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The Emerging Unorthodoxy of the Emerging Church!

Posted by Scott on November 2, 2007


The Emerging Submerging of The Reformation

It’s no secret that many in the Emerging Church Movement would prefer that this day be erased from their calendar. No not Halloween, though I’m sure we won’t find many Emergents out today wearing Martin Luther costumes. I am instead referring to Reformation Day. One critic of Emergent correctly noted the widespread historical revisionism in the Emerging Church, saying: “All the great heroes of the faith end up becoming fools. And the antiheroes – the fools who compromise and who don’t take a stand – become the heroes. It’s turning history on its head; they undo the Reformation so they can go back to a quasi-Christian, medieval spirituality“.

That was John MacArthur who made those remarks in an interview about his Truth War book. One reader of his book who won’t be giving it a four star Amazon review anytime soon is Emergent leader Andrew Jones. His distaste for the book is stated in no uncertain terms, in fact, he says so in words that many of you will find distasteful. That’s the Emerging Church that we’ve come to expect.

But this post is not about foul language however, nor of Andrew Jones’ distain for MacArthur’s book, but of Jones’ interesting take on church history as expressed in the Reformation post on his Tall Skinny Kiwi blog this week. The bullet points from Andrew’s post are in red below, and I will briefly challenge his ideas in the text that follows. Hopefully afterwards, you’ll have a better understanding of why Emergents so often have disdain for the greatest revival of the last 1,000+ years – the Protestant Reformation.

1. The Reformers were committed to an ecumenical consensus of unity. They wanted to reform the whole church, not just one break-away segment that became the Protestant Movement. Sectarianism was not the intention.

It’s true that while Martin Luther was still a Catholic monk, he endeavored to see changes made in the Roman Catholic church. But this quickly evaporated in the early days of the Reformation as it was clear that the Catholics were in no mood for sweeping reforms. It’s interesting to hear Andrew Jones say that the “the Reformers were committed to an ecumenical consensus of unity” when in fact Luther broke unity even with other protestant Reformers, over sacramental doctrines. Take for example Luther’s meeting with Ulrich Zwingli in which Luther refused to even shake hands with the Swiss Reformer afterwards, breaking unity with him over Communion. Luther’s sentiments towards Rome were even more sectarian. Unfortunately, Andrew Jones’ “unity” remarks only portray a limited portion of the story. The Reformers were indeed inclined to choose doctrine ahead of unity.

2. If there is a Babylon the Great today, it is not the Roman Catholic Church. It is probably something closer and dearer to us.

How can he be so certain of who is NOT being referred to in Revelation? I wonder if whatever entity Andrew has in mind as a better fit, has the kind of track record that the Roman Catholic church has of martyring saints, disfiguring essential biblical doctrines, and installing a leader who is said to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth (amongst other blasphemous titles). Like so many Emergents today, Andrew Jones seems more interested at times in having unity with Catholics rather than evangelizing them. Emergents may think they are being loving and charitable that way, but in reality it’s extremely unloving to not tell them the truth. Andrew Jones goes so far as to offer apologies to Catholics for having once given them evangelism tracts, calling them a part of the body of Christ. I can only assume that much of his new thinking has influenced his statement of certainty regarding who Babylon the Great ISN’T.

3. If USA and England had as many Czech immigrants as they did German, history would probably show that the Reformation started much earlier and its geographic center was a few hundred miles eastwards of where we currently believe it to be. YES – I am talking about Jan Hus.

Everyone loves conspiracy theories I guess. The appeal of it to Emergents of course, is that Jan Hus of the previous century presents a more docile character to grapple with than the highly polemic Luther who once said:

I was born to fight devils and factions. It is my business to remove obstructions, to cut down thorns, to fill up quagmires, and to open and make straight paths. But if I must have some failing, let me rather speak the truth with too great severity than once to act the hypocrite and conceal the truth.

“Geographic centers” have little to do with the perception people have of the Reformation. There’s no escaping the fact that God providentially used the Magisterial Reformers, along with the rulers of the land who were favorably disposed to cooperate with them, and let’s not forget His timing of the newly invented printing press. What a shame it is that numerous Emerging Church blogs on this day will invest so much bandwidth attempting to discredit such an obvious work of God.

4. The Reformation was initiated NOT because of doctrinal purity, as commonly taught, but because of corruption in the use of power and wealth. Doctrinal reform was a bonus, but not the primary motivation.

Martin Luther certainly reacted to much of the moral corruption in the Catholic church of his day, and in fact – his 95 Theses was a very moral document. Had it not been for this corruption in the church, Luther may never have published his thoughts on Justification and other important doctrines. What’s not reflected in Andrew Jones’ remarks however, is the acknowledgement that the Reformers thoroughly understood the relationship between thought and deeds. In other words, they understood that the corruption sprouted from error. The Reformers knew that the moral abuses were driven by wrong thinking. The Emerging Church should take a page from the Reformers, as we so often find this movement’s followers emphasizing “good works” detached from doctrinal truth.

5. There is reform in the church today because there is corruption in the church today. God still cares about his church. So should we. The way we play with ecclesiastic power and the way we spend the Bride’s finances should concern us all, not just our commitment to a common creed.

We can certainly agree with that. The Church today needs reform, where we radically disagree with Emergents is on how to go about it.

6. The emerging church might well be a protest (Don Carson) but it might also be a corrective measure to the excesses and imbalances of the reformation and the Enlightenment.

Or it may be a dangerous over-reaction to some of the problems that are especially pronounced in the evangelical church of the last century. The way we need to judge contemporary movements is to evaluate their truthfulness, and by this standard the Emerging Church Movement (and certainly Emergent Village) does not measure-up as a reliable source of guidance and leadership for the changes that are needed in our time.

Let the Reformation continue. Others: Reformed Trombonist and check out Campi who is always seasonal this time of year, even if he comes from a different angle than me.

Seasonal perhaps, but also – more historically accurate and less (not more) personally biased. I fully agree with Andrew Jones in recommending men like Steve Camp who will remind you of why PROTEST is part of the word “protestant”, and has been for nearly 500 years.

Reformation Day is one holiday that belongs on the calendar, though I can imagine those erasers being out in full force today in Emergent households. While I do not fully agree with any of the Reformers on everything, their contribution to Christianity can not be denied. They were rough around the edges at times, some of Luther’s choices of words (which are often exaggerated with no context on the blogs of his enemies) would still draw objections from me in the same way Emergents do; I also disagree with some of the doctrinal lines that were drawn (or not drawn) in the Reformation. But for their time and circumstances we must recognize that which the Lord chose to accomplish through these men. The Reformation gave the Puritans and others a steady platform to improve upon in the years that followed, and the same has been given to us. Let’s remember to pray for the revival that is so badly needed in the western world today. Lord bring us more men with the conviction of truth and the courage of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli.

Note: The topic of this post is the Emerging Church’s reaction to, or misrepresentation of the Protestant Reformation.

-Scott Bailey 2007


13 Responses to “The Emerging Unorthodoxy of the Emerging Church!”

  1. […] an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt […]

  2. Christian said

    C’mon, Andrew gives McArthur his due early in the article. And McArthur is way out of line with his characterizations as well as his exegesis. As usual.

    His best point (among your bullets): Babylon is not something that existed solely in the ancient, medieval or recent past. It is the ongoing and current culture and political system that the church so readily marries.

  3. qbaileys said

    Not sure exactly what you are talking about, however, I allowed your comment for fun. I stated on the home page that this site is really not for debating…interesting dialogue is welcome. I leave other sites for the debating. I think MacArthur can stand his ground without me defending him.

    I put on the blog the best topics and articles I can find according to sound biblical doctrine and the best writing that will build biblical foundations and encourage the readers.

    I have observed for years the emerging church movement and its waywardness from a biblical church to a church that resembles Christianity, but it actually is a shell with no substance. However, I am observing a strong movement back to the biblical church as the emerging church is leaving people empty and without any foundation which to build a life on. People are longing for the word of God to be expositionally preached and taught from the pulpit as in the years past. People are longing for the theological hymns of old to reemerge in the halls of the great churches of today. Man has devised a worldly system of church in which man thinks God would approve, however, mans ways are not God’s ways nor our thoughts His thoughts. Yes, many people may go to emerging churches and give buckets of money, however, that is no more a gauge into the health of those churches than someone with a good appetite yet inside they are dying of cancer.

    Another article you might be interested in is https://devoteddads.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/the-birth-of-the-emerging-church-one-world-religion/. I found this to be intriguing as well.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Pressing on in Him,

  4. riddlej said

    While I am a classical Arminian (gasp!!) I really enjoyed your post and am definitely worried about the Emergent Church. I have written about it myself and I am glad to see that believers who are in touch with their historical past clearly see the errors. Let us press in together to keep orthodoxy orthodox. (Despite my Arminian heresies, that’s for another time =)

  5. qbaileys said

    Yes, we do need to continue with our biblical belief’s. I was creeping into the emergent movement a few years ago and the Lord has put me and my family through trial by fire so to speak. The emergent church has nothing to sustain a person through such times. God has drawn me back to the bible and the theologians of the years past to help me and my family return to the foundational truth’s that will sustain us though any trial and tribulation. Thanks for your comments.

    Pressing on in Him,

  6. the8thperson said

    I find it interesting that this is the first year that I actually reflected on October 31st being Reformation Day. Why is it that most churches don’t share with their congregations on the importance of the reformation?

  7. qbaileys said

    I am not sure why it is not a bigger celebration…it should be. It is shared at the church I attend, but it is a very strong and growing bible based church pastored by Dr. Charles Swindoll who is influenced greatly by Spurgeon, Warfield, Calvin, Stedman, Stott, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, and other great theologians of the past. Our weekly mens bible study at the church is under the teaching of Dr. Steve Farrar who is influenced by many of the same great men. I feel tremendously blessed to have such great teachers and preachers of God’s word to set under on a weekly basis.

    However, a tremendous battle rages within the church today as to which side they intend to be on….truth or humanism. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

    Keep posting the truth.

    Pressing on in Him,

  8. Scott, Andrew Jones here – the one referred to in the article.
    I think to be fair, you should mention Jim Bublitz who who wrote the post and link to him.
    You might also want to link to my response to Jim here

    And my position is not the official emerging church position. I am just a Christian dad and a missionary overseas thinking some thoughts on the reformation and reading some books on it that i did not used to read when i was a fundamentalist.


  9. qbaileys said

    Andrew, I have posted your comment for anyone to find the responses you mentioned. In the actual article on my blog it is linked back to the original article with all the comments by clicking on the title. So, it is all here now.

    I am not setting my site up for a debate just simply putting out the truth as I can see it. I do not have time to research for debates, but want to make sure that the men I direct to my site do not fall into the inveiglement of the Emerging Church. I have mentored far too many dads and husbands that have come through a church like them and these men have been deeply hurt and their families are hurting even more. The main culprit to this was the fact that each of them were starving for God’s word and direction in their lives. All they received at the emerging churches were hyped up music and watered down milk for sermons. So, that is why I have chosen to post as many articles as I can to expose the falsehood that much of the emerging church brings to our lives. Anyone that can attend those types of churches and feel like they are growing I say more power to them, but in the end I really believe they will fall flat on their faces before God someday wondering what has happened to their life. I have been there myself, falling for this sham of a “new way” or “new Christianity”…it is a play out of the “new age” playbook with a Christian dress on it.

    So, I will leave it at that and allow the Holy Spirit to work in the readers lives and make decisions accordingly. We are hear to deliver the message and beyond that is God’s part.

    Pressing on in Him,

  10. Michael said

    I am not emerging or emergent, but I do have sympathies in that direction. But I also have an incredible appreciation for the Reformers. My 14 month old son was dressed as Martin Luther for Reformation Day/Halloween.

    I have observed the emerging conversation as sometimes reactionary, and this is for a reason. I have profound respect for the sacrifice and reform that Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Hus, Simons, all urged. But I also recognize that they each had deficiencies. It sometimes feels like many make the reformers out to be infallible. I say, let us learn from them and continue in reform and renewal by returning to Jesus and Scripture.

  11. qbaileys said

    As I can understand everyone has sympathies in the direction of the emergent church movement…all I can simply tell you is that if something does not match up to scripture then you do not want to be a part of it.

    All of us the are hard-line (Not legalist) reformers understand that all of the past reformers were not perfect. You can pull out of closets something on all of them and their imperfections. I do not think any of us look at them as infallible…maybe a few do, but not here. However, what we do see is a strong bent from the reformers towards only preaching and teaching God’s infallible word as the truth…these men did not want to get it wrong. That has survived the ages. We still have over 24 volumes of John Owen’s works after 300 years…that is amazing in and of itself. These are truthes and theology that has not changed. What God’s word means has not ever changed after all the years…the doctrine and theology of the word is still the same. His word is not emerging….it is unchanging. He has set forth in His word how to worship, handle church affairs, and select elders/preachers/deacons and such…even how we are to live in this world is found within the word of God. It is all there.

    So, I appreciate your comments and you are welcome to comment further….I caution anyone greatly to fall into a trap that Satan has set by dressing up a movement as though it is holy when it is not. My prayer is that anyone in the emerging movement will find that God is not some funny old man in the skies that says for us to do what we want and His grace will cover it. We need to live freely in God’s word and take seriously this life He has chosen us for. When He said that we are to live in this world, but not be of the world is serious business.

    Pressing on in Him,

  12. Christian said

    I caution anyone greatly to fall into a trap that Satan has set by dressing up a movement as though it is holy when it is not.

    Amen, amen, amen. As is in what history has revealed of the majority of what we have called the “Church”. Perhaps you could suggest a movement that qualifies as ‘holy’?

  13. qbaileys said

    I can suggest that each authentic believer stay in the word. True believers are not in need of movements at any point in time. God’s word is not emerging, but is absolutely unchanging. God is the same today as He was 6000 years ago.
    One point I would make is that if any church or Christian looks like the rest of the world I can guarantee you it is not of God. I too enjoy talking with non-believers and will at times go where they go but I do not do the things they do that will lead into sin. We must mortify sin everyday. It is a constant battle. If you want to know that you are in the Spirit…are you fighting off sin daily? If you can go through each day sinning away without any guilt I can guarantee you are not Spirit filled. That is not a judgement call or legalistic point of view…that is as the scriptures teach us. Paul talked about battling sin daily…knowing what he should do that is right, but still end up doing that which he did not want to do. The battle against sin and Satan is for real. What I have seen from the emerging church is not doing anything to help the members mortify sin. This is huge, because it is so real. Our reformers of the past knew this all too well. They did not want disobey God in the least of their lives. They taught and fought for God’s word to revealed in all truth and without hypocrisy.
    I have been down the road where I could justify meeting my buddies (fellow believers) in a bar and talk about Christ. That road ended up flat. It will not prepare us for the suffering that is required in the Christian life. Christ tells us we will suffer much. The prosperity teaching in many churches is heresy not truth. It is teaching only half of the scriptures. Christ suffered very much for our sake…the disciples suffered much…we as true believers will suffer much. You can talk about God all day long, but bring up the name of Jesus and all hell breaks loose. My family and I experience this on a weekly basis. Those we try to love and help will turn their backs on you because they are not believers…they do not know of the real love and truth we know.
    Anyway, enough ranting…just be very careful with your salvation and the word of God. Each place you go and every word you speak is as a representative of Christ. For many will accept the Christ you portray…make sure it is not a false Christ.

    Pressing on in Him,

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