Okay, I guess you can tell that this issue troubles me.Â 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.Â 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 Pastorâ€™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 â€œPurpose Drivenâ€. 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.”Â 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, aÂ 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 LaurieÂ in 1980. Over the last 26 years I’ve attended, visited and supported Calvary Chapels in varying degrees. But, during that time,Â I’ve also seen them become more strident, narrowÂ 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 â€œreverse tithesâ€ 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 ofÂ biblical principles.” Warren’s integration of feel-good, consumer-driven Christianity should be criticized. Nevertheless, his essential beliefs appear sound and he seemsÂ genuine in his desire to reach others with Gospel.
So where do we go from here?Â As much as it’s over-stated, IÂ findÂ wisdom in Augustine’s maxim:Â
In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
Yes, God values unity — but not at the price of doctrinal “essentials.” Nevertheless, theÂ linchpin to this statement is the definition of â€œessentials.â€Â As I see it, most Emergents believe in the basic tenets of Christianity. No doubt, some are questioning and re-thinkingÂ vital doctrines. However,Â thereâ€™s a big difference between expressing concerns about elements within a movement and labeling the entire movement apostate.Â 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 notÂ 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,Â desire to do. But in all things, let us cultivate a spirit of love and liberty during the “conversation.” Grace and Peace. . .