Volume 17, Number 2 (Fall 2006)
An Issue Devoted to an Examination of The Emerging Church Movement
by John F. MacArthur
The most recent battle being waged in the evangelical church is one related to the perspicuity of Scripture. Within the larger context of the Emerging Church Movement is the Emergent Church, whose leading spokesman is Brian D. McLaren. Because of his prominence as a leader of both the Emergent Church and the Emerging Church Movement, what he says about the clarity or perspicuity of Scripture needs to be scrutinized. McLaren undermines the clarity of Scripture by questioning whether biblical doctrine can be held with certainty. He questions the clarity of Scripture by needlessly introducing complexity into biblical interpretation. He further dismisses scriptural clarity by questioning the possibility of deriving propositional truth from the Bible. Also, his refusal to abide by the Bible’s emphasis on the exclusive nature of the Christian gospel raises questions about the Bible's clarity. McLaren's pointed criticism of conservative evangelicals who insist on the clarity of Scripture is another indication of his disdain for the perspicuity of Scripture. McLaren's position on the perspicuity of Scripture is clearly at odds with what the Bible itself says about its own clarity.
by Larry D. Pettegrew
With the advent of "new evangelicalism" in the 1950s began a new movement among evangelicals that bases itself on human experience, minimizes the importance of doctrine, and neglects outward church relations and perhaps makes evangelicalism difficult to distinguish from the rest of Christianity. Since the Reformation, evangelicalism has undergone a number of paradigm shifts, including classic evangelicalism, pietistic evangelicalism, fundamentalist evangelicalism, and more recently, new evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Within evangelicalism, the emerging church has arisen as an attempt to serve the postmodern culture. Postmodernism is a new cultural paradigm that holds to no absolutes or certainties and that promotes pluralism and divergence. The emerging church gears itself particularly to the younger generation. Diversity within the emerging church makes it difficult to analyze as a movement. One can only analyze its individual spokesmen. One of its voices recommends returning the church to medieval practices. Other voices depart from traditions in eschatological thinking, the role of Scripture, and soteriology. Post-evangelicalism is a sort of British cousin to the emerging church and has some of the same deviations. The emerging church has surprisingly complimentary words to say about theological liberalism.
by Trevor C. Craigen
Brian MacLaren typifies the dissatisfaction of the emergent over the format and praxis of modern churches. Such reactions ignore Psalm 1 in setting forth the source and impact of a proper worldview, a definitive conclusion about a proper worldview, and a formal approved conclusion as to a proper worldview. Though Emergent churches might identify themselves as evangelical, they still register dissatisfaction with the existing evangelical church, a dissatisfaction that spills over and affects emergent's doctrine of salvation. The language of Emergent churches ignores a number of traditional soteriological terms and redefines others. Emergent soteriology replaces biblical emphasis on a person’s eternal destiny with emphasis on one’s future condition and status in the present life, ignoring the impact of present behavior on future destiny. Because of selling short the words of Scripture, Emergent perspectives also are woefully errant in understanding the work of Christ on the cross. Emergents have revised the meaning of the well-known acrostic TULIP, depriving it of meanings given it in the Bible. They have an inclusivist view of the eternal destiny of the unsaved, leaning toward the position of universalism. Rather than following the worldview of Psalm 1, the movement has fallen into a pattern resulting from present-world philosophy.
by Richard L. Mayhue
Brian McLaren, though not speaking officially for all who identify with the "emergent movement," nonetheless has become the most visible and widely-read proponent. Therefore, a review of his signature volume, A Generous Orthodoxy, serves to identify representative features of this recent religious phenomenon. The central question to be addressed must be, "Is it of God or is it of man?” Five significant characteristics of McLaren's "conversation" lead this reviewer to conclude the latter, not the former. These qualities include: (1) An Eclectic Church; (2) An Ecumenical Church; (3) An Earthbound Church; (4) A Scripture-Doubting Church; and (5) A Resisting-Biblical-Authority Church. Therefore, the Emerging Church Movement should be rejected as another failed attempt (no matter how sincere or learned) to improve on "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
by Rick L. Holland
Under the influence of postmodernism and postconservativism, the Emerging Church is engaged in dismantling much of present-day worship practices in the local church. A leader in advocating radical changes in conventional preaching is Doug Pagitt in his book Preaching Re-Imagined. Pagitt’s name for traditional preaching is "speaching," which he sees as totally inadequate to meet needs in the Christian community, because it is a one-way communication that does not allow for the listeners' input. His preferred alternative is "progressional dialogue" which involves "intentional interplay of multiple viewpoints." As he sees the goal, the Bible is not the sole repository of truth. The Christian community has an equal contribution to make. Influences that have shaped Pagitt's thinking include the Christian/cosmic metanarrative, postfoundationalism, and outcome-based church ministry. The inevitable conclusion must be that progressional dialogue is not really preaching as preaching has been defined biblically and historically.
by Dennis M. Swanson