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Calvary vs. the Emergents – #6

Okay, I guess you can tell that this issue troubles me. This is my sixth and final post on jesus91.jpgthe 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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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Heather November 3, 2006, 5:20 PM

    Hey, Mike. I met you at ACFW and am finally getting around to checking out this website. Highly impressive!
    I’ve read the last two posts on this emergent issue, so my comment is not coming from a very learned reading of your points.
    I appreciate your fairness in reminding us the diversity of the “emergent” church. I attended different churches that might fall under that name. Some are more blunt (can I say blunter?) and fast about the gospel. Some are “feel-good.” Some I love and some I left in tears.
    I would call myself post-modern, but I don’t know that I would call myself “emergent,” not because I don’t wish to be but because I get into enough trouble with one term!
    I would add that, in addition to rethinking ecclesiology and epistemology for post-modern ministry (which, as someone who studied cultural anthropology and communication with the intent of becoming a missionary, I believe is important and happens every day on foreign soil in ways that might shock the average church-goer), we rethink ecclesiology and epistemology in order to understand how our current expressions are influenced by modernism. For example, while the legal aspect of justification is essential, have we stressed it to the neglect of other aspects, of say, the Christus Victor model used by the early church? Here’s my selfishness: I study these things not just for others, but for myself, to see parts of a mosaic that I would not have seen before. I, like most “emergent” churches adhere to the creeds: Apostles, Nicene, and others (which I believe you stated in one of your posts).
    Thanks for this post. I look forward to reading more!

  • Jeanne Damoff November 3, 2006, 8:14 PM

    Thanks for this charitable conclusion to a thoughtful series. I’ve appreciated the chance to benefit from your research and analysis.

    I believe the church is the bride of Christ. He is her head, and He is responsible for her purity. Though I’m jealous for the Lord’s honor, orthodoxy in doctrine, and the preservation of Truth, I think lots of Christians will be surprised by some of the faces they see in heaven. I’m reminded of Christ’s response to His disciples when they wanted to rebuke those who sought to minister outside their circle. As soon as we think we’ve got an exclusive handle on doing this Christianity thing the “right” way, we’re on dangerous ground.

    May the Lord enter all our “conversations.” And may we learn to listen.

  • Jacob November 4, 2006, 11:03 PM


    I think that there is something to the connection you made between the Emergent Movement and the of birth of Calvary Chapel from the Jesus Movement. As I understand it, the Jesus Movement was questioned by the established “fundamentalist” church of its day in many of the same ways that the Emergents are by Calvary Chapel today.

    The Jesus Movement:
    1. Had a lax church environment: No more Sunday best. Wear what ever you want, sandals and short included.
    2. Modernization of the worship service: No more hymns, organs and choirs. Bring in the guitars and drums.
    3. Popularization of Pentecostalism: No more stoic dry Christian experience. Have a personal experience with the Holy Spirit through supernatural gifts.
    4. Rejection of tradition: No more silly rituals or liturgy. Disconnect from denominationalism and its rigidity, allowing for more autonomy at the local church.

    In fact, I think that the atmosphere which caused founding of Calvary Chapel has laid the seeds for the Emergent Movement. They are both attempts to bring the relevancy of Christianity into contemporary culture and this is necessary in all ages. Because this is not an easy task, there is always a threat that it could lead to heresy. Perhaps the rapid changes in culture today have caused these movments to overlap so quickly, or perhaps in the long run if Christian History the Jesus Movement and Emergent Movement will be seen as one large shift in Christianity.

  • Phil Perkins November 8, 2006, 1:24 PM

    I accidently left this comment on the wrong post:

    Just came across your site. Pretty cool design. Your in between approach is not biblical. These days many in the church have very little zeal for God and, therefore, for truth. As a result, any hint of controversy brings a knee-jerk reaction against it.

    The Emergents have embraced all sorts of unbiblical doctrines and immoral behavors.

    Your error is illustrated in this statement, where you claimed to be more loving, open minded, or kind than God Himself. You said, “Nevertheless, this type of guilt-by-association device is simplistic and unfair.”

    On the other hand, God, through the apostle of love said, “If any man comes to you, not bearing this doctrine, do not receive him into the house and do not speak to greet him. For the man speaking to greet him has fellowship with his evil works.”

    Sounds like guilt by association applies in God’s mind. But that’s just God.

    Phil Perkins.

  • Phil Perkins November 8, 2006, 1:59 PM

    Sorry for leaving this on the wrong post. I came across this linked to the Slice by several steps.

    My point stands, I believe. Can you dispassionately refute my hermeneutics or logic? This is listed under Critical Thinking, right?

    To allow the Emergents in is to have fellowship in Brian McLaren’s denial of hell and the substitutionary atonement, David’s glorification of sodomy, Mike Morrell’s postulated “biblical” panentheism, Mark Driscoll’s profane and leud speech, and much, much more.

    God forbids this sort of thing in His assembly. In my experience, most Emergents read and largely approve of Tony Jones, Rob Bell, Spencer Burke, etc.
    It is not right to equate these people the disciple criticized. They were doing God’s will. These Emergents are false teachers. They are to rejected. We are not to associate with them because that implies approval.

    In Christ,
    Phil Perkins.

  • Mike Duran November 8, 2006, 2:14 PM

    Phil, my primary response to you is under this post, where you left your initial comments. Peace.

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