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Monday, 23 April 2012

Emerging Church (3) What's wrong with Emerging Church?

In some of my past blogs I have explained what EC is, offered my opinion on its strengths, and now a summary of it's weaknesses.  Every movement, has its weaknesses....

...the name for a start
Why use the word "emerging" to describe the church? What does 'emerging' mean - or conjure up?

In ordinary language, 'emerge' means to come forth, to come into being or to come into sight. At one moment you are not, but then you emerge into whatever you are emerging into. A caterpillar emerges into a butterfly. So 'emerging church' might refer to a group of people say, that are becoming a church.

Problem: nowhere in the New Testament is a church ever thought of in this half-way house fashion. It is either a church (ecclesia - a called out people) or it ain't nothing. There are no emerging churches in the New Testament. Young ones, immature ones, for sure, but not emerging ones.

Perhaps they mean "emergent" in a scientific sense: in physics, the word "emerging" can be used of a large system (for example, billions of water molecules) that exhibits a new collective behaviour (for example, surface tension) which does not appear at the scale of the individual particles. This new property or behaviour 'emerges'. The same thing is true of flying starlings. The amazing cloud behaviour they exhibit emerges from thousands each following very simple rules.  So perhaps, when all these "emerging churches" get together something happens that never occurs when they are on their own.

Problem: again, a Bible problem (note this repeated "Bible" objection). Nowhere in the NT do new properties emerge when churches get together.

Perhaps "emergent" is intended to be a humble declaration of intent: they haven't arrived, they are emerging. This would certainly chime in with Postmodernism's (false) humility.

[Why false? Postmodernism appears humble because it believes that everyone's truth is equal. But in point of fact it is exceedingly proud, because its central dogma (there is no Truth) is, they believe incontrovertible Truth.]

Problem: third time: there is no Bible reason for calling yourself emerging. No you don't have all the truth. Yes, you have a lot to learn, but you are called a church whether you are strong, weak, young, old, whatever.

Who wants to join a temporary human movement?
A second problem I have with EC is that it is a passing human movement in history. The moment you throw in your lot with a movement, you consign yourself to history. Connect to the eternal Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you're onto a winner, but hook up to a movement, whether it be "Reformed", "Resurgent" or "Emerging Church" and you sign up to being a footnote in a future history book. Not all human movements are equal of course, but all, without exception, come and go.

Odd this one, considering the movement they so despise (modernism) bears this weakness. You won't find any emerging churches among the working classes, because they could not even understand what the emerging church gurus are on about. Their books are peppered with quotes from this latest philosopher or that latest new book on the market. It's all heavy brain stuff.  And these fevered quotes far outweigh the number of Bible quotes which is why we find the next fault.....

Given over to Postmodernism
Most tragically of all, EC has adopted the present age's philosophy as its theology. It is postmodern through and through. Not everything about postmodernism is fatal - the fact that all human knowledge is perspectival is a good insight (born out, not least of all, by the existence of  four different Gospels). What is fatal about postmodernism is its insistence that because human knowledge is finite and limited there is no such thing as final or ultimate truth (well, they believe that there is one final truth, see above.....). This of course presupposes that there is no God to give Revelation, which coming from God may rise above human knowledge and can give us real and abiding Truth. 

Sadly the EC have bought into this silly myth. Just because we can't know things exhaustively, doesn't mean we can't know things certainly. For example, we don't have exhaustive knowledge about the universe but there are things we now certainly, that will remain in the text books in 500 years time (e.g. Jupiter is  a planet). 

The moment we buy into any human philosophical system we automatically dilute the Christian faith. That is just as true with modernism as with postmodernism. In a thousand little ways, postmodernism, like a universal acid,  dissolves the doctrines of Scripture - and most of all the Gospel....

Lost the Gospel
...this is the supreme error of EC - the loss of the Gospel. This must be so: you cannot preach both the foolishness of the cross and the wisdom of men. You have to chose one or the other. Either your message is clever (but powerless) or it's foolish (but powerful). It's either philosophy-centred or cross-centred. EC are repeating the Corinthian error, which is the age-old repeated error of all rationalists, whether modernists or postmodernists, the repeated mistake of all who put their ultimate trust in human wisdom and logic.

What the church needs today is not men and women who buy into whatever system flourishes in the world or academy of their age, but a church that critiques every world system, understanding it so it can reach it, but not buying into it, so that it destroys the church.

Emerging Church (2) What can we learn from Emerging Church?
Emerging Church (1) What is Emerging Church?