Postmodern Reflections (part 2): “Emergentcy”

As I have previously stated in part one of Postmodern Reflections, these pericopes are taken from a paper I originally wrote (with a few editions) for a “Contemporary Issues in Theology Class.”  I have spent countless hours studying the Emergent Movement, interacting with Emergent Postmodernists (“EPs”) and studying postmodern philosophy as it pertains to the Church, but;  the book Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures by Eddie Gibbs & Ryan K. Bolger,  which I poured over with prayerful objectivity, really put the Emergent/Postmodern “Christian” perspective in focus. Those who know me know I am not a traditionalist and while I found myself in agreement with some of Gibb’s & Bolger’s’ observations, this book served to confirm what I believe regarding the Emergent/Postmodern movement. I am convinced that while one must be careful not to lump all “EPs”  into one basket (indeed, it is impossible to do so), the Emergent/Postmodern “Christian” movement is perhaps the most dangerous, deceptive heresy the body of Christ has ever encountered. My intention in sharing this information is not to be confrontational or hurtful to individuals, but rather to exalt Jesus, “sound the alarm,” and to provide the saints with information that they may be better equipped for the work of ministry.

EMERGENTCY

To be frank, reading the book, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures, left this writer with the feeling that he had just read a book written by 1960s counter cultural hippies still somewhat altered by their latest ingestion of LSD (and yes I have), who had nevertheless thought it would be a good thing to expound upon their view of religion.  It would appear that even some from within the ranks of the Emergent/Postmodern movement would agree. “Andrew Jones (Boaz, U.K.) says, “I am sure there are many parallels with biblical and ancient forms of worship [although he lists none, he is sure], which were more interactive and participatory than Reformation models. But for a more immediate link, I believe a lot of the thinking came from the 1960s counterculture, which is where almost all elements of emerging church can find some roots.”[12] Indeed, the Emergent/Postmodern movement bears many similar characteristics of the 1960s protest movements, and it should be noted that many observations made by the “EPs” are valid in that they have recognized and responded to the stale hypocrisy of institutionalized religion in much the same way the counterculture of the 1960s recognized and responded to the stale hypocritical institution of American government.

Reading this book, one is struck by the fact that there is little to no reference to the Bible, little to no clarification as to what  would be considered  solid theology and absolutely no exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ at all. Ironically, it is suggested that the reading of Paul should be suspended while focus should be placed upon the life of Jesus,[13] all the while Gibbs and Bolger report that one cannot really be sure who Jesus was given that he lived in a different time and place and deciding which of his activities were merely cultural expressions versus those that were legitimately inspired by the gospel of the kingdom is difficult at best.[14] The Jesus presented by the “EPs” has been deconstructed to nothing more than a social activist bent on relieving the oppressed and marginalized of society in sweeping programs of social-justice.

Epistemology (how we know things) is one of the hinge points of the “EP” philosophy. Page after page of this book is filled with quotes from the leaders of the Emergent/Postmodern movement who insist that truth is narrative instead of absolute, and they are absolutely sure because they possess a certain esoteric knowledge that only those who have been delivered from the evil dogma of modernity can possess.  The writers insist that “it is not that “EPs” do not want truth per se, but whose truth? Often the one proposing or more often imposing truth is a person in power. Why trust the person? Instead, a better way to truth, in their view, is to hear the many stories and to discern accordingly, within the context of community.”[15] Ironically, it is only those within their own context who can properly define what constitutes an authentic community, and even more ironic is the inference that it is only the “EPs” context that can be trusted to define truth if truth can indeed be realized at all.

While this writer finds himself in agreement with the “EP” assertion that the present ecclesiastical form must change and is itself, in many ways, a hindrance to the gospel; he cannot accept the “EPs” total syncretism of both “secular” and “sacred” community. If Gibbs and Bolger are to be believed, the emergent movement sees no difference between sacred and secular. One “EP” is quoted as saying, “My pagan friends are church for me as well. While with them, I spend time with Jesus because he is with me.”[16] The “EPs” see church in its present expression as a place in which spirituality is contained and confined.[17] The “EP”, while maintaining that God has acted uniquely in Christ, insists that one is only looking through “a glass darkly” and that “we could be wrong.” To the “EP”, church is experienced in the totality of life,  while understanding that even other religions themselves have much to teach Christians.[18]

Spencer Burke’s community is prepared to learn from faith traditions outside the Christian field. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit as been with these people all along. The community celebrates other traditions, and they see them as beloved children of God.[19]

One can only hope that God will have mercy upon Mr. Burke, granting him repentance in order that he may truly come to faith in Christ and be given a chance to reach those he has led astray with the truth of the gospel of Christ.

When one is exposed to the pseudo intellectual, snobbish double talk of the “EP” he becomes accustomed to catch-phrases and flowery speeches of pomp and fluff, devoid of any authentic spiritual Christ-centered content.  Such exposure to such nonsensical rhetoric has led this writer and an associate to invent a game in which the goal is to start a conversation and respond back and forth using absurd statements amounting “to much ado about nothing.” For example, the following comment appears to be deep and lofty, but close scrutiny will reveal it to be absolutely meaningless: “The immediate context of cultural ramifications must be considered if one is to adhere to the overriding sense of descriptive narrative that the so called theological implications render. The Code of Hammurabi can be cited when a Lutherian mandate is placed upon the discerning of principle over precept which in all actuality signals a departure from orthodoxy.” (Capiche?)

It is hard to imagine that one who can string together such a line of pure malarkey as cited above would be surprised at anything he might read. However, this writer was admittedly flabbergasted when he read such comments as these in Gibb’s and Bolger’s book:

Pete Rollins of “ikon” (Belfast, U.K.) reports, “We have been actively engaged with other faiths through the evangelism project. Evangelism has an important role but is seen as a two-way process designed to open others and ourselves to God.” Their evangelism project is the reverse of most forms of evangelism. They visit people of other faiths and spiritualities and allow themselves to be evangelized in order to learn more about other walks of life. “We deemphasize the idea that Christians have God and all others don’t by attempting to engage in open two-way conversations. This does not mean we have lapsed into relativism, we still believe in the uniqueness of our own tradition, but we believe that it teaches us to be open to all. We are genuinely open to being wrong about parts and perhaps all our beliefs- while at the same time being fully committed to them.”[20] One is lead to believe that perhaps the “EPs” intend to redefine  the meaning of the word committed, for how can one truly commit to that which he doubts?

Term Redefinition is a prevalent practice among the “EPs.” For example: The “EPs” claim that contrary to modernity, they teach that the church should be inclusive and welcoming to all . While it is true all churches should be welcoming to those who would come to them, when encountering the “EPS”; one must discern as to whether or not the terms welcoming and inclusive have been redefined into meaning that all men are a part of the Church. One must make sure he understands what is truly meant when the “EP” speaks of  atonement, salvation, church, etc “EPs” redefine orthodoxy as meaning holding to the uniqueness of Christ.[21] Unique? He is the Son of the living God and we have peace with God through the blood of his cross!

The emergence of the Emergent/Postmodern movement is perhaps the most significant event the ecclesia has witnessed in recent history. It is the opinion of this writer that the “EPs” are a precursor to the faithless, spiritually apostate, adulterous church which will emerge into prominent significance as eschatology is ultimately realized. It is therefore of the utmost importance that those within the ecclesia be “conversant” with this movement and gain an understanding as to its implications.


                12. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Baker Publishing Group, 2005), 196.

13. Ibid., 48.

14. Ibid., 49.

15. Ibid., 68.

16. Ibid., 108

17. Ibid., 99.

18. Ibid., 117-134.

19. Ibid., 132.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., 133.

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One thought on “Postmodern Reflections (part 2): “Emergentcy”

  1. Hey Kyle, here’s a book you may be interested in. It’s title is: ‘Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,’ by Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist. He outlines the Church’s journey into the deviations from orthodoxy and heresies by following the history of most Catholic and Protestant churches and their outgrowths up to our present time. He is Roman Catholic but obviously a believer. And he is very balanced in his insights and criticisms of the variety of different denominations and movements, including Catholicism. You won’t agree with everything but it will give you further insight into how we got where we are. Blessings.

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