Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Comments on the emerging church

A good friend has started attending an emerging church which has led us into conversation about it. I have read some about it but not extensively and no books by any of its more well known proponents. This post discusses

From early on I have had some caution about the movement but I have found it difficult to critique. I now realise that this is because I could never find a set of beliefs to interact with. The fact that there does not seem to be given beliefs makes me uneasy. This post gives a helpful distinction between hard and soft postmodernism within the emerging church.

Now I am aware that Jesus rewards us according to our love for him and our neighbours, and our obedience; not our knowledge. I do not intend to be divisive solely because of variant beliefs. Nor do I think that salvation is about right beliefs (it is about who we follow), but right belief is important in that right behaviour is more likely to follow from right belief than wrong belief (though it is no guarantee of it).

Beliefs can be important in at least 2 ways. They are important in terms of how foundational they are to Christianity. They are also important in terms of how much weight we put on them.

A person can claim a particular theological issue is peripheral. It either is or it is not. If it is peripheral it may be dealt with in such depth and regularity it becomes important.

Consider tithing 10% of one's income. If a Christian thought men should tithe, that tithing is a major issue, and he frequently thought about it, or he taught on it regularly and influenced others about it; then it is important for him to have correct belief because of how much of an issue it is in his life or because others are affected by his influence; even if tithing intrinsically is a lesser doctrine.

The emerging church emphasises minimising our differences. This minimisation and not insisting our beliefs are true supposedly leads to unity and away from judgment and divisiveness.

I agree that Christians can be too judgmental. This is a problem of men because of sin, not because of truth. I can know the truth and speak the truth in love or in hate. And interestingly, if I hold my ideas with conviction, I can be judged as being divisive by those who claim not to judge! Kind of like "tolerant" men being intolerant of intolerance.

The anti-judgment claim allows the more liberal view to inappropriately claim the moral high ground. If one group claims God allows something and another that God forbids it, the group claiming freedom may blame the banning group for being divisive. However this is only the case if they are indeed correct, in which case the other group may be being divisive. If the freedom group are actually incorrect then they are encouraging sin; they are
ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1)
So the issue is not about how inclusive we are, it is about what is true. In fact Jude states that divisive men are not the men who are emphasising truth, rather the ungodly:
"... In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
I think the solution to excessive judgment is not so much a focus on inclusion, but a reminder that we all stand before Christ and it is he who judges. I actually think Jesus is quite confrontational; he intends to divide based on truth and error. We are for Jesus or against him. More so, he does not let us stay as we are but changes us to be conformed to his will. And, whether we like it or not, God does, at time, use men in this process. (We should therefore be careful in how we do God's will, and be certain it is God's agenda and not our own we seek).

So my advice to my friend was: Enjoy your new friends and encourage them in their love for Jesus but stay very grounded in Scripture.

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