Understanding the Emerging Church

1 Mar

I have been disturbed by the “emergence” of post-modernism in the Church for quite a while. I couldn’t articulate my feelings. I had a lot of thoughts and opinions, I just couldn’t find the words. What I did do was to start reading. I read a number of blogs and recently came across a posting by C Michael Patton of the Parchment and Pen called “Understanding the postmodern mind and the emerging church“. When I read this, I thought he had been reading my mind. He is clearly a better writer than I could hope to be. I recommend that you read this excellent post.

Because of their distrust of tradition, my conversations with those in the “emergent movement” have led me to reevaluate why I believe what I believe. Sometimes this has softened my stance on the issues in the church that the Bible doesn’t speak clearly on (infant or adult baptism, sprinkling or submersion, pre-trib,mid-trib, post-trib etc.) and it has strengthened the foundation of my beliefs on the things that matter most (salvation, redemption, grace). I used to tell people that there is Doctrine and Dogma. Loosely, doctrine is man’s interpretation of what we believe and dogma is God’s truth that is undeniable. We can agree to disagree on doctrine as long as we both agree on the dogma.

One of the authors points, and one that I see too much in emerging churches is this attitude that you can’t take a stand for anything or you won’t be liked. They come to this because they believe that in our limited understanding, we can not fully know the truth. So, if we can’t know the truth, who is to say who’s truth is correct. My truth is true for me and your truth is true for you. We are both right, can’t we all get along? Like he says in his post, the less you stand for, the more people will like you. I was even told once by someone professing to be a Christian that although they believe that Jesus is their answer to salvation (their truth), they believe that God might have provided alternate truths and who are we to condemn a whole group of people who might have another view of God or how to attain salvation. He believes that there might be alternate paths to Heaven! Now if that isn’t compromise, what is?

Again, my words aren’t scholarly. I wasn’t just taught these beliefs and now I’m just regurgitating what I’ve heard. The formation of what I believe and why I believe it is a process. I have gone from belief to unbelief and back to belief. I have seen physical evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit. I have seen lives changed by Christ and their belief in His redemptive sacrifice. I have seen the miracle of the birth of my four daughters to my wife who we thought couldn’t conceive. I have been miraculously healed of a 20 year smoking addiction. One day, God just took the addiction away – I have no memory of what it is like to smoke. I know that God is real and I know that He wants to have a personal relationship with all of us. All we have to do is acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. We’re going to mess up – and because we can’t help ourselves, we aren’t worthy to enter into a relationship with God on our own. But God has provided us a way. Jesus said that He was the Truth and the Light. All who believe in Him will be saved. I believe that God, in His grace, sent His son, Jesus, as a perfect sacrifice for our sin. He paid for our sin with his blood and because of this selfless act, we are assured a permanent residency in Heaven with Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit where we will be able to ask Jesus Himself all of the mysteries that we can’t even hope to understand here on earth.

One last thing…to those planning on watching the Discover Channel’s program about the possibility of finding Jesus’ bones? It isn’t possible.

Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God where He will rule until He returns. I would give up my life defending that…. would you?

–Postscript–

I almost ended it here but then I thought how appropriate the Nicene Creed was. Shouldn’t we all say a creed such as this everyday to affirm (at least to ourselves) what we believe? If you wish, you may want to read this out loud. Think about what is says as you read it.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

5 thoughts on “Understanding the Emerging Church

  1. Hi Dave,
    I was just reading your Blog and I don’t know if I had ever had the conversation with you about this but I may have been the one that made that comment about not judging other faiths. I may not have ever said this to you either I don’t know, I do know that I believe that it is not up to us to judge other people on any basis! To say that you know for sure that they won’t get into heaven is borderline blasphemy. My biggest reason fo believing this is the dark ages. These people had everything they had, including their lives, taken from them by the “Holy Church”. Who, in there right mind would believe the vomit that those devils were spewing out of their mouths. And remember, ninety percent of these people couldn’t read the bible for themselves, so they had to rely on the church as an example. I know all that God says about how to get to Heaven, but I cannot be so blind as to think that our wonderful Lord would allow these poeple to be damned to the fiery pit for not excepting THAT gospel. He has to have a plan for those people too. I don’t know what it is and He may very well damn them to hell, but to say for certain is out of my ability to say. You know I wouldn’t have even written anything about this without the comment that you wrote, “I was even told once by someone professing to be a Christian…”, somehow incinuating that if someone believes this, they must not be a TRUE christian. I just felt that was a little uncalled for. Sorry if it seemed that I got a little heated. I love you in the “O.K. to love each other Christian way”, and not the “not cool to love another guy way”. I hope that my lack of tact doesn’t make it weird to talk in church.

  2. Jeff,

    You are not the one I was referring to – I don’t think I have ever talked to you about this before.

    My post mentioned that I believe that there is only one way to salvation – through Jesus Christ. That isn’t my original idea. In John 14:6, Jesus answered his disciples question, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Jesus was telling his disciples that ONLY He is the path to salvation and that He is God. I didn’t make that up.

    I know it doesn’t seem fair for people to die without us knowing whether or not they knew Christ. I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t even have an answer for you about what all happened in the Dark Ages except that I do know that God knows. What was done in the name of the church was done by sinners like you and me. I don’t presume to judge anyone – In fact it is out of my love for people that I believe it is my purpose in life to tell anyone who comes within earshot of me that Jesus is the way to eternal life. This blog is one way I reach people all over the world. Most of the time I never know who reads this but I do know that it is read by people all over the world.

    When I said that someone who professed to be a Christian told me that he believed that there were alternate truths that led to salvation, I used that term because even though they claim to be a Christian, they believe that there are alternate paths to salvation. That is a pluralistic viewpoint not a Christian viewpoint. It is a viewpoint that equates all world religions as valid belief systems.

    If I asked 100 people what my father looked like, I would get many different answers. What is important? How tall he is, what color his eyes are? What is really important in describing my dad? They can’t all be right, can they? All of the various world religions can’t be true for the same reason. The truth is that all of these world religions all contradict each other. And if they contradict each other, then they all can’t be right. On the subject of God, Buddhists are agnostic, Hindus have millions of Gods, Islam believes that Jesus is NOT God and Christianity centers on Jesus and his divinity. They all can’t be true. So it all comes down to which truth to choose?

    A Christian is a follower of Jesus’ teaching. The center of Christianity is the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. The recognition that we are completely unworthy of entering into a relationship with God on our own. That God, who is just, demands perfection and nothing that we can ever do will achieve that perfection. But God is also gracious. He desires a relationship with us so much that he sent his son Jesus, who was and is perfect, to be sacrificed for our sins so that by believing in Him and his death and resurrection, we can join him in heaven. Again, this is not something I made up. This is what being a Christian is all about. Out of all the leaders of the world, only Jesus claimed that he was God himself and then backed it up with miracles and conquering death. If we are to believe this is true then our quest for truth ends there.

    As I said earlier, I don’t have all of the answers. One of my greatest dreams is to wake up in heaven one day and know that I can go talk to Jesus personally and ask him all of these questions myself. Until then, I will tell as many people as I can that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the father except through Him.

    Don’t worry about us talking in church. I love the discussion! Isn’t this just part of the journey?

  3. Thanks for the understanding David, I feel the same way about discussion and the search for truth being part of the journey. I just know some people don’t feel that way and get offended by my sometimes tactless approach. As I was typing my response before, the verse you quoted (John 14:6) actually came to my mind. I know that this is truth. I truly do and I take it upon myself as a Christian to tell as many people as I can about it. When I am not being a disobediant coward! However, I still tend to lean towards the fact that God does have an plan for people who do not get the chance to hear the true Gospel while they are on the Earth. I don’t know if thats true or what it would look like if it is true. I guess it doesn’t really matter when it comes right down to it for you and I whether he has a plan. Like you said it doesn’t really matter what we belive as doctrine, as long as we agree on the dogma. I could talk to you forever! I love talking to Christians about God “stuff”.

  4. I truly hope that God, in His graciousness has a plan for all those who didn’t/don’t get an opportunity to hear the gospel. Since the Bible doesn’t speak on this subject – but in fact makes the point many times that Jesus is the ONLY way – I can’t project my own feelings or idea of fairness on what I think God must or must not do. There are a lot of stories in the Bible that when I read them I say to myself, “That wasn’t fair!” We (all humans) tend to reflect the culture that we are in so we see justice and fairness through those cultural lenses. God see’s things clearly – so clearly sometimes that we can’t even comprehend why God allows things to happen they way they do. These are just some of the mysteries that we will never understand here on earth.

    In answer to you statement about the dark ages and the “holy church” killing people , I thought Pastor Bart’s message today, spoke to this subject, especially when he talked about Matthew 7:21-22. I hear about people today doing things in the name of Christ that I know are not Christ-like. They are the same type of person Jesus was talking about. The Rev. Fred Phelps from Kansas is an example that comes to mind.

    I was thinking about relativism today. The “absolutist” would say that there is only one truth. A “relativist” says that all truths are relative. The “relativist”, by making an absolute statement about truth, proves the “absolutist” correct and himself incorrect!

    See how tangled relativism is?

  5. Pingback: The DIP Shtick » Blog Archive » New Man’s Open Letter to Tony Campolo

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