The most obvious evidence of the Emergent/Postmodern Movement’s (EPM) heretical nature is the treatment of the Lordship of Christ and the atonement. To the EPM, Jesus is more or less a social activist and the cross is rarely referred to. The need for forgiveness and freedom from sin is, for the most, part ignored by the EPM, and an emphasis is instead place upon the “work of the Spirit” already present in various cultures and faiths. It is not a relationship with God through faith in Christ that is stressed within the EPM, but rather it is the enlightenment which comes through communal fellowship that appears to be the primary objective. Perhaps an emphasis on the cross and the blood is somewhat offensive to the delicate, sensitive, enlightened minds of the EPM. Perhaps the cross and the blood have become irrelevant as they maintain that while God has indeed acted uniquely in the person of Christ; he is just as active through the means of other religions and one had better not try and restrict God to one belief system. “One can never tell what God might do.”
It is obvious that many within the body of Christ are aware of the danger of the EPM and are speaking out against it. The internet is filled with numerous sites dedicated to the exposition of false teachings and it appears that the EPM is at the top of the list. However, I have observed that many so called evangelical sites seem to be adverse to any type of new “preaching method” While I am adamant in my insistence that the EPM is a major factor in the end time apostasy as told by the apostle Paul, I cannot however take the stance of many that the only way to “have church” is by strict adherence to the “three hymn, three point sermon, and out by twelve o’clock” paradigm, or that strict historical/grammatical interpretation of the Bible is the only legitimate form of hermeneutics. (An interesting study is how the New Testament writers made use of the Old Testament.)
The EPM is correct in insisting that the world no longer follows a modernity minded motif and sadly many within the body of Christ have refused to acknowledge this fact. While many have stuck their heads in the proverbial hole in the ground, hoping for the good old days to return; what is at stake are the countless souls that will be lost should the people of God fail to learn from the weaknesses the EPM heresy has revealed. Michael Andrus claims that heresy (i.e. EPM)) is a tool God uses to reveal deficiencies within the church, and I am inclined to agree. The church must be willing to utilize tools found within the postmodern culture as instruments of preaching the gospel. To many within the traditional church it seems strange to say that the gospel can be preached through art. But in an age that is increasingly visual and sense oriented, art may be a tool by which the cross of the Lord Jesus is put on display. Concurrent with this visual genre is the utilization of video and other multimedia tools. In the postmodern world, “sermon jams” and gospel oriented videos are an outstanding means by which to communicate the gospel.
While one must be careful to understand that the Bible is not simply a narrative to be interpreted as one filters it through his own cultural context, this writer would agree with the EPM that too often the modern mindset of ecclesiastical institutionalism has restricted biblical interpretation to a form whereby, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, scriptural interpretation is static and rigid. While comprehension is academically acquired; the heart of the interpreter does no encounter the living Christ scripture is pointing to. To many modernists, the Bible itself has become God. Listening to many “evangelical” preachers one often finds the minister quoting the Bible in a fashion which depicts it as the “end all” instead of the means to the Ends. I believe that the Bible was provided for man, by God, who watched over and guided its compilation, breathed every word as it was written in its original language, and was given as a means by which to encounter the one true God in the person of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, while the EPM claims to desire an authentic encounter with Christ, through scripture (even though they can’t be sure who he really is), given their epistemology; one wonders how this could be achieved.
It should be stated that EPM communities vary greatly. While one group may have certain emphases, another is vastly different. One would be hard pressed to say, “This is what EPM churches look like.” Emergent communities may “shed their skin” and take on a new look as the community feels the need. The differences between an EPM church and the traditional church are a bit more obvious.
Whereas the traditional church has a senior pastor, deacon board, and perhaps elders; the EPM makes every effort to appear leaderless and communal. The traditional church will meet in the traditional church building and be decorated with the traditional accessories (pews, pulpits, choir lofts, hymnals, etc…). An EPM church on the other hand may meet in a house, coffee shop, warehouse, or whatever kind of facility that is available. The décor will be postmodern, featuring old and new, art work, perhaps a prayer labyrinth, and it will differ as to the respective communities. The traditional church will have the “three songs and a sermon by the senior pastor” paradigm whereas the EPM church may have a drama acting out a story from the Bible, a group discussion on verses from the Bible, someone painting a picture on site while relating what it means to their spiritual journey, or perhaps even a trip to the local Buddhist temple for some guided meditation.
Often we imagine what it would look like if we were to live in the book of Revelation. How will the deception, the false church, etc… look when it is truly among us? While the end time scenario will indeed evolve; it is obvious to me that all one has to do is look around and see that it is even now beginning to be made manifest. In II Thessalonians 2 the Bible speaks of a deluding spirit sent by God upon those who have not loved and received the truth. Already, even those within the church are being deceived by the EPM lie and preaching and believing in another Jesus. Although, safely tucked away in the very buckle of the Bible Belt (as I am), one may not be exposed to such extreme manifestations of the EPM heresy as portrayed in Gibb’s & Bolger’s Emerging Churches; the tendrils of the movement can be seen wrapping itself around the institutions men have erected and insist on calling churches.
My study of the EPM has led me to believe that while there are indeed aspects of the movement that could be culled and appropriated by the so called traditional church ; the EPM itself is heretical and is a very real manifestation of the deception which is to befall many as eschatology is realized. “Business as usual” for the traditional church is over to be sure and while the message of the church is now, has always been, and forever more shall be the message of the cross of Christ; the means by which the gospel is conveyed to a postmodern world should and must, be adapted to the culture itself. While the body of Christ must surely be careful to avoid the trap of cultural assimilation which has ensnared the EPM, it must understand that cultural identification is imperative in postmodern evangelism. While admittedly society has evolved from a modern to a postmodern culture, the gospel must not be influenced and altered for the sake of relevancy, rather; the cross of Christ must be preached, the gospel creating its own relevance in the cultures and subcultures in which its ministers find themselves.
(Oh yeah, Check out Gregory Fisher’s comments on Postmodern Reflections (part 3), very insightful.)