Monday, October 29, 2007

Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church
October 29, 2007

In his book, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, Dr. D. A. Carson writes giving clarity to the movement (well, as much clarity as there can be with a movement where proponents have so much trouble agreeing with each other) and the movement’s implications on reformation theology, or, evangelical orthodoxy.

Spencer Burke, Brian McLaren and others are into this new idea of “trying new ideas and putting a postmodern spin on (even) the message!” Listen to what Mike Yaconelli writes in his book, Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic:

Challenge an accepted belief or confess doubt and you’re the equivalent of a car-carrying communist. Brows furrow. Eyes narrow. Lips purse. Want to earn a place on the Colorado Springs… er, I mean, Hollywood black list? Admit your uncertainty about homosexuality as a biblically condemned sin. Want to be branded as a traitor in your own church? Admit your ambivalence about a denomination-defining symbol such as baptism” (p.30, emphasis added).

This is sad, disheartening and evil. To say that we must admit uncertainty – when the Bible is crystal clear about issues like homosexuality, baptism, salvation, the clear gospel – is to deny the authority and clarity (perspicuity) of Scripture. This is exactly what Yaconelli, McLaren and Burke are doing as the headmasters of this Emergent Church movement.

Note this: in a 2004 Q & A session with the Emergent Convention, McLaren was asked his judgment on the matter of homosexuality. Well, biblically speaking we know what he ought to have said (cf. 1 Cor 6; Rom 1; 1 Tim 1, etc – it’s sinful, wrong and the homosexual needs to repent!). Rather, McLaren said that he did not want to answer directly to the issue. Here is what he did answer: 1) It is not entirely clear that what the Bible means when it speaks of homosexuality is exactly what we mean today when we speak of homosexuality and 2) He wants to stress the crucial importance of treating homosexuals as people, like other human beings in need of grace.

McLaren also noted in his leading work, A Generous Orthodoxy:

And although the debate has been agonizing, liberals have blazed the trail in seeking to treat homosexual and transgender persons with compassion. Conservatives may follow in their footsteps in this issue just as they have in others, several decades down the road, once the pioneers have cleared the way” (p.138).

Frankly, McLaren (as well as other Emerging Church advocates) give me very very little evidence that they are fairly described as being a “biblical” and “orthodox” and “reformed” Christian.

Steve Chalke is another proponent of the movement and writes about it in his book, The Lost Message of Jesus. Well, with a title like this one has to come with some skepticism – for we have no lost message of Jesus. The Scriptures clearly portray the real message of Jesus.

The whole thrust of this book by Chalke is the emphasis on the truth, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) and he notes that Christians are to “love the loveless, embrace the untouchable, feed the hungry, forgive the unforgivable, heal the sick and welcome the marginalized.” What he does not cover is phrases in the Scriptures like:

Psalm 7:11 11 God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day.

Romans 9:22 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

Exodus 34:7 yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished,

Revelation 14:10 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God

Romans 1:18 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

And on and on and on…

Furthermore, Chalke now defines God in terms of his one controlling attribute, love. “The Bible,” Chalke says, “never defines him as anything other than love…but more than that, it NEVER makes assertions about his anger, power or judgment independently of his love” (p.63 of his work). I am not sure what Bible Chalke is reading. Yes God is a God of love. But the God that I read about in the Bible is also angry with the sinner and will be glorified in vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (i.e. “hell”). Chalke failed to mention this in his work.

D.A. Carson notes that Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke have largely abandoned what we may call, the biblical gospel. This means that we need to warn our people about these men because they are false teachers. We must pray for them and earnestly seek God that He may bring these men to Himself. We need to recover the biblical gospel that these individuals and the Emerging Church movement has lost.

We need to proclaim boldly that all mankind is under God’s wrath and sin until a person repents of his sin (John 3:36). This is the most fundamental principle of the orthodox gospel that the Emergents are neglecting to recognize.

Let us take a stand for the gospel and be those men and women who are sold-out committed to the full and unadulterated biblical gospel. Soli Deo Gloria.

Your Pastor and Friend,
Geoffrey R. Kirkland


Anonymous said...

Geoff, thank you for your very clear and solid post today.

You are no doubt aware of this but there will be some, perhaps many, who will say to you something like..."don't generalize on the ECM, Brian McLaren is not the spokesman for the whole group, etc etc etc...". My advice...don't buy it.

Geoff, the ECM is a huge distraction in my view from the essential duty to accurately, boldly and in dependence upon God's Spirit proclaim the Word and uphold the Gospel. Yes, I am unabashedly generalizing.

But I have yet to see any reason to spend precious time and energy on the ECM. You know all you need to know about the ECM at this point.

Stick to the Word and depend on the Holy Spirit. Just keep doing what you're doing and you will indeed be a workman who does not need to be ashamed.



geoffrey kirkland said...


I appreciate the feedback. The problem is this -- even those in the ECM can't even agree within their own number on what they believe and don't believe. So, I have to go to the top -- the head-runners for the movement and critique them. These men are the fountainheads of the movement. And I believe the Scriptures are absolutely clear where these men (and the ECB movement) are "unclear."


Anonymous said...

Geoff, I understand. What I was really trying to refer to was the fact that some ECM foks and those who seem to traffic in this topic like to cloud the issue by saying you need to read all these individual blogs, papers, websites, etc to be "fair".

Knowing your schedule and your discernment, I was simply trying to suggest that you did not need to get bogged down trying to ferret out what few legit people there may be in the misdt of this theological quagmire.

I agree with your comments.

Nathan Busenitz did a good piece in Pulpit Magazine on the Goug Pagitt debacle.

Thansk for your faithful service to the Lord Geoff!


geoffrey kirkland said...


Wes said...

Geoff and Randy-

I am with you in recognizing that the leaders of Emergent Village have gone astray from orthodox Christianity. But it really is the case that the ECM is bigger than this. For example, there is the Acts 29 Network, which is a network of emerging churches who are committed Christians who are evangelical, missional, and Reformed. I would encourage you to read their doctrinal statement at

You are certainly being faithful to point out error in the ECM, but in circles like Acts 29, there are wonderful things happening to spread the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Wes said...

By the way, after you read the doctrinal statement of the Acts 29 Network of emerging churches, I would really appreciate you communicating to me where these folks are going wrong and are straying form orthodox Christianity. I look forward to your feedback...

Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!