The growing influence of the so-called emergent church movement has generated much interest and debate in recent times. As a columnist for the Christian Worldview Network, people often ask me for my take on the emergent church movement. Thus, the purpose of this article is simply to offer my humble perspective on the emergent church movement, based upon my unique firsthand interactions with many of its leaders, many of whom I count as friends in-spite of my disagreements with them.
My initial entrance into the emergent church conversation came about six years ago while I was a student in seminary. One of the key figures in Emergent, the official title of the organization that is the primary voice for the emergent church movement, Doug Pagitt (Pastor of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis), is a close friend of mine. Doug had a profound influence on my life during his time as my youth pastor when I was in high school. Between my years in youth group and my entrance into seminary, Doug became intimately involved with many of the key movers and shakers who would eventually form the organization, or "generative friendship" as they call it, which is now Emergent. During these formative years of Emergent, actually back then it was called The Terra Nova Project, Doug invited me to many of the early gatherings of this group, it was at these events where I was introduced to and spent much time with people like Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Pagitt and others.
During my interactions with my friends from Emergent, I was challenged both intellectually and spiritually through what I encountered, and I was really forced to wrestle with what I believe and hold dear. Over the course of about three years of fairly regular interaction with members of Emergent and participation in many of their gatherings and events, I became increasingly concerned over what I believe are serious deviations from biblical truth taking place within the Emergent "conversation" (how they refer to the movement). Many other commentators have drawn attention to these dangers within Emergent, but here are some of the key errors that I observed, errors that eventually led to my disengagement with the movement:
- - A highly ambiguous handling of truth.
- - A desire to be so inclusive and tolerant that there is virtually no sense of biblical discernment in terms of recognizing and labeling false beliefs, practices, or lifestyles.
- - A quasi-universalistic view of salvation.
- - A lack of a proper appreciation for biblical authority over and against personal experience or revelation.
- - Openness to pagan religious practices like Hindu Yoga and incorporating them into the Christian life and Christian worship.
- - Openly questioning the relevance of key historical biblical doctrines such as the Trinity.
- - An uncritically open embrace of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
- - An unbridled cynicism towards conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism.
- - A reading of scripture that is heavily prejudiced towards a social gospel understanding.
- - Little or no talk of evangelism or saving lost souls.
- - A salvation by osmosis mentality, where if you hangout with us long enough you're in.
- And many other things that I won't get into…
Needless to say, today I no longer actively participate in the Emergent conversation. While I do maintain my friendships with many people involved in Emergent, I cannot openly participate in or support this movement due to my spirit's uneasiness with the errors I listed above. I am not ashamed to call the people I mentioned above my friends, but friends don't always have to agree; and sometimes the best thing a friend can do is to point out the error in the other's ways. So, for now you could call me a friendly critic of Emergent.
How did I make it out of my time in Emergent to return to a solid Christian worldview? I owe it all to my parents who raised me with a deep appreciation and respect for God's word and the truth it reveals. For as far back as I can remember, my parent's trained me in a biblical Christian worldview. I was taught from a very young age to test all things by God's word and I was regularly exposed to the writings and teachings of great Christian apologists and theologians like Josh McDowell, Norman Geisler, Ken Ham, and Walter Martin. Through reading solid Christian scholars and attending numerous high quality Christian worldview-training conferences, like Worldview Weekend, I was equipped with the tools I would need later in life to discern truth from error.
Parents, you cannot take lightly the influence that a godly, biblically based upbringing can have on your children! Each generation will be faced with their share of trials, tribulations, and errors which threaten the integrity of the church, but when our young people are raised up with a firm foundation in God's truth, they will be able to discern truth from error and will have the tools they'll need to overcome any challenge to their faith.If you would like more information on Emergent and the emergent church movement from a solid biblical perspective, I would highly recommend D.A. Carson's excellent book, Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church.
By Jason Carlson (http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=514)