One of theÂ reasons for Calvary Chapel’s denunciation of Rick Warren is what they perceive as Warren’sÂ “endorsement” of the Emergent Church.Â InÂ anÂ email from Rick Warren to Lighthouse Trails Publishing, however, Warren denies any affiliation:
. . .Zon- dervan publishers asked me to write a commentary on an “Emerging Church” book, although I am definitely not a part of that group.Â If you read that book, you saw that I often disagreed with the author in my sidebar commentary.Â But when the book came out – it had my name paired with Brian McLaren’s on the cover!Â 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.
I’m not sure what to make of this. Is Warren, as some contend, being deceitful about hisÂ affiliations? Or is this a case of guilt-by-association, and is Calvary trying to force a connection that is, at best,Â superficial?
Of course, behind all these questions is the assertion that the Emergent Movement isÂ 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 quotesÂ 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 quotesÂ 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 “conterfeit Christ”? These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with since I’ve learned there was such a movement. The problem isÂ 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 thatÂ 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,Â 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.”Â Â
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 Iâ€™m often left wondering with whom this dialogue is supposed to be taking place.
The amorphous nature of the groupÂ 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 differentÂ people and positions are represented there. And, in the case of the Emergent Church,Â 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,Â to one big, fat “damnable heresy.” It’s like saying “All Christians are hypocrites.” The generalization just doesn’t wash.
more. . .