Gary: Tom and Dave conclude their series of programs addressing the spiritual movement known as “The Emerging Church.” This week we focus on the question, “How Dangerous is the Emerging Church?” Along with Dave Hunt, here’s T.A. McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. The Emerging Church movement is the topic for this first segment of our program, and if you’re a first time listener or viewer you are getting in on the tail end of a series that we’ve been presenting for a number of months. So, if it interests you, you can find our programs archived on our website, or sometime later we plan to make the series into CDs and MP3s, so keep looking for that on our website.
The Emerging Church movement, as I’ve said over and over again, is a development within evangelical Christianity having a major influence on young people ages 18 to 30, but it’s really beyond that. Many people are being attracted to it, and it’s, in our opinion, one of the most destructive trends in recent evangelical church history, most specifically, its subversive undermining of the Bible, which we’ve been talking about, Dave, over and over again. It just trashes I believe, and you’ve said it as well, the Word of God. And again, we’re not going to go over everything, you know, we’re wrapping it up, hopefully, in this program, so we can’t go over everything that we’ve dealt with, but we will touch upon it.
Dave, as you remember, last week we began addressing how they deal with the Word of God, but I just want to throw this out: Now, there are many people who are interested in—churches that are moving toward— emergent ideas, the concepts, whether they are Emerging Churches themselves (call it that) or Emerging Church wannabes So, they’re not into everything that we’ve talked about (yet), but what we are addressing are the writings, certainly the leaders—we’ve been quoting the leaders, and so on. So, the things that we’ve brought out may not be in your church if it has an affinity for this, yet, but if they follow the leaders, if they follow those who have written about this, it’s going to show up. I think it’s a given.
Dave: Tom, it reminds me of something…how many years ago? 20 years ago, probably, it began, there was another movement like this. It was more blatantly “back to Rome,” but as you have pointed out, and I’ve mentioned, this is very much related to Roman Catholicism, the icons and the prayer stations and candles and so forth, and this is, I would say, the “second wave” just really taking the church there. But many of them were young, well, they claimed to be evangelical pastors—I have no way of knowing, after they went “back to Rome,” but you remember I debated a man named Sungenis, who had been an evangelical. In fact, for 18 years he said he had an apologetics program, an evangelical one, and then he went back to Rome.
So, this was a movement that began with people like that, and what caused them? Well, they started reading the Church Fathers. “Oh, so you want to get back closer to when the gospels were written,” and so forth, and they sounded like they believed in the real Presence, etc. So they became the evangelists for Catholicism, with the (I think) almost lone exception of Fulton J. Sheen, who was really their televangelist.
Priests do not debate. In fact, I was in New Orleans some years ago. How many Catholic universities do you have there, and seminaries, in New Orleans? There’s got to be at least 20 of them. They couldn’t find a taker, or a priest, or anyone [to debate me]. But now we have like Karl Keating. He’s a lawyer, and now we have these people—former evangelicals, they say (well, not Keating; he never was), and they are aggressively…they’re evangelizing the church back into the Catholic Church. So, I just wanted to mention that this is another step building on what happens.
Tom: Dave, I’m glad you brought that up, because people have said to me, “Oh, Tom, this is just a fad, this is just a trend; it’s going to be gone.” But, as you know, especially in the articles in The Berean Call I’ve been pointing out that there’s a foundation for this. Now, let me take you back a little earlier in this, and you know these people that I’m going to mention. But in the late 1960s—1968 and so on, there was a…call it a jumping ship…from Campus Crusade. Peter Gilquist, Jon Braun, Jack Sparks—these were leaders among the Campus Crusaders.
Dave: Daddy Jack, they called him.
Tom: And, so what did they do? They read the church fathers, as you mentioned, and they decided that evangelical Christianity didn’t have enough history, didn’t have enough tradition. It only went back to the Reformation, as far as they were concerned. They wanted to go back to authentic Christianity, so they went back to Eastern Orthodoxy.
Dave: OEC, they called it, Orthodox Evangelical Church, can you believe it?
Tom: So there they were—they started their own church, and for a time they became priests in their own church, all right, but that wasn’t orthodox enough. So what are they doing today? Most of them are…and, of course, it wasn’t just those three. They took a large gathering with them, and they are now today Orthodox priests within the Eastern Orthodoxy.
Dave: Tom, let me take you back just a little bit further. How could this go on in Campus Crusade? Because Campus Crusade—I’m sorry, because I love them, I worked with them!...
Tom: We just mentioned last week how you worked with Athletes in Action.
Dave: Right, but they were becoming ecumenical, and there were members of their staff who were Orthodox, who met in Arrowhead Springs, which was just up above San Bernardino, and they met in the Orthodox Church in San Bernardino. So, step by step it goes.
Tom: Now, there’s the punchline to this. I presented part of an article that Pete Gilcrest wrote. It was called, “From Arrowhead Springs to Antioch.” He described the transformation from evangelical Christianity to becoming an Orthodox priest. Now, they presented this paper, and they said we are the ones to evangelize for Orthodoxy because we understand evangelical Christianity, we know the thinking, and if we could become Orthodox, everyone can become Orthodox. So again, this is another part of this thrust, call it “Moving Back to Rome,” but at least it’s moving us back to, in general, to ritual—and we’re going to get into some of this as we wrap this up.
Dave: Tom, these guys were not dummies. Pete Gilcrest is one of their brightest on the staff; Jon Braun was the best evangelist.
Tom: And Jack Sparks wrote a book on the cults!
Dave: Well, he went into anti-cult ministry up there in Berkeley, and street evangelism—grew a beard. I used to get up to the free speech platform up there and work with them.
Tom: Right. So, Dave, it’s not like connecting the dots, but pick some of these things and put them together and talk about “Back to Rome,” “Back to Eastern Orthodoxy.” Then, of course, Richard Foster with his Renovaré, back to Catholic mysticism, and so on. There’s a foundation for the Emerging Church that, again, it’s just a matter of simple math—it’s not going to go away, and this is building.
Dave: It’s being played out right now.
Tom: Now, last week I gave you a quote, because I want to talk about the worst part, in my mind, of what’s taking place in the Emerging Church movement. And that is, what they’re doing, their view of, and how they handle the Scriptures. Now here was a quote from an Emerging Church leader, he says, “We need to rediscover what it means to read the Bible.” So far so good. Now, wait a minute, “It means to read the Bible existentially and experientially.” What does that mean?
Dave: Well, Tom, you’re missing something! Isn’t that what Paul exhorted Timothy: read the Bible “existentially” and “experientially”? As I recall, he said preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke…(I may have quoted that last week), exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine, for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. Now where does sound doctrine come from? Well, tells us in the chapter before: he said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God; it is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness,” and so forth. So, Tom, they don’t like the Bible, and plenty of movements…
Dave: Well, now wait a minute, Tom! They don’t like the Bible because it calls them to the foundation of the Christian life and to sound doctrine—and they want to be space cadets. Do I dare say that? They want to launch out: “Well, we don’t even know what this means now, give us some more time.” Like, for example, homosexuality—“Well, it will be another 5 years, probably, before we can figure out what the Bible says about that.”
Tom: You’re paraphrasing Brian McClaren. That what he says: “We can’t come to an understanding.” You see, Dave, you say “space cadets.” Remember, supposedly their goal is to reach a postmodern generation, and we talked about this last week. The postmoderns are not interested in authority, they don’t want instruction, they want to figure it out on their own. But it’s a feeling thing—that’s what this guy is talking about. Existentially, it’s all about me. Experientially, it’s how I feel.
Dave: Tom, but this is like Hybels did at Willow Creek, and we go out and we take a survey of the neighborhood and find out, “Well, why don’t you guys go to church? Well, how do you think we should present it? What would interest you?” So, it’s not, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” Paul didn’t take any surveys; he just gave them the truth.
But no, the truth of God—somehow God didn’t…Tom, I’m just going over old territory, we already did this. Somehow, God didn’t anticipate this new generation, so He didn’t get anything in the Bible that would help us. So we’re going to have to kind of massage it around, and take a different approach.
Tom: But again, it’s an anti-authority position.
Dave: What is our authority? The Bible! That’s what I say: they’re leaving the Bible.
Tom: Well, Dave, they say, Well, it’s not really so clear, just as you paraphrased Brian McClaren: “Well, you know, we’re not quite sure about that. You know, the scripture is very complicated; we can’t really get a grip on it,” and so on.
I’m going to give you some quotes. This is Kristen Bell, she’s Rob Bell’s wife, and this is a quote from Christianity Today; she was interviewed along with Rob. She says, “I grew up thinking that we figured out the Bible—that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means, and yet I feel like life is big again! Like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color.”
Dave: [Laughing] Sorry to laugh, Tom, but how can it be in color? They’re really robbing it of everything!
Tom: Dave, isn’t this Genesis:3:1, the serpent’s first words to Eve: “Yea, hath God said?” Come on, God didn’t say anything black and white, let’s make it colorful here. That’s been his strategy from the beginning, and now we are seeing this in the evangelical church. These people claim to be evangelicals!
Dave: Tom, it’s everywhere. The Lutherans and the Catholics—they were dialogue for 30 years, and you know my kind of facetious way that I put it: Dialogue for 30 years—finally they figured out what “justification by faith was, and they decided we didn’t have any differences to begin with! “Sorry, we burned some of you guys at the stake,” but anyway… The Philippian jailer cries out to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul says: “You got 30 years? This a very complicated subject now.”
Tom: I’m just going to give you some more quotes, Dave. This is Leonard Sweet, another leader. He says, “People today are starved, not for doctrines, but for images and relationships and stories.” Now this “stories” business is a big item, because we no longer [use] “Thus saith the Lord.” We don’t teach and preach, we converse, we have conversation, we have dialogue: “What do you think?” “Well, I don’t know, what do you think?”
Dave: He’s just confirming the scripture that I just quoted: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”
Tom: Right. Now, Rob Bell, again: “This is not just the same old message with new methods. We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.” So much for—“We’re keeping the message, but we’re changing the medium; we’re adjusting the medium to the culture.”
Now Dave, I’ll give you one last one, and then I want to move on to some other things here. This is Brian McClaren, probably the most noted, notable, of the Emerging Church leaders; certainly he has written more books than anyone in this movement. He says, “I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet. What does it mean to be saved? None of us have arrived at Orthodoxy.”
Dave: Well, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel. But probably, way up in 2008, they still won’t quite know what it is.” It’s amazing that none of those people that preached the gospel before then—how did people get saved? Tom, it’s insane!
Tom: It really is, Dave. But it’s worse than that, and you’ve said it over and over, this is evil! For example, what are we talking about here? What are these guys saying? This is called “philosophical pluralism.” What does that mean? It means that no one has got it wired, Dave. You know, you take a little of this, a little of that, we’ll pick from this, and we’ll maybe come to consensus about some things. But nobody really understands nobody really has the truth. You see, this is coming into the church!
Dave: “I AM the truth,” Jesus said. “Thy Word is truth.” So, we get back to the Bible. But, Tom, that’s not what people want. They don’t want to be tied down. It’s like the New Agers: “Well, I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.” What they mean by that is “I don’t want any rules. Don’t tie me down.”
Tom: Yeah, so this is just the latest form of rebellion. But when you begin to connect it with the church—Dave, we’ve been saying this over and over again: this is the apostasy! This is the apostate church being developed. I don’t see how anybody could argue with that.
Dave: It’s a tragedy when it comes into the church.
Tom: Now I’m going to go through some of these other elements, and again, folks, we’re not going to give you all the details, we have literally months of programs. You can go to our website and download it; we have these archives—download it for free.
Preaching and teaching—that’s out, Dave. What’s in is storytelling and conversation. As we’ve said, this whole movement is anti-authority, and it’s anti-instruction. We’re not going to use the Bible as an instruction manual that’s imposing some things that the postmodern generation is not interested in.
Prophecy and eschatology: its anti-prophecy, Dave.
Dave: It’s the foundation of the Bible, 28 percent of it. Jesus said in Isaiah:46:9-10, “I will prove to you that I am God by telling you what will happen before it happens,” and this is how Paul preached the gospel! “This is the gospel of God that He promised before by His
Tom: But see, the problem with prophecy, Dave, it says that history is moving in a certain direction, certain things are going to take place. Now, if I’m thinking about “fixing the earth” and setting up a kingdom here, I think that’s going to run afoul of biblical prophecy, don’t you think?
Dave: Of course it will.
Tom: So now we’ve got a problem. My agenda then may not be valid, right?
Dave: Armageddon is coming, Tom, whether they like it or not. God gives every man an opportunity. He doesn’t force Himself on anyone, and the gospel is going out. They have the witness in creation, in their conscience, and God warns that the axe is going to fall.
Tom: Dave, there is social activism, and some of it we would applaud, but on the other hand, when it takes the form of: “Oh, wait a minute—you’re talking about the Rapture? No, no, we can’t go with the Rapture idea because we’re going to transform the earth,” you’ve got a big problem there. So, as we’ve mentioned over and over again, it’s visual, experiential, subjective, pragmatic: “Hey, we’re going to do it; it’s going to work; we’re going to work things out today.” It’s mystical, it’s sensual, it’s liturgical—in other words, we’re looking for liturgy, bells, and smells, and all those kinds of things; it’s ritualistic…
Dave: Tom, I hesitate to say this, but wasn’t it Rick Warren? Didn’t he endorse this movement?
Tom: Dave, you talked about Willow Creek and Bill Hybels. Well, much of this is an offshoot of Willow Creek and Saddleback. This is consumerism, this is the purpose-driven kinds of stuff, and of course Rick would endorse these kinds of things, although he’s into marketing and a more commercial side of it, but he certainly has condoned in his book, Purpose-Driven Life, much of the rituals and experiential kinds of things that we are talking about.
Dave: But his P.E.A.C.E. Plan, is basically the social gospel is basically the social gospel. I sympathize with him, I admire him, he wants to do away with poverty, with disease, and so forth.
Tom: But at what expense, Dave?
Dave: Well, the gospel, because he’s going to have to compromise. He will work with Muslims, with Catholics, he’ll work with anyone. He’s got the wrong priority. This is the main emphasis now on this earth. Let me just quickly tie it into The Message, Eugene Peterson. What does he say? John:3:17: “The Father sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” The Message says “He came to help us put the world right.” That sounds like political-social action.
Tom: Dave, again, there are so many elements that have tied into this. As I said, we can’t go over all of it because we’re recapping, but in the last few minutes that we have, we mentioned before that this is ancient-future. We’re being directed to go back to the second century, to the fifth century, to find out what the church fathers were doing—how they had liturgy, they had rituals, and so on, and then bring that into our worship. Again, it’s consumer driven, because if it appeals to the young people, let’s give them what they want.
There are also cultural accommodations. We find more often than not that these Emerging Church leaders are postmodern in their thinking, and they’re not biblical—they’re not really evangelical. They are trying to accommodate a culture, a rebellious culture, with what they’re doing. Finally, it’s community, it’s relationship-oriented, and you would say, “Well, it’s great, it’s good to have community; it’s good to have relationships,” and so on, but when that dictates your theology, your understanding of Scripture, now it’s what the small group wants. They are the ones who are going to interpret and decide what the Scriptures say, how they feel about it, and that comes through conversation, and all that. Dave, what do we do about this?
Dave: Well, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel, make disciples of every nation, teaching them to observe everything I commanded you.” So, I often say it, I’m a disciple of a disciple of a disciple—all the way back to the original disciples who got their instructions from Jesus, and He instructed them”You pass this on to all generations!” Jesus didn’t anticipate this generation! Isn’t that amazing? And a new approach that we must take? I think that’s folly!
Tom: So, what do we say, Dave? I think if people start to see this coming into their church, they need to be Bereans. Don’t go by what we have said. Yes, we’ve done some research in this, but all we need to do is search the Scriptures. Was it good for Paul; was it good for the apostles? Again, to Isaiah: “To the law and the testimony! If they speak not according to this Word; there is no light in them.” So, they’ve got to be Bereans, just as the Bereans checked out the Apostle Paul, they’ve got to check these things out in their church to see if they are according to God’s Word.
Dave: Absolutely! Well, we’ve said it many times, but let’s say it again, search the Scriptures daily!