Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why We're Not Emergent - cont.

I have finished reading Why We're Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck and liked it overall.  Probably the most valuable thing I took away from it was DeYoung saying he appreciates the emergent critique of the church today but that their prescribed cures are frightening. 

Both authors' deference to the creeds, confessions, and councils as the "borders of faith" and "fence[s] between truth and falsehood," elevating them almost to the same level of Scripture itself, really bothered me, though.  I believe Emergents have a legitimate beef here, but their remedy indeed is frightening!  Instead of pointing to Scripture as the only authority, they point to the need to be real and express their feelings, to do good works, and to experience the other personal ways God mysteriously speaks to Christians apart from the Bible.

The emergent church is in fact quite squishy about Scripture.  Brian McLaren, a leading voice in emergent circles argues for a postmodern understanding of the Bible's role in our church: "When we let it [the Bible] go as a modern answer book, we get to rediscover it for what it really is: an ancient book of incredible spiritual value for us, a kind of universal and cosmic history, a book that tells us who we are and what story we find ourselves in so that we know what to do and how to live."  DeYoung explains that it's all well and good to speak of the Bible as a wonderful, rich story, or an amazing collection of deep writings, or an honored conversation partner, or an in-living-color book, but what does all of this actually mean?  Is it the final authority in matters of faith and practice?  Can it be trusted in all that it says?  Is it intelligible and knowable?  Basically, Emergents don't see the Bible as having intrinsic authority based on God having spoken, but rather as a functional authority dependent upon what the community of believers understand it to mean.  And since Donald Miller has been quoted as saying, "who knows anything anyway", where does that leave them?

It leaves them making up their own kind of truth!  In fact, Spencer Burke, also one of the formative voices in the emergent conversation, explains that, "Although the link between grace and sin has driven Christianity for centuries, it just doesn't resonate in our culture anymore. It repulses rather than attracts. People are becoming much less inclined to acknowledge themselves as 'sinners in need of a Savior.' A better approach is to see Jesus as 'the model of sinless living, the ultimate example to which all humanity should aspire."  Burke also basically rejects the cross of Christ as an atoning sacrifice for sin when he approvingly quotes from the Journalist Polly Toynbee: "Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?"

This is the biggest difference between Emergents and traditional Christianity according to DeYoung: "Being a Christian—for Burke, for McLaren, for Bell, for Jones, and for many others in the emerging conversation—is less about faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only access to God the Father and the only atonement for sins before a wrathful God, and more about living the life that Jesus lived and walking in His way."

Sadly, if people attending emergent churches are hearing that doing good works is the main thing, not that Christ died and rose again on our behalf, then emergent churches are most likely filled with unbelievers — because good works do not save!

Some who have read this book lament that a reconciliation needs to happen between the Emergents and Reformed.  In other words, "Can't we all just get along?"  But really, how can there be a reconciliation if Emergents don't see the Word of God as authoritative — and it clearly states:

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10:5-17).

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:15-16).

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