotent to reveal Himself to the feeble minded such as I am. It is written in John 12:45-48 Jesus said, "And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.' As a young man I was constantly exposed to the notion that the Bible was a book written by men. I do not think man could have created such cohesive content over so many years and it still exist as it has for two millennium. I thank you for your honest participation here. If I have appeared as a judge to you I must repent of the lack of clarity that led you to that conclusion.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Four Pointer said...


I'm not quite sure of what you mean by the word "transcendant." Could you please explain what you mean by that? I know some people use it to mean different things.

As far as your statement about "I believe that God inspired the Bible, but I also believe that men wrote it. We believe his word is truth as well, but we as men use our own idea of what we think that truth to mean,"--see, this is where it gets confusing. You believe God's word to be truth, but then you say that man somehow added his own $.02 to the mix. So do you believe the Bible we have today to be 100% exactly what they were told to write by the Holy Spirit, or do you believe it to be 99% what the Holy Spirit intended and 1% man's additions/subtractions? If you believe the latter, then who is to say that murder is a sin? Or adultery? Which parts did man add and subtract from?

While I do agree that men have, over the years, made themselves believe that it says something it doesn't, that does not change the fact that this is God's perfect word, spoken by Him, written down exactly as He wanted it to be. How we misread it and misuse it has nothing to do with the fact that God said it to faithful men who wrote as they were led by the Spirit.

I'll let you have the last word.

Four* Pointer

9:17 AM  
Blogger EmergentMinister said...

Well, I'm going to say that the translations of the Bible we have today are not 100% exactly what the original writers wrote as inspired by God, but not too far off. I don't think that's really a surprising statement, really.

Don't be too afraid of the slippery slope, Four Pointer. I doubt you'll slip. Murder and adultery are quite clearly abhorrent behaviors and even if you don't believe that 100% of the Bible is "exactly" written as it was originally inspired, it's pretty absurd to think that those behaviors wouldn't be included as sinful. Yet, you do bring up a good point. If we don't believe that the Bible is 100% exactly as it was originally written, how do we then make sense of the difficult aspects of our faith. I would encourage all of us to question more, with less fear, and to allow God to reveal in us those answers along with studying the scriptures.

My guess would be to try and live out our faith and not hurry up and have it all figured out, to have a wider orthodoxy, but not to neglect the major creeds and beliefs of the Christian church.

And Hank, thanks so much for your comments. If you want to discuss any issues further, find me.

Peace to all of you.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" ...God is transcendent. He comes to us in unique ways. He comes to us through the scriptures, but also comes to us through other ways: people, story, experiences, other cultures, mysticism, listening, prayer, communal worship."

I just came across in my surfing rounds on this exchange you all have on this blog. With all due respect, the above quote is the crux of the debate and all else is just window dressing. People who believe that God's truth is found in mysticism and [undefined] communal worship don't believe in the Biblical God. And the Biblical God is very exclusive in the way He has revealed Himself. When we don't like the way God has revealed Himself and WHAT He has revealed and HOW He has revealed it, we come up with alternatives. That's what a lot of contemporary churches are doing. It's a nifty little mix of orthodox principles with a great deal of pragmatism -- blend it with music and sprinkle it with non-traditional lingo and -- VOILA! You got the roots of that quote above.

See? Some people take issue with female ordination, remarriage, slavery (which was rampant in the early church), NT teachings that may boomerang same-sex unions, and all the other hot button topics of today. And they don't like what God may be saying about them in the Bible, or what it appears that the Bible might be teaching about them. Yet these same still people want to "embrace" (that warm fuzzy term that is also so undefined) the Bible because they need some point of reference for their belief system. They do not see the inconsistencies of their position. It's been called post-modern thinking, but it's more like "I will not see the inconsistencies of my position." And God forbid, they loathe to call anything "heresy."

Don't need a theology degree to see thru the mess. It's an attempt to fashion God after our image and likeness, and if we find Him outside the Bible in "people, story, experiences, other cultures, mysticism, listening, prayer, communal worship" -- well, just imagine what freedom we have to do and believe whatever we want. Really.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Ken and all,

The interesting thing here to me is the correlation between the insertion of Aristotle and philosophy in general into Christian thinking and what we have been doing the past 40 or so years with the insertion of psychology into Christian thought. For instance, I just got hold of an article in a James Dobson publication touting the value of self-esteem in Christian marriage.

It is obvious that the Bible despises pride, but with the officially-accepted psychological name for it, pride suddenly becomes okay. Why? Because the Bible is no longer our sole authority.

As to Hank and the Emergent unbeliever, Hank is right on when he asks the unbeliever why he thinks his ideas are better than Ken's if all is relative.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins

11:33 AM  

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