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Calvary vs. the Emergents

This series remains one of my most linked. Originally in four parts, I’m conjoining them under one heading for easier reference.

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Calvary Chapel recently discontinued selling all items connected with Rick Warren’s mega-best-selling Purpose Driven Life series. The church1.jpg notice stated:

“The teaching and positions of Rick Warren have come into conflict with us at Calvary Chapel. Pastor Chuck has directed us to discontinue this product effective immediately.”

Rick Warren has become a celebrity of sorts. His heart for evangelism, practical teaching style and, above all, the Purpose Driven Life series (which has sold over 25 million copies), has vaulted him into the stratosphere of spiritual and publishing stardom. He’s been featured on national news and is a much sought-after speaker. Warren’s a “brand” if ever there was one.

Yet Calvary nixed him.

Several years back, the church I attended, Water of Life, used Warren’s book and accompanying video series to facilitate a community outreach. The program was very successful. I helped lead one of the small groups and had the chance to familiarize myself with the Purpose Driven Life message, which I was eager to to do.

For the record: I was not impressed.

No, I didn’t smell a heretic. From my perspective, there were no red flags or glaring unbiblical assertions. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. Comparisons have been drawn between Steven Covey’s leadership series, which is built largely around the codification of principles for personal growth. You know, develop these 7 habits or implement these 5 commandments and you will be happy and successful. Blah, blah, blah.  I think the comparison is legit.

After years of struggling to grow a church, attending numerous Church Growth seminars and immersing myself in its literature, I found myself growing dubious of the methodology of the movement. Nowadays, I tend to cringe at pragmatic, overly-simplistic systematizations of biblical principles. And that was my primary reaction to The Purpose Driven Life — it’s a soft, inoffensive, practical, how-to handbook for lazy Americans.

However, while Warren has drawn lots of heat for his identification with the Church Growth movement, it’s his proximity to another group that has tweaked Calvary. According to Lighthouse Trails Research Project, a doctrinal watchdog group specifically aimed at tracking the influence of “contemplative spirituality” in the mainstream Church, in a report entitled Calvary Rejects Purpose Driven and Emerging Spirituality:

Both Purpose Driven and the emerging church promote contemplative spirituality, which is a belief system that is contrary to biblical Christianity. Popular authors such as Richard Foster, Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning and many others teach contemplative spirituality (also known as spiritual formation).

Another report narrows the perceived danger of the practice and its integral role in the movement:

While the Calvary Chapel position paper to pastors does not specifically use the term contemplative spirituality when addressing the emerging church, the philosophy and practices are described, and we hope that pastors will understand that contemplative prayer is the glue that holds the emerging church movement together and is the main reason it should be avoided. [emphasis mine]

Apparently then, it is Warren’s adjacency to the Emergent Church, its beliefs and practices, that has bent Calvary. Not only has it led to their dissociation from the Purpose Driven juggernaut, it has prompted a formal renunciation of the Emergent Movement.

This is not the first time I’ve seen Calvary throw out the baby with the bathwater.

As a young Christian, The Seduction of Christianity rocked my world. Written in 1985, author Dave Hunt warned about a vast spiritual deception that had infiltrated the Church and undermined the Gospel. He took no prisoners, calling out prominent leaders like James Dobson and John Wimber, indicting certain forms of prayer, healing and worship.

According to Wikipedia,

Hunt believes occult or pagan influences are pervasive in modern culture – this includes evolution, as well as all forms of psychology, some forms of entertainment, all forms of science-fiction or fantasy – especially Harry Potter – yoga, some forms of medicine, enviromental concern or conservation and much of public education.

Shortly after The Seduction of Christianity was released, the Calvary Chapel I attended responded by removing Dr. James Dobson’s materials from the bookstore. They believed, as did Hunt, that Dobson embraced secular psychology and, as such, was unwittingly migrating to the dark side.

Dave Hunt is not a stranger to controversy. In his book, A Woman Rides the Beast, he asserts that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon and, in another book, that Calvinism is a false gospel. Interestingly enough, he is a regular in the Calvary circuit and apparently has their ear.

I bring up Hunt for this reason: Calvary’s response to Rick Warren reminds me of their initial response to Dobson. And both of these reponses follow, what I believe is, Hunt’s conspiratorial mindset, sweeping generalizations, and over-reaction to the reality of deception in the last days.

Hey, churches are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their people. It’s a weight you and I don’t have. Perhaps there is wisdom in yanking certain books off the shelf. Heck, most of the stuff out there probably should be yanked. Yet while the Scriptures challenge us to be discerning, it also cautions us about becoming arrogant, unkind and judgmental.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galations 6:1 NIV)

It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes. (Ecclesiastes 7:18 NIV)

In discerning and addressing spiritual deception, there is a danger of imbalance — of becoming harsh, unloving, judgmental, legalistic and inflammatory. Not only must we “restore” erring saints “gently,” we must avoid over-reacting to perceived errors on their parts.

So please understand: I am not downplaying the need for discernment, as much as I’m concerned about its implementation.

Several things trouble me about Calvary’s decision regarding Warren. Roger Oakland, in a piece widely circulated among Calvary pastors, outlined four differences between Warren and Calvary Chapel:

  • Differences in Eschatology
  • Differences with regard to the Emerging Church
  • Differences with regard to contemplative prayer and mysticism
  • Differences with regard to church growth principles and beliefs

That churches have differences is not a revelation. But when they start labeling those differences as “heresy,” we should take note. According to Calvary Chapel’s official position paper regarding the Emergent Church movement, they perceive the Emergent movement as aberrant doctrine. In their denunciation, Calvary goes so far as to quote these verses:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (II Peter 2:1)

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)

I’m not a big fan of Rick Warren. Nor am I a participant or propigant of the Emergent movement. But when Calvary ties Warren to the Emergents — ties that are indeed loose — and then frames the movement in terms of “damnable heresies” and “ungodly men” who are “ordained to. . . condemnation,” well, I’m all ears.

One of the reasons for Calvary Chapel’s denunciation of Rick Warren is what they perceive as Warren’s “endorsement” of the Emergent Church. In an email from Rick Warren to Lighthouse Trails Publishing, however, Warren denies any affiliation:

. . .Zondervan publishers asked me to write a commentary on an “Emerging Church” book, although I am definitely not a part of that group.  If you read that book, you saw that I often disagreed with the author in my sidebar commentary.  But when the book came out – it had my name paired with Brian McLaren’s on the cover!  If I had known that Mr McLaren was asked to be a commentator too, I would have declined, because I have some major disagreements with his views of the so-called “emerging” movement.

Nevertheless, in a recent pastor’s newsletter, Warren quotes favorably from several Emergent adherents (Brian McLaren and Dan Kimball) and even links to The Ooze, an openly Emergent ministry.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Is Warren, as some contend, being deceitful about his affiliations? Or is this a case of guilt-by-association, and is Calvary trying to force a connection that is, at best, superficial?

Of course, behind all these questions is the assertion that the Emergent Movement is apostate.

In an article entitled, The Emerging Church: Another Road to Rome, Roger Oakland concludes:

I believe we are seeing the apostasy that Paul warned would be a sign we are in the last days. Is it possible the grand delusion is underway and the world is being set up for a counterfeit bride for the counterfeit Christ?

Shades of Dave Hunt! Similarly, in their official statement, Calvary Chapel quotes II Peter 2:1 and Jude 1:4 which mention “false teachers,” “damnable heresies,” and “ungodly men. . . denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ”. Immediately after these quotes the paper states, “We see a tendency toward this in what is commonly called the ‘Emergent Church’ teachings.”

Wow! Is the “Emergent Church” as bad as Calvary Chapel suggests? Are they apostates who deny God and construct a “counterfeit Christ”? These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with since I’ve learned there was such a movement. The problem is nailing Emergents down to what they actually believe.

In their statement, Calvary isolated these concerns about the group:

  • “That Jesus is not the only way by which one might be saved”.
  • “The soft peddling of hell as the destiny for those who reject the salvation offered through Jesus Christ”.
  • [A] “touchy feely relating to God”
  • “The use of icons to give them a sense of God”
  • [Seeking] “to make sinners feel safe and comfortable in church”
  • [Condoning] “what God has condemned, such as the homosexual lifestyle?”
  • Looking to “Eastern religions with their practices of Yoga and special breathing techniques or repeating a mantra to hear God speak to us”

Insofar as these caricatures are accurate, I would definitely have a problem with some elements of this movement. However, the language assumes that the Emergent Church is a unified group, a denomination, a monolithic entity that defines doctrine for a group of card-carrying adherents. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the final point (#8) of the piece undermines Calvary’s inference:

    The great confusion that exists in the divergent positions of the Emergent Church results from their challenging the final authority of the Scriptures. [emphasis added]

An essential characteristic of the Emergent movement is one that Calvary Chapel openly identifies here: “divergent positions.” Even Wikipedia defines the Emergent Church as “a diverse conversation within Christianity.”

Calvary Chapel levels some serious allegations against the Emergent Church. But the fact is, the Emergent movement is “a diverse conversation within Christianity.” It has no headquarters. No president. No Board of Trustees. No agreed-upon doctrinal statement. No Kool-Aid bar for initiates.

In a Pastor’s and Theologian’s Forum on the Emerging Church, one minister writes:

There have been many attempts in recent years to have a “dialogue” with the emerging church. In reality, the so-called emerging church is so diverse that I’m often left wondering with whom this dialogue is supposed to be taking place.

The amorphous nature of the group makes blanket condemnations difficult. Yes, some Emergents challenge “the final authority of the Scriptures.” And some don’t. Some use icons. Others abstain. Some are more inclusive of outsiders and mystical traditions. Some are liberal, others conservative. Like any new movement, many different people and positions are represented there. And, in the case of the Emergent Church, some of those positions even veer into potentially dangerous theological terrain.

Because of the nature of the Emergent Church — and the serious charges being brought against it — I believe we must guard against “broadbrushing” the theology of the entire movement, and categorically assigning the Emergents, en masse, to one big, fat “damnable heresy.” It’s like saying “All Christians are hypocrites.” The generalization just doesn’t wash.

Perhaps the two most oft-repeated charges leveled against the Emergent movement have to do with pluralism and mysticism. The group is viewed as a clearing house of beliefs and practices — some of which diverge from, and push the envelope of, traditional fundamentalist theology.

Thus far, I’ve suggested that Calvary Chapel has made generalizations about the Emergents, ratcheted up the rhetoric, indicted others who are, at best, marginally favorable to the movement, and over-reacted. In this post, I would like to explore the issue of mysticism.

In his article, Calvary Chapel and Purpose Driven, Roger Oakland writes:

. . .Pastor Chuck in his Parson to Parson letter to pastors mentioned his concern with contemplative practices and Eastern mysticism that is an earmark of the Emerging Church. In his statement he asked the question:
Should we look to Eastern religions with their practices or meditation through Yoga and special breathing techniques or repeating a mantra to hear God speak to us? If this is needed to enhance our communication with God, why do you suppose that God did not give us implicit instructions in the Scriptures to give us methods to hear His voice?

Rick Warren has clearly indicated that he is willing to investigate the ideas and methods being promoted for spiritual reformation and transformation that have eastern religious roots. These include the beliefs promoted by the proponents of contemplative prayer and other mystical techniques that are supposed to get the participant “closer to God.”

Please notice that Oakland (and apparently Smith) view contemplative prayer and Eastern mysticism as “an earmark of the Emerging Church.” Deborah Dombrowski of Lighthouse Trails Publishing said, “If you removed contemplative prayer from the emerging church movement all you would have left is couches and candles.” But once again, it’s virtually impossible to nail down any Emerging Church theology of prayer.

Without a doubt, some of those embracing the Emergent label, broaden their pursuit of spirituality and their practice of prayer, or what’s been labeled “contemplative prayer.” (I doodled about different forms of prayer a while back in this post.) Many Emergents seek to explore the rich heritage of pre-Catholic and Celtic traditions, employing some practices which germinated in the so-called “Desert Fathers” and blossomed through the monastic tradition. Some of these involve prolonged periods of silence, chanting, the use of icons or symbols, and the exercise of specific “types” of prayers.

Let me say this up front: I have some real struggles categorically condemning certain — maybe any — form of prayer. To me, the subject of prayer is so broad, the traditions are so rich, and the experiences are so varied, I avoid sitting in judgement of people’s devotion. God is concerned about the heart, and ultimately He will answer people on the basis of their heart, not on whether or not their prayers are “correct.”

We are most definitely taught in Scripture to contemplate, consider and meditate upon the things of God. Many are quick to point out this does not involve emptying the mind (as in Eastern meditation), but in filling the mind. While this is true, it can also turn into a matter of hair-splitting. We are called to focus intently upon God’s Word, God’s handiwork, and His kingdom in our midst. So here’s my question: When does meditation or contemplative prayer become wrong? At what point is it no longer “christian”? What line is crossed that suddenly makes it bad? And is that line the same for everyone?

Jesus clearly condemned “vain repetition” (Matt. 6:7) and prayer distinctly practiced for show (Matt. 6:1-4). However, He then went on to introduce a “form” of prayer in the “Our Father.” Many have since “formulized” that prayer, which seems equally wrong. Either way, the early Church formulized lots of things — they forged creeds and traditions based upon Christ’s principles; they incorporated practices such as baptism and communion, and eventually methods of exorcism and excommunication.

The history of the Church is one of growth, debate, flux and interaction (a principle which is foundational — for good or bad — to the Emergent Church). This is evident in our prayer traditions. For instance, many current practices have been informed by the Charismatic tradition. While the practice of “laying on of hands” for commission and healing is thoroughly biblical, it was largely ignored by evangelicals because of its “touchy-feely” and/or mystical elements. In fact, many elements were brought back into mainstream religion by the Charismatics. (It’s interesting to note that, at one time, Calvary Chapel counted themselves among the Charismatics. I attended several Calvary Chapels in the early 80’s in which spontaneous “prophetic words” and “tongues” were spoken in public services.)

All that to say, the Christian Church has a long history of hashing things out. Many current practices, rituals, creeds and traditions are borne out of long, tedious debates. The Emergent “conversation” may be putting us in the middle of another one.

Since this post is becoming enormous, let me try to summarize my thoughts: The outward forms of prayer are secondary to the inward condition of the heart. God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV). This is a rather thorny verse, especially if someone is seeking with all their heart and using a method of prayer frowned upon by someone else. (I pondered this subject in a recent post entitled Reasonably Unhappy, wherein I explored the broader implication of how people get saved.)

At their heart, Eastern beliefs (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) are antithetical to Christianity, and Calvary Chapels are correct in standing against them. To the degree that an Emergent participant is seeking to synthesize the two, they are on shaky ground. The monotheism of Christianity cannot be blended with the pantheism of Hinduism without producing a mutant offspring. Nevertheless, embracing Eastern philosophy and employing Eastern techniques are two different things. If a person is sitting cross-legged, in silence, burning incense and seeking God with their whole heart, I’m hard-pressed to dissuade them. However, if they’re doing the same thing seeking Buddah or Krishna or some god of their own making, well, that’s another issue.

Next post I’d like to explore the the issues of plurality, ecumenism and post-modernism in the Emergent movement. Peace. . .

Wikipedia identifies seven key values and characteristics of the Emergent Church:

  • Missional living
  • Narrative theology
  • Generous Orthodoxy
  • Christ-centeredness
  • Biblical Interpretation
  • Authenticity
  • Conversation/Dialog

Foundational to most of these traits is the Emergents’ desire to reach the postmodern world. Postmodernism is a vast, complex system of beliefs that arose in the late twentieth century, which challenges many common assumptions about the nature of reality, society, communication and meaning. Most Emergents believe that reaching our culture with the Gospel requires a radical reshaping of the Church’s beliefs and approach. While the Church has historically debated the parameters of adapting the Gospel to a changing culture, for many Emergents this often involves redefining explicit Christian concepts and moving once impregnable boundary lines. (For a more in-depth discussion of postmodernism’s influence, check out this series of articles entitled Postmodernism and the Emerging Church Movement.)

Of the seven key components listed by Wikipedia, these four stand out as having suffered particular postmodern tweaking (definitions per Wikipedia):

Narrative Theology — Narrative presentations of faith and the Bible are emphasized over exegetical and propositional presentations such as systematic theology which are viewed as reductionism.

Generous Orthodoxy — An ecumenical, non-dogmatic view of doctrine which attempts to move beyond the conservative versus liberal impasse in Christianity while honoring some of the traditions of premodern and postmodern Christian denominations.This generosity also extends to dialogue with non-Christian religions and non-religious people for some like Brian McLaren but not others, like Mark Driscoll.

Biblical Interpretation — An openness to consider a plurality of interpretations as well as the impact of the reader’s cultural context on the act of interpretation in contrast to the primacy of the author’s intent and cultural context. The influence of postmodern thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Stanley Fish can be seen in the emerging church approach to interpreting Scripture.

Conversation/Dialog — Creating a safe environment for those with opinions ordinarily rejected within historic orthodoxy to talk and listen freely, as opposed to the dogmatic proclamation found in historic Christianity.

In its early days, Calvary Chapel was often criticized for its cultural concessions. Their dress, music and speech all pressed the envelope of the status quo. That said, the concessions of the Emergents involve much more vital issues. The Stand to Reason blog, notes the same:

One might argue that Calvary Chapel has become a conventional church, but the group’s very genesis was motivated by contextualizing the Gospel to a new generation. The idea of being culturally relevant is in the DNA of the group. What they are identifying [in their position paper regarding the Emergent Church] is the difference between that value and actually changing the Gospel message.

Of all the concerns expressed by critics of the Emergent movement, this is the one that most troubles me. An “ecumenical, non-dogmatic view of doctrine” and its corresponding “openness to consider a plurality of interpretations” is a potential prerequisite for heresy.

Of course, none of us has the corner of the market on truth. I believe legitimate spiritual wisdom can be found many places — including non-christian religions. In this sense, a “generous orthodoxy” and charitable “dialogue” is important. Nevertheless, Christianity is defined by a series of exclusive, non-negotiable beliefs. For instance: There is one true God. Christ is God incarnate. He died for the sins of the world, rose bodily from the grave and will come again to judge the living and the dead. All men are sinners by nature and in need of redemption; good deeds cannot save us. There is a literal Heaven and Hell in which all souls will live eternally. These distinctives are foundational to the Christian Church. If we deny, diminish or dilute them, we compromise the entire structure.

To the degree that any Emergent adherent attempts to minimize these biblical distinctives and/or synthesize the Gospel with non-christian concepts, they cease to be orthodox. As much as I disagree with Calvary Chapel’s blanket condemnation of the Emergent Church, the warnings about apostacy are legit.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galations 1:6-9 NIV).

Them are fightin’ words! There is obviously an urgency about the apostle Paul’s admonitions — an urgency of which every Christian should take heed. No doubt, there are many Emergents who would battle tooth and nail for biblical orthodoxy. Yet, from my persepctive, there are others who are dangerously close to “trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ.” To those individuals, Paul issues the harshest warnings. As much as we are called to be loving, inclusive and merciful, we must never relinquish the fact that Christianity is incompatable with other gospels.

Not long ago, I was asked to be a part of a religious blog aggregator, The Daily Scribe. (The lotus banner is on my sidebar.) The Scribe calls itself as “A Space for Religion, Faith and Philosophy Bloggers.” As such, there is a diversity of beliefs represented, from Buddhists to humanists to pagans. I enjoy being in that group, partly because I believe real Christianity can distinguish itself in the marketplace of ideas, and partly because I wasn’t asked to “tone down” or alter my message to fit in. Some would say that being a member of such a group constitutes an unholy alliance. I see it as no different than living on the same street with perverts, communists and crackheads.

Anyway, last week Shawn Anthony, founder of The Daily Scribe, tendered his resignation. According to a statement he issued (which he’s since pulled from the web), his renewed commitment to Christ forced him to disengage. He had come to believe that hosting a platform for blatantly non-christian views — views as extreme as witchcraft — was incongruant with his faith. Either the Gospel is true or it isn’t, and handing the mic to folks who must necessarily challenge or undermine its claims, all in the name of ecumenism, is wrong. This is all he’s left us with.

Yes, we must dialogue with our culture, listen, remain humble and respect the beliefs of others. Nevertheless, the Bible does not say there are many ways to heaven. Postmodernism would have us renegotiate the ultimate authority of Scripture and dilute the claims of Christ. But to do that is to erode the very foundation of Christianity. The only way ecumenism works is by denying or disregarding the distinctives of the Gospel. Yet for that man, the Bible says: “. . .let him be eternally condemed” (Gal. 1:8,9).

Okay, I guess you can tell that this issue troubles me. This is my sixth and final post on the subject but, in all honesty, the resolution is still fuzzy. Church history is marred with division and debate — some of which, it can be argued, was nece- ssary.  Perhaps we ARE, as the Emergents suggest, in the middle of an important “conversation” with our culture. But how does the average Christian navigate such controversy?

No doubt, there is potential for terrible polarization. . . on both sides. Calvary Chapel has drawn some clear lines. According to Roger Oakland, founder Chuck Smith has placed these ultimatums upon Calvary pastors:

Pastor Chuck has been very outspoken regarding his concerns about the Emerging Church. In fact in May of 2006, he sent out a letter to all Calvary Chapel pastors stating that no Calvary Chapel pastor heading down the Emerging Church road movement would be permitted to use the name of Calvary Chapel.

And elsewhere, he writes:

Further, pastors who attended the nation-wide Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conferences held at Murrieta, California in either 2005 or 2006 would have heard Pastor Chuck explain in detail that Calvary Chapel pastors are not to be “Purpose Driven”. While there were some in attendance who were leaning towards Purpose Driven methods, Pastor Chuck emphasized Calvary Chapel was not going in that direction.

There you have it. Calvary Chapels are not “permitted” to be Purpose Driven or Emergent. By issuing these types of edicts, Calvary, who at one time resisted being branded as a denomination, has clearly moved closer to the label.

As I’ve attempted to distill here, not only is the Emergent Church an extremely broad movement, filled with diverse positions, many of which are still in flux, but Rick Warren’s connection to the movement is pretty thin. In my opinion, Calvary has erred in making blanket condemnations — especially ones that include such loaded terms as “damnable herersies,” “false teachers” and “swift destruction.” In all fairness, many mainstream Christian leaders have expressed unease with Emergent themes, just as I’ve done in the last several posts. Nevertheless, this type of guilt-by-association device is simplistic and unfair.

Please understand, I have no axe to grind in this debate. I am not an Emergent, an ecumenist, a fan of Rick Warren, a church growth proponent or an Eastern mystic. Furthermore, Calvary Chapels hold a dear place in my heart. I first made a public commitment to Christ at Calvary Chapel Riverside, which is now named Harvest Christian Fellowship. Lisa and I were married there by Greg Laurie in 1980. Over the last 26 years I’ve attended, visited and supported Calvary Chapels in varying degrees. But, during that time, I’ve also seen them become more strident, narrow and heavy-handed in their treatment of doctrinal squabbles.

Wikipedia notes these interesting facts about Rick Warren:

Rick and Kay Warren have donated 90% of their income through three foundations: Acts of Mercy, which serves those infected and affected by AIDS, Equipping the Church, which trains church leaders in developing countries, and The Global PEACE Fund, which fights poverty, disease, and illiteracy. Warren no longer takes a salary from Saddleback and repaid all of his salary from the last 25 years back to the church, due to the success of his book sales. He now “reverse tithes” meaning giving away 90% of his salary and living off of 10%.

Good works do not validate one’s theology. And, to be sure, Warren’s theology is soft in places. As I said in my first post on this subject, I pretty much despise his “pragmatic, overly-simplistic systematizations of biblical principles.” Warren’s integration of feel-good, consumer-driven Christianity should be criticized. Nevertheless, his essential beliefs appear sound and he seems genuine in his desire to reach others with Gospel.

So where do we go from here? As much as it’s over-stated, I find wisdom in Augustine’s maxim:

In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

Yes, God values unity — but not at the price of doctrinal “essentials.” Nevertheless, the linchpin to this statement is the definition of essentials. As I see it, most Emergents believe in the basic tenets of Christianity. No doubt, some are questioning and re-thinking vital doctrines. However, there’s a big difference between expressing concerns about elements within a movement and labeling the entire movement apostate. Furthermore, all our concerns must be tempered by “charity,” and I’m wondering if this “essential,” more than any other, is being violated in the process.

Rather than jettisoning the entire movement, I would suggest we look at it critically, one Emergent at a time. Instead of issuing blanket condemnations that demonize churches and their leaders, why not give our congregation the tools to discern for themselves. Might we discern and stand against false doctrine, as my brothers and sisters in Calvary Chapel, no doubt, desire to do. But in all things, let us cultivate a spirit of love and liberty during the “conversation.” Grace and Peace. . .

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{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Jeanne Damoff October 16, 2006, 6:10 PM

    Honestly, Mike. Why are you so shy about jumping into controversy? 😉

    The photo of the church behind barbed wire is just amazing. More than a thousand words’ worth.

    “I tend to cringe at pragmatic, overly-simplistic systematizations of biblical principles.” Me, too. And, in other news, far be it from Christians to contemplate anything, much less while in prayer.

    I await your continuation.

  • Makeesha October 16, 2006, 6:14 PM

    This kind of stuff is just so frustrating. I hesitate to “rise up against” Calvary or anyone really for that matter but they are becoming increasingly pragmatic and getting further and further away from their original roots…it’s a shame really. And all this stuff speaking out against contemplative Christianity is very odd. I really just don’t get it. And I don’t care to read enough from the critics to figure it out. *sigh* Oh well, at least I know where CC stands.

  • Mike Duran October 16, 2006, 6:58 PM

    Thanks for the comments, Jeanne. The barbed wire church is disturbing, isn’t it? And Makeesha, thanks for visiting! I find myself in a difficult spot, as you’ll see in future posts, because of my love for Calvary Chapel. Being a SoCal boy, I got saved in a Calvary, discipled in a Calvary and know guys who pastor Calvaries. (Greg Laurie actually performed me and Lisa’s wedding ceremony back in 1980.) I’ve been to the original Costa Mesa Calvary many times. From my persepctive, Calvary Chapel is a terrific movement. My big problem is, I have a hard time broad-brushing other people and religious groups. Blatant heresy is one thing. But in this case, I’m struggling to play that card with any confidence.

  • Makeesha October 16, 2006, 8:01 PM

    I have no love for CC – not because they’ve wronged me, but because I have no roots there and I have been very disgusted by their recent statements against anything “emerging”. They have a very rich and grand history and started out truly revolutionary. But they seem to have forgotten that they were once accused of kissing heresy. I was part of a discussion awhile back on TSK’s blog (tall skinny kiwi – andrew jones) where Chuck Jr. chimed in. It was very illuminating in a sad way. If you ever have the chance, if you weren’t a part of that discussion, I encourage you to check it out.

    I recently heard a radio interview with Greg Laurie that I found to clinch my feelings about CC. He was talking with someone about Catholicm and the stereotypes that were being perpetuated and wrong things they were saying about Catholocism was so frustrating I had to turn it off. To make a broad statement that Catholocism is not Christian and that catholics are not saved crosses a line.

    Most individuals who attend CC churches, no doubt have no idea that any of this stuff is going on. They likely don’t agree with many of the statements made by the powers that be. So it is hard to get involved in these kinds of debates.

    But none the less, to purpose to distance themselves from Warren because of his “emerging leanings” is just really bizarre to me. I’m not a big Purpose Driven, seeker sensitive fan…in fact, it doesn’t resonate with me at all…but to connect Warren with Emerging and then to sever any relationship with him? I find that to be a step in a scary direction.

  • janet October 16, 2006, 9:29 PM

    Hey Mike! Dissin’ my non-denomination are ya? I won’t comment because to be honest this is the first I’ve heard about it. Will have to read up. My Calvary Chapel is the best thing that ever happened to me! I read Warren’s book too. Thought it was good back-to-basics stuff. Anyway, I emailed your link to one of my elders. Actually, you’d like his blog I bet. It’s http://umbl0g.blogspot.com/
    God bless!

  • Mike Duran October 16, 2006, 11:06 PM

    No, Janet, I’m not “dissin'” your “non-denomination.” My goal — and I hope this would be the goal of both Calvary Chapel and the Emergents — is to be guided by biblical truth rather than allegiance to any particular group or movement.

  • Makeesha October 16, 2006, 11:11 PM

    absolutely Mike, always a good reminder. And for the record, I’m not dissing anyone nor do I claim allegience to any human institution

  • janet rubin October 16, 2006, 11:26 PM

    Mike, I was kidding. Guess you didn’t get it. I’m with you re: biblical truth.

  • janet October 17, 2006, 1:26 AM

    Definition of Contemplative Prayer: As it is expressed in a modern day movement is mystically (i.e. based on a technique or method) in which one empties the mind of thought through repetition, usually of a word or phrase or focus on the breath. In this case the silence would be an absence of thought, all thought.

    Okay, so I copied that from that lighthouse site you linked to. Now I think I might get the connection to the Warren book. I remember one of his chapters on prayer. He suggested taking some phrase- like a mantra (I praise you, I praise you, I praise you..) and just repeating it over and over. Now I’m curious. Will have to dig out the book and look at it.

  • Mike Duran October 17, 2006, 2:29 AM

    Way to dig in, Janet! The bigger question is: Are there forms of prayer explicitly condemned by God? Hmm. You’ve got Matthew 6:7 “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” No doubt, “chanting and “vain repititions” don’t earn us brownie points. However, there is the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Lk 18:1-8) who, through her repetition and dogged peristence, broke through to heaven.

    So who’s to say when chanting, liturgy or formulaic ceremony is heartfelt? Furthermore, you’ve got the equally thorny “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV) and “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:11-13 NIV), which seems to transcend the condemnation of formula, affiliation or ethnicity altogether. To bottom-line it: If a person is seeking God with “all their heart” and sincerely calling “on the name of the Lord,” they “will be saved,” even if they use a mantra or attend Rick Warren’s church.

  • Jeanne Damoff October 17, 2006, 4:14 AM

    Is that really the definition of contemplative prayer? Weird. To contemplate is to think about something. Why would contemplative prayer involve the absence of thought? Seems to me it should be called noncontemplative prayer.

    Oh, well. I haven’t read Purpose Driven and I’ve never been to Calvary Chapel and I’m not involved in the Emergent Movement (and I’ve never been to Boston in the Fall*), so I should probably just shut up and listen this go round.

    Interesting discussion. Carry on.

    *courtesy The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything

  • Michelle Pendergrass October 17, 2006, 10:37 AM

    Jeanne–you actually had me singing there. 🙂

    Mike, I haven’t been able to find your blog. Mostly because I’m a dork. The blogspot one had the body text alllllllll the way down at after all the sidebar stuff and I just kept coming back seeing the sidebar and the blank body thinking, “Where is Mike??” So I emailed you to see if everything was ok. Then I scrolled and found the announcement that you moved here. Can I say I missed you, man?!

    Now this deal with Calavary Chapel shunning Rick Warren and PDL is just sad to my heart. Didn’t Jesus say let them be? Those who aren’t against us are with us? And what was that wheat and tare parable? Not saying Rick Warren is tare. Not saying Calvary is tare. I guess I’m sitting on the fence. I listen to Calvary radio and have come to love several pastors (Pastor Rodney for one) Chuck Smith, I could take or leave sometimes. He’s reminding me more and more of the 700 Club guy. Greg Laurie–if it wasn’t for that guy I probably would have never read straight through the Bible, now on my 4th time in as many years because of his New Living Translation.

    But there’s also PDL. I have an extraordinary story to tell about my 40 days. Just incredible and every time I’ve told it people are as shocked as I was.

    And it makes my heart ache to read this.

    It also hurt my heart when I had to leave the church of a pastor I dearly loved and respected after three years of his teaching because he’d started changing and his teaching teetered a fine line with legalism.

    I listened to Mary DeMuth’s CD’s from ACFW and she talks about two different social sets. The first, you have to imagine a square on a page with a dot in the center. So if we are using this as an example, Jesus is the dot and Christians are in the square with him. You are either in the square or you are outside of the square. To be a Christian you have to get into the square, even if it means stuffing it to capacity.

    The other, imagine a dot on the page and that’s it. Jesus is the dot and everything spirals to Him. There is no defining line of the square that holds you and binds you, that has a capacity. There is a feeling of freedom and there’s room for everyone.

    I realized when she talked about that, that I have been in the square and I’ve made a transition. I’m on the page with the dot now and I’m not forced by the lines of the square to come closer and I’m not pushed and squeezed by those trying to stuff the square. I’m free, in Jesus and through Jesus and because of Jesus to walk with Him anywhere I please.

  • janet October 17, 2006, 12:34 PM

    Ya know, from the responses it sounds like people think that Pastor Chuck is heading up “Down with Rick Warren” rallys. I think it’s simply a matter of choosing not to distribute Pastor Warren’s materials anymore because of some differences on theological issues. Why should Calvary Chapel have to sell his books if they aren’t comfortable with them? Making a decision like that doesn’t nessesarlily mean they don’t consider Rick Warren and his church members brothers and sisters in Christ. I think they’re just being careful about what they promote. It is hard to debate without knowing more. How do I know what went into this decision. Probably research and prayer. Perhaps they felt “led” to make this decision. I dunno.

  • Mike Duran October 17, 2006, 12:48 PM

    Believe it or not, Janet, I think I see both sides in this issue. As I’ve said, I harbor no ill for Calvary Chapel and don’t believe Pastor Chuck has a vendetta against Warren. I am not (at least to my knowledge) bringing a spirit of devisiveness or rancor into my posts. Calvary’s spat is really with the Emergent philosophy. As you’ll see, Calvary makes some very harsh condemnations against the Emergent Church and its affiliates, calling it a “damnable heresy.” By implication then, Warren’s proximity to the EC places him in a tenuous position… at least, according to Calvary. Please hang in there, J. I’m not trying to bash your church. Okay?

  • janet October 17, 2006, 1:23 PM

    As usual, tone is hard to read in emails/comments. I hope mine didn’t sound like I’ll all offended. I promise, I’m keeping my cool in Connecticut. I think your approach on issues is always well-balanced and fair Michael. I really do. Carry on..

  • Makeesha October 17, 2006, 2:08 PM

    I think many of us have seen the comments made by Calvary people against emergent and are adding that knowledge to this. It’s honestly been really aweful.

    Also, there are SO MANY people accusing other people of doing things that are just not happening. That definition of contemplative prayer for example is a definition of pagan meditation – NOT the ancient practice of comtemplative and meditative CHRISTIAN prayer. They are being deceptive when they say that is what emerging is about.

    I couldn’t care less if CC supported Warren, it’s all the other stuff that they’re saying that is unfortunate, not because it’s their opinion, but because they’re becoming so legalistic and pragmatic and misrepresenting people and movments. In the “real world” it would be called slander…unfortunately, in Christianity, they call it “being discerning” or “judging the spirits”. It makes it very clear why people outside the Church can’t stand Christianity.

  • Dave Parrish November 5, 2006, 3:34 AM

    I have attended both Calvary Chapel(s) and Saddleback Church, Rick Warren. The second year of my salvation, the Holy Spirit showed me Rick’s preachings were in error. If you study how he (not HE) designed and built his (Not His) church, you will see that Rick Warren used Peter Drucker business techniques to build his church. And he has been very successful. Its a popular church because there is no conviction of sin there. Its all about practical living techniques (AKA New Age) My recommendation: discard everything about Mr. Warren and seek a small Bible teaching, Fear of God, Holy Spirit convicting of sin church. If you can find it these days. Calvary Chapels…. MMMM I missed the beginning days. Today it seems to be a movement of a man, who is lofted up on high, that man being Chuck Smith, Papa Chuck. His flock of men under him call him their pastor. Should’nt Jesus be their pastor? And a couple of the CC I have been to in OC, Ca have had pastor fall. They also teach you can’t have communion if you have sin in your heart that day.. ?? Who doesn’t have sin in their heart? Isn’t that why we need to come to Jesus for mercy and grace? And many are into the super abiding philosophy to keeping your self saved, or getting re-saved when you stray, when you sin. Greg Laurie, come back and redidicate your life, again and again. How about teaching them about dying daily to self and being raised in Christ and making you calling and election sure. They don’t do this. Its about getting people saved instead of preaching the Word and letting God do it. They don’t have the Hight view of God’s sovereingty that reformed churches have. There you go, Dave Parrish
    P.S. Not telling anyone to leave their CC, but to let God’s Word and not the pastor view or chuck’s view be their guide.

  • HistoryMan June 2, 2007, 5:49 AM

    all this quarell when Christians should follow the true worship and teachings of the apostles. This was and is done in the liturgy. Jesus said the Church is the pillar of truth. He also told Peter to build my church not yours. Christians should read Faith of the Early fathers by william jurgens and see what and how the early fathers guide on how to interpret the bible. This will avoid 8.30000 denominatios claiming the truth on personl interpretation….uhhh what a mess that Protestantism has caused.

  • John Collins July 10, 2008, 5:55 AM

    Makeesha said

    I recently heard a radio interview with Greg Laurie that I found to clinch my feelings about CC. He was talking with someone about Catholicm and the stereotypes that were being perpetuated and wrong things they were saying about Catholocism was so frustrating I had to turn it off. To make a broad statement that Catholocism is not Christian and that catholics are not saved crosses a line.

    I am sorry to say this,but you are completly mistaken on this.
    Greg Laurie has never made statements like that about Catholics or the Catholic Church,and I have been listening to his teaching for over 25 years.
    Unless you can cite the date and specific content of that program,you should not make statements like this.
    Greg believes that Catholics can indeed by saved.
    Please check your facts.

  • Jim May 17, 2009, 9:46 PM

    There is no "new age", it is the same old stuff of Satan from long ago. The emergent church is heretical and any true believer in Christ should not only have nothing to do with it but speak against it at every turn. Christ commanded us to "give a reason" and this junk attacks His very teachings. There is no "alternative" anything, The Word in both printed and human form is the ONLY WAY. Those looking for something "emergent" are simply masking their denial of Jesus Christ under the guise of "seeking" something "timely and fresh". They are liars and the truth is not in them.
    I was raised catholic and I can tell you from first hand knowledge that catholicism is a cult. To mislead their congregation to confess their sins to another sinner in a box for forgiveness or baptism of infants saves them from damnation or Mary is the intercessor between us and Jesus are just three of their false teachings; leading many to eternal damnation. Catholics can be saved when they renounce the catholic church as the "one true church", confess Jesus as Lord and follow Him, not the pope.

  • Art August 22, 2009, 7:49 PM

    Where is the link to Calvary Chapel's recent position paper on the emerging church movement ?

  • Art August 22, 2009, 8:08 PM

    I think I found it as a sublink to http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/CCSpecial… some of the links on this blog are broken, and so they may point to addresses that have since been changed.)

  • Jaired July 18, 2010, 9:43 PM

    To the author concerning discernment: ask the Holy Spirit for some and look up “A Common Word Between Us”, by Rick Warren. In this, his whole agenda is to “show” that Christians, Jews, and Muslims, yes, Muslims, all worship the same God! There is your damnable heresy by a false teacher! Allah and Yaweh are enemis, God and Satan. This IS the deception in the last days spoken of in Peter, John, and Yeshua Himself! This is the deception that is killing the Church like a cancer. We need to hate the evil and love the good, not tolerate and defend it. How many Laodecians will be damned because of this harlotry with the woman riding the beast (Saudi Arabia and Islam), wake up to the Truth of God’s Holy Word, and it’s not the”holy” Qu’ran, and God did NOT write that!, as Warren states in the article. He places the Words of Jesus and (he calls Mohommed a prophet!) Mohommed in the same category, as well as the Sunni and the Scriptures! This is sickening, he even used a verse from the Qu’aran that blaitently denies the Trinity of God, to illustrate his lie that we all worship the same God and Islam and Christianity are, at their core, the same! Satan is obviously at work here and it is paving the way for Islam to take over and fulfilling prophecy simultaneously. Remember, “by peace he shall destroy many”, speaking of the Antichrist (aka the Mahdi of Islam), as “world peace” is the goal of this disgraceful piece of blasphemy that is this article, which is also embraced by the pope(by the way). But there will be no peace between us until everyone says “there is no god but Allah and mohommad is his messenger”, thank The Holy One of Israel, that Yeshua will come in power, war and glory before this happens. But until then we need a lot more discernment, wise as serpents, remember? Not just harmless as doves. In Jesus’ Name, and by the power of The Holy Spirit, God Bless

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