Can you Define the the Emerging Church?


It feels a bit like old news to me, but that was the question from a dear partner in service to the Lord in my in-box this morning.

This is surely not the answer to end all answers, but I’ll have a go anyway.

Snarly answer:

The Emerging Church movement is a house of cards without foundation walls or ceiling, direction, blueprint or future; and most assuredly without a Bible they trust or a God they can identify.

Real answer:

The Emerging church is a bit like post-modernism – hard to define but easy to spot. In fact the Emerging church has emerged out of post-modern philosophy which can be summarized in phrases like, “There is no such thing as absolute truth” which is itself an absolute statement.

By and large the Emerging church has looked around at the Evangelical landscape and has come to the conclusion that traditional Christianity isn’t meeting the needs of the culture, and said, “let’s do something that will!” The problem is they have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

There’s no denying that there is much in evangelicalism that could use an upgrade in order to reach the masses, but divorcing ourselves from the clear authority and teaching of God’s absolutely undeniable word is not the right way to go about it.

The Pyromaniacs (a fun and engaging solidly Biblical blog) is fully of both posts and comments that are pithy and relevant. One commenter defines the emerging Church as “A movement that encourages doubt” . Yeah that’s about right.

I suggest one more TeamPyro article here.

The Emerging church is loosely named on the principle that they are “emerging” from the (for them broken) traditional church with the honorable goal of being a living breathing answer to the questions people are asking about Jesus. As such the Emerging church has focused hard on social solutions: helping the poor, feeding the hungry, just loving people “in the name of Jesus.”

It sounds good. But that’s about where the good stops.

In looking back at traditional church and saying, “that ain’t meeting the needs of the culture” the emerging church movement has gone way past the end and divorced itself from nearly every single facet of Biblical Christianity – except for the one central dynamic of “love” (as they define it).

“Love is the true mark of the true church,” they cry. And again that doesn’t sound so bad except they’ve intentionally removed everything that gives that phrase any level of real meaning: The Sovereignty of God, the awfulness of Sin, mankind’s constant rebellion against the creator, the certainty of an eternal death penalty for sinning against a holy and eternal God, the outrageous substitution by which God the Father sent His own son as a perfect substitute to die a sinners horrible death because we deserve that horrible death; The cross, the grave and the resurrection; the unbelievable grace and mercy of God who extends mercy to rebels and God haters; not to mention the abandonment of the Bible’s authority which tells us these things and more.

For the emerging church, regardless what they claim, the Bible is not authoritative, it is at best a collection of texts to be manipulated into communicating what they want to communicate about the Love of Jesus. Don’t like the meaning of the text? Just deconstruct it and reassemble it with “what it really means” (usually the exact opposite).

For example, Brian MacLaren blatantly and verbally denies that the primary purpose of Jesus was to help us escape hell and get to heaven. Huh? You mean the entire redemptive history wasn’t about redemption after all?!

For the Emerging church the primary reason Jesus came was to make us happy, to eliminate slavery or poverty or something like that. For the emergent, Jesus is not the only way to heaven, he is the excellent example of love sent to us by God.

God by the way, is not clearly defined and (s)he may be whomever you want him/her to be in order to make you feel better. Because feeling better is what religion is all about.

Well there’s my hodgepodge answer. I’ve probably just created more questions but It’s hard to define something so broad and shallow.

For all that I (and many others) have said the emerging church sounds like a well orchestrated movement of individuals all working in concert to accomplish a specific goal. The truth is a bit in the opposite direction. The emerging church is a loosely collated group of people uniting under the emergent banner who have effectively rejected the Bible and the gospel clearly stated in a desperate plea to reach a culture with a gospel they have now disemboweled.

That’s not to say I don’t believe the concept wasn’t cooked up and orchestrated in a smoke filled room. (1 Timothy 4:1)

If I could recommend one book that cuts through some of the rhetoric and in a very down to earth way works through the issues it would be “Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be

Finally, if you’ve read all of this, you deserve a giggle. You’ll probably find at least one on this page full of motivational mockeries dedicated to the emergent movement.