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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Saving the Planet One Left Wing Position at a Time (XIV)

Jesus, Polar Bears, & a Revolution of Worn-Out Liberalism

It’s been a while (May of this year to be exact) since we’ve had anything to say about old Bri and his merry band of emergents, but it’s time we got back to the left-wing, unbiblical views that characterize and typify most of his writings. I’m really not trying to pick on him because for those who follow this silly movement we all know that there are others in the mix like Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, and Leonard Sweet. In the background lurk Karl Barth, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jürgen Moltmann, Gustavo Gutierrez and Liberation Theology (which, by the way, isn’t), John Franke, and Scot McKnight, just to mention a few.

As a member of the Presbyterian Church in America I wonder why we have not spoken out and condemned this movement as aberrant and as striking at the vitals of the Christian faith. The truth is—and it’s a sad commentary—a PCA magazine that I hope and pray is defunct by now, byFaith, only had favorable articles on the Emergent church movement. Why? One can only wonder. It’s probably the same type of thinking that only publishes the views of those pastors in favor of illegal immigration. I’ve read two quite outspoken pieces on why illegal immigration is an excellent opportunity for us to witness to them, although we would probably be hard pressed to find a PCA pastor that has witnessed to a MS-13 gang member.

It’s precisely this type of leniency that now has three members of the Bologna family dead in San Francisco at the hands of a MS-13 thug, who is barely in his twenties. Why are they dead? Mr. Ramos shot and killed them as they were on their way home from a family picnic because they didn’t move their car out of the way fast enough. Mr. Ramos was in a hurry and Mr. Bologna was too slow in backing his car up, so Mr. Ramos murdered him and his two sons. But, I’m just being too hard on Mr. Ramos, I’m sure. Illegal immigration is really good for America, just ask Mr. Obama who wants to give them universal health care.

But back to Bri and the boys (and some very influential professional women—no, we’re not talking street walkers here) and their desire to save the planet. Their concern is overwhelming, especially given the fact that they’ve spent most of their ink and energy explaining that we really cannot know much of anything—if anything—for certain. Oddly, whenever these folks get ready to summarize their positions, they are in the possession of extraordinary quantities of certitude.

While eschewing propositional truth in the Bible, whenever they defend their positions, it suddenly appears on the radar. Follow us! This is the right way! Excuse me. Can this really be coming from those who have argued extensively that we’re all just on a journey that excludes certainty? Yep. It’s the same crowd. In case you’re confused, it’s called hypocrisy.

In his latest unscriptural thriller, Everything Must Change, ole Bri asks this key ethical question: Why is Jesus important?[1] Many non-thoughtful people like you and me who drink beer and eat nachos, don’t wear Birkenstocks, and don’t drink fashionable pumpkin seed lattes constitute what generous Bri snidely calls “the conventional view.” Our standard, pat, talking points-esque answer is: “Jesus came to solve the problem of ‘original sin,’ meaning that he helps qualified individuals not to be sent to hell for their sin or imperfection. In a sense, Jesus saves these people from God, or more specifically, from the righteous wrath of God, which sinful human beings deserve because they have not perfectly fulfilled God’s just expectations, expressed in God’s moral laws.”[2]

Now I want to pose these serious questions to Christians; those within the Emergent church movement camp and the rest of us conventional bigots: How can you take this man seriously? How can you not question why he places the words “original sin” in quotation marks? How can you excuse an admitted lousy theologian like McLaren when he says that Jesus saves people from God? How can you find that, in any sense, acceptable? That’s not even remotely funny or cute—in any sense. In short, my question to all Christians, the PCA, and byFaith is how can you find any of this amusing? Competent? Thought provoking? Theologically correct? God honoring? God glorifying? It is sheer drivel and a very unloving slam at fellow-Christians who actually believe that the fall of Adam and Eve, as our federal heads, affected all of us—even Bri.

What is the “enlightened” view, i.e., Bri’s and the Emergent church movement’s view? Well, here it is: “Jesus came to become the Savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of human evil…. All who find in Jesus God’s hope and truth discover the privilege of participating in his ongoing work of personal and global transformation and liberation from evil and injustice.”[3] I’ve mentioned what I’m about to say before, but for emphasis let me say it again: Bri has a horrible aversion to the “s” word, sin. In this book that is ostensibly on ethics, you’re about 200 pages into the book before he actually uses it and almost gags and is ever so apologetic when he does.

Beer drinkers, war mongers, litterers, those who don’t care about global warming (er, climate change. Sorry), and those who hold to their guns and religion—where did I hear that?—ask silly questions like Savior of the world for what purpose? Savior from what? If Jesus is the Savior, why do we specifically need salvation? Why does Bri use the word “evil” and not sin? David Wells makes the excellent point that the two words are not synonymous. He writes, “The biblical understanding of sin is far deeper and far worse than our contemporary understanding of evil.”[4] He pinpoints McLaren’s brand of postmodernism when he explains that “when we do not live within a moral world—and most Americans do not in their minds—the language of evil has no referent. Evil in relation to what standard, we must ask?”[5]

In this long, long, and tedious emergent “conversation” none of the non-leader leaders have told us what their standard is. Please spare me and don’t say that they all hold to the Bible. No they don’t! They haven’t from the beginning and they do not to this day. Oh, they might talk a good game, but when push comes to shove they are—to a man and woman—crass theological liberals. Besides, standards are messy things when you’re trying to take a journey. Since we cannot know with certainty, if ole Bri and the boys and girls want us to believe that saving the planet is why Jesus came, are we allowed to ask them how they know that? Did they derive that from Scripture? What a minute! I didn’t think you could glean that kind of stuff from the Bible. What assurance does Bri give you and me that his “intel” is correct? Is it absolutely correct, only relatively correct, up for grabs, or not correct at all?

When he gives us the emergent view of why Jesus is important, whose truth is that? Who holds it as a standard? Bri? Pagitt? Bell? Why do they matter? How do they know? Why was their standard established? Who established it? Wells hits the nail on the head when he says, “That something could be so inherently wrong as to be called evil, not simply because we see it as evil but because it is evil in itself, makes no sense anymore. It withers under the (post)modern sun. It dies in the face of a thousand qualifications and a thousand cultural suspicions.”[6] In Bri’s explanation of the enlightened, Chardonnay and brie cheese group, “Evil is simply badness.”[7] It’s simply his unsubstantiated opinion. Most of his books are virtually bereft of Scripture and when he or his cohorts like Jim Wallis use it, it’s to excruciatingly painfully rip a text from its redemptive-historical context to use it as a slam against Bush or Halliburton.

Here’s what sin is and why Bri refuses to use it: “Sin…is altogether more serious because it sets up human badness in relation to God.”[8] As I mentioned back in 2005—and this will probably stand as my biggest “I told you so” to date—the main problem with the Emergent church movement is their low view of Scripture. Remember the words of Rob Bell and his wife Kristen, that the Bible is still in the center for them, but it’s just a “different kind of center.” (That’s about as intelligible as the sound of one hand clapping). The Bell pair went on to state that they have no idea anymore what most of the Bible means. That’s encouraging to hear from a pastor and his wife. The upshot of their musings is that they feel like life is big again. Or, you know, dude, it’s like life used to be black and white, and now it’s, you know, like, in color. Whatever. Where did the Bells come up with such astute observations? They credit ole Bri with redirecting, reimagining their thinking on scriptural authority. Oh.

In their latest fun book, Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck ask these questions that require us to answer. “Is the Bible the final word in matters of faith and practice? Can it be trusted in all that it affirms? Is it intelligible and knowable? Is it from God? What is its practical authority in the believer’s life? Is it ever mistaken? What can we say about the Bible that we cannot say about any other book?”[9]

For those who have taken a look at the Emergent church movement, we know their answers. How can we as individuals or the PCA—or any other church for that matter—still find this acceptable and not spiritually detrimental to one’s spiritual health and growth?

[1] Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 79.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 79-80.

[4] David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), p. 100.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 101.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), (Chicago: Moody Press, 2008), p. 78.


Blogger Solameanie said...

I am beginning to think that the Emergent Church and narcissism go hand in hand with one another.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

You wrote: "Please spare me and don’t say that they all hold to the Bible. No they don’t! They haven’t from the beginning and they do not to this day."

Judge not lest you be judged. I hope you don't find your soul in hell someday. You may claim to know Jesus Christ, but not fully as Lord. You demand your theology knows God and others fail. Perhaps God bigger that Ron?

Read the book. Recall that the biblical text calls us to humility. Your level of knowledge may be great, but your wisdom flies in the face of God. Your witness spits in the face of Yahweh!

While I've NEVER said you are not a follower of God, your quote makes it clear that you KNOW who is in and out of the kingdom of God.

Yet, Jesus Christ never made these kind of blanket statements. How do you dare?

7:53 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:54 PM  
Blogger jazzact13 said...

First, this...

--Judge not lest you be judged.--

...followed by...

--your wisdom flies in the face of God. Your witness spits in the face of Yahweh!--

Good to see the old liberal love and tolerance in action.

--Yet, Jesus Christ never made these kind of blanket statements.--

Jesus, John 8
2. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
43. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
44. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
45. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

Matthew 26
21. And as they did eat , he said , Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
22. And they were exceeding sorrowful , and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
23. And he answered and said , He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
24. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed ! it had been good for that man if he had not been born .
25. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said , Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

The whole of Matthew 23, for example,
4. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer : therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
15. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made , ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Steven, Acts 7
1. "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!
52. Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him--
53. you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."

Paul in the last chapter of Acts.
24. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.
25. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26. " 'Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving."
27. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'
28. "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!

6:44 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Reading the material of the emergent troops seems to be totally lost on you. Just read what McLaren, Burke, Pagitt, the Bells, and others write about the Bible.
You manifest the same traits. You don't know, but you know. You excoriate those who think they know what Scripture says--even though the Bible clearly states that we can and should know the revealed truth God gives us--and then make truth claims that make you sound like a thorough-going foundationalist.
Humility does not mean that you check your brains at the door. Your paragraph beginning with "Read the book..." is both infantile and imprudent. Sometimes, Randy, what you say about others goes beyond disgusting.
It seems to me that I recall Jesus saying that we would know his disciples by their fruits, indicating that there is some sense in which we might know who is "in" and who is "out" of the kingdom.
One of the reasons God gave church discipline to Christ's Church is so that we and the world might know who is in and who is out. It's not called judging others, but biblical discernment and maturity.

8:38 AM  
Blogger jazzact13 said...

For some examples of emergents' statements about the Bible, check here.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Randy said...


You stated yourself half a year ago that discernment should be left to those in relationship. You didn't like something happening in your denomination, and thus you chose to write about it.

You have never spoken with, prayed with, nor loved Brian, Doug, Tony, or any of us.

You don't know that Doug has two adopted children from the neighborhood or that Mark's home is a light where most Christians dare not live nor the people whom Brian had helped. You do not know.

You don't even care to know about their fruit; you only want to judge based on their writings... even Brian suggests that much of it is fiction.

You claim that what I write is disgusting, and yet you know all things.

So, what if I claim to be discerning as well, and I certainly have as much wisdom as you?

What if I say to hell with you too since that is what you condemned Brian to?

What if you don't find your way into the kingdom of God? You certainly seem to be a mean old man... but of course that is fine within the idea of agape' love?

4:24 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

"You stated yourself half a year ago that discernment should be left to those in relationship. You didn't like something happening in your denomination, and thus you chose to write about it."
The precise situation was John Armstrong making accusations against the PCA that were untrue. Besides, Armstrong has made more theological changes than Clark Pinnock. It is incredible what you read into statements, though. I believe that Armstrong, Pinnock, McLaren, Gushee, Bell, Burke, etc. must be called to account if they are outside of Scripture.
I hope that you can understand that: it is a question of Scripture, not personality.

"You have never spoken with, prayed with, nor loved Brian, Doug, Tony, or any of us." And your point is? I have never spoken personally with von Harnack, Schleiermacher, Barth, Pannenberg, Moltmann, and a host of others. Does this mean that I cannot read their writings and respond to them? How ridiculous!

"You don't know that Doug has two adopted children from the neighborhood or that Mark's home is a light where most Christians dare not live nor the people whom Brian had helped. You do not know." So now we're into works righteousness? There are many atheists that have adopted children, such as Angelina Jolie. What's the point?

Just for the record, I have not condemned Brian to hell. I have no idea where you dug that one up. But here is the point: If you, I, Bri, or anyone denies Scripture our condemnation is just.

For a seminarian, you lack such basic understanding of God, man, society, truth, knowledge, and ethics. Repeatedly, you go to personalities rather than to the Word of God and that continues to be your downfall and the very thing that detracts so much from your writing.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

In your most recent comment, I much appreciate your civility. Really.

I understand your desire for Scripture to be honored. It's not that we don't hold it to be true; it's that we hold it differently.

9:29 PM  
Blogger jazzact13 said...

"I say this is truth,
You say that is truth,
So I say both are truth!!
(though, really, I think you're full of it)."

4:48 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

In case you didn't catch the finer subtleties of jazzact's comments, he thinks you and the emergent crowd are looney.
So do I. Try to explain what you mean when you say that you hold Scripture to be "differently" true. This is the same kind of sophistry that ole Bri, the Bells, and others in the ECM employ and it is really tedious. It is this kind of sleight of hand that has led Spencer Burke into outright heresy.
Explain yourself.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

It was once said trying to discuss things with Emergent folks was like "trying to nail jello to the wall." I begin to think it's more like trying to put mercury back into a broken thermometer.

Very few of Randy's litany of points and supposed counterpoints have any bearing on the specific points being made by his opponents. If he were to run his comments through the Lost in Space robot, the poor robot would say "that does not compute" and then likely short-circuit.

The day Randy ever begins dealing with Scripture in a truly exegetical fashion will be a day for the record books.

9:12 AM  
Blogger jazzact13 said...

--In case you didn't catch the finer subtleties of jazzact's comments, he thinks you and the emergent crowd are looney.--

Very true, though there's also the point that while the northern side of the north-bound emergent bird is talking about uncertainty and tolerance, the side pointing south is sounding pretty certain that their theology is oh-so-much-better then anything b4 it.

Btw my little attempt at poetry was kind of a way of re-interpreting (dare I say, deconstructing) this statement, in the light of what the emergent non-leaders say.

--It's not that we don't hold it to be true; it's that we hold it differently.--

12:29 PM  
Blogger sister said...

"Differently true."

While not well worded, it's really not a difficult concept to understand.

What Randy's trying to say is that his exegesis arrives at a different interpretation than you do. "Differently understood" might have worked better.

The onus, then, is left with Randy to show why he arrived at a different interpretation.

But, to be fair: that's not something you're particularly good at either, Ron. Some of us actually are paying attention.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Illicit Sister,
Not entirely true. I either back up what I say with Scripture, confession, or natural law. For Randy, it's only relationship.
Besides, if you're going to opt for a "different kind of center" (Rob and Kristen Bell), it's incumbent upon the innovator to explain his or herself.
This may come as a shock to you, but your assessment of what I do or don't do doesn't carry a lot of weight.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Thanks for the helpful article.
I'm confused about churches like Grace in Washington DC who already profess to have deaconesses: Any thoughts?

7:51 PM  

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