16 timely quotes from Why We’re Not Emergent

why-not-emergent

At the beginning of the year, I started what I called the re-reading project, an attempt to diversify my reading a bit in 2014 by re-reading one previously enjoyed book each month.

A few weeks back, I decided to take a trip back in time to 2008, to the days when men’s capris were (strangely) in fashion, and Rob Bell was still considered a Christian by the average evangelical. The purpose of this trip? To re-read Why We’re Not Emergent by then unknown authors Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.

Why re-read a book tied to a movement most consider dead and buried? Even though the movement itself might be dead, the emergent mystique is alive and well, even if everyone eschews the term “emergent” (it is so early 2000s, after all…). The biggest difference is that the lines are clearer: today’s “progressives” are yesterday’s “emergents,” but more willing to be forthright about most of their beliefs. (And many of yesterday’s emergents have felt the freedom to start doing the same.)

But the same intellectual snobbery and cynical questioning remain—even as those who portray themselves as outside the cultural mainstream find themselves marching lockstep right along with the world. To these attitudes, Why We’re Not Emergent still has so much to say to us. Here are sixteen timely quotes that still offer necessary challenge to the thinking of progressives and conservatives alike:

  1. “It’s some combination of pious confusion and intellectual laziness to claim that living in mystery is at the heart of Christianity.” (37-38)
  2. “Arguing for the inherent uncertainty of knowledge causes problems when you write books trying to convince people to believe or behave in certain ways. That is to say, radical uncertainty sounds nice as a sort of protest against the perceived dogmatism of evangelical Christianity, but it gets in the way when you want to prove a point.” (41)
  3. “For every fundamentalist who loves the Bible more than Christ, I’m willing to be there are several emergent Christians who honor the Bible less than Christ did.” (81)
  4. “Doctrine was to die for because it was the heartbeat of Paul’s saving message about saving historical facts.” (113)
  5. “The problem lies not in emerging Christian seeking the truth, but in their refusal to find and call out falsehood.” (119)
  6. “God is greater than we can conceive—but what about the 1,189 chapters in the Bible? Don’t they tell us lots of things about God that we are supposed to do more with than doubt and not understand?” (123-124)
  7. “I would rather take a beating than argue (dialogue) on message boards all day, where people are brave and full of convictions without actually being brave and full of convictions.” (138)
  8. “Is the best corrective to domineering CEO pastors really bewildered Dorothy leaders? How about shepherd or teacher or overseer or herald?” (160)
  9. “At times I feel as if the emergent church is like that friend who goes off to college as an eighteen-year-old, and for the first year or so when he comes home feels like he has to quote Nietzsche just to impress you with his newfound intellect.” (172)
  10. “If my mother-in-law’s suburban crowd…is on board, then it [the emergent movement] is as mainstream as mainstream can be.” (177)
  11. “Too often emergent leaders force us to choose between salvation by following Jesus’ example or salvation that doesn’t care about good works. But this is another false dilemma.” (203)
  12. “Call me old-fashioned, but it doesn’t fill me with hope or warm feelings to hear my pastor…suggest that he may be, and probably is, wrong about all of this.… I want to believe, and do believe, that people can known things and still be humble.” (228)
  13. “…I’m really glad that we have a pastor who, instead of being ‘with it,’ is committed to being with God.” (235)
  14. “Doctrinally minded evangelical Christians like me would get more out of emergent critiques if they recognized that there are just as many undiscerning, overtolerant Pergamums and Thyatiras in North America and the United Kingdom as there are loveless Ephesuses.” (241)
  15. “We may think right, live right, and do right, but if we do it off in a corner, shining our lights at one another to probe our brother’s sins instead of pointing our lights out into the world, we will, as a church, grow dim, and eventually our light will be extinguished.” (244)
  16. “A therapist-Christ does not evoke an ardency of soul that wishes to be annihilated, emptied of self and filled with Christ and made pure with a divine and heavenly purity. We need a Christ from above.” (250)

The movement might be dead, but the mood isn’t. And although some of the examples might be a bit dated, Why We’re Not Emergent  is still a helpful corrective.

Around the Interweb

Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?

Insightful videos featuring Dr. William Lane Craig:

 

HT: Justin Taylor

Also Worth Reading

Controversy: Adrian Warnock had a face-to-face conversation with Rob Bell about Love Wins. It’s a very interesting listen (albeit incredibly frustrating at times).

Easter: Jesus and the Martyrs

Business Ethics: The 4 P’s of Business

The Persecuted Church in China“If This is What God Intended, So Be It”

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

He Will Be Holy To Make You Holy

Book Review: Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

Fully, Finally, Unquestionably, and Irrevocably Vindicated

The Power of The Resurrection

Only If A Substitute is Provided

Let the Law, Sin, and the Devil Cry Out Against Us

So, What is Universalism, Anyway?

In all the discussion of the eternality of hell ignited by a certain book,  the term universalism has been thrown around a lot, as has another question:

What exactly is universalism, anyway?

I’m reading (and listening to) John Piper’s Jesus: The Only Way to God: Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved; there, Piper provides a very thoughtful description of universalism from his personal experience reading the works of George MacDonald and Madeleine L’Engle:

Since my college days, I had read three novels by George MacDonald: Phantastes, Lilith, and Sir Gibbie. I enjoyed them. I had also read a lot of C. S. Lewis and benefited immeasurably from the way he experienced the world and put that experience into writing.

I knew that Lewis loved MacDonald and commended him highly… Largely because of this remarkable advocacy by Lewis, I think, George MacDonald continues to have a significant following among American evangelicals. I certainly was among the number who was drawn to him. Then I picked up Rolland Hein’s edition of Creation in Christ, a collection of MacDonald’s sermons. To my great sorrow, I read these words: “From all the copies of Jonathan Edwards’ portrait of God, however faded by time, however softened by the use of less glaring pigments, I turn with loathing.”

Those are strong words spoken about the God I had come to see in the Bible and to love. I read further and saw a profound rejection of the substitutionary atonement of Christ: “There must be an atonement, a making up, a bringing together—an atonement which, I say, cannot be made except by the man who has sinned.” And since only the man who has sinned can atone for his own sin (without a substitute), that is what hell is for.

MacDonald is a universalist not in denying the existence of hell, but in believing that the purpose of hell is to bring people to repentance and purity no matter how long it takes. “I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem His children.” And all humans are his children. If hell went on forever, he says, God would be defeated. “God is triumphantly defeated, I say, throughout the hell of His vengeance. Although against evil, it is but the vain and wasted cruelty of a tyrant.”

I mention George MacDonald as an example of a universalist not only because of my personal encounter with him but also because he represents the popular, thoughtful, artistic side of Christianity which continues to shape the way so many people think. [Read more…]

What Good Will Come From the Bell Brouhaha?

Over the last few weeks, since Justin Taylor brought everyone’s attention to the trailer for Rob Bell’s new book, there’s been a good deal of debate, discussion… and a bit of name calling. Bell’s been making the rounds with the media, including a story in USA Today, a live webcast with Newsweek editor Lisa Miller, and even a stop with Martin Bashir at MSNBC.

Particularly in the last two events cited, it’s been fascinating to see how Bell reacts to pointblank questions. Lisa Miller asked him outright if he was a liberal mainline Protestant posing as an Evangelical, stating that everything he’s writing in this book has been said in the mainline denominations for the last 50 or 60 years. And he squirms for a moment before answering that he believes he’s totally an Evangelical and orthodox. And while some might think that Bashir was being uncharitable, he took the opportunity to ask the hard questions that many have been wanting to ask Bell for years, giving him ample opportunity to clarify. Again, he squirms and fails to ever give a simple or straight answer, which is incredibly frustrating.

Regardless of where you stand on the Rob Bell-arama of the last month, whether you’re for or against what he’s teaching, a question we all should be asking is, “What good is going to come of all of this?”

My wife and I have been talking about this since for weeks now and she made much the same point as Kevin DeYoung in his monster review/response:

Love Wins has ignited such a firestorm of controversy because it’s the current fissure point for a larger fault-line. As younger generations come up against an increasingly hostile cultural environment, they are breaking in one of two directions—back to robust orthodoxy (often Reformed) or back to liberalism. The neo-evangelical consensus is cracking up. Love Wins is simply one of many tremors.

This point is bang on. There is incredible division underlying the whole evangelical movement and this is only going to make it more evident. Because the place of the Bible within corporate worship and within the lives of so many of us has been downplayed in favor of entertainment or having a good experience, we’ve forgotten what it says, why it matters and who is in authority over us (that’s Jesus, if you’re wondering where I stand on that).

So as this divide becomes more and more evident, here are a few positive things that I can see coming:

1. People will eventually have to put their cards on the table. As Jared Wilson put it well, “Thanks to the inevitable picking of sides, we get to see who aligns with heterodox views and who doesn’t.” This will actually help us all to understand how to talk to one another if we actually want to have meaningful dialogue, as many profess is their desire.

2. People will learn the difference between asking questions and questioning. This, ultimately,has to do with motivation. If asking questions about essential doctrines is based on a desire to understand how they came to be and why they matter, it’s a good and God-honoring thing. If questions come unceasingly and answers are never accepted, perhaps there’s something more going on than wanting to know the answer.

3. Doctrinal clarity will emerge. Heresy and scandal have had a way of helping the Church come to a clear position on the key doctrines of the faith. It happened with Athanasius and Arius over the eternality of Christ. It happened with Augustine and Pelagius over the sinful nature of man and our ability to attain salvation on our own. It happened with Marcion and his dualistic view of God that ultimately led to the solidifying of the biblical canon. These weren’t mere dialogues over different perspectives. They were efforts to contend for “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This debate opens the door for the Church to regain a robust understanding of, and appreciation for, the essentials of the faith and an opportunity for us to repent of being like the church at Pergamum and turning a blind eye to the false teaching in our midst (cf. Rev. 2:14-15). The Christian faith, if we really believe it’s true, is worth contending for and conforming to.

That, in a nutshell, is the good that I hope will come from the Bell brouhaha. How about you?

Around the Interweb

Easy Virtues and Cruel Mistresses

In light of Rob Bell’s using a quote from a letter of Martin Luther to defend his arguments in Love Wins, Carl Trueman offers some helpful advice on interpreting Luther:

A number of comments seem apposite in regard to this statement. First, there is a basic problem of historical method here: it is illegitimate to take a small quotation from a single letter and use it to extrapolate to a person’s general theology. Now, to accuse someone of taking statements out of context is not in itself a strong criticism. Is not all historical writing an example of things taken out of one context and placed in another? But to build so much on a single, short sentence, without examining what went before or after it leaves the argument at best half-done.

Second, to extrapolate from a letter to a person’s general theology risks distortion, even if the whole letter is taken into account. If someone were ever to express an interest in my opinion on say, classic rock music of the seventies, I hope they would not focus simply on an email or two, or even on a couple of longer essays or papers. I trust they would try to read as much of my material as possible, and set each artifact in relation to others, so as to produce a coherent account of my thought on rock music as a whole. By so doing, they would create a framework for understanding the significance of any individual statement I might have made on the subject.

Thus it is with Luther: one cannot legitimately draw theological conclusions from statements in occasional letters without taking into account the theological treatises and, indeed, the confessional documents to which he appended his name. Even the briefest reading of, say, Luther’s Larger Catechism would indicate that his mature position allows no space for such postmortem second chances. Anyone can express themselves unclearly at points; anyone can make a statement that contradicts a position which he holds consistently elsewhere. Therefore, even if Luther did say exactly what Bell claims, it might prove little more than the fact he was having a bad day.

Read the whole article

Also Worth Reading

Prayer: Learning to Pray… Again

Conferences2011 Band of Bloggers » The Gospel Procession

Interview: Burk Parsons Interviews Mike Anderson

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Love Wins by Rob Bell

Is God’s Victory Over Sin Thwarted?

Reading A Book

Sermon Audio: When God Delivers His People

Honor Your Father by Being in Awe of Him

 

 

Rob Bell + Universalism = Fireworks

Update: My review of Love Wins was posted 03/09/2011.

This weekend a big stink was kicked up about the trailer and marketing copy of Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Indeed, the brouhaha led to Bell’s name trending on Twitter!

So as you can imagine, this thing is causing quite the commotion among Christians on the interwebs.

The issue came onto my radar yesterday when I saw Emily had been reading this post from Justin Taylor. I read the marketing copy, which after some fairly heavy-handed selling of Bell’s credentials, we get to the heart of the controversy:

Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

The accompanying video doesn’t help much:

In his previous books and tours, Bell has often been… squishy regarding his take on the wrath of God (even going so far as to reinterpret God’s wrath as a feeling of grief mixed with a desire to reconnect and restore). Indeed, he’s been so ambiguous that it’s caused a great many pastors and theologians to ask the question: Is he a universalist?

With this book it seems we might have an answer, in much the same way Brian McLaren dropped his pretence of trying to remain orthodox in A New Kind of Christianity.

However, I don’t know if it’s safe to say that for certain because, well, the book hasn’t been released yet. Because the material is in Bell’s typically ambiguous style so it can be taken one of two ways:

  1. He is playing “Devil’s Advocate” (oh, how I loathe that term) and presenting legitimate questions
  2. The trajectory he’s been on for years has reached it’s destination and he’s outright abandoned the gospel

My hope would be the former. But if I had to be honest, my expectation is the latter. And  this is not something I find delightful or comforting.

Here’s what I would hate to see: If it turns out that he has indeed abandoned the gospel and embraced universalism (“Christian” or otherwise), that is cause to weep. Rob Bell’s influence is enormous and, if he does indeed advocate for universalism, then he will be preaching people straight into hell.

We can’t get away from the reality of hell. The Bible is clear that there will be eternal punishment for those who do not repent and turn to Jesus for salvation.

And love doesn’t win unless there’s something from which to flee.

(Thanks to Erik from J.C. Ryle Quotes for the title of the post.)

Around the Interweb (05/23)

“It is too easy to love and care in the abstract”

“I’m religious but I don’t believe in institutional Christianity” is often another Docetic way to say, “I want to be spiritual without any of the ambiguities, frustrations, and responsibilities that embody spiritual commitment.”

Institutions are embodiments and substantiations of ideals, aims, and values. Docetism is a special abnegation of any responsibility to incarnate ideals, values, or love.

It is altogether too easy to love and care in the abstract. Concrete situations of diapers, debts, divorce, or listening to and being with someone in depression and despair, is the test of real love.

Docetism is the religious way to escape having love tested in the flesh. All of us are tempted to audit life rather than to participate fully and be tested by it.

– C. FitzSimons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, 37-8.

HT: Trevin Wax

In Other News

I just gave the blog a facelift – what do you think?

Twitter: Fake Steve Jobs declares war on pornography. While it’s a parody, it would be a brilliant sales maneuver. Seriously. Here’s a bit of what the real Jobs has said about Apple and pornography.

Jon Acuff on CNN.com: Treating Secular Media like Satan’s Newspaper

Books: Michael Krahn reviews Rob Bell’s Drops Like Stars. The verdict?

Bell’s weakness (which masquerades as strength) is that he says things and presents himself in a way that communicates depth while saying and writing things that aren’t actually that deep. This seems impressive at first but eventually becomes a bit tedious.

Fun: Mike Tompkins covers Fireflies by Owl City. Here’s the video:

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshear’s latest, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe

Good marketing doesn’t take itself too seriously (I want to get a swagger wagon)

Some thoughts on tithing, taxes and giving without guilt

What are you reading this summer?

An excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, The Redeemer’s Prayer

Sunday Shorts (10/04)

And the Winner is…

The winner of the A Million Miles in a Thousand Years contest is Amber! Congratulations, Amber—your copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years will be on its way shortly.

Free Audio Book of the Month: Just Courage

Christianaudio.com is offering Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian by Gary A. Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, as its free audio book of the month. Use the coupon code OCT2009 when purchasing.

Phil Johnson on Rob Bell: Performance Artist

Over at Pyromaniacs, Phil Johnson examines Rob Bell’s interview in the Boston Globe about how recovering the “spiritual context” of the word evangelical, from it’s use as as a synonym for “religious right-wing politicos”:

In fact, listen to Bell’s own cockamamie claim about what the term properly describes: “I embrace the term evangelical, if by that we mean a belief that we together can actually work for change in the world, caring for the environment, extending to the poor generosity and kindness, a hopeful outlook. That’s a beautiful sort of thing.”

So is that what Bell considers “a spiritual context,” or did he already forget what he had just been saying about how the term became politicized and corrupted in the first place? Hmmm.

HT: Challies

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Pray Without Ceasing, why prayer is essential in the life of a church and its people.

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, examining the good and bad of Donald Miller’s latest.

King Jesus, fixing our eyes on the wonder of the risen Christ.

Religion Saves: Humor, The Emerging Church, The Regulative Principle

Religion-Saves-humor

893 questions posted. 343,203 votes cast. Nine controversial subjects. The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

This post will be dealing with three subjects from the book: Humor, the Emerging Church and the Regulative Principle.

Humor

There are few things about Mark Driscoll more talked about than his sense of humor. He’s got a sharp wit, is quite cutting in his delivery… but sometimes he’s just downright mean. And the question that prompted this chapter is a great one:

Why do you make jokes in sermons about Mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trench coat wearers, single men, vegans, and emo kids, and then expect these groups to come know God through those sermons?

Generally speaking, I appreciate Driscoll’s humor. Most of the time he avoids the edge of completely inappropriate, although there are times when he skirts dangerously close to the edge. As he says in the opening of the chapter, “I am on a mission to both put people in heaven and put the ‘fun’ back in ‘fundamentalism'” (p. 45). This is a noble goal to be sure; we can all stand to laugh at ourselves a little bit. In my younger days, I was a pretentious, trench coat wearing, comic book reading, intellectual snob who used a lot of big words to show off (and divert people’s attention from my insecurities).  I can laugh about that and poke fun a bit. And truly, there are some things that we do that are simply ridiculous and do need to be made fun of.

That said, this chapter is by far the weakest in the book, for a number of reasons. [Read more…]

Sunday Shorts (06/21)

Mostly Dead vs. All Dead

What’s Andy Naselli’s favorite illustration of the Arminian view of human depravity (and it’s integral relationship to the concept of prevenient grace)?

The Princess Bride, of course!

Andy cites this as the crucial part of the exchange:

“Well it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. . . . Now mostly dead is slightly alive. All dead—well, with all dead, there’s only usually one thing that you can do.”

“What’s that?”

“Go through his clothes and look for loose change.”

If you’re not reading Andy’s blog, you really should.

Leadership Book Interview: Unfashionable

Ed Stetzer interviews Tullian Tchvidjian about his book, Unfashionable. Here’s the intro:

Tullian Tchividjian’s new book, Unfashionable boldly addresses the issue of what it means to be the church in the world, while refusing to be of it. This is a theologically driven book that calls the church to “contextualize without compromise.” Tullian’s is a voice of reasoned, biblical sanity when many who are having this discussion are talking past one another with unhelpful and exaggerated rhetoric. I spoke with Tullian recently and asked him to talk to us about this new book.

Read the whole interview at Ed Stetzer’s blog.

He Stinketh: Thoughts on Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis

Nick Carter posted a short, but enjoyable review of Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis:

…would I recommend this book to others? To be honest, probably not. So, is Nick just jumping on the bandwagon with all the other staunch traditionalists and defenders of orthodox doctrine? I hope not, but I have to ask… what’s so wrong with orthodoxy? If you’ve read with interest Velvet Elvis and came away with a sentiment of disgust for the “old” way of the reformers and for the guard dogs of doctrine in conservative academia today–then you’ve proven my point. That being the likely reaction of readers is precisely why I would not recommend this book.

Read the rest at TrueVictories.com

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Persevering Prophet: Fruit What makes a ministry fruitful?

Book Review: Just Do Something Reviewing Kevin DeYoung’s latest book on discerning God’s will and decision-making

Made in the Image of God: Holiness How humanity images God in the pursuit of holiness

Music Review: Rain City Hymnal Reviewing Re:Sound’s first full-length release, Rain City Hymnal

Sunday Shorts (04/19)

Should you Talk About the Gospel in Every Sermon?

Piper at Desiring God:

The Gospel Coalition—Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of 2 Timothy

The Gospel Coalition’s 2009 Conference runs from this week, April 21-23, in Chicago. Speakers include D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, John Piper, Mark Driscoll and more.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Gospel Coalition, here’s a brief introduction:

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.812512&w=425&h=350&fv=titlevar%3DIntroduction+to+The+Gospel+Coalition%26videosource%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fs3.amazonaws.com%2Ftgc-video%2Ftgc_about_us-high.flv%26poster%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.thegospelcoalition.org%2Fmedia%2Fa%2Fposters%2Ftgc-intro.jpg]

And Now for Something Completely Different…

So, Compassion decided it would be a good idea to team up with Rob Bell for a Nooma video called “Corner.” It’s okay as far as Nooma goes, but it’s nothing ground-breaking.

That, and I find Bell’s glasses distracting.

(I should note that while I work in Compassion’s Canadian office, my views should not be taken as always reflective of the organization.)

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…

I’m off to ad:tech San Francisco until Friday, much to my excitement. I’ve never been to the left coast before, so I’m a wee bit excited. Ad:tech has a great line-up of speakers and break out sessions, and I’m looking forward to learning a lot while I’m there.

more about “The Gospel Coalition“, posted with vodpod